Mid-summer ball

Well, will you look at that.

Here we are, past the all-star break, and those plucky Twins are hanging in there.

Who would have thunk it?

It seemed widely assumed that the Twins were as terrible as their 2016 campaign indicated. Also widely assumed that the Twins would be selling off bits of the club to contenders after the all-star break.

Well, that may still happen. The Brain Trust is a bit surprised that the Twins are still in contention, but they are not forsaking their long-term plans for short-term glory. Which seems like a good plan to me. I’m always in favor of long-term plans over short-term glory. (Hence the lack of short-term glory.) I’m also a guy who likes to stand pat. You got this far with these guys, see how far they will go.

Twins are taking it on the chin tonight, 6-3 against the Tigers, with the game about over. Not good to lose when Santana is the starter, but those things happen. We’ll be back at them tomorrow.

Here’s a few interesting statistics:

Record this season: 48-46
Record last season: 35-59

OPS this season: .737
OPS last season: .738

ERA this season: 4.80
ERA last season: 5.08

FIP this Season: 5.02
FIP last Season: 4.57

Rank in fielding percentage and double plays this season: 2 in both (out of 15)
Rank in fielding percentage and double plays last season: 15 in both (out of 15)

interesting.

Saturday evening, April 30th, 1904: “Brilliantly played Game”

The millers won a tight one in Louisville yesterday, 2-1, a “brilliantly played game,” according to our man in Louisville, though there were four errors in the game. Gene Ford got the win, giving up 6 hits and a walk while striking out five. Ford also scored the winning run in the sixth, getting a hit, going to second on a sacrifice, to third on an error, and coming home on a fielder’s choice. It’s miller time!

The colonels lone run came in the second. Brashear singled, then went from first to third on an infield out, a grounder to short. Not sure how that’s possible, but there it is, black and white. Brashear must have blazing speed? Anyway, he then scored (probably easily) on a fly-ball out. Denny Sullivan tied it up for the millers in the bottom of the frame (YES, the millers are batting last, though the game’s in Louisville. What’s up with that?) hitting a long home run (!) into the center field pasture.

Catcher Weaver has a cannon for an arm, apparently, catching four of the five colonels attempting to steal. McNichol was at third again, and handled eight changes without “a skip.” He also dazzled in a double play in the ninth: with runners on first and second, Hart hit a stinger down to McNichol. He stepped on third for one and tossed across to Lally, but too late to catch the speedy Hart. Lally, though, noted that the runner from first had rounded second and was headed to third, and he gunned the ball back across the diamond to McNichol, who applied the tag for the out. Score that 5-3-5, folks, and some heads-up ball by the millers. The colonels love to run too, apparently.

Meanwhile, our scribe gets a few column inches to provide analysis, and, yes, the millers are speedy. Speedy speedy speedy. Everybody agrees. Can we give it a rest for awhile?

Our scribe is highly optimistic that the club will come home from this road trip above the .500 mark. It’s a shame that they only got to play one game against the Columbus team, because the millers clearly outclassed the Ohioans, and they probably would have won two or three games, if they could only have been played. (Instead of just losing the one game, which was, I guess, an anomaly.)

The pitching has been good, though Ford reported late, so he’s still a question mark. (Analysis apparently done pre-game, as Ford rocked the colonels.) Katoll’s arm, meanwhile, is still said to be in good shape, but Watkins “intends to save Big Katoll until warm weather arrives.” But his arm is fine. But he doesn’t want to take any chances. But his arm is healthy. (Why do I think that Katoll’s got a bad arm? I don’t know, but I suspect he won’t make it through the season. Watty should be looking for more pitching.)

McNichol and Demontreville are having a good contest for third base, with McNichol playing a bit better, but Demontreville has not been released yet because of Fox’s sickness. It looks like Watty will hang onto them both for two or three weeks. Fox is in there playing, yesterday, but I guess Watkins like to have a little depth on the bench.

Hitting is a concern. Only 51 safeties in six games, our analyst reports, which, using a little 1904 sabremetrics, breaks out to just eight and a half hits per game: “This is not good enough batting to suit the fans entirely, but six games is hardly a criterion of the team’s real strength.”  Yes, I think I get what he’s trying to say. He’s right. Hardly a criterion.

Finally, catcher Weaver looks good, as does Leslie. Our reporter thinks that Leslie will probably play most of the games, as long as he keeps hitting.

—-

Meanwhile, at UW Madison, it’s the same old same old.

“Seranaded the professors?” I can imagine what that was like. But I’m not sure what happened with the “vaudeville performance.” Why do I suspect that beer was heavily involved with this? Anyway, thank the lord that the police were on hand to break up the shenanigans. I suspect that that’s the last we’ll hear of Mr. Larue of Chicago and Mr. Davies of Davenport.

comings and goings

First, Happy Birthday to Robert Moses Grove, born on this date in 1900.

lefty-grove-3c-fr-txt

Well, what can you say about Lefty Grove? One of the greatest pitchers to ever play the game, if not THE greatest. (I am partial to Walter Johnson, but I grant that an argument could be made for Lefty.) 300 wins. 3.06 lifetime ERA. Nine ERA titles. Seven strikeout titles. Two triple crowns. An MVP award. Those are all pretty good marks. And then consider that Grove didn’t pitch in the majors till he was 25 — he pitched five seasons for the old Baltimore club in the International League, from 1920 – 24. He went 108 – 36 with the Orioles before joining Connie Mack’s Athletics in Philly in 1925.

lefty-grove-mechanics

From 1928 to 1933 Grove played with some pretty good Athletics clubs, and fairly dominated the league:

(League leading marks in bold.)
1928 – 24 wins, 8 losses, 2.58 ERA, 183 K
1929 – 20 wins, 6 losses, 2.81 ERA, 170 K
1930 – 28 wins, 5 losses, 2.54 ERA, 209 K
1931 – 31 wins, 4 losses, 2.06 ERA, 175 K
1932 – 25 wins, 10 losses, 2.84 ERA, 188 K
1933 – 24 wins, 8 losses, 3.20 ERA, 114 K

I guess it doesn’t get a whole lot better than that. Happy Birthday, Lefty!

On the flip side, Kirby Puckett passed away on this date in 2006.

kirby-pucket-3d-fr-txt

It just seems totally wrong that Kirby Puckett is gone already. It seems like he was just out there in center field, just yesterday. Damn.

Seems like everyone loved Kirby from day one. (Day one was May 8th, 1984. Kirby started the game batting lead-off, playing centerfield (replacing Darrell Brown) and went 4 for 5, with a stolen base and scoring a run.) He was the sparkplug on those World Champion teams. He loved the game and he had fun out there. And we had fun watching him play.

We got to watch Kirby-ball for 12 seasons before his career was cut short by glaucoma. In those 12 seasons Kirby got 2304 hits, received MVP votes 9 times, played in 10 all-star games, and finished with a career .318 batting average. He also earned 6 gold gloves in centerfield, and also has the Twins’ second longest string of plate appearances without hitting a home run – 583 plate appearances in 1984, no home runs. (The longest string is by Rod Carew: 591 plate appearances in 1972, no home runs.)

On top of everything else, there was the ’91 World Series. Game 6 was Kirby, game 7, Jack. One for the ages.

Finally, Kirby also had one of the top all-time best baseball names. Kirby Puckett. Almost too good to be true.

Kirby was just 45 years old when he passed away.

Hey, Kirby, good game. Touch ’em all.

kirby-puckett-1987-c-fg-fr

…in the midst of despair, a fleeting moment of cheer, or at least wonder…

The Twins incomprehensible excursion into the doldrums continues today, with yet another loss, 3-1, to the Pale Hose of Chicago. What can you say? Seven hits – one more that the Sox. One double. (The Southsiders got 4 doubles in their 6 hits.) A good pitching effort wasted. Duffy falls to 0-2, despite a 2.60 ERA. Woe, woe, woe is us.

sweet mother of mercy 3 caption

In the midst of this seemingly unending death march of a season, we note a small ray of sunshine falling upon the wings of the circling buzzards.

For Lo, young Tyler Duffy has struck out 4 men in an inning.

Tyler Duffy - 2015 - 4ksAll right, all right, it’s not that amazing. It’s been done before. In fact it’s been done 33 times in the American league, and 44 times in the senior circuit. In fact it’s been done recently by one of our own, Francisco Liriano, 5 June 2012. But still.

Duffy opened the seventh by striking out Brett Larie, and then struck out Avisail Garcia. But wait! The ball skips away, bouncing off the plate and away from our catcher (Centeno?) and when the dust settles Garcia resides at first. Well, then, Navarro doubles, and Garcia scores, making it 3-1. Duffy comes back to strike out Austin “Action” Jackson, for his third strike out of the inning. He then intentionally walks Adam Eaton, and then strikes out Jimmy Rollins (#4) to end the inning. One inning, four strike outs. All told, Duffy struck out 9 in 7 innings of work. In a losing effort. But still.

In case you are wondering, no one has ever struck out 5 in an inning. It seems to me like that should have been done, back in the early days of the game. But no. Scripture says, no.

Other Twins who have accomplished the four K feat: Well, Walter Johnson (we get to claim him,) Liriano, as mentioned, Scott Baker, and Phil Hughes (when with the Yankees.)

Chuck Finley (with the Angels and then with the Clevelanders) did this 3 times. That’s kind of amazing.

Anyway. Another loss. But perhaps four strikeouts in an inning… even though it was in a loss… perhaps that’s a sign that fickle fortune… perhaps…

Okay, O – 6

Well, as a bright spot, the story on the Twins website had this tidbit of information:

The Twins fell to 0-6. Only three teams in baseball history have come back from being 0-6 and made the postseason: the 2011 Rays, the 1995 Reds and the 1974 Pirates.

It doesn’t say how many won the Pennant. But let’s see, now. 2011: Texas Rangers win the Pennant. 1995: Atlanta Braves. 1974: Los Angeles Dodgers.

This means that when the Twins win the junior circuit Gonfalon this year, they will be the first team starting 0-6 to ever win the pennant!

I mean, really. The Twins are only 4 !/2 games out of first at this point. I think that they have plenty of time to make up 4 1/2 games. Another good question: how many teams have come back from being 4 1/2 games out of first to win the pennant?

I’ll bet there are plenty of them.

And so: no worries here.

O – 5 . . .

Okay, now this is unfamiliar territory for Twins fans. No Twins team has ever started the season 0-5 before. (Surely the Senators must have, at some point, started 0-5.)

I wonder what the longest season-opening losing streak has been for an eventual pennant winner? I haven’t had any luck with that Google question. Somebody must know. The truth is out there.

the truth is out there C

Looking at past Twins pennant winners, I see them at 1-1 in 1965, 4-0 in 1987, and 1-1 in 1991. Perhaps worth noting that the ’91 Twins started the season with a 2-9 record before they turned things around a bit.

Ricky Nolasco starts for the Twins today. I’m hoping he sees this as a huge opportunity to raise his stock a little bit.

In these first five games, the boys have scored 9 runs while giving up 22. Plenty of room for improvement on both sides of the game. Let’s hope it starts today. I suspect that there have been pennant winners that have started their seasons at 0-5. But we probably don’t want to go much deeper than that.

Still, there’s always a first time for everything.