Metrodome Madness, Part 2: Twins/Tigers Didn’t Disappoint

October 6, 2009
This game really brought back memories of the Metrodomes heyday.  Kirby would be proud.

This game really brought back memories of the Metrodome's heyday. Kirby would be proud.

The game that I previewed here, proved to be the best game of the 2009 season, by far.  It may have been the best tiebreaker game in Major League history, and that includes a few gems.  It was a 12 inning masterpiece where its hard to think of a guy who played poorly.  Whenever someone made a bad play, they came back and made a good one seemingly seconds later.  In fact, the game was steeped in redemption, and it made for classic baseball.

Miguel Cabrera came in with a bit of a rap sheet, and owed something to the Detroit fans after a raucous weekend that included a lack of pounding baseballs and a surplus of pounding brews.  Cabrera hit a Scott Baker pitch roughly 8 miles for a 2-run jack in the 3rd inning to put the Tigers ahead 3-0, and the redemption began…

Rick Porcello and Scott Baker both pitched better than expected.  Porcello, at 20, showed he will be around for awhile.

Rick Porcello and Scott Baker both pitched better than expected. Porcello, at 20, showed he will be around for awhile.

In the bottom half, Rick Porcello (who pitched his ass off) pulled a boner with two outs on a pickoff play to first.  Matt Tolbert scored when the ball got away from Miguel.  Porcello pitched around Joe Mauer to load the bases, but came right after Jason Kubel and struck him out, celebrating as he ran off to the dugout.  Kubel redeemed himself with one of the longest homers I’ve seen at Hubert H. Humphrey in the 6th.

Ryan Raburn left his feet for a ball that Michael Cuddyer hit his way in the bottom of the 10th.  He missed the flair by a wide margin, and Cuddyer got around for a leadoff triple.  He would eventually score, but Raburn hosed Alexi Casilla on a sac fly turned double play later in the inning.  Alexi’s run would have ended the game.  Casilla failed to get back to third base to tag until after Raburn had caught the ball.

But alas, in this game of redemption, Casilla got his chance, too.  And he made the most of it by singling in Carlos Gomez on a grounder through the right side in the bottom of the 12th.  That hit won the game, and the Twins celebrated along with 55,000 fans.

They pulled up that curtain in right center for todays game, and the stadium has never looked better or been louder for a baseball game.

They pulled up that curtain in right center for today's game, and the stadium has never looked better or been louder for a baseball game.

The Metrodome was alive today.  And despite the fact that you could clearly make out the endzones up the first baseline and out in left field, the playing surface looked great.  The crew must have worked deep into last night getting this field ready after the Favre-fest, Monday.

It was one of those games where watching on TV was really not enough.  The longer it went, the more I wanted to be there.  They opened up the Metrodome’s top deck to make more room for fans, and it really changed the complexion of the ballpark, and the game.  I am happy to see the stadium go, but I am also happy it lived up to its potential in one of its final games.

In a game where no one played bad, it is usually hard to pick an MVP, but I think Nick Punto was the clear winner in this game.  Nick Punto really personified the Twins tonight.  There are very few “ballplayers” left in baseball, and this guy showed baseball fans what that term really means.

Punto rarely hands a clean uni in after a game...MVP of this game.

Punto rarely hands a clean uni in after a game...MVP of this game.

Punto went one for four.  Not so great, but the second baseman saw 32 pitches.  Grinding out at bats got Porcello out of the game and got the Twins deeper and deeper into the Tiger’s ‘pen until they pretty much ran out of guys.  Punto had a huge at bat in the 7th when he fought off a few pitches and grinded his way to a single.  Orlando Cabrera homered two batters later and the Twins took the lead.

In the 9th, Punto led off with another hard battle that led to a walk.  The Twins failed to get him around.  He came up the 11th with a chance to put the game away and did his job, hitting a ball hard to right that ended up leading to the Raburn-redemption double play at the plate.

Maybe the biggest and most telling play that Punto made on the night came in the top of the 12th with one out, and the bases loaded.  In a tie game, Brandon Inge hit a chopper toward the middle, and Punto swooped in and threw out Miguel Cabrera at the plate.  It was one of those plays that does not seem big, but if he hesitates at all, they get nobody out.  It was a “ballplayer’s” play.

So, Punto and the Twins won this one.  They earned the right to celebrate for ten minutes, hop on a flight, and realize they have no pitching against the Yankees at 6 PM tomorrow.

Gardenhire proved he could coach playoff baseball, tonight.

Gardenhire proved he could coach playoff baseball, tonight.

Actually, Ron Gardenhire, by being cautious with his pitchers and matching up against hitters, really preserved his bullpen despite the long game.  None of his starters had to relieve, and the longest any of his guys threw in relief was Joe Nathan, going one and two-thirds.  Jim Leyland was not as cautious, and the Tigers would be in trouble if they were playing tomorrow.  Still, the Twins have a tall order tomorrow in the Bronx.

I hope you got to watch this game, if not, check out the highlights.  October baseball is finally here, and you could not have picked a better game to start things off.

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Miguel Cabrera: Worst Weekend Ever

October 5, 2009
Party Animal Miguel Cabrera looks to redeem himself Tuesday night.

Party Animal Miguel Cabrera looks to redeem himself Tuesday night.

On Thursday, Miguel Cabrera hit a single to right in the first inning against Scott Baker.  It would prove to be his last hit of the season, and the last bright spot in what would be a pretty rough weekend.  Cabrera proceeded to go 0 for his next 14, and left countless BlueDucks on the pond (so witty).

On Friday, Cabrera went 0 for 4 with a strikeout, and then went out and got hammered, allegedly with a player from the White Sox (I don’t mind players hanging out with the enemy, you don’t pick your friends).  There are a few issues here.  First and foremost, Cabrera came home and got in some kind of domestic dispute with his wife.  She called the cops and they took the big 26-year old to the station.  There were no real injuries except for a few scratches, but Miggy, we don’t hit girls.

The second issue, probably more important to Tiger’s fans, is the fact that Cabrera’s team could have clinched with a win on Saturday.  Instead, they were all baffled by Freddy Garcia.  It was a 7PM game, but Miguel was taken to the station at 6AM.  Rough day, but nothing sobers you up like a trip to the old barracks.

Miguel went 0 for 4 Saturday.  When asked about the scratches on his face Sunday, Cabrera said, “I’m focused on one thing, the game.”  he went 0 for 3 in their final game of the season.  Luckily the Tigers were sober enough to take that one, though, and Miggy gets a shot at redemption at the Metrodome.


Metrodome Madness: Playoff Play-in in the Twin Cities

October 5, 2009

Lets make the ceiling white, and make sure the turf looks freshly mowed.

Lets make the ceiling white, and make sure the turf looks freshly mowed. And oh yeah, try to scrub out the word "Vikings" up the first base line.

Detroit Looks to Close Down the Metrodome, Twins want to Give it a Playoff Sendoff

1 Game Playoff Play-in Blue Duck Preview

The Detroit Tigers have stumbled down the stretch and opened the door for the Minnesota Twins to give their notorious stadium one last chance at playoff glory.

Detroit has finished with a 4 and 6 record in the final ten games of the season including two key losses to the Twins in a series last week.  Minnesota countered with a 7 and 3 finish.  The Twin’s bats have been hot enough to carry a pretty weak pitching staff into a position to play October baseball.

So the stage is set for a one game playoff in Minnesota, and the stadium that is seeing its final days may be as big a factor as any one player in both team’s biggest game thus far in the 2009 campaign.  Lets look at the pitching matchups.

Scott Baker (RHP) Twins 15-9, 4.36 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 160 K, 46 BB, 184 H in 194.0 IP.

Rick Porcello (RHP) Tigers 14-9, 4.04 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 81 K, 50 BB, 172 H in 165 IP.

The pitchers match up pretty equally.  Neither guy has any playoff experience so you can’t really see any big game history other than the games in the last week or so.  Porcello lost to Minnesota in his last outing, but pitched effectively.  Baker’s got two straight wins, but has relied heavily on his bullpen in his starts.

You knw what? Look at you...You wanna kiss me

"You know what? Look at you...You wanna kiss me"

The Twins v. Rick Porcello…

This should worry Tiger’s fans.  Porcello has only pitched twice at the Metrodome, but he has a 6.30 ERA there, and a 6.60 ERA on turf in this, his rookie season.

Porcello had a 3.09 ERA going 1-2 in four starts against the Twins in ’09.  They hit .299 against the Righthander.  Not terrible numbers, but lets look a little deeper.

Delmon Young, getting attention for hitting something other than umpires.

Delmon Young, getting attention for hitting something other than umpires.

The Twins have hit .349 against him in Minnesota en route to two victories.  On May 5th, Porcello shut down the Twins over 7 innings at Comerica, but that was the first time they faced the New Jersey native.  The next time out, in Minnesota, Porcello lasted only 4 and a third and gave up 7 hits, and 6 runs (4 earned).

Jason Kubel and Delmon Young have been hot of late, and have to be chomping at the bit to see Porcello on the hill.  Delmon and Jason hit for a combined .600 avg off Porcello.  In the last 4 games of the season, Young is hitting .583 with 3 Homeruns, and 10 RBI’s.  Young is showing Twins fans his first signs of life since they gave up Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett for him.

If he gets the sinker to stay down, Porcello can limit the damage, but quieting the Twin’s bats has been impossible of late, and the bullpen will most likely get some work for Detroit on Tuesday.  Maybe Verlander coming in late?

Scott Baker v. the Detroit Tigers

Mauer and Baker will have their hand full against Miguel Cabrera and the Tigers.

Mauer and Baker will have their hand full against Miguel Cabrera and the Tigers.

If you are a Twins fan, and you are all excited after reading that, just relax for a second because the Scott Baker file doesn’t look much more promising.

Baker carries a 6.75 ERA against the Tigers this season.  He finished 1 and 1 in four starts against the divisional foes.  The Tigers hit for a .333 average against Baker, and many key guys in their lineup have solid numbers against the 28-year old.

Magglio Ordonez has 39 AB’s against Baker, and is hitting a cool .462 against him with only 1 strikeout.  Carlos Guillen  has a .462 OBP when facing Baker and Marcus Thames has 4 homers against him in just 26 AB’s.

At first glance, it looks as if Baker owns Curtis Granderson (.222 BA against, .255 OBP), but of his 10 hits in 45 AB’s against Baker, Curtis has a double, a triple, and 4 home runs.  So look for some pop right out of the gate on Tuesday.

Baker did not pitch well in September, but had a strong start his last time out.  Anything can happen in October, though.

She picked Ivan Drago in Rocky 4...

She picked Ivan Drago in Rocky 4...

Carebear’s Ms.Cleo Moment…

If you read my golf previews, you know I am terrible at predicting outcomes of games, but I am going to give this a shot.

It is October, and strange things happen in October.  I have a feeling both of these guys will step up and have solid starts.  Neither guy has been known to go deep into games so the bullpens will take this probably in the middle of the sixth.  The Twins have a much better ‘pen than the Tigers so you have to give them the advantage.

The Metrodome is going to be loud, and its going to bring back memories of the old Kent Hrbek, Kirby Puckett days.  Look for a 6-5 victory from the Twins.  Joe Nathan stops the Tigers in the ninth, and Delmon Young walks off in the bottom half.

No matter who wins this one, it has been nice to actually have a race in an otherwise uneventful late September.  Tune in because this could be the best game at the Metrodome since the Twins lost a heartbreaker to the Mariners when Griffey robbed Lou Collins of a dinger at the end of “Little Big League.”


Day 4, The Ken Caminiti Cup

October 2, 2009
A recollection of Baseballs Golden Age, Ken Caminiti

A recollection of Baseball's Golden Age, Ken Caminiti

Here it is, day 4.  It seems the baseball season is almost over.  It’s funny how 162 games can go by so fast.  Well the stats have all been tabulated, but at Blue Duck, you need a certain “Je ne se quois” to take down a major award.  Especially one named after a baseball purist, and straight edge individual like Mr. Ken Caminiti.  The results are in, here are the best ballplayers from the 2009 season.

NL

Can the best player in baseball raise his hand?  Yes Albert, we see you.

Can the best player in baseball raise his hand? Yes Albert, we see you.

Boomer
Albert Pujols

As much as I’d love to name somebody, anybody else MVP, I must continue my Cardinal love and name Pujols the MVP.  He is hands down the best hitter in baseball.  He is one of the most consistent hitter in the league, except his standards are much higher than all others.  Ryan Howard and Prince Fielder can compete in the power categories (HR and RBI), but Pujols hits at least 30 points higher than each of them.  He’s also got 20 more runs on the season than both of them because he’s a smarter baserunner than most people realize.  Add in the OPS of 1.108 and Gold Glove defense at firstbase, and Phat Albert is the obvious MVP choice.

Carebear
Hanley Ramirez

Traded by the Sox for Beckett and Lowell, Id say both teams did well there, very rare in baseball trades.

Traded by the Sox for Beckett and Lowell, I'd say both teams did well there, very rare in baseball trades.

Yes, I know, I’m an idiot.  Pujols is the MVP, but everyone is going to pick him so I didn’t.  Hanley may be the best all around player in the NL right now, though.  That strictly refers to the fact that Hanley has a little speed and plays short.

Hanley is a complete hitter as well.  Hes hitting .341 right now with 24 homers, and 105 rbi’s.  He also has 26 steals.  Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki are really the last of the powerful shortstops that we got so used to in the mid-90’s/early 2000’s (ARod moved to 3b, Nomar broke in half, Tejada aged 7 years in the last 3 seasons, Renteria was never that powerful, and neither was Jeter).

Ramirez also plays a solid shortstop.  Only 10 errors this season make him one of the better guys up the middle especially when you consider his range.

More importantly, though, with the bat, .410 OBP, .952 OPS.  He’s 25 years old.  Gonna hang around a while, and could prevent a Pujols Triple Crown for years to come.

AL

Congrats Joe, tip your hat in honor of your Caminiti award.

Congrats Joe, tip your hat in honor of your Caminiti award.

Boomer
Joe Mauer

With two batting titles already to his name, Joe Mauer added the element of power to his game.  And did he ever, he hit 28 HR, 15 more than his previous career high.  As most hitters hit more homeruns, they sacrifice batting average.  Not Mauer, he hit 20 points over his career high.  He did this all while catching 100 games with Gold Glove defense.  He’s helped carry Minnesota to the final weekend of the season, still fighting for a playoff spot.  When you lead the league in OPS and batting AVG, you’re bound to be in the MVP race.  Adding power and great defense is just the icing on the cake.
Note from Carebear: Despite my sign stealing article, I love Joe Mauer, and I played with the stats a bit today.  Mauer and Pujols are two of four guys in the league with at least 70 walks who have more walks than k’s.  The other two are Todd Helton and Dustin Pedroia.  All Great hitters trying to contend in a category that Ty Cobb and Ted Williams would be proud of, the BB/SO ratio:  Pujols, 1.80. Mauer, 1.16.  Nicely done.

(Boomer’s honorable mention: Derek Jeter

Jeter has put together a great year in his age 35 season.  He’s always been a solid hitter and he had a down year last year, but he bounced back with a  big year.  Girardi put him at leadoff this year, and he responded by hitting .335 with an OBP of  .407 and 30 steals.  He’s also been knocked for his slipping defense recently.  He improved to league average defense this year too.  While a candidate for MVP til mid-August, his numbers don’t neccessarily compare with the Texieras, Cabreras, or Mauers.  But his importance cannot be underestimated.  Maybe this is my lifetime achievement award.  As much as I usually hate players being rewarded for career accomplishments, Jeter is the exception to the rule.  And all this is coming from a Sox fan.  Congrats Jeter, well done.)

Carebear

Miguel Cabrera

I hate to be that guy that just picks differently for the sake of picking differently, but I really just love Miguel Cabrera.  He may be the most underrated player in baseball.  Here’s some food for thought:

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG
1057 3985 695 1204 227 21 238 725 504 634 .302 .381 .549
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG
1036 3905 629 1218 252 12 208 751 444 823 .312 .384 .542

Those are Ken Griffey’s numbers(Griffey’s numbers are the top set.) up to the age of 26 compared to Cabrera’s to that same age.  As you can see they are eerily similar.  I am not saying they are the same type of player, but very similar hitters, and that says a lot of Cabrera.

Best Righthanded Hitter in AL.

Best Righthanded Hitter in AL.

This season, the Venezuelan is hitting .329 with 33 HR’s and 101 RBI’s.  He is going to finish the season with 200 hits, and the same OPS as Hanley at .952.  His defense is really not terrible at first base either.  7 errors is not good for a first baseman, but manageable.

Miggy won the quadruple crown for the Tigers this year.  He also led the team in runs, hits, walks, and total bases (by 45).  He was the dominant leader on an otherwise weak offense that could win the AL central.

Cabrera is the best right handed hitter in the American League.

That wraps up our awards for 2009.  Stay Tuned for BlueDuck’s MLB preview and more baseball garbage.  Feel free to look back at the Comeback Player, Closer Award, and Cy Young Award from earlier in the week.  Thanks Baseball-reference.com for the stats.


Mauer Steals Signs: So Does Everybody Else…

October 1, 2009
Public enemy number 1 in Detroit because hes really bad at stealing signs, and his biggest fan made a video of it.

Public enemy number 1 in Detroit because he's really bad at stealing signs, and his biggest fan made a video of it.

Yahoo is running a story right now about a Joe Mauer fan who made a video highlighting Joe Mauer stealing signs on second base after a double and relaying them to batter, Jason Kubel.  First of all, anyone that knows baseball knows the guy that made the video is an idiot, but he is catching Mauer stealing signs.

The videographer who so elegantly films his television tells us about Mauer “nonchalantly” stealing signs when he is being extremely blatant.  The fact is, Verlander knows he can get Kubel even with the sign stealing going on.  Otherwise, Kubel would have ended up in an ambulance with an earflap that needs to be surgically removed.

Laird stops and gets new signs twice during the at bat, and at one point scrapes the ground with his hand.  Major League catchers are not dumb, but Mauer was the less intelligent one in this situation, and the least intelligent is the guy filming because Laird and Verlander already knew, but now everyone else in the Major Leagues does.

Moving on, everyone does this.  You watch a baseball game at the high school level and this is going on.  You just have to get better at it as you go.  Mauer is not good at it.  If another catcher sees this, and it is in a tighter game, the batter will either get intentionally crossed up or get a fastball that has the same effect as a Gillette 3 razor.

The Famous Shot Heard Round the World may have been influenced by a stolen sign, but from a telescope in CF.

The Famous "Shot Heard Round the World" may have been influenced by a stolen sign, but from a telescope in CF.

Every year someone makes a big deal about sign stealing, and every year people say its cheating.  Every year the people that have actually played the game say stealing signs is as much a part  of the game as sunflower seeds and tobacco, but people like to whine about their team losing so someone will always complain.

I’m not condoning having a guy behind the centerfield fence with a telescope, but stealing signs from second base or from the third base coaching box is fair game.  Of course you must be willing to wear one between the numbers your next at bat, but sometimes, its worth having stitches bruised into your spine for a week.


Philthy Hughes

July 18, 2009

On Friday night, the Yankees beat the Tigers 5 to 3 in a pretty ordinary game.  AJ Burnett started the game for New York, and was relieved by Phil Hughes at the start of the 7th inning.  Hughes gave up 3 hits in two innings, but struck out the other 6 hitters he faced.

It was just another good appearance out of the pen by Phil Hughes who is looking more and more comfortable in that role.  He has quieted the Joba to the pen cries as well, and has shown a power fastball and harder breaking stuff in the shorter stints.

He is a toolbag, but he may be the bullpen savior the Yankees need.

He is a toolbag, but he may be the bullpen savior the Yankees need.

Since going to the pen Phil has pitched 20 1/3 innings, given up just 10 hits, struck out 25 batters, walked only 5, and given up just 2 earned runs.  If you discount his first appearance out of the pen, where he relieved Chien Ming Wang in the 3rd inning of a game against the Red Sox, Hughes hasn’t given up a run.

Hughes’ Bullpen Line: ERA: 0.88, WHIP: 0.73, K/9: 11.08

Hughes could be a huge commodity for the Bombers either in the pennant race or in a deal for ace sinkerballer Roy Halladay.