Wednesday August 18, 2004
TWINS 8, YANKEES 2
TWINS MINOR LEAGUE REPORT
ANALYZING AN "ACE"
What is an 'Ace'? What does a pitcher need to do to be considered an 'ace'? Is it simply being the veteran on the pitching staff? The starter with the longest tenure on a team? The guy with the most wins? The guy with the best stuff? The guy who throws the hardest or has the most 'dominant' stuff? Is an 'ace' the guy you want to pitch Game 1 of a playoff series, or Game 7?
Who would you consider to be the ace of the Minnesota Twins pitching staff? (E-mail me if you'd like to give your opinion.)
Is it 31 year old Brad Radke? Following last night's impressive win over the New York Yankees, Radke is now 8-6 with a 3.55 ERA this year. He has allowed 1.14 base runners per inning, which is great. He has been in the Twins starting rotation since June of 1995, a decade. He has pitched over 2,000 innings. He has won 123 games in his career. He won 20 games in a season. He has pitched in the playoffs. These are the things an ace does.
Or, is it 25 year old Johan Santana? Santana gets the starting nod against the Yankees tonight. He is currently 12-6 with a 3.25 ERA. He's striking out 10.3 per nine innings. He allows just 1.01 base runners per inning, which is simply incredible. He leads the American League in strikeouts with 190. This is Santana's fifth season with the Twins. His ERA in 2002 was 2.99. In 2003, it was 3.05. But this is just his first full season in the Twins starting rotation.
So, who is the Twins ace? The underrated, solid veteran (Brad Radke) or the young, dominant Johan Santana? (I'm just going to assume that we all agree that Carlos Silva, Terry Mulholland and Kyle Lohse are not up for consideration by anyone...)
Let me know what you think. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic. E-mail me.
Seth's Opinion - WHO CARES?????????? Does it really matter? Isn't it really just nice to know that the Twins really have two "aces," two guys that I have complete confidence will give the Twins a chance to win no matter who they are playing? Maybe the debate is valid? Maybe it is important. I just don't think so.
I wanted to know more about Brad Radke. We hear so much about the type of pitcher that he is. When people talk about him, they call him a control pitcher, which he is (17 walks in 170 innings pitched this year). People think he is primarily an off-speed pitcher (because his change up is so great). People don't think he throws hard because of his other pitches. (NOTE - Patrick Reusse compares Brad Radke to Greg Maddux, a comparison I believe to be very fair.)
I wanted to find out what exactly Brad Radke does. I thought that last night would be a good opportunity for me to "scout" Radke. I thought that, against the Yankees, Radke would really be focused and, with Henry Blanco behind the plate, they would be calling a typical, smart game for Radke. I wanted to find out what that meant exactly.
So, what I did is tracked, pitch-by-pitch, Radke's pitching performance. I noted which type of pitch he threw and then jotted down the speed of the pitch given on Fox Sports Net. I realize that the radar gun speed given on the telecast is subject to debate, but it's all I had to work with. It proved to (arguably) be one of Radke's better pitching performances of the year. How did he do it? See below:
Of the 97 pitches the Brad Radke threw in seven innings last night, 67 of them were strikes. Also, 67 of 97 pitches were fastballs. Here is a breakdown of pitches Radke threw by inning:
1st inning - 11 fastballs, 1 changeup
2nd inning - 12 fastballs, 3 changeups, 1 curveball
3rd inning - 10 fastballs, 3 changeups
4th inning - 11 fastballs, 4 changeups, 2 curveballs
5th inning - 6 fastballs, 2 changeups, 2 curveballs
6th inning - 8 fastballs, 3 changeups, 2 curveballs
7th inning - 9 fastballs, 4 changeups, 3 curveballs
TOTAL - 67 fastballs, 20 changeups, 10 curveballs
So, this "soft thrower" throws 2/3 fastballs. How does he get away with it? That is how his impeccable control comes into play. Radke mixed it up by moving his fastball from the inside corner, to the outside corner, to two inches off the inside corner. The batter can never get too comfortable up there either. You would think maybe the batter could look outside because Radke doesn't throw hard enough to jam them with an inside pitch, right?
Not so fast. Radke is not a 'soft-thrower' by any means at all. Here is a quick breakdown of the velocity of those 67 fastballs that Brad Radke threw last night:
86 mph - 2
87 mph - 0
88 mph - 3
89 mph - 21
90 mph - 19
91 mph - 18
92 mph - 3
93 mph - 0
94 mph - 1
The average Brad Radke fastball last night registered at 89.6 mph. Now we all know from watching games that there is a huge difference between 89-90 and 95-96. Radke is anything but a flame-thrower. But then factor in that the average velocity of the 20 Radke changeups last night came in at 77.6 mph. Because the 'threat' of the Radke changeup is in the back of every opponent hitter's mind, they can easily be jammed on a fastball inside.
Do first pitch strikes matter? I would say that they matter to a pitcher who does not have control. A guy like Radke can afford to get behind 1-0 a little bit more because of his ability to spot a ball so well. Last night, he threw first pitch strikes to just 16 of 27 batters. Of those 27 batters, he started 21 of them off with a fastball (3 with a changeup and 3 with a curveball).
Brad Radke was certainly on last night. That was an excellent performance for him and the Twins. They had not beaten the Yankees in the regular season since early in the 2001 season.
So, my thoughts about Brad Radke were really confirmed by this analysis. Radke moves the fastball around, inside and outside. He uses that pitch to set up his changeup. He clearly is willing to throw that pitch at any time, in any count. Radke really does not throw his curveball very often. Mixing speeds, hitting spots, maintaining poise. That's how Brad Radke pitches, and that has been how he has remained successful.
These are the same traits that the Twins other ace, Johan Santana, has shown, especially in the last two seasons. The difference between the two (aside from the obvious lefty/righty thing) is that Radke's fastball is about 90 mph whereas Santana can hit 94-95 with his. His changeup is a deadly pitch with a velocity almost 20 mph slower than the fastball. Also, I think it is fair to say that Santana's curveball is 1.) more important to his game, and 2.) far more sharp.
So, as you can see, I enjoy the "Ace" debate. I can understand both sides and from day-to-day, I may change my mind as to which Twins pitcher is really the ace. But again, I think that the two pitchers can use different styles and both be very successful. It is similar to the debate about the organizations that use SABRmetrics versus those who are more traditional. In actuality, both can work. In this case, I think the Twins and their fans should be thrilled to have two 'aces' on their staff.
TWINS TOP YANKEES 8-2
Well, as you can tell by the above entry, I feel that Brad Radke's seven inning, one run, six hit, one walk, five strikeout performance was incredible. It was a performance that the team really needed just to prove that they can beat the Yankees and that it is possible to pitch successfully to the Yankees hitters. But others certainly contributed to the win.
The offense actually provided the pitching staff with eight runs. Corey Koskie hit his 18th homer of the season in his first at bat last night (his second consecutive AB with a HR) with Lew Ford on second base. He got two more hits and drove in 3 runs. Shannon Stewart was 3-4 with a double and an RBI. Torii Hunter was 2-5 with 2 RBI. He was robbed of a 3-run homer by a leaping catch over the fence by LF Hideki Matsui. Hunter stole his 16th base of the year on a strange play. Yankees pitcher Javier Vazquez stepped onto the rubber and no one was really watching so Hunter took off for second and slid in without a throw. Justin Morneau hit a solo home run in the 3rd inning that traveled well into the upper deck.
With the Twins ahead 6-1 going into the 8th, Juan Rincon replaced Radke. He proceeded to give up singles to Kenny Lofton and Derek Jeter before walking Gary Sheffield. He got Bernie Williams to take a called third strike for the first out. Then he and Hideki Matsui locked up in an 11 pitch at bat that resulted in a sacrifice fly to plate Lofton for the Yankees second run. Jorge Posada then flew out to left field to end the threat. JC Romero pitched the 9th inning to finish the game.
CANADIAN CONNECTION - Corey Koskie and Justin Morneau's home runs traveled a combined 850 feet. Koskie's landed in the upper deck, 417 feet from home plate. Justin Morneau hit his 433 feet.
MORE GAME THOUGHTS - For more thoughts on the Twins victory over the Yankees, check out the Twins Geek today and then some very interesting thoughts on the game from Aaron's Baseball Blog. Here is a little sneak:
Amazingly, a .269 on-base percentage and Ron Gardenhire complaining publicly about his work ethic can't keep Rivas out of the lineup. At this point, I'm resigned to the fact that Rivas would have to murder multiple members of Gardenhire's family in order for Michael Cuddyer to be given consecutive starts at second base. Among the 229 major league hitters who have at least 275 plate appearances this season, Rivas' .269 on-base percentage is the worst.
INCREASES LEAD - The Twins increased their lead in the AL Central with the win. The Cleveland Indians were crushed by Mark Teixeira (who had 7 RBI in hitting for the cycle) and the Texas Rangers, 16-4. The White Sox fell 11-8 to the Detroit Tigers. Here are the current standings in the division:
AL Central Standings
Minnesota Twins 65-53 --
Cleveland Indians 63-58 3.5
Chicago White Sox 59-57 5.0
Here are the remaining pitching matchups:
Wednesday night - 6:05 (on ESPN)
Johan Santana (12-6, 3.25, 1.01, .205) vs Mike Mussina (9-6, 5.20, 1.43, .302)
Thursday night - 7:10
Carlos Silva (10-8, 4.52, 1.47, .318) vs Orlando Hernandez (5-0, 2.08, 1.26, .226)
What are you thoughts on the Twins and Yankees and this series? E-mail me.
TWINS MINOR LEAGUE REPORTS
Game 1 - REDWINGS 11, Ottawa 6 (7) - Scott Baker had another rough AAA outing. He gave up six runs on nine hits and two walks in 4 1/3 innings. He did strike out four batters. Joe Beimel came in and pitched 1 2/3 innings, allowing just one hit. He recorded the Win. Kevin Hodge also pitched a scoreless inning. Jason Bartlett had a big day. In this game, he was 2-3 with two walks and three runs scored. Kevin West was 2-3 with a double and a walk. Terry Tiffee was 2-4 with his 11th home run and 4 RBI. Michael Restovich had two doubles and 3 RBI. Alex Prieto was 2-4.
Game 2 - REDWINGS 8, Ottawa 6 (7) - Brent Schoening got the win for the Redwings. He wasn't great, by any means. He gave up five runs on six hits and two walks in five innings. Willie Eyre pitched a scoreless inning of relief. Beau Kemp gave up a run on a hit and two walks in an inning. Jason Bartlett was 2-2 with a triple and two walks. (as you can see on the left of this screen, Bartlett's numbers jumped from yesterday) Jason Kubel was 2-3 with his 12th homer and 2 RBI. Todd Dunwoody went 2-4 with a double and his 7th home run. Terry Tiffee was 2-4. Alex Prieto was 2-3 with a walk. Josh Rabe hit his seventh homer and drove in three runs. On a negative note, Michael Restovich was 0-4 with 4 strikeouts.
NEW BRITAIN ROCKCATS
ROCKCATS 2, Portland 1 - Henry Bonilla continues to pitch well. He even got some strikeouts. Last night, he went 8 innings. He gave up one run on six hits and a walk to go with his six strikeouts. Bobby Korecky pitched the ninth inning to record his 23rd save. Luis Maza was 2-3 with a triple. Garrett Jones added an RBI double.
FT MYERS MIRACLE
MIRACLE 8, Lakeland 7 - Remember that this game was suspended from Monday. Matt Yeatman made the start and got just one out. He had given up three runs on four hits and a walk. He had throw two wild pitches as well. Justin Olson replaced him yesterday and went 2 2/3 innings. He gave up a run on three hits and struck out five. Ricky Barrett gets the win with three innings of one-run ball. He is now 5-0 with a 1.86 ERA. Jannio Gutierrez gave up a run in two innings. Pat Neshek picked up his 8th save with a one-run ninth. His ERA is now 1.54. Alex Romero was 3-5. Garrett Guzman was 2-4 with a walk. Doug Deeds led the offense going 3-4 with a double, triple and three RBI.
Game 2 of the double header was, you guessed it, rained out!
SWING OF THE QUAD CITIES
SWING 4, Ft. Wayne 11 - Justin Jones has really struggled since coming to the Twins organization from the Cubs. Yesterday, he gave up 8 runs (4 earned) on seven hits and two walks in just 1 2/3 innings. Since joining Quad Cities, the left-hander has pitched 8 1/3 innings. He has given up 13 runs (9 earned) on 15 hits and seven walks. He has struck out 9, but is 0-2 with a 9.72 ERA. Angel Garcia came in to replace Jones. He went 2 2/3 innings and gave up two runs on one hit and two walks. He struck out four. Matthew Hines shut Ft. Wayne down for 1 2/3 innings. Peter Tautor gave up a run in 2 innings. Dusty Gomon and Paul Rutgers each went 2-4. Ryan Spataro was 2-3 with a walk.
E-TWINS 6, Kingsport 2 - John Williams started and went six innings. He gave up seven hits and walked none while striking out six. Jonathon Martinez threw the next two innings. He gave up a run on three hits. Jason Bowlin pitched a shutout inning. Landon Burt was 3-5 with his first home run. Matt Tolbert was 2-4. Deacon Burns had a double.
Thanks again for stopping by this site. What do you think about the "Ace" question? If you have any questions, comments or ideas for future postings, please e-mail me.
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