Friday, May 20, 2005
Needless to say Batter's Box is well worth reading regardless of if the Twins are playing against Toronto. It is like if every Twins blogger got together and formed one gigantic site for all things Minnesota baseball, complete with photography, great articles, lively discussions, and all sorts of awesome stuff. Visiting Batter's Box over the last couple years has literally made me more of a Blue Jays fan (and I'm not just saying that because I was quoted extensively in the Batter's Box "Game Report" for Tuesday's game).
Baseball Prospectus also had an article this week by Will Carroll that looked at "how injuries are affecting preseason contenders." I found the part Carroll wrote about the Twins a little faulty:
After a frightening beaning in the third game of the season, Morneau has returned with the same offensive force he exhibited in 2004,hitting .389/.409/.714. He'll likely exceed his 22.0 VORP from last year, but his 20 games lost--and the lack of a credible offensive backup--amounted to nearly 14 runs down the drain. In what figures to be a competitive AL Central, that margin could prove a significant difference as the Twins try to keep pace with the White Sox.This is one of those cases where the actual facts don't fit the story. Regardless of whether or not you think the Twins have "a credible offensive backup" for Morneau at first base, they got plenty of offense from the position while he was out. The Twins' backup first basemen (Matthew LeCroy and Terry Tiffee) have hit a combined .316/.391/.491 subbing for him.
Normally I wouldn't nitpick something like this, but LeCroy's solid hitting in place of Morneau -- including a surprising increase in walks and uncharacteristically good numbers against both righties and lefties -- was actually talked about plenty among Twins fans (and written about plenty here). Plus, Will has been known to nitpick a thing or two I've written in the past too.
Posted by Vinay on May 18, 2005 at 03:42 AM (#1344979)Folks, I am telling you that this is as inevitable as Kruk saying something stupid. Also, one of my favorite things about BTF is that guys discuss women like they are baseball players, not that I disagree about Elisha being "inner-circle hot." And here are some pictures of the Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com, since it would be a crime to mention her name without a good link.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Blackmail Black Knights and Black Humor (by John Brattain)
Today's Picks (36-25, +$1,280):
San Diego (Peavy) -140 over Seattle (Franklin)
Cleveland (Millwood) -100 over Cincinnati (Harang)
UPDATE: Sunday's Pick of the Day: San Diego (Stauffer) -120 over Seattle (Sele)
Thursday, May 19, 2005
Open Chat: 5/19/2005A nice, clean win over the Blue Jays last night and another good game from Michael Cuddyer (3-for-3 with a homer), who is now hitting .383/.420/.532 this month. For some reason I have a surprising lack of thoughts on the game, so I thought I'd try something new and just open up the comments for a discussion on whatever it is you guys want to talk about today (within reason, of course).
A couple quick notes, before you start commenting away ...
As a follow up to that, if there's nothing great for downloading that I can figure out how to run on my laptop, what do you guys think of Netflix? I looked it up and $18 per month for unlimited DVDs (three at a time) seems like a fairly decent deal. Any thoughts? Is the turnaround time quick enough that it's worth it?
Somewhere between high school and college, however, I stopped paying attention to the sports card industry. So now I have a whole bunch of cards sitting here collecting dust, and it seems as good a time as any to make a little money from them. I could go the easy route and start selling them on Ebay again, but I was curious if there were any other good options for selling cards that have popped up in recent years?
Someone told me about ThePit.com, where you can buy and sell cards sort of like the stock market, and that looks like a decent option from the quick glance I gave it last night. I mostly have PSA graded stuff (which only makes sense to the fraction of you who know about such things), so I am looking for a site that would allow me to sell some of them in relative bulk without the hassle of posting individual auctions on Ebay. Any ideas?
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Ten Things I Didn't Know Last Week (by Studes)
- Me My Mo Mudcat (by Steve Treder)
Today's Picks (36-25, +$1,280):
Detroit (Bonderman) -160 over Tampa Bay (Kazmir)
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Blue Jays 10, Twins 3I am too depressed about last night's ugly loss and Johan Santana's recent struggles to talk rationally about them, so let's move on to a subject that is marginally less depressing ...
I am extremely disappointed by what has happened at shortstop. It upsets me that Jason Bartlett sat out his third straight game last night and no longer appears to be the starter at the position, but that's secondary to the bigger issue. If the team had kept Bartlett at Triple-A this whole time, handing the job to Juan Castro or Nick Punto out of spring training, it would have been far less troubling than what has actually taken place.
Instead, the Twins made the decision to head north with a 25-year-old rookie shortstop. Then, when he struggled a bit at the plate and in the field during the first six weeks of the season, they completely abandoned their plan. And it's not as if Bartlett has been a disaster. He's hitting .242/.310/.374, which is very similar to the .259/.317/.384 major-league shortstops as a whole are hitting so far this season, and he has four errors in 206 innings.
Perhaps Ron Gardenhire is just giving Bartlett a week off to clear his head, but if the Twins have truly given up on Bartlett for the near future it shows an astounding lack of patience. In a way, it shows they had no plan at all. A plan doesn't just consist of what to do when everything goes well. Presumably a plan would also include what to do when things go poorly. Yet when things went poorly with Bartlett, they gave up on everything. And this is the same team that took five years to put Luis Rivas on the bench.
All of this would be fine if that was the plan with Bartlett all along, but it wasn't. There is simply no way Terry Ryan and Gardenhire sat down at the end of spring training and said, "Okay, we'll take this rookie north with us, make him our starting shortstop, and then if things go poorly we can always just ditch the whole idea in the middle of May." If anything I think Ryan is too smart to let that be the outlook heading into the season.
Here's an interesting comparison:
AVG OBP SLG OPS FLD% ZRBartlett has come about as close to duplicating Cristian Guzman's 2004 numbers at shortstop as humanly possible. And while I'd be the first to tell you that's certainly not a good thing, it should at least have been enough to give Bartlett more of a chance to establish himself as the long-term starter at the position than the six weeks he got.
Instead, Bartlett was thrown into a tough spot, held his own while showing some definite flashes of potential, and is now on the bench (and perhaps headed back to Triple-A). What do we get instead? Lots and lots of Juan Castro. Castro, while very good with the glove, has almost no chance of approaching Bartlett's numbers at the plate. And we're not talking great offensive numbers here, they are the same ones that helped Bartlett find a place on the bench.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Business of Baseball Report (by Brian Borawski)
- Finding Flaws: American League (by Ben Jacobs)
Today's Picks (36-24, +$1,380):
Toronto (Bush) +120 over Minnesota (Lohse)
Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Minor League Update: Double-A New BritainMany organizations use Double-A as the main stop for their best prospects, often promoting them straight to the majors while bypassing Triple-A. The Twins, for the most part, don't do that, although there are certainly some exceptions. For instance, Joe Mauer skipped Triple-A altogether on his way to the majors and it has worked out extremely well. But he is not the norm within the organization.
Justin Morneau, Torii Hunter, Juan Rincon, Lew Ford, Jesse Crain, Michael Cuddyer, J.C. Romero, Jason Bartlett, and Matthew LeCroy each ended up with significant time at Triple-A, and even guys like Jacque Jones, Kyle Lohse, and Luis Rivas made extended stops there. All of which is a long way of explaining why Double-A New Britain's roster is usually not packed with great prospects.
The team's better prospects play there, of course, but they are eventually pushed to Triple-A rather than allowed to stay at Double-A until they are deemed ready to make the leap to the majors. This year is no exception, despite the fact that, as I discussed here last week, Triple-A Rochester isn't exactly bursting with great prospects either. New Britain is currently sitting in the cellar of the Eastern League's Northern division with a 14-21 record, 6.5 games out of first place.
Of the 15 hitters who have played for New Britain this season, just one, Danny Matienzo, is batting above .275. Gabby Torres leads the team with a .346 on-base percentage, but has a slugging percentage of just .279 to go along with it. In all, 11 of the 15 hitters have batting averages of .250 or lower and 11 of the 15 have on-base percentages under .320. Matienzo is the only player on the entire team who is above league-average (.251/.318/.380) in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.
When the Twins dealt for Liriano, he was a 19-year-old who was coming off a season in which he was able to pitch just nine innings because of injuries. There was no questioning his talent, but Liriano was available to the Twins at a discount because of the questions surrounding his health and the fact that he was so far away from the majors. It's about a year and a half later now and Liriano is looking like a textbook Terry Ryan pickup, flourishing after being plucked from the low minors of another team.
Not only has Liriano been healthy since coming to the Twins, he has pitched very well. He posted a 3.79 ERA in 156.2 innings between Single-A and Double-A last year, striking out 174 batters (10.0/9) while walking 60. And so far this year he has a 3.78 ERA in eight starts at New Britain, with a 59-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio and .234 opponent's batting average in 50 innings. The ERAs are a little higher than you'd like to see, but Liriano is blowing people away and he doesn't turn 22 years old until October. He is without question one of the best handful of prospects in the organization.
One guy who is worth keeping an eye on is Pat Neshek, a 24-year-old right-handed reliever who was the Twins' sixth-round pick back in 2002 and is now serving as New Britain's closer. Neshek has always racked up big strikeout totals, but struggled with his control last year. So far this season he is throwing strikes, with a 24-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 2.41 ERA in 18.2 innings.
Another performance worth noting comes from Lavele Speigner, who is not to be confused with the Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com, La Velle E. Neal. Speigner was the Twins' 14th-round pick back in 2003 and pitched extremely well at Single-A last year, tossing 77 innings with a 2.22 ERA and 76-to-29 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He did that while pitching out of the bullpen last season, but has continued to pitch well this year after a move to the starting rotation. Speigner has a 4.60 ERA in seven starts, but also has a 35-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 43 innings.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Game in Review: Brewers at Pirates (by Studes)
- Banana Fana Fo Fudcat (by Steve Treder)
Today's Picks (33-23, +$1,095):
Chicago (Prior) -140 over Pittsburgh (Fogg)
Florida (Willis) -120 over Los Angeles (Lowe)
Toronto (Towers) +205 over Minnesota (Santana)
Boston (Clement) -140 over Oakland (Zito)
Monday, May 16, 2005
Twins Drop 2 of 3 to RangersThe Twins played poorly during their three-game series against the Rangers this weekend, but thankfully managed to escape with a win in yesterday's game to avoid getting swept. They are now 21-15 on the year and just one game behind where they were last season after 36 games (22-14). Perhaps more importantly, yesterday's win contained several encouraging individual performances.
The star of the game was Shannon Stewart, who made an outstanding catch defensively and went 2-for-4 with four RBIs at the plate, including a three-run homer into the seats in left field that put the Twins ahead for good in the bottom of the sixth inning. Stewart entered the game hitting .276, which isn't bad, but he wasn't walking very much and wasn't hitting for very much power. The result was an uninspiring .276/.336/.362 overall line from a guy who hit .312/.382/.457 in his first two years with the team.
A two-hit game obviously isn't going to be the cure for a slow start, and Stewart's overall numbers are still below where you'd expect them to be at the end of the season, but it was really nice to see him hit some pitches with authority yesterday. After a .263/.318/.323 April he is now hitting a very Stewart-like .309/.377/.491 in May. Having him on base 35-38% of the time in front of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau would mean an awful lot for the Twins' offense.
And speaking of guys getting on base in front of Mauer and Morneau, the Twins' new #2 hitter, Nick Punto, went 3-for-4 yesterday. The three-hit game raised his batting average to just .256, but that comes along with a .326 on-base percentage that is right around league-average and would be a career-high for Luis Rivas.
Like I said last week when Ron Gardenhire went public with Punto being the new everyday second baseman, Punto is nothing great, but he's good enough and he's not Rivas. Plus, how can you not like a player who seemingly gets half the dirt in the Metrodome on his uniform during every game.
Michael Cuddyer also had a three-hit game yesterday, raising his batting average to .257. Like Stewart, Cuddyer hasn't shown a whole lot of power so far, but he had two doubles yesterday and is now hitting .257/.315/.345 on the year. That's horrible, of course, and he still has just one home run in 113 at-bats, but Cuddyer is now hitting .350/.395/.450 with four doubles in 40 May at-bats, after an absolutely dreadful April.
On the pitching side of things, it was nice to see both Juan Rincon and Joe Nathan bounce back after rough outings Friday night. Nathan had some bad defense played behind him and gave up an earned run (three of them, to be exact) for the first time this season Friday, but came back yesterday with a 1-2-3 ninth inning (with two strikeouts) for his 11th save of the year. Rincon was even better in his second appearance since coming back from his suspension, striking out the side on 15 pitches in the eighth inning.
And last but not least, Brad Radke recovered from serving up another early home run to give up just two runs in seven innings, picking up his fourth win of the season. The bad news is that Radke handed out his second walk of the season to Mark Teixeira in the sixth inning. The good news is that his strikeout-to-walk ratio is now at 36-to-2 in 63 innings this year, keeping him on pace to break the all-time strikeout-to-walk ratio record that is held by Bret Saberhagen.
A few mainstream Twins links from the weekend ...
When a pitcher puts a ball in play, he loses control of events. He might be rewarded with a great fielding play or snakebit by an error. A long flyball might ride the wind toward the shortest fence in a hitters' park for a cheap home run, or die on the warning track in dead center field in a Death Valley such as Comerica Park.Very logical thoughts, of course, and also very interesting coming from Souhan because DIPS is -- gasp! -- a sabermetric theory. Souhan better not let his secret get out though, because the Baseball Writers' Association of America might have to take away his membership.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Old(er) Man Franco (by Aaron Gleeman)
Today's Picks (33-22, +$1,195):
Milwaukee (Davis) +110 over Washington (Armas)