Friday, December 09, 2005
Link-O-RamaI was wrong. The Twins didn't make any moves yesterday, so instead of a write-up of that you get a bunch of random links ...
Here's what he wrote in Monday's "Links of the day":
My perfect start to the week would involve Jessica Alba and Elisha Cuthbert, a winning lottery ticket, a 10 day contract with the Hawks, and maybe world peace or something.Hmm ...
I've been a Minnesota Twins fan for as long as I can remember. Their resurgence a few years ago had me seeking new information on the team, and I eventually stumbled across Aaron Gleeman's baseball blog. His writing was refreshing and so much more informative than the standard newspaper coverage, and it led me to a lot of other great writers. I initially wanted to start my own baseball blog, but the abundance of outstanding blogs, especially those dedicated to the Twins, discouraged me. I turned my focus to my other favorite sport, college basketball. There were so few people writing about the sport that I figured I had a better chance of at least being read by a few people.Thanks, Ryan.
I highly recommend buying the book. It not only supports the work of someone who pumps out excellent writing for free on a daily basis, it will also be well worth the money. I really have no feelings either way about the Dodgers, but I've become a fan over the past couple years simply because of how good Jon's coverage of the team is. Now I head there every day, just like I do with Twins blogs.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Take a Walk on the Patient Side (by Dan Fox)
- Something For Joey (by John Brattain)
Pick of the Day (151-126, +$2,425):
Phoenix -10 (-110) over New York
Texas +2.5 (-110) over Duke
New England -4 (-110) over Buffalo
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Open Chat: Something Brewing?I'm not sure why, but from reading the various reports coming from the Winter Meetings I get the feeling that the Twins are about to make their second major move of the offseason. The team seems to be legitimately involved in an awful lot of rumors and Terry Ryan is starting to say the things he usually says before some news breaks.
The latest reports have Ryan talking to just about any free-agent hitter with a pulse while being actively involved in multiple-team trade negotiations. He seems committed to getting something done sooner rather than later, and I wouldn't be surprised if the Twins have a new third baseman and/or designated hitter by the end of the day.
Some of the most prominent rumors sound like good ideas to me and some of the most prominent rumors sound like potential mistakes. Rather than spend a second straight day speculating about what may or may not happen, I think it'll be better just to sit back and see if something actually does happen.
And, of course, if the Twins do make a move today I'll have a Luis Castillo-style write-up here first thing tomorrow morning. In the meantime, feel free to spread rumors in the comments section and check out my new "Catching Up On Trades" article over at The Hardball Times.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Catching Up On Trades (by Aaron Gleeman)
- FIP and the Long Ball (by Dave Studeman)
Pick of the Day (150-126, +$2,325):
Illinois -8 (-110) over Georgetown
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Twins NotesLots of Twins stuff to get caught up with, so let's get right to it ...
From Charley Walters' column in the St. Paul Pioneer Press Sunday:
Forget the Frank Thomas-to-the-Twins rumors. The Twins say they have nothing going with the former Chicago White Sox slugger.Interesting, of course, although I'd like to see who besides Sid Hartman ranks below Walters in terms of accuracy when it comes to rumors and predictions. And sure enough, the Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com, La Velle E. Neal, has a lengthy article discussing the Twins' significant interest in Frank Thomas in this morning's Minneapolis Star Tribune.
From Bob Dutton's "Royals Notebook" in the Kansas City Star Saturday:
The Royals sought to acquire All-Star second baseman Luis Castillo before Florida traded him Friday to Minnesota, but they backed off when the Marlins demanded either relievers Ambiorix Burgos or Andrew Sisco in return.Not that it matters much now, but it surprised me that with the number of teams rumored to be interested in Luis Castillo, the Twins' relatively modest offer of Travis Bowyer and Scott Tyler got the Marlins to bite. It gives me some hope that Kyle Lohse and J.C. Romero can be significant parts of a package to acquire an impact hitter.
From Jayson Stark's column on ESPN.com last Tuesday.
Other clubs have been amazed by what a good deal [new Phillies general manager Pat] Gillick was able to make for [Jim] Thome -- without even having to take him to spring training to prove he's healthy.I'm not quite so quick to proclaim Philadelphia the winner of the swap, but the implication that the Twins were in the mix for Jim Thome at some point is interesting. I doubt very much that Terry Ryan would have come close to giving up a similar package of, say, Torii Hunter, Glen Perkins, and Adam Harben.
From Ken Rosenthal's column on FoxSports.com Monday:
The Braves' search for a closer could lead them to pursue deals with the Twins, Astros and other teams with deep bullpens. The Twins, after sending right-hander Travis Bowyer to the Marlins in the Luis Castillo trade, do not plan to trade any of their right-handed relievers, though they would part with lefty J.C. Romero.Rosenthal reports that the Twins aren't interested in dealing right-handed relievers, but I would love them to shop Jesse Crain. While I like Crain, his value is probably close to its peak after going 12-5 with a 2.71 ERA, and the fact that he is completely unable to strike anyone out is very concerning to me. If the Braves are convinced that they can turn him into a closer and they're willing to part with third-base prospect Andy Marte to find out, I would jump all over it. I'd even toss in Romero and Lohse.
From Neal's article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune yesterday:
The Twins will have a new third baseman nest season. It probably won't be Bill Mueller. Many people in Dallas said they thought the switch-hitting Mueller would be a good fit for the Twins, but the Dodgers, Giants and Pirates have emerged as top suitors.That's a shame, because I've really warmed to the idea of Bill Mueller playing third base. He plays solid defense and would have fit nicely in either the second or sixth spot in the lineup. I think he's worth more or less as much as Castillo, so here's hoping the Twins at least offered him something like $10 million over two years. It'll definitely be interesting to see what he ends up signing for.
From Jason Williams' article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press Monday:
The Twins are in Dallas for the annual winter meetings looking for a designated hitter. They might end up having to find one from within, and there already seems to be an internal candidate - Michael Cuddyer.I already talked about how little sense this makes to me last week, but let me repeat it now: To take a guy who is capable of playing second base, third base, first base, left field or right field and stick him at designated hitter would be a mistake. If the Twins think Michael Cuddyer can hit enough to be a DH, then they should be doing everything in their power to make it work with him at another position.
If the Twins end up signing a proven mediocrity like Joe Randa while Cuddyer wastes away on the bench or is miscast as a DH, my confidence in Ryan will be shaken. If you're not going to take advantage of Cuddyer's ability to play passable defense at numerous positions and you don't trust him enough to play a spot the team is desperate to fill, then why not just give up on him completely and be done with it?
Here's how Cuddyer and Randa compare over the past three years:
AVG OBP SLG OPS
From Williams' article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press yesterday:
The Twins also met with the Cincinnati Reds to ask about a trade involving right fielder Austin Kearns.I suggested completely out of the blue in this space last week that Austin Kearns is a player I'd love to see the Twins going after. As I've said regarding just about any decent hitter who might be available this offseason, if the Reds will take Romero and Lohse for Kearns, the Twins should jump at it. The deal would free up about $5 million that they could use to up their offer to Mueller or sign someone like Thomas, Reggie Sanders or Mike Piazza.
And finally, from Neal's article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune Friday:
Castillo will replace Luis Rivas, who was the Twins' Opening Day starter at second the previous five seasons. The club and Rivas parted ways after last season, and things have gotten worse for Rivas since then. In his first winter league game in Venezuela, Rivas was hit by a pitch and suffered a broken wrist.While I have devoted many thousands of words to criticizing Luis Rivas here over the years, I certainly don't wish bodily harm upon anyone. I would like to see him make a full recovery with another team, hopefully one in the AL Central.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Business of Baseball Report (by Brian Borawski)
- Can Batters Successfully Modify Their Batting Approach? (by John Walsh)
Pick of the Day (149-126, +$2,225):
Los Angeles -2.5 (-110) over Toronto
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Comments and FeedbackThis blog and its readers never cease to confuse me. I posted my weekly "Link-O-Rama" entry on Friday and that afternoon the Twins made headlines by trading for Luis Castillo. Not surprisingly, the comments section quickly filled up with discussion about the trade, and the end result was an impressive 78 comments.
Then yesterday I actually wrote about the Castillo trade, devoting about 2,000 words to covering it from just about every angle I could think of. And what happened in the comments section? Well, not much of anything. In fact, the measly total of just 11 comments were the fewest an entry has produced since November 8.
The way I figure it, either I did an extraordinary job of saying everything there was to say about the trade or the 2,600 people who stopped by here yesterday were just sick of talking about Castillo. What other way is there to explain how the 10 previous entries received an average of 36 comments each, but yesterday's got less than one-third of that?
One thing the readers of this blog can never be accused of is being predictable. On a given day I am never sure of what you guys will complain about or find offensive, and now apparently I can't even be sure of what you'll be compelled to talk about. I thought Friday's comments section would turn into a lengthy discussion of Jessica Alba's butt and instead it was all about a 30-year-old Dominican guy named Luis.
As long as I've turned today's entry into nothing more than navel-gazing and some serious meta-discussion, here's something else I found amusing about the way people react to things. For any fellow writers out there, an experience I had last week is a good example of why it is extremely important to take all feedback with a grain of salt.
I received a ton of e-mails regarding my "Counting on Comebacks" article over at The Hardball Times last Wednesday, including five that arrived in succession the morning it was posted. To better illustrate my point, I'll quote only the opening sentence of each.
1) "Come on Aaron, I know you can write better than this."
2) "Good article at THT today."
3) "Nice article today."
4) "Your article today was pretty worthless."
5) "Excellent approach in the article on Hardball Times on Thome and Lowell."
And as any of you who actually read the article know, it wasn't exactly filled with controversial statements. The crux of the piece was basically just showing that while Jim Thome and Mike Lowell had lousy seasons in 2005, several other big-name hitters have bounced back from similarly poor seasons in recent years.
That's it. No big, sweeping conclusions, no extreme predictions for the future, no claims that what I wrote was anything more than a few hundred words for people to breeze through on a random Wednesday during the offseason. I didn't even make fun of Jim Souhan.
Feedback is always good for a writer, positive or negative, because getting some is better than not getting any. But as I've learned over the years while putting my writing out there for an increasingly large audience, not every opinion is the majority one and not every criticism is worth taking to heart. Of course, I'm sure Souhan feels the same way.
Now, if this exhilarating, thought-provoking entry isn't good for at least 79 comments, I don't know what is.
UPDATE: It's only 7:30 a.m. and there are already 15 comments. See how much better that is?
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Third Base: The Crossroads, Part Five (by Steve Treder)
Pick of the Day (148-126, +$2,125):
Cleveland -1 (-110) over Sacramento
Monday, December 05, 2005
The New LuisI've had the entire weekend to think about the Twins trading for Luis Castillo, so as you can imagine I have quite a few thoughts. First and foremost, this is an excellent trade. That's nothing new for Terry Ryan, of course, but most of his great hauls have come from sending veteran players away for prospects who eventually turn into solid players.
This time around he's the one parting with two prospects, Travis Bowyer and Scott Tyler, for Castillo. So, the obvious question is what the future holds for the two guys the Twins lost. The centerpiece of the deal from Florida's point of view is undoubtedly Bowyer, whom I like quite a bit. Here is what he's done in the minors over the years:
YEAR LVL IP ERA SO BB H
A second-round pick in 2001, Tyler has also struggled with control problems and is even easier to part with. He had a decent year at Single-A, posting a 3.95 ERA in 23 starts, but his 48 walks (3.7/9) and 18 homers allowed in 118.1 innings are concerns. The walk rate actually represents an improvement from previous seasons (5.6/9 in 2004, 6.9/9 in 2003), and the increase in homers suggests that he might have been throwing fat pitches over the plate to improve his control.
Regardless of the explanation, Tyler's numbers for a 22-year-old in the Florida State League are not great. I could certainly see him becoming a solid middle reliever at some point if he makes the switch to the bullpen, but I don't think he ever had much chance of making a major impact as a starter for the Twins.
If everything breaks right for the Marlins in this deal, they will end up with two young, hard-throwing relievers. Even that worst-case scenario for the Twins is something they can live with when Joe Nathan, Juan Rincon, and Jesse Crain are already established in the bullpen, and prospects like Pat Neshek, J.D. Durbin, Boof Bonser, and Beau Kemp are potentially ready for relief roles in the near future.
For the most part, this deal is as if the Twins had simply signed Castillo as a free agent. I consider losing Tyler to be of little significance, and losing Bowyer is like giving up the first-round pick they would have lost as free-agent compensation. Castillo's remaining contract -- $5 million in 2006, with a $5.75 million option for 2007 -- is very palatable and likely even underpriced in this market.
So Castillo came at the right price, but what exactly do the Twins have in him? First and foremost, a middle infielder who can actually get on base. That may not sound like such a big deal, but considering recent Twins history it definitely is. Take a look at the pathetic on-base percentages the Twins have gotten from their middle infielders since the team returned to competitiveness in 2001:
YEAR 2B SS
Almost all of the ridiculous number of things I've read about Castillo over the past 72 hours has named his defense as a major strength. For instance, here's what ESPN.com's MLB Insider Scouting Report says about him:
Now that I've gushed about Castillo's ability to get on base and let others gush about his ability to play defense, let's talk a little bit about his sizable faults. Castillo has less power than just about anyone in baseball, and in addition to hitting a grand total of 20 homers in 4,347 career at-bats, he hits surprisingly few doubles and triples for someone with very good speed.
Castillo smacked just four homers and legged out a total of 16 doubles and triples in 439 at-bats this year. That works out to an Isolated Power (slugging percentage minus batting average) of .073, which is higher than his .063 career mark. How bad is that? To put it in a context that Twins fans can relate to, Punto's career Isolated Power is .083. In other words, Castillo has less power than Nick Punto.
Actually, his lack of power isn't so simple. A switch-hitter, Castillo is like Jekyll and Hyde depending on which side of the plate he's batting from. This year, for instance, Castillo hit a measly .259/.368/.280 against righties and an amazing .423/.467/.649 against lefties. And yes, you read all of that correctly, from the .268 slugging percentage against righties to the 1.115 OPS against southpaws.
And that isn't just a one-year fluke. Take a look at his career numbers:
AB AVG OBP SLG OPS IsoP
There are two ways to look at this. One is that the Twins faced right-handed pitchers 71% of the time in 2005, so in the majority of his plate appearances Castillo is going to be slapping singles and drawing walks while contributing little else. That's not great and it lessens the value of his on-base percentage a bit, but at the very least he figures to be standing on first base about 37% of the time.
On the other hand, one of the Twins' weaknesses offensively has been a disproportionate number of hitters who struggle mightily against left-handed pitching. Jacque Jones is the most prominent example because of Ron Gardenhire's maddening refusal to platoon him, but Corey Koskie, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and A.J. Pierzynski also produced very little against southpaws despite playing nearly every day.
It would be nice if Castillo could hit for power from both sides of the plate, and if you're going to have an extreme split it is best to do your damage against righties. However, with Mauer and Morneau around as the key pieces of the Twins' offense and Matthew LeCroy unfortunately taking his lefty-mashing skills elsewhere, it isn't the worst thing in the world to be adding hitters who can beat up southpaws.
Castillo's offensive game is built around speed, ground balls, and bunts, and that skill set figures to be helped by playing in the Metrodome. He is consistently among the MLB leaders in singles and was the most extreme ground-ball hitter in all of baseball this year by a wide margin. The turf will make bunting an even more dangerous weapon, but Castillo's ability to beat out infield hits is probably overstated.
A look at his hit chart over at MLB.com shows that while he certainly beats out more bunts and choppers than most, Castillo still gets the bulk of his singles by hitting the ball past the infield. The fake grass will surely help a few more of those grounders find holes in the defense, but the downside is that playing on turf probably won't be a great thing for Castillo's body.
Castillo turned 30 in September and his recent injury history includes leg and hip problems. None of that is good news for a player whose game is based largely on speed, and it is also concerning that his stolen-base numbers have dropped off dramatically in recent years. Of course, at most the Twins have only committed to him for two seasons, which means how he ages into his mid-30s doesn't matter a whole lot.
All Castillo needs to do is stay healthy for 140 games, match the .302/.381/.373 he's hit over the past three years, and play solid defense. If he can do that, the Twins will have improved a massive amount at the position that has been their biggest weakness for years. His arrival is not going to turn the lineup into one of the best in the league, but it is a nice first step back to offensive respectability that carries little risk.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- MLBAM: The Stealthy Money Machine (by Maury Brown)
Pick of the Day (147-126, +$2,025):
Seattle -4 (-110) over Philadelphia