Thursday, May 27, 2010

Previewing Liriano

Note: This piece originally appeared here at The Yankee U.  




cano pwning
After beginning the 2006 season in the bullpen, Francisco Liriano was converted back to a starter and promptly set the American League on fire like Sherman to the sea.  Over 121 innings Liriano posted a 2.16 ERA, an ERA+ of 208, a FIP of 2.55 and an xFIP of 2.35.  He struck out 144 batters, which gave him a K/9 of 10.7, and walked only 32, giving him a BB/9 of 2.4 and a K/BB ratio of 4.50.  Imagine how good the Twins would have been if he had been in the eighth inning!!1!.  I kid.  Liriano was worth 4.1 Wins Above Replacement in 2006, but had elbow pain in August and September and eventually went under the knife for Tommy John surgery in November.  Liriano missed the entire 2007 season and was inconsistent in both 2008 and 2009.  At times he showed flashes of dominance, but he was often very hittable and struggled with command.
2010 has been a different story.  While he hasn’t notched a 10.7 K/9, his numbers have been very impressive.  In eight starts and 52.2 innings, Liriano has an ERA of 3.25, having struck out 52 batters and walked 17.  Here is a log of his first eight outings, courtesy of Baseball Reference.
fl gamelog
As you can see, Liriano strung together several excellent outings in April before hitting a bit of a rough patch in May.  At .332, Liriano’s BABIP currently a bit higher than his career average of .313.  Like always, it pays to look at the underlying factors behind this before predicting regression.  His line drive rate is 20.5%, a point higher than his career average and two points higher than his 2009 results, but Liriano is also inducing 7% more groundballs than he did in 2009, leaving his fly ball percentage 10% points down at 31.5%.  One fluky aspect to Liriano’s 2010 campaign is his HR/FB ratio, which is currently an unsustainably low 4.3%.  Historically he has averaged 11.1%.  This explains why his FIP stands at 2.67 and his xFIP (which normalizes HR rate among other things), is 3.36.
In 2010, Liriano is stranding 75% of batters that get on base.  In his 2006 banner year, that number was an absurdly high 83.2%, and 2008 and 2009 that number dropped to 68% and 66%.  It’s difficult to know what to expect from him going forward, given that he’s only thrown 410 major league innings in his entire career, but it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect his strand rate to be somewhere in the neighborhood of his 08-09 numbers, or slightly down from where it is now.  In short, Liriano should probably be giving up a few more home runs, but the help he gets from a correction in BABIP may negate the effect on his ERA.  At least, that’s what FIP and xFIP tell us.
Liriano is a three pitch pitcher who features a fastball, a slider and a changeup.  In 2010, his fastball has averaged 93.9 mph and in his last outing against Boston he dialed it up to 96 mph.  This is a marked difference from 2008 and 2009 when he averaged 90.0 mph and 91.5 mph, respectively, and may suggest that Liriano is just now fully recovered from  Tommy John surgery.  Liriano’s best pitch, from the perspective of Twins fans and Fangraphs’ Pitch Type Values chart, is his slider.   So far in 2010 he has thrown this pitch 31.0%,which is the fifth most of any pitcherin the major leagues this year, and would have represented the third highest percentage of all pitchers in 2009, behind Ryan Dempster and Brett Anderson.  In 2006, he threw his slider more than anyone else in the majors (min IP 100). There are some that argue that the slider is dangerous and hard on the arm, because of the supination of the wrist during release.  The Yankees often have their pitching prospects scrap their sliders and switch to curveballs, but it’s unclear as to whether they are doing so specifically because of the danger involved when throwing a slider or because Nardi Contreras simply loves curveballs.  Regardless, Liriano throws his slider an awful lot, and he is throwing it dangerously close to 2006 levels so far this year.
In Liriano, the Twins currently have a hard-throwing, groundball-generating strikeout artist.  It’s too early to say that Liriano is “back”, and it’s doubtful that he’ll ever get back to his absurd level of domination in 2006. He is, however, getting batters to chase pitches out of the zone at a rate higher than he did in 2006 and is clearly the best pitcher on the Twins right now.  The Yankees have their work cut out for them.  Given that he’s especially tough on lefties, now might be a good time to move Gardner down in the lineup and move Swisher into the two-hole.  Those bats have to start hitting soon.  It might as well be tonight.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Player Profile: Adam Wainwright


We've done quite a bit of Twins related stuff lately so I thought I'd branch out a little and take a look at a player who is, once again, quietly putting together a fantastic season so far.

Adam Wainwright was drafted by the Braves in the 1st round (29th pick) of the 2000 draft out of high school and was traded to the Cardinals for Eli Marrero and J.D. Drew in 2003. Wainwright wasn't all that spectacular as a minor-leaguer compiling a 49-41 record in 138 minor league starts with a 3.78 ERA and 1.257 WHIP. Those aren't terrible numbers, but I would have expected to see something better than that considering how well he has performed in the Majors. Wainwright broke into the majors with the Cardinals in 2006 and spent a year as a reliever before becoming a full time starter in 2007.

In 2007, Wainwright started 32 games for the Cards going 14-12, pitching over 200 innings, but had an underwhelming 1.396 WHIP and paltry 6.1 K/9 rate. In 2008, he was going along quite well until a thumb injury caused him to miss 2 1/2 months of the season. Though his K/9 rate that year was still only around 6.2, he cut down on the number of walks he was giving up and reduced his WHIP to 1.182 in 132+ innings.

This past year Wainwright put it all together, posting a 19-8 record and finishing 3rd in the Cy Young voting. In 233 innings he had a 2.63ERA, a 1.21 WHIP and 212Ks. This year he is off to an equally good start and at 28 years old, looks like he could be an elite starter for the next several years if he can remain healthy. What makes him so effective you ask?

Taking a look at PitchFX on Wainwright's start last night in which he struck out 12 while allowing 1ER on 4H and 1BB, we see that despite his inability to induce groundballs at his normal rate, he was able to throw most of his pitches for strikes and when a guy with a 5-pitch arsenal is doing that, he going to miss a lot of bats, as evidenced by the 12 strikeouts.

When talking about Wainwright, I would be remiss if I didn't mention his consistency as a pitcher and so far this year, he's started 10 games and had 9 quality starts. Last year, 25 of his 34 starts qualified as quality starts, 2nd behind only Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum (26). He almost always keep the Cardinals in the games he starts and for a manager, that has to be reassuring.

Keep your eye out for Wainwright, he certainly has had an interesting major league career so far and this season looks to be a continuation of the dominance and potential he displayed last year.

**All stats from Baseball-Reference.com unless linked elsewhere.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Liriano and The Twins Recent Struggles

A 3-game slide, some anemic offensive showings, a handful of sub-par pitching performances...it's all started to pile up in recent days. BUT, take your hand off the panic button, there is no reason to worry about this team. The Twins just completed what will likely be their toughest 7-game stretch of the season and though they emerged with only 2 wins, the worst is over and this road weary team now looks forward to a solid 9-game homestand. I don't think the 7 games were played against the toughest opponents that the Twins will face this year, but the games were against teams they always seem to have a hard time with in the Yankees, Blue Jays and Red Sox. 


One player who has regressed quite a bit in the month of May is Francisco Liriano. His recent struggles had me worried so I went to Pitch FX to see if I could find some answers. On April 27th, Liriano pitched 8 innings of shut-out, 4-hit baseball while striking out 10 and walking 1. Yesterday he pitched 4 and 2/3 innings, giving up 5 earned runs on 5 hits with 6 strikeouts and 3 walks. Is it a velocity problem? What's going on?


April 27th:
Average FB velocity: 94.6 mph
Max FB velocity: 95.1 mph
112 total pitches
74 strikes
First pitch strikes to 20 of 28 batters
Ground-Ball/Fly-Ball: 9-5


May 20th:
Average FB velocity: 94.82 mph
Max FB velocity: 96 mph
98 total pitches
61 strikes
First pitch strikes to 15/22 batters
Ground-Ball/Fly-Ball: 4-4


Hmm, nothing there that stands out, except maybe the GB/FB rate in his most recent start, but other than that the velocity is there, the location seems to be there he even seems to be getting ahead of batters at a decent rate. Next stop: FIP.


Current ERA: 3.25
FIP: 2.66
xFIP (normalized HR factor): 3.36
BABIP: .332


For those of you not familiar with FIP, it is simply a measure of a pitchers performance in terms of the factors that a pitcher can control. In other words, FIP factors out poor defense. xFIP goes one step further by adjusting for park factors (size) and normalizing FB/HR ratio. Anyway, regardless of your understanding of it, Liriano's FIP is the lowest in the AL and his xFIP is the 4th lowest. It also suggests that his rising ERA might have more to do with J.J. Hardy's absence than anything, a thought that gains traction when you consider that Liriano's struggles started when Hardy went down.


Here's some additional insight from DomeDog:

  • It's May. For a team that hasn't been traditionally quick out of the gate (we're more used to furious late-season charges to claw back into the division race) the fact remains that the Twins are still in first place in the AL Central and have been for the bulk of the season. At this point last year, the Twins were 19-23 and were in the midst of a six-game losing streak. There's plenty of baseball to be played yet.
  • This was, schedule-wise, by far the worst road trip of the season. The only one that will even come close is a ten-game stretch in early August that will include four games in Tampa. The Twins finally managed a win in New York, snagged another elusive victory in the Rogers Centre, and then ran into two very talented young arms in Boston. Sure, 2-5 is disappointing, but I don't think there's any reason to conclude that this somehow proves the Twins aren't an elite team or that they can't hang with the AL East. Over the course of a 162-game season anyone can beat anyone at any time (sure it's cliche, but true) and even if sabermetricians can't put a finger on why it happens, home field advantage is real. Let's hope this homestand can get the Twins back on track.
  • The bases-loaded situation hasn't improved. Wait a second, so why is this a reason for hope? The Twins are batting .170 with the bases loaded, but have generated 53 chances, second in all of baseball. As I noted in an earlier post, the Twins are doing a great job of getting men on base, especially at the top of the order, and getting some more hits to fall in these situations will greatly aid the run production. They won't stay at .170 the whole season, and if they keep up the OBP, even a modest increase in bases-loaded average will help. In addition, AG noted Cuddyer's struggles with grounding into double plays (and he should be best-placed to take advantage of the Morneau-Mauer OBP machine), but points out that his GIDP rate of 24 percent is well above his career average and even though his raw number of GIDPs is the worst in the league, there are plenty of others who have been work percentage-wise. Bottom line, chances are good that these numbers are gonna get better, and with that will come some more scoring.
  • J.J. Hardy should be back soon. The mere fact that this will keep the Twins from starting both Punto and Harris on any given day should speak for itself. As AK mentioned, Hardy's range at short should aid run prevention as a whole, especially helping those member of the staff that are more inclined to induce at least some ground balls (see: anyone other than Baker or Slowey). He'll also bring back some power potential to the bottom of the order.
So hands off the panic button, this was a good team at the beginning of the season and is still a good team. There are, as with almost every team out there right now, some holes and some problem spots that need work, but I think as this season continues to progress we will see many more wins than losses and I'm looking forward to another run at the AL Central crown.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Kubel and the Platoon

For pretty much the entirety of the Twins season to this point, Ron Gardenhire has had to play a daily game of mix-and-match with Jim Thome, Delmon Young and Jason Kubel. With Cuddyer as the regular right-fielder and Denard Span out in center, that leaves just the one outfield position and the DH spot to divide between 3 guys. Gardenhire has done a pretty good job of captaining this log-jam, but one player who has undoubtedly suffered as a result is Jason Kubel.

Most Twins fans know the Jason Kubel story. He was drafted out of high school in the 12th round of the 2000 amateur draft and proceeded to rake during six seasons of minor league ball compiling a .320/.385/.499 line in 1,654 MiL at-bats. During his 1st year with the Twins he was injured but has increased both his production and playing time for the past 3 seasons. Last year was a bit of a breakout year for Kubel as he established himself in the middle of the lineup with a .300/.369/.539 line to go along with 28 HRs and 103 RBIs. Though last year was incongruous with the previous two seasons, I believe that Kubel's minor league track record suggests that his potential was shown more by last year's performance than it was by either of the previous two seasons. Which brings me back to the platoon he finds himself in this year.

To say that Kubel has started this season slowly would be putting it lightly. He's currently hit in 8 straight games and that has raised his batting average to a meager .229. More curious than that is the fact that only 6 of his 25 hits have gone for extra bases and of those, he has only 3HRs so far this season. Since he hit that glorious grand-slam against the Yankees on Sunday he has been in the lineup everyday, but prior to that he was sitting every other day in favor of Thome or Young. I don't think that it would be too far of a stretch to suggest that this inconsistent playing time has hindered Kubel at the plate and contributed to his slow start.

I don't envy Gardenhire's position here. On the one hand you have a guy in Delmon Young who the organization gave up a lot to get and who is still young but has struggled to this point both in the field and at the plate. On another hand you have another guy in Jason Kubel who has proven he can perform at an elite level offensively, but is realistically more of a DH than an outfielder due to a lack of speed and a less-than-stellar arm. On the third hand you have no-doubt-about-it Hall of Famer Jim Thome who the club specifically brought in to bring left-handed power to the lineup, but who can only DH. The platoon splits make things look obvious. Young has a better career OPS against lefties (.808) than Kubel (.675). Kubel has a better OPS against righties (.846) than Young (.717). Thome is best against righties, sporting a ridiculous career 1.043 OPS.Yet, Kubel's struggles at the plate so far this season are real.

What's the solution?? I don't know that there is one short-term, but I feel that if the Twins don't pick either Delmon or Kubel to be an everyday player, they end up hurting both guys from a production standpoint. A trade is pretty much out of the question because Young is still too, well, young to give up on and the return on their original investment would be very low. Thome will likely only play one season for the Twins and this will all be a moot point next year. If you ask me, I'd rather have Kubel's more-than-capable bat in the lineup everyday even if you do give up a little bit defensively. What do other people think?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The 2010 Version of Kevin Slowey

Most of the buzz in the Twins blogosphere lately has been about the Twins getting the giant Yankee-sized monkey off their back, and rightfully so. But on the list of the places in which the Twins have struggled to win in the last few years, the Rogers Center in Toronto is right up there. The Twins were swept in Toronto in both 2007 and 2008, and barely managed a split in 2009, so last night's win was a welcome follow-up to Sunday's dramatic victory. Kevin Slowey was effective enough, holding the Blue Jays lineup (who has been, dare I say, en fuego) to three runs in five innings of work, striking out two and walking none. He allowed a home run to the on-fire Jose Bautista, but otherwise limited the damage done by eight hits.

In 2009, before injuring his wrist, Slowey looked poised for a breakout campaign - he was striking out 7.44 batters per nine while walking only 1.49, good for a sparkling 5.00 K/BB ratio. That put him in elite company; with a minimum of 90 IP, only Halladay, Haren and Vasquez were better. In 2008, although he struck out fewer batters, his K/BB ratio was even better at 5.13 (again behind only Halladay and Haren) over 160 IP, and he posted an excellent 3.99 ERA that lined up nicely with his 3.91 FIP. However, this year, Slowey seems to be struggling with his usually-impeccable control, allowing an average of one full walk more per game (2.45) than his career average up to this point. His strikeout rate is also down from last year, from 7.44 to 6.75 per 9. The most encouraging part of last night's win was that even though he only struck out two, he walked no batters for only the second time this season.

Putting a finger on the reason for Slowey's command issues is tricky. It could certainly be some lingering effects from his wrist injury, but that's mitigated by the fact that his average velocity is up almost across the board from 2009. In addition, he's featuring his slider (and throwing it harder) much more often than he ever has, which would lead you to think that he's comfortable with the added torque on his arm. I'm not quite comfortable enough to do a thorough PitchFX analysis to look at whether or not it could be release point or other mechanical issues, but those could also be possibilities.

Aside from the control problems, the other most disconcerting thing is Slowey's steadily decreasing ground ball rate. He's always been a pretty extreme fly ball pitcher, but so far he's only getting 29.4% of his balls in play on the ground, down from 36.1% in 2008 and 32.0% in 2009. The bottom line is that although his K/BB rate could put him in elite company, his high FB rate means that he'll always be susceptible to the home run. Indeed, a look at the highest HR/9 rates in the league last year sees him much closer to the top of that list than the bottom, at 1.41, and although the rate at which fly balls left the yard was slightly unlucky (meaning his xFIP, which normalizes HR/FB rate to league average, of 4.23 was better than his ERA of 4.86), his increasing tendency to keep the ball in the air has significant downside. At this point, Slowey is obviously not going to turn into Joel Pineiro, but teammate Fransisco Liriano has shown so far this season that killing more worms has its benefits.

The bottom line is that whether Slowey's slow start is a lingering result of injury or something else, 2010 has been at least a small step back so far. He's certainly had some bad luck with a .353 BABIP, so his FIP is slightly better at 4.48 than his ERA, but he needs to get back to limiting his walks and doing what he can to get more outs via ground balls should he want to have more sustained success. Efficiency is also key - he's only pitched past the fifth inning once this season, and Phil Mackey has analyzed his struggles in the middle innings of his starts.

As I write this, the thus-far-solid Carl Pavano is getting shellacked by the Jays (although I don't think this is a case of iffy peripherals catching up with him as much as the sort of clunker that just happens from time to time), so the middle of the Twins' rotation could certainly use a Kevin Slowey that resembles his 2008-2009 version moreso than the way he's currently going. Let's hope last night was something to build on.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Twins vs Yankees 2K1: A Retrospective


On the eve of the year's first series against the Yankees, which some are calling the first true test for this Twins team, we thought it might be an appropriate time for a little retrospective. I'll admit that the recent history of this matchup hasn't been favorable for Minnesota, but hopes are high with a team that looks, at least on paper, like the strongest I've seen in my lifetime. Tom Pelissero at ESPN Twin Cities posted today about the failures of the Gardenhire Era, but we're going to take a look at the end of the previous regime. The Twins currently sit at 22-12, their best start since they jumped out to a 29-12 record in 2001, Tom Kelly's last year as manager. Coincidentally, this was the last season the Twins won both a series at Yankee stadium and the season series against New York, finishing 4-2 against the 3-time defending World Series champs. For a trip down memory lane, AK and I are going to briefly recount each matchup of the season.

Yankees at Twins

Game 1: April 30th, 2001. Twins Win 2-1.

New York Yankees ab r h rbi
Knoblauch lf 3 0 0 0
Jeter ss 4 0 0 0
O'Neill rf 4 0 0 0
Williams cf 4 0 1 0
Martinez 1b 4 1 3 1
McDonald pr 0 0 0 0
Posada c 3 0 0 0
Justice dh 3 0 1 0
Soriano 2b 3 0 0 0
Brosius 3b 3 0 1 0
Pettitte p 0 0 0 0
Totals 31 1 6 1
Minnesota Twins ab r h rbi
Guzman ss 4 0 0 0
Rivas 2b 4 0 0 0
Lawton rf 3 0 0 0
Koskie 3b 3 0 0 0
Ortiz dh 3 1 1 0
Hunter cf 3 0 0 0
Mientkiewicz 1b 3 1 2 2
Prince c 2 0 0 0
Jones lf 3 0 0 0
Radke p 0 0 0 0
Totals 28 2 3 2
New York 000
100
000161
Minnesota 010
000
10x230
New York Yankees IP H R ER BB SO
Pettitte L (3-3) 8.0 3 2 2 1 8
Totals
8.0
3
2
2
1
8
Minnesota Twins IP H R ER BB SO
Radke W (5-0) 9.0 6 1 1 1 4
Totals
9.0
6
1
1
1
4

Doug Mientkiewicz saves the day in this one with 2 hits and 2RBI as both Radke and Pettite go the distance. On a side note, does anyone out there remember those Twins commercial spots that were running on TV and Radio while Mientkiewicz was with the Twins? If not for those commercials, I would not be able to spell Doug's last name. Anyway. Tino Martinez was his typical Twins-killing self, but Radke was vintage Radke limiting the hits and walks and pitching efficiently.


New York Yankees ab r h rbi
Knoblauch lf 4 0 1 0
Williams cf 5 1 2 1
Jeter ss 3 1 1 0
Martinez 1b 5 0 3 0
Posada c 4 0 2 2
Justice dh 5 1 1 1
Coleman rf 3 0 0 0
Bellinger rf 1 0 0 0
Soriano 2b 4 1 4 0
Brosius 3b 4 0 0 0
Mussina p 0 0 0 0
Totals 38 4 14 4
Minnesota Twins ab r h rbi
Guzman ss 4 0 0 0
Maxwell 3b 4 0 0 0
Lawton rf 3 0 0 0
Ortiz dh 3 0 0 0
Buchanan lf 3 0 1 0
Mientkiewicz 1b 3 0 1 0
Hunter cf 3 0 1 0
Prince c 3 0 0 0
Rivas 2b 2 0 0 0
Hocking ph 1 0 0 0
Milton p 0 0 0 0
Carrasco p 0 0 0 0
Miller p 0 0 0 0
Totals 29 0 3 0
New York 010
001
1014140
Minnesota 000
000
000032
New York Yankees IP H R ER BB SO
Mussina W (2-3) 9.0 3 0 0 0 10
Totals
9.0
3
0
0
0
10
Minnesota Twins IP H R ER BB SO
Milton L (3-2) 6.0 8 2 2 3 3
Carrasco 2.0 3 1 1 1 2
Miller 1.0 3 1 1 0 0
Totals
9.0
14
4
4
4
5

Hey, was this the last time Soriano had a 4 hit game? I kid, I kid. Hard to score runs when you're going up against a Mike Mussina in his prime and he Ks 10 and walks zero in a complete-game effort. Mussina would go on to be one of the best pitchers in the AL in 2001 winning 17 games and finishing 5th in the Cy Young voting. Eric Milton pitched well in this one, but when the offense behind you only musters 3 hits, it doesn't really matter how well you pitch.

Game 3: May 2nd, 2001. Twins win 4-2.

New York Yankees ab r h rbi
Knoblauch lf 4 0 0 0
Jeter ss 3 0 0 0
O'Neill rf 4 1 2 1
Williams cf 4 0 1 0
Martinez 1b 4 0 1 1
Posada c 4 0 0 0
Justice dh 3 0 0 0
Soriano 2b 3 1 1 0
Brosius 3b 3 0 1 0
Hernandez p 0 0 0 0
Stanton p 0 0 0 0
Boehringer p 0 0 0 0
Totals 32 2 6 2
Minnesota Twins ab r h rbi
Guzman ss 4 0 0 0
Rivas 2b 4 1 1 0
Lawton rf 4 1 3 0
Koskie 3b 4 0 0 0
Ortiz dh 3 1 0 0
Hunter cf 3 1 1 2
Mientkiewicz 1b 4 0 4 2
Jones lf 2 0 0 0
Hocking ph,lf 1 0 0 0
Pierzynski c 3 0 0 0
Mays p 0 0 0 0
Guardado p 0 0 0 0
Wells p 0 0 0 0
Hawkins p 0 0 0 0
Totals 32 4 9 4
New York 000
001
001260
Minnesota 000
013
00x490
New York Yankees IP H R ER BB SO
Hernandez L (0-3) 5.2 6 4 4 1 3
Stanton 1.1 2 0 0 1 2
Boehringer 1.0 1 0 0 0 1
Totals
8.0
9
4
4
2
6
Minnesota Twins IP H R ER BB SO
Mays W (4-1) 6.0 4 1 1 1 4
Guardado 1.0 0 0 0 0 2
Wells 1.0 0 0 0 0 2
Hawkins SV (9) 1.0 2 1 1 0 1
Totals
9.0
6
2
2
1
9

EVERY Twins fan that is older than 20 remembers this game. The perfect storm came together on this night: $1 hotdog night, $3 beer night and student night...oh, and one Chuck Knoblauch. Having asked for and received a trade out of Minnesota to the Yankees in 1998, Knoblauch was not a popular player. Up until this point, Knoblauch had been a 2nd basemen and therefore somewhat insulated from the wrath of fans, save for a hearty round of boos when he would come to bat. Being in left field, however, put him a that much closer to the fans and, well, a mix of youth, domedogs, and alcohol birth a night Twins fans will never forget. It started right before the 6th inning with fans throwing beer cups, hotdogs and golf balls at Knoblauch. He had been treated similarly on the Monday night game, but this was a new level. Joe Torre took his team off the field and they stayed off the field for 12 minutes and the umps even considered calling the game a forfeit. Order was eventually restored and the game continued only to be interrupted a 2nd time in the 8th inning. You can re-live the moments here and here. Lost in all the drama was a great pitching performance for the Twins by Joe Mays, a 4 for 4 game by Doug Mientkiewicz...and most importantly a series win for the Twins against the Yankees.

Twins at Yankees

Game 1: May 8th, 2001. Twins win 2-0.


Minnesota Twinsab r hrbi
Guzman ss5231
Rivas 2b4010
Lawton rf4010
Koskie 3b4000
Mientkiewicz 1b2011
Hunter cf4000
Jones lf4020
Buchanan dh4000
Pierzynski c4000
Milton p0000
Totals35282
New York Yankeesab r hrbi
Knoblauch lf4000
Jeter ss2010
O'Neill rf4010
Williams B. cf4000
Martinez 1b4000
Posada c4010
Coleman dh3000
Soriano 2b3010
Brosius 3b3000
Hernandez p0000
Choate p0000
Williams T. p0000
Stanton p0000
Totals31040
Minnesota001
010
000280
New York000
000
000042
Minnesota TwinsIPHRERBBSO
Milton W (4-2)9.040027
Totals
9.0
4
0
0
2
7
New York YankeesIPHRERBBSO
Hernandez L (0-4)6.082234
Choate 1.100002
Williams 1.100001
Stanton 0.100010
Totals
9.0
8
2
2
4
7

In the midst of an All-Star campaign that saw him go 15-7 with a 4.32 ERA, Eric Milton tossed a gem here, blanking the Yankees on four hits and striking out seven. Cristian Guzman went 3-5 with a home run (a very rare sighting indeed), and Doug Mientkiewicz added an RBI double, providing all the offense the Twins would need off El Duque. Interestingly, both Guzman and Milton were part of the package that the Yankees sent to Minnesota to acquire Knoblauch in 1998.

Game 2: May 9th, 2001. Yankees win, 2-0.


Minnesota Twinsab r hrbi
Guzman ss4020
Rivas 2b4000
Lawton rf4000
Koskie 3b3000
Mientkiewicz 1b3010
Allen dh3010
Jones lf3000
Hunter cf3000
Prince c2000
Mays p0000
Guardado p0000
Miller p0000
Totals29040
New York Yankeesab r hrbi
Knoblauch lf4111
Jeter ss4000
O'Neill rf3120
Martinez 1b3010
Williams cf4011
Justice dh4000
Posada c3000
Soriano 2b3000
Brosius 3b3020
Clemens p0000
Rivera p0000
Totals31272
Minnesota000
000
000041
New York000
001
10x270
Minnesota TwinsIPHRERBBSO
Mays L (4-2)5.141122
Guardado 1.211103
Miller 1.020001
Totals
8.0
7
2
2
2
6
New York YankeesIPHRERBBSO
Clemens W (4-0)8.040018
Rivera SV (10)1.000010
Totals
9.0
4
0
0
2
8

The Twins got another solid pitching performance from Joe Mays, their other All-Star pitcher, but Roger Clemens returned the favor from the night before. He dominated the Twins over eight innings, striking out eight and walking only one, and Rivera nailed down the save. Again, Guzman and Mientkiewicz provide the bulk of the Twins' limited offense. Knoblauch got some measure of revenge for his debris shower at the Dome by homering off of "Steady" Eddie Guardado in the 7th, providing the go-ahead and winning run.

Game 3: May 10, 2001. Twins win 5-4.


Minnesota Twinsab r hrbi
Guzman ss5020
Rivas 2b5020
Lawton rf5001
Koskie 3b3000
Mientkiewicz 1b3220
Allen lf4011
Jones lf0000
Hunter cf4111
Maxwell dh3000
Hocking ph,dh1000
Pierzynski c4231
Redman p0000
Wells p0000
Guardado p0000
Hawkins p0000
Totals375114
New York Yankeesab r hrbi
Knoblauch lf4000
Jeter ss4111
O'Neill rf3100
Williams cf4110
Martinez 1b4133
Posada dh4000
Soriano 2b4000
Oliver c3000
Justice ph1000
Brosius 3b4000
Pettitte p0000
Rivera p0000
Totals35454
Minnesota011
200
000
15110
New York000
000
400
0450
Minnesota TwinsIPHRERBBSO
Redman 6.022212
Wells 2.022201
Guardado W (2-0)1.010001
Hawkins SV (11)1.000000
Totals
10.0
5
4
4
1
4
New York YankeesIPHRERBBSO
Pettitte 8.1944210
Rivera L (1-2)1.221003
Totals
10.0
11
5
4
2
13

This was a bit of a wild one. Mark Redman (a name that prompted more of a "who was that guy" reaction rather than nostalgia) got the start for the Twins and was effective, limited the Yankees to two runs on two hits in six innings of work. Entering with a four-run lead thanks to more hot hitting from Dougie Baseball (who was hitting .412(!) at this point in the season) and a nice 3 for 4 day from current Public Enemy #1, Redman exited after giving up a 7th inning home run to Derek Jeter and walking Paul O'Neill. Bob Wells proceeded to give up a single to Bernie Williams and then a game-tying three run home run to Tino Martinez later in the inning, eventually sending the game into extras. In the top of the 10th, Pierzynski lined a double and Guzman followed with a bloop single. With a runner on third, catcher Joe Oliver allowed a passed ball on an 0-2 fastball from Rivera, allowing AJ to score from third. Latroy Hawkins pitched a scoreless bottom of the 10th for his 11th save. The Twins won the series 2-1, and there was much rejoicing.

So what's the point of this? It's obviously not some attempt to relive the "glory days," but we mostly just found it fun to look at old box scores and remember the times when the likes of Koskie and Radke patrolled the artificial turf. (And who knows, maybe TK had some sort of tricks up his sleeve that season.) Nor is this a reason to wallow in failure or make excuses, because this is a new season and there's plenty to be hopeful about. This series isn't going to make or break the 2010 Twins, nor did it for the 2001 squad. But the bottom line is that the road to a championship likely goes through New York, so hopefully the Twins can take a step tonight towards getting past whatever mental block they have about playing in the Bronx and show that they're ready to be serious contenders.