Wednesday April 7, 2004
Twins Win in 15!!
American Idol Thoughts
WHY I CAN'T HATE JACQUE
SABRmetricians don't like the Jacque Jones style of hitter. He doesn't take a lot of pitches. He prefers not to walk. He isn't a great judge of the strike zone. It's safe to say that "Jacque Jones" and "Plate Discipline" will rarely be used in the same sentence. However, when asked who my favorite Twins player is, I say Jacque Jones. But then again, I am not a stat-head.
Like many of you, I am frequently frustrated with some of Jones' at bats. I would prefer he take more pitches at times, or at least look like he has a plan when going to the plate. He can be particularly frustrating in certain situations. For example, how many times have we seen Jacque come up with a runner on third base and less than two outs? Instead of waiting for a good pitch to drive to the outfield for, at least, a sacrifice fly, he will swing at the first pitch, a sharp-breaking curveball eight inches off the plate. It will result in a weak ground out and strand the runner on third. How many times will he lunge at a bad pitch and try to make contact and ground weakly to shortstop for an easy 6-4-3 double play. How many times does he get himself in an 0-2 count and leave himself at the mercy of the pitcher? Frustrating!
In the Opener on Monday night, Jacque Jones was a major liability. In five plate appearances, he never put the ball in play. He struck out four times and walked once. We have read over and over again about how poor Jacque hits against left-handers. Last night, Jones started the game hitless in his first four at bats. In the 7th inning with runners on, the Indians went to lefty Scott Stewart to face Jones and it worked as Jones looked really bad in another strike out.
You always hear that a hitter will see just one good pitch to hit in each at bat. Well, sometimes that pitch is the first pitch. Last year, when Jacque put the ball in play on the first pitch, he went 34-96 (.354) with six doubles, four homers and 17 RBI. Of course, stat-heads will tell me that when he took the first pitch for a ball and the count was 1-0, he hit .320 with 4 homers. I would come back with, "Well, he hit .341 on 0-1."
But then, sometimes, that style works for Jones and the Twins. Last night was one of those situations. In the bottom of the 9th inning, the Twins were down by a score of 6-4. With two outs and Doug Mientkiewicz on second base, Jacque Jones took the first three pitches, all for balls. We all hoped he wouldn't do it, but he swung, and fouled off the 3-0 pitch. I sat at my desk wondering what the stat-heads were thinking. However, on the very next pitch, Jones hit a long, deep home run over the baggy in right field to tie the game and send the Twins to extra-innings for the second consecutive night.
Now, Jones came to the plate in the 11th inning with a chance to help the cause, and swung at the first pitch and fouled out to third base. Oh well, "you take the good, you take the bad, you take them both, and there you have The Facts of Jacque Jones." Maybe the strangest thing that happened was, when he came up to lead off the 14th inning, when many patient hitters swing for the fences in an attempt to end the game, Jones walked.
Now, why am I so high on Jacque Jones and Torii Hunter, who refuse to walk, and I'm so down on Cristian Guzman and Luis Rivas for the same reason? Well, that's actually pretty easy to answer. Jones and Hunter have both proven that they can hit. They both have been able to display power. Jones has hit .300 the last two seasons. They both have the ability to hit a home run at any time. Guzman and Rivas should be more patient because they are slap, singles types of hitters. I would like them to take more pitches because at least they could help tire out an opponent's pitcher!
This was apparent both Monday night and last night. Cristian Guzman came up in both games with a runner on third and one out. Both times, he was over-aggressive and got behind in the count by swinging at bad pitches. Both times, he struck out, leaving it all up to Shannon Stewart. Again in the bottom of the 14th inning last night, Guzman came up yet again with Jacque Jones standing on third base and just one out. He took the first pitch for a ball, then swung at a borderline pitch to even the count at 1-1. The count went to 1-2 before Guzman grounded out to 1B with Jones being thrown out easily at home, again, leaving things up to Shannon Stewart with runners now on 1st and 2nd. Can you see the importance of 'Situational Hitting?'
So, Jacque Jones can be very frustrating. I acknowledge that! But, he plays hard. He plays great defense in the OF, no matter where he is put. He seems to always be smiling. He hits .300. If healthy, he should hit nearly 30 homers and drive in close to 100 runs. He is now batting 6th, not first (where I do think good plate discipline is important), so RBI chances are more likely. I am a fan, not a stat-head. I like Jacque Jones, and I won't apologize for it!!
What do you think? E-mail me.
Random Twins Thoughts from Last Night's Game
Twins 7, Indians 6 (15 innings!)
Bottom of the 15th - Nick Punto beat out an infield single and stole second. The Indians decided to intentionally walk Doug Mientkiewicz, putting runners at first and second. Corey Koskie came up and laid down a bunt which was fielded by the pitcher, Jake Westbrook, who turned and threw to third base to get Nick Punto out in a close play. Michael Cuddyer hit a fly ball to medium deep centerfield and Mientkiewicz advance to third. With two outs, Jacque Jones came up to the plate. After fouling off the first two pitches, Koskie took 2B on ball one. He took another ball inside to even the count at 2-2, followed by ball three which was low. He took ball four to load the bases. Jose Offerman came to the plate and took the first two pitches for balls. He then took the next two pitches for strikes, evening the count at 2-2. He fouled the next pitch off before taking a third ball to fill the count. On 3-2, Offerman singled up the middle to score Mientkiewicz from third and win the game for the Twins. Most importantly, it meant that I could go to bed and sleep!! Woo hoo!! 5 hours after the game started, it finally was over!
Joe Mauer had to leave the game with a knee injury. Hopefully it isn't serious! He got another single in his first at bat, and left the game after being held up at 3rd by Al Newman. Henry Blanco came in to pinch run for Mauer. You have to assume that Blanco has never been used as a pinch runner in his big league career!!
UPDATE - There is a tear in his meniscus, and Joe Mauer will go on the DL and be out for about 3 weeks. The club plans to bring up a pitcher to help the bullpen out. That leaves catching duties to Matthew Lecroy and Henry Blanco.
What the Twins really needed last night was some innings out of starter Johan Santana. However, first Santana threw too many pitches early in the game. He then had to leave the game in the top of the 5th with left forearm spasms. I don't know what that means. Funny that he left the game after giving up a hit. Certainly I hope that Santana is alright and won't have to miss any time. People/Experts can tell us that Santana's surgery to remove bone chips in his left arm last winter was "minor surgery." But as we have all said, is there really such a thing as "minor surgery?"
Then, after singling for his third hit in six at bats, Torii Hunter came up limping after rounding first base and had to leave the game with a hamstring pull. Again, hopefully Hunter won't have to miss any time, or if he does, it won't be more than a game or two. In the postgame interview, Al Newman said that it was just a cramp, but we'll find out more today.
On opening night, the Twins used every position player with the exception of Jose Offerman. Last night, when Offerman was used as a pinch runner for Matthew Lecroy, it meant every available position player was used. The obvious question becomes: What if someone got hurt? Specifically, what if catcher Henry Blanco had been hurt? Who would have caught? My guess is that Doug Mientkiewicz would have had to catch. He was actually drafted as a catcher, so I'm assuming he would be the team's best option. But then what? Michael Cuddyer would probably move from 2B to 1B with Nick Punto moving in to 2B. Jacque Jones would probably move from RF to CF with one of the starting pitchers (Brad Radke, Carlos Silva or Kyle Lohse) taking over in RF (and hoping that nothing was hit out there). I would assume that Lohse would be the best athlete of the three and most likely to get the call. However, since he is the Game 3 pitcher, he may have been sent home early. See, isn't baseball strategy and trying to think about every detail and every option fun?
The bullpen again proved important in this win. Santana was able to go just over 4 innings when he left with the injury. Carlos Pulido came in and was not good, getting just two outs and giving up two runs. Brad Thomas got out of that inning and went two innings before giving up two runs in the 7th inning. Then, Juan Rincon got him out of that mess and pitched two more innings giving up just one hit. JC Romero pitched another scoreless inning. Joe Nathan came in and struck out three batters in the 10th. Aaron Fultz pitched two strong scoreless innings. Finally, Joe Roa pitched another two scoreless innings to earn the Win.
Summary - It doesn't matter how you win games, just that you win games, right? I think we are seeing that the Cleveland Indians are going to be a good team. Jason Davis started for the Indians last night and was throwing fastballs in the mid-90s. Obviously CC Sabathia was great on Monday night. The Indians lineup is generally young, but capable of beating a lot of teams. So, Twins fans should not be worried about playing close games against them!
NEXT GAME - The Twins will send Kyle Lohse to the mound tonight at 7:10 to face the Indians' Cliff Lee. Lee is a good pitching prospect who many experts feel could have a good season. The concern for the Twins is that he is left-handed. With the injuries to Joe Mauer and Torii Hunter, it will be interesting to see what the lineup looks like. I would also expect others (Guzman/Rivas) to get a day off if possible.
What did you think of the game? Were you able to watch it? E-mail me.
UPDATE - No, I was not able to watch the game. I listened to the game on mlb radio online and also "watched" the game on CBS Sportslines "GameCenter." No update on the Victory Sports negotiations.
American Idol Thoughts
It was another night of singing on American Idol last night. Nine contestants remain and each had the opportunity to meet Sir Elton John and sing one of his songs. Say what you will about Elton John being strange, and you'd be right. However, his music, specifically some of his older stuff is absolutely incredible.
Last night, however, it was a case of, to me, the haves and the have-nots. Actually, there were three great performances, three OK performances and three were, as Simon would say, ghastly!! Here is the run-down on the competitors with my thoughts on each (in order of appearance):
Fantasia Barrino - Something About the Way You Look Tonight
Certainly not her best performance, but she is so good, it still works. Her voice is annoying, but really good.
Jon Peter Lewis - Rocket Man
He didn't hit the high notes, ok, he didn't really hit any notes. He plays for the camera, instead of for the crowd, which, I guess makes sense, since they are the people voting. He was terrible on what is a great song.
Jasmine Trias - Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me
I completely disagreed with the judges. I thought she was really great! I could tell that she really had to work her voice and force out some of the notes. She didn't make it look as easy as a couple of the contestants, but I thought that she really only missed one note the whole song.
John Stevens - Crocodile Rock
"Me and Suzie had so much fun" - Well, his voice is what it is and it portrays no joy or fun whatsoever. It was almost depressing because it should be such a lively song. And that "La La La La La La" part was just terrible!
Camille Velasco - Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Wow!! That was really terrible. Most of it was too low for her voice. Her voice was shaking much of the song. It was just a really bad song choice for her.
George Huff - Take Me to the Pilot
I have to admit, I don't really know this song, which normally means I don't like the performance. However, George Huff and his amazing voice made me really like the song and how he sang it!
Dianna DeGarmo - I'm Still Standing
She is a good entertainer. I really think that her voice will continue to improve and she will become great eventually. Her voice was just not on at all. It sounded like she was yelling.
LaToya London - Someone Saved My Life Tonight
She hits the low notes. She hits the high notes. And, she makes it look so easy. She is just so good.
Jennifer Hudson - Circle of Life
I again disagreed with the judges. I have always liked her incredibly strong voice. However, I just think that she went too low at the beginning and it was hard to understand the lyrics at times, which, I think is an important thing. I also didn't like her rendition of this popular song. Just too different.
So, how did I rank the performances?
1.) George Huff
2.) LaToya London
3.) Fantasia Barrino
4.) Jasmine Trias
5.) Jennifer Hudson
6.) Dianna Degarmo
7.) Jon Peter Lewis
8.) Camille Velasco
9.) Jon Stevens
Again, the first three are the class of the group. The middle three are good, but clearly a step behind the top three. The bottom three are terrible.
So, who do I think America will vote into the bottom three? After LaToya London was in this group last week, it is impossible to really know, but here is my guess:
Jon Stevens, Camille Velasco and Dianna DeGarmo
And, who do I think will be eliminated?
Camille Velasco, just because she continues to be in the bottom three but keeps advancing. Jon Stevens should be eliminated, but I don't think it'll happen.
What do you think? E-mail me.
That's it for today. Thanks again for stopping by. As always, if you have any questions, comments or ideas for future topics, please send me an e-mail.
Have a great Wednesday!
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