Results tagged ‘ Scott Baker ’
- Twinkies get their a**es handed to them by the Yankees in 10-2 loss
The Wild had just dropped
a must-win game against Colorado and had put forth one of their most
lackluster performances to date. The team had just lost seven of its
past ten games, and were just barely clinging to the slimmest of
playoff hopes, and had only managed to score one lousy goal against the
worst team in the Western Conference in a snoozefest of a game. When
asked why his team put forth such a piss-poor effort with so much on
the line, then-coach Jacques Lemaire replied:
“Maybe this is the team we have.”
this, ladies and gentlemen, is your 2009 Minnesota Twins. OK, maybe
they’re not as bad as last year’s Wild team, but they are pretty much
in the same boat. They haven’t won more than two games in a row since
May 24th, and their longest winning-streak of the season is only four
games. They are currently looking up at the Tigers and the White Sox,
even if it is only by 2.5 games. They will likely get swept at home by
the Yankees, and then have to deal with a red-hot White Sox team before
the All-Star break. The team could certainly use help in the bullpen,
and they could really use a middle infielder who can hit, but aren’t
likely to get anything done at the trade deadline. The Twins have
always preferred to sit on their hands and hope for the best, while
waiting to make their biggest moves during the offseason (if then).
And to be honest, I don’t have a great deal of faith in Bill Smith’s
ability to make trades. His track record so far has been pretty disappointing.
Twinkie Town did a good job breaking down Scott Baker’s horrible performance last night,
and it appears as though he’s still having problems with his
mechanics. His breaking pitches were flat, his fastballs weren’t as
fast, in short, it’s a miracle that he only gave up five runs against one of the most potent lineups in the American League. It had been suggested by some of the commenters
on the Star Tribune site that Baker was awestruck by the Yankee lineup,
that he felt intimidated by them, but I don’t think that was the case
at all. Scotty had actually been quite successful against the Yanks in
his career, going 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA (small sample size, I know).
Besides, Baker had the same issues in his last start in Kansas City, in
which he needed 117 pitches to get through five innings, and I doubt he
was awestruck by the Royals’ All-Star lineup. That the Royals only
scored one run against him says a lot about their offense (namely that
they can’t even buy runs at this point).
- In meaningless award news…
Justin Morneau has indeed declined an invitation
to defend his title in this year’s Home Run Derby, citing a need to
rest up for the second half of the season as his reason for choosing
not to participate. Joe Mauer hasn’t been asked, but Gardy thinks he would win it if he were.
Joe Nathan has been named the DHL Delivery Man of the Month. I mentioned in my previous entry
that Nathan is having one of the best seasons of his career, but I also
want to mention that he’s only walked one batter in his past 11.2
innings, while striking out 18. He’s given up only four hits
in that period. That’s about as good as it gets. No wonder
he’s the only reliever in the bullpen (and one of the few on the staff,
actually) who doesn’t give me heartburn.
- Stephane Veilleux signs with Lightning
I’m a little sad to see Steph go since he’s been with the team for so long, even though he was basically just a fourth-liner. He loved playing in Minnesota and being part of the Wild organization, even after they put him on waivers simply to prove that he wasn’t as valuable as he thought. Still, when rookie sensation Cal Clutterbuck pretty much took over his duties on the checking line, it was pretty clear that this would be Steph’s final season with the team. At least we will always have this:
- 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.
Last night, he hit a game-winning grand slam in the thirteenth inning. In the series finale earlier this afternoon (which I actually didn’t see because I was still sleeping from last night’s extra-inning marathon), he drove in a pair of runs on a single to give the Twins a lead they would never relinquish. Crede has always hit Tigers’ pitching well, posting a career .276/.339/.558 with an OPS of .897 and 24 home runs going into today’s game. And his numbers aren’t skewed just from hitting in U.S. Cellular field for so many years, either. At Comerica Park, he’s a career .287/.341/.599 with 15 homers and an OPS of .939. The Crede deal looks as though it’s starting to pay dividends. Even though he’s provided Gold-Glove caliber defense all season, his bat has been relatively slow to wake up. And that makes sense, as he’s never hit well at the Dome and he’s had to adjust to playing with a new team with an entirely different approach to hitting. But he’s been batting .290/.313/.548 in the month of May, with two homers and eight RBI in his last four games, so perhaps he’s starting to see the ball better inside the Teflon confines. And yes, it does beat having Tony Batista at third.
Scott Baker suffered from yet another big inning that got away from him when the Tigers scored five runs on six hits in the sixth. It wouldn’t be such a big deal, except this is at least the third time he’s had such an inning this year. Dr. Baker was very effective through the first five innings, and though he may not have matched Justin Verlander’s impressive performance, he pitched well enough to keep the Kitties off the scoreboard. Unfortunately, Mr. Scott came out to pitch in the sixth, and things promptly fell apart. Of course, it didn’t help that he had Jason Kubel in the outfield, who rarely plays in the field and missed a fly ball that probably should’ve been caught (and would’ve ended the inning). Kubel is usually the DH because his defense is less than stellar, but he was in the outfield today because Delmon Young is out with a family emergency and is expected to miss at least the next three days. Jose Morales has been called up from Rochester in the meantime. Still, if this doesn’t make the case that Denard Span and Carlos Gomez should both be starting in the outfield, then I don’t know what will. Yes, Kubel is swinging a hotter bat than Go-Go, but his lack of range in the field nearly cost the Twins the game.
Most importantly, though, the bullpen was handed a one run lead and actually held onto it for a change. Craig Breslow pitched a scoreless seventh and retired the first two batters in the eighth before being lifted in favor of Matt Guerrier. Breslow struck out a batter and didn’t walk anyone, which is good news for a guy who has an ugly 0.90 K/BB ratio. He didn’t surrender any home runs, either, something he had become prone to doing lately. Matt Guerrier bounced back from a terrible appearance the night before, when he gave up a three run homer to Miguel Cabrera and a solo shot to Jeff Larish to put the Tigers ahead by a couple of runs. Still, one has to wonder why Guerrier was asked to get the final out in the eighth. While it is perfectly understandable that acting-manager Scotty Ullger (Ron Gardenhire was ejected after arguing with the home plate umpire) didn’t want to leave Breslow in to face Ryan Raburn with a runner on base, since all of the homers he’s surrendered have been to right-handed hitters, Matty G. has pitched 18.1 innings so far this season and has made five straight relief appearances. Why not bring in Joe Nathan? He’s going to pitch the next inning anyway, and unlike Matty G, has only pitched thirteen innings so far this year. Save Matt Guerrier’s arm!
Oh, yeah, and that Joe Mauer guy sucks.
The Twins did OK against Seattle starter (and former shoe salesman)
Al Bundy Chris Jakubauskas, hitting only four home runs, three of which came in the fifth inning. Which is the first time they’ve hit three homers in an inning since these guys did it against the White Sox in 2002. Brendan Harris got the mashing started with a three-run shot that just barely cleared the baggy in left-center field, putting the Twins up 5-0 in the second. Then Joe Mauer decided the fifth inning would be a good time to hit his second homer of the season, almost a week to the day that he hit his first. Of course, Justin Morneau wasn’t going be upstaged by a catcher and followed with a solo shot of his own, his seventh dinger of the year. Brian Buscher, who was filling in for Joe Crede and would probably like to see more playing time, then followed with a two-run shot that gave the Twins an eleven-run lead. Which was nice and everything, but the Twins still left plenty of runners stranded on base. Especially in seventh, when they had runners at second and third with only one out, but failed to bring them in. It’s as though they just got lazy, thinking an eleven-run lead was good enough. And, in this case, it was, but clearly the Twins need more practice when it comes to not leaving runners stranded on the base paths.
Scott Baker finally figured out that it’s a lot easier to keep opponents off the scoreboard if you scatter hits instead of bunching them together. And if you keep the ball in the ballpark, that helps a lot, too. Twinkie Town had a great piece on Baker’s struggles after he imploded against Kansas City in his previous start. Baker always had trouble with losing focus once he allowed a runner to reach base, but seemed to put that behind him last season when he went 11-4 with a 3.45 ERA. This season, however, he’s looked a lot more like the old Scott Baker (or Mr. Scott, if you will), the one who would lose focus when he put runners on and would subsequently get hit hard. Pretty much all of the homers he’s given up this year have come with runners on, and most came right after he surrendered a hit. But Dr. Baker was pretty effective through seven innings last night, making adjustments when he needed to, and just generally not getting freaked out if a Mariner happened to reach base. Since he’s been making steady improvement since his return from the DL, it seems likely that we will see more of Dr. Baker than Mr. Scott this year.
Normally I would complain about using the best pitchers in the ‘pen to close blowout games, but neither Jesse Crain nor Joe Nathan had worked much lately, so I’m not going to rake Gardy over the coals. Much. The M’s aren’t dumb, they sure made Twitchy Boy work in the ninth (by the way, he has something, um, interesting written on his glove), hoping to wear him out in case he has an actual save opportunity sometime this weekend. However, the Twins will be facing King Felix tonight, and a resurgent Erik Bedard on Sunday, so I don’t think that will be much of a problem.
Nick Punto was finally benched for last night’s game, since he has as many hits (15) as strikeouts in 79 ABs, and a team that is struggling to score runs as much as the Twins can’t afford to have such a huge black hole in the lineup. While Brendan Harris isn’t as good defensively at short, he’s hitting .321/.350/.464 with two home runs and deserves to have more regular playing time, at least for the time being. Harris tends to be a streaky hitter, so I wouldn’t expect him to put up such good numbers the rest of the year, but while he’s hot and Punto is ice cold, it would make sense to keep penciling him in at short.
- If I pretend the seventh inning didn’t happen, the Twins win this one, right?
Scott Baker was cruising along, pitching a no-hitter through six innings. The offense, with the help of some Kansas City errors, managed to scratch out four runs against tough right-hander Gil Meche. It looked as though the Twins were about to win their third straight series, and put the ugliness of last night’s game behind them (more on that in a minute). But then all hell broke loose in the seventh. Scott Baker gave up a single to lead off batter Willie Bloomquist. Then another single, then a three-run homer to Jose Guillen. Baker failed to record a single out in the inning, and when it was all over, Kansas City had a 5-4 lead that it wouldn’t relinquish. R.A. Dickey would allow two more runs, and the Royals’ bullpen would hang on to beat the Twinkies 7-5.
Yes, five runs on five hits in one inning is pretty bad, but Baker has shown steady improvement in his past couple of starts and his very good 16/5 K/BB suggests that he’s on the right track. Before he completely fell apart in the seventh, Baker dominated the Royals throughout the entire game, giving up only one walk. I’m not sure if he just lost focus after surrendering the single to Bloomquist, or if he was starting to get tired (Baker has never been terribly efficient and had already thrown about ninety pitches going into the seventh), but this is still a vast improvement for a guy who was surrendering home runs at the rate of once per inning, all of which came with runners on. His ERA has now dropped to 9.15, which is pretty good considering that it was as high as 12.46 after his implosion against the Red Sox in Boston.
I have mentioned before that the Royals will be a good team this year, but this whole series had less to do with the Royals’ talent and everything to do with the Twins’ ineptitude. If it were not for some poor pitching performances in this game, and some crucial defensive mistakes in Saturday night’s game, the Twins would have swept Kansas City and moved into first place. If nothing else, they would have taken two out of three and remained only a half game back. But now they’re 12-13, and are two games behind the first place Royals. Which is precisely where they were before this homestand began.
- Defensive miscues and a horrendous bullpen cost Twins in Saturday’s 10-7 loss
Saturday night’s game against the Royals was about the ugliest I have ever seen. Officially there were four errors between the two teams, but unofficially, well, I lost count of all of the misplays in the field. Brian Bannister, who did struggle a bit, didn’t really get much help from the defense behind him. Only three of the six runs he surrendered were actually earned. Glen Perkins, on the other hand, was terrible on his own, giving up five earned runs on ten hits. For the third start in a row, Perk reverted into his old bad habits and started throwing a steady stream of fastballs whenever he got into trouble. And the Royals made him pay, chasing him out after six mediocre innings. The Perkins that got off to such a good start earlier in the season, the one that went at least eight innings in three starts and gave up only four runs, changed speeds effectively and generally did a good job keeping hitters off balance. I wonder whatever happened to that Perk and if we’ll ever see him again this season.
After last night, Ron Gardenhire has finally decided he’s seen enough of Alexi Casilla’s poor play and has benched the second baseman, at least for one game. Casilla made two crucial errors in the second game of the series, both of which likely cost the Twins the game. In the seventh, with the Twins clinging to a one-run lead, he failed to cover second on a steal attempt by Willie Bloomquist, who later scored on a single by Billy Butler to tie the game. The Royals untied the game in the very next inning, when Casilla misplayed a routine ground ball that would have ended the inning but instead allowed Alberto Callaspo to score from third. Alexi tends to be an emotional guy, and sometimes he lets his struggles at the plate affect his concentration in the field. Casilla was one of the big question marks coming into the season, as he’s struggled at both AAA and the major league levels before putting together a successful 2008 campaign with the big club. Still, Gardy doesn’t think that Casilla’s hot start with the Twins last year was a fluke, and is holding out hope that a day off is all the young second baseman will need to get back on track.
I don’t really know what to say about Craig Breslow. He’s now walked nine batters in 6.2 innings, and walked the bases full in the eleventh before he was pulled in favor of R.A. Dickey. Breslow was very effective last season, but seems to have lost his release point and Ron Gardenhire has now officially put the lefty on notice. The organization has been losing patience with Breslow, whose days are likely numbered since Jose Mijares has been lights out since his call-up and Anthony Slama has been pretty impressive with AA New Britain. It’s kind of a shame, too, because I started to really like the guy. Still, I guess this is probably why he’s bounced around between four different organizations in his five major-league seasons. But hey, at least he still has that medical school thing to fall back on.
- Bruce Boudreau is probably glad that he decided to bench Jose Theodore
Not bad for a rookie:
- Scott Baker manages to not give any home runs, Twins lose anyway
Scott Baker, who has had a lot of trouble keeping the ball in the park in his first two starts, had what was his most successful start of the season against the Rays last night (though he still surrendered four runs on six hits). Things got off to a rough start when he gave up two runs in the first (after he had retired the first two batters he faced). But then he settled down and retired ten straight batters before running into trouble again in the fifth. All in all, it wasn’t a terrible outing, as Baker struck out seven and walked only one, and his pitches had a lot more movement than in his previous starts, but in the end it just wasn’t good enough. Baker’s recent struggles, coupled with the fact that his mechanics were so awful, led to some speculation that he might be hiding an injury (he didn’t want to go on the DL in the first place). However, it seems as though his mechanics have been causing problems before his issues with shoulder stiffness (he gave up a league-leading nine homers during ST), and that perhaps these mechanical issues were what led to his shoulder issues in the first place.
Although the young pitching staff has had its share of struggles early on, it isn’t the starting pitching that concerns me. While all five of them might not exactly be Cy Young winners, they are a lot better than their overall records would indicate. However, the offense, or lack of it, is something to be concerned about. The Twins struggled to do much of anything against Jeff Niemann, who for his part, wasn’t all that impressive. They had runners on base with less than two outs in each of the first three innings, and yet each time failed to drive in a single run. Which wouldn’t be so bad, but this has really been a problem for the lineup (well, at least for the hitters not named Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel, anyway).
Even though Morneau and Kubel both struck out swinging against Niemann with RISP, it’s difficult to get too frustrated with them since both have been essentially carrying the offense. Actually, all of the left-handed hitters in the lineup (and switch-hitter Jose Morales) have been hitting pretty well. The righy bats, however, are a much different story. Outfielders Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Gomez are struggling, with Cuddy batting a miserable .208/.275/.306 and Go-Go an anemic .195/.250/.293. Delmon Young has been a bit more successful, batting .255/.296/.333, but his focus on trying to pull the ball more has led to a lot more double-plays. The crowded outfield situation might be part of the problem, since only Cuddyer has seen much regular playing time (though he hasn’t exactly benefited from it). All of this depth in the outfield was supposed to be one of the team’s major strengths this season, but except for Denard Span, none of them have been very productive at the plate, and two of them are mediocre defensively at best.
While Joe Crede has only twelve hits in 66 plate appearances, half of those have been for extra bases and three have been home runs. Crede was always more of a power hitter with the White Sox and never really hit for average, so it will be interesting to see if his career numbers hold up outside of U.S. Cellular field. Right now, the Twins are 9-11 and in fourth place in the AL Central. While it is still very early in the season, the Twins should be concerned about the lack of production from all of the right-handed hitters in the lineup. They may be blessed with four very good left-handed hitters (Mauer, Morneau, Kubel, and Span), but these four can’t carry the offense by themselves. For now, with such huge holes in the lineup and no major moves in the works, a fourth-place finish looks to be about right.
- You can’t spell V-E-Z-I-N-A without B-A-C-K-S-, dang it
On a non-baseball related note Niklas Backstrom, Boston’s Tim Thomas, and Columbus’ Steve Mason are all finalists for the Vezina trophy. While none are certainly terrible choices, they are a bit controversial since they do play for teams that implement a defense-oriented system (allegedly, more on that in a minute). Oh, I know there are some people who would disagree with me on this, but when you look into the numbers and examine the season in general, Backs is really the most deserving of the three.
While it’s true that Mason and Thomas have both had very good years, and that both have led their teams to the Stanley Cup playoffs, Backs is the only goaltender who has ranked consistently in the top five in GAA, save percentage, wins, and shutouts all season. And while he plays for a team that supposedly plays stifling defense, that certainly wasn’t the case this season. Niklas Backstrom faced 2,059 shots this year, second only to Calgary’s Miikka Kiprussoff (who saw 2,155), and yet he still put up a stellar 2.33 GAA and .923 save percentage. Considering all of the horrible defensive plays made in front of him on a regular basis, and the overall lack of offensive support (the Wild finished near the bottom of the league in goals scored), Backs had to perform a miracle almost every single night. And considering that his mediocre team wasn’t officially eliminated from playoff contention until after the second-to-last game of the season, it’s clear that Backs has been more valuable to his team than any other goaltender in the league.
And he did all that while playing with an injured left hip. But I guess if that isn’t convincing enough, maybe this is: