Results tagged ‘ Justin Morneau ’
As reported in the Star Tribune,
Kevin Mulvey has been recalled from Rochester to pitch out of the
bullpen. Mulvey came over as part of the Santana trade, and this will
be his first call-up with the Twins since coming over from the Mets. The Twins were trying to get
by with only 11 pitchers, but a series of shortened starts at the Dome
(and the injury to Kevin Slowey, which sounds like it might be getting better)
have made that impossible. Mulvey has posted a 3.93 ERA, 1.402 WHIP,
2.13 K/BB, 7.1 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in seventeen starts for the Red Wings
this season. Meh, these numbers aren’t great, but apparently he’s
going to be used for mop-up duty and should handle that role
competently. If anything, he will provide some much-needed depth in the bullpen.
Back-up catcher Jose Morales has been optioned
back to AAA to make room for the extra pitcher. Morales was mostly
called up because Gardy likes to have an extra catcher on days Redmond
is starting and Mauer is the DH, so he wasn’t really getting much
playing time. Obviously, Morales has been having a better season at
the plate than Redmond, but Red has
incriminating pictures of Gardy more experience handling the
pitching staff and I doubt the Twins are willing to eat what little is left of his contract. Besides, the lack of production from some of the
regulars in the lineup is much more troublesome than that from a guy who only plays once a week. The Twins also could probably have optioned
Brian Buscher instead, since he also rarely sees any playing time, but
he offers more versatility in the field than Morales and often fills in
at third when Joe Crede needs a break.
The Twins have been linked
to a number of different players in trade rumors, most notably Freddy
Sanchez, relief pitchers Matt Capps and John Grabow from the Pirates,
and have apparently contacted Toronto about the availability of some of
their relievers. There doesn’t seem to be anything in the works
though, and I’m guessing that Bill Smith felt those organizations were
asking too much in return (or the Twins just don’t have the prospects
Pittsburgh and Toronto are looking for). Obviously, all that can
change with one phone call, so we’ll just have to wait and see what
happens. I don’t really like to get into what moves the organization
should make, who they should be targeting in a trade and all that
because, honestly, I’m not all that good at it. I don’t pay enough
attention to the rest of the league to know who might be a big impact
player that could help the team down the stretch. As critical as I can
be of Bill Smith and the front office sometimes, I really do like to
think that they act in the best interests of the team, and there is at
least some sound reasoning behind some of the moves they’ve made, even
if they didn’t exactly pan out. And I’m really not a fan of
rent-a-player deals, like the ones for Sabathia and Teixeira
last year. Such trades seldom ever help the team make a deep run in
the playoffs, and more often than not, the player ends up signing
elsewhere during the off-season, leaving the organization scrambling to
fill the same holes they had before. Only now the farm system is a bit
thinner on top of it, which is not at all a good thing for an
organization that relies as heavily on its farm system as the Twins.
- Justin Morneau was miffed about the canned Canadian anthem
Morneau was reportedly annoyed that the American national anthem got
the celebrity treatment at the All-Star Game, while fans were treated
to a pre-recorded version of “O, Canada”. Here’s what he told Joe Christensen:
“I wasn’t very impressed with that to tell you the truth. You figure they could find somebody to come and sing the song.
They have a hockey team here, the Canadian teams play here.
“It’s something that didn’t really go over too well. I think if it
happened the other way around, if they were playing in Toronto and they
did that, it would have been a lot bigger deal. But nothing you can do
he wasn’t too worked up about the whole thing, but Morny really does
have a point. It would be different if MLB were like football, in
which all of the teams are American-based and there is no need to
represent more than one country, but it isn’t. It’s more like the NHL,
which has both American and Canadian-based teams. Prior to the start
of every hockey game, someone always sings both national anthems
whether the game is being played in the U. S. or Canada. Besides, Toronto sent two representatives to the All-Star Game, one of which
was the starting pitcher! Obviously, there are fewer Canadian baseball
teams than hockey teams, and there are fewer Canadian-born baseball
players than hockey players, but the canned treatment of the Canadian
anthem was a bit disrespectful to our neighbors to the north. It’s not
really that big of a deal, but if MLB is going to take the time to
honor its Canadian representatives, then at least they should do it right.
- Nick Blackburn pitches his third complete game of the season in Twins’ 6-2 win
However, even though Blackburn is putting up some of the best numbers of his career, it’s still way too early to declare him the team ace (or talk about extending his contract). He wasn’t much better than average last season, and his poor peripherals suggest that a good deal of his success this season is probably due to luck. Coming in to yesterday’s game, Blackie had a very good 3.10 ERA, but his 1.67 K/BB ratio and 2.3 BB/9 rate are at career lows. I wrote elsewhere that if those numbers don’t improve, he will likely finish the season with an ERA much closer to his 4.98 xFIP. The good news, though, is that some of his peripherals have indeed been improving. While his 1.80 K/BB ratio is still rather low, and he still gives up a lot of hits, his BB/9 rate has been steadily declining the past few months (from 3.08 in May to its current 1.00). A lot of it has to do with the fact that his fastball is nasty. The velocity tops out at around 91 mph but the movement on it has been absolutely filthy, and as long as he can sustain that kind of break on his fastball, his strikeout rate should start to improve. Blackburn will likely keep rolling through the second half of the season (and hopefully the playoffs).
- Twins once again send three representatives to the All-Star Game
Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Joe Nathan are all set to represent the
Twins in the ASG. Kevin Slowey probably had a good chance of joining
his teammates in St. Louis, if he hadn’t gone down with a wrist injury
(he is supposed to have an MRI on it today. UPDATE: it is just a strain. He was treated with a cortisone shot and should resume throwing in a few days). You could probably make
the case for Nick Blackburn too (Joe Nathan did), since he is sporting
a 2.94 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, but I have no problem with the likes of
Justin Verlander and Mark Buerhle getting the nod instead. I’m not
going to get into a huge debate over who got snubbed and who didn’t
deserve a starting spot, there’s already plenty of that on the
internets. I don’t think there are many glaring oversights on either
team, other than maybe Ian Kinsler and Torii Hunter (who should be
starting), and the ASG isn’t something I get all worked up about
Justin Morneau has indicated
that he will probably decline an invitation to the Home Run Derby, if
asked. It’s probably just as well. His tendency to fade down the
stretch probably doesn’t have anything to do with participating in the
HR Derby, but why take that chance? Anyway, this way people won’t get
mad at him for beating a much-flashier superstar. Again.
Mauer is making his second consecutive start in the ASG, and his third
career appearance. Even after missing the first month of the
season, he’s still far and away the best catcher in the AL. Although,
5 of the 31 “greatest minds in baseball” think that Victor Martinez
should have been the starting catcher. That’s right, a guy batting
.303/.382/.506/.888 while making half of his starts at first base
deserves to be the starting catcher, while the guy batting .389/.465/.648/1.113
should be on the bench. Yes, let’s give all of the voting power to
these people, clearly the fans are too stupid to get it right.
Nathan is also quietly having one of the best years of his career. His
last blown save came against the Yankees on May 15th, and he hasn’t
surrendered a run since. Not an unearned run, not an inherited runner scoring,
nothing. His 2.40 xFIP, 6.14 K/BB ratio, 11.6 K/9 rate, and 1.9 BB/9
rate as well as 1.35 ERA and 0.750 WHIP are all at or near
career-bests. He’s been getting hitters to chase pitches outside the
strike zone a little more, which has made him extremely effective even
when he doesn’t have his best stuff.
- Twins hit four homers and lose anyway
ZOMG, this is the most unclutchiest lineup ever!!!11!! I mean, for the most part, clutch hitting has a lot more to do with luck than skill. In general, even the greatest hitters will fail more often than not with runners in scoring position, that’s just how the game works. It sucks, it’s frustrating, but that’s just the way it is. Which is why I find this article in the Star Tribune so irritating. To suggest that the problem is that the Twins are relying too much on the long ball and not speed or sacrifice hits (i.e., Twins baseball) is ridiculous. The power hitters in the lineup have been remarkably productive, with Joe Mauer batting .421/.490/.738, Justin Morneau .324/.398/.524 (which is pretty good, considering that he’s been in a slump recently), Jason Kubel .315/.377/.546, and even Michael Cuddyer is starting to pick things up, hitting .281/.360/.518 with 10 homers. Joe Crede has been kind of an exception since he has a paltry .228 BA and .303 OPB, but he also has a .451 slugging percentage and is on pace to hit 20+ homers this year, so he isn’t really part of the problem, either. The real problem has been the lack of production from the bottom of the order, and it has been all season. The Twins certainly aren’t lacking speed in the lineup, with Carlos Gomez, Matt Tolbert, and even Nick Punto all threats to steal, but the three have struggled to get on base consistently. Delmon Young hasn’t been living up to his potential, either, batting .258/.286/.302 while looking horribly uncomfortable at the plate. The good news is that Gomez, Punto, and Young have all taken huge steps forward this month (Yes, even Gomez. He’s drawing more walks and isn’t swinging at so many pitches outside the strike zone, he just hasn’t had much to show for it in the way of results). The bad news however, is that all three are still barely replacement-level position players.
After tonight’s loss to Houston, the Twins have fallen back to the .500 mark and are three games behind the Tigers. This time, the offense wasn’t the problem, since they hit four homers and scored five runs. No, this time it was the pitching staff, specifically the bullpen that fell down. The Twins had a 3-2 lead in the seventh, until Sean Henn came in to relieve Scott Baker. Henn surrendered three runs in the seventh (one was charged to Baker), including a two-run homer to pinch-hitter Jason Michaels, and was yanked in favor of Luis Ayala after recording only one out. I had written before that the pitching isn’t as bad as fans tend to think, and that’s true. But it hasn’t been that great, either. The starting rotation has started to settle down and pitch effectively, but the bullpen is still an issue. While Matt Guerrier and Joe Nathan have been as reliable as ever, and R.A. Dickey is settling into the long relief role, the rest of the ‘pen is simply a disaster waiting to happen. Ayala has been much more effective recently, but he pitches to contact and can’t really be used in close games with runners on base. Jose Mijares hasn’t been too bad, posting a 2.57 ERA in twenty-four appearances, but he’s also been suffering from control issues (his 1.70 K/BB ratio isn’t good) and is bound to get hit hard eventually. The Twins clearly need bullpen help, but so does pretty much everybody else in the league, which will obviously complicate matters at the trade deadline. Still, I guess we should be glad that our bullpen isn’t as bad as the Indians’. Yikes.
- Speaking of homers
Mauer hit his 14th of the season, setting a new career record, and it isn’t even officially summer yet. It was an opposite-field blast (of course) that had given the Twins a 3-1 lead at the time. Someday, opposing pitchers will figure out that it isn’t a good idea to throw him fastballs on the outside corner. Hopefully he’ll hit 20 homers before they do. Obviously, Mauer isn’t going to put up such Pujolsian numbers all season long, since the physical demands of being a catcher will catch up to him eventually. As of right now, though, Mauer is the most valuable player in the league, and it isn’t even close.
Things got off to a really good start for the Twins in Oakland. They jumped out to a three-run lead early in the ballgame, with some timely hitting from the bottom of the order (and a bases-loaded, two-out walk by none other than Carlos Gomez). It looked as though the Twins were finally starting to put their previous road struggles behind them. But, as is apparently the custom in visiting ballparks this season, the pitching staff gave the lead right back. Rookie Anthony Swarzak suddenly couldn’t find the strike zone, walking Matt Holliday and Jason Giambi on eight pitches. He then hit Aaron Cunningham right in the head (who stayed in the game, though he suffered a concussion) and surrendered a three-run double. His night was over when he walked Orlando Cabrera, and failed to make it out of the fourth inning for a second consecutive start. In his defense, he seems genuinely frustrated by his struggles, but it’s clear that he isn’t quite ready to pitch at the major-league level. Once Glen Perkins comes off the DL, Swarzak will likely be sent back to AAA. It’s unlikely he’d even earn a spot in the bullpen with the control issues he’s had.
- Is Justin Morneau in a slump?
Four games is a small sample size, but it certainly seems to be the case. He struggled in Seattle, going 1-for-11 and chasing pitches well outside the strike zone. He also went 0-for-4 in Oakland last night, striking out three times, twice looking. And while it’s true that the Twins have faced three left-handed starters in a row, this shouldn’t be much of a problem for Morny. He’s always hit lefties pretty well, but this season he’s been murdering them, batting .380/..406/.663 with an OPS of 1.069 compared to .292/.409/.585 and a .993 OPS against righties. Morny appears to be pressing at the plate, and considering that he’s played in every single game this year, it’s possible that he just needs a day off. Michael Cuddyer and Brian Buscher might not be the greatest fill-ins at first base, but a slumping Morneau isn’t doing the team much good right now, either.
Tonight: I’ll just be happy if Scott Baker has a second consecutive quality start. The Twins have been waiting for their #1 and #2 starters to consistently pitch well all season, especially on the road. Of course, a win would be even better, but I fear that’s asking too much.