Siberian Baseball

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Time to check the brakes on the Twins bandwagon

It's getting to be pretty unsafe riding the Twins bandwagon these days. It's crowded, it's moving too fast and people are expecting too much out of it, which means a serious crash would cause pretty severe injuries.

After winning 34 of the past 43 games (including last night's loss to the Tigers despite Francisco Liriano's 12 strikeouts) people were getting pretty dizzy in the Twin Cities. Frank the Tank and I went back and forth a bit about fan bases this week and we had a pretty good time with that.

After spending much of the week in the truck, I've been catching a lot of sports talk lately. Honestly, it's out of control.

Some of the hosts whipped people into a frenzy with talk of the "unbeatable Twins." I'm pretty sure they were kidding. I'm also pretty sure the callers were not.

Even Buster Olney got into the act - publishing this gem this week -

If you doled out truth serum to the White Sox, they'd probably admit they are worried about the Twins, because on those days when Santana and Francisco Liriano start, they are all but unbeatable. Since April 27, the Twins are 27-4 in games started by the hard-throwing left-handers, and an .871 winning percentage for a couple of your starters usually translates pretty well in a pennant race, as the ring-heavy veterans from the Schilling-Johnson '01 Diamondbacks will testify.

As the Twins' pitching continues to get better and better, the White Sox pitching has become a problem rather than a solution, with the ERA of Chicago's starters now up to 4.64. No wonder that as rival executives speak with White Sox general manager Kenny Williams, their sense is that he is looking to shake things up, looking to make a deal. Wanting doesn't always mean doing -- remember how frustrated Williams was last year when he couldn't get a deal done before the deadline? -- but the desire is there. Chicago is struggling, although I don't know that adding Alfonso Soriano is necessarily the solution or even within Williams' grasp. The White Sox need better pitching, either from the guys they have or from somebody they might acquire. Williams is a deal-maker and so is Oakland GM Billy Beane, and you have to wonder if Barry Zito's name will come up in their conversations this week.

Here's the problem with that logic - the Twins are not the 2001 Diamondbacks.

Here, look:
Catcher: Damian Miller / Joe Mauer
1B: Mark Grace / Justin Morneau
2B: Jay Bell / Luis Castillo
3B: Matt Williams / Nick Punto
SS: Tony Womack / Jason Bartlett
LF: Luis Gonzalez / Rondell White
CF: Steve Finley / Jason Tyner
RF: Reggie Sanders / Michael Cuddyer

(As a side note, the Twins depth chart has no listing for center field on their Web site and only White out in left.)

While the Twins have arguable upgrades at a few positions, the outfield is no contest (even if Torii Hunter was back), it's not like they're loaded at this point. Keep in mind what a slow start they saw to begin the season.

Not to take anything away from the Twins and what they've done so far - to claw back into the race with the roster they've put together is nothing short of amazing - but this team should be making Twins fans nervous.

The continued success of the Twins hinges on solid output from Punto, White and Tyner. Compare that to the White Sox rotation finding its bearings or the newly revamped Texas Rangers beginning to take over with the addition of Carlos Lee's bat to the lineup.

That's a pretty simple question there - who do you trust more: The White Sox pitchers, Texas' bats or Punto, White and Tyner?

Game 2 against Detroit is tonight at the Dome - we'll see what happens.


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