Happy ‘elmon Young Day!

Happy ‘elmon Young day! Today is brought to you by the letters D and O, the numbers -17.9 (his career UZR) and .23 (his career BB/K), and the creator of both Nick Punto Day and ‘elmon Young Day, Andrew Kneeland. A little background:

On February 12, Twins bloggers across the country (well, mostly in the midwest, but a few ex-pats, such as myself, made it a national event) held “Nick Punto Day,” in which we celebrated (and denigrated) the player that most of us love to hate. Or hate to love. Or, if you’re Karlee of OMGMnTwins, love to love and love even more to destroy anyone who hates. Now, three months later, Andrew has decided (and many agree) that given the mixed feelings most of us hold about ‘elmon (apostrophe to be explained in a minute), a similar day to feel out the strengths (not fielding) and weaknesses (fielding) of our dear left fielder. This is an entry in that series. So, dear reader, bear with me, this’ll be a long one. I’ve got a lot to say about ‘elmon. But even I doubt that the feelings of the fans can be adequately expressed in mere words.

‘elmon was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays on November 28, 2007 for one-time starting pitching phenom Matt Garza, starting shortstop Jason Bartlett, and minor league reliever Eduardo Morlan. The Twins also received Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie in the trade. On first blush, it seems like an even trade. Two uber-prospects – Garza and Young (who had been runner-up to Dustin Pedroia in 2007, his 21-year-old season) – two decent non-star shortstops (Bartlett and Harris), and two (would prove to be minor league-only) other players (Pridie and Morlan) all changed hands. This blog didn’t exist back then, so unlike other blogs, I cannot link to an old post raving about how great the trade was for the Twins. Thank God for that. That would be embarrassing.

I’ll be honest, though, even though it pains me. At the time I was thrilled. I was a fan who had never bought into Matt Garza, despite his impressive stats in the minors and during his solid-but-not-spectacular short 2006 stint in the Show. The main thing I can remember from back then was Garza refusing to throw his breaking pitches in the minor leagues, while the coaches insisted he not throw his (very good) fastball every pitch. That refusal led to Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey getting a 2007 call-up before him. This made Garza bitter, and he struggled through the 2007 season, even though he ended with a good 3.47 ERA (which outperformed his 4.18 FIP – likely due to good infield defense). There were games where he would literally stalk out to the mound, and he ended the year with a 5-7 record.

Count me among those that wondered, once Bill Smith was promoted to replace Terry Ryan as the Twins manager, whether Garza, who had been one of Ryan’s “babies,” was on his way out. And so he was, just a few months later. Let me talk for just a second about those other involved players. Jason Bartlett went on to have a couple very good years in Tampa Bay (including being undeservedly voted team MVP in their World Series appearance in 2008). Bartlett is a good defensive shortstop who hits for a decent-to-good average with little power. In a pre-Hardy world, doesn’t that look good? He was exchanged (in effect) for Brendan Harris, a bad defensive shortstop who had hit 12 homers for Tampa Bay in 2007. He became a part-time player with little upside the very next season, when he was supplanted at shortstop by first Adam Everett and then later Nick Punto, and was placed at second base, where he was eventually replaced by Alexi Casilla. Sigh. Today, he’s a role player, who gets more playing time than he deserves. The Twins also received Jason Pridie, who has only played a couple of games in the majors, giving up Eduardo Morlan, who was substituted at the last minute for Juan Rincon. Morlan was my major reason for disliking the trade when it happened, because he was one of our top relievers in the minors. However, he hurt his shoulder (I think) and has not risen above AA, which is the level he was at when the trade came down.

So, what was my first reaction to the trade? “Ugh, shouldn’t Bill Smith be working on trading Santana, rather than trading for an outfielder?” Yep, that was it. Sure, I was sad to see Morlan go, and rather pleased to see an outfielder who could hit for power coming over. Especially one that was heralded as an “excellent defensive outfielder with an extremely strong arm.” I’ll refrain from linking to who said that one, because I don’t believe in cruel and unusual punishment.

Prior to the Twins trading for him, the only time I had really heard of Young, other than having a casual awareness of his rookie-of-the year runner-up season, was due to his longstanding behavioral problems. In AA he once was suspended for three games for bumping an umpire.  The icing on the suspension cake (mmmmm, cake) occurred when he was playing in AAA Durham. ‘elmon was struck out on a called third strike, and hung around to argue it. So the umpire ejected him. On his way to the dugout, Young turned around and threw his bat at the umpire; it hit him on the chest. The next day, ‘elmon said, through his agent, that he didn’t actually mean to hit the umpire with the bat. Somehow, that didn’t satisfy the International League authorities, and he was suspended indefinitely, which was later reduced to 50 games. The whole affair was caught on video, which, if I did the embed thing right, is located below.

The incident was enough to prompt the famous (and retired) BatGirl to create a Lego story about his arrival in Minnesota (by the way, running a google search for “bat girl” returns several extremely frightening results). Young continued his behavioral problems with the Rays in 2006 and 2007, and managed to wear out his welcome in just over one season in the bigs: he made nearly all his teammates in Tampa Bay hate him both on and off the field. However, he hit a bunch of homers, and projected to hit more in the future, which was enough to make the Twins want/need him. However, the behavioral problems did not go away once he arrived in the Twins organization. Multiple sources reported that he was refusing to take any guidance from the Twins’ coaching staff and would only listen to his father’s hitting advice. He apparently was aggravating the other outfielders due to his reluctance to chase down balls hit into the gaps and balls that were foul but in play. Of course, that turns out to be caused mostly by the fact that he was unable to run at any decent clip.

So, how good on defense was this “excellent defensive outfielder with an extremely strong arm?” Well, terrible. His UZR for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (they hadn’t yet changed their name) was -7.5, which is bad, but not epically bad. His next seasons were epically bad, though, as he turned in a -19.5 UZR in 2008 (in 152 games) and a -14.4 UZR in 108 games in 2008, which works out to a UZR/150 of -22.9. True, his arm was strong, but he never got to the ball, so what did we, the fans, care if he actually threw it? He made a total of 15 outfield assists in those two years. He couldn’t range forward or backward, and God help us all if he had to dive for it. He somehow managed to give Prince Fielder his first inside-the-park home run after diving for and missing the ball, badly (sorry for no video, MLB took down all the copies I could find). This lack of “D” (defense) is why, when I write out his name, I write it ‘elmon. See? No D. (This is borrowed from the fine fellows over at The WGOM).

His bat has somehow been very bad, while being good. He hit .290 and .284 his first two seasons with the Twins, and looks to be doing something similar this season. He has not been fast, as he stole 14 bases in 2008, and only two last season. His on-base percentage has been lacking, as he has struck out five times for every walk. So, let’s look at some graphs, shall we? This is all from the fine folks at Fangraphs. The first graph is of Delmon’s batting average over time.

It’s clearly trending downwards, though it is still above average (barely). Hopefully it rebounds. Graph 2: on-base percentage (just for kicks, compared to Mauer, Mr. OBP, and Cuddyer).

Below average, which is a trick, given that his batting average has been above average. It comes from all those strikeouts and so few walks. Graph 3: BB%.

Not so great, except for this season, which we can (probably) expect to revert to the mean.

So, what’s the takeaway from this overly long look at ‘elmon? Well, it’s tough to say, at least for someone as statistically inept as I am. However it’s worth noting that Delmon is still very young. He has had a lot of attitude and behavioral problems, but those seem to be working themselves out as he’s grown up. Last year, he was forced to deal with an event no one should have to deal with: the death of his mother from cancer. Then, at the end of the season, he turned it on and started performing much better. He lost 30 lbs over the off-season, which I think has sent a message to a lot of people, myself included: he does care. It’s an acknowledgment of the problems he’s had, and there has been a real change this season. He’s running out ground balls (and beating some out, now that he’s lighter and faster). He’s getting to more balls in the outfield (and still looking ugly while he’s doing it).

But I think I have more hope for ‘elmon than I did last year. When he lost the weight, it seems he also lost the attitude, which seemed to have been weighing him down more than the weight itself was. He has, I think for the first time, a real shot to NOT go the same direction that his brother, Dimitri, famously took, or that Milton Bradley seems dead set on taking now. I think he just might make it. And if he does, he still might just make that trade look pretty damn skippy.

(Follow me on Twitter at @calltothepen, and while you’re there, check out the tag for Delmon Young day: #DelmonYoungDay to see what else has been written).

Important Game #3: Looking up from the Valley

Here’s a little refresher on the series, before I begin:

Basically, the premise of the series is that certain games have an effect that is far greater than their mere impact on the win-loss column. These games are mentally and physically definitive of a season, and before the new season begins, by looking back and remembering and feeling the emotions of last season one more time, we can understand what happened, what went wrong, and most importantly, what went right. So, climb aboard the side-burn express, and keep your hands, arms, feet, heads, and all other extremities inside the vehicles at all times as we embark on one final excursion through the highs and lows of last season.

September 6: After a Crippling Loss to the Indians, the Twins find themselves 7 games down with 28 games to play.

Courtesy of MLB.com.

Two of the last four years, the Twins did not make the playoffs. In 2007, well, the team just wasn’t ever that good. Joe Mauer spent half the season dealing with varying injuries, and from day one the pitching situation, well, sucked. When your team starts the season with Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson, you don’t really have a right to expect much. In 2008, I came to the conclusion that Jim Thome is evil when he homered for the only run in game 163 (for which I have not forgiven him). However, that was also the Twins’ fault for very nearly getting swept by the ROYALS the last weekend of the season to have to play game 163. In the other two of the last four years, the Twins have had to come back from spectacular deficits, only to win the division on the last possible day (Thanks, Royals, for 2006). The rub of both of those two seasons, is that at some point both teams found themselves in the valley, looking up, Twins fans cursing the Tigers and wondering if the Wild, Timberwolves, or Vikings would be any good (maybe, no, and it’s a crapshoot, respectively). However, both times, the Twins managed to come back. However, unlike 2006, we had little reason to expect it this time around.

Partial Division standings as of Sept. 6, 2009. Ugly, right? The Twins: down 7 with 28 to play. Captured from MLB.com.

The Twins had just finished losing two of three to the lowly Indians, who had just finished trading everyone with value, and had just wrapped up a 14-14 August. In a sense, that’s all I personally expected from the Twins at that point: a mediocre, maybe 50-50 record the rest of the way. In fact, that’s exactly what the Twins were: a mediocre, 50-50 team (see inset image). Given the White Sox’s recent hot streak, I more expected them to catch the Twins than for the Twins to catch Detroit. Of course, the White Sox ended up spluttering to a 79-83 record after contesting for first place for most of the summer.

I chose this game for a very specific reason, despite the fact that it came just a couple days after another similar loss: it embodied one of two problems that the Twins had all season long. The first problem, the one not present in this game was that when the offense was firing on all cylinders, the pitching wasn’t running at all (see, for example, the entire home Los Angeles Angels series in late July/early August). The ERA of the starting staff last season (yes, I know ERA is flawed, and no, I don’t care) was, I believe, 26th in the majors. The bullpen was very good most of the season, although there was a Crainwreck for most of the first half of the season and the Twins insisted on keeping a mediocre-at-best long reliever on staff all season.

Brendan Harris doing an apt impression of the whole offense's decision avoid the ball with their bats. Courtesy MLB.com.

The other kind of game, and the one that was so confounding, given the excessive number of runs the Twins scored last year, are the games where the pitchers did their jobs, but the offense took a day off. These games, generally weren’t against good pitchers (those I could understand), but against such luminaries as David Huff, he of the 5.61 ERA last season. Nothing against Huff, of course, I’m sure he was doing his best to keep the Twins under wraps. Of course, it helps when the lineup that produced 5.01 runs per game last year on average managed to score 1 run on THREE hits. There were also four walks, but that’s hardly the point. The Twins offense coughed this one up.

Courtesy MLB.com

And it was a shame they did so. Nick Blackburn pitched a Nick Blackburn kind of game. He gave up a handful of hits (7) and a handful of runs (3), while generally keeping the Indians’ bats in check for his 6 2/3 innings of work. However, a pitcher like Nick will not win many games without a strong offensive presence to back him up, and Blackbeard’s buccaneers simply couldn’t get anything going at all. The one run came on a single by Denard Span, who drove in Nick Punto, who had doubled in the previous plate appearance. However, the game itself was a disappointment, as the season itself felt, at least after Important Game #3. However, there were still many better days to come, including the upcoming Important Game #2.

Important Game #7: Scott Baker is Epic

Here’s a quick refresher:

Basically, the premise of the series is that certain games have an effect that is far greater than their mere impact on the win-loss column. These games are mentally and physically definitive of a season, and before the new season begins, by looking back and remembering and feeling the emotions of last season one more time, we can understand what happened, what went wrong, and most importantly, what went right. So, climb aboard the side-burn express, and keep your hands, arms, feet, heads, and all other extremities inside the vehicles at all times as we embark on one final excursion through the highs and lows of last season.

Scott Baker Delivers

Courtesy MLB.com

August 14: Twins Offense Erupts in Baker’s Gem, 11-0

There is an old adage that one game a season does not make. Pull out the Yoda-rific inverse sentence construction, and you have a truism to end all baseball truisms. I went to several Nationals games last year (because apparently I like to be punished). Two of them were against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Now, one of my best friends is from Arizona. We’ll call him RL. RL LOVES the Diamondbacks. During the season, he does lives and breathes the D-Backs. So when he found out that they would be in DC for a three-game weekend series, he wanted to go. I just like watching baseball, so of course I was in. We went to all three of the games.

As a matter of pure baseball, the games were abominations. If there is a just and loving God, He apparently fell asleep when he was shaping the course of these three games. Or else He is really, really mean to me. Two of the games had 24 hits or more. Two of them involved more than ten runs. All of them had extremely horrible pitching. All of them had horrible fielding, although it seemed like the umpires had simply given up on calling errors. All of them had horrible baserunning. And, let’s not forget the fact that these were games between arguably the worst two teams in the majors last year.

But at the same time, there was something sublimely beautiful about them. Watching Adam Dunn lumber after an overthrown ball while the nearly-empty stands sit in silence. Seeing Chris Young run in on a fly ball, only to have it fall ten yards behind him. Feeling the disbelief when Christian Guzman take off to steal second base on the most obvious pitch-out I’ve ever seen. Feeling even more disbelief when he did the same thing a few innings later only to beat out the throw because Montero, at least in my imagination, simply couldn’t believe he’d try to take second on another obvious pitch-out. The sheer ineptitude of the two teams, by the third game, had sunk in so deeply that, by the end of it, Washington didn’t seem like such a bad team. Based on those three games, it seemed like they would have a worthwhile season.

Of course, the Nationals lost 103 games last year, the D-backs lost 92. The games I saw certainly did not make the Nationals’ season.

Also Courtesy MLB.com

The point of that long digression is, of course, that to someone watching Important Game #8, the season would have seemed sewn up. The bats clicked, the defense clicked, and by God, Scott Baker was DOMINANT. In his complete game shut-out, he only needed 94 pitches to destroy the somewhat-pathetic Indians, with five strike-outs and only two hits. He did not walk a single person. This was good enough for a Bill James Game Score of 88, the highest on the Twins last year, and the highest for the team since Kevin Slowey threw an 89-Game Score game in 2008. Baker looked like an ace. I know few people will call him that on a regular basis, but he certainly looked the part during this game.

And even better, the offense woke up to take it home! Since the All-Star Break, the team was 10-15, falling even further back of the Tigers. A great deal of this was due, as always to zero production from the 2-hole prior to the O-Cab trade and the continuing insistence of Gardenhire to put two of Nick Punto, Matt Tolbert, and Alexi Casilla in nearly every game. Poor Brendan Harris. But Joe Crede started this game, and Casilla started at 2B.

Also Courtesy MLB.com

The offense in this game reacted to Baker’s excellence by putting on a show of their own. Jason Kubel proved that the Dude indeed abides, putting up 5 RBI on three hits (one that left the yard). Casilla had 2 hits and an RBI. Joe Mauer had three singles, walked twice, scored two runs and drove in two more. Mountie dominated, with two hits, two runs, and two RBI. The game was a blast to watch.

But lets be honest. The Twins pitching was in a huge rut. Glen Perkins was sort-of-kind-of-we-can’t-decide-hurt and Francisco Liriano was doing his best to work his way out of the rotation. Slowey was gone. Nick Blackburn was in the midst of his worst stretch of the season. The bull-pen was far from lock-down, even after ridding themselves of Phil Humber, Kevin Mulvey, Luis Ayala, and whats-his-face that could throw 103.

See? EPIC!

But for one shining night, the Twins looked like they had what it took. Sure, it involved completely removing the bullpen from the picture and scoring 11 runs, but I think at that moment, everyone watching the game thought to themselves, “hey, we might actually have a shot at this!” And Scott Baker was indeed epic.

Beating a dead horse, er, Joe Crede, and the winter of my Cabrera discontent.

I posted yesterday on the utterly inane strategy that the Twins have taken with regard to Joe Crede’s health, namely that they have refused to put him on the DL to rest and rehab despite the fact that he has missed between 3 and 6 days every two-week period all season, excluding the last two weeks in which he has missed 8 so far (I checked). By and large, this horrible strategy hasn’t hurt the Twins, as they have never really done much pinch-hitting to begin with, so eliminating a pinch-hitting option wasn’t that big of a deal. However, last night that came tumbling down.

In the eighth inning, Orlando Cabrera strongly disagreed with a check-swing call that had him out on a strikeout. He shouted at the umpires then slammed his bat into the ground on his way back to the dugout. Home umpire Todd Tichenor immediately threw him out. Like, instantly. Being in DC, I was watching the Orioles broadcast, and even those announcers thought he was thrown out far too quickly, and I agree. Had he pounded his bat into the plate, or toward the umpire, or in any way that was threatening, then off with is head (or something). But he didn’t. He slammed his bat into the ground at the edge of the dirt circle around home plate (don’t know the technical name) on his way back to the dugout.

To be fair, Cabrera had been having a very difficult time with the strike zone last night. It seemed like every at-bat took him to a point where he was ready to toss the bat away and go to first on a walk, only to have the pitch called a strike (which they all were). Ugh. He looked terrible at the plate last night, but what else is new? He isn’t a #2 hitter, and hasn’t been for quite some time. A lot of people were willing to overlook his failings when he first came over from the Athletics because he was unbelievably hot at that point. However, since then he has been utterly futile. From Aug 1-Aug 6 (his hot period), Cabrera was 10/20, with 4 R and 3 RBI. For the rest of his hitting streak, he was only 6/28, getting one hit per game to extend the streak. That adds up to .214 from August 7 -Aug. 13. Since August 14, he has been just as bad as he was in the waning days of his hitting streak, hitting .226, with 2BB, 6 runs scored, and 6 RBI (it’s easy to score runs and get RBIs when you’re in the 2-spot, preceded by Span and followed by Mauer and Morneau). Over the same period, Alexi Casilla has hit .400 and Nick Punto has hit .278 (though Punto was epically bad for the rest of the month). I’m leaving Harris out of this because he has been horrible, but has had limited playing time.

Quick quiz – attach the August BA to the Twins Middle infielder: .275, .333, .213, .256. Okay I didn’t even try to mix them up. It was Cabrera, Casilla, Punto, and Harris. Cabrera’s numbers are still inflated by that six-game hot streak. Since August 6, however, Cabrera has hit like a slumping Joe Crede with no power and no real glove benefit to outweight plate futility. For those of you  that decried the trade that sent Tyler Ladendorf to Oakland for Cabrera, congratulations; you have been proven right so far. Cabrera has been a waste of the 2-spot in the order. Why not try sticking Cuddyer in there for the time being? Just a thought. He’s hitting better, and still provides a righty bat to break up Span from Mauer and Morneau.

So, anyway, Cabrera got thrown out, Gardenhire made a perfunctory argument (he was probably too busy thinking about what the heck he was going to do with is infield to protest strongly), and Cuddyer got to play second base after Casilla moved over (Harris had already pinch-hit for Punto). The bench at that point consisted of Redmond and Gomez, so Gomez got to go to center field. (note: this is why we need a decent set of relievers, so we don’t have to have 12 pitchers).

Anyway, back to Crede. He got an epidural yesterday. Yes, an epidural. The same thing women get when they are giving birth. So, either Crede is going to be a father (which would explain the back and ankle pain), or his back is causing him a lot more pain than any of us have been told (surprise!). Seriously, though. An epidural is supposed to compensate for “post-operative changes?” But guess who STILL isn’t on the DL? JOE-flipping-CREDE.

I have no words.

Last week in spring training and Fantasy Draft

So… the Twins haven’t been playing so well the last week or so. In all honesty, I have no idea why. I think it has something to do with the starters generally pitching rather poorly, a select few relievers pitching even more poorly, and a generally stymied offense. For a great breakdown of all the numbers from all the players so far, check out this post over at the Tenth Inning Stretch.

Of course, yesterday was the exception, where the Twins eked out an 11-6 win against a mostly no-name Blue Jays team. Baker was again rough, but didn’t give up a home run.

Position battles:

  • I know the front office and Gardy were telling the media that Jose Mijares didn’t have a roster spot locked up in spring training, but he effectively did. All he had to do was to show up for ST and not do… exactly what he has done. With an ERA of Twelve-point-something ugly, Mijares has never not given up runs during a spring training outing. His stuff is up in the zone and doesn’t have any real bite to it. Yesterday, he pitched .2 innings before getting spiked on a weird play at first. He is expected to be fine, but he really needs to pick it up. I would be shocked if he begins the season in Minnesota.
  • I will continue to advocate for RA Dickey. Quick, who do these numbers belong to: (1) ERA 5.63, WHIP 1.13, 0 BB, 2 K, or (2) ERA 5.42, WHIP 1.20, 1 BB, 4 K? If you guessed Phil Humber and Brian Bass, in that order, you’d be right. I just have no attraction to Humber whatsoever. If he does break in big with the Twins, I’ll be happy to eat crow, but he seems like a much worse option than Dickey. Humber is just not that great. He’ll make the club, because he is out of options. If it were me, I’d put him on waivers and if he were claimed, I’d be just fine with it. Humber is very close to being a road block on some of the Twins’ good young starters, like Mulvey, Duensing, and Swarzak. It is his time to put up or shut up.
  • For the last bullpen slot, I would love to see Dickey, but I doubt the Twins would carry two long relievers, so what they will likely be looking for is a situational LOOGY. The top candidate for this right now is Brian Duensing, but I think that is a terrible idea. It wouldn’t help his development as a mid-quality starter/long reliever to throw a half-dozen pitches three times a week. Not only that, I just don’t think his stuff is good enough against lefties in order for him to be counted on to get the lefty outs. We’ll see what happens on this front.
  • I am a total agnostic on the Buscher v. Tolbert v. Harris battle. Someone will win, and the other will be tossed down to AAA for a month until the inevitable thumb injury occurs. Well, hopefully not, but I’m trying to be a realist. If I had to choose, I’d take Buscher and Harris.

I also wanted to briefly throw out a link to Travis Talks, where Travis Aune is kicking out a ridiculous amount of content. Very impressive indeed, and it is all more than worth reading.

Finally, there will actually be some changes to the blog over the next couple weeks, despite the warning to the right that has been there for weeks with no change. If you look above, I added a separate page for “on my list” players and personalities. There is only one member of that prestigious list at the moment. It will be updated throughout the season with the names of others that deserve mention; I’ll mention updates in posts like this one.

In other news, I am part of a fantasy baseball league this season, located here. Last night was our draft, and I had the first overall pick. Here’s the breakdown:

  1. Hanley Ramirez – SS – Marlins
  2. Chase Utley – 2b – Phillies
  3. Evan Longoria – 3b – Rays
  4. Mike Napoli – C – Angels
  5. Jason Bay – OF – Red Sox
  6. Brad Lidge – RP – Phillies
  7. Adrian Gonzalez – 1b – Padres
  8. Daisuke Matsuzaka – SP – Red Sox
  9. Scott Baker – SP – Twins
  10. Scott Kazmir – SP – Rays
  11. Shane Victorino – OF – Phillies
  12. Rich Harden – SP – Cubs
  13. Ryan Ludwick – OF – Cardinals
  14. Huston Street – RP – Rockies
  15. Chad Qualls – RP – D-Backs
  16. John Danks – SP – White Sox
  17. Gil Meche – SP – Royals
  18. Denard Span – OF – Twins
  19. Mike Aviles – IF – Royals
  20. Carlos Guillen – IF – Tigers
  21. Shin-Soo Choo – OF – Indians
  22. David DeJesus – UTIL – Royals
  23. Bengie Molina – C – Giants
  24. Kyle Lohse – SP – Cardinals
  25. Casey Blake – 3b/1b – Dodgers

I think this went alright. The one big mistake I have was drafting Napoli so high, I had forgotten that he is injured with little timeline. I also think that I got one of the steals of the draft, with Shin-Soo Choo in the 21st round (the other big steal (not by me) involved Chris Carpenter in the 22nd round). I found it a little bit strange (to say the least) to have to draft twice in a row (i.e. I had the first overall pick, then the 20th, then the 21st, then the 40th, and so on), but Andrew Kneeland had to do the same, and pulled it off just fine.

Let me take a moment at the end to promote the other bloggers’ sites that are participating in this league. They are, in no particular order:

Thrylos98 of The Tenth Inning Stretch

Seth Stohs of Sethspeaks.net

John Bonnes of Twins Geek

John Hageman of Over the Baggy

Josh Johnson of Josh’s Thoughts

Andrew Kneeland of Twins Fix

Nick Nelson of Nick and Nick’s Twins Blog

John Meyer of Twins MVB

John Marthaler of TNABACG

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.

Bold Predictions

As tonight is the first of many spring training games and is effectively the beginning of baseball season, I think it is time for some bold predictions, to rip off Andrew over at Twins Fix. His predictions are extremely positive, which I like. I’m not so positive, but I’ll see where this goes.

BTW, I have a post on Crede pending, that will likely go up tonight or tomorrow… sorry for the long delay; I’ve been really busy with a 32-page (!) paper and then catching up from neglected studies from during paper season.

So…

2009 (Sorta) BOLD Predictions

  1. Justin Morneau’s average and OBP will regress, but his power numbers will increase enough such that his OPS actually increases. I am thinking 30-33 home runs this year.
  2. Buscher and Harris will get at least 200 ABs at third base, whether because of injury or just lots of days off (or, lets be honest, the Twins being cheap and wanting to avoid incentive pay).
  3. Casilla regresses at the plate such that Harris ends up spending significant time at second base.
  4. There will be NO thumb injuries attributable to sliding into first base (Dear Lord, I hope so).
  5. The standard outfield, despite my best hopes, will not include Young over Cuddyer.
  6. Kubel will continue to get screwed out of ABs versus left-handed pitchers (okay, fine, this one isn’t exactly bold).
  7. Between Gomez, Span, Casilla, and Punto there will be 220+ steals this year.
  8. Gardenhire will come up with at least 3 more effeminate and/or politically incorrect nicknames (See: Cassie (Casilla), Blackie)
  9. Mauer not only improves on last year’s average, he hits 15+ home runs (this’ll be the year, dammit).
  10. Breslow, rather than regressing, demonstrates a continuing mastery of both quantum mechanics and American League hitters.

Getting to Third Base (and a poke in the eye)

No, not the sexual third base. What are we, middle schoolers?

Today, LENIII of the Star Tribune said, for the first time, that he thought that the Twins had a good shot at getting Crede. He made a more methodical run-down of the teams that might be interested in Crede, which is worth reading, of course. Several other bloggers have expressed similar opinions (and if I find links, I’ll post them, I promise).

However, advocating for a Crede signing ignores so many other issues.

The thrid base spot hs been a problem for the Twins for years. Last year, the spot was filled by Mike Lamb (followed eventually by the platoon of Brendan Harris and Brian Buscher). Buscher and Harris did an admirable job, considering everything that was against them, including losing their jobs to an off-season acquisition, like (potentially) Crede). However, there are several other areas that deserve attention before third base.

First, the bullpen. Signing Luis Ayala was the equivalent to promising a sixteen-year-old a Lexus and then getting her a Ford. Not only will the warranty mean nothing (soon), it is just a crappy idea (I am not endorsing Lexus over Ford, I actually prefer NEITHER of these two brands. They might even be made by the same company, for all I know.). The front office promised us action, and then poked us in the eye instead. They said, “You want another Neshek? You do? Hah! Here’s Ayala!” (POKE!). You want an active front office? ” Here’s nothing!” (POKE!!!).

Let’s be honest: 2009 is the last year of the ‘Dome Field Advantage. Once the Twins move outdoors, they will no longer have the thunderous crowd noise, the favorable ceiling, or even the strange dimensions that were provided by the Metrodome. Many other bloggers have been talking about 2010 as the year to “go for it.” However, that should be 2009; In 2010, the Twins lose the meager advantage that they have going for them. Suddenly, it will be like playing in every other park in baseball (sure, a park with lots of fans, but still…).

The first thing the Twins should address is the outfield situation. See here for my thoughts on how to resolve that issue.

The second thing that needs to be resolved is the bullpen. The Twins are entering spring training with the following group: Joe Nathan (duh), Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Boof Bonser/Phil Humber, Craig Breslow (a.k.a. Superman), Jose Mijares, and Luis Ayala. Where is the closer? Oh, there you are, Joe. Where’s the setup guy? Oh, crap. Crain? Breslow? BONSER? Where do we go from here? I suppose we wait to see what Spring Training brings in. Still, the Twins have bullpen problems. No one can deny that.

Have both of these been solved? Really? Good job, Twins front office, if this is the case. However, that still leaves one thing…

Really? We have reached Third Base? I suppose I should be happy, since it is number three of the three things that the Twins needed to address this off-season. What has this come to? Essentially, last year’s platoon is assumed to be the starter. However, the Twins seem not to have given up on Crede, which is, well, stupid. Buscher and Harris could hold down third at least as well as Crede, likely better. The only advantage of Crede is that the Front Office will have done something.

But just to have done some thinking about the spot is likely more than most fans will participate in. Most fans think, oh, wait, they did something. They’ll be better this year. SWEET!

Unfortunately, this has been proven false many times. Whee. Every. Year, as far as the Twins are concerned. Batista? Really. Punto? Alright, until he wasn’t. Lamb? Give me a break. Koskie? Here’s a real claim to fame; what about managing?

Ugh. Just. Ugh. Why are we worrying about third base when there are a ton of other unpursued options?

Worst. Inning. Ever.

So. The third inning was arguably the ugliest defensive inning of the season for the Twins. No errors show up on the box score, but there were at least three judgment calls for the official scorer.

  1. Brendan Harris – had a slow line drive hit almost right at him… and let it roll out of his glove. No chance at throwing out Ichiro.
  2. Next play: line drive to shallow left field. Young lumbered forward and dove, feetfirst, for the ball, which  bounced in front of him. It was the ugliest thing I have seen in a Twins uniform in at least two years.
  3. The next batter hit a first-pitch 2-run homer off Scott Baker.
  4. Then there was a little one-hopper to Harris, who made the easy play at first.
  5. Then it was a ground ball to Buscher, who took it off the heel of his glove. It went straight up, and he had NO IDEA where it went… it ended up dropping about a foot and a half from his right foot.

By the end of the inning, the M’s had scored four runs and led 4-2. Let’s hope the rest of the game works out better.

The Metrodome vs. the House that Ruth Built

Scott Baker should (rightfully) be angry with his offense tonight. Lets look at the numbers for a moment:

# of starts that Baker has given a quality start: 10

record in those quality starts:  4-3 with 3 NDs

# of starts that Baker has given up only 1 run or less: 5 (Not including the May 3 appearance when he left with his groin injury after 3 innings)

# of wins in those starts: 1-2 with 2 NDs

First of all, those are insane numbers that Baker has put up. He has never gone less than 5 innings in a game (disregarding May 3), and has never given up more than 4 runs in a start, for a total of 33 runs this SEASON. In contrast, Livan has allowed a total of 83 runs., in only about 40 or so more innings. Know how many runs the offense has scored for Baker so far this year? An average of 4.84 (although, this should be adjusted because he was the winning picture in two games where the Twins scored 12 runs). In contrast, Livan received 6.11 runs of support.

Baker now has a record of 6-3. It should be more like 9-1 (give or take a few). Livan has a record of 10-6, which should be more like 6-10 (again, give or take). Baker has been amazing this season, the injury notwithstanding. I have to give him props for going out to pitch knowing how little run support he will have.

So, the Twins pulled off the series with the Rangers (although I do have to give Livan some props for his outing yesterday, and some boos at the offense. You see, they tuckered themselves out yesterday). I hate to be picky, but I don’t have any idea how they do it, given that their leadoff hitter is hitting .096 since, well, a long time ago. I hate to say it, but I want Harris to stay in there at short. He has looked good out there, and it seems the only way he can stay there is if Punto stays hurt, which puts me in a dicey position, since I will never wish a player harm or injury. So, I will say… I hope Punto is kept out of games for precautionary purposes.

So, on to Yankee Stadium. If you look at this post from a week ago, you will notice that I have little use for the “mystique” of Yankee Stadium. I also see no reason why the Twins can’t win two of three or sweep. I checked in at the Strib blogs earlier, and was unsurprised to notice that most of the posters are very pessimistic about the Twins’ chances this week. I don’t know why. The Yankees are not the team they were two or three years ago. They are old, injured, and many of their top players are slumping. If the Twins can step back and realize that the “mystique” of Yankee Stadium is a myth, this should be a very good series.

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