Okay, so the All-Star game was a week and a half ago, and the halfway mark of the season was even before that, so I'm a little late. But going into today's games, the Minnesota Twins are in second place in the AL Central, which I don't think anyone expected. The Cleveland Indians, who many people picked to win the division, are cellar dwellers, and totally out of the race. I was just hoping for the Twins to be a .500 team this year, I really wasn't expecting anything more, especially with the departure of Johan Santana and Torii Hunter.
The Twins' young pitchers have stepped up and delivered so far, well, with the exception of Boof Bonser. Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Glen Perkins, and Kevin Slowey have all pitched effectively. They were all big question marks going into this season, as no one really knew how they would fare. And the Twins pick up of Livan Hernandez proved to be a good move, even though he's had some rough starts lately. They really needed a veteran arm to eat up some innings, and Hernandez has done the job. The biggest disappointment with the pitching staff is that Francisco Liriano's return from Tommy John surgery has been, well, disastrous. He's pitched just 10 innings, and has an ERA of 11.32. Hopefully more time in the minors will see him return to his 2006 form. The bullpen, as usual, has been rock solid, with Joe Nathan kicking some butt with an ERA of just 1.08! The Twins have had some good closers, like Jeff Reardon and Rick Aguilera, but I think Nathan might be the best ever.
The hitting has been solid. Justin Morneau is putting up decent numbers, though nothing like the gaudy stats he had halfway through 2007. Joe Mauer is having a good year, and he's finally hitting some home runs after a serious first-half slump. Carlos Gomez and Alexi Casilla have been great at getting on base any way they can, bunt, infield single, reached on an error, whatever. They've been fun to watch. Jason Kubel has done a good job of making up for the loss of Michael Cuddyer to injuries. Cuddyer had a breakout year in 2006, and a decent year in 2007, but he's been on the DL twice this year, and he hasn't shown the power he had in 2006. Mike Redmond, my favorite backup catcher of all time, celebrated his 10th year in the major leagues in May. He's never been sent down to the minors, which is extremely rare for a backup catcher! He's been effective off the bench as usual, batting .284 in very limited playing time.
It's been disappointing that the Twins haven't been able to knock the White Sox out of first place. We're so close! And then we play the Yankees at Yankee Stadium...and get swept. Oh, and speaking of historic Yankee Stadium, how about Morneau winning the home run derby and scoring the winning run in the All-Star game. Nice work, Justin.
In first-half baseball milestone news, Ken Griffey finally slugged his 600th home run, and put his long-time fans out of their misery of counting this down. I was so glad to see someone who has never been on steroids get to 600! If he hadn't been injured like a kajillion times since 2001, he would have hit number 600 about four years ago! I'm just happy he's past 600, now I just want him to pass Sammy Sosa, at 609! And Randy Johnson continues the long march towards 300 wins, right now he's at 291. Not likely he'll make it this year, but I would think he'd come back next year to get it. My off-the-wall pick for a pitcher to get to 300 wins is Jamie Moyer, the 45-year-old veteran now with the Phillies. Hey, it's possible! He won 14 games last year, and he's currently at 239 wins. That's more than Hall of Famers Catfish Hunter and Don Drysdale. All Moyer has to do is keep winning 10 games a year, and keep pitching until he's 50. It's totally doable. Yeah, I'm not holding my breath for that.