Twins vs. White Sox

Monday

Twins: Glen Perkins(LHP)
– 5.55 ERA, 84.1 IP, 101 H, 40 K, 20 BB, 9 HR

– In April, he was the Twins’ best pitcher.  In May, their worst.  That led to nearly a month-long stay on the
disabled list for an irritated unlar nerve in his elbow. 

– He’s been inconsistent since returning, with his last
start being the most painful, both figuratively and literally.  He gave up eight runs, all earned, against
the Athletics, and then revealed that his shoulder was hurting.  An examination showed tendonitis, which can
be treated with medication.  He’s not
expected to miss this start. 

– He’s basically a three-pitch pitcher, but really relies on
just two pitches depending on the batter. 
Versus right-handers he’ll throw his fastball and a changeup.  Versus left-handers, it’s a fastball and
slider, and he also likes to use that slider as his strikeout pitch.  He relies on his fastball about 70% of the
time, and that goes up when he’s behind in the count.  Finally, he will mix in a curveball as a
“show-me” pitch. 

– His Achilles’ heal? 
Strangely enough, it’s left-handed batters. That can be misleading,
since often only the best left-handed hitters remain in the lineup against
southpaws like Perkins, but they’re hitting .351 this year and .333 against him
for their career. 

– Fortunately, he’s had quite a bit of success against some
of the White Sox bigger guns, like Paul
Konerko
(3 for 12), Jermaine Dye (2
for 11) and Jim Thome (1 for
8). 

 

White Sox: John Danks(LHP)
– 3.98 ERA, 106.1 IP, 97 H, 92 K, 40 BB, 12 HR

– Danks is a 24-year-old left-handed pitcher who threw
together a 3.32 ERA over 195 innings last year. 
That was his second year in the majors, and his success was due to
learning a cut fastball from pitching coach Don Cooper that made him much more effective against
right-handers. 

– He’s a flyball pitcher, so his success and failure depends
a lot on whether he keeps the ball in the park. 
So far, he’s been about average in that category, and his ERA bears that
out. 

– He’s very similar to Perkins.  He’s basically a three-pitch pitcher, relies
on just two pitches depending on the batter, and those pitches are the
fastball-changeup to right-handers and fastball-slider to southpaws.  He also shows a curveball as a fourth pitch
occasionally.  He’s different in that he
likes to use his changeup to strike people out, and throws his fastball a
little bit less than Perkins.  But you’re
seeing remarkably similar pitchers. 

– Also like Perkins, he’s overcoming a medical condition for
this start.  In Danks’ case, it was a
blister caused by a circulatory problem in his left index finger.  The solution? 
He’s given up chewing tobacco. 

– The heart of the Twins order has had a LOT
of success against Danks in the past.  Justin Morneau has 3 HR to go with his
.318 BA, and Michael Cuddyer(.476
BA),  Joe Mauer(.450) and Jason
Kubel
(.462) all have hit better than .400 against him. 

Twins vs. Indians

Tuesday

 

Twins:  Kevin Slowey(RHP) – 4.11 ERA, 61.1 IP, 79 H, 44K, 5BB, 9 HR

– Slowey had a great spring, raising hopes, but struggled mightily with his consistency early in the season.  Not any more.  He delivered another quality starts versus the mighty BoSox last week, and that his fourth quality start in a row.

– It’s very had for a pitcher who gives up that many hits to be a starting job in the majors.  The average major leaguer, in 61 innings, would have given up about 61 hits.  Slowey has give up 79.  And that home run number is high too.  How is he getting away with it?

– Because hits are practically the only way guys get on base against Slowey.  He refuses to give up any free passes.  5 walks in 61 innings?  Seriously?  The average major leaguer would have about 20.  That’s Silvesque, back when Carlos Silva was silly good.  Or, if you prefer a 90’s Twins reference, that’s Tewksburrific. 

– It’s a bit of a cliché that Slowey doesn’t have great stuff, but he can average a 91-93 MPH fastball.  But the reason he should be better than average is he can control all three of his off-speed pitches, and doesn’t need to rely on one or the other if he’s behind or ahead in the count. 

 

Indians:  David Huff(LHP) – 10.97 ERA, 10.2 IP, 18 H, 7 K, 6 BB, 3 HR

 

– The good news for Twins fans?  Huff has had three major league starts and has yet to last more than four innings in any of them.  The bad news?  His last start was cut short by rain, and he had pitched four scoreless inning to the Devil Rays prior to that. 

– The good news?  Just look at those major league numbers so far.  The bad news?  His AAA numbers are decent, posting a 4.35 ERA, with 32K and 16BB in 39.1 IP.  He also gave up 35 hits.  Those numbers are almost perfect average, except that he put them up in high altitude Colorado Springs. 

– He’s not a particularly hard-throwing left-hander, similar to other pitchers that the Indians have developed in recent years, like Jeremy Sowers. 

– The Twins have traditionally struggled against left-handed pitchers, and that’s the perception this year.  But it’s not the reality.  The Twins OPS against right-handed pitchers is .776 (9th in the league) and versus left-handed pitches it is .779 (12th in the league). 

Twins vs Brewers Pitching Previews

Friday

Twins: Kevin Slowey(RHP)
– 4.50 ERA, 48 IP, 65 H, 35 K, 4 BB, 8 HR

– You’ll notice the four walks in 48 innings, which is
incredible.  An average major league
starter would have closer to 12.  That
helps him considerably, because Slowey has always given up hits, usually about
one per inning (which is also about the major league average).  But 65 in 48 innings?  No wonder he’s struggling.

– He’s been inconsistent this year, but his
last starts was one of his best of the year. 
He held the Yankees to just two runs in Yankee Stadium over 7.2 innings.
More significantly, he struck out eight, his season high.  Might we finally be seeing the Slowey we
expected? 

– His stats say he needs to make adjustments versus
left-handers. They’re really crushing him this year, hitting .362.  Worse, 17 of those 38 hits have been for
extra bases. 

– Slowey has generally had good success versus the
Brewers.  Ryan Braun is 0 for 9 against
him, and Jason Kendall is 0 for 8.  But
JJ Hardy is 3-7 with a home run. 
 

– About 70% of the time the radar gun will tell you he’s
throwing his fastball.   He evenly uses
the curve, slider and changeup the rest of the time.  That doesn’t vary much, whether he’s behind
or ahead in the count.

 

Brewers: Manny Parra(LHP)
– 4.57 ERA, 43.1 IP, 43 H, 39 K, 26 BB, 4 HR

– The 26-year-old Parra was a prospect in the Brewers system
for years, but kept battling injuries. Finally in 2007 he broke through, racing
through three levels in the minors including throwing a perfect game in AAA
Nashville.  A breakthrough 2008 in the
majors was expected.

   It didn’t
happen.  He had shown control throughout
the minors, but struggled with it in  the majors.  By September he (and his 1.5ish WHIP) was
demoted to the bullpen. 

– But he’s had a second chance this year due to a lack of
options.  He really struggled in April
(6.52 ERA), but he’s heated up in May (3.00 ERA).  The difference?  His strikeouts have jumped up a bit.  

– But he
still looks like he’s struggling with his control. Look at his innings pitched compared to Slowey.  Now look at their walks.  These are two very different pitchers.

– Versus right-handers, he’s a 3 pitch guy, using his
fastball, then his changeup, and finally his curve.  But versus left-handers he almost never uses
the changeup.  If he’s ahead in the
count, he’ll throw a lot of offspeed.  If
behind, he’ll throw a fastball ¾ of the time. 

– Even last year he was good against the Twins, shutting
them out for seven innings.  Only Nick
Punto and Delmon Young (who won’t be with the team) have any hits off of
him. 

Saturday

Twins: Anthony
Swarzak (RHP) –  2.25 ERA, 44 IP, 40 H, 32
SO, 11 BB, 1 HR

– Yeay!  We get to see
a major league debut!

– Swarzak has been a highly rated prospect for the
Twins for years after being drafted in the second round of the 2004 draft.  The first pick in that draft was Glen
Perkins, who Swarzak is replacing in the rotation because Perkins was placed on
the DL after his last start. 

– But the last couple of years have been a rocky ride.  In 2007 he served a 50-game suspension for a
“drug of abuse” (as opposed to a performance-enhancing drug like
steroids).  In 2008 he really struggled
in AA-New Britain, but was promoted to AAA-Rochester
midyear anyway….

– And then it all changed. 
In AAA he posted a 1.80 ERA over his
seven starts.  And it has continued this
year. 

– His minor league numbers are good, not great, so far this
year.  Most striking (and encouraging,
considering he’s facing the Brewers) is that he’s only given up one home
run. 

– He is supposed to have a plus fastball and curve. 

– The Twins have said that even when Perkins
comes back, Swarzak might have a role in the bullpen. 

 

Brewers: Braden
Looper(RHP) – 4.26 ERA, 44.1 IP, 47 H, 27 K, 16 BB, 8 HR

– Looper looks like a 34-year-old veteran pitcher, whose
numbers are league-average in almost every way. 
But his career has been backward….

– He’s pitched in the NL for all 11 years of his career,
including several years as a closer for the Marlins and Mets.  That changed two years ago with the
Cardinals, when he started in the Cardinals rotation.  He signed with the Brewers this year. 

– He was very good in April (2.26 ERA) but has really
struggled in May (6.05 ERA).  The
difference is that he’s given up a lot of home runs lately.  He’s also given up six of his eight home runs
this year to left-handed batters. 

– He’s a two-pitch pitcher, but they vary depending on
whether he’s facing a right-handed or a left-handed batter.  Versus lefties he throws
fastball-changeup.  Versus righties it is
fastball-curve. 

 

Sunday

Twins: Scott Baker(RHP)
– 6.98 ERA, 38.2 IP, 43 H, 29 K, 10 BB, 10 HR

– Has it only been two months?  Because Baker’s year has had enough drama for
a full season.  He was shelled in spring
training, missed his Opening Day start with a sore shoulder, and then gave up
so many home runs in his first two starts that his manager actual said “He
stinks right now. Not all the time. But right now he does. And he needs to
un-stink.”

– But he progressed.  In
his 3rd start, he gave up runs, but they weren’t home runs.  In his fourth start, he gave up runs, but
they were all in the seventh inning after throwing a no-hitter for the first
six innings.  Finally, he threw seven
innings of shutout ball en route to his first win of the year. Things looked good…

– And then he regressed. 
His last two starts, against division rivals Detroit
and Chicago, he’s given up nine runs in eleven innings.  In his last start,  he gave up two home
runs again and frustrations boiled over.  He has been victimized all
year by ‘big’ innings, where he looks like he loses confidence.  Your guess is as good as anyone what to
expect this time out. 

– Has four pitches, but about 2/3 of the time he dials up
his fastball, with sliders being his second favorite.  He especially likes to throw the slider when
he’s ahead in the count, or with two strikes.  

– He’s faced the Brewers a fair amount for a National League
team.  Brewers hitters have 63 at-bats
and are hitting .286 against Baker with three home runs.  Bill Hall has three hits in nine at-bats, and
two of them are home runs. 

 

Brewers: Dave Bush(RHP)
– 3.74 ERA, 53 IP, 46 H, 38 K, 11 BB, 9 HR

– Bush is another fairly solid, but not spectacular,
starting pitcher.  The 29-year-old puts
up decent numbers, gets a good amount of ground balls, but gives up too many
home runs.  That’s been his mantra for
several years, and it’s continuing this year. 
That’s how you beat Dave Bush. 
You hit home runs. 

– He comes into this game having thrown four quality starts
in a row.

– It looks like teams like to load up their lineup with
left-handers against him, but historically he seems to be just about as good
against them.  This year, in fact,
lefties are only hitting .212 against him, while right-handers are hitting
.273. 

– More evidence that right-handers can hit Bush?  Cuddyer has crushed him over his career.  He’s six for eleven (.545), including a home
run. 

– He’s a four pitch guy, favoring his curveball as his top
offspeed pitch, but mixing in his changeup (mostly vs LHs) and his slider
(mostly vs RHs) too.  

Tigers vs. Twins Pitching Matchups

Tuesday

Twins: Kevin Slowey(RH)
– 5.50 ERA, 34.1 IP, 50 H, 25 K, 2 BB, 6 HR

– Example #69,432 of why we don’t show the nearly worthless
“Win” stat for pitchers:  Slowey is 4-1,
but has just two quality starts in his six outings.  He started with two forgettable outings, was
dominant in his next two, but then floundered in his last two. 

– You’ll notice the two walks in 34 innings, which is
incredible.  An average major league
starter would have closer to 11.  That
helps him considerably, because Slowey has always given up hits, usually about
one per inning (which is also about the major league average).  But 50 in 34 innings?  No wonder he’s struggling.

– It’s not all doom and gloom.  He had a great spring, and looked poised to
breakout this season after posting a 3.99 ERA last year.  His middle two starts show he has the
talent.  He just needs to make
adjustments, particularly to lefthanders. 
They’re really crushing him this year, hitting .364.  And fully half of all those hits have been
for extra bases. 

– But getting on track will be difficult against Detroit.  Of the six Tigers who have faced Slowey at
least five times, five of them are batting at least .333. 

 

Tigers: Armando.
Galarraga(RH) – 4.08 ERA, 35.1 IP, 33 H, 29 K, 16 BB, 4 HR

– Baseball wonks are fond of pointing out all the starting
pitchers that the Texas Rangers, a team that perennially needs starting
pitching, have given away, but they often overlook Galarraga.  He came to the Tigers just before last year
in a swap of minor leaguers, but the injury to Dontrelle Willis gave him a
chance and he ran with it posting a 3.73 ERA.

– Prior to that, the 27-year-old wasn’t a highly sought
prospect, and even coming into this season, he had his detractors.  A 1.85 ERA in April tends to silence the critics.

– He’s struggled his last two outings, and is sporting a
9.00 ERA in May.  He’s giving up home
runs this month (3 already). 

– Overall lefties are hitting .286 against him this year, so
it shouldn’t be too surprising that Morneau, Mauer and Bushcer all have career
batting averages north of .300 against him. 
And Kubel?  He’s just 3-14, but
one of those is a home run. 

 

Wednesday

Twins: Glen Perkins –
3.73 ERA, 41 IP, 38 H, 22 K, 8 BB, 3 HR

– Perkins was the best Twins starter earlier this year bar none,
beginning the season with three quality starts where he went at least 8 innings
and gave up no more than two runs.

– But since then he’s struggled, posting a 7.47 ERA over his
last three starts. 

– The difference? 
Statistically there hasn’t been a on of difference, other than just
giving up more hits.  But if you look at
the individual pitches, it looks like there has been slightly less control, and
that’s resulted in more hits and less favorable counts. 

– Perkins is likely not disappointed that Carlos Guillen is
out of the lineup this series.  He’s 5
for 10 against him.  Miguel Cabrera is 4 of
10 with a home run.. 

 

Tigers: Dontrelle
Willis – 0.00 ERA, 0 IP, 0 H, 0 K, 0 BB, 0 HR

– If he wasn’t pitching against the Twins, he’s the kind of
guy you might want to root for. 
Willis.  Willis was one of the
most exciting pitchers in baseball as a 21-year-old in 2003, winning NL
Rookie-of-the-Year honors.  Two years
later he finished second in the NL Cy Young voting. 

– In 2007 his performance declined markedly with the
Marlins, but that didn’t stop the Tigers from acquiring him in a blockbuster
trade AND signing him to a guaranteed
three-year contract for $29 million.

– Things fell apart in 2008. 
he struggled so badly that the Tigers sent him down to Single-A to
rework his trademark delivery.  It
seemingly didn’t help much, as he earned a 8.53 ERA in September.

– If only that was the worst of it.  This year, after struggling in spring
training, he was put on the disabled list with an anxiety disorder.  He’s worked his way back through the minors,
including two starts in AAA where he posted
a 3.55 ERA over 12.2 innings.  That
included eight strikeouts, six walks, twelve hits and one home run.  This is his first start of the year.

– Previously he threw about 75% fastballs, and then sliders
versus left-handed batters and sliders and changeups against right-handed
batters.  In the past, a good chunk of
his success was thought to be due to the deception inherent in his funky
delivery. 

 

Thursday

Twins: Scott Baker –
6.83 ERA, 27.2 IP, 31 H, 21 K, 5 BB, 8 HR

– It’s been a rough road for Baker this year, and we’re only
in mid-May.  He was shelled in spring
training, missed his Opening Day start with a sore shoulder, and then gave up
so many home runs in his first two starts that his manager actual said “He
stinks right now. Not all the time. But right now he does. And he needs to
un-stink.”

– The progression continued. 
In his 3rd start, he gave up runs, but they weren’t home
runs.  In his fourth start, he gave up
runs, but they were all in the seventh inning after throwing a no-hitter for
the first six innings.  And last week he
threw seven innings of shutout ball en route to his first win of the year. 

– Beware of Magglio Ordonez and Curtis Granderson.  That’s generally true, but especially for
Baker.  In 28 at-bats, Ordonez has 12
hits.  And in 34 at-bats, Granderson has a
reasonable nine hits, but four of them are home runs. 

 

Tigers: Justin
Verlander(RH) – 4.50 ERA, 44 IP, 38 H, 56 K, 14 BB, 3 HR

– Verlander’s success in previous years coincided with  (and drove) the rise of the Tigers in the
middle of this decade.  His struggles
last year (4.84 ERA) coincided (and partly drove) the egg the Tigers laid in
2008.   It isn’t clear which direction
Verlander and the Tigers are going this year, but it’s a good bet it’ll be the
same direction.

– The Tigers ace, Verlander was borderline awful early in
the year, posting a 9.00 ERA after his first four starts.  Since then, he’s been awesome, giving up just
one run over his last three starts and 23 innings.  His last game was a two-hit shutout. 

– Whether it’s coincidence or not, I don’t know, but
Verlander has a 0.95 ERA at home and a 7.20 ERA on the road. Let’s hope that
holds up.

– Even in an uneven year, he’s been death to right-handed
batters who are hitting just .191 against him. 

– Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Joe Crede are all hitting
.333 or better against Verlander over his career.

Twins vs. Mariners 5/8/09

Friday

Twins: Scott Baker(RH) – 9.15 ERA, 20.2 IP, 26 H, 16 K, 5 BB, 8 HR

– Baker missed the first week of the season with shoulder stiffness, and struggled in spring training too.  Then he came back and gave up seven home runs in 8.2 innings in his first two starts. His third start he showed some improvement – he still gave up four runs over six innings, but they weren’t home runs.  And his fourth start was even better, throwing a no-hitter for six innings before completely falling apart (5 ER and no outs) in the seventh. 

– His primary offspeed pitch is slider, but he’ll mix in curves and changeups.  When he falls behind in the count, he’ll rely on his fastball. 

– Several Mariners have had success against Baker in their career.  Most surprising is Jose Lopez, whose career average is just .271, but who is 9-18 against Baker. 

 

Mariners: Chris Jakubauskas(RH) – 5.76 ERA, 25 IP, 26 H, 11 K, 6 BB, 1 HR

– It’s feel-good story time.  Guy toils in the independent leagues as a pitcher through his early and mid-20s, with no hope in sight of ever being a major leaguer.  Suddenly, he’s signed by a big league club.  Over the next year he races through 3 levels of the minors.   – At the next spring training the 30-year-old pitches his way onto the rotation.  Yes, it’s a feel-good story.  Let’s hope the Twins stomp all over this little Disneyesque fairy tale.

He’s 30, he’s right-handed, he doesn’t strike out many, but also keeps the ball in the park.  – He looks like basically a two-pitch pitcher – fastball and curve.  In his last start, he only threw a changeup twice, and no sliders.  He has trouble finishing off hitters when he’s ahead in the count.

– Left-handers are hitting .308 against him.  That bodes well for the middle of the order. 

 

Saturday

Twins: Twins: Francisco Liriano(LH) – 5.30 ERA, 35.2 IP, 32 H, 29 K, 14 BB, 4 HR

-Liriano was beat up pretty good earlier in the year, but his last two starts have both been quality starts, giving up just two runs in each and going about seven innings. 

– His biggest issue has been his control, but he’s pitched better than his ERA, and he’s also gradually improved this year. 

– Believe it or not, Liriano throws his fastball less than the other Twins starters.  Versus right-handers he’ll throw about 50% fastballs and then 25% sliders and changeups.  Against left-handers, he almost completely abandons the changeup and becomes a two-pitch pitcher. 

– Ichiro is 5-13 against Liriano in his career.  On opening night, Ken Griffey went 1-3 against Liriano, but that hit was a home run. 

 

 

Mariners: Felix Hernandez(RH) – 3.38 ERA, 40 IP, 37 H, 45 K, 10 BB, 3 HR

– Hernandez was supposed to be the next big thing when he came into the majors four years ago.  Such is the problem with hype.  The 22-year-old has over 666 innings under his belt already and a career 3.80 ERA – and still people are disappointed with him.  We should all have such disappointment.  

– He leans most on the fastball, but he has three offspeed pitches and uses them all equally.  Also, his pitch selection doesn’t change much – ahead in the count, behind in the count, two strikes, first pitch – with one exception.  Versus left-handed batters, he’ll use his changeup quite a bit, but he almost never uses it against right-handers.  

– You may remember that he started against the Twins on Opening Night (the Mariners won) but that he hurt his ankle.  That’s bothered him throughout the season so far.  His last starts was his worst of the year, and most telling is that he gave up a lot of fly balls which isn’t his style.

– He’s dominated most Twins throughout his career, with the BIG exception of Joe Mauer who is 8-14 with a home run against him. 

 

Sunday

Twins: N. Blackburn – 5.19 ERA, 34.2 IP, 44 H, 13 K, 10 BB, 3 HR

– Blackburn has been remarkable consistent this year, going 5-7 innings, and giving up 2-4 runs in most of his starts.  If the definition of a good starting pitcher is that he “give you a chance to win”, then Blackburn is a good starting pitcher.

– Or at least he was before his last outing.  In a clunker versus the Tigers, he gave up six earned runs (and nine runs total) in just 3.1 innings.  To be fair, the Twins defense was absolutely brutal that day.

– Endy Chavez is 3-3 against Blackburn over his career.  Adrian Beltre is 3-5 with 4 RBI against him. 

 

Mariners: Erik Bedard – 2.37 ERA, 38 IP, 34 H, 39 K, 6 BB, 3 HR

– The 30-year-old left-hander is a heck of a pitcher when he’s healthy.  Unfortunately for the Mariners, he hasn’t been healthy much since they traded for him prior to 2008.  Unfortunately for the Twins, he is now. 

– He doesn’t change things up much.  He throws his fastball about 2/3 of the time and relies on his curveball most of the rest of the time.  And it doesn’t matter much what the count is or who he’s facing, though he’ll mix in a few more changeups when facing right-handed batters.

– Justin Morneau has owned Bedard, with 8 hits in 16 at-bats including two home runs.  But in the opening series of the year, Morneau went 0-3 against him.  So maybe he’s due.    

 

 

Twins vs. Royals – 5/1/09 – Pitching Probables

Friday

Twins: Kevin Slowey(RH)
– 4.44 ERA, 26.1 IP, 36 H, 19 K, 2 BB, 5 HR

·       
He’s BA-aaaacccck.  After opening the season with two crummy
starts, he’s had to very good starts, giving up just three runs over those 15
innings.  That’s more like what we
expected after his outstanding spring training.

·       
And the Twins are rewarding him by stretching
him out, too.  He’s thrown 114 pitches in
both of the last two starts.  That’s a
pretty heavy workload this early in the season. 
Hopefully it doesn’t catch up to him tonight.  (BTW, it shouldn’t.  The Baseball Prospectus study that concludes
that a high pitch count can negatively affects performance says it doesn’t
matter until they pitcher gets to about 120 pitches.)

·       
Lefties are hitting Slowey at a .370 clip this
season.  That may or may not be
significant this early in the season, but it’s something to watch.

·       
Watch out for Mark Teahan.  He’s 4-10 with a home run against Slowey.

 

Royals: Sidney Ponson(RH)
– 5.79 ERA, 23.1 IP, 26 H, 17 K, 10 BB, 2 HR

·       
He’s BA-aaaacccck.  Remember that ex-girlfriend that treated you
shabbily, so you finally ended it, only she keeps showing up and ruining your
parties because she’s dating a friend of a friend?  Fortunately for your sanity, Sir Sidney looks
just about as bad as you remember.  Still,
he’ll be trying to ruin the party again.

·       
During the World Baseball Championship the Netherlands
team made a feel-good run in the playoffs by knocking off the Dominican
Republic. 
Minnesota fans heard about
it because the pitching coach was Bert Blyleven, but the ace of that staff was
Sidney Ponson.  That performance earned
him some time in the Royals spring training, and despite a brutal spring the
added him to the starting rotation. 

·       
He’s pitched better than that 5.79 ERA.  He isn’t giving up that many hits, or home
runs, and he’s striking out quite a few. 
Only his control is a problem, and even that’s not crazy. 

·       
In four starts, he’s really only had one bad
outing.  Two of them were quality
starts. 

·       
Cuddyer might get a break this game.  He’s batted just .077 against Ponson in his
career.

 

Saturday

Twins: Glen Perkins(LH)
– 2.48 ERA, 29 IP, 23 H, 16 K, 6 BB, 0 HR

·       
Perkins has been the best Twins starter this
year, bar none, beginning the season with three quality starts where he went at
least 8 innings and gave up no more than two runs.

·       
But he struggled last weekend versus the
Indians.  Was he out of sync, or tired,
or just had a bad day?  The home plate
umpiring for that game was pretty inconsistent, so that might have been a
factor, too. 

·       
Why you need to be careful with stats:  Right-handed batters are hitting just .189
against he left-handed Perkins, while left-handed batters are hitting
.375.  But to know the full story, you
should look at how many at-bats they have so far.  He’s faced 90 at-bats against right-handers,
and just 16 against left-handers.  That
suggests that only the very best left-handed hitters are kept in the lineup to
face his pitching, so it would make sense that they do pretty well. 

 

Royals: Brian
Bannister(RH) – 0.69 ERA, 13 IP, 5 H, 3 K, 8 BB, 0 HR

·       
After being a poster child for “pitcher without
great stuff who just knows how to pitch” in 2007, Bannister got the snot kicked
out of him in 2008, posting a 5.77 ERA in 32 starts. 

·       
He didn’t break camp with the team but came up a
couple of weeks ago for a spot start and has been very impressive so far in his
two starts.  Just check out that ERA.

·       
More impressively, check out that hit
number.  The average for a pitcher is
about a hit per inning.  To allow just
five in 13 innings is an indicator that he’s sure doing something right.

·       
On the other hand, look at that strikeout
number.  In 13 innings, an average would
be 8  or so.  How is he not missing bats, but also not giving
up hits? 

·       
Kubel is 7-18 against him with a home run in his
career.  Casilla is 4-9 for his
career.   

 

Sunday

Twins: Scott Baker –
9.82 ERA, 14.2 IP, 21 H, 12 K, 4 BB, 7 HR

·       
We should probably start with a quote from his
manager from last weekend: “He stinks right now. Not all the time. But right
now he does. And he needs to un-stink.”

·       
Baker missed the first week of the season with
shoulder stiffness, and struggled in spring training too.  Then he came back and gave up seven home runs
in 8.2 innings in his first two starts.

·       
That said, he didn’t stink in his third start on
Monday.  He still gave up four runs over
six innings, but they weren’t home runs, and a lot of that had to do with pitch
selection or the inability of the catcher to properly block some pitches.  It’ll be interesting to see the impact that
Mauer has on Baker. 

·       
The Royals are a good team against who to get
back on track.  The only regular Royal
who has hit over .214 against Baker is Mark Teahan, who is 7-23 over his
career.  Only Coco Crisp has ever taken
Baker yard (knock on wood).

 

Royals: Gil Meche –
3.77 ERA, 31 IP, 31 H, 27 K, 9 BB, 0 HR

·       
Coming into 2007, Meche was the poster child for
“overpaid starting pitchers” when he signed a five-year $55 million deal by the
Royals.  Which also made the Royals the
poster child for “hopelessly stupie team that will never go anywhere”.  After posting a 3.81 ERA over the first 2+
years of that deal, it’s safe to say both were wrong.

·       
He’s a four-pitch guy, with the curve being the
off-speed pitch he’ll use most often, but usually only when he’s ahead in the
count.  He seemingly doesn’t trust it to
find the strike zone when he’s behind.

·       
He’s been fighting a bad back, but the Royals
say he’ll pitch.

·       
Most Twins haven’t hit Meche much, with the
exceptions of Morneau (8-26, 2 HR) and Cuddyer (4-9).

Twins vs. Rays – 4/26/09

Monday

Twins: Scott Baker(RH)
– 12.46 ERA, 8.2 IP, 15 H, 5 K, 3 BB, 7 HR

·       
Seven home runs in 8.2 innings.  Of those seven home runs, one was a slider
that didn’t slid, and the rest were all fastballs on the inside and upper edge
of the strike zone. 

·       
Baker missed the first week of the season with
shoulder stiffness, and struggled in spring training too.  So the question is whether this is just bad
location, or is that a place that Baker needs to pitch but can no longer sneak
it past batters because of a loss of velocity? 

·       
The radar gun readings on his fastball are about
the same that we saw last April.  Of
course, he gave up 6 home runs in two games last April too.  Hopefully this is something that he goes
through early each year and eventually overcomes.

·       
We would be remiss if we didn’t pass along this
little gem from manager Ron Gardenhire about Baker.  “He stinks right now. Not all the time. But
right now he does. And he needs to un-stink.”  Is it bad that we took that quote out of
context?

 

Rays: Jeff Niemann(RH)
– 5.40 ERA, 16.2 IP, 18 H, 9 K, 7 BB, 3 HR

·       
The Rays are oozing pitching talent.  Niemann wasn’t supposed to be on the staff
this year, just because the starting rotation was already so crowded, but he
made it because the Rays demoted stud prospect (and postseason hero) David
Price for a little more seasoning at AAA.

·       
He hasn’t been good, not great, so far, but he
numbers in AAA last year suggest he will be
great soon enough.  In 133 innings, he
struck out 128, walked just 50, and gave up just 101 hits.  In many organizations he would be the top
blue chip pitching prospect.

·       
Lefties are hitting .300 against him, but
right-handers have all three home runs he’s given up.

·       
You aren’t seeing things.  He really is 6′ 9″.

 

Tuesday

Twins: Francisco
Liriano(LH) – 7.06 ERA, 21.2 IP, 21 H, 17 K, 9 BB, 3 HR

·       
Liriano hasn’t had a great year, but that 7.06
ERA doesn’t jive with the rest of those numbers.  That’s not a lot of hits.  That’s slightly worse than average in home
runs.  The strikeouts are great.  And the walks aren’t awful.  This is feeling like a bit of bad luck. 

·       
A recent post by one of espn.com’s writers
suggested that Liriano has been throwing most fastballs this year, and that it
hasn’t been a good thing.  Inside Edge
previously reported that he only throws fastballs about 51% of the time, which
is the lowest percentage of the Twins starting pitchers.  He relies on his slider and changeup the rest
of the time.

·       
He’s been much better at home, with just a 3.46
ERA in the Metrodome this year. 

 

Rays: James Shields(RH)
– 3.67 ERA, 27 IP, 23 H, 13 K, 7 BB, 5 HR

·       
Shields is the veteran dependable ace of the
Rays pitching staff.  And he’s just 27.

·       
He’s a fastball/changeup pitcher, and the two
account for about 80% of the pitches he throws. 
He can mix in curve and slider too. 

·       
 The stats
suggest right-handers have hit him quite a bit better than left-handers this
year.  Of course, the stats also suggest
that only the best right-handed hitters are left in the lineup to face him when
he pitches.

·       
But several of the Twins have done pretty well
against Shields.  Jason Kubel is 6 for 10
with a home run against him.  And if Joe
Mauer makes it back by Tuesday, he’ll be trying to improve on his .364 career
average (4 for 11) against Shields. 

 

Wednesday

Twins: Nick Blackburn(RH)
– 4.44 ERA, 24.1 IP, 28 H, 9 K, 6 BB, 1 HR

·       
Blackburn confounds that
stat guys.  He’s right-handed.  He doesn’t strike people out.  He doesn’t get a lot of groundballs.  And yet he succeeds.  Watch and see if you can figure out how. 

·       
His last start was wonderful.  After giving up four runs in each of his
first three starts, he gave up just one over seven innings against the division
rival Cleveland Indians last Friday night. 

·       
Teams are stacking lineups with left-handers
against him, and that’s working for them. 
They’re hitting .289 off of Blackburn this
year. 

·       
Maybe most importantly, the knee surgery that
limited him in spring training hasn’t seemed to be an issue. 

 

Rays: Scott Kazmir(LH)
– 3.97 ERA, 22.2 IP, 18 H, 17 K, 12 BB, 3 HR

·       
Compare Kazmir’s ERA Liriano above.  And then compare the rest of the
numbers. 

·       
He’s also one of the Rays aces.  Last year, after starting the season battling
some injuries, he still managed to finish in the top ten in strikeouts, and
posted a 3.49 ERA.

·       
He’s been very good and very bad this year,
depending on his control.  For instance,
against the White Sox he started the game by walking the bases loaded, and
lasted just four innings.  In his next
start he also struggled with control early, but then retired the last eleven
batters in a row. 

·       
Expect him to be careful when facing
Morneau.  Morneau has just three hits in
12 at-bats against Kazmir, but two of them are home runs.

Angels vs. Twins – 4/17/09

Pitching Probables


Friday

 

Twins: N. Blackburn(RHP)
– 5.73 ERA, 11 IP, 14 H, 2 K, 4 BB, 1 HR

·       
Two strikeouts in eleven innings?  Two?!? 
That’s the kind of statistic that makes baseball statisticians’ heads
throb – or take smug satisfaction in a 5.73 ERA. 

·       
But Blackburn has never
been a strikeout pitcher and in both games he pitched well enough to win. 

·       
Maybe most importantly, the knee surgery that
limited him in spring training hasn’t seemed to be an issue. 

 

Angels: D. Moseley(RHP)
– 3.86 ERA, 11.2 IP, 15 H, 7 K, 2 BB, 2 HR

·       
Moseley has been on the fringe of the Angels
rotation for the last few years, and has the sort of 5th
pitcher/long reliever stats that you would expect.  He’s trying to bounce back from a
disappointing 2008 where he battled injuries that affected his performance in
the majors and at AAA.

·       
Besides his fastball, he mostly relies on his
curve versus right-handers and his changeup against left-handers.  When he gets behind in the count and needs to
throw a strike, he’ll rely on his fastball more. 

·       
No Twin has faced him more than twice.  Michael Cuddyer is 2 for 2 with a double
against him. 

 

Saturday

 

Twins: Kevin Slowey(RHP)
– 7.94 ERA, 11.1 IP, 22 H, 7 K, 1 BB, 4 HR

·       
What’s wrong with Slowey?  Everyone, including Slowey, wishes they
knew.  After his first start, he and
the coaching staff thought he was trying too hard to dominate.  After his second outing, manager Ron
Gardenhire suggested maybe his offspeed pitches weren’t slow enough.  And Slowey said he wanted to compare tapes
from his two regular season starts to the success he had in spring
training.  We’ll see if they figured
anything out. 

·       
What we do know is that the ERA isn’t an
aberration or cheap runs.  Slowey gave up
a hit an inning last year, and he’s doubling that this year.

·       
Most Angels don’t have many hits against Slowey,
but three have hit home runs against him – Bobby Abreu, Howie Kendrick and Gary
Matthews Jr. 

 

Angels: Darren Oliver(LHP)
– 2.45 ERA, 3.2 IP, 3 H, 4 K, 1 BB, 0 HR

·       
Oliver is a veteran reliever who is going to be
asked to make a couple of spot starts to replace deceased rookie pitcher Nick
Adenhart, who was killed last week by a drunk driver hours after his first
start of the year. 

·       
He’s a 38-year-old left-hander, and the Angels
will likely need to go to their bullpen fairly early due to his pitch
count.  That’s not necessarily good news,
as manager Mike Sciosia has traditionally done a great job stocking his
bullpen.

·       
Throws a fastball, curve and slider, and only
the occasional changeup.

·       
Lots of Twins have a little experience against
Oliver, but nobody has more than 2 hits against him over their career. 

 

Sunday

 

 

Twins: Glen Perkins(LHP)
– 1.69 ERA, 16 IP, 12 H, 8 K, 3 BB, 0 HR

·       
Perkins has been the best Twins starter this
year, bar none.  In fact, through 4/14
he’s the only pitcher with a quality start (he has two) and has pitched through
the eighth inning in both of his starts.

·       
In nine plate appearances against Perkins, Bobby
Abreu has four hits, two walks and a triple. 
But he’s the only Angel with more than one career hit against him. 

 

Angels: Shane Loux(RHP)
– 3.38 ERA, 5.1 IP, 5 H, 2 K, 3 BB, 0 HR

·       
The 29-year-old has spent most of his time the
last few years in AAA, but was called up for
some starts last year.  He is being relied upon early this year as the Angels try
to patch together a rotation to deal with Adenhart’s death and injuries to John
Lackey and Ervin Santana.

·       
He mostly relies on his fastball and slider.

·       
He faced the Twins once last year, but it was in
relief of Joe Saunders in a
9-0 Twins win.  Loux gave up three runs
over 3.2 innings including a home run to Denard Span. 

 

 

Blue Jays vs. Minnesota Twins 4/13-4/16

Pitching Probables


Monday

Twins: Kevin Slowey –
7.50 ERA, 6 IP, 9 H, 5 K, 0 BB, 2 HR

 

Background:  Slowey’s
first start didn’t go like Twins Territory
had hoped.  He admitted that he got a
little too excited and a little too amped up to dominate hitters, and ended up
giving up several hard hit balls (and two home runs) to the Mariner through hit
first four innings.  He calmed down later
to last six innings, and the Twins (and Slowey) ended up winning the game, but
the Twins are expecting a better performance from Slowey over the rest of the
season.

 

What to look for:  The
batters on Toronto’s roster have
hit .364 against Slowey combined. 
Yikes.  But in 55AB against
Slowey, none of them have ever drawn a walk. 

 

Blue Jays: Jesse
Litsch – 7.50 ERA, 6 IP, 7 H, 5 K, 1 BB, 3 HR

 

Background:  Litsch is
a 24-year-old right-hander who has almost two years of major league experience
and a tidy career ERA of just 3.75.  So
how come you never hear anything about this guy?   Well, because the peripheral numbers, and
particularly the strikeouts (154 K in 293 IP), are a little under
whelming.  But how much longer does he
need to have success before we start to overlook that?

 

What to look for: 
It’ll be interesting to see which outfielder Gardenhire sits against
Litsch, because they all have had a fair amount of success against him.  Delmon Young is 4-13 (.308).  Cuddyer is 2-5 (.400) with a home run.  Denard Span is 2-4.  Carlos Gomez is 2-3 with a home run.  The only exception is Jason Kubel, who is
just 1-7, but he’s almost assuredly in the lineup because he’s
left-handed. 

 

Tuesday

Twins: Glen Perkins –
1.13 ERA, 8 IP, 5 H, 4 K, 2 BB, 0 HR

 

Background:  Perkins
delivered the team’s first quality start this season, but still got stung with
an “L” after giving up just one run and five hits over eight innings against Seattle.  The Twins lost the game 2-0.

 

What to look for: 
Hold your breath a little when Alex Rios comes up to bat.  He’s 4-6 with a HR against Perkins. 

 

 

Blue Jays: Ricky
Romero – 3.00 ERA, 6 IP, 7 H, 5 K, 2 BB, 1 HR

 

Background: It’s
kind of hard to figure out what’s going on here.  The 24-year-old left-hander was the #6
overall pick in the 2005 draft, but he had pretty much stalled out at AA after
a couple of years, though he had a little more success in a short stint late last
season in AAA.  This spring he came to camp and spend most of
it working with pitching coach Brad Arnsberg on rebuilding his delivery.  And now he’s in the starting rotation?  It worked his first time out, as he held the
Tigers to two runs over six innings and got the ‘W’.

What to look for:  He’s struggled with his control, and has
given up lots of hits in the minors, but has never given up many home
runs.  This looks like a good pitcher to
play small ball against rather than wait for the three-run homer.

 

Wednesday

Twins: Scott Baker
(2008) – 3.45 ERA, 172.1 IP, 161 H, 141 K, 42 BB, 20 HR

 

Background:  He’s ba-ack. 
Baker was supposed to not only be the pitcher at the top of the Twins
rotation, but the pitcher at the top of the rotation for the next five years,
as the Twins and he reached an agreement on a long-term contract this
spring.  Then came the shoulder stiffness
that knocked him out of his Opening Day start. 
His rehab start in Fort Myers
looked pretty good.  Now we’ll get to see
if he’s really all the way back.

 

What to look for:  Baker is a fastball/slider pitcher who will
mix in a curve or changeup occasionally. 
He’ll throw the fastball more when he gets behind in the count. The
bigger names in Toronto’s lineup
have not had much success against him in their career.  Vernon Wells is just 2-9 (though one of those
hits was a homerun) and Alex Rios is just 1-8.

 

Blue Jays: Scott
Richmond – 6.75 ERA, 4 IP, 5 H, 4 K, 2 BB, 1 HR

Background:  Hey, Saints fans!  This one’s for you.  Richmond
is a 29-year-old graduate of the Northern League, where he played for the Edmonton
Cracker-cats from 2005 through 2007.  The
Jays signed him and placed him at AA, promoted him to AAA,
and then to the majors.  Over the last
two months of the season, he posted a 20:2 K:BB ratio.  Not bad….

 

What to look for:  It
was a small sample size last year, but check out the splits against this
right-handed pitcher:

 

Right-handed batters
vs.
Richmond:  47
AB, .128 BA, 313 OPS

Left-handed batters
vs.
Richmond: 61 AB, .426 BA, 1191 OPS

 

If ever there was a time to start Brian Buscher at third
base, this is it. 

 

Thursday

Twins: Francisco.
Liriano – 6.94 ERA, 11.2 IP, 10 H, 6 K, 4 BB, 2 HR

 

Background:  This year was supposed to be the year the
F-Bomb was all the way back, but he’s been less than dominant in his first two
starts.  His last start in Chicago
was marred by several walks, including two with the bases loaded.  It may not be much to worry about, and he
wasn’t especially wild in spring training. 
He’ll be looking to get back on track. 

 

Blue Jays: Roy
Halladay – 3.86 ERA, 14 IP, 11 H, 9 K, 3 BB, 2 HR

Background:  You can get everything you need to know about
Halladay from the Dugout Splinters in
the Twins Official Scorecard.  Just sit
back and enjoy this matchup.  It should
be significantly more enjoyable for you than it’ll be for the hitters. 

4/9/09 Thursday – Twins vs. Mariners

Pitching Probables

Twins: Glen Perkins (2008): 4.41 ERA, 151 IP, 183 H, 74 K, 39 BB, 25 HR

Background: I don’t care if you are from Minnesota and left-handed – 183 hits in 151 inning is a little worrisome.  But it’s worth noting that a lot of that damage was done in September, which also raised his ERA almost a half run.  And that’s not too surprising considering the previous year he had been injured and thrown middle relief, tallying only 48 innings.

Watch For: Like most pitchers,  he’ll throw his fastball about 2/3 of the time.  Against left-handers he’ll split the rest between sliders and curveballs, while against right-handers he relies mostly on his changeup as his secondary pitch.  But when he falls behind in the count, the hitters should be looking for fastballs – he’ll throw it about 80% of the time. 

Mariners: Jarrod Washburn – 

Background: Call it The Left-Handed Battle of the St. Croix.  Perkins went to high school in Stillwater, while Washburn was born in LaCrosse, WI. 

the 34-year-old Washburn is pitching out the last year of a four-year $37.5 million contract that the Mariners threw his way in 2006.  Over those three years, he’s generally eaten innings, but hasn’t posted an ERA under 4.32.  He had a similar run for the Angels, but posted a 3.20 ERA in his last salary drive. 

Watch For: Lots of Twins have lots of history with Washburn, but few have much success.  Of the guys who have faced him ten times or more, none have hit better than .250.  And that list includes the heart of the Twins batting order – Crede (.250), Morneau (.200), Cuddyer (.182) and Mauer (.182).  On the other hand, Alexi Casilla(4 for 8) and Brendan Harris (3 for 7) have had some success.

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