Going In, In Brief
This is what happens with a young, upstart team. Over a long weekend, the Twins (20-20) took three of four from Goliath Boston, on the plains of war in Boston, and then drop three in a row to a very mediocre team in the Toronto Blue Jays. Sure, getting swept by an inferior team is part of baseball, but it's far more likely this is a sign of inconsistency from a young team than it's a sign of the baseball gods playing their usual hijinx. And as easy as it is to blame one guy or one play, the truth is that the three consecutive defeats were results of a number of things: bad calls, bad judgement, bad plays, bad pitch selection, bad location. Changing any insignificant detail at any random point in the game could have changed decisions in future innings, and the outcome of the game as a whole. As tempting as it is to point at one moment, and declare that instant the instant where the game was lost, the hard truth to swallow is that the Twins are a mediocre team right now, and these things are going to happen.
On the other hand, the Rockies (15-26) are another team that, in many ways, is inferior to Minnesota. I have to admit I was cheering for them last October, but they havn't exactly picked up where they left off. Their pitching stinks, and outside of the Atkins/Holliday/Helton triumverate are having a hard time finding consistent offense of their own. This has to be a bit disappointing for a team who's invested in their hitters: with a rating of 109 this season, Coor's Field is a major hitter's park to this point. In spite of The Humidor. This could be a great platform for some of our own struggling hitters to break out of season-long power outages.
Nick Blackburn VS Ubaldo Jimenez
Livan Hernandez VS Greg Reynolds
Kevin Slowey VS Jeff Francis
Ubaldo Jimenez: This 24-year old right hander has seen bits of the majors since 2006, but this is the year where it looks like he'll have the entire season to prove what he can do. He strikes out roughly 1/3 fewer hitters at home, reducing his walk-to-strikeout rate to 1:1. Then again, this will only be his third home start of the year. Anyway, he's nothing stellar, but he has decent stuff, can strike a few guys out, but if things go according to his history this season the Twins will chase him before he completes six. His fastball clocks in 96-98, while he's been known to tag 100 from time to time. If his curveball can find any bite in the Colorado air, it's his most effective pitch.
Greg Reynolds: Reynolds is 22, and getting his first stint in The Bigs. His first start was just five days ago, where he went 5.2 innings in San Diego; 6 hits, 2 homers, 4 runs, two walks and a strikeout. The Rockies have scuttled him right along, hitting pit stops in high-A ball in '06, double-A in '07 and a few starts in triple-A this spring before debuting with Colorado. In the minors he was a ground-ball pitcher with decent command, although not necessarily impressive in striking guys out. In San Diego, his fastball started out 92-94, but was 90-92 by the time he left the game. He's mainly fastball-changeup-curve, but mixed in a few sliders against the Padres.
Jeff Francis: Okay, here's a guy we recognize. Francis is 27, and has spent his entire major league career with the Rockies. I sincerely believe that if he were anywhere else, he'd easily be a popular second-tier ace; not Johan Santana, but on the next level. At any rate, at his best he boasts a good fastball (89-91 mph) which is offset by what can be an achingly slow curveball (70-74) with some great movement. Because of his movement, his likes to pitch low-and-away to right-handed hitters, and will challenge left-handed hitters down-and-in. When he gets himself in a groove, he'd rather walk you than give you something to hit (or at least it looks like it).
Clint Barmes: Barmes has done an excellent job stepping in for the injured Troy Tulowitzki, and with a sizzling line of .340/.382/.515 is posting some very un-Barmes like numbers. He debuted with the Rockies in '05 at age-26, and hit well, but he struggled in full-time action in '06 and really hasn't had another opportunity to play regularly until now thanks to Tulowitzki's blistering '07 campaign. If he keeps this up, the Rockies will have a very pleasant problem on their hands of how to keep him in the lineup.
Brad Hawpe: Hawpe isn't the same player on the road (.663 OPS, 52% GB, 14% LD) as he is at home (.910 OPS, 31% GB, 31% LD). Since we're playing in Colorado, when he steps to the plate, put on your face mask if you're in the stands. Do it if you're watching on television too, just to be safe.
Ryan Spilborghs: Spilborghs looks like the classic platoon guy (31 games, only 68 at-bats, .309/.380/.471), and it looks like the Rockies think so too. He's getting 76% of his at-bats against right-handed pitchers. But, small sample sizes or not, he's posting an .818 OPS versus RHP and a .975 mark versus southpaws. If they're platooning him, maybe it should be based on where the Rockies are playing: .364/.375/.636 at home, .261/.364/.370 on the road. (But even that looks good next to the .588 OPS Willy Taveras is putting up.)
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