Catching Up

Well, I’ve had a couple days to relax after my little tirade on Wednesday. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to say much lately, so I feel like I need to talk about a few topics that have peaked my interest about the Twins. Since I have quite a bit to say, this is going to be a very long post. My apologies.

Each new topic will be numbered, because I think that will be easier than just transitioning from one paragraph to the next.

1. Crain-Wreck, now with more WRECK

Like I said, I already did my ranting for the week, so this will be a calmer, more serious talk. Some of us are quite familiar with the argument of pitchers having defined roles and how this may not be the best usage of a team’s bullpen. Long story short, one side argues you should use your best pitchers when necessary, the other side argues that pitchers like defined roles and they will perform better if they are more comfortable. Well, Ron Gardenhire definitely has elements of both, but he leans more towards the latter with the back end of the bullpen. This was in full form on Wednesday, when the Twins were struggling to keep the Tigers from scoring in the 6th inning. After Pat Neshek loaded the bases and subsequently allowed the tying run to score, Gardy brought in Crain to get some outs. As we all know, Crain was at his Wrecking best, and allowed 5 runs to score (3 inherited), turning a 6-6 tie into an 11-6 deficit.

Now, you may be assuming that since I mentioned the whole “defined roles” thing above, that I may be hinting that Jon Rauch should have come into the game here. It’s crazy, but that’s what the side argues…bring in your best pitcher when necessary, regardless of the inning in the game. Well…not quite. I am arguing against pitchers having defined roles, but I’m not talking about Rauch. I’m thinking of the guy that usually comes in before him: Matt Guerrier.

Because of the insistence that Guerrier is the “8th inning guy”, there was no chance of him making an appearance in the 6th inning. Perhaps in the 7th, but never earlier than that. However, you can easily tell me that I’m Monday morning quarterbacking here, and you’re not wrong. I am definitely saying this because Jesse Crain failed to do his job, and because of that, it makes Gardenhire look like he made the wrong call. But, there’s no doubt in my mind that Guerrier, especially right now, is a better pitcher than Crain, and in a critical situation during the game, it should have been Guerrier trying to get the Twins out of the 6th inning mess.

Finally, something that I like to do is look at the pitch locations, especially if a pitcher is getting beat up. If you remember the 2006 playoffs, Jesse Crain served up a critical go-ahead home run against the Oakland Athletics to Frank Thomas, which gave the A’s a 3-2 lead en route to a 1-0 series lead. I remember many of my friends complaining about Crain, and in their eyes, Crain served the pitch right down the heart of the plate. What they didn’t realize was that Crain fired a pitch that was low and about 5 inches inside, which was normally unhittable…except for Frank Thomas. He golfed the pitch into the left field seats, a pitch that most hitters would have fouled into their own legs. Because of that moment, I think about pitch selection once I’ve finished blaming a pitcher for a bad outing, and thanks to MLB’s Gameday, I can do just that.

First is the pitch that Brennan Boesch of the Tigers hit for a 2-run double.

According to Gameday, this was a 96 MPH fastball from Crain. The fact that it was thrown low was a good sign, except the general rule of thumb is to avoid throwing pitches to the low inside corner against lefthanded batters. We can also see how straight the fastball was thrown. This was a pitch that easily could have been grounded to Orlando Hudson or Justin Morneau, but Boesch hit it squarely enough to drive deep to right field.

The pitch to Boesch wasn’t that bad, but it seems like an unhittable pitch compared to what Brandon Inge got to start his at-bat.

Straight fastball, 95 MPH, high and over the plate. Enough said.

By now, Crain had thrown two fastballs and had surrendered two doubles. Joe Mauer and him figured that the fastball wasn’t working at the moment, so they decided to go with his next best pitch, the slider.

That first slider was definitely a good pitch, as it just caught the outside corner for a strike. The second slider…not so much. Down the heart of the plate, after Raburn had already seen one slider…not too surprising it got whacked for yet another double.

After the Raburn at-bat, I see that Crain finally switched to his 2-seam fastball. Of course, it’s hard to mix in your pitches when you’re only able to throw four of them and you surrender 5 runs to three batters. Crain did finish the game strong, but the damage had been done. Frustrating, and even though I feel that he is misunderstood, I feel that there is likely something wrong with him right now. Probably the only redeeming factors right now is that, according to some of my favorite statistics, he’s been crazy unlucky this year.

2. Dick ‘n’ Bert’s Adventures in Broadcasting

During Thursday’s game, Robby Incmikoski gave a short report about changes made to the All-Star Game, starting this year. I won’t go over all of them except for one that made me do some thinking. One of the changes is that every All-Star Game, regardless of home park, will have a DH for both teams. No longer will pitchers have to hit, and it will presumably allow more of the deserving players to be voted on to the teams,* especially when the game is in a National League park.

* No longer will a DH like David Ortiz be included in the 1B category because there wouldn’t have been a DH category in certain years. As has happened in the past, someone like Ortiz would get voted as a 1B, which would prevent a true 1B from making the team.

After Robby finished his report, Dick and Bert launched into a discussion about how this rule should be extended to the World Series. Why? Because the National League had an advantage whenever pitchers had to hit, whereas the playing field was fairer when both teams had to have a DH. However, as you can probably assume, I disagree. I feel that both leagues are at the disadvantage whenever they have to play as the away teams.

My reasoning is completely anecdotal, so I won’t be surprised if have anyone complaining with my argument. It’s pretty obvious that the NL pitchers hit more often than do AL pitchers, so there’s no need to talk about that. Yet, a DH can be any position player, so Dick and Bert must be right, correct? I don’t think so. Again, completely anecdotal, but it seems like NL teams seem to carry bench players that are versatile in the field, rather than the all-bat, no-glove guy (Rockies with Jason Giambi and Padres with Matt Stairs are two exceptions that come to mind). Think of when an NL team comes to play the Twins. There’s been more than one occasion where the NL team has put their DH near the bottom of the order, with a player that is usually a backup as the DH or replacing a different player and having Player 2 become the DH. Therefore, during interleague games in AL stadiums, I feel that the AL team still has an advantage because their DH tends to be a much better hitter than the NL’s DH.

3. The Manship Docks In Cleveland

Well, I was hoping to say this before tonight’s game, but non-baseball-related events prevented me from doing so. Nick Blackburn had to tend to a family emergency (still hasn’t been specified), so Jeff Manship was called up from Triple-A to fill the rotation for a single start. From tonight’s game, he pitched very well, allowing only 2 runs in 6 innings. He probably could have been used for a 7th inning, as he only had 86 pitches, but 6 innings from a guy that was just flown in is always good. It’s just too bad that Matt Guerrier blew the lead in the 8th inning, preventing Manship from earning the win.

4. The Phenom Arrives?

According to a Joe Christensen report, Wilson Ramos will be joining the Twins tomorrow in Cleveland as catcher insurance. It will be interesting to see if Drew Butera or Ramos gets the starts at catcher while Mauer is out. If Gardy sticks to Butera, I can imagine there will be plenty of complaints in Twins Territory about why Ramos is on the roster but not playing, especially when the Twins said they didn’t want Ramos to start the season on the major league roster because he needed regular playing time. I would like to see Ramos play at least once while he’s on the roster, just to see what he can do, though 3-4 at-bats is certainly not enough to judge a player.

5. Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due

Finally, I forgot to mention this when I first posted it, but my Twins preview song was not written just by myself. I also received help from my girlfriend Abby, as she was far more familiar with “Bohemian Rhapsody” than I was, and thus she helped me with the lyrics of the new song.

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One Response to “Catching Up”

  1. Sam C Says:

    As far as Crain goes, I agree with you for the most part that it seems he is put in situations to fail. But you’re going to have nights like that where no one can get an out. It’s just frustrating because Crain did so well during the second half of last season. The Twins shouldn’t have to send him down to AAA to get him to pitch well. I thought he did well, it would have been absolutely amazing had he been able to get out of that jam tonight.

    I would like to see Ramos start tomorrow because if I remember right Liriano really liked the way he called games back in spring training. I think Ramos should get probably two starts with his time up.

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