July 2011

Happy Fourth of July (Game 83 vs. Rays)

MINNEAPOLIS — Joe Mauer is back behind the plate against the Rays, but Twins manager Ron Gardenhire hinted Mauer is getting closer and closer to making his first career start at first base.

Gardenhire said it could happen as soon as some point during their four-game series with the White Sox this weekend.

“I haven’t decided, but maybe in Chicago,” Gardenhire said. “Who knows? We’ll just see. I know we have a lot of right-handers coming up after today.”

Lineups for Monday’s 1:10 p.m. CT start at Target Field on the Fourth of July:

Rays (47-37)

1. Johnny Damon, DH
2. Sean Rodriguez, 2B
3. Evan Longoria, 3B
4. B.J. Upton, CF
5. Justin Ruggiano, LF
6. Casey Kotchman, 1B
7. KellY Shoppach, C
8. Matt Joyce, RF
9. Elliot Johnson, SS

LHP David Price (8-6, 3.43 ERA, 3.55 FIP, 5.27 K/BB)

Twins (36-46)

1. Ben Revere, CF
2. Alexi Casilla, 2B
3. Joe Mauer, C
4. Michael Cuddyer, RF
5. Danny Valencia, DH
6. Luke Hughes, 1B
7. Jason Repko, LF
8. Matt Tolbert, 3B
9. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, SS

LHP Brian Duensing (5-7, 4.69 ERA, 3.70 FIP, 1.97 K/BB)

WAR leaders at halfway point (Game 82 vs Brewers)

MINNEAPOLIS — After last night’s heartbreaking loss to the Brewers in which the Twins blew a seven-run lead — tied for the fourth-worst blown lead in franchise history — the Twins are at the halfway point of the season.

It’s safe to say it’s been a disappointing year for the Twins, who are just 35-46 and enter today trailing the Indians by nine games in the American League Central.

But today was also a positive day for Michael Cuddyer, who was named to the All-Star Game for the first time in his 11-year career.

Cuddyer was certainly a deserving All-Star for his impressive play in the first-half of the season, and his versatility only helped his case. But with that in mind, here’s a look at the leaders for the Twins in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) through 81 games courtesy of FanGraphs.com:

Position players:

1. Denard Span, 2.6
2. Michael Cuddyer, 1.6
3. Jason Kubel, 1.0
4. Alexi Casilla, 0.7
5. Ben Revere, 0.6
6. Jim Thome, 0.5
7. Delmon Young, 0.3
8. Danny Valencia, 0.3
9. Luke Hughes, 0.2

Pitchers:

1. Scott Baker, 2.0
2. Carl Pavano, 1.5
3. Brian Duensing, 1.4
4. Glen Perkins, 0.9
5. Francisco Liriano, 0.8
6. Nick Blackburn, 0.6
7. Alex Burnett, 0.2
8. Anthony Swarzak, 0.1
9. Chuck James, 0.1

Notes: I only included players with positive WARs, so the list didn’t include players such as Joe Mauer (-0.2), Justin Morneau (-0.3), Joe Nathan (-0.3) or Tsuyoshi Nishioka (-0.6). So it really is pretty amazing that Mauer, Morneau and Nathan — with 12 All-Star appearances among them — combined to produce a -0.8 WAR so far this year.

Lineups for the 1:10 p.m. CT start at Target Field:

Brewers (45-39)

1. Rickie Weeks, DH
2. Nyjer Morgan, CF
3. Corey Hart, RF
4. Prince Fielder, 1B
5. Mat Gamel, 3B
6. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS
7. Mark Kotsay, LF
8. Jonathan Lucroy, C
9. Craig Counsell, 2B

RHP Zack Greinke (7-3, 5.68 ERA, 2.72 FIP, 6.67 K/BB)

Twins (35-46)

1. Ben Revere, CF
2. Alexi Casilla, 2B
3. Joe Mauer, C
4. Michael Cuddyer, RF
5. Jim Thome, DH
6. Danny Valencia, 3B
7. Rene Tosoni, LF
8. Luke Hughes, 1B
9. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, SS

RHP Nick Blackburn (6-6, 3.64 ERA, 4.50 FIP, 1.86 K/BB)

The Butera-Pavano connection (Game 81 vs Brewers)

MINNEAPOLIS — Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said yesterday that Drew Butera will continue to be Carl Pavano’s personal catcher, but that will be the only such situation moving forward, as Joe Mauer is expected to work with the other four starters.

Gardenhire stuck to his word today, as Butera is in the lineup against the Brewers and Mauer is serving as designated hitter.

The personal catcher relationship between Pavano and Butera started last year, but Pavano does have similar numbers working with both catchers.

In 28 starts with Butera, Pavano has a 3.89 ERA and 2.55 K/BB ratio, and in 30 outings with Mauer, he has a 4.20 ERA and a 3.62 K/BB. So while Mauer clearly has Butera beat in terms of Pavano’s strikeout-to-walk ration, Pavano has given up 14 homers with Butera behind the plate and 24 when working with Mauer.

Mauer, who is expected to be back at catcher tomorrow, spoke to the media today about how he’s feeling behind the plate and about his timing, as he’s carrying a six-game hit streak into today’s game and picked up three hits last night. The full story on Mauer will be posted later today as part of the Twins Notebook.

UPDATE: As Parker Hageman of Over The Baggy pointed out, there’s also a big difference when it comes to the run game between Butera and Mauer with Pavano. I looked up the stats, and with Butera at backstop, Pavano has allowed 20 stolen bases with eight runners getting caught stealing, while with Mauer, he’s allowed 32 stolen bases with just two runners getting thrown out.

Lineups for the 6:05 p.m. CT start at Target Field:

Brewers (44-39)

1. Rickie Weeks, 2B
2. Nyjer Morgan, CF
3. Ryan Braun, LF
4. Prince Fielder, 1B
5. Mat Gamel, DH
6. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS
7. Mark Kotsay, RF
8. Jonathan Lucroy, C
9. Craig Counsell, 3B

LHP Chris Narveson (5-5, 4.42 ERA, 3.91 FIP, 2.05 K/BB)

Twins (35-45)

1. Ben Revere, CF
2. Alexi Casilla, 2B
3. Joe Mauer, DH
4. Michael Cuddyer, RF
5. Danny Valencia, 3B
6. Luke Hughes, 1B
7. Jason Repko, LF
8. Drew Butera, C
9. Tsuyoshi Nishioka, SS

RHP Carl Pavano (5-6, 4.24 ERA, 3.30 FIP, 2.31 K/BB)

Liriano’s impressive June (Game 80 vs. Brewers)

MINNEAPOLIS — Francisco Liriano gets another chance against the Brewers tonight after struggling in his last outing in Milwaukee on Monday, when he allowed six runs, five earned, over just 3 2/3 innings.

Even though he didn’t have his best stuff in his last start against the Brewers, Liriano still showed signs in June that he turned the corner from his slow start.

In June, the left-hander posted a 3.27 ERA in 23 2/3 innings with 27 strikeouts compared to just seven walks and one homer allowed.

With those impressive peripheral stats, Liriano had a 2.09 FIP and 3.86 K/BB ratio, which was similar to last season when he posted a 2.66 FIP and 3.47 K/BB ratio in 191 2/3 innings.

So while four starts last month constitutes a small sample size, it’s still a positive sign that Liriano can get back to the ace starter he was last year.

But as always, we’ll simply see how it goes, starting with tonight’s outing on the first day of July in the last weekend of Interleague play.

Lineups for the 7:10 p.m. CT start at Target Field:

Brewers (44-38)

1. Rickie Weeks 2B
2. Carlos Gomez CF
3. Ryan Braun LF
4. Prince Fielder 1B
5. Corey Hart RF
6. Casey McGehee DH
7. Yuniesky Betancourt SS
8. Josh Wilson 3B
9. Jonathan Lucroy C

RHP Yovanni Gallardo (9-4, 3.92 ERA, 3.96 FIP, 2.41 K/BB)

Twins (34-45)

1. Ben Revere CF
2. Alexi Casilla 2B
3. Joe Mauer C
4. Michael Cuddyer RF
5. Jim Thome DH
6. Danny Valencia 3B
7. Rene Tosoni LF
8. Luke Hughes 1B
9. Tsuyoshi Nishioka SS

LHP Francisco Liriano (4-7, 4.98 ERA, 4.21 FIP, 1.56 K/BB)

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