Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tuesday Notes

The Twins are certainly still having trouble scoring runs, having not yet topped five in a game, but they've managed to put together their first back-to-back wins on the season. I'm not going to dwell on the uglier parts of the losses over the weekend, because we've spent enough time doing that and it finally feels good to get a few wins in a row. The Twins will look to keep the ball rolling tonight with the seemingly back-in-form Carl Pavano going against Jake Arrietta.

Starting pitching:
  • On Sunday, Brian Duensing allowed two runs, scattering seven hits over seven innings to continue his solid start to the season. He struck out five while walking two. Duensing's K/9 through 20 IP sits at 6.30, up almost a full point from last year's mark of 5.37. His swinging-strike percentage is 9.5%, up from the 7.7% he posted last year. It's probably too early to tell whether this uptick is sustainable, but obviously missing more bats should translate into continued success for Duensing and he's kept the Twins in every game he's started this year.
  • Liriano had what should, on the surface, look like a confidence-building start last night, allowing only two runs and pitching into the seventh inning. This is great, and he picked up his first win, but there are still plenty of red flags here. For starters he walked five, equaling his total from his disastrous first start in Toronto. He struck out only two, meaning that his K/BB rate now sits at 1.00. Both runs he allowed came on home runs, bringing his season total to four after allowing only nine all of last year. That's not to say it was all bad though, and there are encouraging signs. Liriano induced 13 ground ball outs as opposed to 6 fly balls, continuing a trend from his previous start. According to PitchFX, he averaged 93.19 mph with his fastball and touched 95.6, a huge improvement over his first start where he sat at 90.4 mph. It's hard to know quite what to make of Liriano so far, but he's certainly going to have to get the walks under control if he wants to come anywhere close to last year's success.
  • Still not great, but getting better? Maybe? Kubel at least over the weekend showed some of the power that's been non-existent from this crew so far. Last night's win featured some clutch hitting from unlikely sources (Butera??) and to be able to scratch out five runs and win without Mauer and Morneau is at least a positive. I mean, the bats have to catch fire at some point....right?
  • It should be said that this was an unexpected positive from the last two games. Sunday's game featured great catches from all three outfielders - Repko ranging far back and to his left and laying out, Kubel making a leaping catch near the wall in right, and Delmon with one of his sort-of-awkward-but-effective dives coming in on a low line drive to left. Casilla and Tolbert, despite their shortcomings with the bats, have looked like a more than capable double-play combination, turning a great DP in the 8th inning of Sunday's game to bail Perkins out of a jam and turning another key DP in the 6th inning last night. Casilla also made a Punto-esque barehand and diving throw for the final out of the 6th. It's still too early for the advanced defensive metrics to have much to say, but the team UZR as it stands now certainly isn't embarrassing, for what it's worth. Maybe not much.
  • If the story of the weekend was Nathan being replaced by Capps as closer (which has been written about in many different places) the story of the night last night was Jim Hoey pitching 1 1/3 scoreless innings, striking out one, and sitting at 96.7 mph with the fastball. Sure, he's no Aroldis Chapman, but it was a change for Twins fans to see someone throwing heat out of the bullpen. Hoey's career numbers are fairly ugly and I'm not convinced he's an impact arm in the bullpen or even someone I'd regularly trust in high-leverage situations, but there aren't a lot of more promising options in the minors that look ready right now. One of the biggest problems I see with Hoey is that, as evidenced by his strikezone plot, most of his pitches (including mistakes) were up in the zone. When it comes to blowing high fastballs by hitters, 97 is ok, but it's certainly not 102, and Hoey only averages 0.18 of horizontal movement on his four-seam fastball according to PitchFX. This means it's really straight (Capps' fastball averaged, for comparison, 4.5 inches of movement). Straight + up in the zone can mean problems down the line, but I'll give Hoey a chance to prove me wrong. He does feature a changeup as well that he threw four times, each for a strike, and generated his only K of the night by freezing Mark Reynolds. It's a pitch he has apparently worked on a lot over the off-season, and this article claims it's actually a splitter, but it looks basically like a changeup. He'll need to continue to mix that in to stay effective, as, unlike Chapman, I don't think his straight heat is enough to get him by.
First pitch tonight is at 6:05 CT. It looks like storms are on the way in Baltimore, so let's hope the Twins can get the game in and get another win!

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