With just under two weeks remaining in the 2009 MLB regular season, the Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers find themselves locked in a race to the finish line in the American League Central. As of today, the Tigers (82-71) have a two game lead on the Twins (80-73) with just nine games to play. Broken down, here are five reasons why the Twins have a very good chance to catch the Tigers and steal the AL Central.
Outside of the four game series the two teams will have starting on Sept. 28th, the Tigers will match up against the White Sox five more times, with two of those coming on the road and a three game home series to end the season. The Tigers are 7-6 against the White Sox this season but Chicago is sure to be up for these games. Ozzie Guillen always wants to play for something and since his team has been mathematically eliminated, this is like a mini-playoffs for him.
On the other side, the Twins will play five games against the Royals to close out the year. The twins have won eight of 13 games over the Royals this year, and while Kansas City will be trying to help Zach Greinke make his case for the AL Cy Young, there is clearly less for them to play for. Greinke will get two starts against the Twins to make things interesting, but the fact remains the Twins have an easier path.
While the Twins’ pitching staff has won more games (58) than the Tigers (57) have, it’s clear that the starting pitching edge still goes to the Tigers. However, baseball is a game of what have you done for me lately, and it’s clear that the Twins are rolling right now. In September, Minnesota pitching has sported a 3.53 ERA, good for third in the AL. On the other hand, Detroit’s September stats include a 4.66 ERA, which is ninth in the American League.
Justin Verlander, Edwin Jackson, and Rick Porcello make for an outstanding trio in the Tigers’ rotation and each will make two more starts before the year is over, but Jarrod Washburn’s status is up in the air and the back of the Tigers’ rotation is in question.
The Twins have stayed afloat with their starting pitching but their bullpen is what has really kept them close in the AL Central. Joe Nathan is as good as it gets in the ninth inning and the Twins bullpen ranks fifth in the AL in ERA from their bullpen. Minnesota has blown 15 saves this season compared to Detroit’s 23.
Baseball is a team game and it is hard for just one player to completely take over a game, but if there was one guy who was going to accomplish that, my pick would be Joe Mauer. The Minnesota catcher has been unbelievable this season after missing time to start the year, and is the number one reason the Twins are in position to creep up on the Tigers.
The All-Star has hit .378 in the month of September and, since Aug. 1st, has struck out just 15 times in 216 plate appearances. If the Twins are able to make the post season, Mauer has to be considered the front-runner for the AL MVP. Against Kansas City this year, Mauer is batting a gaudy .457 (21-46) with two home runs, ten RBI’s, and 11 walks. Look for him to have huge success the rest of the way as he leads the Twins down the stretch.
Head to Head Matchup
As important as the remaining schedule is for both teams, the fact of the matter is whoever comes out on top during the four game series is going to have the head up on the division. Three wins in the series means two games in the standings, while a four game sweep would mean four games in the standings and more than likely a division win for whoever completed the sweep.
This season, Minnesota has won nine of 14 matchups between the two teams and will look to add to that total. The series will take place in Detroit which has to help the Tigers who are 48-26 at home, while the Twins are just 35-40 on the road.
In the season series, the Tigers have won three of five games at home and are scheduled to have Porcello and Verlander get starts in the series. If the final game of the series is an important one (it more than likely will be), then the Tigers will have the option of bumping Edwin Jackson up a day and pitch in the series finale. For the Twins, all starters but the struggling Francisco Liriano will make starts.
So many times in baseball, the team playing better baseball at the end of the season will take down a team that has more talent. The Twins have gone 14-8 in September while the Tigers have gone 13-10. That difference is less than two games in the standings but for a team like the Twins who are chasing, it means everything. For the Tigers, every loss is another day they do not pick up more ground.
Detroit has played well in the season but Minnesota is now starting to play just that much better. Pressure is on both sides, but Minnesota is playing somewhat of a Cinderella-type role while the Tigers are trying not to choke away the season. Advantage: Minnesota.
The always interesting Major League Baseball trade deadline came and went at 3 p.m. central time today as some big names were added to contenders and stellar prospects will now call someplace else home. Since the Matt Holliday trade between the St. Louis Cardinals and Oakland Athletics, there have been ___ trades. While some of these deals can not fully be evaluated until it is seen how prospects pan out, we’ll go ahead and try to do it anyways.
Trade: (July 27th) Cleveland Indians trade Ryan Garko to the San Francisco Giants for Scott Barnes
Who Wins: The Indians officially began their firesale by shipping away their starting first baseman to the Giants who were in much need of a replacement for Travis Ishikawa. Garko gives the Giants a solid fifth hitter in the lineup as they make a run at the NL Wildcard this season. His contract is up at the end of the year but the Giants are expected to at least make an offer to him.
Barnes was 12-3 with a 2.85 ERA for Class A San Jose and was ranked by Baseball America as the Giants’ ninth best prospect in 2009. The lefty has an excellent changeup and projects to be a number three starter in the big leagues.
If Garko re-signs with the Giants it would be a great deal for the them but I believe Barnes can be something special. Still, the Giants got what they needed and take this deal by a small margin. WINNER: GIANTS
Trade: (July 28th) Boston Red Sox trade Mark Kotsay to the Chicago White Sox for Brian Anderson
Who Wins: It was clear that Brian Anderson’s time in Chicago was up as he had been optioned to Triple A and was not in the plans for the future of the White Sox.
He demanded a trade and was given his wish by trading places with the veteran Kotsay. Clearly the Red Sox felt as though they had enough outfield depth on the team and could spare Kotsay to pick up a potential player in Anderson.
Kotsay will be great off the bench for the White Sox as they make a run at the AL Central this year. WINNER: WHITE SOX
Trade: (July 29th) Seattle Mariners trade Wladimir Balentein to the Cincinnati Reds for Robert Manuel
Who Wins: Neither of these players project as much in the big leagues but give both teams some added depth at a few spots. Balentein has more Major League experience and has a better shot at contributing in the near future. WINNER: REDS
Trade: (July 29th) Seattle Mariners trade shortstop Ronny Cedeno, Jeff Clement, Ben Prebanic, Brett Lorin, and Nathan Adcock to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jack Wilson and Ian Snell
Who Wins: This is a very interesting trade for both squads because the Pirates were in a no-win situation with the two players they gave away. Wilson had already denied a contract extension with the team and Snell was very unhappy with his situation in Pittsburgh.
What they got in return was about as much as they could have asked for, including slugger Jeff Clement.
Cedeno was thrown in the deal because the Pirates will need to fill a void at shortstop but is hardly the long-term solution. Clement has a great bat but does not have a true position, seeing time at catcher and first base. He projected as a designated hitter but now will not have that chance in the National League. Pitcher Nathan Adcock sports a great curveball and could be a starter in the future.
Seattle is buying for the future and got one of the best defensive gloves in the game in Wilson, as well as a pitcher with a ton of skill in Snell. While the results have not been there, Snell has potential if he can stay focused and work on his problems.
It’s tough to say that the Pirates could have won this deal because they were dealing with two disgruntled players, so I’ll give this one to the M’s. WINNER: MARINERS
Trade: (July 29th) Pittsburgh Pirates trade Freddy Sanchez to the San Francisco Giants for Tim Alderson
Who Wins: Sanchez adds another much needed bat to the lineup and puts the Giants in great shape to find a spot in the National League playoffs. Along with Garko, Sanchez improves the offense with a .300+ batting average and some power to go around.
However, Alderson is showing a ton of potential and could be an outstanding pitcher in the near future. In three seasons of professional ball, he is 20-6 with an ERA just over three. He sports an excellent curveball and was projected to be a back-end starter in the outstanding Giants’ rotation that includes Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and number one prospect Madison Bumgarner.
Sanchez is a great hitter and an average fielder that puts the Giants in contention. The Pirates were in a no-win situation with Sanchez who, like Wilson, refused to sign a contract extension. What they got is a 20-year-old starter with a ton of potential. WINNER: PIRATES
Trade: (July 29th) Cleveland Indians trade Cliff Lee and Ben Francisco to the Philadelphia Phillies for Jason Knapp, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Donald, and Lou Marson
Who Wins: The Indians are clearly in selling mode and traded away their second straight Cy Young Award winner to the Philadelphia Phillies who are all of a sudden huge contenders in the National League.
What they got in exchange was a ton of young and talented players that are sure to make a splash in The Bigs in the future.
For the Phillies, they filled up their starting rotation by adding Lee, who is 9-7 this year with an even 3.00 ERA. He will go to a staff that was desparately looking for good pitching and becomes the ace.
They did not have to give up their two best pitching prospects in Kyle Drabek and J.A. Happ, which they would have if they had gone after Blue Jays pitcher Roy Halladay.
For the Indians, they get two very solid pitchers in Knapp and Corrasco as well as good position players in Donald and Marson. Baseball America ranked the Indians’ return players as the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 10th best players in the Phillies’ farm system.
Still, the Phillies become legitimate contenders with this move and win the deal as well. WINNER: PHILLIES
Trade: (July 30th) Baltimore Orioles trade George Sherill to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Josh Bell and Steve Johnson
Who Wins: The one knock on the team with the best record in baseball was that the bullpen was extremely shaky. Outside of Jonathon Broxton, no one really had the makings up someone you’d like to rely on late in games. Enter George Sherill and that is no longer the case.
Sherill gives the Dodgers a great 1-2 punch in the bullpen and they did not have to give up much to get it. Bell is a solid prospect at third base and projects to be a starter in the big leagues one day, but the Dodgers are completely in win-now mode and were going to do anything possible to pick up a reliever. WINNER: DODGERS
Trade: (July 30th) Pittsburgh Pirates trade Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow to the Chicago Cubs for Kevin Hart, Jose Ascanio, and Josh Harrison
Who Wins: This trade was probably one of the fairest deals of the deadline and it is hard to pick a winner.
For the Cubs’ sake, they received a much needed lefty arm out of the bullpen in Grabow. Gorzelanny had a great 2007 but has not showed much since and is pretty comparable to Hart.
The Pirates free up more cap room and get a decent young pitcher in Kevin Hart. Time is against him as he is already 26 years old, but if he can keep up his solid numbers he will be a steal.
Ascanio still has a lot to prove and Harrison was stuck behind Josh Vitters at third base in the minors so it isn’t a huge loss for the Cubs.
I’ll give the Cubs the win on the trade because it helps them right now (Grabow) and potentially in the future (Gorzelanny) but both sides come out on top here. WINNER: CUBS
Trade: (July 30th) Detroit Tigers trade Josh Anderson to the Kansas City Royals for cash considerations.
Who Wins: No, cash considerations is not a player on the Royals. This trade occurred to shore up a little bit of money before trading for pitcher Jarrod Washburn, so the Tigers make out well here.
The Royals get an average prospect in the outfield that has seen some at bats in the big leagues. For a team to not get a player in a trade makes it hard for them to win the trade, so the Royals get the nod here. WINNER: ROYALS
Trade: (July 31st) Seattle Mariners trade Jarrod Washburn to the Detroit Tigers for Luke French and Mauricio Robles
Who Wins: Both of the prospects that the Mariners received in return have pretty low ceilings and do not project as much in the future.
French is 23 years old and has not produced much, with a 35-43 record as a pro. Robles has more upside than French but is still a pretty big project as he is just in Single A.
Many Tigers fans seemed to be upset to have to part way with Robles, especially with Washburn being a three month rental. Washburn’s contract is up after this season so the Tigers are clearly making their run at the division right now.
If Robles becomes something big, the Mariners will have the advantage but for now it looks as though the Tigers came out on top. WINNER: TIGERS
Trade: (July 31st) Oakland Athletics trade Orlando Cabrera to the Minnesota Twins for Tyler Ladendorf
Who Wins: The Twins must feel that they are contenders in the AL Central by trading for a rental at shortstop in Cabrera. Batting .280 and playing solid defense, Cabrera will help the Twins fight for the top spot.
They gave up very little in Ladendorf who has potential but is struggling in Low A ball. I have always thought that Cabrera was underrated and believe the Twins come out big winners here, especially if they can pull off the upset of winning the Central. WINNER: TWINS
Trade: (July 31st) Milwaukee Brewers trade Vinny Rottino to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Claudio Vargas
Who Wins: Vargas was seeing very little action with the Dodgers but will now be thrown into a Brewers starting rotation that is badly looking for starters who can throw a lot of innings.
His second stint with the Brewers will hopefully see him throw those much-needed innings and keep the Brewers in contention in the NL Central.
Rottino was the starting catcher on Italy’s team in the World Baseball Classic, but at 29 years old was stuck in Double A. With Angel Solome considered to be the future of the Brewers behind the plate, Rottino was expendable.
Both teams made out well on this trade but it will definitely help the Brewers more. WINNER: BREWERS
Trade: Boston Red Sox trade Justin Masterson to the Cleveland Indians for Justin Masterson, Bryan Price, and Nick Hagadone
Who Wins: Martinez is a huge addition to the already powerful Red Sox and probably put them as the front-runners to win it all. He will play first base and enter a very dangerous lineup.
Martinez is signed for this year and has a club option for next year that will most surely be picked up. After that, the Red Sox will obviously have enough money to re-sign him and he should be the first baseman of the future.
He did not come cheap, however. Masterson is already Major League-ready and the other two prospects have a ton of upside.
Hagadone, when healthy, has great stuff and should see the Majors sometime soon. The one question mark is that he is coming off of Tommy John surgery and, as is always the case, he might not stay healthy.
Price is further away in terms of progress but is also younger.
Martinez was sad to leave Cleveland but all the wins he will soon rack up in Boston should put a smile back on his face. Huge win for the Bo Sox. WINNER: RED SOX
Trade: (July 31st) Cincinnati Reds trade Jerry Hairston Jr. to the New York Yankees for Chase Weems
Who Wins: I researched Weems and he does not seem to be a huge talent and Hairston Jr. will provide some good outfield depth and is a good bat off the bench.
He has never been much in the field but has a little bit of pop in his bat. For the Reds, they get rid of some cap room and have a young catcher in the minors potentially for the future. WINNER: YANKEES
Trade: (July 31st) Boston Red Sox trade Adam LaRoche to the Atlanta Braves for Casey Kotchman
Who Wins: I am having trouble figuring out why the Braves would want any piece of this deal. Kotchman is four years younger than LaRoche and has a ton more upside. Past that, he is playing better baseball at this point and is the better player.
The Red Sox somehow dumped a player and got better. For the Braves, they get LaRoche for the second time and now have a decent glove and a power bat to compliment Chipper Jones.
In the end, Kotchman has a ton of upside and is only getting better. WINNER: RED SOX
Trade: (July 31st) Washington Nationals Joe Beimel to the Colorado Rockies for Ryan Matheus and Robinson Fabian
Who Wins: Beimel will help the bullpen out for a Rockies team that feels as though they have a legitimate shot at winning the wild card this season.
For the Nats, it’s more prospects that are more than likely going to fade out. Neither have a ton of upside and do not project as big leaguers. WINNER: ROCKIES
Trade: (July 31st) Cincinnati Reds trade Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Roenicke and Zach Stewart to the Toronto Blue Jays for Scott Rolen
Who Wins: I am a little confused by this deal as Encarnacion is really coming into his own as a big leaguer right now. His stats do not really tell the story, but he is batting .276 in July after coming back from injury.
The Reds are not contenders for anything this year and would have been wise to keep Encarnacion around for a while.
Rolen is having a pretty good year both with the bat and, as always, in the field.
The two prospects that the Reds gave up are both big league material, so this trade is a tad bit confusing. WINNER: BLUE JAYS
Trade: (July 31st) San Diego Padres trade Jake Peavy to the Chicago White Sox for Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richard, Adam Russell, and Dexter Carter
Who Wins: Poreda and Richard are two very highly-rated prospects and Richard has already burst on to the scene. Both are young and talented and should be in the Padres’ rotation for quite some time.
Russell and Carter also have some upside, so it was a lot to give up for the White Sox.
However, if they truly believe that they received one of the best five pitchers in the game today (which I do), then it was the right trade to make.
Peavy will be making boatloads of money over the next five years but the White Sox have a lot of money to spend. He will anchor the rotation and move Mark Buehrle back to the number two spot, with Gavin Floyd going third.
Kenny Williams always seems to be making deals, and this one is a huge one, but I believe he made out good on this deal. Peavy had been stuck with a terrible offense for so long but will now get the chance to truly shine.
Poreda and Richard have superstar potential, but any time a talent like Peavy is being dangled in front of you, it’s hard to pass up on it. WINNER: WHITE SOX
Just feeling a quick blog tonight after coming out of my state of shock that Trevor Hoffman is indeed human. Here’s my current power rankings for the MLB as of tonight with a sentence on each squad.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (42-22): Unbelievably, this team has not missed a step after losing slugger Manny Ramirez and is easily the best team in baseball right now.
2. Boston Red Sox (38-25): Their dominance over the Yankees has pushed them into first place in the AL East and David Ortiz is slowly coming around.
3. New York Yankees (36-27): Mark Tiexiera and C.C. Sabathia are finally making good on the huge contracts they signed last off-season.
4. Philadelphia Phillies (36-25): Raul Ibanez has been fantastic and their 23-9 record away from home is unbelievable.
5. Texas Rangers (35-27): Nelson Cruz has been fantastic this year and the Rangers are more than staying alive without Josh Hamilton…so far.
6. Detroit Tigers (34-29): Edwin Jackson looks like the real deal and the Tigers are atop the competitive AL Central.
7. St. Louis Cardinals (34-30): When their rotation is pitching well, they are the best team in the NL Central.
8. Milwaukee Brewers (34-29): Their current rotation is not going to do enough damage to win the division and the bullpen is starting to come back down to earth.
9. San Francisco Giants (34-28): If it weren’t for the Dodgers, we would be talking about the Giants much more.
10. Tampa Bay Rays (34-31): Evan Longoria is keeping the Rays alive but they need to start playing better in close games.