Bottom of the Ninth

This writer's season might be over. But what a season it was!

I challenge you to find another pundit with a better batting average. As they say, it ain't bragging if you can back it up. Believe me, though; I'm as surprised as you are by my foresight.

I didn't do too badly when it came to the Twins offense, either. Let's take a look at what I saw when I looked into the crystal ball back in April:

I know a lot of people think the Twins need breakout years from Corey Koskie and Doug Mientkiewicz if they're going to have any chance to improve on last year's surprising success. It might be heretical to say so, but I think the team will get by just fine even if Koskie and Mientkiewicz struggle at the plate, just as long as they continue to anchor the infield defense. It wouldn't surprise me in the least if Koskie and Mientkiewicz combined don't equal Koskie's power numbers from last season, and the Twins still runaway with the division. From what I can see, there are plenty of unsung guys on this roster who can pick up the offensive slack. Torii Hunter and Jacque Jones should put up decent power numbers, and I'd be comfortable with any one of the Twins promising youngsters in right field. I don't expect, however, that Buck Buchanan is the answer, and by June we should get a chance to see what Bobby Kielty, Dustan Mohr, and Michael Cuddyer can do--and I fully expect them to do plenty. If A.J. Pierzynski continues to develop as I expect him to, he's got a chance to be an All-Star. This year. Go ahead and call me crazy.

All right, so I was wrong about Cuddyer, but all in all not a bad bit of prognostication, if you don't mind my saying. It's been a nice run, come what may. I have no idea where I'll be next week at this time, but I don't suppose it's a good sign that a locksmith is lurking out in the hallway as I type these final words. Don't worry about me, though. It's a big country; I'll find a ballgame.

 

NOTES:

 

The Twins bullpen leads the American League with 441-and-a-third innings pitched; the only other teams with over 400 relief innings, Toronto and Kansas City, have losing records. Only Cincinnati in the National League has more innings out of their bullpen.

Thank God for the unbalanced schedule. The Twins are now 14-5 against Kansas City and 38-19 versus Central Division opponents. They're 0-6 against the Yankees, and 1-5 versus Baltimore. New York has also feasted on the Central, going 22-4; Oakland is 23-8 against Central Division teams.

Other random, ridiculous numbers: the Twins are 49-27 on artificial turf, and 29-27 on grass; they're 58-34 at night, and 20-20 in day games. Go figure. They've beat-up on right-handed pitching (62-32), while continuing to struggle against lefties (16-22).

Koskie has been woeful in August, batting just .167, with no homeruns and a .194 slugging percentage. Hunter has been almost as bad, hitting .218 with no homers and six RBI. Koskie had hit just one homerun since the All-Star break; Hunter has four, and after his blistering first-half may have trouble reaching last year's numbers (27 home runs, 92 RBIs). The Twins pitching has actually gotten better as the season has progressed; their post All-Star ERA is now 3.67 (Lohse has a 2.87 ERA since the break; Rick Reed is 6-1 with a 3.12 ERA). The argument at this point is who is the team's MVP? Offensively, I'd have to begrudgingly say it's Jacque Jones, and it you're going to pick a pitcher it'd have to be one of the bullpen guys at this point, either Romero or Guardado.

 

Brad Zellar goes Yard every Tuesday morning--and perhaps more often--for as long as he (and the Twins) are up to it.

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