Friday, May 26, 2006
I bring this up to note that a hometown boy has made good, but also to inform everyone that in addition to being a major-league baseball player Hannahan also participated in one of the greatest basketball games I've ever seen. Playing in the junior-high league at the St. Paul JCC while a grade school-aged Aaron Gleeman looked on, Hannahan's team battled Zack Neren's team in a multiple-overtime game that ended with both players having well over 50 points.
I have no real point, other than to say that it's amazing how vividly you remember certain seemingly unimportant moments from your childhood. I never spoke to Hannahan and can't remember ever hearing of him as a baseball player before he played for the Gophers, but in my mind he'll always be the guy who scored a whole bunch of points in a basketball game that maybe a half-dozen other people can recall witnessing.
Hannahan made his long-awaited big-league debut yesterday afternoon and may have made baseball history by going 0-for-6. Hopefully the Tigers give him a few more at-bats before sending Hannahan back to the minors, because that would be one ugly Baseball-Reference.com page.
You've heard of open letters?Sometimes life is almost too perfect.
This is the end of a long and painful journey. I know Carl [Pohlad] has taken some hits and the Pohlad family, but there's no family that wanted to stay there more in their hometown than they did. And Jerry Bell, who literally gave his life here and all the Twins people.For those of you unaware, Jerry Bell is very much still alive. On the other hand, Selig is literally still a creep.
One particularly touching e-mail came from the owner of a 7-year-old Boston Terrier who is sadly experiencing many of the same symptoms that my 6-year-old Boston Terrier did before we found out that she had a tumor. I could sense the same sort of helplessness in the e-mailer that I felt at the time, and as much as it pained me to do so I advised her to think seriously about putting her dog to sleep.
I'm hopeful that she didn't resent my "advice" too much, because I certainly would have if someone had suggested the same to me before we heard Sammi's terminal diagnosis.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
The Twins don't seem to be in any hurry to trade Kyle Lohse, who was demoted to Class AAA Rochester last week. But among the teams interested are the New York Mets, Milwaukee Brewers and Toronto Blue Jays.I've heard several times from multiple sources who I trust that the Twins could have traded Lohse for what I would consider to be good value during the offseason, so there's some reason to hope that he's retained at least a fraction of that value despite his horrendous numbers this year.
With that said, the Mets acquired Orlando Hernandez from the Diamondbacks yesterday, seemingly taking them out of the Lohse market, and given the Blue Jays' pitching depth in the high minors I'd be shocked if they wasted time on Lohse. I believe Lohse will be traded at some point in June, but I'll be surprised if it's for any real value.
Torii Hunter flew home to Texas following the Twins' game in Milwaukee on Sunday, allowing him to watch his two sons play a Little League game for the first time in two years.I'll say this for the Hunter family: They've got some unique names.
My favorite part:
"Everybody doesn't like the way I hit," said Batista, a .251 career hitter in the majors with a meager on-base percentage of .298. "But everybody likes the results."The idea that "everybody likes the results" is absurd, of course. A more accurate quote might be: "Most people hate the results, but somehow I fooled Terry Ryan." I appreciate Christensen noting Batista's "meager on-base percentage" while pointing out that "the results have been disappointing," but rather than talk about his religion or the method behind his poor play, how about an article or two that are actually about his poor play?
The issue with Moses, the Twins' first-round draft choice in 2003, remains fielding, not his hitting. Riccardo Ingram, Moses' manager at Class AA New Britain, said: "He's getting better, but he's by no means Gold Glove caliber. Being in the right position to catch the ball, the footwork involved ... that's more of a problem for him than throwing."Moses has cooled down since a hot start and his .289/.331/.467 hitting line on the year doesn't look particularly impressive. However, the Eastern League has skewed so heavily towards pitching this season that the entire league is hitting a measly .241/.311/.361. For some context, Nick Punto is a career .243/.309/.325 hitter.
If you take Moses' numbers at Double-A and adjust them for the current offensive environment in the American League, they come out looking like .315/.395/.520. That's damn good for a 21-year-old in the high minors and certainly a step in the right direction after Moses entered the season with a career line of .271/.337/.415 in 169 pro games.
If he continues to hit like this Moses has a chance to be relatively valuable at designated hitter or a corner-outfield spot, which means a lack of defensively development won't kill him. With that said, if Moses can hit like this and turn himself into even a marginal defensive third baseman he has a chance to be a star.
I've heard it argued that strikeouts are worse than other outs for a middle-of-the-order hitter because it keeps them from driving runners in from third base with sacrifice flies or ground outs. Even if you buy into that--and studies have suggested that it isn't necessarily the case--the job of a leadoff man is primarily to get on base, so I fail to see how striking out in that situation is any worse than grounding out or popping out.
What matters is not making an out, period. Perhaps in another couple decades the good people in charge of covering the Twins in the mainstream media can get past "batting average and RBIs good, strikeouts and errors bad."
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Who Is ... Pat NeshekI've received a tremendous number of e-mails over the past month about Pat Neshek, perhaps more so than any other Twins-related topic. Baseball America inexplicably didn't see fit to include Neshek among their top 30 Twins prospects coming into this season, but he's been on my radar for some time now.
Last May in this space I described Neshek as "one guy who is worth keeping an eye on" and since then he's improved his prospect stock dramatically. After posting a 2.19 ERA and 95-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio while holding opponents to a .225 batting average in 82.1 innings at Double-A last season, Neshek has put up the following numbers at Triple-A so far this year:
G GS ERA IP H HR SO BB
In fact, the single biggest negative with Neshek at this point is that his unique delivery (shown below) leaves him vulnerable to left-handed hitters, particularly those who hit for power. Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star Tribune discussed Neshek a bit in his column earlier this week and quoted Neshek as saying that he's "retired the last 15 lefties" he's faced.
That may be true--stats in the minors aren't sophisticated enough for me to check easily--but for the entire year Neshek has allowed lefties to bat .279/.326/.558 with four homers in 43 at-bats against him. What makes those numbers particularly noteworthy is that Neshek has held right-handed hitters to a remarkable .123 batting average, striking out a ridiculous 39 righties in 65 at-bats.
The inability to consistently retire left-handed hitters hasn't really hurt Neshek in the minors, but it'll certainly impact his effectiveness in the big leagues. As a closer or late-inning setup man Neshek would inevitably be faced with an avalanche of left-handed pinch-hitters to go along with the usual assortment of left-handed sluggers who reside in the middle of most lineups.
However, as a middle man he could be used against predominantly right-handed portions of lineups, and because he'd be pitching in the middle innings opposing managers would be less likely to make bench moves against him. Because of that I like Neshek's chances of putting together a lengthy big-league career, perhaps even one that is a step up from guys like Steve Reed or Chad Bradford.
Will he get a chance in the Twins' bullpen this season? I think so, although given the Twins' sudden reluctance to trust young players you never know. In Neshek's case it's going to be very difficult to keep him in the minors for much longer given that he has 53 strikeouts in 30 innings at Triple-A and has put up the following numbers at each level:
LEVEL IP ERA SO/9
Another reason that Neshek's future is far from a given is that throughout baseball history teams have been overly cautious with "trick" pitchers. Whether it's side-armers like Neshek, knuckleballers, or soft-tossers whose great numbers don't match up with their sub par velocity, you have to work a lot harder to get a legitimate chance than someone with mediocre results who throws in the high-90s with perfect mechanics.
With that said, Neshek throws much harder and has better overall stuff than most guys with non-traditional deliveries. He's also far from the complete disaster against lefties that many seem to think, giving up a relatively acceptable .280 batting average against them over the past two years. Neshek has certainly given up too many homers to lefties this season, but we're talking about a very small sample and he's also managed 13 strikeouts in those 43 at-bats.
Neshek is one of the Twins' most intriguing prospects and in a minor-league system filled with promising young pitchers he is perhaps the most overlooked as well. I expect him to play a significant role on the pitching staff beginning in 2007 and he deserves to be the next pitcher called up should the Twins need further reinforcements in the bullpen this year.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Jason Kubel was recalled from Triple-A to take Stewart's place on the active roster, and despite Ron Gardenhire's spotty track record on such things I'm hopeful that he'll actually get a legitimate chance to establish himself in the lineup this time around. Kubel hit .283/.343/.475 with four homers and 13 total extra-base hits in 30 games at Triple-A.
A platoon of Kubel against right-handed pitching and Lew Ford against left-handed pitching should have little problem duplicating Stewart's relatively modest production offensively (.298/.355/.376) and they'll be better defensively regardless of how the playing time is distributed.
As good as Stewart was down the stretch in 2003, the decision to sign him to a three-year contract extension is looking like a mistake. Stewart hit well (.304/.380/.447) while missing 70 games in 2004, hit poorly (.274/.323/.388) while missing 30 games in 2005, and now this year is looking like a repeat of last season.
If the Twins are lucky they will have gotten about 350 games of .290/.340/.425 hitting from a sub par defensive left fielder for $18 million, which isn't the sort of thing a small-payroll team can make a habit of doing if they hope to remain successful. Perhaps the Twins can recoup some of that value if Stewart returns from the DL in time to be traded at midseason, but I'm not holding my breath.
Garbe went on to post OPS totals of .636, .597, .619, .508, and .561 in five full-season stops in the Twins system, spending two seasons at both Single-A Fort Myers and Double-A New Britain. After hitting .201/.283/.278 in his second year at Double-A in 2004, the Twins traded him to the Mariners for 41-year-old backup catcher Pat Borders in September.
Garbe hit .275/.335/.426 as Single-A roster filler in 2005 and then latched on with the Marlins' Double-A team this season. Still just 25 years old, Garbe finishes his eight-year pro career with a .235 batting average in 722 games and is the middle man in a three-year run of top-10 picks (Ryan Mills in 1998, Garbe in 1999, Adam Johnson in 2000) that provided the Twins with zero value.
Here's an interesting excerpt from the article:
Koskie, 32, still lives in the Twin Cities and said at one point he would have welcomed a trade back to the Twins, once the Blue Jays said they intended to deal him.Tony Batista is hitting .252/.313/.422 this season while Koskie is at .289/.363/.537, and they've each played 37 games. Quite the "baseball decision."
There is a much better chance of temporary Red Wings pitcher Kyle Lohse being traded than returning to the Twins. Minnesota should get a decent hitter from a team in dire need of a durable starting pitcher who would benefit from a change of scenery."Durable" is certainly not the way I'd choose to describe Kyle Lohse at this point, but to each his own.
Monday, May 22, 2006
Outdoor Baseball, Spring of 2010I'm too young to have been around when people actually thought that the Metrodome was a great idea, so for my entire baseball fandom it's just been the crappy place where the Twins play. I get asked a lot why I don't attend more Twins games in person and the reason is simple: I hate watching baseball indoors and especially hate watching it in a place that makes you feel like you're sitting in the middle of a warehouse.
Not only would I rather watch the Twins on TV than pay to sit in a "ballpark" that has all the ambiance of a shoe box, I'd rather watch the St. Paul Saints play outdoors. Baseball is meant to be played outside, under the sun or stars, with wind in place of that ever-audible echo that serves as a constant reminder of what a depressing mess the Metrodome is. I've been to more Saints games than Twins games over the past five years, and for most of the time I couldn't name a single player on the Saints.
I've avoided writing much about the Twins' quest for a new ballpark, in large part because I've seen hopes get up far too often on the subject. I became a hardcore Twins fan right around the time people were getting fed up with the Metrodome, so as far back as I can remember there's been a push for a new ballpark. And as far back as I can remember, it's failed. In fact, even now I remain sort of gun-shy about getting my own hopes up.
A bill paving the way for a new ballpark in downtown Minneapolis passed the House and the Senate late Saturday night, and I'm sure Jerry Bell, Dave St. Peter, and Terry Ryan sipped champagne in the wee hours Sunday morning. Still, I half expect to hear about a "snag" that threatens to hold the whole thing up yet again. It's not that it seems to good to be true. After all, 10 new ballparks have opened within the last decade. It's that it seems good, and I've been conditioned to not believe that it's true.
I've kept myself from getting too optimistic about the ballpark by avoiding articles on it and keeping clear of the artist renderings of what the whole thing might look like when it's done. That changed yesterday when I read all there was to read about the situation in both local newspapers and even found myself sneaking a peak at the drawings on the Twins' website. My hopes are officially up, although until I see some dirt being thrown around by guys in hard hats I doubt I'll truly believe it.
There are all sorts of arguments being thrown around by both sides of the ballpark issue, but for me it's simple. A new ballpark will increase the Twins' revenue, which should lead to increased payroll. That'll give the Twins a better chance to remain competitive, while keeping the team in Minnesota for decades to come. It also means that 81 times per year I can head downtown for an MLB game in a real, outdoor ballpark, which is something I've never experienced in Minnesota.
I've been to big-league games played in outdoor ballparks in Cleveland, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Toronto, and both sides of Chicago, and each time I've come away from the experience thinking about how wonderful it would be to have something like that for the Twins. I'm downright giddy right now, or at least as giddy as you can be about something that won't happen until 2010. After waiting all this time, you'd think it wouldn't be so hard to wait until then.