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Twins Target - A Minnesota Twins blog | Page 32
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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 03 October 2009

Joe Nathan and Joe Mauer, (AP)

In a sport where just 27 percent of teams play reach the postseason, is there anything more a baseball fan can realistically ask for other than meaningful games in October?

I think not.

The Twins weren't in an elimination game on Friday night against Kansas City, but every win postpones Detroit's ability to clinch the division. We're not at the point of "win and you're in" yet, as we still need the White Sox to win at least one more game, but the Twins are awfully close.

Minnesota's magic number is 4, while the division-leading Tigers' is just 2. Two games remain.

If Chicago can win two more games against the Tigers, and the Twins sweep the remaining games against Kansas City, the division would go to Minnesota outright.

If Detroit loses one of two and the Twins win out, or if Detroit is swept and the Twins win one of the remaining two, a one-game play-in will be held on Tuesday night at the Metrodome for all the marbles.

A few weeks ago, a playoff run looked extremely unlikely. After failing to win the crucial series in Detroit earlier this week, things looked even bleaker. The odds of the Twins catching up to the Tigers aren't favorable, but after days like yesterday, we're reminded that "it's not over yet, folks."

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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 30 September 2009

Let me be clear: the Twins aren't quite finished yet. Detroit's magic number is two games, and there are four games left on the regular season schedule. With the right combination of solid play and good luck, they could still win this thing. Possible? Yes. Likely? No.

On August 7th Minnesota was 5.5 games behind the division-leading Tigers. Although they were in third place in the division, there were still over 50 games remaining on the schedule and a comeback was still very possible.

Carl Pavano was added through waivers for the hopeful playoff push. Pavano previously had great starts against the Tigers and the Twins thought his successful track record may come in handy should Minnesota find itself in a division-deciding series late in the season.

Guess what? The Twins did pull closer to the Tigers and found themselves just two games back with a four-game series coming up.  Luckily, Pavano was slated to pitch the third game, and his Tiger-taming would certainly come in handy!

I don't need to tell you how that worked out. Pavano gave up seven runs on seven hits during 4.2 innings. Easily his worst outing while with Minnesota, this will also be his last start.

The pitch that ended the Twins' season came from the pitcher who was brought on to save it.

If I had to put odds on the Twins' chances to reach the postseason right now, I'd give them about a 10 percent chance. Not likely, and the Twins are forced to become scoreboard watchers, but that doesn't mean the final weekend won't be exciting.

Even if the season officially ended with that high fastball, there is still myriad of positive aspects to the season. Be sure to hang around Twins Target no matter how this season ends up; we'll have tons of great content as we head into the winter season, reviewing both the good and not-so-good parts of the year, as well as previewing the always-exciting Hot Stove League.

That said, a loss tomorrow afternoon guarantees the division title to Detroit. The least the Twins can do is make the Tigers work hard for the AL Central!

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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 30 September 2009

Michael Cuddyer

Ron Gardenhire is generally regarded as a good manager. He is a likable man and a likable manager, but that doesn't mean he isn't second-guessed.

Yesterday, in both games of a crucial doubleheader, Gardy made some questionable decisions. From an ill-advised suicide squeeze to not bringing in Jose Mijares to face a lefty, Twins' fans are split on Gardy. Most like the man, some can't stand his managerial tactics.

It's accepted wisdom in baseball that left-handed pitchers perform better against left-handed hitters than right-handed hitters, and vice versa. There are obviously exceptions, however, and a manager's judgement is usually best, so I'll let this one slide.

But some claim the so-called "small-ball spirit" Minnesota supposedly possesses accomplishes as much as the War of 1812 and should be stopped.

Should the Twins "progress/regress" into more of a station-to-station team; being patient at the plate and waiting for the pitcher to hang a pitch that you could belt over the outfield wall?

While there are plenty of home-run hitting guys on this Minnesota team, patience is another matter entirely. The Twins average 3.87 pitches per plate appearance, with Joe Mauer and Nick Punto (!) leading the way with over 4.16 and Carlos Gomez and Delmon Young bringing up the rear with around 3.53. The league average is actually just 3.84, but the Twins would need more patience if they wanted to completely eliminate the bunting and sacrificing from their "playbook."

If you haven't read the classic book, "Weaver on Strategy," I highly suggest you do so. Originally written in 1984, the short book describes how Earl Weaver, who sports a career .583 winning percentage and 13 seasons where his Baltimore Orioles finished either first or second in their division, manages a baseball game. His biggest weapon? The three-run homerun.

Of course, in order for that three-run homerun to be your greatest offensive threat, you'll need quite a few baserunners in front of your power hitters. Not surprisingly, "only one Weaver team failed to receive more bases on balls than its opponents," according to the book.

Theoretically, how would implementation of this strategy work for the Twins? Would the lineup be order similar to, or very different from, what is generally regarded as a "solid" lineup?

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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 29 September 2009

"I got this."
- Joe Mauer, when asked if he was available to catch the second game of the double-header on Tuesday.

Does it get any cooler than that?

Minnesota struck first in the Battle for the AL Central this morning, but are still just two losses away from elimination. They clinched a winning season with the victory earlier, but can guarantee their continued involvment in this divisional race with a victory tonight. To review, let's go over all the possibilities:

Scenario A: Twins sweep series, take two game lead into final three games.

Scenario B: Twins win three of four, division tied with three games remaining.

Scenario C: Series split, Twins two games back with three games remaining.

Scenario D: Tigers win three of four, clinch division with four game lead and three games remaining.

With the first game under wraps, the Twins are well on their way.

 

According to various sources, the Twins have signed Miguel Angel Sano, considered by many the top international prospect in quite some time. There were questions about his age, which has reportedly been confirmed as 16, which caused other teams to back down. The signing bonus is reportedly $3.15 million. Sano's comparables have been listed as Evan Longoria, Alex Rodriguez, and Hanley Ramirez.

This season Minnesota has spent over $6 million on international prospects, including 16-year old Max Kepler, considered the best European prospect. The Twins have spent more money on international free agents this year than any other team, which is extremely rare.

It will be interesting to see where these young kids start next season. Sano will almost undoutedly start with the Dominican Summer League Twins, while Kepler could land in either the DSL or the Gulf Coast League. Neither will likely be in the big leagues sooner than five years from now.

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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 25 September 2009

Dan Osterbrock

Daniel Osterbrock, a 7th-round draft pick last year, is considered one of the top left-handed pitching prospects in the Twins' organization. After being drafted out of the University of Cincinnatti, Osterbrock reported to the Elizabethton Twins and did not disappoint.

In 75 innings, Osterbrock posted an ERA of 3.00 and an extremely impressive 104 strikeouts compared to just eight walks. His FIP was an incredible 2.08. Perhaps most remarkable about Osterbrock's 2008 campaign, however, was the fact that his Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) was a bloated .370; well above the league average. He was receiving virtually no luck at all, yet dominated opposing batters.

Osterbrock spent this past season with the Beloit Snappers, where his production dipped. He posted an ERA of 5.19 with a 4:1 strikeout/walk ratio. Osterbrock didn't put up the same dominating numbers he did in 2008, yet his BABIP was an incredibly high .391.

Next year Osterbrock's BABIP is almost certainly going to regress closer to average, which could very well translate into a jaw-dropping statistical season. Here at TwinsTarget we wish Osterbrock nothing but the best.

I recently had the chance to ask him a few questions. Be sure to read carefully; Osterbrock gives some profound answers and offers great insight and openness into his life both on and off the mound.

TwinsTarget: You've said that your favorite team growing up was Cincinnati. How much are you familiar with Red's history, and do you look up to or idolize a certain player?

Dan Osterbrock: Yeah my favorite team growing up was the Reds and I know quite a bit about them. My whole family loved the Reds too so I heard a lot of stories about the Big Red Machine from the 1970's. I'd have to say my favorite player growing up was Eric Davis. When I was a little kid a wanted to hit and play outfield and be just like him. I even wore his number pretty much my whole life and through college.

Click here to read he rest of Dan's answers!

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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 25 September 2009

Being a switch-hitter requires a great amount of determination, skill, and hand-eye coordination. Some of the all-time greats are considered greater still because of their ability to effectively hit the ball from both sides of the plate.

Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose, Eddie Murray, Chipper Jones. The list goes on and on. Who are the best switch-hitters to ever put on a Twins' uniform, though?

Here are the best switch-hitters in Twins' history, ordered by preferred position. To be fair, the prerequisite will be at least 100 games with Minnesota.

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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 24 September 2009

Not much in baseball can be chalked up to chance. In an age where statistics are king, a number can be put on virtually everything that happens on the baseball diamond. But sometimes there are those instances that even the fiercest of sabermatricians can't document, analyze, or predict.

There's a stat for that immeasureable element. Hardly surprising.

Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) is a tool used as a red flag when analyzing seasons. If a player has an abnormally high or low BABIP, they will likely regress to the mean in the future. BABIP could be considered as a "luck" measure stick. The unlucky pitchers have a high BABIP, while conversely the lucky pitchers boast a BABIP under the league average of around .290.

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