Friday

4-9-10: DFTU

Hello again everybody...

We've done it. We've fooled the employment gods yet again, and a spectacular weather-weekend is on tap here in the upper-Midwest. Well at least here in Minnesota. I saw that my friends in eastern Wisconsin got visited by some snow yesterday.

Gee, that's a shame.

So the weekend is nigh, and my first regular-season sojourn to Target Field is one week from tomorrow. Life definitely does not suck.

Fridays at Writing for the Cycle have a tradition that's been missing for a few weeks. Don't blame me, the 2010 MLB Preview takes precedence. But we're about to complete our first week of the regular season, so it's time for said segment's triumphant return.

That's right, you've been pining for it... you've been yearning for it... and it's almost time to scratch that itch...

Right after the quote...

Let's do this!

”Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.”
- Friedrich von Schiller (1759 - 1805), German poet, philosopher, historian and playwright


I don't believe Herr von Schiller ever answered phones at a radio station. But his thoughts would've been nothing but confirmed, trust me.

«Read More...»


It's been a while, and there's a lot to get Updated on. So without further ado... it's time... once again... for everybody's favorite segment...

Dan's Favorite Teams Update

Wisconsin Badgers: The Badger Basketball team finished 24-9 (13-5 in the Big Ten) and exited the NCAA Tournament in the second round.

I know the Tournament is over, but I felt the need to put a brief bow on the Badgers' season. It's difficult to call it a disappointment when the team goes 24-9, but when they're a 4-seed in the Tournament and get beat by a 12-seed in the second round, it's tough to call it a success.

Ultimately, the story of the season was Jon Leuer's absence due to injury, and the team's inability to really get back into a rhythm once he returned. They managed awfully well without him, but could never quite get comfortable once he returned. Part of the fault for that lays at the feet of the coaching staff, but an equal amount has to be attributed to the players.

The good news is that the Badgers are only losing two players to graduation. The bad news is that those players are Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon. That's 27 points per game that have to be replaced in a league where points have always been at a premium. Jordan Taylor will look to fill Hughes' shoes at the point. As for Bohannon's three-point shooting? A replacement for that has yet to be determined.

Expectations will remain high for the club in the 2010-2011 season. A “Sweet 16” run would help to salve the disappointment from this season's finish.

Also helping to ease the pain? The fact that the Badger hockey team just earned a berth in the NCAA Championship game versus Boston College on Saturday! Admittedly, I'm not a huge college hockey fan. But when the Badgers are on a championship run, how can I not brag them up a bit?!


Minnesota Wild: The Wild are 38-36-7, good for 83 points. They're in fourth place in the Northwest division, and have been eliminated from post-season contention.

And that last little diddy is why this will be the last appearance for the Wild in the DFTU for this season.

There can be no question that this has been a disappointing year for the Wild and their fans. Expectations were limited based on the extent to which the organizational philosophy was changing. But the inconsistency demonstrated by the club over the course of the season was maddening.

I could go further, but all the evidence you need can be found in this excellent interview that Star Tribune beat writer Michael Russo did with General Manager Chuck Fletcher. If he's that aggravated about the way the year went, I think it's fair for the fans to feel less than thrilled.

What was most disappointing to me was the fluctuating effort. Sure, a lot of that can be attributed to the ever-changing roster. The Wild had more than their fair share of injuries this season. But when the team resumed play after the Olympic Break, and utterly failed to show up for games they needed to have to get back into the playoff race, that felt pretty lousy.

There were some good times to be sure. The acquisition of Guillaume Lattendresse (still my favorite player) was clearly an excellent move by the Wild. Moving Kim Johnsson (a player who had no desire to return next season) to attain Cam Barker (a much younger player who the Wild will control next year) looks like it should pay off. And the influx of youth at the end of the season - Casey Wellman, Cody Almond, and Nate Prosser - gives fans some hope of a team that should develop and progress next season.

It will be interesting to see what kind of moves the Wild make as the draft approaches and free agency opens. Those moves will affect what kind of expectations the fans have for 2010-2011. Myself? I don't think increased consistency and contending for a playoff spot is too much to ask.

The Wild do have one last game to play before breaking out the golf clubs for the summer. Tomorrow night, they host the Dallas Stars in what could be Mike Modano's final visit to the Twin Cities (strong indications are that he'll retire at season's end). As of this writing, I'm planning on making one more visit to the X. Sure I'm in baseball mode now, but it'll be nice to catch one more game before the State of Hockey flag gets furled until October.


Arizona Diamondbacks: The Diamondbacks are 2-1 and in second place in the NL West.

So far, so good for the Snakes!

It's always nice to win your first series of the season, even if it was against the lowly Padres. Actually, if you're the D'backs, you can't really call anybody who finished above you in the standings last season “lowly”.

Nevertheless, the Pads are a team that Arizona will need to beat regularly if they're truly going to get back into contention this season.

The offense is what's going to carry this team. As of this morning, they lead the NL in home runs and are in the Top 5 in RBI. But if you look deeper than that, they're below the league average in OPS. OPS is a combination of on-base percentage and slugging percentage. As a relative statistic, it's useful because it combines two key offensive categories. So with all the home runs, what's dragging down Arizona's OPS? Their team on-base percentage is a woeful .308. Not only aren't they hitting all that well (team average of .245), but they've only taken nine walks as a team (Philadelphia leads the league with 17). Those numbers will have to improve for the D'backs to keep scoring consistently.

They'll also have to improve, because the pitching still hasn't really sorted itself out. Dan Haren had a solid opener with a line of: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB and 4 K. Edwin Jackson took the ball in the second game and took the loss with a line of: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB and 5 K. Those aren't terrible numbers, but the bullpen didn't give him any support. Ian Kennedy pitched on Wednesday. He didn't earn the win, but kept Arizona in it with a line of: 5 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 0 BB and 8 K.

Obviously, you'd like your starters to go a little deeper in the game than Jackson and Kennedy did, but it's not like they got lit up. So why do I say the pitching hasn't sorted itself out? To put it simply: the bullpen. Bob Howry and Leo Rosales looked terrible in their first outings. Chad Qualls is one-for-one in save opportunities, but already carries an ERA of 4.50.

As a team, they've surrendered five home runs in their first three games. The only team that's surrendered more? San Diego... to the Diamondbacks' hitters. They've managed to limit the damage, surrendering only 12 runs total, but the long-ball will come back to haunt you if you keep giving them up.

Ultimately, three games isn't a big enough sample-size to make any grand pronouncements. So there's no reason to get too high on the offense, or too low on the pitching. The tests will get tougher next week when the Diamondbacks travel to Los Angeles. But before they make that trip, they've got one more three-game home series as they welcome the Pittsburgh Pirates to town starting tonight. Rodrigo Lopez takes the hill tonight, Haren on Saturday evening and Jackson on Sunday afternoon.


Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 3-1 and they're in first place in the AL Central.

I probably should've mentioned it in my Preview, but talk about your brutal schedule starts! The Twins completed a 4-gamer against Los Angeles last night, and if someone could explain why Game 4 had to be a night game, instead of a day game that would've allowed the Twins to get into Chicago at a reasonable hour, I'd love to hear that explanation.

They get the White Sox for three this weekend, and then head home to face the Red Sox (whom I hate) for three to open Target Field for the regular season. That's a tough 10-game stretch at any point in the season, but to kick things off with it is especially grueling. I'm not usually one to whine about the schedule. Over 162 games there are going to be tough spots and soft spots for every club. I'd just rather the boys didn't have to kick things off with one of the tough ones.

So far, the Twins have handled things as well as you could hope. The loss on Opening Day wasn't encouraging, but the Twins followed it with a power explosion and three straight victories.

The Twins now lead the majors with 9 dingers on the season, and they're in the top five in runs scored and OPS. They're an offensive juggernaut!

That's somewhat surprising considering Denard Span and Orlando Hudson (their 1- and 2-hitters) are hitting .063 and .176 respectively. Span was red-hot in Spring Training and hit a triple and a home run in the first exhibition game. Why a trip out to the coast would screw him up is beyond me. O-Dawg is already looking rather beat-up after a few unfortunate spills. I'm guessing he gets a day or two off over the upcoming week.

How about some of the other “new guys”?

J.J. Hardy is hitting .312 with a pair of home runs as well as several sparkling defensive plays. Sure GoGo is hitting .333 for Milwaukee, but so far I'm no less convinced that the trade was a good one for Minnesota.

Jim Thome is only hitting .222, but he blasted his first home run for the Twins last night, a 3-run shot that took the starch out of the Angels. He can strike out as much as he likes so long as he mixes in 15-20 of those over the course of the season.

The pitching staff has been solid as well. Carl Pavano has had the best outing of any starter so far, though the only guy to get roughed up at all was Scott Baker in the opener. The bullpen has been nothing short of outstanding. Jesse Crain has four strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings of work and has only allowed one hit. Matt Guerrier has quietly continued his excellent work. And Big Jon Rauch is two-for-two in save opportunities so far.

The scary part? This team can get better. What happens when Span starts hitting? What happens when Blackburn and Slowey start going deep into games? Hell, we haven't even seen Liriano pitch yet, and he was on fire in Spring Training! And if they start clearing some of those extra ducks off the pond? Look out.

I'm trying not to get overly excited based on a seriously limited sample-size, but so far, things are looking really good!

As mentioned, the Twins have three in Chicago over the weekend. Francisco Liriano pitches tonight. Scott Baker goes tomorrow and Pavano gets his second start on Sunday.


There you have it folks. The DFTU has returned! I'm sure you all feel as relieved as I do.

I'll be back on Monday with more tomfoolery for you. Until then, thanks for reading!

2 comments:

  1. Yes, we're all relieved baseball season has started.

    When do we get save opportunities?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Are you asking what constitutes a save opportunity?

    Or are you asking FOR a save opportunity?

    ReplyDelete