Fire Gardy

Mismanaging games since 2002

Archive for January, 2009

Pat Neshek’s Progress

Buster Olney recently spoke to Pat Neshek via email, and published Neshek’s response:

“So far the rehab is going good. Right now it really isn’t much for rehab — just a couple exercises that take about 20 minutes to do. I have been in Minnesota since the surgery on Nov. 18th. I will be heading down to Florida on the 14th of February, and reporting at the same time as the rest of the guys.

“My throwing will begin around mid-March, and that is when the rehab starts to pick up a bunch. We should have a pretty good team again this year, everyone is a year older … I’m crossing my fingers we sign another guy here, but like the past, I think most of our guys aren’t expecting anything to happen. I’ll be in Ft. Myers [Fla.] all season rehabbing and watching the guys on the Extra Innings package.”

My initial reaction is that it’s pretty awesome that Neshek seems to be so quick to respond to people via email; I wonder if that will get more common as a younger generation of players moves up into the major leagues. My second reaction is that it’d be pretty cool to have Neshek’s email address.

My third reaction is that I should never have an email conversation with Buster Olney, because he seems to publish these things a lot. And I’m a vulgar, insulting person who goes overboard frequently. I don’t want that getting out.

What? You wanted me to actually talk about what Neshek said? I don’t have much to say about that. It’s refreshingly honest, it doesn’t seem like he’s just spouting the usual “I’m on schedule, leave me alone” cliche. But there’s really no news — we already know he’s going to be out all season.

It is interesting, though, to hear from a guy who grew up a Twins fan and is now on the team. He’s wishing, like the rest of the fans, that we add another player. But now that he’s a player he has a slightly different perspective and a view into the clubhouse. Pretty great. I’m glad Olney violated Neshek’s privacy and published this email.

Also, Pat Neshek is now on record agreeing with me that the Twins are going to be pretty good this year. Just wanted to point that out.

On a slightly sadder note, what do you think the odds are that Neshek will fully recover and regain his former effectiveness? Or is he cooked?

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Giving Up on High Ceiling Prospects

When a highly regarded prospect finally reaches the majors, everyone’s ready for him to start producing immediately. Often, even the good ones struggle at first while they attempt to make the adjustment. And far too often, teams and their fans are quick to give up on their prospects during this brief struggle rather than sticking through it and finishing the player’s development. FanGraphs currently has a post up looing at UnBusted Prospects, pointing out that last year Carlos Quentin, Ben Zobrist, and Elijah Dukes had breakout years after being given up on by their teams.

Right now you’re probably thinking I’m going to talk about Delmon Young or Carlos Gomez, and how we should be more patient with them while they finish their development into major leaguers. But I’m not.

Instead, I’m going to look into an idea I got from that FanGraphs article. In particular, Chin-Lung Hu, who was apparently dropped from the Dodgers’ plans after a bitter cup of coffee:

For most organizations, the reaction to such a performance is to go find another option. The Dodgers re-signed Casey Blake and Rafael Furcal rather than giving Hu another shot.
Now, Hu’s major league numbers are indeed pretty bad: .181/.252/.233 with 0 HR in 127 PA in 2008. But is that really enough of a sample size to completely give up on a 24 year old shortstop who hit .298/.343/.421 in his minor league career?

Now that Furcal is in hand for the next three seasons, the Dodgers are pretty much saying that Hu is out of their plans. If somebody wanted to get their hands on Hu, now would be the time to do it. Now, the question is: Will he be the type of player who turns out to be a AAAA type guy, who can hit AAA pitching but can’t hack it in the majors? Or will he be able to make the adjustments necessary to succeed at the highest level?

After a good 2005 season at A+, the Dodgers moved him up to AA for his age 22 season. His OPS fell from .777 in 2005 to .660 in 2006, his SB dropped from 23 to 11, and his strikeouts jumped from 40 to 63. But even while struggling, he was showing signs of improvement: his walks increased from 19 to 49, which is a huge jump.

In 2007, they asked him to repeat AA, and he answered by demonstrating that he had, in fact, adjusted to the level. At age 23 he hit .329/.380/.508 in 82 games, at which point he was promoted to AAA where he proceeded to continue his good year: .318/.337/.505, which is very good for a 23 year old SS in AAA.

The point of looking over that was to demonstrate that he’s clearly capable of making adjustments, if given the chance to do so. Obviously his 2008 was worse than his 2006, and it’s more difficult to adjust to the majors than to AA, and we’re talking about upgrading from the NL West to the AL Central. But I don’t see any reason to think it’s impossible for Hu to become a solid major league shortstop, with the ability draw some walks, to hit 5-10 homers and steal 10-20 bases a season while providing a solid glove in the middle infield. (I don’t have access to his advanced defensive numbers, but he only has 1 error at SS in 45 career games.)

It’s impossible to say what the Dodgers would demand in return for Hu (but realizing that they’d be dealing with the Twins, they’re sure to demand Slowey+Span+prospects+cash), but realistically it can’t be a whole lot given that they’ve clearly given up on him.

We could stash him in Rochester until we feel that he’s got his feet under him and Punto has worn out his welcome in the starting lineup.

Obviously this is complete speculation and there’s no indication that the Dodgers would consider actually releasing Hu nor is there any indication that the Twins are looking to upgrade the middle infield via trade. But trades like this are ones they should definitely be considering, when the opportunity to buy low presents itself.

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Mijares and the Adventure in Venezuela

This morning FunBobby alerted me to the Mijares situation, and it was the first I’d heard of it. My initial reaction was to take a bit of  a wait-and-see approach before jumping to any conclusions about what it means:

I’m worried about this news about Mijares, but I don’t think the Dominican league is all that important and I don’t want to jump to conclusions. It’s possible that he had a disagreement with the manager, who may have wanted to increase/decrease his role against his will, and he didn’t want to endanger his actual major league career for the sake of his Dominican team. It’s also possible that he had a Silva-walking-off-the-mound moment and will get his head straight again. Again, no need to panic, but I certainly hope he talks to the Twins about this and gets everything straightened out.
Given that there’s now an update on the situation, now might be time for a little bit of further analysis here. Essentially what happened is that Mijares was looking great, then in a brief period of days he alternated between good and bad games with little rest in between, and in his second bad game he faced 4 batters without recording an out (obviously terrible) and ended up blowing a 3-0 lead and losing the game.
From there, the details are fuzzy. Depends on who you talk to, Twins officials say. But Mijares had a feud with Aragua manager Buddy Bailey, a no-nonsense skipper who has butted heads with players in the past.
A no-nonsense skipper who has butted heads with players in the past? It sure doesn’t sound like our friend Gardy, who’s an emotional player’s manager and likes to be everyone’s friend. So I don’t know if Mijares’ inability to get along with this no-nonsense jerk of a coach named Buddy Bailey who happens to have no connection whatsoever to the Twins really indicates that we’re going to have a problem with his attitude. This sounds like a disagreement that could have been resolved by a little humility from the manager and a willingness to talk to the player. Since Bailey doesn’t have to deal with Mijares for a whole season (or more), he doesn’t need to make that investment in a young player.

That said, however, Gardy does have some quirks that effect his ability to show humility and willingness to get over issues with players. He seems to particularly hate players who have the poisonous combination of youth and talent; if you have just one of them, he likes you okay … but if you have neither, you’re his new best friend. Rondell White? Garrett Jones? Lew Ford? Luis Rodriguez? Jason Tyner? Nick Punto? These are names that bring a little bit of bile to the back of my throat, but that Gardy has in the past written into the lineup like it’s his favoriate pastime. Since Mijares is young and talented, Gardy may want to give him the Alexi Casilla treatment — ie, jerk him around and sit his ass on the bench until he gets sent down, and who cares if that hurts the team I’m making a point!

If this event is an indication of Mijares’ general attitude, that treatment from Gardy will probably result in the same outcome, which is what we don’t want.

Want a bit of hope?

Mijares, 24, has struggled with his weight in the past.
Ooh, goody. Gardy loves him a fat Mexican*! So maybe we’re safe after all.

By “Mexican” I mean “Hispanic,” but “fat Hispanic guy” doesn’t have that same poetic feel to it. Thanks for your understanding, everyone.

Gardy hasn’t reacted to this yet, so I’ll get back with something when/if he ever does. But Bill Smith is doing what he can to lose his “Wild” prefix, and is spewing some boilerplate for public consumption.

“We’re happy he pitched winter ball; he had a good regular season,” Twins General Manager Bill Smith said.
Really Bill? You mean you didn’t want him to sit on his ass eating burritos all winter? And yes, he had a good regular season. Thank you. An 0.87 ERA is, you know, good.
As for walking out on the Aragua team, Smith said, “I’m not sure [Mijares] handled it as well as anyone would have liked.”
Ah. Yes, thanks. Obviously, walking out on the team and then getting thrown off it isn’t the best way to handle yourself. It’s a good thing we have a GM to clear this stuff up for us.

Then Smith was asked if Mijares is a lock to make the Twins’ Opening Day roster.

“No he’s not,” he said. “If he comes to camp thinking he’s a lock for our bullpen, he’ll probably be in [Class AAA] Rochester after our first cuts. If he pitches the way he did in September, he has a good chance of making our club.”
You mean a young player with 10 games of major league experience isn’t guaranteed a spot on the roster? Weird, I thought 10 good games was all you needed to get into the Hall of Fame. What, it was years? 10 good years? Oh, never mind then.

But I certainly hope that Mijares goes down with the “first cuts” just because of an incident in Venezuela involving the bruised ego of some nobody of a manager, name of Buddy Bailey. Why the shit should we care about Buddy Bailey?

Everybody just relax and evaluate him based on his ability to get people out, and his ability to bounce back from a bad outing under the tutelage of Gardy and Anderson. Not based on the opinion of Buddy Bailey.

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The Crede Issue

There’s a lot of talk right now about Joe Crede. Some people demand that the Twins sign him because, damn it, at least it’s something! Others wonder if he’d be an upgrade from a Buscher/Harris platoon. Others wonder if he’d be worth the money he’s asking. Still others wonder if he can stay healthy.

Neyer points out that the team that signs him will be the one that knows how to evaluate and value defensive contributions, because Crede’s had only one above average season in the last six years.

And he’s right. For all the talk about Crede being a big offensive upgrade, he’s just not that great at the plate. Don’t let the fact that he’s been putting up 25 HR per year (in the Chicago kiddy-pool of a stadium) cloud your vision when you take a gander at his .306 career OBP. That’s right. .306 OBP. Not good.

That said, his offensive contribution last season was better than both Buscher and Harris. He was worth -1.2 runs offensive last year, while Buscher was worth -1.6 and Harris was worth -3.0; note that while Harris’ number is much worse than Buscher’s he got twice as much playing time, which just about balances them out to equally ineffective offensively.

Defense is another story. Crede has always been an excellent defensive third baseman — despite my accusations a few years ago that he just makes the easy plays look difficult, a la Punto, and isn’t actually that great, he really does get to a lot more balls than other guys would. Even in limited playing time he was worth +5.4 runs defensively, while Buscher was worth -2.8 and Harris -5.3; again, playing time brings Buscher and Harris pretty close to equally bad.

Overall, in 2008, Harris was worth 1.1 wins, Buscher was worth 0.4 wins, and Crede was worth 1.8 wins. Despite playing injured and missing nearly half the season, he was worth more to the White Sox than Buscher and Harris were worth to the Twins, combined. Crede’s contributions were worth $8.1M on the free agent market, and he was only paid $5.1M for it.

He’d add some pop to our lineup but would not be much of an offensive upgrade over a Buscher/Harris platoon; it’s possible that one or both of them turns a corner and improves offensively, but their minor league track records don’t indicate that their ceiling is awfully high. Defensively, they’re not going to get much better and we couldn’t do much better than Crede.

If he’s healthy, and the scouts who watched him as well as the increased interest from other teams seems to indicate that he is, he’s definitely worth $5.1M plus incentives. It may even be worthwhile to try to go to 2 years on his deal. Still, the Twins say they need to see him more times before being willing to make a commitment; meanwhile, other teams are probably preparing their offers.

I’ve been a proponent of the Buscher/Harris platoon all winter, but as long as Crede is capable of playing ball somewhere in the general ballpark of his ability, I don’t see how this signing doesn’t work out for the Twins. He’s at the bottom of his value, so we’d be buying low and could get plenty of upside. Even if we don’t, and he plays hurt for half the season and then is done, we still get more value than we would from Buscher/Harris during that half-season and more value than we’re paying for.

I say it’s time to move on Crede.

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Mijares Freaks Out and Further Bullpen Analysis

The Star Tribune is reporting that Twins pitcher Jose Mijares walked out on his Dominican winter league team.  This is not a good sign.  I am no familiar with how seriously players take Dominican League ball.  Do they treat it like a beer league softball game?  Or do they take it as seriously as they do their full-time jobs in the Majors Leagues?  I assumed they were just as important, especially to the latin players.  If this is the case, we all of a sudden have a lot to worry about with Mijares.  Everyone anointed him the second coming last season without even questioning his character.  I understand its hard to see the negatives in his dominant (however brief) performance at the end of last year, but I think its time we sat down and took a hard look at Mijares.  I personally will not be doing this, since its my job to bitch about things and SirSean picks up the pieces with his “numbers” and other witch doctor type things.  But lets give it a shot.

In 2007 he pitched just under 70 innings in 31 games, all in relief.  He had 81 strikeouts to 53 walks, while sporting a 3.88 ERA and 1.46 WHIP.  61 of those innings were at AA and the rest were at AAA.  Nothing overpowering, his strikeout  to walk rate was about 1.5:1 (as a frame of reference Joe Nathan had a 4:1 strikeout to walk rate of 4:1)  The ERA and WHIP are really underwhelming, but not all together terrible.  I think this really shows that people are putting too much faith in the 10 innings he threw last season for the twins.  Could the source of this faith maybe be the fact that everyone else in the bullpen was so terrible during that same time frame and we were willing to crown anyone who showed a flash the next great thing?  I think that it could be.  

Now with this new revelation that he quit on his teammates, I am starting to have great doubts about the man.  In winter ball he was lights out, until two bad outings in a row, then he decided to walk out on his team.  What happens when he gets shelled in Minnesota?  I’m assuming he has experienced failure before and this was just a fluke, but who knows?  From now on we really can’t assume that Mijares is going to be a lights out set-up guy.  Outside of Nathan the bullpen really is a bunch of question marks.  Guerrier is coming off his worst season as a pro, and we don’t know if he can bounce back from a huge 2008 workload.  Jesse Crain will be entering his second full season after major shoulder surgery, word is he is finally back to full strength, but again who knows.  Breslow was consistent last year against lefties, and should be given more chances to get righties out.  Boof has the talent and stuff to be a great reliever, but the head has yet to come around.  It seems like our bullpen is built on a house of cards. The things coming out of the clubhouse sound like this “If Boof accepts his role, AND Crain rebounds from surgery AND Guerrier can regain his 2007 form AND Mijares picks up where he left off, we will have enough guys to get to Nathan.”  Could be worse.  It could be like this: “We are looking for 4 or 5 guys to get us to our closer.  Who we are still looking for” I think thats what it sounds like in Detroit.

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Performance Enhancing Surgery: The Next Frontier?

Everyone, obviously, has heard of the steroid era in baseball; probably way more than they wanted to. We haven’t talked about it much around here, because we were hearing too much about it and figured everyone else was too. But I’ve got some things bouncing around my head about performance enhancement, so bear with me. Trust me that this will not be yet another me-too indictment of Bonds, Clemens, or anyone else who was alleged to have taken steroids.

(And this post is longer than usual, so I apologize if you prefer the shorter ones.)

The crux of the anti-steroids movement has been that it is “cheating,” and that it gives players an unfair advantage in defeating their opponents and in chasing the hallowed records of yesteryear. The non-anti-steroids camp (I choose not to use “pro-steroids” because I doubt they would call themselves that) has said, basically, that players using steroids is far better than players using cocaine or alcohol — given the choice, wouldn’t you rather go out and watch guys who spend their entire lives working out and getting stronger so as to be better at baseball, rather than watching hungover guys staggering around after an all night coke party?

But is “it makes players better” really the problem? I recall reading an article in Sports Illustrated in the 90’s, in which it described the Seattle Mariners practices, where all the players would go over to a table (supplied by the team) and chug paper cup after paper cup of creatine — a performance enhancing supplement that is supposed to help with muscle recovery and growth. Creatine, I believe, is still used. As are supplements from companies like EAS, who advertise that their products help with muscle recovery and the development of new muscle tissue. These are all the same effects that steroids purportedly have. Players seem to be allowed to attempt to improve themselves.

It’s possible that the “real” steroids are worse for your body, and that’s why there’s such an outcry against them. The worse long term negative effects may be a mirror of their more powerful short term positive effects. And if that’s the case, it makes sense. Especially in the context of players being “role models,” or more accurately in raising the bar of competitiveness such that 18 year olds feel compelled to take supplements or steroids in order to compete.

The Twins haven’t had a huge problem with steroids. The only Twins to show up in the Mitchell Report were Chad Allen (who made a great play for the Twins in which his foot got caught in the Dome’s turf and it tore up his knee, and he hopped to the ball and threw it back into the infield despite surely knowing his career was done — he used HGH afterwards while attempting to make a comeback), Rondell White (who was always injured and sucked anyway), and Chuck Knoblauch (who started once he got to New York and got the yips). Tom Kelly looked bad because he didn’t turn someone in when they left a syringe in the visitor’s clubhouse. But ultimately, the Twins haven’t really had a problem.

This has made me happy, because I don’t want my own team and its reputation sullied, least of all in my own mind. But in the overarching area of “performance enhancement,” I fear the Twins may be on the cutting edge of a new trend, and I don’t know how to feel about it.

In the 2007 offseason, Denard Span knew he’d be competing for the center field position in 2008. He knew his minor league numbers didn’t look good and that the organization seemed to be souring on his future prospects. He then had laser eye surgery, which he claimed improved his eyesight and let him see the ball better, sooner, and improved his ability to evaluate whether or not to swing.

In 2006, AA: .285/.340/.349 In 2007, AAA: .267/.323/.355 In 2008, AAA: .340/.434/.481 In 2008, MLB: .294/.387/.432 

Note the huge jump in performance between 2007 and 2008, and also the huge jump in his IsoD (isolated discipline, or OBP-AVG). From 2006 to 2008 it increased from: 55, 56, 94, 93. That jump in plate discipline is the difference between Span being a decent player scraping by in the majors while we look for an upgrade and being a significant part of this team’s future plans as well as garnering a following. A .387 OBP is extremely valuable … and a .347 wouldn’t look nearly as impressive.

Could it be that he just turned a corner and improved that significantly? Sure, it’s possible. It’s possible that Torii Hunter’s advice (to “play angry”) made all the difference in the world for Denard Span. But, and this is purely speculation, it doesn’t seem to me that playing “angry” would improve your plate discipline and increase your likelihood of taking on a pitch. It certainly didn’t do that for Hunter, who remains one of the free-est swingers in the game.

You know what would increase a player’s likelihood of taking pitches? Drastically improved eyesight. Something that Denard Span acquired between the 2007 and 2008 seasons. It seems to me that this is easily worth looking into. Especially since he will now be joined by Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer, who both had laser eye surgery this offseason.  And this time around, the players are getting approval from the team before doing it, so there can’t be the plausible deniability “we didn’t know they were doing it” this time around.

Denard Span credits the surgery with turning his career around, so the Twins have given other players their blessing to have the procedure. “I had multiple discussions with people on it,” general manager Bill Smith said. “The biggest thing is making sure the people involved are reputable, and they were.” (USAToday)
But is this fair? Sure, anyone can do it, especially with the monetary resources of a professional baseball player and the medical resources of a professional baseball team. And there’s no indication that it’s “bad” for you in any sense.

And there’s also the question of those hallowed records. Of reducing the legend of players past by surgically or chemically altering current players who are subsequently more able to chase the legendary numbers. There has been a massive outcry since Barry Bonds used drugs to get as big and strong as Babe Ruth, and Roger Clemens used drugs to get as big and strong as Walter Johnson.

Will there be a similar outcry if people have themselves surgically altered such that they have the same perfect eyesight as Ted Williams? The key to Williams’ ability to hit was his eyesight — he famously claimed to be able to count the stitches on the ball while it was in the air. If he hadn’t been able to see that well, he almost certainly wouldn’t have been as great a hitter. At the same time, players now are surely bigger, faster, and stronger than he was (as all humans are compared to their predecessors from six decades ago). If they can have a surgical procedure performed to give them eyesight as good as Ted Williams, how is that different from Bonds and Clemens using drugs to become as strong as Ruth and D-Train?

Span’s jump in plate discipline isn’t nearly enough of a sample to make any conclusions. If he continues to hit (and walk) this well, and if Morneau and Cuddyer have similar jumps in performance of their own, then we’ll be well on our way to seeing if laser eye surgery can be an effective way to enhance your performance while skirting the rules against “performance enhancing drugs.” Will we soon be hearing of “performance enhancing surgeries” and a subsequent study into their use? What about genetic therapy? Where does this arms race end?

And if you’re a player, having a surgery like this isn’t exactly reversible; fewer people would have accepted the apology from Andy Pettite if they thought he was still using HGH. But in a dark future, nobody will accept an apology from Span for his eye surgery, since they know his eyes are still better than the ones he was born with.

Does anyone else have any thoughts on this possibly upcoming issue? Should eye surgeries be frowned upon and illegalized like steroids, and should the players benefiting from them become pariahs like their drug-taking predecessors?

Or can I keep being a big Denard Span Fan?

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Twins Smartly Reject Gagne

According to Joe C, the Twins have cut off their talks with Gagne.

This is excellent news. He was worth -$4.6M last year. That’s negative dollars. He hasn’t been worth more than he’s been paid since 2004. This is absolutely not the kind of pitcher you want to sign in free agency for any amount of money, much less “market value,” which is invariably higher than actual value.

I’m not terrified of the bullpen this year — I’d like an addition to replace Neshek, who really would have helped in the second half last year and probably gotten us into the playoffs, but it’s absolutely not worth panicking and signing someone like Gagne.

This is a great non-move. Let someone else make a mistake on this disaster of a former-pitcher. It has nothing to do with being cheap.

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Rob Neyer Has Some Shit To Say About The Twins, As Always

Rob Neyer continues his assault on all things Twins, saying that the Twins should have cut Kubel loose rather than signing him to this horrible, inexcusable contract.

One would assume that if anyone would have noticed the obvious parallel between Kubel and DOrtiz, it would have been Rob Neyer, that paragon of Boston fandom. So of course the Twins should have cut Kubel loose, because the original DOrtiz is falling to pieces and the Boston Red Sox need a new one.

But what’s that you say? The AL Central wasn’t actually created as a farm system for Boston and New York? You mean teams here can actually keep their own players if they want to? That’s weird. Mr Rob Neyer has never heard of this concept before. Therefore we should just give him our players and stop pretending like we want to actually field a team.

Neyer thinks he closes with a good point:

If Jason Kubel were a free agent, it’s not likely that the Twins would have thrown $7 million (or $12 million) his way. But Kubel’s been a Twin for nearly nine years, and after nearly nine years (and a knee surgery or two) it’s not easy to cut a guy loose. Especially a fairly productive guy. Even when the numbers say that’s exactly what you should do. 
Oh ho! Think about it! If Kubel were a free agent, would you sign him to this contract?

Maybe. Maybe not. 

But, on the other hand, he’s not a free agent. He’s an arbitration eligible player who was already under team control — ie, we were going to be paying him anyway. In arbitration, he almost certainly would have been awarded $3M+ this offseason, and more next year. So the question of what we’d do if we weren’t already going to be paying him is meaningless.

And he’s a known quantitiy. I don’t know what Eric Hinske or some other washed up veteran piece of crap player is like in the clubhouse, and neither do the Twins. But they do know what Kubel is like. They know he’s a little quiet, that he keeps to himself, that he doesn’t overextend himself, that he can no longer run, that he can’t really grow a good beard, and that he has a penchant for hitting grand slams late in the game. These are all things the Twins know about Jason Kubel, that they’ve learned over the last nine years of having him in the system.

And another thing. How many times do teams just cut the third best hitter on their team during his arbitration years? Compile for me a list of players who hit 20 HR in an arbitration-eligible season and were subsequently released from the team. Please. I want to see that list.

So no, Rob Neyer, just because we’ve had Kubel for nine years does NOT mean it’s your turn to have him. We’ll keep DOrtiz v2.0 for ourselves, thank you very much.

Is it just me, or have people come out attacking the Twins a bit more than usual today? It’s probably me.

Oh, and one more thing. Am I the only person who’s glad that the Twins are NOT signing guys like Hinske? You know, washed up mediocre veterans who do nothing but suck up some free millions and steal playing time from our younger, more talented players? Passing on the dung-flavor of the month in favor of hitching a ride with a still-improving slugger is a move in a positive direction for this team, and I personally find it amusing that guys like Rob Neyer and Dave Cameron are annoyed that we’ve finally figured that out.

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Someone Else Looks at Twins Team Win Values and Assholes It Up

Just saw that Dave Cameron over at FanGraphs has decided to run down the Twins Team Win Values, as he’s been doing for a few other teams. Apparently he didn’t notice that we already did that here.

For every other team he’s looked at, their team win value indicated that they were actually far better than their record indicates, because they were unlucky and didn’t hit well with men on base. The Red Sox should have won 106 games and everyone should have forfeited to them in the playoffs because they were the best! Boo hoo!

Well, Cameron’s decided it’s time to shit on someone, and who better than those confusing Twins, who seem to perpetually win games despite having players with dumb names I’ve never heard like “Blackburn” and “Span” rather than awesome names like “Rodriguez” and “Youkilis?” If they’re not famous, they’re not good. This is a widely believed fact, and if you don’t know it you’re just a homer.

Anyhow, Cameron points out that the Twins were an 80.5 win team last year based on win values. He arrives at this number for two reasons: 1) His calculator was broken, it’s actually 80.6; 2) He made his calculation before the bug in pitcher team win values was fixed, because it was actually 82.1 and no, I’m not going to let it go. 

When a single wasn’t going to be worth much, the Twins didn’t do much, hitting like a band of Triple-A infielders. When they had a chance to drive men in, though, they turned into a pretty nifty bunch of run producers. Because their offensive distribution was so heavily skewed towards hitting in situations that would produce runs, the team ended up finishing 3rd in the AL in runs scored despite an offense that simply wasn’t that good.
Yup, the stupid Twins were “run producers” who value RBIs rather than doing their best work with nobody on base, which makes you good. And what’s that about no-name players? AAA infielders you say?
While watching your team capitalize on a huge portion of their run scoring opportunities is exciting, it’s not a great recipe for success. If the Twins want to keep winning in 2009, they’re going to have to just hit better, rather than rely on turning up the offensive jets only in certain situations.
Why yes, it was exciting. Thank you very much, isn’t that the point of sports? It is “entertainment,” after all. And no, the Twins didn’t succeed. They lost their play-in game. Thanks for rubbing it in.

Alright then. While he ignored the fact that actual wins from year to year are more closely correlated with pythag wins than win value wins, he came to the same ultimate conclusion I did. That the Twins need to improve their offense.

What he didn’t point out is that Mike Lamb and Craig Monroe and Adam Everett being gone are improvements. And that Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez can reasonably be expected to improve. And Michael Cuddyer is coming back from injury. And Jason Kubel is set to be a regular DH. These are all things that should improve the offense.

I’m not worried. But other people evidently are, since they’re already warming up their “The Twins aren’t really any good” arguments that they’ll be using all season.

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Jason Kubel

The Twins signed Jason Kubel to a two year deal, with a team option for a third year.  Some peoplequestion this move, since he is already under team control for the next two years.  It really only gives the team cost certainty.  I think its a team friendly deal, mainly because of the option.  It can’t hurt to have a useful bat locked it for two to three years.  One of the reasons this move does look questionable is because of the outfield/DH logjam.  Kubel had to fight for at bats last year, now Michael Cuddyer is added to the mix and he will have to fight even harder.  It appears that no washed up free agent will steal his ABs, but perhaps a nearly washed up never-was will.  Ideally Gardy rotates Young-Span-Gomez-Cuddyer through the 3 OF spots, and lets Kubel be as the primary DH.  Possibly using Cuddyer against especially tough lefties.  Depth never hurt anyone. 

The dollar amount for Kubel’s deal doesn’t bother me, we either pay him 7 mil for 2 years, or 12 mil for 3 years, I think.  Not bad, especially if he has a killer first two years.  Will this new deal force Gardy to give Kubel more at bats?  Will the return of Cuddyer take at bats away? If we are facing a right handed pitcher, there is no question Kubel should be the DH.  Should be interesting to see how this plays out.  I highly doubt any of the five players mentioned above are moved before the start of the season, so Gardy better figure something out.

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