Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Preaching Patience



"Beware the fury of a patient man!"
-John Dryden

If you had told me a few weeks ago, when I started this blog, that I would still be eagerly cheering for the Twins to reach the postseason, I never would have believed it.

If you had told me that the Twins rotation of Baker, Pavano, Blackburn, Manship and Duensing would be looking this solid I'd have rolled my eyes at you.

If you had told me a week ago that Joe Nathan and Matt Guerrier would implode today while the rest of our pitchers combined for a shutout, I'd scoff.

This was a horrible game, and I was so smug in the 9th. Even after the first home run I said that at least we knew he'd never give up two in an inning. I really hope no CSN cameras caught me because I probably looked like the most disillusioned and disheartened Twins fan they could find. Watching that second ball escape Span's reach I could hear Hawk Harrelson screaming in my head, "You can put it on the BOOOOOARRD!" and I wanted to hide.

I think the loss is primarily compounded by the fact that (A) we were one strike away from winning it, (B) our pitching was dominating them the entire game, and (C) we wanted to usher the White Sox out with a stiff boot instead of letting the parting image be something like this:
 You know what? Joe Nathan is still the best closer in baseball. Have we been spoiled to have someone so lock-down that we start harping on him because instead of matching his 1.33 ERA and 0.901 WHIP from last year he's spiked all the way up to a 1.71 ERA and 0.911 WHIP? How about how he's actually averaging several more K/9 innings and is 5 saves shy of breaking his total from last year?

Everyone goes through rough patches. Maybe he signed too many autographs pregame and his hand cramped -- if so, partially my fault and everyone else's along the line today. Ok, so because of this we're only 7-2 against the Sox at the Dome this year instead of 8-1. That is disappointing I know. And the fact that they're pretty much throwing in the towel on the season makes no difference? Trading away their biggest power threat for a minor league infielder in the middle of a "pennant race"? Oh, and I'm sorry, but if they lose 3 games to Boston at the Cell, how do they expect to fare at Fenway in a four game set coming up?

Listen, the Twins bullpen is stronger than it has been since Neshek left us. Crain seems to have found his form (or at least more so), Rauch has been delightful to watch, Mijares has matured into Rich Garces of the new era, and I think any team would be happy to have Nathan and Guerrier on it. We need to take our lumps and keep going, leave it to the White Sox fans to whine and cry, that's their job.

As Tertullian said, "To put it in a nutshell, every sin is traced back to impatience." This was one game. One which we seemed to have wrapped up, and that's what makes it hard. How about noticing how Kubel seems to have forgotten how he can't hit lefties and hit the ball with some authority off Buehrle today? Or how about how Mr. Olympiad Brian Duensing delivered again. Do you remember when people kept trying to talk about sending he and Humber off with Delmon for some super player to save the day? Those ideas were ridiculous. But, don't you think there are some teams salivating over Duensing now? Oh ye of little faith. Patience. Things will work out.

(The above is me preaching to myself essentially, maybe you weren't as disheartened as I, but I needed to reassure myself.)

I was trying to figure out what to write about this game all day and there's not much more to be said. Cuddyer made a beautiful catch that for some odd reason was overturned, and I still have no idea why. Maybe it's because Tim Tschida was on the field again? Who knows.
What I do know, is that Jay and I enjoyed some beautiful seats, literally right next to the Twins bullpen. Neither of us had the foresight to bring a camera, but thanks to Jay's iPhone we have some pictures and video:

TC High-Fiving the fans

TC stopping on his bike to wave.


Mijares signing autographs.

Some random kid displaying his Mijares signed ball.

The boys warming up.


Justin Morneau standing in during Duensing's warm-ups.

Nathan warming up.

Nathan warming up again.


Some fine footage of Jon Rauch, yes, he's HUGE.

As you can see, these seats were awesome. That, and Jose Mijares signing a ball to add to my collection somewhat counterbalanced the sad ending to the game. (Also the Leinenkugel's helped.)

Oh, and as I mentioned in my post yesterday, Betsy at For the Love of the Game took a ton of pictures from yesterday, so check them out! In the meantime, try to enjoy a day away from baseball as best you can. I'm going to spend mine at the State Fair with cheese curds and "beer on a stick".

4 comments:

  1. Yeah that was tough. I was following the game on MLB Game Day while at work. I thought about calling you when it was over, but figured you'd probably rather be alone.

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  2. Topper,

    I agree Joe Nathan is an outstanding elite closer in baseball but he always blows big games in very critical situations. He has blown 5 saves this year and in three of them he had two run leads. He blew one in N.Y. which turned what would have been a 5 game winning streak into the start of a 6 game slide. One in L.A. that the team really needed at the time, one against K.C. a week ago that was a joke, and of course the biggest disaster ever against the White sox at home.

    Let's also remember Nathan blew a playoff game in N.Y. in 2004 that would have put the Twins up 2-0 in the series coming back to the Metrodome. When it's a very big game he seems to choke a lot of times. Anybody can save a 3-2 game against the Mariners when there is no pressure. Nathan seems to implode in pressure situations.

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  3. Jack,

    Fair argument. I'll try to do some more research into this, I was thinking of doing a post on Twins Closers of all time so maybe this means I will.

    No doubt pressure plays an important part in affecting the pitcher's mindset, but I think the times when he blows saves in critical situations naturally stands out -- because his blown saves are so rare. I can think of 25 other closers who are definitely less of a certainty. And of those 5 that compete with him, I don't know that they're necessarily any better.

    Now, this is an aggregate stat for the whole team's bullpen, but check out the Blown Save stats for 2009 so far and see how far down Minnesota is compared to other teams.
    http://espn.go.com/mlb/stats/team/_/stat/pitching/sort/blownSaves/type/expanded/order/true
    There are 19 teams worse than them in this department, that's not bad.

    Also, check out this post on another blog I've been reading that kind of sums up how blown saves are really hitting all of baseball right now more frequently as opposed to just our team:
    http://passion4baseball.blogspot.com/2009/05/more-on-blown-saves.html

    Again though, I do think your theory of the high leverage situations have a definite impact on Nathan's mindset, so I'll try to do some more research into this for the future, but you've definitely got something there. I just think that he's still more reliable than most any closer out there so I'm going to cut him some slack, there are many other things I think we're worse off about on our team than the closer role.

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