Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Twins Roundtable

We love the Twins, especially the Twins gals at the games. Has to be the best crop of women at a pro sporting event in the area, right? Anyways, below are roundtable thoughts on the first two weeks of the season, the love for Carlos Gomez, Morneau's expectations and the injury controversy involving former Twin Matt Garza.

Q: We are roughly two weeks into the 2008 Twins season, so it seems like a good time to get some expert thoughts and opinions on this year's squad so far.

First question: Obviously we have to talk about Carlos Gomez. This kid might be the most exciting player the Twins have ever had. What are your thoughts about him so far and what can we expect from him as the season progresses?

Fuzz: You know what? This Gomez kid has a good shot in this league. I went to the game two Friday’s ago vs. the Royals and Gomez was soooooo entertaining to watch. Like we've all heard, he's going to have his ups & downs, but his ups are awesome! He bunted for a single in his first AB (a common theme, it seems like), stole second and scored on a Mauer single. Badda boom--Badda bing! Just like that, we're on the board. If he gets on base a healthy amount this year, he's stealing 60 bags. Also, the lowkey-out of the spotlight Minnesota market might do a kid like Gomez a lot of good. New York is a different animal and some thrive in that atmosphere. Gomez, when called up last year didn't thrive so well. He's a confident young man that could have been pushing too much to prove he was right. Here in this great state, the pressure isn't nearly has heavy. He could be our leadoff hitter for the next 15 years.

Marx: I mentioned this the other day. He might some day steal 100 bases in a season if he can stay healthy and get on base enough. Its almost guaranteed he will be standing on second base if he somehow reaches first. I think his defense has also been pretty fair. Secondly, is Delmon Young the next Torii Hunter? Have you watched him bat yet? He swings at every slider low and away and tries to pull it. Every opposing pitcher knows this and they have been pitching him appropriately. Scott Baker has looked mediocre in his starts and its pretty obvious he is a back end of the rotation pitcher. So is Boof Bonser. Livian Hernandez and Nick Blackburn have looked very good so far, but can they keep it up? It also sounds like Slowey's injury could be fairly serious and he could be out for awhile.

Q: I know it's early in the season (and in his career--the kid's only 22), but has there been a more disappointing player than Young? You're right about the swinging at terrible pitches thing, and on top of that he's not driving the ball at all. It seems like every single hit he's had this year was to the opposite field and looked more like a mistake than a solid hit. I hope our hitting coach Joe Vavra is working with him for hours every day, because things don't look great with him right now.

Not only is our staff full of 3, 4, and 5 starters, but they all seem to get hurt. Liriano looked like he was struggling to find his control in his first start of the year on Sunday, trying to come back from TJ surgery. Not that this is anything new; he was not very impressive in two minor league starts, or in Spring Training for that matter. Plus, Slowey's hurt, Perkins is coming off an injury (which is why he's in AAA and not getting a rotation spot), Bonser could pull his gut muscle any day now and be out, and Livan is older than dirt. I knew the staff was going to be an issue this year, but this is a bit worse than I imagined. At least we have Nick Blackburn. That kid is legit.

What do you guys think of some of the other new Twins? Lamb looks like he might finally be finding his stroke, Harris has been very solid at the plate, Monroe straight up sucks, and Everett is hitting .095. Yikes.

Fuzz: Like I've been telling people, this is a rebuilding year. Everyone has hope at this time of year, but you have to look at these guys with an outside eye. Besides Mauer, Morneau and Nathan, this team is full of question marks. Those three guys are our most established ballplayers on this squad. Besides that? Nothing until they either get experience, find their talents, or they could never be good.

The Gomez kid should be alright to possibly very good, Young will come around (and did you see Garza is on the DL? Uh-Oh), Cuddy is Cuddy, Lamb & Everett are decent players that are merely stop gaps until we find someone else, Harris is young enough to stay at 2-bag for a while and our staff is going to take it's hits. Literally. Die-hard fans don't like hearing these kind of things, they like to hear what they want to hear. I'm not saying the season is over and we should pack it in, but I'm forecasting on what I think is going to happen with this roster this year. This is a learning year. Period.

If we can find a couple talented pitchers and maybe a few talented outfielders out of this crop through this process, all things are good for me. I'll take a year or two hit to build it back up. And, even though I truly believe what I just said, I really hope I'm wrong being a big-time Twins fan myself. Anyways, what can we expect from Liriano this season?

Q: Liriano: I was really hoping they wouldn't rush him back just because the guys we have up right now are either terrible or injured. He needs time to figure everything out, and control is usually the last thing to come back when you have TJ surgery. Now that he is back, though, they may as well keep him in the rotation and not send him back and forth between Minnesota and Rochester. People need to understand that he'll be a little shaky to begin with, though this will cause fans to worry that he'll never return to form and people like Barriero to tell everyone that his career is finished. By August he'll be back to dominating the opposition (though not at the level from '06 because that was a ridiculous debut that wouldn't have been repeated even if he didn't have surgery) and he'll be the staff ace. After that, it's Opening Day starts for the rest of his time in a Twins uniform.

Fuzz: Since I'm on the books that this is a learning/re-building year; I wish they had waited a little longer to bring F-Bomb up. Naturally, he didn’t look that great in his first start. In my opinion he should have stayed down for a couple extra weeks until he was 100% ready. Plus, it keeps a Slowey or Blackburn in the rotation longer. It works out now since Slowey is on the DL but what happens when he comes back? Any experience those guys can get is beneficial. Looking forward to the future, the F-bomb NEEDS to be our ace. Let's play hypothetical for a second: What if Liriano never truly comes back to anything more than a 4th or 5th starter? That has to be a little concerning, doesn't it? Because this team doesn't have a pitcher with ace stuff on it's roster. And, I don't think the minors are full of major league ready aces either. That could be a problem this year, the next, etc...

Q: That has to be the biggest concern for the Twins right now. With losing Radke, Santana, and Garza, there isn't a number 1 on this team or in the farm system right now if Franchise isn't that guy. I don't know if it's the pessimist in me talking or what, but the more I analyze this team, the further away from contending I think we might be. There are major holes at third and short (maybe second too, but Harris has looked pretty good for now), to go along with the lack of a #1 in the rotation. Am I being too negative here?

Fuzz: What's the deal with Morneau? He's been slumping since the last part of last year and this year, too.

Marx: It looks to me like Morneau is trying to pull everything and even jerk it out of the yard everytime. He needs to hit or our lineup becomes pretty anemic. I also think that the Michael Cuddyer injury was probably the best thing that could have happened. Its not a serious injury, but it opened up a spot for Jason Kubel to play everyday and he seems to be responding pretty nicely. Hopefully when Cuddyer gets back Gardenhire leaves Kubel in the lineup and gives Craig Monroe bench duty.

By the way, if Cuddyer played basketball or football, he would have missed maybe one play. The trainer would have yanked his finger back into place and put some tape on it and he would have gone right back in. Only in baseball...

Q: He's only hitting .225 but has 3 HR's and 9 RBI so far for a team that is scoring just over 2 runs a game (not counting that 12 run out-of-nowhere burst the other day). I think the biggest problem for Justin last year was expectations. Coming off of an MVP season, he really wanted to prove it wasn't a fluke and he ended up pressing quite a bit. I suppose the same could be said for the early part of this season, since he wants to validate that monster contract extention he got.

Nevertheless, the bigger problem (both for the team and Morneau's numbers) is that Joe Mauer has been brutal this season. Sure, he's knocking Gomez around a bit, but if you actually watch the games, he hasn't been a threat at all. He's got to have about 25 ground outs to second and has yet to come up with a clutch hit or, god forbid, drive the ball to the gap. If he starts hitting, everything will fall into place. Of course, it would help if Delmon started hitting too. Right now, opposing pitchers have no problem pitching around Morneau because they have no fear that the guy behind him (Young) will do anything. Man, we really have some offensive issues...

Fuzz: Great call on the expectations thing Q. He did start out really slow and he's picking it up a little but nothing to what is expected. You're right though---big contract, four hitter equals huge expectations. That middle of the lineup for two weeks hasn't really done anything. It probably won't last but I'm analyzing the situation right now and they aren't hitting. The 2-5 hitters we were told would be our glue this year. So far, not so good. That is why we're 6-7. Our staff has actually held up pretty well, which is a surprise to me. Livan especially. I ridiculed this signing hard and it's blowing up in my face. Do you guys think Livan is going to keep this up and what's realistic to expect from him this year?

Marx: I think Livian will finish something like 14-12 with 200 innings thrown, similar to a Brad Radke year.

Q: I'd say that's the ceiling for the L Train. I seem to remember a diminutive new pitcher who raced off to a great start for us last year, only to come crashing back to earth. Does Ramon "Lil Papi" Ortiz ring a bell? We should just be thankful that Livan has done this well so far, though I will give him a ton of credit for his amazingly low ground ball rate. I'd guess he finishes the year with a 10-12 record, 5.11 ERA, and a spot on the DL come August/September.

Fuzz: I hope Livan keeps going and my opinion that it was a horrible signing was wrong. I would love for the chubby lovable ace to pull a season out of his ass. Anyways, what should we expect this week from the Twins? 2-gamer against Detroit, 2 gamer against Tampa Bay and 3-gamer against Cleveland.

Q: I'm very worried about this week. I know it's only April, but this could be a huge week one way or the other for the Twins. There is a potential that they get absolutely crushed by Detroit (thus breaking them out of their early season funk and sending the wrath of the rest of the Central on us), owned by an upstart Tampa club, and get dominated by Cleveland. If that happens, any hopes of competing this season might be done. On the other hand, if they take advantage of the Tigers slump, beat up the Rays pitching like they should, and play competitively against the Indians, that could build a ton of confidence that the team could use throughout the rest of the season. Absolutely a huge week. If I had to guess, I'd say the Twins basically play .500 ball this week; 3-4 or 4-3 at best.

Marx: Here's an interesting question...Do you think TR/Bill Smith knew that Matt Garza might have arm troubles in the future or is his injury just a fluke?

Fuzz: Just a fluke. However, it's a little weird that they protected Garza from trades so much for 2-3 years and then unleashed him without second thoughts this offseason. I chalked it up to the new sheriff in town running the show a little differently. But, you never know. Garza pitched fine during spring training for them and didn't complain. Now he brings this up when he gets hurt? That's a little fishy...

Q: I'm going to say that the Twins brass didn't know much about any possible injury that Garza may have had. While I don't doubt that he may have had those arm/hand issues when he was here, I also don't think he told the trainers or coaching staff about it. He seems like that "tough guy" type who thinks injuries are a sign of weakness and doesn't fully disclose how he's really doing. It's unfortunate for Tampa that he's out, but on the bright side, at least Delmon has been terrible so far this year. So the trade could probably be considered a wash at this point—kind of like this season is shaking up to be.

I guarantee you that every time we write about the Twins this year it will be about something different. Right now it’s the lack of hitting, especially from the middle of the order. In a week, it will be the bullpen. Two weeks later, we’ll be bitching about the starting rotation. Splash in a bit of unfounded optimism after we win a few games in a row, and you have my crystal ball prediction of this season. Buckle up boys, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

1 comment:

Dogg said...

Our bullpen has failed us miserably thus far. This is supposed to one of our strong areas and it's been terrible. I very concerned about Neshek and Guerier right now.

Gardy also needs to stop bringing in Neshek every single set up opportunity. He's going to fail if hitters see him often and have to use Rincon and Crain more even though they aren't the most reliable guys in the world.