5-28-10: DFTU

Hello again everybody...

Happy Friday to all, and to all a Holiday weekend!

That's right, even in the wacky world of radio, sometimes I can finagle a three-day weekend when there's a holiday, and thanks to our recognition of our country's fallen heroes, this happens to be one of those weekends.

So I'll let you know ahead of time, there won't be a column on Monday. Instead, I'll be spending some quality time with my family and a grill (no, I won't be grilling the family - well maybe my brother if he gets lippy) whilst we tip our hats to those who've given the last full measure of devotion (copyright A. Lincoln) to ensure our freedom.

But before we can get to 72 blissful work-free hours, we've got some Updating to do!

Right after the quote...

”There's no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you.”
- Will Rogers (1879 - 1935), comedian, humorist, social commentator, vaudeville performer and actor

Do I really have to point out how this is applicable in the wake of the mess in the Gulf? I didn't think so, and that's why I love you people!

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And since I care so much... it's time... once again... for everybody's favorite segment...

Dan's Favorite Teams Update

Minnesota Twins: The Twins are 27-20, in first place in the AL Central and 1.5 games in front of the Detroit Tigers.

Thank heavens that's over!

The Twins managed to salvage the final game of their three-game series with the Yankees, but once again, the Yankees took two, and ended up winning the season series 4-2. That's not the disaster that last year's 0-10 mark was, but it's still not what Twins fans were hoping to see.

I suppose I should say that it's over “for now” since there's always the possibility that these two teams could meet in the playoffs. (Insert Dan breaking out in a cold sweat here.) Let's cross that bridge when we get to it, shall we?

Instead, let's focus on Jason Kubel - “Yankee Slayer”!

There's no question that Kubel's had a disappointing start to his 2010 season, yet it's amazing what he's been doing against New York.

Let's look at the numbers:

Batting average... For the season: .233. Against the Yankees: .467

Home runs... For the season: 5. Against the Yankees: 3 (including a grand slam).

OPS... For the season: .733. Against the Yankees: 1.700

Why is he doing so much better against the Bombers than against the rest of the league? Even he doesn't know:

“I have no idea. I wish I could do that to other teams too. I just have to keep going out and trying hard every day.”

That's Kubel-wisdom for you folks.

There's every reason to love this kid and root hard for him. He takes nothing for granted and busts his tail all the time. Sure he's not the greatest defender in the world, but he's serviceable, and one hell of a designated hitter when he's rolling.

Which has made it all the more vexing to see what he's been doing so far this year. If you watch enough baseball, you learn to recognize when a guy's fighting it. You'll see him taking pitches he ought to be swinging at and flailing helplessly at pitches that he should be taking. He'll be out front on breaking balls and well-behind on fastballs. It looks like he's out there guessing at pitches instead of having a solid plan based on the pitcher he's facing.

All of those things have been evident in the majority of Kubel's at-bats so far this season. But something has clicked for him against New York, because he's been absolutely locked-in versus Yankee pitchers. Granted, in critical situations you won't see a lot of Javy Vasquez and Chad Gaudin like he did last night. But at this point, whatever is going to get Jason dialed back in, we'll take it!

I was hoping the grand slam he hit back in the Bronx was going to do it, but he proceeded to go 4-for-24 in his next seven games. Not exactly the “dialed in” stats I was hoping for. But who knows, maybe his performance last night will do the trick.

I sure hope it does. The Twins' line-up has been pretty much as good as advertised so far this season, but it gets a whole lot more dangerous with an effective Jason Kubel in the middle of it.

The Twins have sent the Yankees packing (again, thank heavens) and now welcome the AL West-leading Texas Rangers to town. The Rangers are 6-4 in their last 10 games, but only 8-12 on the road this season, so hopefully the Twins can get back to winning series. Tonight it's Kevin Slowey (5-3, 4.53) back on the mound (please complete at least 6 innings tonight, okay Kev?) facing Colby Lewis (4-2, 3.45). Saturday's game has Carl Pavano (4-5, 4.17) on the hill, opposed by C.J. Wilson (3-2, 3.07). Sunday the Twins play in prime-time on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball with Scott Baker (4-4, 4.48) squaring off against Derek Holland (2-0, 2.95).

After that, it's “West Coast Road Trip” time again, as the Twins begin a four-game series in Seattle on Monday. Personally, I love trips out west. With my second-shift schedule, it allows me to come home and catch most of the game. Plus, I still get that feeling like I'm staying up too late on a school night to catch the game, even though I'd regularly be staying up that late anyway! Whatever it is, I dig it, and that's what really matters!

Arizona Diamondbacks: The D'backs are 20-28, in last place in the AL West and 8.5 games behind the San Diego Padres.

Arizona has nearly the exact opposite record of the Twins. There's something very yin and yang about having your two favorite ball-clubs going in such opposite directions I suppose. But I doubt that's going to come as much relief for Arizona fans.

After a brief blip of hope last week (splitting with Florida, sweeping a two-gamer from the Giants and taking two of three against Toronto), Arizona went on the road and got broomed by the Rockies in Denver. And as usual, when the Diamondbacks get swept, they do it right, getting out-scored 18-7 by Colorado.

Included in the three-game debacle was yet another troubling start for Dan Haren. This time he went 6.1 innings, giving up 8 earned runs, four of which came back-to-back-to-back home runs by the Rockies in the seventh inning. That's now the fourth time this season that Haren's given up 5+ earned runs in a start. Not a good statistic for a guy that Arizona was counting on to be their anchor.

Some of Haren's rough start can be attributed to bad luck. There's a statistic called BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) that is often used to measure what kind of luck a pitcher's been having. Pitchers generally carry a BABIP around .300. If that number is noticeably higher, it means more batted-balls than usual are dropping in. If that number is noticeably lower, it means that a pitcher is getting more than his fair share of “at 'em” balls. For his career, Haren's BABIP (I really enjoy typing that for some reason) is .293, and he's never had a season above .317.

So far this season? Haren's BABIP is .337. That may not look like a huge statistical departure, but with BABIP, even ten points translates into a whole mess of base-runners. And for Haren, unfortunately, those base-runners have translated into runs.

I mean we're talking about a guy who's finished a full season (30+ starts) with an ERA over four exactly once in his career. And now in 2010 his ERA is a robust 5.35. Granted, that's only in 11 starts, so there's still time for him to figure things out. But if Arizona's going to climb out of the cellar this season, their best pitcher needs to be their best pitcher. So here's to hoping that Haren gets straightened out soon!

The “road trip of doom” continues this weekend in San Francisco. Tonight, Edwin Jackson (3-5, 6.28) takes the hill, opposing Matt Cain (2-4, 2.88). Tomorrow Billy Buckner (0-2, 9.00) takes the bump, facing Jonathan Sanchez (2-4. 3.00). Sunday, it's Ian Kennedy (3-3, 3.41) squaring off against Todd Wellemeyer (3-4, 5.36). So the good news is, the D'backs get to miss Tim Lincecum. The bad news is that Lincecum got lit in his last outing, so maybe this would've been a good time to face him. When you can't catch a break, you can't catch a break!

Then on Monday, it's the start of a 3-gamer in Los Angeles before the Snakes finally get a day off on Thursday.

That's going to wrap things up for this week. Again, no column on Monday. Enjoy the holiday. Stay safe. And take a few moments to remember why we get the day off.

I'll be back on Wednesday with some sort of nonsense and tom-foolery for you. Until then, thanks for reading!

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