Wednesday, April 6, 2005
Other Baseball Thoughts
American Idol Thoughts
Twins Get First Win
I think I would be remiss if I didn't start today's entry by wishing a very Happy Birthday to Bert Blyleven! The should-be Hall of Famer turns 54 years old!
I don't know how many of you stayed up until 12:10 Minnesota time to watch the final out of the Twins/Mariners game last night. Who knows? Maybe you have to work early in the morning. Oh wait, so do I, but... oh well. It's only the second game of the season! So yes, I stayed up, and I thought I'd give you a few of my thoughts on the game. The story going into the game was that it was the first start for reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana. Santana had a rough first inning, but he came back well and kept the Twins in the game. After not scoring an earned run in the first 13 innings of the season, the Twins offense busted out with seven runs in the top of the 5th to grab the lead. The bullpen then did the job to complete the win.
So, here is some quick analysis, and as always, please feel free to chime in with your thoughts. E-mail me.
Johan Santana made his first start of the season last night in Seattle. It was certainly anything but his best effort, but it wasn't as bad as you would think. Actually, he gave up the four runs and really struggled in the first inning. It started with an Ichiro infield single. Santana then walked Jeremy Reed. Adrian Beltre drilled a 1-2 fastball for a two-run double. Then Richie Sexson one-hopped the wall in the left-field corner for another double, and another run. One out later, Raul Ibanez singled in Sexson to give the M's a 4-0 lead. But again, after that inning, Santana was clearly not at his best, but he also did enough to not allow another run.
So, what were my assumptions about Johan Santana coming into the game? Well, I certainly did not expect perfection. I didn't expect him to be as perfect as he was during the second half of last season. It is his first start. There are jitters, and there is the fact that he is facing a full major league lineup for one of the first times this year. In winning the Cy Young Award last year, he has made himself a target. Teams probably spent some time in the offseason trying to figure out his tendencies and maybe try to find any advantage. Last week, I was listening to ESPN radio in the car and heard a Dan Patrick interview with the A's Eric Chavez. Chavez commented that Santana was tipping his pitches, but obviously wouldn't elaborate. So, I was very curious as to how Santana's first outing would go.
On the surface, Santana's numbers were decent. He went five innings, and allowed four runs on five hits while walking just one. He also struck out six Mariners batters. But, when you consider that he gave up all four runs in the first inning, you realize that he then pitched four scoreless innings. Now, anyone who watched the game would have to admit that even in those innings, Santana was far from the top of his game. But as he did last year, he didn't allow other runs to score. So, it is not a "quality start" for Johan, but like Radke the night before, it is something that he can build upon.
So, let's just take a look at a few of his numbers from last night's game:
Of the 94 pitches that Johan Santana threw in his five innings last night, 63of them were strikes (67%). Almost surprisingly for this early in the season, just 42 of his 94 pitches were fastballs (44.7%) Here is a breakdown of pitches Santana threw by inning:
1st inning - 15 fastballs, 13 changeups, 5 curves
2nd inning - 6 fastballs, 0 changeups, 4 curves
3rd inning - 6 fastballs, 12 changeups, 4 curves
4th inning - 5 fastballs, 1 changeups, 4 curves
5th inning - 10 fastballs, 3 changeups, 6 curves
TOTAL - 42 fastballs, 29 changeups, 23 curves
So, this "flamethrower" threw a fastball less than 50% of the time. How does he get away with it? Well, the fact that he does throw so hard yet has such an unbelievable changeup, AND is willing to throw either pitch at any time, makes each one of his pitches that much harder to time. Watching Santana is a perfect illustration of why keeping a hitter off-balance is so important. Hitters expecting a fastball will be far in front of the changeup. If the hitter is sitting on the changeup, they can't catch up to the heater and either miss, or get jammed. Then when he sprinkles in that hard, sharp-breaking slider, it is impossible. He actually threw more breaking balls last night than he has in previous outings.
Let's take a quick look and see the velocity that Johan Santana threw each of his pitches at last night:
Fastball - 42 of them averaging 92.0 mph and ranging from 90 to 94. 29 of the 42 were strikes (69.0%).
Changeup - 29 of them averaging 81.0 mph and ranging from 77 to 86. 17 of the 29 were strikes (58.6%).
Curve Ball - 23 of them averaging 81.9 mph and ranging from 77 to 86. 17 of the 23 were strikes (73.9%).
The average Johan Santana fastball last night registered at 92.0 mph (In his analyzed start last August, he averaged 93.1 mph). Not only can he throw hard, but he is pretty consistent with the speed of the fastball and usually does hit the corners. Now, we factor in that the average velocity of the twenty-nine Santana changeups last night came in at 81.0 mph. Santana's fastball can look even faster because of the 'threat' of his change up in the hitter's mind. The hitter almost has to guess if he will see a fastball or a changeup. If he guesses wrong, he will look bad. Even if he guesses right, Santana makes them miss. The toughest part for the hitter is the guessing because Johan will throw any pitch on an count.
Last night, Santana threw first pitch strikes to 15 of 21 batters. Of those 21 batters, he started 15 of them off with a fastball (3 with a curveball and 3 with a changeup ).
Johan Santana was definitely not at his best last night. However, after a bad first inning, he put four more zeros on the board allowing the team to come back and eventually win.
The Big Inning
Down 4-0 entering the fifth inning and really doing very little to even look productive to that point, the Twins put together a 10 batter, seven run inning to take the lead. And, as any lineup would like to see, the bottom of the order started the charge.
Lew Ford led things off by tomahawking a high fastball for a single into centerfield. Michael Cuddyer bounced a single through the left side of the infield. Luis Rivas hit a 2-0 fastball into centerfield to load the bases. Shannon Stewart then slowly grounded to short. Rivas was out at 2B, but Stewart beat the relay throw to 1B and Ford scored. Jason Bartlett came up and lined an 0-1 pitch past a diving Wilson Valdez to drive in Cuddyer.
The Mariners replaced starter Gil Meche with hard-throwing lefty Matt Thornton. Joe Mauer then executed a perfect hit and run play, grounding a single through the vacated shortstop position. The single scored Stewart, with Bartlett moving to 3B. Then Justin Morneau tried to check his 2-2 swing, but made contact, blooping a single in front of a diving Randy Winn to score Bartlett and tie the score. But that wasn't it! Torii Hunter then lined another single up the middle to score Joe Mauer and give the Twins their first lead of the year. Jacque Jones came up and took a strike. But on 0-1, Thornton hung a slider and Jones deposited it into the right field bleachers to give the Twins a 7-4 lead. 7 runs on 8 hits. You have to like that!
On the game, Justin Morneau had three singles. Jason Bartlett, Jacque Jones and Luis Rivas each had two hits. all nine Twins in the lineup had at least one hit.
The Twins obviously have a strong starting rotation, but they will win a lot of games because of their bullpen. When the starter is only able to go five innings, as Santana was last night, it is important to have some guys who can hold a lead, and the Twins most certainly do.
Jesse Crain started the sixth inning by getting Richie Sexson to hit a mile-high pop up. He then hit Bret Boone.
JC Romero came in and got the next two hitters out to end the sixth inning. He then pitched a scoreless 7th as well. 14 of his 21 pitches were strikes. He threw a good fastball ranging from 88-92 and mixed in a nice slider at 81-83. Romero's success is huge to the Twins success in 2005.
Juan Rincon was one of the top two (with the Yankees Tom Gordon) set up men in baseball last year, and will be counted on to hold leads in the 8th inning. Last night, he had a classic at bat with Adrian Beltre. Rincon won that battle getting Beltre to flail at a slider. He then walked Richie Sexson on four close pitches. He then coaxed a nice 3-6-3 double play from Bret Boone to end the inning. He threw 14 pitches and just 7 of them were strikes. But, he threw his seven fastballs between 94 and 96 mph. He threw his seven nasty sliders between 86 and 88 mph.
And finally, Joe Nathan came in and threw a scoreless ninth inning with two strikeouts. It was obviously not a save situation because the Twins had a four run lead. Nathan threw 15 pitches. 11 of them were fastballs ranging from 91 to 95 mph. He threw three sliders between 87 and 89 mph. He also threw one tough slow curveball at 80 mph.
These four relievers, along with a healthy Grant Balfour, will be the guys counted on to hold Twins leads all season. Matt Guerrier and Terry Mulholland will pitch mop-up type innings, which are vital so that these guys don't have to pitch those innings and can be strong.
Did you have any other thoughts on the game, or questions for me about the Twins? Please feel free to e-mail me.
OTHER BASEBALL THOUGHTS
Here are just a couple of quick thoughts and links.
Hideki Matsui, in my mind, is the best hitter on the Yankees team. He is so professional. And his power is really coming to in the big leagues. I think that Godzilla nickname he had in Japan might start being heard more and more in America too.
Speaking of Matsui, he and fellow countryman Ichiro Suzuki wear their pants way up too high! Just an observation!
Be sure to check out www.PatNeshek.com. I checked his site out again yesterday and he had information on the Twins minor league situation. He also talked about his inning that he pitched for the Twins against the Yankees late in spring training. It's well written and it is fascinating to get that perspective. Plus, you learn a lot about what happens in the life of a minor leaguer.
38 minor leaguers were suspended for failing steroids testing. Now, those 38 players were just from the organizations that have spring training in Arizona. Now I am very intrigued by how many from organizations who have spring training in Florida will fare. Particularly, I wonder how many Twins minor leaguers will be suspended, if any! The only real 'name' players suspended are former big leaguers LHP Damion Moss and OF Ryan Christenson.
Rick Ankiel was put on waivers by the St. Louis Cardinals. Since he has decided to give up pitching, it will be very interesting to see if he will be claimed by another team.
In another move by the Cardinals, the purchased the contract of LHP Bill Pulsipher. Of course, many of you will remember Pulsipher as one of those Mets pitching prospects (along with Paul Wilson and Jason Isringhausen) who have all experienced many arm problems. Pulsipher becomes and interesting story because he was completely out of baseball a year ago. Well, not completely out of baseball. Last week, I was reading a paper in south Florida. It had a section updating the readers on the Cardinals. In it, it commented that last year, Pulsipher worked on the grounds crew at Tradition Field, which is the spring training home of the New York Mets and the home of the Mets Florida State League team. He was invited to Cardinals camp, and pitched ten scoreless spring innings and makes the team! I'm guessing his bank account appreciates the big league job over the grounds crew job!
AMERICAN IDOL THOUGHTS
Due to my Florida trip, I missed out on American Idol last week. Another big thank you to The Baseball Savant for taking the time to share his thoughts on last week's episodes. Be sure to stop by his site.
I'm jealous! He got to listen to songs from the '90s! I had to listen to songs from musicals. Although I have nothing against musicals and actually don't mind going to them in person, it is hard to understand the song without everything that surrounds it. So, I have to agree with Simon. Musicals should never be a genre used in the American Idol competition!
But, nonetheless, I will analyze the performances and let you know what I thought. Here we go:
Scott Savol - "The Impossible Dream" - Man of La Mancha
Sounded really flat on quite a few notes. Had a few positive moments, but was just not a strong performance at all. Ended with a long note, and that could have been good, but even that didn't sound right. On a very positive note for Scott, rumor has it that he is dating Nadia Turner. I'm not sure how that happens, but nice work Mr. Savol!
Strange Paula comment: it was "heartfelt, the story of your life." WHAT??
Constantine Maroulis - "My Funny Valentine" - Babes in Arms
At start, he was trying to be sexy, and to be honest, it came across as creepy to me! Surprisingly, he was very good vocally. Sang with a great arrangement to really make it his own. I have to admit, it was an excellent performance!
Strange Paula comment: "Constantine, I am falling in love with you." WHAT??
Carrie Underwood - "Hello, Young Lovers" - The King and I
Looked totally glamorous, in classic Marilyn Monroe dress and style. Wanted to show what she can do and she certainly did that. Vocally - Incredible! Great ending. Could she be more perfect?
Strange Paula comment: "Well-oiled machine with your vocals." Nice analogy! (note sarcasm)
Vonzell Solomon - "People" - Funny Girl
Song shows a long of range, even within its lines. She couldn't quite get down to some of the really low notes, but hit everything else very strongly. She looks better and better each week, which is impressive considering the terribly ugly dress she wore last night!
Strange Paula comment: "Barbara is Barbara and Vonzell is Vonzell"
Anthony Federov - "Climb Every Mountain" - The Sound of Music
Very weak at the start, just too controlled, too quiet, just bad. And even on the strong notes, he wasn't on-key. Last note was horrible. It was a(nother) terrible performance for Anthony, or as Simon said, "hideous!"
Strange Paula comment: "You made me listen to the lyrics." Good work, buddy!
Nikko Smith - "One Hand, One Heart" - West Side Story
Not a great genre for him at all, but he did really well vocally. He just wasn't able to showcase his charisma. I really did appreciate how he used his background vocalist to make the song his own.
Anwar Robinson - "If Ever I Would Leave You" - Camelot
You would assume with his music background, that this would be a good genre for him, and he was spot-on throughout the entire song. I don't think he missed one single note. He even added some flair to it! That was perfect!
Strange Paula comment: "the second you smiled, it melted America's heart." OK, Paula!
Bo Bice - "Corner of the Sky" - Pippin
He made the song work for his voice, but I didn't think he was real strong vocally at all. Especially at the beginning, he just didn't seem sure of himself. He did work the stage well, and got stronger and more comfortable as the song went on.
Strange Paula comment: "Cross your fingers, cross your toes, you are in this competition!" She's just realizing that?!!?!?
Nadia Turner - "As Long as He Needs Me" - Oliver
I still can't get over the rumors of her and Scott. Could that be real? She looked great and wore a nice dress. Vocally, she is incredible. Great stage presense. I think that Nadia could be hurt more than anyone by the Musical genre. She was really great. However, the music was all so boring that people/voters may not alter their opinions and she could find herself in the bottom 3 yet again.
I will rank the performers from #1 (best) to #11 (worst). In doing that, I would be saying that my choice for who should be eliminated would be number 11.
1.) Anwar Robinson - "Perfect" is hard to top.
2.) Constantine Maroulis - I hate to admit he was this good!
3.) Carrie Underwood - She's incredible.
4.) Vonzell Solomon -
5.) Nadia Turner -
6.) Nikko Smith -
7.) Bo Bice -
8.) Scott Savol -
9.) Anthony Federov - Seriously ya'll, it is time! You've let him stick around long enough!
So, by that, I would have to say that the Bottom Three should be Bo Bice, Scott Savol and Anthony Federov. I would then hope that Anthony would be the one to depart.
However, if I had to try to predict who the Bottom Three will be, I would guess Anthony, Nadia and Scott.
By the way, be sure to watch the episode of Fox's Life on a Stick following American Idol tonight. Ruben Studdard and the only woman in the world (possibly) who is as attractive as Carrie Underwood, Kimberly Caldwell, will be on the show.
Again, if you have any thoughts, please e-mail me.
That's it for today. Have a great day and don't work too hard! If you have and questions or comments or ideas, please feel free to e-mail me!
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