Joe Nathan’s Return

The Twins won their first game of the year, but the big moment was Joe Nathan earning the save in his first appearance in the majors since 2009. Let’s take a closer look:

First off, I think Nathan pitched better than his results would suggest. Yes he loaded the bases, but gave up a single on a well placed ground ball, and walked a guy on a couple pitches that both could have been called strike three.

But it was not all sunshine and rainbows. For starters, I’m not a big fan of his velo. The always fantastic has his four seamer at 91 mph, and his 2 seamer at 90.6 mph. Though Texas Leaguers has his four seamer at 93.6 mph for the 2009 season, so not terrible. But the more problematic thing is the average speed on his slider was 90.2 mph. Having a less than 1 mph difference between your fastball and slider isn’t a great recipe for success. Sure they do different things break-wise, but it will be remarkably easy for hitters to time him if this continues. Furthermore, his curveball was being thrown at 85 mph, which is 5 mph faster than before his surgery, and helps the hitters’ timing even more.

He got a save, and he probably pitched better than the results show, but there are still problems going forward for Nathan.


Thoughts On Game 1

I certainly won’t do this for every game, but I did want to jot down some quick thoughts about the Twins opener:

First, I’m not worried about Carl Pavano. The Jays hit homers against everyone, though I would like to see less of this from Pavano:

That’s just way too many pitches in the middle of the plate. I assume it’s something he will correct, hopefully by getting rid of the goatee and bringing back the Pavstache.

I will refrain from passing judgment on Nishioka based on one game, but tonight did nothing to dissuade my fear that the Twins paid a 5 million dollar posting fee and are paying him 3 million per year for the next three years (so basically 3.6 million over three years, with an option to pay him 4 million the year after) just to avoid paying JJ Hardy 5.85 million this year. If Hardy isn’t worth 2 million more than Nishioka this year I’ll be pretty shocked

Lastly, on the bullpen. Again, it’s just one game, but I have no desire to see Dusty Hughes through 82 mph meatballs over what Pat Neshek can do, and I don’t like seeing Kevin Slowey relegated to a mop up role in the bullpen. That’s what Nick Blackburn should be doing. I am not sure if the Twins are doing it based on the contracts (god I hope it is to get Blackburn’s trade value up so they can get rid of him) or if they sincerely believe that Slowey isn’t good enough to be in the rotation, but either way it is wrong.

And lastly, if it’s a blowout, how about we just pick a pitcher, say, Perkins, to eat the last 3 or 4 innings rather than making 4 pitchers cover it. It’s early, but that’s a good way to burn your relievers quickly.

Three Big Questions For the Blue Jays Series

I’m back! kinda. I can’t really devote a ton of time to the Twins what with actually getting paid to write about college hockey and KU, but I don’t want my only Twins thoughts to be on twitter. Plus it’s nice to be able to write without having to write horrible posts just to get to a post minimum.

With that, my three big questions for the first series of the year.

1. Can the Twins keep the ball in the park?

Francisco Liriano had just a 6.3% HR/FB ratio last year, and I don’t have many concerns about him. Carl Pavano’s career mark, and hisĀ  mark as a Twin, has been roughly 10.5%, which isn’t as low as I would like it obviously, but I’m not going to pull my hair out over it. But Nick Blackburn, whom the Twins are apparently limping to the barn with as their third starter, had a 13.5% mark last year, and although he apparently is getting back to throwing his sinking fastball more, if that isn’t sinking, he is in trouble given that he has less secondary stuff than anyone on the roster. (and less stuff overall really when you see how rarely he gets a batter to swing and miss).

But most importantly I am worried about Toronto’s ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark. The Blue Jays his 257 homers last year, 46 more than their next closest competitors, and had a .206 ISO, over 20 points better than the next closest team. And it was spread out as well, Jose Bautista obviously led the league with 54 bombs, but 7 others had double digit homer totals.

2. How will the new double play combo react?

Alexi Casilla at this point is pretty much a known quantity for me. He’s going to have an OBP somewhere around .330 (I know his career mark is in the low .300s, but when he gets regular playing time it is much better), and he’ll have some great at bats and some stupid at bats. Defensively UZR has him as a +25/150 guy at shortstop. He’s not that good, but I do think he can be a +5 type guy there.

Nishioka on the other hand is much more of a mystery. He had good numbers in Japan, but other than Ichiro no one has come over and even maintained his numbers, much less improved them. Him hitting in the 2 hole worries me, not just because I fear he won’t have a high enough OBP to justify it (or hit for enough power, or average, etc.) but because I am terrified that he is going to spend 20% of his at bats bunting over Denard Span. I like Span to have a nice bounceback year this year, and it would be leaving a lot of runs on the table to have Nishioka bunt him over a ton, rather than just having Mauer hit 2nd.

3. Bullpen roles

I don’t really go nuts over the bullpen most of the time. But I do want to know what happens with Joe Nathan and Matt Capps, how they use Kevin Slowey, and who the lefty on lefty guy is. Honestly I’m not even sure who all is in the Twins bullpen this year, but I am excited to see Gardy use them incorrectly.

Moving Day

Well that was short. I had a great time at the old digs, but I’m mocing over to to write for the FanSided network. Head on over there to yell at me.

Draft Report

I’m so mad at myself that I didn’t have this blog going during the draft, because it seriously is my favorite day of the baseball calendar. The best way to build your team is through the draft, and it always excites me to see who the Twins settle on.

First round pick Kyle Gibson probably won’t sign until August, but here are some guys who have:

Billy Bullock (70 overall): The future closer has thrown 3 innings for Elizabethton, giving up 1 hit and striking out 4.

Derek McCallum (132 overall): It’s not going terribly well for the former Gopher in Elizabethton: he’s hitting .143/.226/.214 and has struck out 9 times to just 3 walks. Granted it’s just 28 at-bats so let’s not get our panties in a bunch.

Tobias Streich (162 overall): The former West Virginia catcher, more renowned for his glove than bat, has just 11 pro at-bats and is hitting .273/.333/.545 with a homer.

Those are really the only notables to have signed so far. I’d love to see them sign LSU 1B Blake Dean and bring him in, as well as Gopher outfielder/wide receiver Eric Decker. And, of course, pleeeeeeeeeeeease sign Gibson.

Much Better

Just last week I called Francisco Liriano’s career over. Today, he shut me the hell up:

Look at all those glorious pitches in the bottom of the strike zone. Liriano threw 97 pitches. His 91st pitch was a shade over 94 mph, and his slider averaged 87 mph and he threw 33 of them. If the slider is back, Liriano is back, simple as that.


Once again, I’m heading out of town, so here are your weekend links.

Aaron Hicks’ stats in Single A Beloit (MiLB)

Hall of Fame Class of 09 preview/tribute (Souvenir City)

An MMA Post I can understand (BBB)

Verbally fellating Danny Valencia (Nick’s Twins Blog)

A look at the pitching staff (Twinkie Talk)

Michael Cuddyer might play second base? I’ll believe it when I see it. (Twins Now)

Check out Uniwatch this weekend, as yours truly might be featured in one of the posts. Note that I said ‘might’ and also, at least take a peek at the Confederations Cup final on Sunday when we take on Brazil. USA! USA! USA!

Have a good one, everybody.