Fire Gardy

Mismanaging games since 2002

Archive for November, 2008

A Horrible Day: Viciedo Goes to the South Side

I don’t like this at all.

A few days ago, we were talking about the young Cuban third baseman, Dayan Viciedo. Huge power bat. 19 years old. Apparently available for a cheap contract.

We wanted him. At the time, the numbers sounded like they’d be in the $10M for 4 years range, which is more than affordable, and considerably less than we’ll probably end up giving to Casey Blake for Christmas. (Because for some reason we have to reward guys who used to be in our system, even if it doesn’t help out our team.)

Well, now he’s gone. For $11M for 4 years. And worse … he went to the White Sox. Their problems at third base weren’t nearly as bad as ours (“How do we replace Joe Crede’s ineffectiveness?” “Can Josh Fields’ power at the plate overcome his weakness in the field?” as opposed to “Are we still a major league team without a left side of an infield?”), and now they’ve made a huge upgrade.

In 2008, they had The Cuban Missile, Alexei Ramirez. I like that guy, and he did really well for the White Sox. Well, take him, replace his prodigious speed with prodigious power, and now the White Sox have another infielder who’s going to contend for rookie of the year. Again.

Letting Viciedo go to another team for such a low price is a mistake I can forgive. (Unless we end up signing Blake or Crede or Branyan for three times as much.) But letting Viciedo go to the hated White Sox is a colossal mistake that we’re going to realize in the 80 ABs he’s going to get against us this year, of which I’m assuming 10-25 will be home runs.

This is a horrible day.

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A Third Base Target and “Expected” Twins Moves

Lost in all the excitement about having made an offer to Casey Blake, and the pipe dream of stealing JJ Hardy from the Brewers, is the fact that there’s another option at third base staring us in the face.

Russell Branyan played third (kind of) for the Brewers last season until an oblique injury ended his season, but while he was on the field he was able to hit. And by “hit,” I mean .250/.342/.583 … for a 138 OPS+. That’s pretty good hitting. He had 12 HR in just 132 AB (in 50 games).

Sure, he’s left handed. Sure, he’s 32. Sure, he can’t play defense. Sure, he was hurt last year and we don’t actually know what we’d get from him. But realistically, these are all things that should make him one other important thing: cheap. Other teams may be shying away from him for these reasons — and the fact that we very well may be able to snag him on a one or two year deal should mean we should be sniffing around for that deal.

Bear in mind that this isn’t even a rumor. I didn’t hear this anywhere. But it would sure be nice if this is the kind of thing the Twins were considering. I have the feeling Branyan would be a better investment than Mike Lamb, at the very least.

Oh, and another thing. Baseball Prospectus went through the AL Central to see what each team should do in the offseason, and they have a few ideas about the Twins.

  • We’re not scoring 829 runs again — we only earned 764 “equivalent runs,” which I believe are calculated by weighting home runs highly because runs count for more if the ball travels over the fence. That’s why the White Sox scored more runs than the Twins, right? Right?
  • Brendan Harris improved greatly and was better than we thought — but we should replace him anyway.
  • Bill Smith has demonstrated that he doesn’t make big deals in the offseason, so he’ll spend more time playing craps than talking to other GMs this offseason. I don’t know what about his track record indicates that he doesn’t make deals, but thus far in his tenure he’s made two blockbuster deals per offseason. And earned the nickname “Wild Bill” from the only source that matters. (Us.)
  • We’re an 80-85 win team, not an 85-90 win team, and that we shouldn’t make any moves to improve.
  • It would be wise to package Jason Kubel and one of our established starts for a corner outfielder. (Really? The team that wants to unload a corner outfielder should instead acquire one by getting rid of the one guy on the team who needs more playing time? I … disagree.)
Usually Baseball Prospectus is pretty good about analysis, but this reads like it was written by a White Sox fan. Really Nate Silver? I think you’ve spent too much time on the South Side. I don’t know what the Twins will do this offseason, but I don’t think they’d be wise to heed your advice.
And we’d better not trade Jason Kubel. The only move we should make with Kubel is to write his name in at DH in permanent ink and then lock Gardy in his office where he can’t change the lineup.

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Silver Sluggers

So the Silver Slugger awards were announced this week, and a few more trophies are headed to Minnesota to further clutter the shelves in the Mauer and Morneau residences.

The M&M Boys each won the award for the second time (the first was in 2006), and it indicates that they were the best hitters at their position in the American League. Mauer’s really no surprise, he’s obviously the best hitting catcher in the AL right now; Morneau, however, is in the thick of a really tough crowd at first base, and should be both proud and grateful for coming out ahead of Kevin Youkilis, Miguel Cabrera, Mark Texeira, and the rest of the 1B/DH crowd (ie, all the players on the White Sox, Tigers, and Yankees).

I have two questions on this. Given that Morneau has been voted to be a better hitter than Youkilis, and that the gap in their defense is small at best, is it at all possible that Youkilis finishes ahead of Morneau in the MVP voting? (My guess is “yes,” because Boston has more sportswriters than anywhere else for some reason. Oh yeah. ESPN.)

My second question: What does Morneau have to do to get some respect? Seriously. ESPN remembers that Mauer won before, but not Morneau? They list this as his first career Silver Slugger, when it’s obviously not. Here’s the list of historical winners; scroll all the way down to 2006 (about 3 inches) and note that Justin Morneau did indeed win. Is this lack of respect from ESPN related to the upcoming Youkilis/Pedroia-loving that’s sure to come from the MVP voters? (My guess is “yes,” for the reasons given in the above parentheses.)

So congratulations to Mauer, and congratulations to Morneau. You guys are good: keep up the good work.

Oh, and what are the opposite of congratulations? Rebuke-ulations? Good enough.

Rebuke-ulations to you, ESPN, for slighting Morneau yet again. Jerks.

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Happy Gardy Day!

Today’s an eventful day for Ron Gardenhire.

He finished second in the voting for AL Manager of the Year, behind Joe Maddon. Gardy probably deserved to be second place just about as much as Maddon deserved to be first; ie, completely. I can’t think of any problems with it. Except … Maddon got 27 of 28 first place votes, and Gardy got 1. What’s the big deal, you say?

There has never been a unanimous winner for Manager of the Year. (ESPN)
Oh. Oh boy. Is it possible that the newly minted Ray Nation will inexplicably get angry about this? Yes they can. The single vote came from a sportswriter in Cleveland, who was then accosted by TampaBay.com, and essentially reneged his vote:
“The voting is done in the final week of the season, so I did not have the playoffs to consider,” Pluto said. “If they did the voting after, certainly Joe would have got it.”
I think that’s exactly why they do the voting before the playoffs — because it’s Manager of the Year, not Manager of October. But I have no gripes. He can say he’d like to take his vote back all he wants to. It seems that’s a rare opinion though, as Pluto is suffering plenty of hate mail.
Pluto said he’s trying to respond to every email he’s received, which have included a one-word, “Idiot,” and even some from fans in Cleveland who love his work but were wowed by his vote

“One guy wrote, ‘I usually like your stuff, but what were you thinking? You’re making me embarrassed to be from Cleveland.”

Seriously? This is what makes you embarrassed to be from Cleveland? 

Oh, and in other Gardy-related news, he finally got his extension. Good for him. As expected, it’s a two year deal, and also as expected, it wasn’t officially announced until all his coaches also got a two year contract extension. That’s right folks. Ullger is now signed through 2010. Vavra will still be our hitting coach and Castellano is still the strength and conditioning coach — so don’t expect any more power.

I appreciate the loyalty shown here by Gardy and the Twins organization. But at what point is it clear that Ullger, Vavra, and Castellano aren’t getting it done? We have performance metrics for the players, and even the manager (he has a 622-512 record), but we get nothing for these coaches and trainers, who have a huge impact on the abilities of the players to perform and the manager to win.

I demand satisfaction!

Also, congratulations Gardy.

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Neshek Goes Down and Other Bad News

In a bit of unexpected and horrible news this week, Pat Neshek had his first setback in his rehab from an elbow injury — and as a result will have Tommy John surgery and miss the 2009 season. I’d been banking pretty heavily on his return, and without him the bullpen problems of 2008 will almost certainly bleed into 2009 and keep the team’s chances of winning pretty weak.

Many expect this news to force the organization to redouble their efforts to acquire bullpen via trade or free agency; I’m not confident they’ll do that though. The Twins are really high on their homegrown pitching talent, and as a result we might see a whole lot of AAA players shuffling through the bullpen to see who sticks. Hopefully we figure it out by June or July so we can start to make up the ground we’ll surely sacrifice to the Indians, Tigers and White Sox by letting Boof and Guerrier repeatedly blow games for the first few months before handing more duties to Korecky, Breslow, Humber, Mulvey, Delaney, Duensing, et cetera, in the hopes that a few of them prove as effective as Mijares has.

In another bit of less-than-encouraging news, a dream of FireGardy has been dashed. Around here we’ve been secretly hoping that the Mariners try to steal Ullger away from us to be their new manager; after all, they’re just about incompetent enough to do something like that. Alas, it appears that it’s not to be. From Baseball Prospectus:

A sure sign that the Mariners are likely to begin a youth movement under new general manager Jack Zduriencik is that none of the seven managerial candidates he will interview have ever managed in the major leagues: Red Sox bench coach Brad Mills, Red Sox third-base coach DeMarlo Hale, Diamondbacks third-base coach Chip HaleWhite Sox bench coach Joey CoraCardinals third-base coach Jose OquendoAthletics bench coach Dan Wakamatsu, and Randy Ready, the manager of the Padres‘ Triple-A Las Vegas farm club.
It was encouraging that they were looking for someone who hadn’t been a major league manager before, but even they aren’t foolish enough to court Ullger’s services, apparently.

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Offseaon Update

The hot stove season is heating up with Jake Peavy rumors running rampant around the NL, and speculation of what big names the Yankees and Red Sox will acquire this offseason.  Did anyone really think the Dodgers would part with Russell Martin?  Is that just another example of Red Sox fans assuming they can have any good young players they want?

As far as the Twins go, things have been relatively quiet compared to last year.  Garrett Atkins name has come up often, but I’m not really sold on that. Gleeman wrote a piece today on why it wouldn’t be in the Twins best interest to acquire this slugger. The three main points I got out of it were a) he has decline every year since 2006, b)his home-road splits are quite drastic, and c) his defense is sub-par. All viable reasons, but Twins “fans” are clamoring for him because he is a big name and hits a fair amount of homers. All terrible reasons to want someone, especially since the price will be high.

Another name that keeps popping up is JJ Hardy.  I like the idea of getting Hardy, but again I think the price will be too high.  It will take at least one of our 2008 starting pitchers, plus 1-2 decent prospects.   Casey Blake is a viable option to play third base for a few years.  However, I do not think he is much of an upgrade of a Buscher-Harris platoon, and he will be drastically overpaid for some reason.  He is 35 and has been released by the Twins twice.  Outisde of Hardy I’m not sure who is available on the SS market.  I’ve always been a fan of moving Casilla to short, but I doubt Gardy will do that.  Another option for the left side of the infield is moving Cuddyer back to third.  I don’t mind this move.  Its risky, and Cuddyer will have to be 100% willing to do it.  Any hesitation and you don’t do it.  My biggest fear is that Gardy won’t just plant him at third and leave him there.  If one of the outfielders needs a day off I can really see Gardy throwing cuddyer out there as a fill-in, this would be a terrible idea. 

If both of the moves abve are made, is Busher then your backup corner infielder and DH?  That seems like a fine role for him.  Who then plays second? Punto? Harris?  If casilla stays at second is Punto the full-time shortstop, with Harris getting some reps?  If Cuddyer stays in the outfield do we have Buscher/Harris at third and Punto at short?  Gardy and the front office have lots of decisions to make, and hopefully we’ll be busy at the winter meetings. 

 If I had my way I would test the waters of moving Cuddyer to third, check the market for Hardy (and any other SS).  I don’t think we should acquire a 3B, Cuddyer or Buscher/Harris (we will need to come up with a clever nickname for them) are both decent options.  SS is where we should look into getting a fresh body.  Punto shouldn’t be allowed the be the everyday starter.

Thoughts?

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Delmon Trade Rumors Begin

Just saw a note at BP that the Twins are interested in Kevin Kouzmanoff, and are willing to trade Delmon Young to get him.

I have to say, I don’t get it. Kouzmanoff will be 27, and he’s just another low-OBP guy whose power will certainly evaporate once he comes near the Twins’ clubhouse. Why would we give up a promising young player to get him?

His home-road splits are at least encouraging; when he gets out of the spacious confines of Petco Park, he’s a .282/.330/.488 hitter, versus .243/.290/.390 at home. So he’s actually the opposite of Garrett Atkins, who will certainly be considerably less valuable if he doesn’t play at Coors Field.

This comes down to the fact that the Twins think they have four starters in the outfield, and they only want three of them. But the 2008 season demonstrated how valuable it is to have depth; one of the outfielders went down and we didn’t miss a beat because we had another to step right in. If we lose one of these guys, we’ll be seeing a lot of Pridie next season, and I don’t know about you but I’d much rather keep him stashed at AAA until Revere/Morales/Parmelee/Benson/Hicks have advanced through the system and we can safely dump him into the Mississippi or something.

Frankly, I hope this is an unfounded rumor. I’m not a proponent of trading Delmon away, and if we do I’d hope we’d get something a little better than Kevin Kouzmanoff.

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Twins Free Agency Filings

The day after the World Series ends, players around the league whose contracts have expired are allowed to file for free agency. Every year, ESPN and other news outlets make this a big story, breathlessly reporting that Manny and Texeira have filed for free agency! I click the articles half expecting to see a couple of “OMG!!11″ ejaculations amongst the baffling excitement. I mean, isn’t this expected? Did you think Manny and Tex were going to retire? Because I didn’t.

This year the Twins have fewer free agency filers than we have in recent years — instead of Torii Hunter and Carlos Silva, this year we have to deal with Nick Punto, Dennis Reyes, and Eddie Guardado.

So the question becomes: what will the Twins do with each of these players?

One player is extremely simple; Guardado is as good as gone. He was set for a regression after an unsupportably good first half, and boy did he regress hard. He just couldn’t get anyone out once he came to the Twins, and Gardy didn’t seem to trust him at all. Good bye Eddie.

Some sources think we might re-sign Reyes, given that he had an “excellent 2.33 ERA” this season. This, of course, demonstrates one of the major problems with using ERA as a stat for a reliever, especially a lefty specialist. How many times this season did Reyes come in with men on base, give up a walk and a hit (with a wild pitch or two thrown in for good measure), either lose the lead or put the game out of reach by allowing inherited runners to score, then leave the game for another reliever to clean up (putting undue stress on other relievers)? Seriously, what percentage of the time did that happen? 50%? 90%? If Reyes gets, as some seem to expect, a $4M yearly salary, he’s gone. There’s no way the Twins are paying that for someone as unreliable and replaceable as Reyes. (Hey FunBobby, you’re left handed: think you can throw a ball fifty feet and bounce it against the backstop four times in a row, three times a week, for a million dollars? You can be a lefty specialist!)

That leaves Nick Punto. We’ve been pretty hard on Punto over the years, and some of it had good reason. He’s not a starting infielder, and shouldn’t play as much as Gardy likes to let him play. But when our other infielders have been nonexistant/ineffective/injured, Punto has been able to step in and produce at a nearly-average level. He has value as a fill-in, as a talented utility man. Especially if he can hit well enough to post a 100 OPS+, as he did this year.

This year he made $2.4M, and no doubt he’ll be looking for a raise. He may be thinking that he deserves to be paid like a starter. At the same time, the Twins should be looking to find a real starter at SS, and not to pay someone like Punto as if he were. It really depends on what Punto thinks he is (a starter or a utility man) and accordingly what he thinks he should be paid —  as well as what the Twins think of Tolbert and whether he’s ready to get over his Punto-like early-career-effort-injuries, which come from trying too hard in situations where you shouldn’t (diving into first base, diving for a foul ball you can’t possibly reach and breaking your collarbone, etc).

My guess is that Tolbert isn’t ready yet, and the Twins know it. I also think we’ll offer Punto a contract, hopefully somewhere in the Mike Lamb range. Like 2 years, $6-7M total. If he demands more than that, it’s just not worth it.

Oh, and we should be doing everything possible to keep him under 300 at bats next season. First step: find a real shortstop and commit to Buscher at third base until someone else comes up throw the system.

Thoughts on the Punto dilemma?

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