Author Archive

This Ain’t Gonna Work

I have been mulling a move from MLBlogs for some time, but have been reluctant to actually do it.  Well, yesterday I finally got the push I needed.  This comment was left on my F*ck! post:

“Can you not use profanity in your tags or posts. I don’t want it on my
blog as a link to a recommended article. I like keeping my blog family
friendly.”

I have no idea who wrote it, since they didn’t leave a link to their blog.  Heaven forbid whoever it was should give me a chance to defend myself or to explain my point of view.  Don’t get me wrong: I respect whoever that was and their desire to keep their blog clean.  Who knows?  Their kids probably read it and don’t need a**holes like me corrupting their impressionable young minds. And it’s not like they were really nasty about it either, though they could’ve been a little more polite.  But that’s the problem with the new format of MLBlogs:  they post links to other blogs on your site whether you want them to or not.  So I can understand why whoever left that comment was so ticked off.  And since I have no intention of ever changing, I have decided to move to blogger, where what I write whatever I want and I can tell people to f*ck off if they don’t like it.  You can read my new blog here, and if you happen to have a link to my blog in your sidebar, please update it accordingly.

I am not abandoning MLBlogs completely.  If you are in my sidebar, it’s for a very good reason and I will continue to read and post comments on your blog.  Oh, and I have Twitter now, which makes me more followable or something.  I’m just not going to be posting anything new here, at least not for the time being.

Revisiting the Santana Trade

johan-santana-4.jpgWith the recent call-up of right-hander Kevin Mulvey, now seems
like a really good time to re-examine the Santana trade.  Here is a
look at what the Twins got:

Carlos Gomez:

2008:  .258/.296/.360/.657 OPS   2.3 WAR
2009:  .253/.291/.358/.649 OPS   0.1 WAR

Gomez’s
horrible numbers at the plate are sort of neutralized by his defense. 
With a career 23.5 UZR in center, he is one of the top defensive CFs in
the league.  If he could just learn to hit, he would be one of the better
all-around players in the league, much like Grady Sizemore.  One of
the things Go-Go really needed to work on was plate discipline, and he
has indeed improved in this respect.  Last season, he swung at 36.8 %
of pitches outside the strike zone, while this season he has only
chased 27.6%.  Thus, his BB/K ratio has subsequently improved from 0.18
to 0.36.  So far, he has little to show for his improved plate
discipline, but he hasn’t seen much playing time this season with the
crowded outfield situation, either.  It’s doubtful that Go-Go will ever
develop much power, but given his age and a continued improvement in
plate discipline, it’s not unreasonable to expect league-average production from him eventually.

Philip Humber:

2008: 

Twins:     4.36 ERA   1.371 WHIP   1.20 K/BB    4.6 K/9   3.9 BB/9   11.2 IP
Rochester:  4.56 ERA   1.423 WHIP   2.16 K/BB   7.0 K/9   3.2 BB/9  136.1 IP

2009: 

Twins:     12.45 ERA   3.231 WHIP   1.33 K/BB   8.3 K/9   6.2 BB/9    4.2 IP
Rochester:   5.86 ERA   1.575
WHIP   1.97 K/BB   7.2 K/9   3.7 BB/9    73.2IP

Humber
was once the Mets’ top pitching-prospect, until he was sidelined with
Tommy-John surgery in 2005.  He’s been a mediocre starter for the Red
Wings, and at this point (he’s 26) doesn’t project to be more than a
long-reliever in the major leagues.  Not only have walks been an issue
for Humber at the major-league level, he’s also had trouble keeping the
ball in the park (his HR/FB% is 18.2).  The fact that nobody claimed
him when the Twins put him on waivers earlier this season (and that
they were willing to risk losing him this way), probably says a lot
about his value.

Kevin Mulvey:

2008:  3.77 ERA   1.351 WHIP   2.52 K/BB   7.4 K/9   2.9 BB/9   148.0 IP
2009: 
3.93 ERA   1.427 WHIP   2.13 K/BB   7.1 K/9  3.3
BB/9   103.0 IP

Mulvey
has spent the past two seasons as a starter in Rochester, and though
he’s been pretty successful, he’s struggled to pitch effectively on a
consistent basis.  Still, his K/9 rate is good enough to suggest that
he might make it as a fifth starter or middle reliever in the major
leagues.  If anything, a good performance with the big club would
probably increase his trade value should the team dangle him in an
effort to upgrade the bullpen or middle infield.

Deolis Guerra:

2008 (Ft. Myers): 
5.47 ERA   1.608 WHIP   1.00 K/BB   4.9 K/9  4.9 BB/9   130.0 IP

2009:

Ft. Myers:   4.69
ERA   1.390 WHIP   2.28 K/BB   5.9 K/9   2.6 BB/9   86.1 IP
New Britain:   5.59
ERA  1.655 WHIP   2.67 K/BB   7.4 K/9   2.8 BB/9   9.2 IP

Guerra
is the youngest and most intriguing of the three pitching prospects the
Twins got in the deal. The fact that he’s spent four years in A-ball
isn’t particularly inspiring, but he’s still only 20 years old and is
quite young even for that level.  Guerra was recently promoted to AA,
despite his poor numbers, in the hopes that a change in scenery will do
him some good.  It’s unlikely that he will ever develop into an ace,
and it’s questionable whether he will ever even reach the major
leagues, but it’s also too soon to give up on him just yet.

And here’s what the Mets got:

Johan Santana:   2.53 ERA   3.83 xFIP   1.15 WHIP   3.27 K/BB   4.8 WAR

Note
that I am only including his 2008 numbers.  I did this because, let’s
face it, his leaving was a foregone conclusion.  There is no way the
Twins were going to re-sign Johan, they would undoubtedly have been
outbid for his services by one of the larger-market teams.  This is
also why it’s not really accurate to say the Mets fleeced the Twins in
this deal:  the Twins were going to lose Santana anyway, and the Mets
gave up a ton of prospects as well as a ton of money to acquire him. 
Obviously, the Mets have come out on top so far, but dealing a
superstar near free agency is always an iffy proposition and teams
rarely get an adequate haul in return.  It’s not like the Delmon Young
trade, in which the Twins gave up two very talented young players who
were under their control for the next several years and got three
barely replacement-level players in return (and the centerpiece of that
deal is considerably below replacement-level).  That is highway robbery.

Now,
one can certainly make the case that the Twins didn’t have to trade
Santana, even though losing him was inevitable.  It’s true that the
Twins might have been better off with the additional draft picks they
would have gotten from whatever team he eventually signed with.  The
team almost certainly would’ve made the playoffs with Johan anchoring
the rotation last year, though I doubt very much they actually would
have won the World Series (having an unusually-high BA with RISP only
gets you so far).  But from all accounts, Bill Smith was left with
little choice but to deal the superstar, since Santana wanted his
contract situation resolved before the start of the season.  He didn’t
want to have to endure the media circus and speculation that dogged
Torii Hunter during his final season with the team, which is perfectly
understandable.  He also made it clear that he had no intention of
being a rent-a-player (like C.C. Sabathia last year) and since he had a
full no-trade clause in his contract, waiting for a better deal to come along at the trade deadline would have been out of the question. 

Smith was in his first season as GM
after Terry Ryan abruptly resigned, and was stuck with the unenviable task of trading the staff ace.  As far as whether or not they
would have gotten a better package from the Yankees or the Red Sox,
it’s possible.  However, we don’t really know what offers were on the
table, and if either team were really serious about trading for him. 
It sounds to me like Boston and New York were willing to wait for
Santana to enter free agency, rather than lose their top prospects in
a trade.  If both teams were serious about dealing for Santana, though,
and players like Ellsbury, Lester, Hughes and Cabrera really were on
the table, then Smith likely made a huge mistake in not pulling the
trigger. 

Mulvey Up, Morales Down, a Trade in the Works?

mulvey.jpg

As reported in the Star Tribune,
Kevin Mulvey has been recalled from Rochester to pitch out of the
bullpen.  Mulvey came over as part of the Santana trade, and this will
be his first call-up with the Twins since coming over from the Mets.  The Twins were trying to get
by with only 11 pitchers, but a series of shortened starts at the Dome
(and the injury to Kevin Slowey, which sounds like it might be getting better)
have made that impossible.  Mulvey has posted a 3.93 ERA, 1.402 WHIP,
2.13 K/BB, 7.1 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in seventeen starts for the Red Wings
this season.  Meh, these numbers aren’t great, but apparently he’s
going to be used for mop-up duty and should handle that role
competently.  If anything, he will provide some much-needed depth in the bullpen.

Back-up catcher Jose Morales has been optioned
back to AAA to make room for the extra pitcher.  Morales was mostly
called up because Gardy likes to have an extra catcher on days Redmond
is starting and Mauer is the DH, so he wasn’t really getting much
playing time.  Obviously, Morales has been having a better season at
the plate than Redmond, but Red has incriminating pictures of Gardy more experience handling the
pitching staff and I doubt the Twins are willing to eat what little is left of his contract.  Besides, the lack of production from some of the
regulars
in the lineup is much more troublesome than that from a guy who only plays once a week.  The Twins also could probably have optioned
Brian Buscher instead, since he also rarely sees any playing time, but
he offers more versatility in the field than Morales and often fills in
at third when Joe Crede needs a break.

The Twins have been linked
to a number of different players in trade rumors, most notably Freddy
Sanchez, relief pitchers Matt Capps and John Grabow from the Pirates,
and have apparently contacted Toronto about the availability of some of
their relievers.  There doesn’t seem to be anything in the works
though, and I’m guessing that Bill Smith felt those organizations were
asking too much in return (or the Twins just don’t have the prospects
Pittsburgh and Toronto are looking for).  Obviously, all that can
change with one phone call, so we’ll just have to wait and see what
happens.  I don’t really like to get into what moves the organization
should make, who they should be targeting in a trade and all that
because, honestly, I’m not all that good at it.  I don’t pay enough
attention to the rest of the league to know who might be a big impact
player that could help the team down the stretch.  As critical as I can
be of Bill Smith and the front office sometimes, I really do like to
think that they act in the best interests of the team, and there is at
least some sound reasoning behind some of the moves they’ve made, even
if they didn’t exactly pan out.  And I’m really not a fan of
rent-a-player deals, like the ones for Sabathia and Teixeira
last year.  Such trades seldom ever help the team make a deep run in
the playoffs, and more often than not, the player ends up signing
elsewhere during the off-season, leaving the organization scrambling to
fill the same holes they had before.  Only now the farm system is a bit
thinner on top of it, which is not at all a good thing for an
organization that relies as heavily on its farm system as the Twins.

  • Justin Morneau was miffed about the canned Canadian anthem

morny_angry.jpg

Morneau was reportedly annoyed that the American national anthem got
the celebrity treatment at the All-Star Game, while fans were treated
to a pre-recorded version of “O, Canada”.  Here’s what he told Joe Christensen:

“I wasn’t very impressed with that to tell you the truth. You figure they could find somebody to come and sing the song.
They have a hockey team here, the Canadian teams play here.

“It’s something that didn’t really go over too well. I think if it
happened the other way around, if they were playing in Toronto and they
did that, it would have been a lot bigger deal. But nothing you can do
about it.”

Obviously,
he wasn’t too worked up about the whole thing, but Morny really does
have a point.  It would be different if MLB were like football, in
which all of the teams are American-based and there is no need to
represent more than one country, but it isn’t. It’s more like the NHL,
which has both American and Canadian-based teams.  Prior to the start
of every hockey game, someone always sings both national anthems
whether the game is being played in the U. S. or Canada.  Besides, Toronto sent two representatives to the All-Star Game, one of which
was the starting pitcher!  Obviously, there are fewer Canadian baseball
teams than hockey teams, and there are fewer Canadian-born baseball
players than hockey players, but the canned treatment of the Canadian
anthem was a bit disrespectful to our neighbors to the north.  It’s not
really that big of a deal, but if MLB is going to take the time to
honor its Canadian representatives, then at least they should do it right.

Well, That Was Mildly Interesting (and Brief)

  • American League continues to own the National League

Photo

Unlike last year’s 150-inning, 72-hour snoozefest, this game was over in a little over two and a half hours.  Which was great, because there’s only so much Joe Buck and Tim McCarver that one person can stand before suffering some sort of catastrophic brain bleed.  Or throwing something at the tv.  The pre-game ceremony probably took a lot longer than the actual game itself, since it takes about an hour just to get through all the player introductions.  And for Sheryl Crow to butcher the national anthem.

Really, though, this game was probably about the best one in a long time.  After a few first-inning jitters, everyone seemed to settle down and play the sort of baseball you would expect from well, the best players in baseball.  The later innings had some of the best moments I’ve seen all year:  Carl Crawford robbing Brad Hawpe of a home run (and basically saving Jonathan Papelbon’s a** in the process, now that’s something you don’t see every day), Joe Nathan striking out Ryan Howard on a nasty slider in the dirt (and getting himself out of a jam), and Curtis Granderson legging out a triple and coming around to score on an Adam Jones sac fly.  Crawford’s catch was pretty much the difference maker in this game, and he was quite rightly named the MVP.  Papelbon got the win, and Mariano Rivera notched a record fourth ASG save. 

Our boys did a pretty good job representing Minnesota in the All-Star Game.  Joe Mauer caught for six innings, scored a run, and drove in the tying run on a double.  Joe Nathan managed to preserve the lead in the eighth, though he did make things a little more interesting than they really needed to be.  Hey, he hasn’t worked in almost a week just enjoys toying with his opponents.  That’s right, he just likes to let you think you’re staging a rally against him, then he breaks your heart with a slider in the dirt.  That’s not very nice, Joe.  Justin Morneau went 0-for-2, though he was robbed of a (probable) double by Jason Werth.  

And BOOOO!!!! to FOX for mentioning football about a million times during the broadcast. And showing commercials involving football about every three seconds.  Apparently this “baseball” thing is merely to hold us over until football season begins.

The Home Run Derby Does Not, in Fact, Screw Up a Guy’s Swing

340x

It’s inevitable.  One of the participants in this year’s contest will
go into a slump.  And the first thing people will blame is the Home Run
Derby, thinking that somehow his mechanics have been thrown off by what
amounts to taking extra batting practice.  Fangraphs’ R.J. Anderson recently did
a pretty thorough debunking
of this popular myth.  He selected the five participants in recent
history who have seen the most significant decline in power numbers in
the second half, and concluded that most of them were simply playing
above their heads and were bound to come back down to earth
eventually.  And that makes sense.  The event organizers for the Home
Run Derby invite players who, naturally, are hitting a lot of home
runs.  These players are often having a really great first half of the
season and are putting up numbers that just aren’t sustainable.  Bobby
Abreu is probably a perfect example.  He was having a pretty good first
half of the season, hitting .307/.428/.556/.955 with 18 home runs and
putting up career numbers in nearly every offensive category.  Then he
started to cool off after the All-Star break, hitting only six more
homers through August and September.  Obviously, people (including
Abreu himself I believe, but I’ll get to that in a minute) blamed the
Home Run Derby for his perceived slump.  However, Abreu finished the
season batting .286/.404/.474/.879, which is essentially right in line
with his career numbers.  What we were seeing wasn’t really a slump so
much as regression: that is, his production starting was to fall right
back in line with his career averages (or, if you prefer, he was who we
thought he was).  I think it’s also worth noting that Abreu was 34
years old at the time, and those numbers are about what you would
expect from a player his age.

If you’re not into fancy statistical analysis, then perhaps Joe Morgan (of all people) says it best:

“All players get tired in the second half. That is why very few players hit more HRs in the second half.”

Which leads me to Joe Mauer.  Mauer was red-hot in his first month
since coming off the DL, batting .414/.500/.838/1.338.  He’s hit 15
homers already this season, two more than his career mark set in 2006. 
These numbers aren’t sustainable for anyone, especially not a catcher,
and he’s just bound to cool off eventually.  In fact, he already has,
batting *only* .325/.404/.425/.829 in the month of July.  He’ll
probably finish the season batting .326/.414/.487/.901, which is much
closer to his career average and might still be enough to earn him his
third batting title.  SO I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ONE GODDAM THING ABOUT
THE HOME RUN DERBY MESSING UP HIS SWING.

And yet, the idea that participating in the Home Run Derby causes
hitters to slump persists.  Players are always quick to use it as an
excuse, probably because it sounds a lot better than: “Sorry guys, I’m
just tired.”, or “I guess my power numbers are simply regressing to the
mean.”  Both of those are probably much closer to the truth, but nobody
really wants to hear it.

So, um, How’s That Arm?

“I hate that guy. Rad would get
you 0-for-4 and you’d go home wondering, ‘How did he do it?’ That’s the
type of guy he was. He was one of the best pitchers they had in a long
time.”  -Ozzie Guillen

  • Twins induct Brad Radke into franchise Hall of Fame

MpQKIWEV

Radke was honored
in a pregame ceremony before Saturday’s loss to the White Sox, and that
turned out to be the only thing worth watching in that game (well,
maybe Joe Crede’s two homers).  I’ve written a piece about Radke here, and I think this is the perfect time to post this commercial he did for SEGA “World Series Baseball” way back in the day:

Radke has always been a fan favorite, and it’s really no wonder
why.  Besides being a consummate professional and (as far as we know)
decent human being, he gave us something to cheer for during the lean
years when there wasn’t much to look forward to.  To be honest, he was
really the only decent starter on the staff for about half of his
career, and though his career numbers certainly aren’t good enough to get him into Cooperstown, they sure look good compared to Frankie Rodriguez

Fans probably love Radke the most, though, because he turned down
more lucrative offers from other teams to remain in Minnesota.  He had
never been particularly overpowering, and he certainly wasn’t a
dominant pitcher by any stretch of the imagination, but his ability to
rack up strikeouts and eat innings was valuable enough that he could
have gotten a better deal elsewhere.  The era of free agency was just
hitting its peak, and pretty much everyone was eager to cash in.  Not
Radke, though.  He opted to re-sign with the Twins simply because he
liked it here.  He liked the organization, his family loved the area,
but he also wanted to see the team through its rebuilding process. 
After years and years of being one of the worst teams in baseball, the
Twins had finally started to put together a decent team, culminating in
a string of four playoff appearances from 2002-2006.  Unfortunately,
his arm started to give out during the 2006 season, and he decided to
retire rather than have surgery and try to keep his career (and chances
of winning a World Series) alive. 

  • The late George Brophy was inducted, as well

Brophy is often overlooked by fans, since his job as the director of
scouting and minor-league operations was mostly behind-the-scenes, but
he did play an important part in building the 1987 World Series-winning
team.  Patrick Reusse wrote a very good article (as well as this one
from 1998) about former farm director last week, detailing the conflict
within the organization at the time and his thankless task of trying to
build a championship-caliber team on a shoestring budget (seriously,
then-owner Calvin Griffith made the Pohlads look like the
Steinbrenners).  Obviously he played a key role in drafting and
developing players like Kent Hrbek and Kirby Puckett, but he made a
number of other moves that would help shape the 1987 team.  He was the
one who insisted that the Yankees throw in Greg Gagne as part of the
Roy Smalley trade, and demanded the Angels throw in Tom Brunansky as
part of the Rob Wilfong-Doug Corbett deal.  He also found guys like Larry Hisle, Bobby Darwin, and Doug Corbett (who, like I said, was instrumental in bringing Brunansky to the Twins).  Brophy
was one of the original members of the Twins’ front office when he was
hired in 1961.  He was later fired by then-team president Howard Fox in
1985 (the two never did get along), and he served as a scouting
assistant for the Astros before his ill health forced him to retire in
1996.  Sadly, he passed away in 1998.

F*ck!

  • Slowey suffers setback in rehab

520x

Well, there goes the season 
Ugh, I hope it’s just a slight one.  The Slow Man was supposed to throw
a bullpen session today, but his wrist injury flared up again and was unable to do so
He’s supposed to try throwing again on Wednesday, and the Twins are
holding off on any further decisions regarding treatment until then. 
So I’m going to hold off on any further panicking until then.  What is
certain, however, is that he won’t be making his next scheduled
start on July 21 at Oakland.  Anthony Swarzak will get the nod instead. 

  • Casilla up, Tolbert down, Harris back to the bench?

122280_Mariners_Twins_Baseball

As LEN3 reported,
Alexi Casilla has been recalled from Rochester, while Matt Tolbert has
been sent back down.  It’s essentially Casilla’s last chance to prove
he can stick in the major leagues, or the Twins will probably be moving
him in the off-season.  Casilla struggled mightily at the plate earlier
this season, batting a mere .180/.242/.225, and all of the defensive
miscues certainly didn’t help his case.  But he’s been on fire since
his demotion to Rochester, batting .340/.379/.449/.827 OPS for the Red Wings.  Still, as Jason
Bartlett can attest, it’s very difficult to get out of Gardy’s doghouse
once you have been banished there.  Casilla will probably have to magically
turn into Chase Utley overnight to keep his job, and even that wouldn’t
be enough.

With Casilla getting the start at second, this begs
the question as to who will be the everyday shortstop.  Gardy says he
will try to find playing time for both Punto and Harris, but this is
highly unlikely.  Punto will most certainly be the starting SS, and
Harris will almost certainly be back to the bench. The Twins are paying
Punto $4 million this year, so he and his .201/.319/.223 line won’t be
playing the utility role.  Gardy has already said as much
And really, when you look at the numbers, neither one is exactly running away
with the starting job.  Punto is terrible at the plate, but he’s a
career 21.0 UZR at the position, so his defense is good enough to make
him at least replacement-level.  Harris isn’t very good on defense (he’s a
career -11.9 UZR) but his .275/.318/.392 line makes him just a little
better than replacement-level, but not enough to just hand him the job,
either.  Now, if only there was a way to combine Harris’ bat with Punto’s glove

  • Gomez goes 3-for-4 with a home run and 5 RBI in series finale against White Sox

That goofball is bound and determined to make me love him. 

Carlos-gomez-kisses-bat

Actually, I pretty much already decided that the first time I saw him sniff his bat.

Happy Thoughts

This is going to be one craptacular season for Twins fans, but I’m
done whining (for now). I prefer to focus on the good things that
happened this week:

8fe2546a-9f33-40d0-85c4-a57e592a1251

Moments like this are what makes it so much fun to be a baseball
fan.  When Sanchez struck out Everth Cabrera looking to complete the
no-hitter, his teammates reacted as though they’d just won the World
Series.  Randy Johnson, who’s thrown a few of those in his career and
whose spot Sanchez replaced in the rotation, came up and hugged the
kid.  And his dad was moved to tears by his son’s performance. 

And if Juan Uribe hadn’t screwed it all up, Sanchez would have thrown a perfect game.  At least Aaron Rowand made a great running catch to preserve the no-no.

Of course, now I’m going to completely rain on his parade by pointing out that he no-hit the weakest offense
in all of baseball.  Granted, the Padres play in an extreme pitcher’s
park and their numbers will always reflect that, but even when you
account for ballpark factors, this offense is pretty bad (this game was
in San Francisco, anyway).  That said, Sanchez’s performance was still
masterful:  11 strikeouts, no walks, only the sixth no-hitter in
history with at least 10 Ks and no walks. 

On a semi-related note, Chris Jaffe of the Hardball Times posted a list of the worst (and best)
lineups to ever be no-hit.  The Angels team that Eric Milton no-hit was
number five on the list, which isn’t surprising since Milton is the one
of the most unlikely pitchers to ever spin a no-no.  The Twins team
that David Wells threw a perfect game against wasn’t terrible enough to make the list, but they were probably about as good as this year’s Padres team.

Joe_mauer

Oh, come on, you know he’s going to win it.  There isn’t anything he can’t do
I do think it would be hilarious if Albert Pujols hit 60 bombs in the
first round, only to lose to Mauer because he wore himself out.

  • Joe Crede has already earned his $7 million contract

Crede

It seems strange to write that, since he’s got a weak .226 batting
average, but it’s true.  When researching how awful the worst hitters
in the lineup are (and I was going to consider Crede one of them), I
came across some interesting numbers:

Joe Crede: .226/.293/.428/.721 OPS  11.4 UZR  1.8 WAR 

So
even though he doesn’t hit for a high average, his bat has some pop
and his defense makes him one of the elite third basemen in the
league.  Furthermore, by providing some power and bailing out the
pitching staff on a consistent basis, his overall worth is already estimated at $8.2 million.  Now, you might not agree with the way Fangraphs calculates dollar values
for players (they think Roy Halladay will be worth $35 million this
year), but as long as he remains healthy there is little doubt that
Crede will be worth every penny the Twins are paying him.  Just ask the
pitching staff.

  • The Royals trade for Yuniesky Betancourt

I am not trying to pick on Kansas City (I’ve already done that). I’m just glad he’s off the market now so the Twins won’t be tempted to trade for him (as others have suggested).  Joe Posnanski and Rany Jazayerli,
probably the only fans the Royals have left (and Rany is threatening to
hang it up) have already summarized this deal in two very excellent
posts. 

Seriously, a lot of Royals fans are fed up with the
front office and disappointed in their team, and I don’t really blame
them.  I remember when the Twins were horribly, mind-numbingly bad in
the mid-90s, and how hard it was to cheer for a team that didn’t really
give its fans much to cheer for.  It was like this for nearly a decade,
and we all wondered if it was ever going to end, if we were ever going
to even have a decent team again.  That’s right, we were dreaming of the kind of mediocrity
this team gives us now.  It kind of got me to thinking about false hope
vs. no hope, and which of the two I prefer.  And I guess that false
hope is better than none at all.  Yes, it can be frustrating to watch
your team hang around in the playoff picture all season long, only to fall short at the very last minute.  Or to have your hopes of winning a championship dashed in the first round of the playoffs everysingletime.  But jeezus, at least this way you have something to look forward to.

Besides,
Seligula is more than happy to relocate a small-market team that
consistently loses 90 games to a more lucrative market.  Believe me, I know.

Mired in Mediocrity

20081001_blackburn_33

At 43-43 44-43, this team is exactly average.  I’m certainly not the first person to notice this, nor am I the first to point out
that it’s mostly because all of the great talent on this team is
balanced by players who have no business on a major-league roster.  The
awesomeness of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau is balanced by the
suckitude of well, the entire second half of the lineup.  Nick
Blackburn is putting up the best numbers of his career, while Scott
Baker and Francisco Liriano are putting up the worst.  The comparison
between the best and worst players on the team is stark:

Hitters:

Joe Mauer:          .389/.461/.651/1.112 OPS  4.3 WAR
Justin Morneau:   .313/.390/.582/.971 OPS  2.8 WAR
Jason Kubel:    .306/.364/.540/.904 OPS  1.3 WAR
Denard Span:  .288/.375/.377/.752 OPS  1.7 WAR

Matt Tolbert:  .178/.272/.225/.497 OPS  -0.9 WAR
Nick Punto:   .211/.322/.234/.556 OPS  -0.2 WAR
Carlos Gomez:  .218/.277/.318/.595 OPS  -0.3 WAR
Delmon Young:  .270/.296/.349/.646 OPS  -1.2 WAR

The pitching is a slightly different story:

Pitchers:

Nick Blackburn:  2.94 ERA   4.94 xFIP  1.272 WHIP  1.82 K/BB  2.0 WAR
Kevin Slowey:  4.86 ERA   4.38 xFIP  1.412 WHIP  5.00 K/BB  1.4 WAR
Joe Nathan:  1.35 ERA   2.42 xFIP   0.750 WHIP  6.14 K/BB  1.4 WAR

Scott Baker:  5.31 ERA  4.24 xFIP  1.221 WHIP  3.90 K/BB  1.3 WAR
Francisco Liriano:  5.47 ERA  4.53 xFIP  1.490 WHIP  2.02 K/BB  1.3 WAR

Obviously
guys like Luis Ayala (0.1 WAR), Sean Henn (-0.2 WAR), and Jesse Crain
(-0.2 WAR) haven’t been helping much, either.  The good news is that
none of these guys are in the bullpen right now.  The bad news is that
they were here long enough to cost the team wins.

There
are a couple of things worth noting here.  First of which is that, as
much as both Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano have struggled this
season, both are still above replacement-level (that is, both are more
valuable than some scrub picked up off the waiver wire), and both
obviously have tremendous upside.  So, unless the Twins are absolutely
blown away with an offer for either one, it would be wise to hang onto
them for now (and no, Jon Garland and his 5.28 xFIP is not that guy). 
Secondly, despite his .270 batting average, Delmon Young is still one
of the worst hitters in the lineup.  His .349 slugging percentage is
anemic, his 58/6 K/BB ratio is the worst on the team, besides providing
crappy defense in left (-9.1 UZR).  No wonder the Rays were so eager to
get rid of him.

Of course, this is
pretty much the way the Twins have operated for the past decade, so
none of this comes as a surprise.  The likes of Ramon Ortiz, Sidney Ponson, and Rick Reed have rounded out a rotation fronted by Johan Santana and Brad RadkeDustan Mohr, Michael Restovich, and Michael Ryan have all patrolled the outfield alongside Torii Hunter.  After Corey Koskie left, guys like Tony Batista and Mike Lamb were manning third base until Joe Crede came along.  Jason Tyner, he of the one major league home run, was the DH for 31 games in three seasons with the Twins (when Rondell White and Ruben Sierra weren’t available, of course).  Tyner, by the way, was featured on the “Best Persons in the World” awhile back when his current (former?) team traded him away for nothing.  And then there was the Luis Rodriguez-Juan Castro-Luis Rivas infield, with Terry Tiffee on the bench.  And these weren’t even the worst Twins teams.

Obviously
there was a lot of talk about the Yankees’ payroll during the series at
the Dome, and it’s true that having a larger payroll gives a team more
flexibility. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a “Woe is us, how can we
ever keep up
with the Yankees and Red Sox?” post.  Simply spending a lot of money
doesn’t necessarily guarantee that a team will even make the playoffs
let alone win a championship, and there is much more parity baseball
(especially the AL) than pretty much any other major professional sport
in this country.  It’s just that a smaller payroll
gives a franchise a much smaller margin-for-error when making trades,
signing free agents, and even in the draft, since a bad move can
hamstring such an organization for decades. 

The Nick Swisher trade is a very good
example.  Now, the Yankees
acquired him from the White Sox for next to nothing, but even if he
doesn’t work out, the team isn’t completely sunk.  The Yankees
technically have six outfielders since acquiring Eric Hinske from the
Pirates, so they don’t really need Swisher and could easily trade him if
he starts to decline. 
Compare that to the Delmon Young trade (I know, I know, they’re not
really the same since the Young deal had a much higher risk, but bear
with me).  The Twins gave up a lot to
acquire Young and he has yet to live up to his potential.  To be fair,
Young isn’t the only terrible hitter on this team (and he hasn’t even
entered the prime of his career yet), but he needs to put up better
power numbers to make the trade worthwhile (and to justify giving him
so much playing time).  At this point, though, it’s hard to argue that
the Twins wouldn’t be a better team
with Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett.  Worse yet, his poor performance
and perceived attitude problems mean the Twins would have a tough time
getting anything of value for him should they consider themselves
buyers the trade deadline.  Like it or not, they’re pretty much stuck
and simply have to hope that Young will eventually start to develop
some power.

By the way, I tend to consider the
Young trade karmic retribution for the A.J. Pierzynski trade. 
Although, when you think about it, the Young trade is even worse. 
Pierzynski was at least competent both at the plate and in the field,
and Giants fans only had to put up with him for one season.  Delmon, on
the other hand, is the gift that keeps on giving.
 

Cheer Up! Things Could be Much, Much Worse!

lirianotongue2.jpgAfter being utterly and thoroughly owned by the Evil Empire this season, the Twins have slid back to the
.500 mark for the hundred-somethingth time (oh, and you’re welcome,
Yankee fans).  They currently sit in third place, four games behind the
division-leading Kittehs and two behind the second-place Pale Hosers. 
All of which is very, very depressing.  But take heart Twins fans,
we’re not the only ones sharpening our razor blades and drawing a bath:

The Royals are teh suck.  This is hardly news.  But this team has so many problems, it’s difficult to know where to begin. I mean, good God, they replaced Sidney Ponson with Bruce Chen in the starting rotation!  What, Buddy Groom wasn’t available?  Ooh, and now the infield will be manned by both Ryan Freel AND
Willie Bloomquist!  Obviously, GM Dayton Moore hates his job and is
trying his best to get fired.  That should just about do it.

The Cubs took a team that won 98 games last year and made the
playoffs for the third time in six seasons, and tore apart the roster
as rebuilding teams are wont to do. Perhaps it was simply an emotional
response to getting swept in the NLDS by the Dodgers, or maybe they
felt they needed to dump salary to expedite efforts to sell the team,
but they traded away key contributors like Mark DeRosa and Jason
Marquis without getting much in return.  The Baby Bears are currently
in third place behind the division-leading Cardinals and a Brewers team
that features both Jeff Suppan and Seth McClung in its rotation.  Now,
the Cubs are only three games out of first, but even with a recent hot
streak they still have the third-worst offense in the league (only the
Diamondbacks and the Padres are more futile at the plate). Of course, this is all a goat a cat Milton Bradley’s fault.

The Diamondbacks have committed
77 errors this season, the second-most in baseball (only the Nats have
committed more).  Granted, errors and fielding percentage aren’t
exactly the best way to measure a team’s defensive efficiency, but I think if you commit three errors in one inning, it’s safe to assume that you are, in fact, not good at baseball.

I’m going to refrain from taking shots at the Nati(o)nals.  It’s just too easy.  I did get a kick out of the “Oh no: no O!” wardrobe malfunction, though.  At least Montreal Washington’s ineptitude is entertaining:

jim-bowden-segway.jpg

(image courtesy chatterbalks.com)

Oh, and Man Muscles is now officially atop the leaderboard (if that’s not enough, you can also see it here, here, here, and here).  He might not finish the season batting .400, but he has a good shot at winning yet another batting title.  So at least we have something to look forward to, I guess.
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