4-23-10: DFTU

Hello again everybody...

It's that time again! Another work week winds to a close and the glory of the weekend approaches. The weather doesn't sound like it's going to cooperate, but the Twins are on the road, so I'd rather it rain now than when they're home.

Hopefully you all have fun things planned, or nothing whatsoever to do. Either way, a weekend ought to be enjoyable.

Lots of good baseball this week. Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez gave us our first no-hitter of the season. Jimenez has been on the brink of making “the leap” for a couple of seasons, and he's been flat-out dominant so far this year. The Rockies haven't jumped out front in the NL West like I expected, but they're in the mix, and if Jimenez keeps rolling, they'll be in it all season.

New York's Phil Hughes almost gave us our second no-hitter. He carried his no-no into the 8th, and only lost it on a come-backer that he lost track of. Nobody's feeling sorry for a Yankee, but if their 5th starter is sniffing around a no-hitter, that's gotta scare the bejeezus out of the rest of the league.

Did you see the gem Doc Halladay threw the other night? The Phillie righty out-dueled Atlanta's Tim Hudson in a whale of a game. Great pitching, great defense, timely hitting. It was my kind of name. And about 20,000 people saw it in person. Well done Atlanta! A blind man could have predicted that would be a helluva game, and you no-showed the hell out of it. Oof.

My friends across the river might want to save some of that offense. I know it's the Pirates, and me and eight friends would have a shot at them, but 20 runs on 25 hits?! Come on Milwaukee, take it easy! Spread the wealth a little bit. You're going to need some of those runs later on!

But none of those notes are why you come here on a Friday, right? Nope, you come here for one thing and one thing only... the DFTU!

Let's get to the Updating!

”An intellectual is a man who takes more words than necessary to tell more than he knows.”
- Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890 - 1969), 5-star General and 34th President of the United States

It's quality, not quantity people!

With that, it's time... once again... for everybody's favorite segment...

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Dan's Favorite Teams Update

Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 11-5, in first place in the American League Central, and two games ahead of the Detroit Tigers.

Another week, and two more series victories. I know that's awfully similar to how I opened last week's Twins section of the DFTU, but I don't think I'll get tired of typing it. The Twins took two of three from the Royals last weekend, and two of three from Cleveland during the week. I'm loathe to complain about any of that, but it would be nice, just once, for the Twins to finish off a sweep when they have the chance. Plenty of time for that, I guess.

Only the Rays have more wins than the Twins, and only the Yankees have equaled them at 11. So how are they doing it? By playing solid, balanced, fundamental baseball.

Only the Rays have scored more runs in the AL than the Twins, and yet Minnesota's in the middle of the pack in home runs. They're hitting some long-balls, sure, but homers aren't the core of their offense. Their team OPS is .791, second best in the AL, and 68 points above the league average. That means they're putting guys on-base at a high rate and displaying some above-average power.

There's been grumbling about the team's batting average with runners in scoring position, but they're actually fifth in the AL in that department. I know it hasn't felt that way, but 17 points above the league average is hard to argue with.

Being tied for the most “double plays grounded into” in the league isn't something to be proud of, but that can be spun as partially a function of the number of runners they're putting on base.

So the offense is pretty good. What about the pitching?

The Twins are third in the AL in Team ERA (3.20), and second in Team WHIP (1.19). Their starting pitchers are above league-average in both of those categories, and their bullpen leads the league in both of those stats.

Defensively? The Twins have committed exactly one error all season. As you might guess, that's also a league-leading statistic.

What's frighteningly fun for fans, is that the team can get better.

If they cut down on the double-plays and improve the average with runners in scoring position, their offense could be off the charts.

Nick Blackburn hasn't been himself all year, unless he's fighting an injury we don't know about, he should come around. Scott Baker has been hit or miss this season, he could certainly become more consistent.

There's a lot of season left to be played, but it's tough to be too upset with what Twins fans have seen so far. 5-straight series victories to open the season is more than any of us had reason to expect. I'm enjoying every second of it and hope the Twins can keep it rolling as they head out on the road.

They open a 3-gamer in Kansas City tonight before heading to Detroit and Cleveland next week. Keep making hay boys!

Arizona Diamondbacks: The Diamondbacks are 6-9, in last place in the NL West, but only three games behind the San Diego Padres.

The Padres?! Come on! I'm kidding about that, right?

Nope. The Pads have been hotter than a pistol lately, winners of six in a row and seven of their last ten, three of those courtesy of Arizona.

Meanwhile, the Snakes are 3-7 in their last ten. After a solid start, the wheels have come off a bit.

Who's to blame? Offensively, Arizona's OPS is nearly 40 points above the league average. Their starters have an ERA and WHIP that are better than the league average. And their fielding percentage is in the top 10.

Who does that leave? The bullpen.

The relievers' gaudy 7.21 ERA and 1.72 WHIP are the worst in the NL. If those numbers don't make you cringe, how about this, the Diamondbacks have blown 6 of their 8 save opportunities. That doesn't seem possible. 75% of the time they've been in an situation to salt a win away, they've failed? Wow.

But it's not just Chad Qualls. Sure, he hasn't gotten the job done as the closer, but the rest of the bullpen hasn't exactly set him up for easy saves. Bobby Howry has been flat-out awful, racking up a 12.60 ERA. Jordan Norberto got sent back to AAA-Tucson after walking six hitters in only three innings of work. His 9.00 ERA didn't impress anybody either. Last week I praised Aaron Heilman's work out of the pen. Yeah, his ERA has ballooned to 7.11. “Bowling shoe ugly” would be an appropriate term for those kinds of numbers.

But hope is not lost. As mentioned, Arizona's only 3 games out of first place in the division. Nobody's running away and hiding with this thing. At least not yet. If skipper A.J. Hinch can find a way to get the bullpen sorted out, the Diamondbacks can still contend.

It's not going to be easy though. The league-leading Phillies come into Chase Field for three over the weekend. The only upside to that? Arizona misses Roy Halladay who pitched Wednesday. After that, the Diamondbacks are off on an 11-game road trip that takes them to Colorado, Chicago and Houston. Not an easy stretch, but hopefully getting away from the comforts of home helps focus the boys a bit.

That's going to wrap things up for this week. Hope you feel properly Updated! I know I do.

I'll be back on Monday to talk about the weekend... or something. I've given up planning too far in advance. The best laid plans and what not...

Until Monday, thanks for reading!

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