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 his  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.

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