A New York State of Mind?

Hey, I just noticed something funny about this table from April of 2018, showing the Twins head-to-head record against all the other teams since 1961:

Yankees. Dodgers. Giants. Mets. Put the Twins on the field with any team that was ever connected with New York City, and the Twins play like a bunch of 5th graders.

What’s that about?

We is just a bunch of country bumpkins, intimidated by the big city slickers?

Just thought that was odd.

Pretty sick of the Yanquis.

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Pennant Fever!

Pennant races are a lot of fun.

Gone are the days when the Twins were winning every game and building a 12-game lead in the Division. Looking at the sports pages this morning, what do we find? Those scuttling Spiders from Cleveland have come back up from the depths. With the Twins loss yesterday (5-1 vs the Pale Hose) and the Spider’s win (9-1 over the Royals. Do the Royals have a nick-name? Do they have the worst club name in baseball?) we find the home town boys at 63-41, and those Spiders at 62-42, just a game back. A single game. And August beckons. While the Twins have meandered to a 5-5 record over the last ten, the Spiders have gone 8-2. And over July, while the Twins compiled a lackadaisical 10-11 mark, the Spiders went, uh… 17-4. That’s right. 17-4.

Ouch.

That’s some good ball they’ve been playing over there in Cleveland. And some falling-out-of-first-place ball by the home town boys.

Pennant races are slow motion excitement. (Reminds me of the guy who said that baseball was 3 minutes of excitement crammed into 2 and a half hours.) Pennant races are methodical, clockwork, tumblers falling into place, day after day after day, incremental changes, subtle shifts. Home games vs. road games, off days, double headers, head-to-head play. Injuries and juggling rotations. Prospects up from the minors. Pitchers who are tired and laboring. Maybe a bit of a sore arm here and there. The late summer nights can be steamy. The darkness is approaching. The fans are growing surly and argumentative. Trades are made of promising youth, the organization’s future, for aging mercenaries of the bullpen who will maybe be able to help you today. Desperation is in the air. The pennant race is early playoff baseball. Every day is must win, and you can’t be lulled into thinking that there’s always tomorrow. That’s the peculiar danger of the pennant race. “Still plenty of time.” There’s only time if you win. Every loss kills you a bit. Every win by the other guys is a stab in the back. Tick tick tick tick tick. Time is suddenly gone. Time is ephemeral, fleeting, an illusion. Suddenly, there, the finish line! It’s right in front of you! Watch out!

That’s right. Welcome to the Twilight Zone of the baseball season.

Pennant races can be a little nerve-wracking.

Especially when your team has just gone 10-11, and the other guys don’t ever seem to lose.

Yesterday the Twins traded a promising young first baseman for some aging bullpen help, along with some prospects. Generally, fans here are considering this a win, though there is a lot of doubt expressed on the street about how much bullpen help Sergio Romo will provide. Which seems odd, given that he has 17 saves in 18 save attempts this season for the Marlins, and our bullpen has an ERA of about 4.41, which leaves a good deal of room for improvement. (Our bullpen has somehow created the illusion that it is better than 4.41. Maybe all the guys with 8 and 9 run ERAs have been sent down, and only guys with 2.72 ERAs are left?) I heard a few people say that Romo’s a “soft-thrower” who may very well have prospered over there in the Senior Circuit, where apparently the hitters can be fooled by that soft-throwing shit. That’s not gonna fly here in the American League, they say.

Well, we shall see, we shall see.

To acquire Mr. Romo, 36, and young pitching prospect Chris Vallimont, and a player to be named later, the Twins parted with young first baseman Lewin Diaz, who’s been pounding the ball in 90 games of A and AA ball: .294, 19 home runs, 27 doubles and 62 rbis. The story on him is that he’s having a “bounce-back” season this year, and the Twins would probably not protect him in the off-season by giving him a roster spot, given the Twin’s depth at first base. Given that detail, maybe this was an okay trade. Vallimont, 22, has speed and control and a 3.16 era in 22 starts in A ball.

Still, I hate to see Diaz leave. He’s having a heckuva season, and I have a feeling we’ll miss him in the future, when he’s pounding those soft-throwers over in the National League.

I wouldn’t be a very good baseball GM. I kind of hate trades. In my major leagues, you sign the best guys you can and then you develop them and then you play the game. Would I ever pull the trigger? Well, you can bet I would not trade Brunansky for Herr. That’s for sure.

Today:

Twins 11, White Sox 1
Royals 9, Spiders 6.

Good ol’ Royals.

They should have stuck with the Katz name. What were they thinking?

Kansas City Katz? Kansas City Royals?

You make the call.

 

 

another day on top

Another day dawns. The MLB website confirms.

25. Yup. 13. Yes.

Still the best record in baseball. Technically. This  is not something we’re used to, or very comfortable with. We hope that maybe nobody finds out. Probably best not to make a big deal about it. Maybe it will slip under the radar.

The Twins survived yesterday’s doubleheader, losing the first but then salvaging a split with a win in the nightcap. CJ Cron hit a couple home runs yesterday. Kohl Stewart came up from the minors for a cup of coffee and got the win, giving up 3 in 6.

Jake Odorizzi pitched Friday against the Tigers, got the win and extended his string of scoreless innings pitched to 20. He last gave up a run on April 22nd.

There’s a story going ’round about how, during the off-season, Odorizzi was working out down there at the Baseball Ranch in Plant City, Florida, and how one night he took himself to some lonely and forgotten backwoods crossroads, and how there at that crossroads he sold his soul to the devil. That’s what I’ve heard. I don’t know if it’s true or not. Maybe, like he says, he just smoothed out his mechanics down there at the Baseball Ranch. Yeah, that’s probably it. Probably mechanics.

In any case, he’s having a very nice year so far, which has been a big plus. He’s been Lights Out. It’s a bit unexpected after last season. When he was 7-10. With a 4.49 ERA.

Mechanics can be pretty important, I guess. Maybe.

Perhaps Mitch Garver also worked on his mechanics down there at that same crossroads: 70 at bats, 25 hits, .357, 4 doubles, a triple, 8 hr, 1.223 OPS.

Anyway.

The Twins are doing well. Let’s just hope that nobody notices.

Trade

Down to the crossroads
Just one more mile per hour, just
A little more fire

Not a Great Cup of Coffee

In fact, I’ll say it.

A bad cup of coffee.

Mike Palagyi was 21 years old when came up with the Senators for his shot at the majors on 18 August 1939. He had a bit of a rough outing. But I’m sure it wasn’t helped by the fact that three of the four batters he faced were future Hall-of-Famers: Jimmy Foxx, Ted Williams, and Joe Cronin. Probably most rookies would have been a bit intimidated by that, and Mike was a little wild that day.

He came into the game for the top of the 9th inning, with the Senators down 3-1 against the Red Sox. He walked Doc Cramer, to lead off the inning, and then hit Foxx. I’m sure Foxx let him hear about it. He then walked Williams, to load the bases, and then walked Cronin to force in a run. At that point, the manager made the walk to the mound and pulled him. And that was it for Mike. Fifteen pitches. Two strikes. And his career ERA is infinite, as he did not get an out. Wikipedia says he is one of 19 players with a career infinite ERA. Nice to have company in that regard, I guess. I suspect he is the only one of the lot that found three Hall-of-Famers in his cup of coffee. Ouch. Bad enough just having to pitch to Ted Williams. “It was a real nightmare,” Mike said later.

I’m not entirely clear why the Senators called Mike up. He was playing B level ball for Cleveland at Spartenburg in the Sally league that season. Baseball Reference.com says he went 7-6, with a 4.07 ERA. It looks like the Senators acquired his contract and brought him up immediately to see what he looked like. The Senators finished the season with a 67-85 record, 6th place. It seems like they might have been able to run Palagyi out there another time, given him another opportunity, without hurting their chances a lot.

But they didn’t.

Mike played for Greenville in the Sally League the next season, 1940, for Washington, and went 13-15 with a 5.14 ERA. After that Mike was in the military, and after that I see that he played again in 1946 for Montgomery, 2 innings. But his arm “just didn’t have it,” and Mike left organized ball.

And after that? Mike returned to Ohio, where he worked as a plumber and maintenance man until he retired in 1982. He passed away 21 November 2013, age 96.

Good game, Mike.

Sweep!

I have not found a good source of data on a team’s record in doubleheaders. I’m sure there must be a source out there that will tell you everything you want to know about twin bills, and will tell you when the last time the Twins swept a double header. But I did not find it. I should look a little harder, probably.

I figured the Twins had not swept a double header since, oh, 1991, maybe. Or maybe in the late 60’s. But no. I was wrong. A very reliable source — this very blog — tells me that the Twins swept a double header in 2013. And in 2014.

Being a Twins fan, I think it’s Highly Unlikely that they’ve swept a doubleheader since then. Twins fans usually go into doubleheaders with nervous trepidation, hoping for — best of all possible worlds — a split, with a win in the first game so we can relax a bit in the second. It would be interesting to know the Twins overall record in Doubleheaders. I would guess something like 5 sweeps, 17 splits, and 46 swepts. That’s what it feels like, anyway. Statistics be damned.

Back in 2013 and 2014 I don’t even mention the hapless team that we victimized. I was probably stunned. Perhaps I didn’t want to embarrass the other team in print. I’m all old-school, and I’m sure I would have said something like, good games, the breaks just happened to go our way today.

Not only did they sweep, yesterday, the Orioles, by the way, they also knocked the ball around quite a bit. Three players hit two home runs, Rosario, Cruz, Garver, and the boys hit 11 homers total, 8 in game two, as they took the first game 6-5 behind Berrios, and game two, 16-7, behind Perez. How often do three players hit 2 home runs in an away game doubleheader? Well, you can look it up, maybe. Or maybe this is a first. Either way, it’s fun.

And thusly we tie the Naps of Cleveland for first in the junior circuit mid-america division.

It was interesting looking back at those old blog posts. Hicks and Florimon and Doumit and Butera and Parmalee and the Great Colabello. Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio? Time moves on. The players come and go. Young rookies turn into seasoned vets turn into, god forbid, managers. We fans, happily, stay the same age forever.

And I find it interesting to note that I had a blog category for “losing,” but not for “winning.” Very telling, I suppose.

And now, the return of…

 

Doubleheader

Two wins in one day!
Ha! Show me a better team!
That was yesterday.

Phils Clobber Twins!

Well, yesterday, when I started writing this up, the Twins were on a pace to win, like, 130 games this year. But then they lost yesterday, and we knew 130 games was crazy unrealistic anyway, so now we are back on to reality, and on pace to win 107.99 games, which is still pretty good, we’ll take that, thank you very much.

But, of course, It’s Early. And early trends do not reliably predict future performance. So we’ll play them one game at a time, see if we can get to 5 – 2 today. (And back on pace to win 115.714285714 games.)

I was just about to write about what a good start the Twins were off to, and I wondered when was the last time the boys got off to such a good start? Well, as you undoubtedly recall, the 2017 Twins — yes, all the way back to 2017. Remember those guys? Mauer and Dozier and Grossman and los dos Santanas and Colon and Kintzler? Remember those guys? — anyway, they started off the season 5-1, which is where we would have been if we would have won yesterday. 2002? Also a 5-1 start. In ’68 and ’65 the boys jumped off to a 6-1 start. I guess we’re not going to match any of those records, but 4-2 is better than 2-4, so we’re sufficiently happy.

Yesterday they lose to the Phillies, 10-4. Looking at the box score, what jumps out first is 3 errors. Well, those things happen. It was a very bad weather day in Philly, drizzly/rainy and cold, and both teams had to contend with that, but it seems like the weather or something else got in Odorizzi’s way: he only went 2/3rds of an inning, gave up 2 hits, 3 walks, 5 runs. Not a quality start. The boys narrowed it to 6-4 in the top of the 5th, but that was all she wrote. Perez gave up a couple more runs, and Mejia yielded a few, and game over.

The other thing that jumps out from the box score is the Polanco line: 5 1 5 1. Jorge goes 5 for 5, which is an awfully nice day at the plate. AND he hits for the cycle, which is the first time that’s happened for the Twins since Cuddyer did it in 2009. Hitting for the cycle is an odd thing. Nobody tries to hit the cycle. Nobody stops at second if that’s what they need to complete the cycle. It’s a somewhat meaningless event. But still: cool. But I think the cycle is overshadowed by a 5 for 5 day. To sum up: kudos to Polanco for 5 for 5 and the cycle. “Keep up the good work.”

This seems like a math-heavy post, so we’ll just touch briefly on the Pythagorean Theory of Baseball. You all know Pythagoras, of course, who was a geometry guy, I think, his real life job was as a geometrist. You could make good money at that, back in the day. But his true love was baseball, or rather, the early Greek form of baseball, which was called something else back then, but was basically a form of baseball, an early Greek-style form of baseball, so we’ll just call it baseball. When he was young he played a little ball with the Samos club, you could look it up, and after that he took up geometry in a big way, and kind of became known for that more than for his early days with Philosophers. (Good glove, no hit. Tended to overthink things out there at the plate.)

Pyth was obviously good with numbers, (or what they used for numbers, back then. This was before actual “numbers.”) and he paid attention to numbers, and he was, like the first early Greek-form-of-baseball sabermetrist. And he noticed or worked out that he could get a pretty good estimate of a team’s winning percentage by comparing the number of runs they scored to the number of runs they allowed. That simple. Like I said, it was an early form of sabermetrisity. They didn’t have a lot of data to work with but they did have runs and wins and losses. (They were not called runs back then. They were called ducats. I don’t know why. Basically the same thing, though.)

We move ahead, then, years later, many many years later to the famous American psychologist, writer and philosopher William James. James “rediscovered” this Pythagorean formula, back in the 1880s, I believe, while following the fortunes of the Beaneaters in Boston. I think he wrote a paper about it, using a slightly updated version, removing the ducats.

Ever since then, countless others have tinkered with the basic formula, trying to improve its accuracy and get their name on a formula.

The”general use” version of the Pythagorean formula currently is:

I’m sure there are other versions that factor in lefty righty splits during rain delays in day games during July before a road trip to the east coast. And probably more complicated versions than that.

But, using this very simple, very basic, very very old formula, you are generally able to make a pretty darn good estimate as to a teams winning percentage. The trick, of course, is to know how many runs they will score in the season, and how many runs they will give up. At this point Pythagoras threw up his hands and said, “that’s why we play the games!” And he was so right about that.

You’ll find a team’s Pythagorean Results listed in some of the more detailed standings sheets that you might see in the sports pages, and maybe even online, telling you, based on how many runs they’ve scored and given up, what their record should be. Teams will often be a few games above or below their Pythagorean record. Seems like the Twins are usually a few games below. Chalk it up to weather conditions or luck or bad base running or whatever. Maybe the boys ease up when they have a big lead, so as not to rub it in. That would affect their Pythagorean standings. But Pythagorean standings don’t win pennants.

That’s why we play the games.

Radke Radke Tewksbury Radke Radke Radke Radke Radke Radke and Radke

Brad Radke started in 9 opening games for the twins from 1996-2005. After Radke started in 96 and 97, Bob Tewksbury started in 98, and then Radke reeled off seven in a row. Tewk pitched in 97 and 98 for the Twins. I think I’d forgotten all about that. 98 was Tewk’s final season in the majors, he went 7-13, 4.79 that year. I wonder if Radke was hurt at the start of that season?
That stretch, from 96 to 2005, ran the gamut from terrible (90+ loss seasons in 97, 98, 99, and 2000 — as the Twins retooled from their glorious championship season of 1991) to pretty darn good, with 90+ win seasons and division championships in 02, 03, and 04.

Through it all, Radke never flapped. Not once. He was totally and completely unflappable. Probably something he was born with. On his second grade report card the teachers probably started writing “unflappable,” and he’s probably still unflappable today. (He may flap a lot in private life, but that’s his own business.)

Radke was a classic Twin. We’ll call him a hometown boy, even though he was born over there in Wiscky. Eau Claire (french for “bad eclaire”). Lifetime record of 148-139, with a 4.22 era. Played in 378 games, and started 377 of them. I wonder what happened with that other game? It was his first season. I wonder if it was his first game? That wouldn’t be surprising I guess. Manager tosses the new kid into his first game in relief, and then Radke goes and starts the next 377.

His top season was 1997, when he went 20-10 with a 3.87 era. Other than that, I guess he had pretty much a .500 record, since his career record is 9 games over .500. The Twins went 68-94 in 1997, so Radke had some season that year. I wonder if Radke got hurt late in 97, or over-used? As Tewks started opening day in 98, and Radke went 12-14 with a 4.30 era that year, and finished his career with that 4.22 era. Probably that 97 season colored my perspective of Radke for all those subsequent years. I think I’ll look into this a bit. What’s the story?

[UPDATE: Turns out they (management) thought it would be a bigger honor if Radke started the home opener in ’98. So he wasn’t hurt. They just saved him for the next day. A bit odd. Radke didn’t seem to care one way or the other. In 2001, 2002, and 2003 they opened on the road, and Radke started anyways. (I wonder who got the honor of starting in the home opener those years? (Answer: Radke, Radke and Rick Reed.)) So. There you go. AND the Twins beat the Spiders 9-3 today. Got a few hits. Buxton, Cruz, Astudillo. Lookin’ good, guys.
This concludes the next-day update. We now resume normal programming.]

And so, even though he was not the 97 edition of Radke, he still started 7 openers in a row after that. Who else was pitching in those seasons, I wonder?
2002: Eric Milton, Rick Reed, Kyle Loshe, Johan Santana(!), and Joe Mays
2003: Kenny Rodgers, Joe Mays, Kyle Loshe, Rick Reed, and Johan Santana
2004: Johan Santana, Carlos Silva, Kyle Loshe, Terry Mullholland…and Seth Greisinger?

Those were some pretty good years, though the pitching staffs seem kind of cobbled together. I always had high hopes for Joe Mays, but: arm trouble. Maybe he should have learned to throw the knuckler.

Radke was a free agent in 2004, but signed with the Twins anyway. Another sign of a Minnesota ballplayer. Sure you could maybe get more money in California or New York. But then you’d probably have to live there too. We’re sure those are fine places, but we’re good where we are. Thanks anyway.

Good game Brad. I enjoyed your work on the Hill.