Saturday, May 28, 2016

Contemplating Pat Dean

Pat Dean 's strikeout
rate in the minors was
5.3 per nine innings.
He has 20 Ks in 21
innings so far with
the Twins.
Pat Dean made his second start for the Twins on Friday night in Seattle and handcuffed the Mariners for his first major league W -- seven innings, four hits, two runs, no walks, eight strikeouts. One of those runs was the result of a leadoff "triple" that Danny Santana really should have corralled.

Last Saturday, Dean went six innings against Toronto, allowing two runs in a no-decision that the Twins ultimately won. Add in two relief outings, and he has a 3.43 ERA in 21 innings.

So who is Pat Dean, and what should we reasonably expect from him?

Lefty, 26 years old, third-round draft pick in 2010, worked his way up the minor league ladder without any real success until last season, when he put up a 2.82 ERA in 179 innings at Triple A. Dick Bremer last night was calling it a breakthrough season, but the underlying stats really didn't change for him. He still had a poor strikeout rate, still had a very good walk rate. He was, presumably, either lucky or had a better defense behind him, or both.

He is, to slap a label on him, a finesse lefty, and we've seen this act a few times before: Scott Diamond, Andrew Albers, Tommy Milone. They had some success when they located their mediocre fastballs exceptionally well, and failed when they didn't. They have very little margin of error, and that more often than not results in brief careers.

Dean right now has an opportunity and is doing something good with it. The Greg McMichael Rule again: If you get outs, they'll find a role for you. Right now that role is starting rotation, but that could change really fast.

Kyle Gibson had a rehab start the other day in Fort Myers (with Terry Ryan in attendance), and it's possible that he'll return as soon as this week. Who would Gibson dislodge from the rotation? There's a dilemma. The three veterans with fat contracts (Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes) aren't doing well, and the two young guys with flexible roster status (Dean and Tyler Duffey) are getting outs and working innings.

Bottom line: Dean can't afford a slip up, and there's reason to expect that he will, eventually, slip up.

Friday, May 27, 2016

A death and a DWI

Neil Allen's pitching staff has struggled this year.
Thursday was a rough day for for Minnesota pitching coaches.

Todd Oakes, longtime pitching coach for the University of Minnesota, died after a long battle with leukemia. 

Glen Perkins of the Twins, who pitched for Oakes in college, posted a statement on Twitter praising "T.O." for his influence on Perkins both as a pitcher and as a person. 

Also on Thursday, the Twins suspended Neil Allen after the pitching coach was arrested for driving while intoxicated. Allen ran his playing career aground on alcohol but was reportedly sober for 20 years.

Eric Rasmussen, the organization's pitching coordinator, has been named interim pitching coach.

I have no real personal experience with addiction and addictive behavior, and I have no idea if Allen's arrest was a unique lapse or the exposure of ongoing behavior. It certainly seems possible that the continuing struggles of his charges fed the impulse to return to the shelter of the bottle. Sobriety is a daily struggle for the alcoholic, and lapses are unfortunately common. I can, and do, sympathize with Allen without condoning driving under the influence.

His superiors will eventually have to make a decision: keep him or dismiss him. They don't have to make that decision now, and they shouldn't. Allen too has a decision to make, whether he can maintain his sobriety under the stress of being in charge of a major league pitching staff. I don't know what the correct answer is for the organization or the individual, and I doubt any of us do. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Buddy Boshers and the failed bullpen

Buddy Boshers had
an ERA of 1.42 with
Rochester when he
was called up.
The Twins went back to an eight-man bullpen Wednesday, adding indy-ball refugee Buddy Boshers. To make room on the 25-man roster, Darin Mastroianni went on the 15-day disabled list; to make room on the 40-man roster, Glen Perkins went on the 60-day disabled list.

Boshers is a 28-year-old lefty who got 15.1 major league innings back in 2013 with the Angels and walked eight in those innings. He spent seven seasons in the Angels system and pitched last year in the Atlantic League. He was a non-roster invitee in training camp, one of the pack of guys I categorize as: If  he pitches in Target Field, something went wrong.

Something went wrong is an understatement this Twins season, of course. That Boshers and Brandon Kintzler are in the bullpen is a symptom; that Perkins is out until nobody-knows-when is part of the cause.

The Twins were counting on a late-inning trio (or foursome) of Perkins, Kevin Jepsen, Trevor May and maybe Casey Fien. Perkins was ineffective before being sidelined, and May and Jepsen have essentially matching ERAs of 5.56 and 5.59 respectively. Fien has been waived twice, first by the Twins and then by the Dodgers.

Minnesota's most effective bullpen arms have been Fernando Abad and Michael Tonkin, neither of whom were expected to carry much of the burden coming into the season. Neither has managed to creep into game situation use, although there really haven't been many late leads or ties to protect.

Boshers got the call over J.T. Chargois presumably because (a) he reportedly has a June 15 opt-out in his contract and (b) he's left-handed. There's speculation that Abad and his 0.51 ERA might be spun off relatively soon, which would make more sense than signing him to a mult-year deal.

But Chargois has a chance to be a genuinely useful piece. That cannot be honestly said of most of the current bullpen.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

11-34

Eleven and thirty-four.

It seems pointless to say that the Twins are a better team than 11-34. Memorial Day is approaching, and the Twins are playing .244 ball, which isn't even a good batting average.

Not a good batting average, but the Twins' team batting average is, as Baseball Reference has it early this morning, .233.

Baseball Reference's team pages display photos of the squad's top dozen players in order of their WAR (Wins Above Replacement). The Twins page this morning is fairly amusing in a dour way. Jorge Polanco, who sits during his time on the big club and is now in Triple A, is by WAR the sixth best player on this team. Robbie Grossman, who showed up while I was in California, is already eighth.

Of the 12, five (Tyler Duffey, Polanco, Brandon Kintzler, Pat Dean and Juan Centeno) opened the season at Rochester, and a sixth (Grossman) was signed about a week ago as a minor league free agent.

And Ervin Santana, who didn't make it out of the fourth inning last night, is second. My guess is that when the system has everything updated and recalculated, E. Santana will drop a few notches. Not far enough to catch D. Santana, of course.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I'm back

My vacation from the Twins, and your vacation from me, is OVAH. (Pardon the Hawk Harrelson imitation there.)

I listened to most of Monday's game while ferrying my mother from the Twins Cities airport to her home in Willmar and then myself home to Mankato, and it appears nothing much has changed since Wednesday except a couple of faces and names. Other than hitting, fielding, pitching and baserunning, the Twins have no problems.

The presence of Robbie Grossman on the roster, much less in the lineup, suggests that the front office has been reduced to throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. Giving him playing time is marginally better than the earlier notion of giving at-bats to David Murphy because Grossman is considerably younger, but still ... there is no upside to him. Grossman is not going to be a regular on a quality team. Not now, not four years from now, not ever.

Of course, my recent track record on Twins "insights" isn't particularly good. I expressed doubt before I left for California about the notion of Pat Dean starting against the Blue Jays; that game was the only one the Twins won. I urged the use of Byung Ho Park in a better RBI spot;the Twins did so almost immediately, and he hasn't driven in a run since.

And the Twins are 11-33, still playing .250 ball and reducing Cory and Danny to spending an inning discussing the intricacies of the station break. Incredible.


Saturday, May 21, 2016

An evening with the Cubs at Giants

Jason Hayward makes a spectacular catch off Denard
Span in the first inning. (AP photo)
It was a study in contrasts from a distance. In front of me Friday evening at AT&T Park in San Francisco were a pair of first-place teams, one of of them threatening to be historically good; also in front of me on the scoreboard was the score from Target Field, where the Twins are threatening to be historically bad.

By the time Jake Arrieta took the mound, the Twins, playing two time zones earlier, were behind 7-1. By the time the top of the second inning ended in San Francisco, the Cubs led 5-0. Ultimately the Twins lost by less to the Toronto Blue Jays (8-3) than the Giants did to the Cubs (8-1), but the Giants looked, at least in the field, more competent than the Twins have for much the season.

I intend to write about the San Francisco park for the Monday print column. As for Friday's game:

Jake Peavy was in trouble from practically his first pitch. He entered the game with an ERA above 7 and didn't help it with five earned runs in 1.6 innings -- and one of those five outs was the result of a Cubs baserunning blunder.

Jason Hayward injured himself on a fabulous diving catch on the warning track in right-center field. No word on the severity of the injury. It reminded me of a catch I once saw Byron Buxton make, and it further reminded me that while I understand why the Twins sent Buxton down and why he remains down, the Twins really need to improve their outfield defense if the pitching is going to get better.

Arrieta was, in some ways, as close to ineffective as he's been all year, but he only allowed one run in seven innings. The Giants bunched three of their four hits off him together in the third to score a run, and they hit a few other balls well, but Arrieta pitched like the Cy Young winner he is.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Notes, quotes and comment

I wrote it, and the Twins did it ...

The Monday print column suggested that the Twins move Byung Ho Park closer in the lineup to Joe Mauer. And on Monday and Tuesday night, Park hit cleanup, with just two batters separating the two.

Not that it's helped Park's RBI totals. For one thing, Mauer's in a slump. so he's not perched on base when Park comes up. (Mauer did homer Tuesday, and that's good, but it didn't add any RBI chances for Park). For another thing, Park continues to make outs when men on.. He had opportunities Monday and Tuesday to drive men home and failed.

---

Jose Berrios was optioned out Tuesday morning, with Taylor Rogers recalled. Presumably that was done to get a fresh arm up for long relief duties, since Pat Dean went 5.1 innings on Monday. He wouldn't be available for a few days even if the Twins weren't planning on using him to start on Saturday against Toronto.

As I opined Tuesday, that doesn't seem like a particularly good matchup for Dean. I'm glad I'll be out of state on that one.

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Two more bad losses for the Twins in this Detroit series. There was a lot of angst (particularly from Bert Blyleven in the FSN broadcast) about Phil Hughes' early departure and the bullpen implosion, but it has to be noted: The Twins got two runs against Mike Pelfrey. Two. He entered the game with a 5.80 ERA, and the Twins hitters did almost nothing against him.

Twins' record: 10-28.

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Programming note: I'm headed to California for a few days to visit family. I may post at some point between today and next week, and I may not. I make no promises.