Tom Verducci's View

August 06, 2006

MINNESOTA'S SECRETWEAPON

From June 8through Sunday the Twins had played themselves into the thick of the ALwild-card race with a franchise-record 32-8 run. Now they are the club otherteams would fear most in a postseason series because of their dominatinglefties, Francisco (Franchise) Liriano (12-2, 1.96 ERA and Johan Santana (12-5,3.11 ERA). But there's more: Righthander Matt Garza (left), 22, who was draftedout of Fresno State only last year and began this season in Class A, is tearingup Triple A. On July 25 he was throwing 97 mph in the ninth inning of a126-pitch shutout, and his overall ERA this year was 2.33. "He'slegit," says an AL scout. "He's got a great, live arm and can help themnow." Minnesota may not be able to resist promoting Garza, even if it meansdeploying him to the bullpen, where Liriano and Santana got their first bigleague opportunities.

DEBUNKING THEDEADLINE SAVIOR MYTH

At the tradingdeadline every year, clubs make noise about finding that key starting pitcherwho will help them in October, and every year it just doesn't happen. Over thelast 10 seasons, not one pitcher who was acquired in the week leading up to theJuly 31 deadline has won a postseason start. And over the past five years, onlythree pitchers traded between July 24 and July 31 have even started apostseason game: Albie Lopez (2001 Diamondbacks), Sidney Ponson ('03 Giants)and Shawn Chacon (right, '05 Yankees). Playoff-caliber starting pitchers justdon't get on the market. The last starters to be traded near the deadline andwin a postseason game were all in 1995: David Cone (Yankees), Ken Hill(Indians) and David Wells (Reds). As for hitters who were traded in the weekbefore the deadline over the past five seasons, only four have hit a playoffhome run: Scott Rolen ('02 Cardinals), Kenny Lofton ('02 Giants), Aaron Boone('03 Yankees) and Geoff Blum ('05 White Sox).

THE RUNDOWN

•Barry Bonds nolonger looks like his former dominating self, and his diminished skills aremost apparent against lefthanders. Bonds ended July in a 1-for-15 slide againstlefties, and for the season he was hitting .190 against them.

•The Astroscontinue to waste greatness. Since the start of 2005, Roger Clemens (left) hadallowed two or fewer earned runs in 35 of 40 starts. But Houston was 16-19 inthose 35 games, with Clemens going 13-4.

•Righthander RickBauer, 29, released by the Orioles last year, will get an increased role in theRangers' bullpen after Texas sent Francisco Cordero to Milwaukee as part of theCarlos Lee trade last Friday. He's earned it--at week's end Bauer had notallowed a home run in 180 at bats against him this year.

ExtraMustard
by Baseball Prospectus

WHY HAS THE ERA OFTHE WHITE SOX ROTATION JUMPED FROM 3.75 in 2005 TO 4.74 THIS YEAR? Strikeoutrate is the most stable indicator of pitching performance from season to seasonand has the highest predictive influence on ERA. After averaging 5.78strikeouts per nine innings last year, Chicago's starters had a rate of 5.34 atweek's end this season. Though the rotation was strong in othercategories--second in the majors in fewest walks per nine innings (2.33), forexample--returning to the postseason will be a difficult task for the White Soxunless that strikeout rate improves. And that's not likely to happen becausethis is a tired rotation. Starters Mark Buehrle (236 2/3, most in the AL),Freddy Garcia (228), Jon Garland (221) and Jose Contreras (204 2/3) were amongthe top 17 pitchers in the league in regular-season innings pitched last year,and then they combined to throw another 92 1/3 innings in the playoffs.Furthermore, Garcia and newcomer Javier Vazquez pitched high-stress innings inthe World Baseball Classic this spring. In other words, this staff may bedoomed by its own success.

> More fromTom Verducci and Baseball Prospectus at SI.com/baseball.

PHOTOROCHESTER RED WINGS (GARZA) PHOTOAL TIELEMANS (CHACON) PHOTODUANE BURLESON/AP (CLEMENS)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)