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1-1, Game Notes

You could make the argument that blown saves shouldn't hurt as much as they do. At its heart, baseball is a game in which the victor is the team that scores the most runs in nine (or more) innings, and it shouldn't matter if you lose on runs scored in the first or runs scored in the ninth - getting outscored is getting outscored, and a loss is a loss. Leading in the middle doesn't mean anything; what matters is leading at the end. According to this approach, no individual losses should stand out, as they ought all be equally unpleasant.

And yet this isn't how it works in practice. Why? The sinister beast named Win Probability, who seems to lurk in every shadow waiting to remind you that your life sucks and everyone else's is better. Being that I don't know what else to do, my recommended course of action is to lure the beast in with another save situation, capture it with lassos, and burn it on a stake. I can't be 100% certain but I'm pretty sure pulling this off would spare us from ever having to feel like we do right now ever again. Suck it, math.

  • All most people are going to remember about tonight is the way it ended, but that's not fair to Erik Bedard, who came in with something to prove and left having pitched better than we ever could've hoped. Yeah, he only completed five innings, but he was on a pitch count without which he probably could've done six. And those were five solid innings. The vital numbers:

    66% strikes
    13% swinging strikes (+four foul tips)
    54% groundballs
    91mph average fastball
    77mph average curveball

    While, again, the Twins didn't offer much of a lineup, both of Bedard's primary pitches looked good, as he was locating everything and getting some really good break on his curve. Several times he buried it down and in to righties to get swinging strikes. A lot of pitches don't like using a breaking ball with that much horizontal movement against opposite-handed hitters, but when Bedard's going well, he's both comfortable and - more importantly - effective doing what he does. He definitely had everything working today.

    Based on his performance, Erik Bedard looks to be healthy and ready to contribute an awful lot of value to this pitching staff. We'll have to see if he can stay on the field, and there's no way of knowing how many good starts will get wasted by the bullpen, but as of this writing, Bedard looks an awful lot like the guy we traded for. That can only be considered encouraging news.

  • Did Bedard get screwed by that call in the fifth? Technically yes. His pitch caught all of the plate and came in an inch and a half below the upper border of the strike zone, and according to the rulebook, that means it should be called a strike 100% of the time. But realistically speaking, when you get that close to the border, you're going to end up dealing with probability, and when you're dealing with probability, sometimes you're going to get jobbed. That's just the nature of subjective rule enforcement. It sucks that things turned out the way they did, but baseball's never had a perfect strike zone and it probably never will until the robots rule the Earth, so this is just something we have to deal with. I'll save my outrage for blown calls on the bases. It's worth noting that we had one of those go in our favor.

  • On the sixth pitch of Franklin Gutierrez's first inning at bat, with Endy Chavez threatening to run, Twins catcher Jose Morales stood up almost immediately after the pitch was thrown and pumpfaked to second base. The only problem was that Gutierrez had hit the pitch deep into right field. I don't think many baserunners are going to fall for that one.

  • Speaking of Gutierrez, he continued to display a pretty good idea of the strike zone, and his two hits were a line drive up the middle and a fly ball to right. Considering that patience and an ability to spray the ball will be integral to his finding a way to succeed in Safeco, this was a pretty strong game. While the outcome of this game was a pile of crap, the fact that Gutierrez and Bedard both look good in the early going has the potential to mean so so much going forward.

  • It's almost comical how shallow the Twins' defense has played Endy Chavez so far. Not that I can blame them, but it's almost like his little fake bunt attempts are pushing them back. Minnesota's treating his offense like you treat the kid who got polio somehow in kickball.

  • Russ Branyan hasn't played much first base in a long, long time, and it kind of showed through in the first inning, when he fielded a groundball with a man on first base and went to the bag instead of throwing down to second to get the lead runner. Mind you, the lead runner was exceptionally fast, but Branyan still made the ultra-conservative decision instead of what I imagine was the right one. It didn't end up mattering, but I'm guessing it's something the coaching staff will talk to him about. A defender has to have the confidence that he can make difficult plays. 

  • Early on, Justin Morneau hit a sharp fly ball to left center field. Gutierrez glided over to make the play while Chavez raced over to back him up. It didn't really occur to me until then that, on any fly ball with a moderate amount of hang time, we aren't going to have a gap. Anywhere, once Ichiro gets better. To everyone who said "you guys are going to like watching Griffey more than you think" - you guys are going to like watching this outfield defense more than you think. Maybe it's only because I so vividly remember what we're coming from, but watching those guys dart around makes me smile without realizing that I'm smiling.

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  • Compared to Gameday and PITCHf/x, the Metrodome radar gun has pretty consistently been high by one to even four miles per hour. I wonder if this is how they keep fans from realizing that Francisco Liriano isn't what he used to be. Hey Jarrod, come Thursday you may actually have a Major League fastball!

  • Yuniesky Betancourt hasn't changed his offensive approach. That much seems evident. However, this is the same approach he's always had, even when we were high on him as a player, so whatever, we'll deal with it. What we really want to see him change is his athleticism, and with that in mind he had a damn fine game. On two occasions he was aggressive on the basepaths, stealing second and also stretching from first on a throw, and then later he did this on a ball hit by Nick Punto:
    If there's any salvaging what we have in Yuni, it'll be because he turned back time and recovered some of his old agility. Today was a step in the right direction. 

  • The Twins were making some decent contact off of Corcoran and Aardsma in the later innings, so it's funny that they pretty much wound up winning on walks. Not so much joke-funny as somebody-shot-me-in-the-nards-with-a-crossbow-funny, but still funny. Morrow...yeah, I don't know what we could've realistically been expecting. There's a reason the team was thinking about letting him get some work in in lower-leverage situations (or Tacoma) before bumping him to closer. He didn't have a full Spring Training and he's still very clearly working out some kinks. He threw some good pitches, including a dynamite strikeout slider to Joe Crede, but when he lost it, it was like there was no getting it back. It might be a little while before he's straightened out. I guess the silver lining is that this will relieve any pressure he might've felt to match Brad Lidge's perfect season.

    As for Batista, it's hard to be too angry, because for one thing he's bad and carries zero fan expectations of success, and for another that infield single by Span was complete luck. If Morrow had simply been able to throw strikes to Carlos flipping Gomez, we likely never would've wound up in position for Batista to deliver the final blow. What a dumb inning.

Due to start tomorrow: everybody's favorite multimillionaire.