Will the AL Wild Card come from the Central?

(This post is partially in response to a challenge from my good friend Jake that I would not be able to write about anything substantive in less than 1,000 words. Let’s see if I succeed. The word count starts after this parenthetical. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook if you like – I’m always open to comments and critique!)

Will the AL Wild Card come from the Central?

No.

Oh, fine, I’ll get into it a little bit more, but I’ll still beat that 1,000 word challenge. I was listening to ESPN Radio about a half an hour ago here in the DC ‘burbs, and they asked a commentator (whose name I cannot recall, despite trying) what their pick for the wild card will be. To be clear, the question was almost certainly a roundabout way to get the guest to give an opinion on who would win the AL East (as it has been long-opined that the Yankees and Rays will, in some form, share the AL East title and the Wild Card). However, to my mild (okay, more than mild) surprise, the guest responded: “The Chicago White Sox.”*

*The sound you just heard? My head exploding.

So, here I am for a little bit of reality therapy. The Twins are not going to be the AL Wild Card. The White Sox are not going to be the AL Wild Card. The AL Wild Card is going to be either the Yankees or the Rays (sorry, Red Sox, but I’m sticking a fork in you now). Because my stock in trade is not in making bold statements without backing them up, at least a little bit, my reasoning follows.

First, let’s look at what the brilliant minds over at Baseball Prospectus have to say about this (note, the report I worked from was generated on Sun., Aug. 8, at 7:15pm. This means the result of the Yankees-Red Sox game was at least four hours too late to be included. Wait, who am I kidding? It would have been five hours. The Yankees and Red Sox play that slowly.). I put together the following spreadsheet, which simply states the percent chance that a team would reach the post-season as the Wild Card, based on 1 million simulations of the rest of the season. The first model is based solely on the results of the season so far, the second is adjusted by PECOTA, the model developed by stats genius Nate Silver, and finally, the third is adjusted based on an ELO ratings system (if you don’t know what an ELO ratings system is, Silver explains in this old post). So, what do the Baseball Prospectus people, all of whom are smarter than me, posit? The results are striking:

All Numbers © 2010 Prospectus Entertainment Ventures

Wow. Even I can tell you the Wild Card winner is going to come from the AL East. In all three models, there is a greater than 90% chance it will (91.72612% under the first model, 97.36387% under PECOTA, and 92.64992% under ELO), with an average of a 93.91330% chance. Wow. That seems pretty conclusive to me, right? Well, let’s play that game for a second. Based on that, I calculated* the odds of a non-AL East team getting the Wild card:

*My 10th-grade Accelerated Algebra teacher taught me to always show my work. So there it is.

So, odds are just over 16.5 to 1  that a non-AL East team will take the Wild Card. By doing some brutally simple (and inaccurate) math, I can posit that the Twins have something like 35 to 1 odds, and the White Sox approximately 60 to 1 odds.

Now, 35 to 1 doesn’t sound so bad, when you look at the above numbers, but it is a similar number to what Australian Steven Bradbury (40 to 1) was facing in his attempt to become the first gold medalist from the Southern Hemisphere to win a gold medal in the 2002 Olympic short track speed skating, and the first Aussie to win a Winter Olympic Gold. He won, so that should give the Central’s second-place finisher hope, right? Not really; it took the following events to occur:

  • The disqualification of the second-place skater in his qualifying heat, which allowed him to move into the semi-finals.
  • In his semifinal, he was in last place on the last lap when three of the four other skaters crashed, allowing him to finish a distant second place.
  • In the final, he was far behind the field when this happened:

I can’t really think of a more unlikely event. It took an act of the judges, an act of God, and the deliberate trip of Apolo Ohno by the Chinese skater for Bradbury to take the Gold.

Based on the numbers, the odds of the Twins (or White Sox, or any other team) taking advantage of the Wild Card playoff berth are extremely low.

Second, other than the Yankees and possibly the Rangers, no other team in the majors looks quite as good as the Rays right now. The Twins had a terrible June, and since the break they have dominated the cellar-dwellers, while only barely managing a split with the Rays. The Rays, on the other hand, have looked pretty darn good all year. I say that with some trepidation, because right now the Rays have two of their starters going to see the doctor for shoulder ailments, but they are also almost uniquely able to fill the holes, with stellar minor leaguers, including Jeremy Hellickson, who was most recently seen shutting down the Twins last Monday. Their outfield and infield defense are better, their starters are better, and their bench and system are deeper. The Twins have the edge in lineup strength and the bullpen (with the possible exception of Matty “Two-Face” Guerrier and the minor-leaguer-of-the-week), but their starting pitching can be very suspect, especially with a potential Kevin Slowey elbow problem.

The Twins’ best shot to make the playoffs is to

overtake the White Sox. In theory, that shouldn’t be too hard to do. The White Sox lineup still makes me cringe, but not with fear. Gordon Beckham just hit the DL. The Twins should easily win the AL Central.

And that, including this postscript, is 999 words. I win.

2010 Twins Projections

The 2010 season starts for the Minnesota Twins starts in just three or four days, depending on when I actually get this stupid thing finished and published (internet connection being funky tonight). Josh Johnson, last week, challenged Twins Bloggers to make a series of predictions about the season. He also provided a suggested list of predictions. However, because I am contrary, I will do his, and also some of my own. So… (drumroll, please), your 2010 Minnesota Twins Season Predictions!


Twins MVP:

My first, gut instinct was to say that the Twins MVP will be the obvious answer: The 23-million-dollar man. However, on further thought (and further beverages), I’m tempted to say the MVP will be Drew Butera, just to be horribly contrary. This is a tougher decision than I originally thought. I think that it will be a close battle, but I think that in the end ORLANDO HUDSON‘s ability to make us forget about the sinkhole that had been second base and the 2-hole in the lineup will make him the most valuable player of the year, especially given that we pretty much expect great seasons from Mauer, Morneau, Span, Cuddyer, etc. If I had to pic a runner-up, it would be Denard Span.
Twins’ Top Pitcher:

Again, I was sorely tempted to pick the contrarian pick: Clay Condrey. However, that isn’t my ‘onest answer, and my bangers and mash wouldn’t sit quite right having left a whopper like that standing. I think it will be close indeed, but SCOTT BAKER will emerge from the pack as the most valuable Twins pitcher.
Twins’ Best Rookie:

Interestingly enough, the only true rookie breaking camp with the Twins this season is Drew Butera, and he won’t be with the Twins for more than a month or two. Therefore, it’ll be a midseason call-up. I think the Twins rookie of the year will be ANTHONY SLAMA, who will break into the majors after one of the current bullpen members forgets how to throw strikes. That said, he won’t have much competition, as Danny Valencia won’t arrive until August or September, and we won’t see any other rookies without a rash of injuries.
Twins’ Most improved Player:

As much as I dump on him from day to day, DELMON YOUNG is the clear choice for most improved. I think this is the year that Delmon finds his swing and his power, and though he won’t get any more selective, more of those first-pitch fouls will end up in play, and more will land in the left-field stands than in any of his past seasons. Runner up: Francisco Liriano.
Bold Twins Predictions:

  1. Pat Neshek either ends the season with the most saves or gets injured by June and never really comes back.
  2. Delmon Young receives more than 50 walks and hits more than 20 home runs.
  3. Clay Condrey finds a steady role in the middle innings and excels, while Guerrier struggles after being initially forced into a closer role he isn’t suited for, until he returns to being a very good set-up man.
  4. We learn that Chris Cates, pocket-sized second baseman, was abducted and eaten by Jose Mijares; his leprechaun nature caused Mijares’ blurry vision.
  5. At least three Twins players adopt the Great Gazoo helmet:

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Twins Keys to Success:

1. Liriano and Slowey need to have strong, bounce-back years from their injury/ineffectiveness-shortened years last year. If these two can’t make it happen, there’s trouble ahead.

2. The starters need to go deep into the games. This is a pretty good ‘Pen on paper (like what I did there?), but remember that Jose Mijares has battled ineffectiveness, Pat Neshek and Jesse Crain are just one or fewer seasons removed from surgery, and Jon Rauch has more intimidation factor than raw stuff. The ‘Pen will be solid, but it WILL break down if it averages more than 16 or so innings a week.

3. Mauer and Morneau need to chill the …. out. Mauer has shown that he is injury prone, and Morneau is just one more end-of-season injury/collapse from me wanting considerably less ‘neau.

Predicted Standings and Playoff Berths:

A.L. East

  1. Boston Red Sox (division winner)
  2. New York Yankees (WC)
  3. Tampa Bay Rays
  4. Baltimore Orioles
  5. Toronto Blue Jays

A.L. Central

  1. Minnesota Twins (division winner)
  2. Chicago White Sox
  3. Detroit Tigers
  4. Kansas City Royals
  5. Cleveland Indians

A.L. West

  1. California Angels (division winner) (I refuse to call them Anaheim or Los Angeles)
  2. Texas Rangers
  3. Seattle Mariners
  4. Oakland Athletics

Division Series:

  • Twins def. Yankees, 3-2
  • Red Sox def. Angels, 3-0

LCS:

  • Red Sox Def. Twins 4-3

N.L. East (I won’t give numbers for the National League)

  1. Atlanta Braves (division winner)
  2. Philadelphia Phillies
  3. Florida/Miami Marlins
  4. Washington Nationals
  5. New York Mets

N.L. Central

  1. St. Louis Cardinals (Division Winner)
  2. Milwaukee Brewers (Wild Card)
  3. Cincinnati Reds
  4. Pittsburgh Pirates
  5. Chicago Cubs
  6. Houston Astros

N.L. West

  1. Colorado Rockies (division winner)
  2. San Francisco Giants
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks
  4. Los Angeles Dodgers
  5. San Diego Padres

Division Series:

  • Colorado def. St. Louis (3-1)
  • Atlanta def. Milwaukee (3-2)

LCS:

  • Atlanta def. Colorado (4-2)

World Series:

  • Atlanta def. Red Sox (4-2)

Other MLB Predictions:

  • AL MVP: Joe Mauer – the voters just can’t quit him.
  • NL MVP: Hanley Ramirez – If not for Pujols’ unfortunate injury…
  • AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez – The King has returned.
  • NL Cy Young: Doc Halladay – The NL worked out better for him than the AL did for Peavy.
  • A.L. Rookie of the Year: Brian Matusz – this will be popular, but people still won’t say his name right.
  • NL Rookie of the Year: Jason Heyward – Almost too easy.
  • AL Comeback Player of the Year: Pat Neshek
  • NL Comeback Player of the Year: David Wright

Around the Division: The Tigers Realize their Mistake

This is the first in a series of four, each focusing on the Twins’ division opponents this year. Though the Twins looks like it might be the Twins’ to lose, there is a lot more that any dedicated Twins fan should know, and it’s my job to try to help you out with that. As always, follow me at @calltothepen on Twitter and subscribe to updates of this page via the link on the sidebar!

The Detroit Tigers have been a mystery for the last few years. Few teams have been so hyped, then so derided, then so doubted, then so resurgent. Last year the Tigers nearly made the playoffs, and would have if not for the Twins’ desperate late-season charge and a slight fade of their own. This year, though the blogocracy seems to be united in the belief that the Tigers are rebuilding, and that they won’t do much to challenge the Twins, though they could theoretically end in second place in the division.

So, let’s take a look at the Tigers, below the fold.

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2009 List of Ten Most Likely to be Mispronounced by Dick ‘n’ Bert

As everyone who watches the Twins on television on a regular basis realizes, the Twins announcers regularly do a godawful job pronouncing the names of opposing (and occasionally minor-league or recently-called-up) players. This led me to think about the potential major-leaguers of tomorrow that would wreak havoc with Dick n Bert’s commenting. I had planned to do a list based on all players in the minor leagues, but it simply was too big an undertaking, so I limited it directly to Twins minor-leaguers (I also stayed out of the DSL, as very few of those players will be seen in the majors). Here are my criteria:

  1. Likelihood to see the majors
  2. Confusion on the interwebs or TV about pronunciation and/or spelling
  3. How many syllables the name possesses
  4. How common the name is
  5. Whether the name is foreign-sounding

Honorable Mention – Miguel Angel Sano / Miguel Jean

I don’t include the uberprospect in the below list because no one really disputes how to pronounce his name. The problem is that no one seems to be sure what to call him. Everyone has known him as Miguel Angel Sano for the last many months, as his name was constantly in the news, but after he signed, several news outlets reported that he wanted to be known as “Miguel Jean.” No word on what to do with the “Angel.” Simply put: I expect this to all be figured out by the time he reaches the majors, but until it is…

Follow me below the fold for the list

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Keppel Headed for Minny, who is leaving? UPDATED: It’s Ayala.

According to Matt Weinstein of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Bobby Keppel is headed for the Twins, which means someone will have to go. There are three questions that I think this move raises:

1. Why Bobby Keppel? Why not Rob Delaney or some other hotshot?

The answer to this one is pretty simple. Bobby Keppel was signed last winter as a minor league free agent, after he was released from the Albequerque Isotopes. As such, his contract includes an opt-out clause similar to the one Mike Gosling exercised a few weeks ago. Keppel has been very good this season, posting a 2.43 ERA in 55.2 innings, 21 as a starter. Interestingly, Keppel was slated to start tonight in Rochester, so when he was called up after yesterday night’s Red Wings game, it left Rochester in a bit of a bind. The fact of the matter is that if Keppel didn’t get called up soon, he likely would have exercised his opt-out and went to a team that has immediate need at the major-league level (God knows there’s a bunch of them). It is a bit surprising, since he is not on the 40-man roster. I imagine giving Keppel his shot at the bigs will keep him with the club for the time being, and if, in a month or less, he has not produced, it won’t hurt too badly to release him. Delaney or Armando Gabino (as suggested by LEN3)were less likely because they don’t have the contractual options that Keppel does.

2. Do we lose a reliever or a position player?

Right now the Twins have six arms in the bullpen: Joe Nathan, Sean Henn, Luis Ayala, R.A. Dickey, Jose Mijares, and Matt Guerrier. Since we are in the middle of interleague, I am not surprised to see a smaller bullpen in order to have the depth on the bench for double switches and the like. By the numbers, it wouldn’t be a bad guess that we might see a position player headed for Rochester. Brian Buscher or Matt Tolbert come to mind. Both have options left, and neither has been effective at the major-league level this season (although Buscher did have one of the two hits the other night). However, two members of the bullpen have been really, really bad. Both Sean Henn and Luis Ayala have definitely shown that they don’t deserve their spot in the ‘Pen. However, neither has options, as Ayala was a major league free agent and Henn was a minor-league free agent, so either would have to be dfa’d (although I’m not sure on this point, maybe Henn just has to be offered to all other clubs on irrevocable offers, and then can be reassigned to Rochester, hopefully someone out there can tell me). Both Henn and Ayala have shown flashes of brilliance, but neither of them have shown enough to be considered worthy to stay over the added flexibility of the extra bench player for this interleague road trip.

3. Who goes, since we’ve established that it will likely be a bullpen guy?

Keppel is not currently on the 40-man roster, which is currently full, so someone will have to be removed to make space for him. So, the qualifications for the character that will be dfa’d are likely the following: Bullpen guy, ineffective, no options. That description fits both Henn and Ayala. However, Ayala signed a $1.25 mil deal in the off-season, which gives him the cost advantage (although he has performance-based enhancements that will kick in soon). Henn, on the other hand, is cheap, making a prorated share of $.5 million for his time in the majors. For that reason, I expect Henn to go; the Twins have shown a great deal of reluctance to let go of players they owe coin to.

So, in the end, I see a 65% chance of Henn going away, a 20% chance of Ayala going, a 10% chance of Buscher, Tolbert, or (doubtfully) Pridie being demoted, and a 5% chance of being totally surprised.

(EDIT: Forget that last paragraph, as I forgot that Neshek was on the 60-day DL, freeing up a spot on the 40-man roster. It’s a crapshoot as to what happens next, though I still see the most likely thing as Henn going buh-bye)

UPDATE: AYALA was indeed dfa’d. We’ll see if he accepts his assignment, but I am extremely skeptical that he will.

Missed Week Edition

Man, what a busy two weeks, no?! Spring training games started (well, a little more than a week ago), we saw Joe Crede in the field (I use “we” in a figurative sense, since none of the games he as played in have been on TV), we lost Boooof indefinitely, we didn’t sign Juan Cruz, someone else did, and much, much more. Let’s go through some of the action.

  • Juan Cruz ended up falling through the cracks, as the Twins apparently offered him something (typically) ridiculous. What do I mean by ridiculous? I mean they offered him a 1-year, 2 million dollar deal (sorry, can’t find the link for that, but I clearly remember reading it). In all honesty, that’s just rubbing his nose in the fact that he, a Type A free agent, had yet to be signed. That said, I guess the Twins might have been hedging their bets, since it likely would have cost them a bit to trade for him in the “trade” portion of the “sign-and-trade” portion of the deal.
  • The NEXT day, the Royals signed Juan Cruz. This wasn’t a sign and trade, just a sign. However, the Royals had their first round pick protected because it was #12, and the top 15 are protected. They lose their second round pick to the D-Backs. Ummm… sorry, but I don’t know where the Royals get off thinking they are planning to compete this year. They are just the cellar-dwe– Oh, they might be better this year? Oh. My bad. In all honesty, the rather intense back end of the bullpen that the Royals have (Farnsworth, Cruz, and Soria) is the best in the division, possibly the best in baseball. Now all they have to do is get a lead occasionally to get to those guys.
  • This brings the D-Backs to SEVEN (!!) picks in the first two rounds and the sandwich supplemental round this year. Had they offered arbitration to Adam Dunn, it would have been NINE. Note to D-Backs: he didn’t want to sign. He thought he was going to get rich. Poor planning on your part.
  • Manny signed… really don’t care.
  • A-Rod is out for the first month (at least) of the season. Longer, if he has the torn labrum repaired. Didn’t Mike Lowell have a torn hib labrum last year? Maybe someone reading this will know. (Or was it J.D. Drew? I thought he had a back issue, but…). Due to his general ickiness, I don’t really feel sorry for him, despite the fact that I don’t care about any potential steroid usage. This likely doesn’t affect the Twins in the slightest, as they don’t play the Yanks until May 15, and A-Rod should be over the shoulder by then.
  • Speaking of A-Rod, I lived in Oregon, which is Mariners country, when he debuted with the M’s. The announcers gushed about how awesome he was and how great his future career would be. Nice that people are right occasionally. A-Rod will be in the Hall someday, and I can think back to that debut.
  • So… how ’bout Perk? I have to say, the best story coming out of ST for me so far is the dominance of Perkins, who everyone seemed to think was the weak link in the rotation (minus a couple people that thought Blackburn would be the weakest). So far, Perk has thrown nine innings, and has not allowed a run, for a 2-0 record, with 5 Ks and a 0.88 WHIP. Since he has generally pitched the beginning of games, he has been facing the starters of the other teams, and has been nothing short of impressive. Today, he threw his first three innings in 31 pitches. It was beautiful. Or, it sounded beautiful on the radio.
  • Baker and Liriano both started out badly, but rebounded in their last start. Slowey has not yet given up a hit or a walk in five innings with 3 Ks. Blackburn also looked good in his first start, but then was skipped due to soreness in his surgically-repaired knee.
  • I think the only thing I can say about Nathan pulling out of the WBC is that is sore shoulder seems to have been a convenient excuse. While every blogger and fan threw up a little in their mouth upon hearing he had shoulder soreness, but it turned out he was laughing up his sleeve the whole time; as a bullpen session the next day yielded a non-sore shoulder.
  • Ditto Johan.
  • Corey Koskie got picked up by the Cubs on a minor league contract. They hope he can back up Third, First, and the outfield if necessary. I read that there were Cubs scouts at Hammond Stadium, and got excited for a trade, but then this happened, and I was pleased for Koskie, but sad for us. But then again, is there anything the Cubs have that we would be willing to go get?
  • Humber has been wretched. Jason Jones has been hit-or-miss. These are the two guys that needed to prove themselves the most, and they haven’t stepped up. If Humber doesn’t make the team out of spring break, he will be claimed off waivers. I don’t think there is room for him on the Twins, especially if he keeps Mijares or Dickey of the Major League club, but I hope he can stick with another team. I imagine Jones will be a starter at Rochester, after the Twins offer him back to the Yankees and the Yankees take some kind of marginal prospect in exchange for allowing us to keep Jones.
  • Where does this leave the opening day ‘pen, at least to me? I see something like this: Nathan (closer), Crain (set-up), Ayala, Guerrier (middle/mop-up), Breslow (LOOGY), Mijares (LOOGY/set-up). That is for an 11-man staff, something I view as a dim possibility, though I would like to see it. When the Twins abandon that good idea, they will add either Humber or Dickey to be the long-reliever; I am pushing for Dickey, myself. I love the idea of going from a power pitcher (well, sort of) like Liriano for six innings, then to Dickey for two innings, and then to Nathan for the ninth. Call it a pipe dream. I also just really like Knuckleballers.

I am planning on starting a new project over the weekend: a review of the most important games of 2008. Here’s the plan: I’ll watch a game every few days, and then I’ll recap it and give it’s importance in the Twins’ overall season. I am starting with what I view as the tenth most important game (as I see it): Sunday June 8. That was the second to last game of that devastating 4-game series against the White Sox. Final Score – 12-2.

I also hope to have thoughts on the WBC up soon. I’ll do my best on that one.

Also, I wanted to thank everybody for their good wishes during my paper weeks the last 2-3 weeks. I finished the paper; 32 pages on the theories of social obligation that underlie the law. It almost killed me, but now I’m pretty darn proud of it. Thanks again.

edo

Joe Crede: Better than a poke in the eye.(tm)

Maybe it’s just an elbow in the ribs. Or maybe it’s a kiss on the cheek. I dunno.

I don’t know what to think about Joe Crede, so I thought I would take a post to examine my feelings. In fact, I’m gonna do it bullet-point style, yust to calm me.

Things I know:

  • Crede was good on defense (I say was, because we won’t know until tomorrow how he really is). Very good on defense.
  • Crede can hit for power.
  • Crede doesn’t hit for average. This is not to say he can’t… just that he doesn’t.
  • Crede has a bad back.
  • Bad backs and FieldTurf go together like, well, a log and a chipper-shredder.
  • Crede killed the Twins last two years.
  • Crede DIDN”T kill the Twins every year.
  • Adding Crede adds power to (most likely) the seven spot in the batting order.
  • Crede has a bad reputation for his clubhouse behavior and failure to play nicely with others.
  • Crede hit well for power in the Cell, a very hitter-friendly ballpark.
  • The Dome is not a hitter-friendly ballpark (especially for righties).
  • Crede’s career numbers are not that much better than the platoon of Buscher and Harris.
  • Buscher and Harris have fewer than four years at the big-league level put together.
  • Buscher and Harris are really impressing in Spring Training so far.
  • We got a really good deal on Crede, but it could be expensive if it comes to opportunity costs on Danny Valencia, Brian Buscher, or Brendan Harris.
  • We have a better deal on Brendan Harris and Brian Buscher.
  • Many (maybe most) bloggers will be criticizing for being exactly the player we know he is by midseason.

Thins I don’t know:

  • Whether Crede’s back can stand up to the FieldTurf.
  • Whether Crede will hit for the same power he did in the Cell now that he is in the Dome.
  • How often Gardy will sit Crede at home to protect his back.
  • If Crede will be as good on the field as he was prior to surgery.
  • If Crede is fully recovered from his surgery.
  • If Buscher is going to be as strong at the plate as he seems to be now.
  • When I will know the answers to the things I don’t know.

Whew; that’s better. There are, of course, many more specific things I don’t know, but I decided to keep it general.

We get our first look at Joe Crede today. I’m excited to see what he does (or doesn’t do). What does Joe Crede have to do today to make me happy? Get a hit. He’s not playing defense, so he can’t really do much to please me there.

…I’m waiting.

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