September 27, 2009

Showdown in Motown

The Twins took two of three games against the Kansas City Royals while the Detroit Tigers lost two of three to the White Sox, allowing the Twins to pull within two games of the division leading Tigers.

The Twins are playing their best baseball of the season this month while the Tigers continue to take a sharp nosedive. After winning the first six games of the month, the Tigers are now 8-11 since September 8th. In that span, they've been outscored 84 to 98 and have scored two or fewer runs in six of the 19 games. Meanwhile, since September 7th (their last 19 games), the Twins are 13-6 and have outscored their opponents 103 to 73.

The Twins are 'clicking' both at the plate and on the mound, which is completely the opposite for the Tigers. Joe Christensen from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune posted a possible outcome table. And as you can tell, the Twins need a series victory in order to have a realistic shot at winning the division. If they tie, they'll need all the luck in the world to win. And of course if they loose three or four games, the Twins will be eliminated.

The Twins and Tigers faced off against one another at the Metrodome two weekends ago where the Twins won two of three. Unforunately, they aren't at home and will have to try and win at Comerica Park, a place the Tigers have won 65% of their games played there. The Twins on-the-otherhand have a winning percentage of 47% on the road this season.

On paper, the pitching matchups sure look to favor the Tigers. Even without Edwin Jackson starting, the Tigers have their Cy Young candidate Justin Verlander starting on Wednesday with their Rookie of the Year candidate Rick Porcello going on Monday. But Carl Pavano has been a Tiger killer this season and Brian Duensing has been outstanding since joining the rotation. So couple them with the teams best two pitchers, Scott Baker and Nick Blackburn, gives me reason to feel optimistic about the matchups.

The Tigers offense is strong, but the Twins offense has been getting great production from their eight and nine hitters in the lineup. Both Nick Punto and Matt Tolbert continue to swing hot bats this month despite being despicable at the plate throughout the season. Tolbert has been hitting primarily eighth and playing third base since joining the lineup and is hitting .381/.395/.500 in 42 September at-bats. Punto has been playing second base and hitting ninth, but has a .310/.437/.397 hitting line through 58 at-bats this month. Both were big reasons why Denard Span drove in six runs on Saturday.

Two players the Twins will surely miss in this series will be Joe Crede and Justin Morneau. The two have been Tiger mashers throughout their careers but both are out for the season with injuries. Instead, the Twins will rely on both Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel (besides Joe Mauer, of course) to carry the load in the middle-of-the-lineup. While Cuddyer's having a great month, he hasn't put up great numbers against Detroit throughout his career. Kubel has hit terribly all month, which could be of result from him playing in right field on a near day-to-day basis. He is actually zero for his last 13. Thankfully the Twins have Span, Mauer and even Delmon Young who have all hit well against the Tigers.

The Twins have been playing great these past few weeks, but the pressure is definitely on right now. The Tigers have a lot of things that could give them an edge here and there, but if the Twins continue to play the way they have, it should be a good week for Twins baseball.


On the side...

I've been slackin' on the blog as of late. I can't promise more frequent posts in the near future, but I'm definitely not giving up on the site (in case anyone was wondering).

But I do have a few things to mention.

Chris Jaffe from The Hardball Times wrote a great article last week in which he lists his 10 greatest games in the Metrodome. If you read the comment section, I felt there was one more worth mentioning. But it's a great article and one I hope everyone takes a few minutes to read. While the Metrodome hasn't been the best home, it's certainly had some great memories.

Andrew Kneeland is now blogging at In fact, he's already posted his first One-on-One with Dan Osterbrock which I hope everyone checks out. David Gorski is now blogging at Twins Fix (Andrew's old site) and is doing a great job so far.

Seth Stohs has been hosting a live podcast almost every night this past week. So if you're looking for some great Twins talk, make sure to check out some of his past shows.

Brian Pietrzak wrote a great review of The Machine, written by everybody's favorite writer, Joe Posanski. I already have my copy but I am going to finish up The Soul of Baseball (also written by Posnanski) first.

And finally, while he's been blogging for a few weeks now, I wanted to mention that Shawn Berg has started a blog called On the road with... Make sure to head over there now as he's posting his good and bad Twins memories.

And finally, you can find me on Twitter at or feel free to e-mail me at

September 18, 2009

The Twins' Outfield Dilemma

Ron Gardenhire recently talked about his logjam in the outfield and what he plans to do with it in 2010. Gardenhire admitted that it's been a challenge this season to give everyone enough playing time and said that he's tired of shifting lead-off hitter Denard Span around the outfield. Thus far, Span has logged in 1126 1/3 innings in the outfield this season. 39% of that time has been spent in left field, 43% in center and the final 18% in right field. All in all, Span has a UZR/150 of 0.6, down from his UZR/150 of 3.9 in 2008.

Offensively, Span is very valuable and there's a reason Gardenhire is feeling the need to give him a 'set' position. He is 10th in the American League with a .389 OBP, which also ranks him third in the Majors among lead-off hitters. Span also takes (on average) nearly four pitches per plate appearance, which also is near the league lead among lead-off hitters. There's no question that Span is an integral part to this ball clubs success. The question is, where do you play him?

Gardenhire reportedly hinted at leaving Span in center field next season, but he quickly mentioned that it'll depend on who is still with the ball club, obviously making us assume that one of Carlos Gomez or Delmon Young will be traded this off-season.

Over the last two seasons, I've let my 'favorite' be known. But at least right now, I'm having a hard time choosing between which I'd prefer to keep. While I still believe one player has more potential than the other, I also recognize that one provides a valuable commodity to this ball club that is useful regardless of his putrid offense.

It seems as though many of Young's problems stem (mostly) from poor mechanics. However, he hasn't fixed those mechanics and has not garnered any reason for me to believe that he's going to turn it around other than just using the same old excuse, that he still has a lot of potential. Young is now three (full) seasons into his MLB career and is regressing instead of progressing. Obviously it's too early to abandon ship on a (recently turned) 24-year-old, but it's getting harder and harder to support him.

As for Gomez, his defense is the reason the Twins traded for him, fully knowing his offense is very (very) raw. I have thought for a while that Gomez should be sent back to Triple-A to work on pitch recognition and just the 'basics' at the plate (as in, don't swing at a pitch coming near your head, how to lay down a bunt, etc.). But that obviously wasn't in the Twins' plans and they now have wasted an entire year for both Young and Gomez. What exactly have either of them gained from sharing at-bats and starts this season? At 23-years-old, they should just be reaching the Major Leagues (a problem that was out of the Twins' hands). But the Twins felt it was more valuable to have both play only three days a week while the other just sits there... and does nothing.

To me, the Twins should have sent Gomez to Triple-A right out of Spring Training. Although Gomez had a solid triple-slash line this Spring, the Twins were delusional if they felt that he had completely turned the corner after last season. And even so, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt since nobody knew how Span would play after a terrible spring and season in which he seemingly came out of nowhere. But don't you think that after a month of April in which he hit .195/.250/.293 in 16 games was enough to finally make the (right) move? Of course not.

Instead, the Twins have made both young, raw, yet-gifted players sit on the bench and learn the game by watching. And unless they're trying to mold these guys into being coaches, I don't see much benefit from a hitter sitting on the bench and not getting regular at-bats. Gardenhire throwing them batting practice is not enough. Especially for aggressive hitters like Young and Gomez.

The Twins shouldn't be even faced with a dilemma of any sort. Instead, they should have let Gomez and Young both have the playing time they deserve and after the season, move one of them. It's likely that one of the two would have stepped up if given the proper opportunity and instead, the Twins are now faced with a dilemma on which one to give up on. If both played great, we'd still likely have to move one, but it wouldn't be a dilemma, at least in my opinion. But this is a dilemma because both have little trade value and the Twins will be abandoning ship on a young player with little-to-no return value, and a player they gave up a lot for.

The Twins shot themselves in the foot on this one.

September 9, 2009

An early look into the not-so-distant future.

Several weeks ago, before I lost all of my free time to school, I answered a few questions that Peter Bourgeois sent in to me.

Since then, the Twins have been very busy signing draft picks, upgrading their bullpen and pulling back within manageable distance of the division crown when, at the time, it looked as though they were done for. Unfortunately, the Twins are now sitting five games behind the Tigers with just 29 games remaining, seven of which are against Detroit.

But even with a good month left of baseball to be played, everyone is gearing up for what could be the most exciting off-season in Minnesota Twins history. Despite a fairly weak free agent class, the Twins will have money to spend. But how much is the question. Last week, La Velle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune hosted a live chat, and this caught my eye:
12:15 [Comment From Next Year]
How do the Twins improve the club for next year and will they spend any of that new stadium money?

La Velle:
They better. With raises through long-term deals and arbitration,the payroll should go up. I had a conversation recently with a Twins official who estimated the payroll could top $90 million next year and head toward $95-100M.

I've speculated on this in the past. The Twins have a similar market (actually, if we're getting down to the specifics, it's larger) than that of the St. Louis Cardinals. Obviously just because they spend money doesn't mean we have to, but I've always felt that the Twins could spend at least as much as them. After all, the Twins are going to be moving into a new stadium which will be packed full of Twins fans almost every night, much like the Cardinals and their new stadium.

But La Velle hearing from a 'Twins official' is probably a good indicator that other people feel this way as well. While I'll still be surprised to see the Twins raise their payroll nearly $30 million in just a few months, I do think that over the next three or four years, $90 or even northwards of $100 million isn't completely out of the question.

As for the 2010 season, here's how the roster looks (please note, these are just my calculations and shouldn't be taken as 100% accurate, or for that matter, anywhere near that):
C: Joe Mauer - $12,500,000
C: Jose Morales - $400,000
1B: Justin Morneau - $14,000,000
2B: Alexi Casilla - $460,000
IF: Brendan Harris - $1,250,000 (Arbitration guess)
IF: Nick Punto - $4,000,000
IF: Matt Tolbert - $460,000
IF: Brian Buscher - $460,000
OF: Delmon Young - $1,700,000 (Arbitration guess)
OF: Denard Span - $460,000
OF: Michael Cuddyer - $8,500,000
OF: Carlos Gomez - $460,000
DH: Jason Kubel - $4,100,000

Other possibilities: Jason Pridie - $400,000, Trevor Plouffe - $400,000,
Hitting total: $49,550,000

SP: Scott Baker - $3,000,000
SP: Nick Blackburn - $460,000
SP: Kevin Slowey - $460,000
SP: Francisco Liriano - $1,250,000 (Arbitration guess)
SP: Glen Perkins - $1,250,000 (Arbitration guess)

Other possibilities: Brian Duensing - $400,000, Jeff Manship - $400,000, Anthony Swarzak - $400,000

RP: Joe Nathan - $11,250,000
RP: Jon Rauch - $2,900,000
RP: Matt Guerrier - $2,500,000 (Arbitration guess)
RP: Jesse Crain - $2,250,000 (Arbitration guess)
RP: Jose Mijares - $460,000
RP: Boof Bonser - $1,250,000 (Arbitration guess)
RP: Pat Neshek - $1,250,000 (Arbitration guess)

Other possibilities: Bobby Keppel - $460,000

Pitching total: $29,940,000
Obviously, not all of the serf contracts are quite accurate and the arbitration guesses are in fact just guesses. But as you can see, the Twins are already close to $80,000,000 ($79,490,000), which isn't including any free agent pick ups or taking into factor any extensions they may give to some of their current players. With Joe Mauer expecting to earn a substantial pay raise, it's doubtful that the Twins add any elite players this off-season.

But even if they could afford an elite player, I would be surprised to see the Twins go out and sign one. One thing I've come to expect over the years while following the Twins is that what you think will happen probably won't. Now that's kind of a vague statement, but it is true. When I have figured the Twins would finally splurge in free agency, they have sat back and done nothing. When I expected them to do something (anything) at the trade deadline, they have sat back and done nothing. And when I don't expect them to do anything, they go out and make a run at players that would change the whole dynamic of the ball club. And for that reason, I can't and won't get my hopes up that the Twins will add anything this off-season.

Of course, the Twins could very well trade a few players, which I truly believe they will, but who and what is a complete mystery and something that will be discussed at another time.

And looking early, here are the key areas of concern that the Twins need to address this off-season:
Starting pitching: The Twins' Achilles heal this season has been their failure to execute (both at the plate and on the mound). But the Twins' pitching staff has given up so many runs this season that I really can't blame the offense for not scoring when they are currently ranked 8th in the Major Leagues in runs scored, opposed to the pitching staff having the 24th worst ERA. While they have scored 668 runs this season, the pitching staff has given up 657. Other than in walks, the Twins' pitching staff is below American League average in nearly every category.

Middle infield: It's no surprise to anyone that the biggest question mark regarding the offense is the hitters occupying both second base and shortstop. The Twins' second base play this year has been atrocious. So far, the Twins have fielded a .201/.285/.260 hitting line from their second basemen this season, by far the worst in the Major Leagues. Shortstop hasn't been nearly as bad, but that's not really saying a lot. The Twins have gotten terrible production from their shortstops this season. Both areas should be addressed.

It's easy to point fingers at Bill Smith and co. for not equipping Ron Gardenhire and the coaching staff with the appropriate players to win this season, but his hands are kind of tied. The 2008 Twins were a great story. Nobody expected anything from the team after losing players like Johan Santana, Torii Hunter and Carlos Silva to the ever powerful color of green, but the pitching staff turned out to be outstanding while the offense looked outstanding. I don't blame Smith for not acquiring a big bat or another pitcher last off-season, because really, they didn't look as though they necessarily needed that much help. I thought the acquisition of Joe Crede was more than enough to keep the offense atop of the American League ranks while the pitching staff continued to develop.

Only, the pitching staff and for some part, the offense, got off to an unstable start and the offense was the only thing to finally figure things out. The pitching staff that once looked to be one of the best in the league quickly turned into one of the worst. But nobody can be blamed for that. It's hard to predict pitching, especially young pitching. Smith did help bolster our bullpen, which while it's still rocky at times, it looks set for the future.

But this off-season, while I don't think the Twins will have the means to go out and acquire a top-end free agent, I do expect them to improve each area of weakness this team has. Last off-season was too hard to predict. We had one real weakness at third base which he ultimately (later than we probably would have hoped), found a solution. The rest of the squad looked solid heading into the season. Was it a Championship team? I don't know. It was strong enough to make the playoffs, that's for sure.

So now after another season with the reigns of GM, I expect things to be a little more active this off-season. Again, I honestly don't expect John Lackey or Matt Holiday to be Twins come next Spring, but could they acquire someone like J.J. Hardy or Mark DeRosa? It's at least more realistic.

The Twins are currently hovering around the 15th worst record in baseball, which as a Twins fan, is something we pay close attention to every year. If the Twins have one of the 15th worst records in baseball, their 1st round draft pick would not be surrendered if they chose to sign a Type-A free agent. At this point, that probably wouldn't be a bad thing to be in. The Twins are losing ground in the standings and although they keep holding on, at this point, it's very unlikely that they'll make the playoffs. While I'm not advocating that they throw games for the sole purpose to finish in the bottom-half of the standings, it wouldn't be the worst thing either.

But obviously, it's a pretty safe assumption that nothing will get done until number seven is signed, and while I hope it gets done early, I'm unfortunately expecting it to drag on throughout the off-season which could give the front office plenty of excuses why they're not more aggressive on the market.

I've grown more and more pessimistic over the summer and while I still love the Twins, I don't know if I have full faith in the front office or coaching staff to get this team to where it should be, which is at the top of the standings every year. The Twins might have the best hitting combination in baseball and one of the best overall players that has put on a jersey in this era, yet we have a hard time staying above .500 and play in a division with two deadbeat teams and no team that is stellar by any standards.

Something needs to change, and I truly hope that something happens this off-season to instill some of the faith that I may still have in this franchise.

September 2, 2009


Hey everyone. I am finally getting things settled up at school which means that I should have more time to devote to the site from here on out. Thanks to a number of great Twins sites, I really don't feel the necessity to go into real depth on what I missed.

Rich Harden: It would have been nice to get him, but I'm happy the Twins didn't overpay for him. They'll have a shot at him in free agency. Definitely not worth two top prospects. Nice to see them stay aggressive though.

Brad Penny: I've never been a huge fan of his, and like Joe Christensen mentioned today, he probably thought the American League was too tough and wanted to get back to the 'senior circuit'.

Jon Rauch: Love this move. Although it cost the Twins Kevin Mulvey, I still think it's a win for the Twins. He's a good pitcher and he solidifies our bullpen for not only this season but for next season as well. Mulvey is a back-end starter, which the Twins have plenty of.

Ron Mahay: I also love this move. The Twins got him for pretty much nothing and he also comes in and gives us another viable arm for the bullpen.

And finally, can enough be said about Jeff Manship and Brian Duensing right now?

Go Twins!