Friday, August 27, 2004
Reader Mail (All Twins, All The Time Edition)Would you believe people are complaining about me writing about the Twins over at The Hardball Times too much? As if they'd rather I write about the Royals and Orioles than discuss the best pitcher in the league.
Anyway, at the risk of people complaining that this blog has become too Twins-centric (save your breath on that complaint, by the way), here are some Twins-related e-mails I've gotten recently ...
Regarding Twins prospect Jason Kubel, who I wrote about on Wednesday, Andrew writes:
I saw Jason Kubel play for the Red Wings tonight in Buffalo. I hadn't seen him play before, so I was curious as to what he was like, and picked seats right along the first-base line.Great e-mail, thanks Andrew.
The reports on Kubel's fielding are usually that he's a solid but unspectacular corner outfielder with a very good arm, but definitely could not handle center field on a regular basis. All of which is why his likely destination in Minnesota is right field.
My suggestion is that the Twins should replace Jacque Jones with Kubel next year and, while that will be a downgrade defensively, Kubel should be able to make up for some of that with his arm. It's not that Jones' arm is bad, but the problem is that half his throws literally don't even make it back to the infield without bouncing. He has some serious issues with his release point.
On a play at third base or home plate, his throw is either right on the money or it take eight bounces just to get to the cutoff man. It's a very strange thing, almost like Jones has the corner outfield version of whatever Rick Ankiel has (or had, if you've seen his numbers in the minors this year).
Staying on the subject of Kubel and Jones, here's an e-mail from none other than the Twins Geek himself, the world famous John Bonnes:
You're the second person in a week that I've seen suggest that Kubel will be in the lineup next year if Jones isn't. Given the Twins caution with prospects, I just don't see it. I don't think they'll re-sign Jones, but don't you think they play Ford in RF and have LeCroy DH? That also cleans up the LH thing. My guess would be:There's no way they enter 2005 with Matthew LeCroy as the everyday designated hitter. Just no way. They tried that in 2003 and they tried that this season. In the past he has hit well while losing his job, but this year he hasn't even done that. I'm not sure what LeCroy's role will be with this team next year, but I'd bet a large sum of money that it won't be the everyday DH. That is, of course, if I had a large sum of money (or any sum of money).
I think John's belief that Kubel won't begin the season with the team is a solid one, if only because, as I've lamented here numerous times, the Twins never seem to do things quickly. Justin Morneau is their first baseman and cleanup hitter, but it took a while (and 38 Triple-A homers) to happen. Lew Ford has been their most valuable offensive player, but he's 28 years old and this is his first time playing regularly. And they still won't let Michael Cuddyer play more than once a week.
However, I have some hope that the Twins might view Kubel differently than guys like Ford, Cuddyer and even Morneau. What I mean is that the Twins' decision-makers gush over Kubel much like they gushed over Joe Mauer, and they don't seem to point out his faults like they often did with Morneau. And if the Twins view Kubel as similar to Mauer, he could very well be thrown into the fire right away, just like Mauer was this season after just 73 games above Single-A.
Regarding me saying "Carlos Silva is not an option against the Yankees (or anyone) in the playoffs" after his horrible outing against New York last week, Jim writes:
At some point I remember you seemed pretty high on the Silva but now you've soured on him. I'm wondering what role you see him settling into? He can't strike anyone out, thus relying on getting a timely grounder. I see him as a middle reliever guy that comes into trouble to face a right hander and hopefully induce a DP.First off, I really don't remember ever being particularly high on Silva. I said I liked the trade that sent Eric Milton to the Phillies for Silva and Nick Punto, but that had more to do with getting rid of Milton's $9 million salary for this season than anything else.
I see Silva as a perfectly mediocre back-end-of-the-rotation starter, nothing more. He doesn't strike anyone out and he gives up home runs, which is an awful combination. However, he also throws strikes, has been very cheap, and, so far at least, pretty durable, which makes him someone who is nice to have soaking up innings at the end of the rotation. That said, if a team is counting on Silva to start a playoff game, they are in trouble. I have no dreams of him becoming anything better than an innings eater, but he does a fine job at that job, which has some value.
Oh, and by the way, the trade is still a good one and I'll argue that until Luis Rivas has a good season. Milton has a shiny won-loss record thanks to some incredible run support, but his pitching has been no better than Silva's this season. In fact, their numbers are amazingly similar, as they have both thrown 160.2 innings and they both have a 4.71 ERA. It's almost eery.
IP ERA OBP SLG OPS GPA QS VORPOne of those guys is being paid $9 million this year, while the other is being paid $340,000. Which do you think the Twins and their $55 million payroll are better off with?
See ya Monday ...
New article at The Hardball Times: Reader Mail (No More Twins! Edition)
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Thursday, August 26, 2004
Twins 8, Rangers 5Some notes on last night's game ...
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Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Who is Jason Kubel?Mothers are the greatest.
My mom knows that I am completely obsessed with baseball, to the point that I spend about 98% of my free time watching it, playing it, reading about it and writing about it. And she is actually a pretty big sports fan herself, watching a few innings of Twins games a couple times a week and being quite obsessed with the Timberwolves.
Yet yesterday, she came home from work and asked me the following: "Have you ever heard of this Jason Kubel guy for the Twins? He's supposed to be the next hot prospect."
It's an innocent enough question, I suppose, and I don't want to be too harsh on her because she's still got about two weeks to deal with me before I go back to school. However, the chances of someone running a baseball blog devoted almost entirely to the Minnesota Twins, writing a weekly column on prospects for another website, and being the man in charge of a third baseball website not knowing about Jason Kubel is about the same as the chances of me being asked to introduce Johan Santana at his Hall of Fame induction.
I don't really have a point to all this, other than to say that the nice thing about being an incredibly obsessed baseball fan is that when most people finally hear that the Twins have a really good prospect named Jason Kubel, you've already known about him for years. Plus, this gives me a chance to talk a little about Kubel, who is in the middle of a spectacular season.
Here's what Kubel, the Twins' 12th-round pick back in 2000, has done so far this year between Double-A New Britain and Triple-A Rochester ...
Well, my mom was right about one thing ... Kubel is definitely the Twins' hot prospect.
The Twins have a unique ability to churn out homegrown hitters who play the positions on the low end of the defensive spectrum and there's little in those numbers not to like. His walk rate isn't great, although a guy hitting .377 at Double-A and .353 at Triple-A may not be all that interested in drawing walks.
Everything else is simply outstanding. Not only is Kubel hitting .360, he has 21 homers and 42 doubles (and four triples) in 469 at-bats, which works out to an outstanding .241 Isolated Power (slugging percentage minus batting average). He's taken advantage of being on base 41.5% of the time by stealing 15 bases at a 79% clip, and he's done a great job controlling the strike zone, with just 54 strikeouts.
Here's a look at what Kubel has done in the past ...
YEAR LV G AB AVG OBP SLG D+T HR BB SOI like what I see there an awful lot. To me, when a young hitter (Kubel doesn't turn 23 until May) who has consistently posted big batting averages at every level starts adding significant power while maintaining the high batting average in the high minors, it gets me thinking about a superstar.
Kubel has played primarily right field this season and I expect that to be where he plays for the Twins next year. I've long thought that Jacque Jones is quite expendable as a player, and that will be the case more than ever this offseason, as his salary will rise again.
Rather than pay a bunch of money to Jones, a guy who can't hit lefties, refuses to show any discipline at the plate, and has rarely been anything more than an average corner outfielder offensively, I think it would definitely be in the Twins' best interest to give the job to Kubel, save the millions for something else, and see if they have another young stud on their hands.
The only real "problem" with Kubel is that he's a left-handed hitter. Now, normally this wouldn't be a problem at all, but the Twins' other two young studs, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, are also left-handed. Usually, if you had three guys with the offensive potential of the Twins' threesome, you'd end up batting them back-to-back-to-back in the lineup, either 2-3-4 or 3-4-5.
That's still an option, obviously, but batting three straight lefties in the middle of the order is not optimal. I can almost see the parade of LOOGYs (Lefty One Out GuYs) now, and Kubel hasn't even played in the majors yet. If the Twins follow my advice and jettison Jones in favor of Kubel, and decide not to make me insane by keeping and vastly overpaying Cristian Guzman and Luis Rivas next year, I could see them trotting something like this out on a regular basis ...
1) Shannon Stewart - R
2) Lew Ford - R
3) Joe Mauer - L
4) Justin Morneau - L
5) Torii Hunter - R
6) Corey Koskie - L
7) Michael Cuddyer - R
8) Jason Kubel - L
9) Jason Bartlett - R
That's not quite optimal lineup construction either, thanks to the lefty/righty issue (Koskie's a lefty too), but it's close enough. That group is young, deep, and extremely exciting to think about (assuming, of course, that Mauer can catch). Now, odds are that the Twins won't enter next season with those nine, but that's what I would try to do if I were running things.
If Jason Bartlett can't cut it (he's hitting .319/.399/.472 at Triple-A this year), Nick Punto or a veteran free agent signing would be an option, and considering shortstop would almost certainly be the worst hitter in the lineup no matter who it is, they could afford the weak bat. Regardless of whether it is Bartlett or Punto or a cheap free agent, that lineup would include six players making essentially the league minimum, which is always an important factor for the Twins.
You know, I was thinking that if, for some miraculous reason, the Twins actually did enter the 2005 season with that group as their everyday lineup, I'd suddenly have very little to complain about. That might be an interesting experience.
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Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Called up the homies and I'm askin' y'all
--- Ice Cube, It Was a Good DayAs a baseball fan (or at least this baseball fan), it just doesn't get much better than yesterday.
The Twins, behind yet another dominant Johan Santana start, beat the Rangers for their fourth straight win. In the process, they put another game between themselves and the rest of the American League Central, because both the White Sox and Indians lost. In addition to all that, my second-favorite team, the Oakland A's, beat the Orioles and gained a full game on the Rangers, who lost to the Twins.
Taking it even further ... my main man Mike Cameron homered, I got to see Scott Kazmir make his major league debut (and get his first major league win), and Jason Bay, who I recently acquired in my Diamond-Mind keeper league, went 2-for-4 with a walk.
Hell, even Luis Rivas had two hits and an RBI!
To help me celebrate, please read this ...
The Hardball Times: The Machine
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Monday, August 23, 2004
What a Difference a Week MakesThe American League Central race is really unpredictable.
How unpredictable is it, Aaron?
So unpredictable, in fact, that it makes me look stupid on a weekly basis (although some might say that's not a particularly noteworthy accomplishment).
Okay, so that wasn't much of a punchline, but consider that two weeks ago, with the Twins up six games on the second-place Chicago White Sox, I wrote:
The Minnesota Twins, thanks to a 14-5 record since the All-Star break and Chicago's 8-12 record during the same span, are getting very close to running away and hiding from the rest of the American League Central. Now, those of you who have experienced my incredible pessimism in regard to the Twins over the last two years know that I'm the last person in the world to say something like that, but I think it's true.Then, last Monday, with the Twins clinging to a two-game lead over not the Chicago White Sox, but the Cleveland Indians, I wrote about the disorder in the American League Central house:
I was too busy being giddy about what looked like a third straight division title win over the White Sox to even think about the Indians. I mean, the Twins had been fighting back and forth with Chicago all year, just like they did in 2002 and 2003, and they had surged ahead at a key moment, seemingly putting the White Sox out of reach, just like they did in 2002 and 2003.Now here we are, just a week later, and order has been restored. With their lead sitting at a slim two games last Monday, the Twins took two out of three from the New York Yankees while Cleveland dropped three straight to the Texas Rangers. Then, this weekend, the Twins flexed their muscles by sweeping Cleveland in a three-game series at the Metrodome, outscoring the Indians 20-5.
Two weeks ago, they were fighting the White Sox and pulling away from the AL Central pack. Last week, they were fighting the Indians and their lead was shrinking on a daily basis. This week, all is well in Minnesota and the Twins have the biggest lead atop the AL Central that they've had all year.
AL CENTRAL W L WIN% GBI was thinking about what I could say this week that might look dumb seven days from now, like what I said two weeks ago about the Twins putting the rest of the division out of sight and what I said last week about the Indians getting ready to blow past the Twins when the light turned green. I've decided that the only option is to proclaim the AL Central race over and declare the Twins division champs for the a third straight year. So that's what I'm doing.
The Twins are just about done with what is by far the toughest part of their schedule for the entire year, having played 22 out of 25 games against above-.500 teams, including six games against the Indians, four against the A's, and three each against the White Sox, Red Sox, Yankees and Angels. They have another 10 games left in the brutal 35-game stretch, going to Texas for four games starting tonight, heading to Anaheim for three, and then finishing up with another three games against the Rangers, in Minnesota. If Minnesota can make it through that without a disaster taking place, they then enter one of the easiest portions of their schedule, playing a 10-game stretch against Kansas City, Baltimore and Detroit.
Assuming the Twins can manage to play .500 baseball over their final 39 games (they have won 56.1% of their games thus far), they would finish the season with 88 wins. For the Indians to catch them, Cleveland would have to go 25-12 over their final 37 games. For the White Sox (yes, they're still alive) to catch them, Chicago would have to go 28-13 over their final 41 games. In other words, this thing is totally in Minnesota's hands and, barring a major collapse, they'll be taking home the division title for the third straight year.
The funny thing about all of this is that, if you'd have told me two weeks ago that the Twins would be up seven games in the division on August 23 and cruising to another division title, I'd have had no problem believing you and I wouldn't have thought twice about it. Meanwhile, if you'd have told me the exact same thing last week, I probably would have called you a liar, among other things.
Aside from the Twins re-taking the dominant position in the division, some other interesting things happened in the AL Central during the past week ...
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