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Archive for March, 2009

How Does Chipper Jones Relate to Joe Mauer?

How do they relate? Well, I can think of a way.

As he often does, Craig Calcaterra over at The Harball Times has come up with an interesting thing to think about. This time, in regards to the recent extension Chipper Jones signed to stay with the Braves:

Seriously though, for Braves fans this is one of those things that transcends objective analysis. I really don’t care what his injury risk is. I really don’t care how much money it’s for. At some point and with some players you have to throw that stuff out the window, and Jones is the player you do that for in Atlanta. He’s the Braves’ Al Kaline, and that’s the kind of guy you never want to see in another uniform, no matter how much of a shadow of his former self he becomes by the end of the deal. 
Obviously Chipper is 11 years older than Mauer, and it’s way too early to be thinking about that. But I have the distinct feeling that a lot of people already feel the same way about Mauer.

That he needs to stay a Twin, even if it costs a lot of money and for the last few years of his career he’s a hobbled, limping shell of the player he used to be. That if the Twins allow him to leave for another team, for whatever reason, it would be an abject failure.

I don’t know how I feel about this. On one level I want Mauer to stay a Twin forever. But I know he won’t be able to turn down $200M from the Yankees or Red Sox.

And I don’t think the Twins should compete with them to sign him like that, because by the end of that contract he’d be in his mid-thirties, getting paid $20M or so to be a backup catcher. Or a below average defensive catcher. Or a below average offensive third baseman. Or something other than what he is today.

I doubt I’m going to want to put myself in the situation where I might resent Mauer for being an overpaid albatross dragging down the Twins. And even though it’s like 10+ years away, I think it’s worth thinking about. (When players sign for 10 years, you have to be able to think 10 years ahead. Or at least try to.)

What does everyone think? Is it worth it to the team to ensure that their star players stay for their whole careers, even if it hurts them on the field? Do you want Mauer to be a Twin when he’s 37?


The $14M Bat Waggle Gets Cut

I have to admit I’m a little surprised this happened. Gary Sheffield and his annoying bat waggle have been cut by the Tigers, despite the fact that they own him $14M for this season.

It’s the second most a player has ever been paid to not play for a team. (Behind Damion Easley’s 2003 campaign.) But at some point a guy just isn’t worth having around.

Last year Sheffield put together a +0.5 WARP, and for some reason Baseball Prospectus has him projected to bounce back to a weighted mean projection of +1.0 WARP. I don’t see how they can predict a recovery like that in his age 40 season … but what I will say is that their statistical projections may be tainted a bit by having been developed during the steroid era.

Looking at FanGraphs’ data, he was worth +0.3 Win Values last year. They don’t have a Win Values projection on their site, but every projection system they list projects him to improve his wOBA, all but one have him improving his wRAA, and they all see him improving his OPS.

I just don’t get it. The guy is cooked. The only reason to have him on your team is if you’re forced to pay him … and apparently even that isn’t enough. Now we’ll see which team feels like it’d be a good idea to have him around for free*.

But given that the Tigers just demonstrated that they’re willing to waste an expensive salary by cutting a worthless player, what does this mean for The Dontrelle Situation? Granted, their entire team is overflowing with corner-OF/DH types, and they don’t exactly have an overabundance of quality starting pitching. So maybe the situations aren’t analagous enough. Still, I think it’s become worth watching.

* The conspiracy theorist in me wonders if it has anything to do with the fact that he’s a former steroid user (he admitted to doing the cream and the clear, but denied they were steroids because he “doesn’t let guys stick things in his butt”), and he currently has 499 career home runs. Can anyone else see Bud Selig picking up the phone and telling the Tigers he’d pick up part of Sheffield’s salary if they cut him before the season starts? I can. Can you see him putting a little pressure on the rest of the owners to give Sheffield the Bonds Treatment? I can. Do you think this is really what happened? I, um, don’t really think so. But given that this is a blog and I can say whatever I want to, I’m just going to toss it out there.

At the end of the day, all this means to the Twins is that we won’t be distracted by the bat waggle any more, and he won’t victimize our pitching by smashing home runs all the time against us. I had the distinct feeling he was going to hit #500 against us.


Roster Update

According to LEN3, Jose Morales has been told he will start the season with the Twins in Minneapolis.   I think this is good news, as it is my opinion that Morlaes is a better player overall than Drew Butera.  Word out of camp was that Butera was stronger defensively, but Morales made up enough ground in that department in the last few weeks to earn the job.

On the bullpen front, the other Jose M, Mijares, was cut from camp and will begin the season in the minors.  This is a good move as well.  Mijares showed up out of shape, and pitched poorly.  Those are both bad things. 

Cuddyer is getting a sore index finger checked out, it is apparently just routine, but I stopped trusting the twins when they say someone is injured but its “no big deal”.  Bonser’s shoulder injury wasn’t a big deal, remember.  A week late, “oops, he’s done for the season, maybe his career, not the one to two weeks we initially thought.  Our bad”.  Lets hire some new doctors, ones that DIDN’T go to Hollywood upstairs medical school.

As we are now less than one week away from opening day, it is snowing in Minneapolis.  This is why I will miss the metrodome.  Yes, Target field in the summer will be awesome, but target field in April and October (hopefully) will be miserable.  Is it against the rules to play the first and last months of the season at the dome?  I mean nobody will be using it.  I’m just sayin’.


Olney’s Latest: Is Gomez Getting Bigger?

Today Buster Olney went around the league to talk to scouts, etc, and has come back to report their thoughts. Shockingly, one of them (an anonymous “AL Official”) actually had something to say about a Twins player:

Carlos Gomez of the Twins looks like he’s gained a lot of weight in the lower half of his body, to me. He’s filling out, physically, and at some point, he’s going to get bigger in his chest, too. I wonder if he’ll be able to run the same way if he keeps getting bigger.
The impression I got of Gomez hasn’t been that he looks all that much bigger*, but I suppose it’s possible I just haven’t noticed. That said, isn’t this a good thing?

The lower half of his body gets bigger — and he’s able to generate more power. The upper half of his body follows — and he’s able to generate more power.

As long as Gomez doesn’t get fat, I’d say this is unequivocally a good thing.

* Has anyone else noticed anything? Does he look bigger than he did last year?

I wonder if the scout would have focused on the future possibility of Gomez getting slower if he weren’t on the Twins. Perhaps he would have pointed out the potential for increased power.

Speaking of which, here’s a little brilliance from an anonymous “AL Talent Evaluator:”

I love the way the White Sox play. Does any other organization have as consistent of an attitude from ownership through the general manager, to the manager and field personnel?
Awesome. After years of the entire White Sox organization, at every level, repeating their new mantra (“We want to be just like the Twins”), this guy takes notice and singles them out as unique. I just … I just don’t know what to say about this.

Other than that I can point out at least one other organization that has as consistent an attitude from ownership through the general manager, to the manager and the field personnel. Does anyone want to guess which organization that might be?


Power/Speed Blend and its Relation to Organizational Efficiency

Today Baseball Prospectus looked at the combination of power and speed on a team, with Christina Kahrl positing an opinion that power/speed will soon be as important in defeating market inefficiencies as OBP was a decade ago and pitch-counts/defense have more recently become.

Her plan is to use ISO (isolated power, or slugging percentage minus batting average) to measure power, and a newfangled stat pioneered by BP called “EqBRR” (Equivalent Base Running Runs, which attempts to encapsulate not only steals, but caught-stealing, advancing on outs, and taking the extra base on a base hit — I do not know how they calculate it). She uses the PECOTA projections for every player on every team, sums them per team, and then combines them to come up with the power/speed “blend” for the team.

My first thought about this is that I think a power/speed blend is more interesting on a per-player basis (ie, if Gomez reaches his potential he’ll have a great power/speed blend and will be a great player — and one of the more interesting and entertaining players in the game). But a good “blend” of power and speed does not signify a good player: check out Morneau, or Manny, or Youkilis, or any number of great players who can hit the cover off the ball but can’t run to save their lives. Or look at guys like Ichiro or Willy Taveras who are great runners but don’t generate any power; they also have a terrible “blend” of power and speed, but are valuable players. Meanwhile, while Grady Sizemore would have a great blend, Mike Redmond would have an equally great blend: ie, he’s slow as hell and can’t run. Does having a good or bad blend of power and speed really signify a good or bad player, one way or the other?

If you sum it up across the entire team, is that problem minimized or not? I don’t know, it doesn’t seem like that would change the fundamental problems with the “blend” concept in the first place. Given that the linked article is about taking advantage of market inefficiencies, are we to take it to mean that a team with a bad “blend” are inefficient, in the generally accepted “win ballgames without spending a bunch of money” sense? Well let’s take a look at the data and see if it tells us anything.

She gives the top five and bottom five teams in terms of power/speed blend:

Team     EqBRR ISO  NrmEqBRR  NrmISO  Mult    Age
Padres   -7.99  .143   -1.88    -1.08   2.04   29.6
Marlins   6.28  .170    1.64     1.10   1.80   26.7
Braves   -3.71  .143   -0.83    -1.06   0.88   28.1
Phillies  1.68  .172    0.50     1.26   0.64   31.6
Orioles   2.80  .165    0.78     0.69   0.54   29.0
ChiSox   -3.99  .172   -0.89     1.27  -1.13   29.3
Rockies  -5.04  .169   -1.15     1.05  -1.21   27.9
Angels    6.23  .146    1.63    -0.84  -1.36   29.4
Cards    -7.60  .170   -1.79     1.12  -2.00   28.4
Twins     5.22  .130    1.38    -2.10  -2.89   27.1
Alright. So the Padres have the best blend. Kahrl jokes about this, calling them a freak show and describing them as a “sadly amusing statistical oddity of San Diego boasting the most evenly bad blend of power and speed.” (They’re like the Mike Redmond of baseball teams, blend-wise.) So moving beyond them, the top five includes the defending champion Phillies along with three more bottom dwellers. So four bad-to-awful teams along with a good team; sure doesn’t seem like having a good blend of power and speed guarantees that you’re a good team or a well run franchise.

The bottom five is even more interesting. The White Sox and Angels went to the playoffs last year, and the Twins were somewhere between 0 and 1 game short of making it. The Rockies were in the World Series in 2007, and the Cardinals won it in 2006. These are by no means bad teams.

Looking at the Twins for a moment, I’m somewhat amused — but not surprised — by the fact that they dwell at the bottom of the list (and by a considerable margin). They had no power and good speed last year, and while these are not based on last year’s stats but rather on PECOTA, there is no doubt that PECOTA hates the Twins like it hates no other team. Frankly, I expect the Twins’ power to improve significantly in 2009, as Gomez and Young* develop and with the addition of Crede’s powerful bat, as well as ditching Adam Everett’s swiss cheese fungo bat.

* Is anyone else amused by the fact that the Twins have actually realized that they have to try to encourage Delmon Young to develop into a power bat, and the only way they can think to do that is to tell him to “pull the ball.” I’m sure there’s more to it than that. And they were encouraged by his 4 double play game, given that all four GIDPs went to the left side of the infield. Maybe they should just have him talk to Killebrew just like Morneau does.

Ultimately, while it’s possible that power/speed blend becomes some sort of market inefficiency in the future, it doesn’t appear to indicate an inefficiently run front office today. By the various measures we’ve looked at here, the Twins are either in the top three most efficient franchises, or number one on the list. Similarly, the Angels are one of the better run organizations: by thrylos98’s measure they’re tied for #4 with the Indians, who were in the top 3 by my more simplistic measure. By the same token, the Marlins are an efficient organization and are near the top of the list. (Oh, so are the Rockies.)

I’d say we’ve demonstrated very well that being at the bottom of the power/speed list does not indicate that you’re a poorly run organization. By the same token, being at the top of the list doesn’t mean you’re well run (or not).

It seems to me that power/speed blend just doesn’t have any correlation one way or the other with an efficiently run franchise. And it also doesn’t seem to have any correlation with “excitement,” given that the Angels, Twins and Marlins are all exciting teams to watch, while the Padres and Braves simply are not.

I wonder whether Kahrl’s article was a legitimate piece or whether it was simply a way for her to meet her “bash the Twins” quota by finding a way to put the Twins at the bottom of a list.


Gomez has sore back and other notes

I’m pretty sure this isn’t a big deal, but Gomez will be sitting out until Friday with a sore back.  With the way the schedule works, it makes sense for him not to play.  We have two road games this week, so he will be sticking around the Twins complex.  When you have a sore back, sitting on a bus for hours doesn’t speed up the healing process.  I’m sure he will be fine in no time, but this is a good chance to get him some rest. 

Not really much other news today.  The Twins hit four bombs yesterday against the O’s.  And won. 

Japan beat Korea in 10 innings last night in the finals of the WBC.  So we are done with this for a few years.

The West Michigan White Caps have introduced this as their newest concession item.  I almost threw up when I saw it.  Anything that has nearly 5,000 calories shouldn’t be sold to the public.  I’d prefer it if they sold beer and cigarettes to children than this burger.  I mean come on, who in their right mind would eat this.  I don’t even know HOW I would eat.  I guess with Minor League baseball you need to attract fans somehow, maybe if the fans spend part of a season eating these things they will eventually have to buy two seats.  Just like that, double your attendance.  Genius!

The Marlins got fundingfrom Miami-Dade county for their new stadium. They got 515 million for the baseball only stadium, and 94 million for surrounding parking structures.  Say what you will about tax-payer funded stadiums, but if there is one team in the Majors who doesn’t deserve one, its the Marlins.  Maybe the Nats too, but that ship has sailed.  I mean, most teams who have a tax-payer funded park have at least tried to put a winning team on the field.  Maybe not every year, but its hard to remain competitive year in and year out, it goes in cycles.  The O’s seem to be on the rebound, the Mariners are in a rebuilding period, etc.  The only team that has no obligation to put a winning team on the field is the Giants.  Since they paid for their stadium themselves. They can do as they please, I guess.   The 94 million for parking will be repaid to the county as the team sells the spaces. Jeff Loria has to either sell the team, or get committed to having a good team by the time the stadium is up and running in 2012.  That means lock up Hanley Ramirez and your good young pitchers.  The team will also be changing their name to the Miami Marlins. I think that sounds dumb, but it was part of the agreement.


MLB Tries to Become More Like NBA … Or Grade School

Just learned this: MLB is trying to crack down on players who wear their pants slightly too long.

Putting aside the fact that I prefer players who wear long socks vs those who wear long pants, it seems to be the style of the time. So it’s not really worth raising a stink about it, I think.

So the league is doing this the right way, and treating all the players the same, right? They’re telling stars like DOrtiz and Manny that they’re going to have to shorten up their pants … right?

Ha, if you thought MLB would consider it a good idea to treat its stars the same as everyone else, you obviously haven’t been paying attention to the way the league operates. Ortiz and Manny can wear their pants however they damn well please, thank you very much.

But if Denard Span does it, it’ll cost him $1000 per infraction.

Span claims it was an accident, but I don’t care. This is just idiotic. It’s just as dumb as the NBA trying to require their young black players to dress like their old white owners instead of how they want to (and like their young black fans do). Except this doesn’t even have the excuse of doddering-rich-white-guys-who-are-totally-out-of-touch-with-reality.

I can’t decide if this is an individuality-reducing power play like school uniforms, or if it’s a revenue generating ploy for the league in a tough economic time (kind of like those cameras that catch you speeding and send you a bill).

Either way, it’s lame. And it’s even worse that they won’t enforce the fines for players that make a lot of money.


The Dontrelle Situation

Last week I was talking to my dad about Dontrelle Willis’ ongoing problems, and what the Tigers are going through with him. (How would you feel if we signed a guy to a 3 year, $20M+ contract and he proceeded to immediately suck worse than anyone and have to be sent down to A ball? And then the next year give up more runs than innings pitched in spring training, while making constant and drastic changes to his mechanics? Not good, right?)

But it was also in the context of Bert Blyleven’s stint as the pitching coach for the Netherlands, and what a great job he did with their young pitchers. Everyone really lauded the work he did, shaping up the pitchers, simplifying and solidifying their mechanics, and teaching them to step up to the moment and get outs when they need to.

So, inevitably, the discussion turned to the possibility of the Tigers cutting their losses with Dontrelle and just releasing him, followed by the Twins picking him up, stashing him in the minors, and switching Bert from TV-analyst to some sort of special minor league pitching consultant whose first responsibility is to fix Dontrelle Willis, followed by helping out with all the rest of our young pitchers. (He clearly has the skills for the latter, and the former has such huge upside that it’s got to be worth some kind of shot, right?)

Well, Olney takes a look at the Dontrelle situation today.

Internally, the Tigers have talked about breaking their camp with the best group of pitchers possible — and if Dontrelle Willis isn’t among the best, then the Tigers will have to determine another course of action. Willis has pitched 8 1/3 innings and allowed 17 hits, seven walks and 15 runs (12 earned), and rival talent evaluators believe Detroit will take one of two courses of action unless Willis shows dramatic improvement over the last two weeks of camp.
  1. Go about the business of getting Willis to the minors, where he can get in more work.
  2. Release him.
Willis’ struggles led to an interesting discussion among a couple of scouts this spring: How many pitchers have come back from the kind of acute control problems that Willis experienced last year, when he was missing his target by feet, rather than inches?

The scout couldn’t come up with a single example of somebody who regressed and then made it all the way back.

That doesn’t exactly sound promising. I mean, the prospects of the Tigers releasing him are somewhat promising in that the Twins could pick up a potentially valuable arm for free — but it’s interesting that nobody has ever had problems like this and then proceeded to come back from them and be their former self.

If it’s true that once-you’re-done-you’re-done, obviously it wouldn’t be worth wasting time on Willis. What are your thoughts? Do you think Dontrelle can fix this? Do you think it’s possible for someone who develops these kinds of mechanical problems to fix them? What are the implications of realizing that it’s not possible for someone to rebound from major issues on player evaluation? (In other words, does it lend more fuel to the argument that perhaps the Twins shouldn’t try “low risk” reclamation projects like Ponson, Ortiz, et cetera?)


For Some Reason, People Seem Interested in Bonds Signing … With the Twins

I missed this last week, but apparently someone once again brought up the question of the Twins signing Barry Bonds to play LF/DH. This time, Baseball Prospectus reports:

“Who do you want me to get rid of, [Delmon] Young, [Michael] Cuddyer, [Carlos] Gomez, [Denard] Span, or [Jason] Kubel? Which one?”Twins general manager Bill Smith, on saying no to Barry Bonds on the Twins.
Of course, Baseball Prospectus would say “You should get rid of all of them.” And around the nation, they’re not alone. People think Delmon is a failure at best, Cuddyer owns one of the worst contracts in baseball, Denard is a one-year fluke who couldn’t hit in the minors and is “inadequate” in the field, Gomez has an unforgiveably low OBP and a high strikeout rate and an inaccurate arm, and we would have been better served to release Kubel than to offer him a multi-year contract.

For example, here’s Buster Olney’s take, today, on Delmon Young (as one of the ten players to watch this year):

7. Delmon Young, Twins: He was a No. 1 draft pick, and after he made his major-league debut, Ozzie Guillen talked about him as a someone with the potential to be a future Hall of Famer. And yet just a couple of years later, it feels like he’s at a crossroad in his career. Young was traded from the Rays to the Twins and struggled to drive the ball last year amid questions about his ability to adapt. He’s battling other players for at-bats this year, with no job assured, and if he has a tough year, he would be a candidate for another trade — at less cost — or perhaps even a non-tender.
I’m going to go ahead and say it’s safe to say that Delmon Young will not be non-tendered after this season. Regardless of how he does in 2009. Although I still think he’ll do well. But it’s sometimes worthwhile to take a look at what others think of the talent on our team. Verdict: they still think we’re all terrible. And that Barry Bonds isn’t.
“I said that [outfield] is one area of strength and depth on our club, and we’re going to go with the guys we’ve got.”Smith, on what he told Bonds’ agent.
Apparently Smith was actually in talks with Bonds’ agent, which surprises me to no end. But it sounds like said agent was actively shopping Bonds around. The tone of these quotes doesn’t indicate that Smith called Jeff Boris just to tell him “Hey we’re pretty much set at outfield and DH, so we don’t have any interest in Bonds.” That doesn’t really make any sense.

But it appears interest is still out there in regards to where Barry Bonds will land in 2009, if anywhere. I agree with Smith that outfield has suddenly become a strength of the organization — that wasn’t true a year or two ago, when that was arguably the weakest area of the organization. That, in addition to the questions regarding Bonds’ character, age, physical condition, availability (due to legal concerns), and … was there something else? … oh yeah, the steroids thing, leads me to be against the Twins signing Bonds.

And it’s pretty clear it won’t happen. Why would a rumor like this even get started, or a quote like that occur / be published?

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Reusse “Admits” He Was Wrong About Casilla

This week Reusse penned a little special on Alexi Casilla’s emergence, along with a little history of his time with the Twins.

He decided to start his article with the event that brought Casilla into The Mind Of Reusse, or as Reusse probably likes to call it, “existence.” Yes, the history of Casilla started with Luis Castillo being traded.

General Manager Terry Ryan was criticized for giving up by the local sports media.
And you, Mr Reusse. I seem to recall you trying to get Ryan fired for that trade. So I suppose this article is going to be you eating some craw and admitting to being wrong about Casilla, right?
[It] allowed Santana to add a dash of righteous indignation to his mind-set as he rejected the Twins’ attempts to re-sign him.
Bringing back the old argument that Santana wanting out was Ryan’s fault … sure doesn’t seem like Reusse’s planning on admitting that he might not have been totally right that Casilla sucked, Castillo would play well until he’s 50, and Santana would have signed for $10M/year if only we hadn’t traded Castillo. Then again, maybe he’s just really setting us up for a good one.

Reusse then goes over a brief history of Casilla’s recent career, mostly stuff that everyone already knows. He talks about Casilla working with Oliva and Vavra to improve his lefthanded swing (which is interesting and a good thing).

“I never see my name anywhere when people write about our team, but I’m playing well,” Casilla said.
This really has nothing to do with Reusse, but I think it’s a good point. And it goes back to what I said in response to Dave Cameron’s idea that Jose Lopez is part of the future core of the Mariners but Casilla is useless dead weight (or nothing at all) on the Twins. Casilla is younger and better than Lopez, but for some reason nobody ever talks about him. What’s a guy got to do to get noticed nationally?

I think one place to start is for the local media not to constantly find ways to shit on him, and when they can’t find anything, just writing nothing about him at all. That way national people only hear the bad things about him, and don’t look any further. That’s how it connects back to Reusse. Didn’t think I could do that, did you?

He was going to be heading back to Rochester as soon as Nick Punto recovered from a hamstring pull. Instead, the Twins stumbled into a switch-hitting, playmaking second baseman — a younger, faster Luis Castillo.
I … would not call it stumbling into a “younger, faster Luis Castillo,” given that that’s exactly what Terry Ryan said Casilla would be like. This is not Ryan doing something stupid and it accidentally working out for the best, ie “Pulling a Homer.” This is just a good move that worked. So we’re right at the point in this article where Reusse admits he was wrong about Casilla and shouldn’t have criticized Ryan so vehemently.
As it turned out, Terry Ryan was right all along about Casilla … just 10 months early.
Almost. He almost made it. He admitted that Ryan was right, but not that Reusse was wrong. And finished with that nice little parting jab, finding a way to criticize Ryan even for being right.

I’m watching this cooking show right now, and the host made a drink called “Risky Whiskey.” The ingredients are 3 parts whiskey, a quarter part maple syrup, a splash of sweet vermouth, two splashes of lemon juice, and a bit of bitters. I do not understand any of these units of measurement. Especially because a splash is larger than a quarter part, and a splash is the same size as two splashes. What in blazes is a splash? And why is it three parts if the only other ingredient that uses parts just uses “one quarter part?” In what way does this make sense? For some reason, cooking shows like this one remind me of newspapers.

As everyone knows, I’m big on Casilla and always have been. I was thrilled to see him perform well last year, and hopeful that fans and writers would finally start to realize that he is a huge part of the future of this team. It feels like we’re almost there.

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