About Nathan Aakre

I was born in NW Minnesota in the early 1980's. Through high school I competed in every sport time would allow, and continue to try to keep my slow-pitch softball and pick-up basketball dreams alive. I've been a Minnesota Twins fan (along with any other Minnesota sports team) as long as I can remember, and live and die with the wins and losses for 162 different days every summer.

Andrew Albers: Here to Stay?

Last night in Kansas City, Twins fans came 2 outs away from seeing something we haven’t seen once this year from the starting rotation: a complete game shutout. In fact we haven’t even witnessed a complete game yet, much less a shutout from a starter. Canadian Andrew Albers made his major league debut firing fastballs in at a high of 88.6 MPH, and dropping in curve balls as slow as 67.7 MPH. Jamie Moyer I’m sure was proud as Albers diced up a hot Royals lineup to the tune of 8.1 IP, 4 hits, 1 walk, and just 2 strike outs. After a season-high 109 pitches and a 4-pitch walk to put men on 1st and 2nd in the 9th, Ron Gardenhire decided to pull the plug in favor of Casey Fien, thus ending the complete game shutout bid. The question now is: Are 8.1 innings of shutout baseball against a .500 team anything to get excited about for the future of this pitching staff?

In his 5th year of professional baseball, Albers finally made it to the AAA level to start this season in Rochester. He pitched a grand total of 395.2 innings in the minors before making his major league debut last night, and only became a full-time starter last season at AA New Britain. This season he is 11-5 at Rochester, with a stellar 2.86 ERA in 132.1 innings. He’s pitched 3 complete games in 22 starts, and finished at least the 6th inning in 15 of those starts. He’s given up more than 3 ER in only 5 of those starts as well, and even struck out a season-high 10 batters in just 6 innings back on July 13th with that Moyer-like heat. Continue reading

Target Field: A Little More Spacious in 2013

When it comes to sports in general, I would consider myself fairly “old-fashioned” for my age. I’m not a fan of the 2-back rotation in the NFL; I wish there were more teams in NCAA football running the veer option; I prefer college basketball over the NBA because it’s more team-oriented as opposed to superstars; I don’t mind retaliatory chin-music; and I don’t think fighting should ever be outlawed in the NHL. One reason I love baseball over any other sport (other than it was my favorite sport to play growing up) is the history. You can go back 100 years and compare what Ty Cobb did in his career to what Ken Griffey┬ádid during his. Home runs will always be home runs, batting average will always be batting average, and a Triple Crown will always be a Triple Crown (in baseball and horse racing, I guess). This is why, when it comes to the new wave – I say new, but they’ve been around for years now – of baseball statistics, I still meet it with a little hesitance and resistance.

One area that I do find really interesting, however, is in the defensive department. Stats like Range Rating, Arm Rating, and Ultimate Zone Rating can give you a sense as to whether or not your eyes are telling you the truth when judging defensive ability. By using cameras, calculators, fax machines, and probably some other really cool gadgets; they can now track how far a player ran to make a catch and how fast he got there, or how great of a throw an outfielder made compared to the average player. It’s pretty crazy stuff, and I’ll probably never really understand it; but in the end it spits out statistics that my brain can comprehend in terms of how many runs a player saved or gave up because he was better or worse than the average baseball player.

There. Now that I’ve explained my very amateur statistical vantage point, I can tell you why that was even necessary. Continue reading

Could These Twins Be Competitive After All?

Since absorbing a 10-game losing streak through the middle of May, the Twins have bounced back to win 7 of their last 9, and 6 of their last 7 games. This past week alone, they’ve made up 4 games in the division to pull within 4.5 games of the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers, and passed both the Royals and White Sox into third place in the division. In 5 of those 6 victories, the starting pitcher made it through at least 6 innings (Scott Diamond was the only one that didn’t); and although they haven’t been dominating, they’ve given the lineup an opportunity to stay in the game and start to heat up. With this surge, I wonder if the Twins might just be competitive in 2013 after all.

Terry Ryan and Company have dodged questions all year about whether this season is a rebuilding season or not, as most fans and experts assumed that it was. With the club 1/3 through the season and on pace for 75 wins now, it’s realistic to say now that with a few bounces in the right direction, this team could actually play some meaningful September baseball. Here are a few things that absolutely need to happen in order for a late push for a playoff spot to occur: Continue reading

Lineup Full of Underachievers

Through 50 games in the 2013 season, the Twins are sitting on just 22 wins despite winning 4 of their last 5 against Detroit and Milwaukee. At this pace they will finish the season right at 70 wins, which is exactly in the region the odds-makers predicted two months ago. The starting rotation has performed about as expected – below average – and defensively they’ve been ok – as expected. The biggest area they haven’t performed as expected is offensively. Let’s take this as a good sign that this team could still improve to exceed that 70 win total and inch toward that .500 mark or better by season’s end.

As a team, the Twins currently sit 10th in the American League in runs scored per game (4.28), 14th in home runs (42 – only ahead of the Royals who have hit just 28), 13th in stolen bases (20), 14th in hits (413), 14th in batting average (.240), 11th in on-base percentage (.313), last in slugging percentage (.373), and 14th in OPS (.686 – thanks to the White Sox .293 OBP). In a lineup filled with names like Mauer, Morneau, Willingham, Doumit, and Plouffe; offense should not be an area needing improvement. Over the course of a 162 game baseball season, however, statistical trends tend to point toward the norm by the end of the season. This is very good news for a struggling offense on a Twins team that, despite their struggles, is only 6.5 games behind the AL Central leading Detroit Tigers. Continue reading

Twins Starters Putting the Pressure On

In 2010, the inaugural season at Target Field, Carl Pavano started 32 games for the AL Central Champion Minnesota Twins. Pavano went 17-11 with a 3.75 ERA, including a league-leading 7 complete games. That season, Pavano pitched at least 6 innings 27 out of 32 starts, and completed less than 5 innings just 3 times. He lived up to his “Bulldog” nickname and mentality about as well as any pitcher in recent memory that year – outside of guys like Roy Halladay and his 67 career complete games. That same season Halladay started 33 games, completed 9, threw 250.2 innings, and completed less than 6 innings just once – and that game he went 5.2 innings. Pavano also had a sweet mustache…

After a surprisingly rock-solid start by the rotation in April this season, the month of May has been a completely different story for this pitching staff. In 23 games in April, the rotation threw 5.37 innings per start, gave up just 12 home runs (2nd only to the Tigers starters, who gave up only 7), walked a league-low 28 batters, and held a moderately decent 4.88 ERA – good for 10th among AL starting rotations. In 18 May games, Twins starters have averaged 5.20 innings/start, given up 17 home runs, walked another league-best 25 batters, but yielded a league-worst 6.15 ERA. Continue reading

Living Below the Mendoza Line

Due to the weather warming up, summer-time wedding season alive and kicking, the birth of a new wiffle ball league in Fargo-Moorhead, and my wife and I planting our very first garden; I wasn’t able to see too much of the Red Sox series over this past weekend. Apparently I didn’t miss much, as the Bostonians completed the three-game sweep of the Twins, outscoring the home team 20-8 in the process. This was especially disappointing after the Twins took three out of four just over a week earlier in Boston, outscoring the Sox 31-18 in the four-game series. Obviously, Boston has a pretty good team put together, so these rough patches are going to happen over the course of a year; but despite a somewhat torrid scoring pace in May, the Twins lineup has been surprisingly most disappointing.

Josh Willingham – Credit: Jesse Johnson/USA Today sports

One of our favorite followers pointed out last night via Twitter that none of the Twins starting outfielders are currently hitting above .200 – it’s 40 games (25%) into the season, for frame of reference. Statistics should begin to balance themselves out to the norm this far into the season. A week or so ago I wrote about how Oswaldo Arcia might be the one player they can send back down to AAA when Darin Mastroianni comes back (which isn’t going to happen for a while now). Arcia, however, might be the only MLB-caliber hitter in the entire outfield we’re now realizing, and would be the last outfielder I’d send down if I’m Terry Ryan. Of course, Josh Willingham‘s proven track record suggests that he’ll eventually come around, but Aaron Hicks and Chris Parmelee are putting together Drew Butera-type seasons offensively so far in 2013. Continue reading

Laying in the Weeds

Through 35 games, not many of us Twins fans expected the team to be a game over .500 at 18-17. Just following the team, watching games, and not looking too far into numbers, I’ve been encouraged by the starting rotation. It seems like the Twins are always in the game, and that it’s been the lineup that has let them down from time to time – a lineup with somewhat high expectations. Taking even a quick look at the numbers, the eye test has thrown me off in this case.

The Twins pitching staff currently sits 11th in the American League in ERA with a total of 4.21. The staff is giving up 10.2 hits/9 innings right now, which is good for 14th in the AL – only the Houston Astros are worse. They have given up the fewest walks/9 at 2.4, but also the fewest K’s/9 at 5.8. The Twins have just 1 team shutout, which ties them for the fewest with Toronto and Houston. All of these stats include the great things the bullpen has done to bring up a lot of the team’s rankings. Continue reading

Odd Man Out

At some point here in the month of May, backup outfielder Darin Mastroianni should come off the disabled list after injuring his ankle during Spring Training. Although not an everyday player even when healthy, one would think that he will find himself once again on the 25-man roster when activated. Mastroianni is an ideal 4th or 5th outfielder on just about any Major League roster with his versatility in the field, speed, and above average base-running abilities. When he returns, it will be interesting to see who makes the trek back to Rochester.

When Mastroianni hit the Disabled List three weeks ago, 21 year old top-prospect Oswaldo Arcia – who was tearing apart AAA pitching – got the call to take his place and play every day. Arcia currently sports a 5 game hitting streak heading into Game 2 of the four game series in Boston, and his average has climbed to a respectable .255. Only Joe Mauer has a higher average (.291) and as many at bats as Arcia on the Twins roster. Like most young players, he’s struggled to keep his strike out totals down, with 17 K’s in 59 plate appearances – 6 K’s in the last two games. He has hit 2 home runs, 3 doubles, and driven in 8 runs during his three weeks in Minnesota. Continue reading

Joe Mauer: 23 K’s and Counting

Since April 20th, Twins catcher Joe Mauer has seen his average drop 107 points from .393 all the way down to .286 after this afternoon’s 1-2 performance against the Indians. Despite his struggles, he still has his OBP up at .364, which would be lower than every season in his career except in 2011 when he finished at .360. His .286 average is lower than any season total in his 10 year Major League career. The most alarming statistic resulting from his slow start is his strike out rate, which is currently at 5.13 PA/K. In his worst season (2012) for strike outs, Mauer struck out 88 times, once every 7.28 plate appearances.

I decided to go through each of Mauer’s 23 strike outs to try and figure out what’s going on with the 3-time AL batting champ. Here are a few interesting observations from those 23 at bats. Continue reading

Dozier’s Climb to the Top

When Aaron Hicks struggled through the first couple weeks of his MLB career, the options for finding the next leadoff hitter seemed slim to none. Manager Ron Gardenhire had a couple light-hitting middle infielders, a handful of slow-footed corner infielder’s and outfielders, and a three-time batting champ in his catcher Joe Mauer to choose from. At the time, in my mind I thought Mauer might be the most logical choice, mainly because he sees so many pitches, and is by far the most efficient Twins hitter at just getting on base. Gardenhire did not in fact go with his talented catcher, he decided to go with one of his light-hitting middle infielders.

At the time it was April 13th, the Twins were 3-6 after a four-game losing streak against the Royals and the Mets. Converted second baseman Brian Dozier hit .161 through those first nine games, struck out 9 times, and walked just twice. After struggling through much of his rookie season in 2012 before being sent back down to Rochester in August, Dozier seemed like possibly the most illogical candidate to place at the top of the lineup in front of Mauer, Josh Willingham, and Justin Morneau. Continue reading