We're going to wait two full days after the A's win the World Series or are eliminated prior to writing our scathing review.
Then we're going to make our predictive analytic statements about next year, including the A's possibly going after Richie Sexson. Billy Beane has coveted him for sometime and has enough to entice the Brewers to let him go.
Until then, get ready for you're 2002 Oakland A's Playoff Primer.
Coming in 3...2...1...
Minnesota Twins (94-67) VS Oakland Athletics (103-59)
The best way for you to learn about the Twins is to visit the Twins Geek. If there is a better blog/website about the Minnesota Twins and Gobstoppers we haven't bothered to look for it. Aaron's Baseball Blog is second, though a bit scattered into the ethereal plane of statistical variances and leaning toward baseball matters according to the points he wants to prove.
However, since we do our research and saw enough of the Twins this season to make our own judgement calls, we're going to, 'learn y'all real good' what to expect this week.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Their heads are probably itchy from wearing the AL Central crown for a few weeks. A drop off in play can be expected of a team that clinches prior to the rest of MLB so their 94 wins could have very easily been 101-103.
The Twins also escaped the farcical threat of contraction. The tool used by Kaiser Selig to bully from his bombed out pulpit and garner owner Carl Pohlad (do you know how old Carl Pohlad is? He's 206) a nice kick back on his way to his family tomb, failed.
The Twins have put up with so much garbage over the last two years it would have been just as easy to phone it in and finish at .500 and still had a successful season. However, if any team outside of the A's has more character, focus and determination- it's the Twins. They sport a lot of talent that has come up through their organization and a few veterans snatched up to hold things together. For a team that wasn't supposed to do much they have done everything.
Make this a point to remember: the Twins are a TEAM. They empty the clubhouse and come out of the dugout at the same time for a team warm-up. They stay close together when shagging flies. They all hit a majority of the balls to the opposite field when they are in the cage in batting practice.
This is a team that relies on defense, decent pitching and timely hitting to make things roll.
They don't ask their pitchers to do more than they are capable of and don't give away a lot of at-bats. Counting foul balls becomes a more telling stat when the Twins bat than their opposing pitcher's pitch count.
While Torii Hunter has been the flash that gets s a lot of attention, the Twins are sound at every position except perhaps short stop and second base. The reason being, regular shortstop Cristian Guzman has been battling injuries that led to or account for his erratic play at times. At second base you can take your pick of Luis Rivas or Denny Hocking. Neither is going to force people wear protective headgear in the outfield bleechers. Both are typical utility mid-infielders. Both also can be considered pains in the ass on turf. They field well and run out ground balls when they make contact.
Torii Hunter solidifies the outfield offensively and defensively. In center Hunter can make the outfield wall his personal glove compartment, opening it up and grabbing whatever he deems necessary at any time, constantly robbing players of extra bases and homeruns. In other words, if you're going to do some yard work, you had better plan on getting dirty because nothing is coming cheap. Offensively Hunter is in the mold of Ray Durham from the right with better power or if you prefer Dave Henderson with speed. Hunter is tough to double up, hitting very few ground balls on the infield. When he hits the ball, he hits it hard.
At the corners in the outfield you have a mixed bag. Jacque Jones, Bobby Kielty, Dustan Mohr, Mike Cuddyer could all see time in this series. Jones is the semi-regular in left depending on left-handed pitching. Jones is not abysmal, but close, against left handers. It looks like management wanted to season Jones with some left-handed looks, but may opt for the safe bet in the playoffs. Defensively Kielty, Mohr and Cuddyer are interchangeable and all play defense well. Cuddyer has the most promise at the plate and has substantial power to the opposite field.
At the corners, Corey Koskie and Doug Mientkiewicz are the best tandem in baseball with the glove. Koskie could spit a loogie in the general direction of firstbase and Mientkiewicz could pick it with a half-hearted swipe. Offensively, these two are the key factors in the series. Get them out, don't let them hurt you and you could be very well on the path of advancing.
Behind the plate, A.J. Pierzynski is a bar fight waiting to happen. He's the dust in your brakes, the jam in your toes and the crust in your eyeballs. He's a good hitter with limited power, but can become an RBI machine if the sacks are occupied in front of him. Pierzynski calls a decent game and manages the plate well, though he might be a rung blow the upper echelon of catchers in the game right now.
The Twins DH is David Ortiz who has limbs as strong as Christmas tinsle at times-and titanium at others. Ortiz is a 1st baseman who grew into a DH. He has DH speed, DH power and a DH attitude. The A's neutralized Ortiz and Torri Hunter in late August and early September, striking each out several times.
The Twins pitching staff is a flip-flop from last year. The starters this year are it's weakness while the bullpen has excelled. The starters have been hurt, come back from injury or reinjured themselves. They show good resilience and can be the difference in the series if one or two decide they can pitch seven innings.
Brad Radke has always been a number one starter stuck in a number two or three mold. Joe Mays had a break out year last year and is suffering from the eternal sophomore slump and injuries. Jeff Reed is a National Leaguer the Twins grabbed last year in hopes of a stretch run. Reed is a solid starter and won't be knocked around very easily. Eric Milton is a fading shooting star. So much talent and expectation dragging him below his ability.
The bullpen is very good and has a few power arms. The A's really don't have any fear when it comes to closer Eddie Guardado. The A's have TWICE knocked game winning homeruns this year off of Everyday Eddie. And those who question Billy Koch, both closers have the same number of blown saves, six.
The difference is the road to Nice Guy Guardado. Mike Jackson and LaTroy Hawkins don't exactly strike fear into the hearts of most major leaguers, but they aren't surprised when they find themselves jogging back to the dugout a majority of the time. The key is J.C. Romero and when Ron Gardenhire decides to use him.
From our perspective, Romero is better suited to the blod-clotter role than set-up man at this point. If the Twins are behind and their pitchers are struggling, it would be advantages to throw Romero out there early, as early as the sixth inning. Stop the flow right away and hope the Twins' bats can play catchup. A turnicate is sometimes better than trying to drag along and hope to keep things close at the end. It's the playoffs, you need to make adjustments as needed, not warranted.
The Twins' running game is best suited for starting their runners and not necessarily stealing bases. Their stealing success is an awful 56%. Even thought the A's don't steal bases, their success rate is still at 69%. Ramon Hernandez hasn't expected his pitchers to develop great pick off moves or try to hold runner close with a thousand throws to first. If the Twins want to run, they can, but Ramon is decent behind the plate and running yourself out of an inning isn't the way to win playoff games. Late in a game, yah, you can run all you want on Billy Koch with his high leg kick. But, he won't care because he'll can just throw the ball at 99-101 mph to get the hitter at the plate and make the runners on base a secondary notion.
Against the Yankees the Twins might have been able to force a game five. The Yankees left-handers and starters overall are no longer upper tier. The Twins very well could have come out ahead against the Bronx Bombers.
The best series would have been the Twins versus the Angels. Two very evenly matched teams with similar make-up. We wouldn't even put your money down on a bet between these two.
A lot of experts, pun, pundits and wags rate the Twins at 7th or 8th best in the league. However, we would rate them even with the Anaheim Angels and in the top five teams in baseball. We would guess a seven game series would be advantageous for the Twins in the playoffs, but they draw the short end of the stick in a five game series against the A's.