Friday, September 19, 2003
Bring on the...uh ohMinnesota 4, Chicago 1
Minnesota 5, Chicago 2
Minnesota 5, Chicago 2
Minnesota 4, Chicago 2
Minnesota 5, Chicago 3
Those are the scores from the last five games the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox have played against one another. The most important "score" being 5-0, Minnesota's record in those five games. In the span of nine days, the Twins went from being 2 games behind the White Sox to 3.5 games ahead of Chicago.
I've spent the last few days getting an early start on celebrating Minnesota's 2003 American League Central division championship. I proclaimed the division race over on Wednesday, announced that the nail was in the coffin on Thursday and then watched last night, as the Twins finished the job, burrying the White Sox for good with a three-game sweep.
As soon as the game ended, I went over to ESPN.com, so I could look at their standings page...
W L GBIt's a beautiful thing, isn't it?
To quote my fellow Twins fan Will Young (by way of White Sox announcer Hawk Harrelson)...
The White Sox? THEY GONE!
After I finished staring and smiling at the standings for a while, I started checking out the rest of the AL standings. I saw the Yankees 5 games up on the Red Sox and the A's 5 up on the Mariners. And I saw the Red Sox 2.5 games ahead of the Mariners for the Wild Card. Then I noticed something that I guess I just hadn't been paying attention to...
The New York Yankees have the best record in the American League. Not a big shock, I know, but I guess I just hadn't put two and two together in my head yet. The way the playoffs work is that the team with the best record in the league plays the Wild Card team, unless the Wild Card team and the team with the best record are from the same division. New York and Boston both play in the AL East, which means, assuming the Red Sox don't completely collapse in the next week (and we are talking about the Red Sox, so it could happen), they will win the Wild Card and thus the Yankees will then play the division winner with the worst record.
Wanna take a guess as to which lucky team that would be? That's right, the Minnesota Twins. I sort of wish I hadn't figured this out for a few more days. It would have been nice to bask in the glory of the Twins sweeping the White Sox for a little while. Instead, I'll have visions of the Yankees dancing in my head all weekend. And trust me, as any Twins fan can tell you, those are some scary visions.
The Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees played each other seven times this season. The Yankees won all seven games.
In 2002, the Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees played each other six times. The Yankees won all six games.
In fact, in order to find the last time the Twins beat the Yankees, you'd have to go all the way back to May 10th of 2001.
Minnesota's starting pitcher that day was Mark Redman, who is currently 13-9 with a 3.70 ERA...for the Florida Marlins. Latroy Hawkins and Eddie Guardado combined to pitch the 8th and 9th innings, which isn't so strange, until you consider it was Guardado setting up Hawkins, who earned his 11th save of the season with a 1-2-3 bottom of the 9th.
Chuck Knoblauch led off for the Yankees that day and went 0-4 while playing left field. Paul O'Neill, now a Yankees TV announcer, batted third and played right field, while Tino Martinez, currently in his second year with the St. Louis Cardinals, batted 5th and played first base. Scott Brosius, who is now in his second year of retirement, played third base and David Justice, whom I heard announcing a game on ESPN this week, pinch-hit.
The Twins have played 444 games since they last beat the Yankees.
The last two seasons against the Yankees have been so ugly for the Twins that it is something most Twins fans, myself included, have just sort of tried forget about. If you pretend hard enough that it never happened, it starts to feel like the truth after a while, you know?
During their last 13 meetings, the Yankees have outscored the Twins by a total of 90 to 36. New York has beaten Minnesota with pitching, holding them to 3 runs or fewer in 10 of the 13 games, and they've beaten them by simply bashing the hell out of them, scoring 10+ runs in 4 of the 13 games.
One particularly "memorable" game was the 15-1 shellacking the Yankees put on the Twins earlier this season at the Metrodome. The game was ESPN's nationally televised afternoon game back on April 21st and it was one of the most depressing two hours and 41 minutes of my entire life. The Yanks scored 3 runs in the 3rd inning, 4 more in both the 4th and 5th, and then one more in the 7th. The Twins had the nerve to score once in the bottom of the 8th, which pissed the Yankees off so much that they scored 3 more in the 9th. Rick Reed gave up 11 runs in 4.1 innings and the Yankees totaled 14 hits, 8 walks and 4 homers, along with their 15 runs.
I think if you polled every Twins fan right now and asked them to name the one team they didn't want to play in the playoffs, the vote would be pretty damn close to unanimous for the Yankees. The Twins would be getting set to play the Oakland A's in the first-round, if only MLB would let the Yankees play the Wild Card team, regardless of divisions. Not only did the Twins beat Oakland in the first-round of the playoffs last year, they also won 8 out of the 9 games between the two teams this season.
Of course, there is a little good news for the Twins in all of this. For one thing, this is quite obviously not the same Twins team that it was early in the year, when they were destroyed by the Yankees. At 40-20, the Twins have the best record in the American League since the All-Star break and they just finished off a sweep of the White Sox for their 13th win in their last 16 games. For another thing, several of the players who played a big role in the losses to the Yankees this season are either no longer on the roster at all, or are no longer filling the same role.
Of the 7 losses to New York this season, Joe Mays and Rick Reed started and lost 4 of those games. Mays was absolutely horrible this season (6.30 ERA) and is now out for the rest of this year and most likely all of next season with an elbow injury. Rick Reed was only slightly better than Mays (5.14 ERA), has been demoted to the bullpen, and hopefully won't see the light of day in the playoffs.
But not only is this a different Twins team than it was back in April, with several key changes in personnel, it is also quite clearly a different Yankees team. The Yankees started this season on fire and after their final game of the year against the Twins, they stood at 16-3. They looked damn near unstoppable, no matter who they played. They hit .298/.388/.516 as a team during the first month of the season, smacking 47 homers and 56 doubles in 26 games. Since the All-Star game however, they are "just" 37-22, 2.5 games worse than the Twins.
I will obviously have a whole lot more to say about the potential New York/Minnesota series (as well as all the other playoff matchups) in the upcoming days and weeks, but while the Twins are beating up on the Tigers to make their division title official during the next week and a half, just keep their almost certain playoff opponent in the back of your mind.
Of course, recent history has shown that the mighty Yankees are certainly not unbeatable. All the Twins need is to stay as hot as they've been in the second-half, forget about what happened earlier this season (and last season) and then get a few breaks and a little luck to go their way. Having a few Rally Monkeys on their side wouldn't hurt either.
This Week's Featured Links:
Monday: Tango on Baseball
Tuesday: Baseball History
Wednesday: Mariners Musings
Thursday: Universal Baseball Blog, Inc.
Arizona (Johnson) -190 over Milwaukee (Davis)
Total to date: + 2,860
W/L record: 238-236 (1-0 yesterday for +175.)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Thursday, September 18, 2003
Nail? Check. Coffin? Check.Yesterday, after the Twins beat the White Sox in the first game of their three-game series, I said the following:
"At the risk of completely jinxing my favorite team, let me be the first to say this:Shockingly, many White Sox fans took offense to me awarding the Twins the AL Central championship. I got a ton of emails yesterday, many of which contained things that really weren't all that nice (another big shocker, I know). I even stumbled across a White Sox message board where Sox fans were discussing yesterday's entry. Two of them had the following exchange:
"The guy in the blog said that it's over and the Twins will win, so you know they won't."To every White Sox fan reading this right now, particularly the many who emailed me yesterday and those two geniuses on the message board, I would like to say something...
It's over. Finished. The fat lady is already off the stage. Elvis and Runelvys have left the building. You can stick a fork in the Chicago White Sox, because they are done.
Minnesota 4, Chicago 2
W L GBIf I were the White Sox, I'd start worrying about trying to beat Kansas City for second-place, because at least that's something they might have a chance at. Personally, I hope the Royals beat the snot out of Chicago during the 7 games they have left against each other before the end of the season. Why?
Because I am sick of the Chicago White Sox. Over the last several seasons, they have been the cockiest team to have never won a single thing that I have ever seen. I think Twins play-by-play man Dick Bremer said it best during a broadcast a few weeks ago. When told by Bert Blyleven that the White Sox seemed confident and were doing a lot of talking, Bremer quickly replied, "They did plenty of talking last year too, and they were 15 games back."
I am sick of hearing the White Sox run their mouths, but that's not all. I'm sick of Hawk and DJ. I'm sick of "He Gone!" and "The Good Guys." I'm sick of "putting it on the board." I'm sick of Jerry Manuel. I'm sick of hearing about Roberto Alomar's defense and seeing his fake hustle slides into first base. I'm sick of hearing about Chicago's "Three Aces," a group that includes two guys with ERAs of 3.83 and 4.13. I'm sick of Billy Koch and his ridiculous facial hair. I'm sick of hearing about the "brilliant" trades Kenny Williams made at mid-season. And I'm sick of getting emails from people telling me how dumb I'm going to look when the White Sox beat the Twins.
As the great (well, not really) Fredo Corleone once said, "I'm smart! Not like everybody says...like dumb...I'm smart and I want respect!"
The Twins messed around long enough and gave the White Sox and their fans a little thrill. It was fun to have a pennant race for a while, but enough is enough. For all the "smack" the White Sox and their fans have been talking over the last couple months (and really, the last few seasons), the White Sox should now be working on getting tee times for next month, while the Twins will be finalizing their playoff-roster.
Okay, now that I've got that off my chest...
The other day, I commented on an article I saw in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune entitled "Stewart shows MVP talk isn't misguided." The article discussed whether or not Shannon Stewart deserves American League Most Valuable Player consideration. Here's a little of what I said in response:
"Don't get me wrong, I like Shannon Stewart as a player quite a bit and I'm perfectly willing to admit that he has been an excellent pickup for the second-half of this season. I'm even willing to listen to people talk about him as Minnesota's MVP, as misguided as I think that is. But please, let's not get completely crazy here."I don't think anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis would be of the opinion that Stewart has been the MVP of the American League, but from the emails I received since I wrote that, it is apparent that many of you think he definitely deserves consideration for MVP of the Minnesota Twins.
I think the idea that a position player who is only on a team for 60 games can possibly be the MVP of the team is fairly crazy. Sure, Stewart has been very good since joining the Twins, but he's only been very good for 58 games. Plus, he's "only" hitting .325/.385/.476 as a Twin. Good numbers for sure, but it's not as if he's Barry Bonds.
The larger question in my mind is who is Minnesota's MVP. It's easy to say who isn't - Stewart, Luis Rivas, Cristian Guzman, Joe Mays - but it's a little tougher to determine who has been the Most Valuable Player on a team without any real superstars.
Here are the top 15 Twins according to "Value Over Replacement Position" (VORP):
VORPLots to digest here.
First of all, the list is dominated by pitchers, who hold 7 of the first 10 spots and 8 out of 15 overall. You'll notice Shannon Stewart ranks 12th on the team, sandwiched in-between Matthew LeCroy and Jacque Jones. You'll also notice that, if you go right to the top of the list, you see none other than "The Official Pitcher of Aaron's Baseball Blog" - Johan Santana.
So, according to VORP, Santana has been the most valuable Twin this season, by a fairly large margin. Of course, VORP does not account for a player's defensive contributions, which may be part of the reason why pitchers dominate the list. Certainly Corey Koskie is worth quite a few runs over a "replacement-level" third baseman on defense, and it's certainly possible he is worth enough defensively to overtake Santana for the top spot on the team. Similarly, guys like A.J. Pierzynski, Doug Mientkiewicz and Torii Hunter add quite a lot of value on defense and would definitely move up the list if that were a part of VORP.
Another way to look at this whole thing is by way of Bill James' "Win Shares," which, unlike VORP, takes defense into account. Here are the top 15 Twins in Win Shares (courtesy of www.BaseballGraphs.com):
WSGoing from VORP to Win Shares propels Koskie to the top of the heap, in part because of the 4.57 Win Shares he gets for his defense at third. And, as I suspected, counting defense also helps Pierzynski, Mientkiewicz and Hunter quite a bit, moving A.J. from 5th to 2nd, and Doug from 7th to 3rd. Hunter makes the biggest jump, going from 14th in VORP to 6th in WS, mostly because of the 5.54 defensive Win Shares he is given credit for.
Meanwhile, Santana drops from 1st to 4th. Cristian Guzman joins the top 15, checking in at #10, while our old friend Bobby Kielty comes in at #14 - one spot and one Win Share ahead of the man he was traded for. Rick Reed and Juan Rincon drop out of the top 15, meaning just 6 pitches are included in the Win Shares top 15.
I think it's clear, to me at least, that Shannon Stewart has certainly not been the MVP of the Minnesota Twins this season. No matter what type of advanced metrics you want to look at, whether it is VORP or Win Shares or something else, Stewart most likely checks in somewhere between the 10th and 15th most valuable Twin this season. The main argument I have heard for Stewart actually being the MVP of the team seems to be that his contributions have come in the season's second-half, making them more important and thus more valuable.
That's not an argument I believe in and, even it were, Shannon Stewart has not even been the MVP of the Twins since he joined the team...
Since Stewart's arrival:
AVG OBP SLG OPS RC/27Sure, Stewart's been a "sparkplug" at the top of the lineup and all that other cliched stuff, but Doug Mientkiewicz has been the Twins' best hitter since Stewart joined the team. And Doug's defensive contributions, even at first base, trump Stewart's too.
And if you want to bring pitchers into the mix, Brad Radke and Johan Santana have both been excellent since Stewart came to the Twins. Radke is 8-1 with a 3.50 ERA in 12 starts and Santana is 7-1 with a 3.21 ERA in 12 starts.
I think sometimes in sports (and in life too, I guess), people get caught up in their emotions and feel the need to make something seem more spectacular than it actually is. Shannon Stewart came over to the Twins in a trade and has been very good and he has Twins fans so excited that suddenly he is being talked about as the savior of the team and the MVP. That is quite obviously not the case, whether you want to judge it on the entire season or on second-half contributions.
I wonder why it isn't enough to just say Shannon Stewart has been great for the Twins in the second-half. Why does it have to be taken to a new level, where his contributions are exaggerated to the point that he is said to have been the Most Valuable Player of the entire team?
There are still a few games left to be played this season, but if I were filling out my ballot for Minnesota Twins team MVP, it would look like this:
1) Corey Koskie (.290/.391/.452, 2nd in VORP, 1st in WS)
2) Johan Santana (11-3/147.2 IP/3.11 ERA, 1st in VORP, 4th in WS)
3) Doug Mientkiewicz (.304/.393/.456, 7th in VORP, 3rd in WS)
4) A.J. Pierzynski (.305/.351/.452, 5th in VORP, 2nd in WS)
5) Latroy Hawkins (9-3/75.0 IP/1.92 ERA, 3rd in VORP, 8th in WS)
Link of the Day:
Universal Baseball Blog, Inc. - "Roy Hobbs indeed"
In yesterday's entry, I coined a new nickname for Twins rookie Michael Ryan - "Michael 'Roy Hobbs' Ryan." Ben Jacobs over at the "Universal Baseball Blog, Inc." lives in Rochester, New York, where Ryan played Triple-A baseball for the majority of this season. Ben checks in with an entry about just how unlikely it is for Michael Ryan, who homered again last night, to be hitting .385/.419/.795 for the Twins right now. It's a good read, as all of Ben's stuff is, so go check it out.
San Diego (Peavy) +175 over San Francisco (Ponson)
Total to date: + 2,685
W/L record: 237-236 (2-0 yesterday for +215.)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Wednesday, September 17, 2003
Welcome to Thunderdome
"Two men enter, one man leaves."Minnesota Twins drew first blood, winning Game One of an incredibly important three-game series.
For the second time in a week, Brad Radke shutdown one of the best offensive teams in baseball and, for the second time in a week, he outpitched one of the best pitchers in baseball:
While Radke was busy stiffling the White Sox with an assortment of 88 MPH fastballs and 72 MPH changeups, the Twins got to Chicago starter Esteban Loaiza early and often.
Loaiza, who has been one of the best 2-3 pitchers in all of baseball this season, came into the game looking for his 20th win of the year. He didn't make it out of the 3rd inning.
Here is the story of Loaiza's night:
Sac Fly (1-0 Twins)
Ground Out (2-0 Twins)
Wild Pitch (3-0 Twins)
And just like that, Loaiza's night was over: 16 batters faced, 5 walks, 4 hits, 2 wild pitches.
Scott Schoeneweis came in to relieve him and promptly gave up a run-scoring single to Michael "Roy Hobbs" Ryan, making the score 4-0.
When they faced Loaiza last week, I was impressed by the incredible patience that Minnesota batters showed in nearly every at bat against him. They took borderline pitches, they worked counts, they made him get the ball up - and they beat him 5-2.
Last night, the level of patience from the Twins was something I have never seen before. Aside from Jacque Jones, they took pretty much every single borderline pitch that Loaiza offered up. He threw 32 pitches in the first inning and 31 in the second inning. Loaiza probably would have broken the 70-pitch barrier in the bottom of the second, but Jones, who swung at a pitch headed for his ankle in the first inning, decided it was a good idea to try to bunt for a hit on the very first pitch he saw - with two outs and two men on base. He nearly beat it out, so I guess I can't blame him too much.
Otherwise, it was take, take, take, take. Jacque Jones swung at (or bunted at) 5 of the 9 pitches he saw from Loaiza. The rest of the Twins swung at just 23 of the 65 pitches they saw, and they got hits on four of them. I'm not sure what the league-wide stats are on this, but that means that, ignoring Jacque Jones, the Twins took 64.6% of Loaiza's pitches, which seems like an awful lot. Even with Jones included, they took 62.6% of the pitches.
It's an interesting approach against Loaiza, not only because it worked each of the last two times they have faced him, but also because I have no idea why it has worked. Loaiza has shown excellent control throughout this season. Coming into last night's game, he had just 45 walks in 204.2 innings pitched and he ranked 8th in the AL in fewest walks per nine innings. Since the All-Star break, he had walked just 14 batters in 11 starts.
While Loaiza was certainly wilder than usual last night, I thought his overall control really wasn't that bad. He was trying to paint the corners of the plate and the Twins just spit on everything he threw up there, forcing the homeplate umpire to call balls and strikes. You're not going to get many hits on 94 MPH fastballs low and away, on the outside corner (which is why Loaiza came into the game with a 2.73 ERA), so it was great to see the Twins have such patience in such a huge game.
Here are your American League Central standings:
W L GBAt the risk of completely jinxing my favorite team, let me be the first to say this:
The 2003 AL Central division race is over.That's right, over. You heard it here first. Whether the Twins win either of the next two games against the White Sox or not, they will win this division. And they will have done it by holding their own against the Chicago White Sox.
I feel so confident about my prediction that you know what you can do with it?
You can put it on the board....YESSSSSSSS!!!!!Hey Hawk and DJ..........how you like them apples?
Link of the Day:
Mariners Musings - "Truth, Justice, and the Seattle Mariner Way"
Atlanta (Hampton) -135 over Montreal (Tucker)
Florida (Redman) +115 over Philadelphia (Myers)
Total to date: + 2,470
W/L record: 235-236 (0-4 yesterday for -420. Ouch!)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Tuesday, September 16, 2003
The next Johan SantanaNow that Johan Santana is free from the bullpen and thriving in Minnesota's starting rotation (he improved to 10-2 as a starter with his win over Cleveland last night), I think it's time to take up the cause of the next Johan Santana...
Prior to the season, I ranked Soriano as my #8 pitching prospect in all of baseball. He began the year pitching for Triple-A Tacoma, where he went 4-3 with a 3.19 ERA in 10 starts. He had a fabulous 63/12 strikeout/walk ratio in 62 innings pitched, while holding opponents to a .192 batting average.
Soriano was called up to the Mariners at the end of April, but was sent back down to Triple-A shortly thereafter. He rejoined the team, this time for good, in the middle of June.
Here are his numbers for the year:
IP ERA SO BB OAVGThose are some ridiculous, video game-type numbers. He's holding opponents to a .218 on-base percentage and a .236 slugging percentage. And he's been even better since the All-Star break:
IP ERA SO BB OAVGMy eyes don't even know where to look first. 1.39 ERA. 44/3 strikeout/walk ratio. 12.2 Ks per nine innings. .136 opponent batting average. Absolutely unbelievable. You'd think the guy was Eric Gagne or something.
I've been able to watch Soriano pitch maybe 6 or 8 times this season and I have been extraordinarily impressed each time. The guy throws absolute smoke, his secondary pitches are solid, and his control has been excellent.
Not only are Soriano and Santana similar in that they are both young pitchers who throw gas, their careers have been very similar as well. Consider...
Soriano came up to the Mariners for the first time last season and pitched fairly well, throwing 47.1 innings with a 4.56 ERA in 10 games, including eight starts. He was 22 years old.
When Santana was 22, he also pitched reasonably well for the Twins, tossing 43.2 innings with a 4.74 ERA in 15 games, including four starts.
Then last year, at 23, Johan broke out in a big way. He began the year in the minors and was promoted to the Twins in the middle of the year. He proceeded to pitch 108.1 innings with a 2.99 ERA, while striking out 137 batters, or 11.4/9 IP.
Just like Santana last season, Soriano began this year in the minors and was called up in the middle of the year. And, just like Santana did at 23, he is breaking out in a big way.
The biggest difference between the two (beyond one being left-handed and one being right-handed) is that Santana's breakout season last year included an extended period of time pitching in the starting rotation (he made 14 starts), whereas Soriano has yet to make a single start this year. That's obviously a significant difference, but it's something I'm willing to look past, simply because the other stuff is so damn similar...
Age 22Solid but unspectacular pitching from both guys at age 22, while splitting time between the bullpen and the rotation. ERA in the upper-4.00s, K rates around 6.00 and walk rates right around 3.00. That's about as close as two pitching lines get.
Age 23A little time at the beginning of the year to dominate Triple-A and then BOOM, they're both striking out a dozen guys a game in the majors at 23 years old.
Looking ahead to next season, I think Soriano is in a similar situation to the one Santana was in at the start of this year. Soriano pitches for a contending team, just like Santana, and the Mariners have, for the most part, a fairly established starting rotation, just like the Twins had coming into this season.
While Santana had to fight Brad Radke, Rick Reed, Joe Mays, Kyle Lohse, Eric Milton and then Kenny Rogers for a starting spot this year, it's likely Soriano will have to fight Jamie Moyer, Freddy Garcia, Ryan Franklin, Joel Pineiro and Gil Meche for a spot in Seattle's rotation next season.
I think Santana and Soriano are among a handful of the most valuable pitching "properties" in baseball right now, but I also think there's a good chance you'll be seeing a "Free Rafael Soriano" campaign on this blog next season.
Yesterday, I ate a little bit of crow, saying that the Shannon Stewart/Bobby Kielty trade looks a little better to me now than it did initially. The reason for my change in opinion is how well Shannon Stewart has played since joining the Twins. That said, I think some people are getting a little crazy with the adjulation headed Stewart's way.
I saw the following headline in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
Stewart shows that MVP talk isn't misguidedAfter I saw that, I thought okay, I can see how some people might think Stewart deserves to be the Twins' MVP. Of course, he doesn't, but it's not so completely beyond the realm of possibility for some people to think that. Then I actually read the article, which included the following:
"Is it time to nominate Stewart for the American League Most Valuable Player award?"The story also includes quotes from quite a few Twins players and coaches on whether or not Stewart deserves AL MVP consideration:
Denny Hocking: "You're damn skippy."
Doug Mientkiewicz: "There's no doubt Shannon should get consideration."
Scott Ullger: "You definitely have to consider him the most valuable player on our team. And he might get some votes for the league award if we win the division."
Brad Radke: "He should get some votes."
Ron Gardenhire: "You talk to people in Minnesota, Shannon would win it."As one of the many "people in Minnesota," let me be the first to ask: Are you f---ing crazy?!
Shannon Stewart has been a very good hitter since joining the Twins and he was a good hitter for the Blue Jays this year too. Overall, here are his numbers:
AVG OBP SLG RBI RUNThose numbers are right around his career-totals of .304/.369/.449. Is .312/.367/.468 solid production from a corner outfielder? Absolutely. Is it anywhere close to an MVP season? No freaking way.
Stewart ranks 22nd in the American League in on-base percentage, 29th in slugging percentage and 29th in OPS (on-base % + slugging %). He's also 23rd in runs scored and 47th in RBIs. For those of you into "Win Shares," Stewart currently ranks 45th in the American League.
My preferred metric for judging the contributions of offensive players is Baseball Prospectus' "Runs Above Replacement Position" stat. Here are the American League leaders in RARP:
RARPThat's the top 10, and you'll notice there is no "Shannon Stewart" to be found. He's not in the top 20 either. Or the top 30. Or the top 40.
In fact, Shannon Stewart is currently 20.9 RARP, which ranks him sixth...among AL left fielders.
Some other American League hitters who have similar RARP totals include Kevin Millar (19.8), Travis Lee (19.0), Hideki Matsui (22.7), Randy Winn (18.9), Jay Gibbons (22.3) and Erubiel Durazo (22.7).
Anyone want to "nominate" any of those guys for league MVP? I didn't think so. And it's not as if Stewart is a defensive-whiz or a great basestealer either. He is, at best, an average defensive left fielder, and he currently has 4 steals this season...while being caught 6 times.
Don't get me wrong, I like Shannon Stewart as a player quite a bit and I'm perfectly willing to admit that he has been an excellent pickup for the second-half of this season. I'm even willing to listen to people talk about him as Minnesota's MVP, as misguided as I think that is. But please, let's not get completely crazy here.
Oh, and by the way, anyone else get the feeling Alex Rodriguez is about to be screwed out of yet another MVP award?
Link of the Day:
Baseball History - "A look at the history of baseball through the astigmatic eye of Jon Daly"
New York (Seo) +220 over Chicago (Prior)
Colorado (Tsao) +110 over Houston (Robertson)
Tampa Bay (Gonzalez) +310 over Boston (Martinez)
Chicago (Loaiza) -120 over Minnesota (Radke)
Total to date: + 2,890
W/L record: 235-232 (1-1 yesterday for +5.)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Monday, September 15, 2003
Eating Crow 101 (well, sort of)First things first, let's get the numbers out of the way.
Since joining the Minnesota Twins, Shannon Stewart is hitting .335/.386/.487. Since leaving the Minnesota Twins, Bobby Kielty is hitting .222/.331/.359.
Because of the very substantial differences in those two performances, I have been getting quite a few emails lately asking me to re-evaluate my thoughts on the mid-season trade that sent Kielty to the Toronto Blue Jays for Stewart.
There is no doubt that, for this season, the trade has been absolutely fantastic for the Twins. Stewart has been exceptional for his new team, Kielty has struggled for his, and the Twins are doing exactly what the trade was supposed to help them do, which is make a run for the playoffs.
That said, this trade does go beyond what happens in the final 50 or 60 games of the 2003 season. While Stewart's performance down the stretch for the Twins has certainly made this trade a great one for this year and a better one than I initially thought overall, I still believe the Twins made a mistake in the long-term.
Many of you have emailed me to say something along the lines of "Stewart is hitting .335, what do you think of the trade now, you idiot?!" I just want to point out to those people that, in my original analysis of the trade, way back in the middle of July, I said the following:
"Stewart's play in the second-half of this season has nothing to do with whether or not I think it is a good trade."I may be an idiot, but at least I am a consistent idiot.
Now, certainly, Stewart playing very well in the second-half of 2003 and Kielty playing poorly in the second-half of 2003 makes the trade a better one for the Twins than I expected. But, as I said way back in July, I still don't think it makes it a good one.
Would the Twins be tied for first-place right now if they had kept Kielty and not traded for Stewart? Probably not, but who knows? Certainly if Kielty had hit as poorly for the Twins as he has for the Blue Jays, it would have been a big drop-off from the offense Stewart has provided.
According to Baseball Prospectus, Shannon Stewart has created 38.4 "Equivalent Runs" since joining the Twins, which works out to about .152 EqR per plate appearance. Since joining the Blue Jays, Kielty has created 17.2 EqR, or .098 per plate appearance. If you give Kielty the same amount of playing time that Stewart has been given for Minnesota, he checks in with 24.8 Equivalent Runs - 13.6 few than Stewart has created.
That is obviously not a perfect way of looking at things, but it's pretty close. If Kielty had been given Stewart's plate appearances and he had performed exactly the same way that he has for Toronto, he would have cost the Twins about 13-14 runs compared to what Stewart has given them. Those 13-14 runs are certainly worth a couple of wins, which makes a gigantic difference a pennant-race.
Of course, trades are not made with the ability to look into the future. Twins GM Terry Ryan didn't know Stewart would drastically outperform his numbers with the Blue Jays and he didn't know Kielty would slump horribly after a good start with Toronto. Or maybe he did, who knows. If that's the case, he deserves a lot of credit and so does his crystal ball.
I have loved watching Shannon Stewart hit over the last few months. He's really been a hitting machine, smacking singles and doubles all over the place, while even tossing in a surprising amount of homers too. There is no one happier about how well Stewart has played for the Twins than me.
With that said, if the Twins allow Stewart to leave via free agency (and I suspect they will), they will be left with nothing, whereas the Blue Jays control Bobby Kielty for quite a few more years. Of course, if Kielty hits like he has since joining the Jays, that isn't such a good thing, but I still think he is an excellent hitter, albeit one who has shown a tendency to go into fairly long slumps.
Basically, what I am saying is that this trade looks a lot better to me in September than it did in July, but that I still feel as though it will look bad come July or September of 2005 or 2006. At that time, Kielty will have provided value to the Blue Jays for several more seasons (whether on the field or in a trade) and Stewart will have been long gone from Minnesota.
I still think it is was a bad trade. What has happened in the months since has certainly made it a whole lot harder to hold that opinion, but I still hold it, perhaps out of consistency and perhaps out of stubbornness - or maybe a little of both.
Okay, now that I've covered that topic, which is definitely the #1 baseball-related thing I have been getting emails about lately, I might as well cover the #2 email topic as well...
I have been very harsh on Twins second baseman Luis Rivas in this space, as well as on Baseball Primer (and basically anywhere else I can get people to listen to me).
I won't rehash everything I have said about him, but basically I think he is a bad offensive player and a bad defensive player, making second base a position the Twins should be looking to upgrade.
Rivas started this season horribly on offense, hitting just .194/.229/.313 in April. Then he started to turn things around, and for most of the next 3-4 months he was actually a positive contributor on offense. From the start of May until the end of August, Rivas hit .287/.340/.427.
Those numbers are definitely nothing special, but if Rivas was able to provide a .340 on-base percentage and a slugging percentage above .400 on a consistent basis, it would certainly put an end to most of my Luis Rivas-bashing.
In July and August, when Rivas was doing reasonably well, I got a ton of emails from people basically saying, "Hey Gleeman, Rivas is kicking ass, you're an idiot!"
Rivas is hitting .117 in September so far and, strangely enough, those emails have stopped coming in.
I think, in general, fans get too excited about good months and too down about bad months. With Rivas, certainly 3 or 4 months where he wasn't a complete offensive "nothing" is great news, but even during that stretch he was hitting just .287/.340/.427, so it wasn't like he had turned into Bret Boone or something.
Actually, I wrote about Luis Rivas and his "good" months a little while back, after he hit .300 in May and June. I went back through Rivas' career and found that he had quite a few good offensive months in previous seasons- September of 2000, June of 2001, July of 2001, September of 2001, October of 2001, September of 2002.
Here's a little of what I wrote about my "discovery":
"As you can see, Rivas has had several months during his career when he has been a decent hitter. The fact is, every major league hitter who gets everyday playing time for several years in a row is going to have good months, that's just the reality of small sample sizes, luck and random distribution.It is now a few months later and Rivas' stretch of good play extended on for a while after I wrote that, but what I said still applies. I think the most important thing to remember is that "You have good months and bad months, and they combine to make you the player that you are."
Here is the player that Luis Rivas has been in 2003:
AVG OBP SLGNot only is that not anything close to a good offensive player, it is also almost exactly the same as his production every other year of his career.
Year AVG OBP SLGBatting averages of .266, .256 and .261. On-base percentages of .319, .305 and .309. Slugging percentages of .362, .392 and .390. If there is improvement within those numbers - and I don't think there is - it is extremely minimal.
So, for all the emails I got calling me an idiot and for all the emails I got talking about Rivas' "great months" this season, his overall numbers this year are essentially the exact same numbers he put up in 2001 and 2002, which is to say they stink. And don't get me started on his defense...
Link of the Day:
Tango on Baseball - "If Linear Weights, Run Expectancy, and Runs Created mean something to you, if you are a fan of Pete Palmer or Bill James, then you've come to the right place"
Atlanta (Ramirez) +105 over Montreal (Hernandez)
Tampa Bay (Sosa) +220 over Boston (Lowe)
Total to date: + 2,885
W/L record: 234-231 (0-3 on Friday for -300, and back under 3,000.)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****