Friday, August 27, 2010

THE Critical Part of the Season

Fortunately for the Twins, they were able to avoid the sweep in Texas last night, maintaining a 3.5 game lead heading into what has to be a critical part of the schedule for them over the next 12 games. The Twins took advantage of a struggling Cliff Lee and the bullpen held on for a 2-run victory; they must be happy to leave Texas after a couple of tough 1-run losses and a frustrating series overall. Next up is Seattle which is no walk in the park, but at least they avoid having to face Felix Hernandez who has been very dominant of late.

The reason the upcoming 12 games are so critical is because of the potential opportunity the Twins could have to put some distance between themselves and the White Sox. The Yankees and White Sox start a 3 game series tonight in Chicago and then the White Sox go on the road for a nice little 10-game road-trip to Cleveland, Boston and Detroit. Meanwhile, the Twins have the 3-game set in Seattle this weekend and then come home for against Detroit, Texas and Kansas City. So you can see, the opportunity may certainly be there for the Twins to extend their division lead should they play well while the White Sox play a much tougher schedule on the road. With a mere three head-to-head games remaining, the more distance the Twins can create, the less meaningful those games will be.

Random Notes

As the Washington Nationals and baseball fans everywhere await the MRI results for Stephen Strasburg, I thought I'd do a little digging and see if there are have been any signs that are typical of someone who's headed for Tommy John surgery (well EFF, as I'm writing this the results come out, looks like he's headed for TJ Surgery...what a shame).

First, I went over to and using the PitchFX tool, took a look at Strasburg's average fastball speeds over his 12 Major League starts. His average fastball speed topped out in his 2nd start where he threw the heater at an average clip of 98.51mph.  The lowest average came on July 16th at 96.72mph. In the last start before his most recent trip to the DL, his average fastball was 97.55mph. I prepared a graph charting the average speed of his various pitches in each start.

Anyway, I guess it's all moot now, he's most likely going to have the surgery and we'll be waiting until 2012 to see what he can do post-surgery...I wonder how loud the "rookie salary structure" people will get now?

Meanwhile, TJ survivor Francisco Liriano turned in a solid outing last night against the potent Texas Rangers, striking out 7 in 7 solid innings of work. He still holds a Major League-best 2.31 FIP and is only 2nd to Roy Halladay in xFIP at 3.01. He won't get any consideration for the AL Cy Young award, but he's certainly pitched like an elite starter this year, it's a shame that Wins and ERA continue to be the two main standards that decide who gets the award.

The Twins "magic number" is at 32. The lowest Magic Number in the Majors right now is the Texas Rangers at 28. If the Twins were to lose the division lead, they currently sit 5.5 back (behind NY or Tampa depending on how you look at it) in the Wild Card chase.

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