Sunday, September 20, 2009

3 Things to be Thankful For

To be completely honest, it was a major let-down to not sweep the Tigers this weekend. That would have effectively put the nail in the coffin despite the fact that we still would have been 1 game behind. Regardless, a series win is a series win, and the Twins could have done a lot worse. 

What did this show Bill Smith, however? No clue. At times the Twins were firing on all cylinders, and at other times they looked utterly futile. I think it's safe to say that no reinforcements will be coming of any kind, and the current roster will have to continue to exceed expectations these next two weeks for us to have any chance. If you haven't yet read this article at Twins Fix though, do so and it will give you an interesting take on why we can take heart in the product we're currently putting on the field.

Still, this weekend showed us at least three things that we can take away and be thankful for going down the stretch:

1. Brian Duensing is amazing.
I don't know if anyone remembers this, but Duensing was essentially given up on earlier this year by everyone following this team. He did OK in Spring Training and made the team out of the bullpen due to the fact that Scott Baker needed some time to rehab from an injury. During his cup-of-coffee in the bigs at the beginning of the year he made a lone appearance against the White Sox in Chicago, where he pitched three innings and gave up two runs (via homer). He didn't see any more action with the big league club until July.

After a handful of appearances out of the pen to start July, he was forced to make a spot start against the White Sox (thanks to Glen Perkins and the omnipresent "shoulder injury"), where he pitched 5 solid innings to earn a no decision, although the Twins got a much needed win later in the game.

Due to all the upheaval in our starting pitching, Duensing finally joined the rotation full-time on August 22 in Kansas City, and since then he's rattled off 4 wins over 6 starts, lasting 7 innings in half of those starts, and blanking the A's over 7 innings and the Tigers over 6.1 innings in his past two.

Most likely, all the attention going into Friday night's game was focused on Porcello and the solid rookie season he's put together, but Duensing deserves special recognition for being so dependable after nearly being written off by an entire fan base. 

Some might forget that Duensing was actually selected to the Olympic team in Beijing to represent the United States, and although he only played in one game (out of the pen), he pitched 3.1 scoreless frames for the win against Canada.
It's hard to tell if his rockstar performance will continue for the duration (or into next year), but who would have predicted Denard Span to defy his minor league career numbers and become one of our most dependable players? Duensing's peripherals don't indicate that he's winning by smoke and mirrors -- his good numbers have been legitimate (and consequently I've added him to my fantasy roster for the final week just to try to capture some of this magic...)

2. Michael Cuddyer is a beast.
Michael Cuddyer's defensive and offensive proficiency while in the infield has always been a huge concern; thus his move to right field where he flourished. I'll admit, when I heard that Morneau was out for the season and Brock Peterson was not joining the team, I figured Cuddyer at 1B spelled doom for our chances. In truth, he's been more than adequate and I'll gently remove my foot from my mouth and take this opportunity to apologize for anything negative I've said about him.

Cuddyer is the glue holding this team together, and it's not just the magic tricks:

In fact, in the past 7 days he's hit .350/.350/1.050 with 4 HR and 11 RBI. Those are Mauer-like numbers. Those are Pujols-like numbers. Those are better than anything that even Morneau has shown us for a stretch in September.

Not to hype up my fantasy team, but I got a text in the middle of a game this weekend from the person I'm facing in the semi-finals, and he was clearly in awe of the numbers that Cuddyer's been posting (for my fantasy team...) this past week. He's turning heads, and at the right time of the season too. Perhaps it's because he was rewarded with his favorite candy.
For all the concentration Mauer, Morneau and Kubel get for this offense, Cuddyer is easily overlooked, including by me, and I'm glad he's finally enjoying the spotlight.

3. At least we're not the Tigers.

Yeah, OK, so they're in first place. I've seen this before. The Twins are clearly playing the best baseball of their season and they've saved it for the right time. The Tigers are struggling and scraping for every win right now, and I can't point to anyone on their team who I think will carry them to the post-season.

Sure, Ordonez has been doing well recently. Miguel Cabrera has been putting up typical numbers for himself as well. Verlander is as dominant as ever. But Ordonez and Cabrera were kept relatively silent this weekend, and the Twins eventually got to Verlander before he left on Saturday as well. The Twins are still 9-5 against the Tigers this year, and if you watch either of these teams play you can tell that the Twins are clicking and the Tigers look like they're struggling to stay relevant.

In some sense, for inconsistent and underperforming teams like the AL Central, it might almost be better to have something to chase after than to have something to hold on to, and as long as the Twins are still gaining ground, I think they have the upper hand.


  1. Cuddy is a rock star, plan and simple. I think a lot of people look down on him after the poor season he had last year with injuries.