Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Power of Blue: Twins New Road Jersey

Just in time for the holiday season the Twins unveiled a new alternate road jersey for the 2011 season.  This jersey follows the same basic design as the gray road jersey that the Twins unveiled last season.  It seems that the jersey is a combination of the road gray jersey and the alternate navy blue jersey (see photos below).
There are a few reasons to develop this new jersey.

1.  Money, Money, Money-  If the team sells a new jersey there are going to be obvious profits to be made.  The new gray style jersey became very popular with fans for the first season at Target Field.  Many people went out and invested in their favorite players jersey in the road style gray even though they may never see the team play on the road.

2.  Superstitions- Over the course of the Twins last few divisions championships there have been times when the team has gone through a rough patch of games.  The team tries to find a way to break out of those slumps and the easiest way to do that is to switch jerseys.  Does wearing a different color jersey help a team play better?  No, probably not, but it could lead to more confidence for a player and that can lead to better at-bats and that can snowball in positive results for the team. 

3.  The Power of Blue- The Twins and their current batch of players seem to have an infatuation with wearing the blue alternate jersey.  There have been stretches of recent seasons that the team seems to forget that they have gray road jerseys.  In 2006 the team wore nothing but blue jerseys down the stretch until they clinched the division crown.  Even as recent as last season the Twins would pass on their home whites and their road grays to sport the power of the blues.

Any thoughts on the new blue road jerseys? As always, please leave comments below.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lost in Translation: Japanese Infielders

There have been many Japanese players that have made the transition across the Pacific.  There have been great players and there have been busts.  That is the risk that teams take when they invest in foreign talent.  Some of the skills that players have in Japan can get lost in translation in the shift to the major leagues.

The Twins have decided to take the risk with Tsuyoshi Nishioka.  At only 26 years old one of his upsides is his young age.  Here is a look at the middle infielders that have made the shift to MLB.

Kazuo Matsui
Age: 28-34
BA: .267

HR: 32

RBI: 211
SB: 102
OPS: .701

Tadahito Iguchi
Age: 30-33
BA: .268
HR: 44
RBI: 205
SB: 48
OPS: .739

Akinori Iwamura
Age: 28-31
BA: .267
HR: 16
RBI: 117
SB: 32
OPS: .720

There are many similarities that can be seen between all of the above listed players.  Over their careers they have batted in the high .260's, they hit in the mid-teens for homeruns, they steal double digits in bases, and they have an OPS of a little over .700.  

I feel that these would be similar numbers to what Nishioka will put up in his major league career.  Since he is younger than all of the Japanese infielders there is room to develop him over the next couple of seasons.  

Ideally I would like a double play combination of Nishioka at 2B and JJ Hardy at SS.  I think that offensively and defensively this is the best hitting and fielding line-up that the Twins can get on the field.  The intriguing option might be to trade Hardy for a piece that can be an immediate help to the team.  Ron Gardenhire has stressed that he would like to add speed to the line-up next season.  That plan might include Nishioka and Alexi Casilla.

The next few weeks could be very interesting for shaping the 2011 Twins lineup.  

What is your ideal double-play combination for next season?  Leave a comment below.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Videos: Tsuyoshi Nishioka

Here is a run-down of some of the most popular videos of Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

A video of Nishioka that shows his speed and style of hitting.

Nishioka in an "Impossible is Nothing" Advertisement

Japanese crowd with a great chant.

I will have a full post on Tsuyoshi Nishioka tomorrow morning.  Until then enjoy the above videos.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Twins Award Season Poem

To celebrate the end of the award season I have crafted an award season poem to honor all of the Twins that were recognized over the last few weeks.  My poem is slightly based on Dr. Seuss and his famous graduation speech, "Oh the Places You'll Go."  I make reference to all Twins players that received votes for the different awards: Joe Mauer (Gold Glove, Silver Slugger, MVP), Danny Valenica (Rookie of the Year), Francisco Liriano (Cy Young), Ron Gardenhire (Manager of the Year), Delmon Young (MVP), and Jim Thome (MVP).

Today is your day!
You've won a Gold Glove,
And a Silver Slugger is on the way.

Your knees might have bugged you,
And your season was down.
But you're still a great catcher
And an MVP to this town.

Next on the list our rookie extraordinaire.
His rookie campaign left few unaware.

In an up and down season
You provided a light.
You showed all the fans
Who should have the job outright.

A force on the mound and an ace to the staff.
You were able to compile a great second half.

A start in the playoffs didn't go as planned.
But the future looks bright for this left hand.

A slugger who hit the ball far.
An outfielder who is becoming a star.
Each one helped the team to succeed.
Winning the Central became their creed.

The manager of the team beat out all the rest.
He was the top of the top and the best of the best.

There were injuries to a closer,
And a beat up MVP.
But this leader over came it
To the 100th degree.

Each person succeeded!
Yes, they did indeed.
Celebrate each with a loud cheer!
Here's to a more successful season next year.

Have a great Thanksgiving weekend everyone.
Travel safe, shop hard, and enjoy time with your family and friends.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Baseball America's Top 10 Twins Prospects

Baseball America, one of the most reliable sources for information on major league prospects, released their list of the top ten prospects in the Twins organization.  The cool thing about this list is that the folks at Baseball America break down the Best Tools in the Twins organization, the projected line-up in 2014, the top prospects of the last decade, the top draft picks of the last decade, and the largest bonuses in club history. 

Here is a breakdown of the top ten prospects including their seasons from last year, the tools they posess, and if they factor into the 2014 Twins line-up.

1.  Kyle Gibson RHP
Best Tools (in the Twins organization): Best Slider, Best Changeup

2010 Statistics
Levels Played At: A, AA, AAA
Record: (11-6) 
ERA: 2.96
K: 126
IP: 152.0

Projected 2014 Lineup: Number 2 Starter

2.  Aaron Hicks OF
Best Tools (in the Twins organization): Best Strike-Zone Discipline, Best Defensive Outfielder, Best Outfield Arm
2010 Statistics
Levels Played At: A
BA: .279
HR: 8
RBI: 49
OPS: .829

Projected 2014 Lineup: Right Field

3.  Miguel Sano 3B/SS
Best Tools (in the Twins organization): Best Power Hitter

2010 Statistics
Levels Played At: Rookie League
BA: .307
HR: 7
RBI: 29
OPS: .870

Projected 2014 Lineup: 1st Base

4.  Joe Benson OF
Best Tools (in the Twins organization): Best Athlete

2010 Statistics
Levels Played At: A, AA
BA: .259
HR: 27
RBI: 62
OPS: .881

Projected 2014 Lineup: Not listed

5.  Ben Revere OF
Best Tools (in the Twins organization): Fastest Baserunner, Best Hitter for Average

2010 Statistics
Levels Played At: AA, Majors
BA: .305
HR: 1
RBI: 23
OPS: .734

Projected 2014 Lineup: Not listed

6.  Liam Hendriks RHP
Best Tools (in the Twins organization): Best Control

2010 Statistics
Levels Pitched At: A
Record: (8-4) 
ERA: 1.74
K: 105
IP: 108.2

Projected 2014 Lineup: Number 3 Starter

7.  Alex Wimmers RHP

Best Tools (in the Twins organization): Not Listed

2010 Statistics
Levels Pitched At: A
Record: (2-0) 
ERA: 0.57
K: 23
IP: 15.2

Projected 2014 Lineup: Number 4 Starter

8.  Adrian Salcedo RHP
Best Tools (in the Twins organization): Not Listed

2010 Statistics
Levels Pitched At: Rookie, A
Record: (5-6) 
ERA: 4.15
K: 81
IP: 93.1

Projected 2014 Lineup: Not listed

9.  Oswaldo Arcia OF
Best Tools (in the Twins organization): Not Listed

2010 Statistics
Levels Played At: A
BA: .375
HR: 14
RBI: 51
OPS: 1.096

Projected 2014 Lineup: Not listed

10.  Carlos Gutierrez RHP
Best Tools (in the Twins organization): Not Listed

2010 Statistics
Levels Pitched At: AA, AAA
Record: (5-8) 
ERA: 4.50
K: 87
IP: 126.0

Projected 2014 Lineup: Closer

A look at the Spring Training Schedule

The Twins announced their Spring Training schedule yesterday.  The team also announced that the prices for their home games at Hammond Stadium have also increased.  The major hike in prices is for what the team considers premium games.  Those game are against Boston, Philadelphia, and New York.  It is interesting to note that the Lee County Sports Complex will also be expanding to help facilitate the Twins.

The Spring Training schedule offers many similar match-ups that fans have become accustom to seeing in the Grapefruit League.

The Twins start their Spring Training schedule with the first three games in the Mayor's Cup.  For those that don't know the Mayor's Cup is awarded to the winner of the Spring Training series between the cross-town rivals, the Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins.  The Twins Exhibition Home Opener is on February 27.  The next afternoon the Twins go across town and face the Red Sox again.  Game three is at Hammond Stadium on March 1.

The first weekend series of the spring marks a home and home series with the Tampa Bay Rays on March 4 and 5.

The next week features the most home games on the Twins schedule.  They have five home games over six days.  The Twins play Baltimore, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Toronto, and Boston in that span.

The team only has one day of split squad games featured on the schedule.  The first squad will stay at home to face the Phillies.  The other part of the squad will travel up the state to Tampa to match-up against the Yankees.

The final full week of Spring Training marks a rash of road games for the Twins.  They travel to play Toronto, Pittsburgh, Florida, and Philadelphia.  The final game in the Mayor's Cup will also be played on the road during the final weekend of training.  The Red Sox will be looking to regain their crown from the 2010 season.

The Post Bobby Cox Era in Atlanta will open with the Braves clashing with the Twins.  The 2011 season will mark the 20th anniversary of the classic 1991 World Series so it is fitting that these two teams will face off right before the season begins.

The full spring schedule is shown below.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The JJ Hardy Conundrum

The turtle always wins.
The Twins had many questions marks entering this year's offseason.  There are multiple free agents and other decisions for the franchise to make as they create the 2011 Opening Day roster.

Over the last week one player has been the focus of multiple stores, JJ Hardy.  The first story that came out was in some of the interviews that Ron Gardenhire did after winning the AL Manager of the Year.  He said that the Twins "like Hardy alot but we're looking at others."  Gardenhire feels that the Twins need to add speed to the line-up and Hardy might not be part of that equation.

If you take a look at the projected 2011 line-up for the Twins there aren't many positions to add speed.  Alexia Casilla has a good chance to crack the line-up but one player won't be enough to make a difference.  The Twins could use players from their minor league system as well.   Matt Tolbert, Trevor Plouffe, and Luke Hughes have a fighting chance to add some of their speed to the 2011 Twins.

Another solution for the Twins might come from an oversea market.  Tsuyoshi Nishioka is a 26-year-old infielder from Japan.  He has been a solid defensive player who is a career .287 hitter.  He doesn't have a bunch of power but he has shown the ability to steal bases.

Late last week reports surfaced that the Baltimore Orioles were having discussions with the Twins about trading for JJ Hardy.  The Orioles are also rumored to be going after former Twin Jason Bartlett.  These are both intriguing options for the Orioles who finished the season strong under the leadership of new manager Buck Showalter.  It will be interesting to see how hard the Orioles pursue either of these shortstops.

Hardy has stressed that he would love to return to the Twins.  But he also understands the business side of baseball.  The Twins will do what they feel is best for the team, even if it doesn't include Hardy.

All offseason I have stress that I think the Twins should give Hardy another chance in 2011.  He is a strong defensive player up the middle and he has shown power in the past.  There is the issue of health.  If Hardy has health issues again next season the Twins will have to turn to one of their minor league players.  If Hardy is healthy and performs both Hardy and the Twins come out as winners.

It seems like it is JJ Hardy day across the Twins Blogoshpere:

Knuckleballs compares JJ Hardy with Tsuyoshi Nishioka

Twins Target looks at Hardy's overlooked value

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Star Tribune Ad: Congrats Gardy

There was an advertisement from the Twins in the Saturday edition of the Star Tribune.  It was a full page ad with a big picture of Ron Gardenhire to congratulate him on winning the American League Manager of the Year.  The words are listed below.


He is, most of all, a leader.
A skipper.
A general.
He has his players' backs.
He is a teacher.
He is there with a pat on the backside after a rough inning.
He is a fixture on the top step of the dugout after a big home run.
He is a mentor.
He is one that does not mince words.
But he is one who encourages greatness from his players.

He, is most of all, a leader.

He is, least of all, the American League Manager of the Year.
An award that deserves great accolades.
But knowing this man,
he cherishes other things more.

Congratulations, Gardy.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Reconstructing Rochester

The Twins have been quietly adding a variety of different players since the free agency period opened up.  The problem is a lot of the names that have been added won't be making a huge impact on the major league squad next season.

The Twins Triple A affiliate, the Rochester Red Wings, had a rough season in 2010.  Their final record was 49-95 and they finished 38.5 games out of first place.  Their final game of the season was a summerization of the entire year.  They lost 16-1 to the Buffalo Bisons.

Here is a look at the players that the Twins have added and what you can expect from them in the 2010 season.

Erik Hacker- Pitched for the Giants AAA affiliate in 2010.  He was given a major league contract and was added to the 40-man roster.  He has a chance to fight for one of the long relief spots in the bullpen.  But he does have options left so don't be surprised to see him start the year at AAA.  His stats from last season in AAA broke down as follows:
Record: 16-8
ERA: 4.51
WHIP: 1.467

Chase Lambin- An infielder who has bounced his way through multiple teams minor league systems.  He finished last season with the Nationals AAA affiliate the Syracuse Chiefs.  There is no way that he will get a sniff of the big leagues this season but he is a well traveled minor league player that can add some depth to Rochester's line-up and bench.  His stats from last season in AAA broke down as follows:
BA:  .252
HR:  15
RBI: 58
OPS: .741

Yorman Bazardo- Pitched for the Astros AAA affiliate in 2010.  He has some major league pitching experience but has had trouble finding consistency.  He was used primarily as a relief option last season but the Twins might be trying to harness some of his talent that he hasn't shown with other clubs.  He is still fairly young at 26 years old but this might be his last shot at making it in the bigs.  He has a lot to prove.  His stats from last season in AAA broke down as follows:
Record: 4-5
ERA: 3.87
WHIP: 1.392

Jeff Bailey- a OF and 1B who played for the Diamondbacks AAA affiliate in 2010.  He has various years of major league experience with the Red Sox over the last four seasons.  At the major league level he is a career .228 hitter (.773 OPS).  He is a solid addition to the Red Wings with his ability to drive in runs. His stats last season in AAA broke down as follows:
BA: .289
HR: 12
RBI: 78
OPS: .849

A few questions to ponder...
Any thoughts on the signings by the Twins so far this offseason?  Are these the moves that the team needs to make?  What should the next steps be for the Twins?

As always leave your thoughts and comments below.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Morneau Holiday Coat Drive

As the holiday season is fast approaching there are many charitable organizations that are looking for support.  Justin Morneau and his wife, Krista, are working with multiple organizations to support those that are less fortunate.

The Justin Morneau Winter Warm-Up Coat Drive is currently happening at all of the Twins Pro-Shops.  Fans can bring in their new or used coats to any of the pro-shop locations.  The Twins are happy to offer any fan that does this a 15% discount at the pro-shops.  The first 40 people to donate at each store will also receive an autographed 8x10 of Morneau.

Morneau will also be making a special appearance to help with the coat drive.  He will be at the team's Majestic Clubhouse Store on Saturday, November 27th from 11am to 12pm.  Autograph seekers can get Morneau's signature if they bring a coat to donate.

The coat drive will continue until December 10th.

This is a great cause and my hope is that they get more coats than they know what to do with.  Let's make this a great holiday season for some families that might need a little boost. 

Take some time to look through your closets.  Are there any winter coats that you could spare?
Happy Holiday's to everyone.  Get out and be involved in your community this holiday season. 

Gardenhire's Thank You List

Always a bridesmaid and never a bride.

Congratulations to Ron Gardenhire on finally taking the leap.

No he isn't getting married.  In fact he has been married for some time and has a multiple children.

Gardenhire has finally won the Manager of the Year Award in the American League.  He had been the runner-up for this award an American League record 5 times.  Hence the phrase always a bridesmaid and never a bride had been used to describe Gardenhire.

Gardenhire finished ahead of Ron Washington of the Texas Rangers.  Gardy got 16 out of 28 first place votes.  In comparison Washington received 10 first place votes. An important point to note is the fact that all of the ballots have to be in before the playoffs because this is a regular season award.  This obviously could have impacted voters this season since Washington's Rangers did such a good job in the postseason.

Out of all of the managers in the American League, Gardenhire was the only manager to be listed on all 28 ballots.  I found this to be a very rewarding fact for Gardenhire.  Everyone that has a vote for the award thought that he was one of the top three managers for the past season.

The voters often like to pick managers that have to overcome obstacles during the season.  Looking at that viewpoint there are a few people that Gardenhire can thank for the award.

1.  Joe Nathan- a player that never stepped on the field in 2010.  His arm injury was something that Gardenhire had to deal with for the entire season.  The Twins spent Spring Training, the trade deadline, and other parts of the season working out the problems in the bullpen.

2.  Justin Morneau- Morneau was having an MVP caliber season before his concussion in Toronto.  Michael Cuddyer did a sufficient job filling in at 1B and the Twins will still able to win without their superstar.

3.  Danny Valencia-  Valencia's emergence solidified the Twins 3B position, a position that has been a question mark for numerous seasons.  Gardenhire looked very smart to continue to place Valencia's name in the line-up.

4.  Brian Duensing- Duensing was the pitcher the Twins needed at the trade deadline.  The great thing was the Twins didn't have to give up anything to get him.  Gardenhire had used Duensing in multiple roles but his insertion in the rotation was a turning point in the season.

5.  Delmon Young, Jim Thome, Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano- Each of these players exceeded expectations this season.  These players were a pivotal part of the Central Division crown and Gardenhire's nomination for Manager of the Year.

As fans we might question many of the in game moves made by Gardenhire.  His playoff record is far from perfect. But he was able to overcome many of the obstacles that were thrown his way this season.

Congrats Gardy... you are a bridesmaid no more.
Gardenhire Contract Extension
Late last night it was also announced that Gardenhire signed a two-year extension with the Minnesota Twins.

The rest of the Twins coaching staff was also signed to the two-year extension.  This means that Gardenhire is under contract through the 2013 season.  The rest of the coaching staff is locked up until the end of the 2012 campaign.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Joe Nathan Injury Update

According to Joe Nathan's Facebook page he will be pitching off the mound starting next month.  Bill Smith also says that Nathan is also on track to be ready for Spring Training.

In other Twins closer news Bill Smith said that it is a no-brainer that the Twins will tender Matt Capps a contract.(For some reason the link hasn't been working for some people but if you copy and paste the following address it should bring you to the article: http://voices.washingtonpost.com/nationalsjournal/2010/11/matt_capps_staying_in_minnesot.html)

Even with the good news about Nathan it is nice to know that the Twins will have a back-up option if he isn't ready at the beginning of the 2011 season.  Capps could fill-in as the closer until Nathan is back to form.
The Twins sent a valuable prospect to the Nationals in the form of Wilson Ramos for Capps.  It is good to know that it wasn't for a two month rental.

The Best and Worst Twins Uniforms

Craig Calcaterra of NBC's Hardball Talk has been deconstructing the best and worst uniforms from the history of each franchise.  He lists the jersey's under two categories,  the best and the worst.  Earlier this week he took a look at the Twins franchise and the threads that have draped the players of the Twin Cities.

Calcaterra's list of good includes many of the older jerseys in franchise history:
His list of bad includes many of the jerseys from when the team was winning it's World Series Championships:
He also didn't like the Twins choice of replacing the TC logo with the M for their in the late 1980's and 1990's. 
I will always be partial to the jersey's and logo that the Twins used during their two championship runs.  Those were the logos and jerseys that I fell in love with as a child when baseball was the world to me.  When the Twins decided to ditch the M logo and go back to the TC logo I was crushed.  I had been accustom to the M and for the most part that is all I had ever known.  Since I have now had time to reflect on the logo switch I have come to terms with the switch back to the classic TC look.

My favorite jersey of all-time would have to be the classic baby blue from Puckett's rookie season.  In my adult life I have really enjoyed the classic baby blue jersey (I have even purchased a classic Puckett jersey in this style).  The red and blue batting helmet added to the ambiance of the jersey.  The players might have looked ridiculous in the jerseys but I still enjoy them.
One of the jerseys that I disliked in recent memory was the alternate home uniform that was used from 2006 to 2009.  There is a reason that it only lasted for four seasons.

One Twins jersey only made it through one season the fire red jersey (as seen below).  1997 wasn't that great of a year on the field and the players also didn't look that great.

Some of the old jerseys will always have a place in my heart but I will always be able to make room for new jerseys that the Twins add to their repertoire.

What's your favorite jersey from Twins history?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Twins Hall-of-Famers on the Periodic Table

WezenBall.com decided to create a very unique look at the hall of fame.  They took each of MLB's Hall-of-Famers and put them into a periodic table.  It is interesting to look at the reasons that players fit where they did in the table.  

To see a full scale version of the image above click here. 

To see the explanation of how this specific periodic table was constructed click here.
A brief explanation of the chart is listed below.  
  • The most notable players are on the right (aka the "Nobles") and the most controversial players are on the left (the jerks).
  • The top tier players are in the first three rows (for the most part)
  • The most famous groups of players are listed together (500 homeruns, 3000 hits, 300 wins, etc.)
Let's look at the Twins Hall-of-Famers and their places on the periodic chart.

Harmon Killebrew- is listed under the 500 homerun category.  He fits into the spot of Germanium in the regular periodic table.  This would be categorized as metal.  Since he is featured further to the left in the table he is seen not being as reactive (controversial) as other players in the hall of fame. 

Kirby Puckett- is listed under the traditional player category.  He fits into the spot of Iridium in the regular periodic table.  This would be categorized as a transition metal or a precious metal.  He is featured in the middle of the table for being a very middle of the road player.  I could have also seen him fall into the Short Lived/Peak category since he was forced into early retirement.

Rod Carew- is listed under the 3000 hits club category.  He fits into the spot of Dysprosium in the regular periodic table.  This would be categorized as one of the lanthanoids.  I currently live on a street named after the element Dysprosium.  I thought that this was a very interesting connection to Carew's placement on the chart.

Feel free to leave comments below.  Are the Twins players in their rightful spots?  Should any other players be adjusted to different points in the table?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Target Field: Where baseballs go to die

Over the weekend the Star Tribune featured an article that discussed Justin Morneau's frustration with the lack of homeruns that were hit at Target Field in the Inaugural Season.  He was quoted as saying that "right-center to left-center is ridiculous."  He went on to say that hitters were impacted by the lack of homeruns because they would have to change their approach at the plate for series on the road.

ESPN breaks down the top homerun parks in something they call MLB Park Factors. This statistical analysis shows that Target Field was the hardest park to hit homeruns in during the 2010 season.  Below you will see the bottom five ballparks in the homerun category.
30.  Target Field (Minneapolis) 0.641
29.  Safeco Field (Seattle) 0.675
28.  Oakland Coliseum (Oakland) 0.701
27.  Citi Field (New York) 0.719
26.  Busch Stadium (St. Louis) 0.758

There are a variety of things that can go into this lack of homeruns.  A team could have a great pitching staff that doesn't allow homeruns.  Another excuse could be that the team might not have enough power hitters to hit homeruns. 

There were many points during the early portion of the 2010 season that I would get excited at the crack of the bat when a Twins player would mash a shot to one of the power alleys.  I quickly realized that there was no way that these balls were every going to make it over the fence.  As a fan I quickly became aware of the points in the park where homeruns would go to die.  There were numerous times that players would get "all" of a pitch and would end up walking back to the dugout shaking their head after a routine pop-out.

Nick Nelson also does a good job of looking at the flip side of Morneau's complaints.  The philosophy of the Twins pitching staff is to pitch to contact and hit locations (eg. Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey).  When this happens there are going to be a number of balls that are put into play.  Having a park in which it is hard to hit homeruns plays to the advantage of those pitch to contact pitchers.

It was the first season of the new stadium so there are going to be many parts of the stadium that the players had to adjust to.  Outfielders had to get use to the new bounces off the wall.  Infielders had to adjust to new bounces and a lack of foul territory.  Batters had to get use to a new batting eye and the fact that the ball doesn't travel well in the gaps.

These are adjustments that needs to be made by players at every ballpark.  A player playing at Fenway Park is going to approach an at-bat different than one at Wrigley Field.  The parks play differently so your approach at the plate needs to be different.

Morneau was only able to play half a season at Target Field in 2010.  These complaints from Morneau might be a good sign for Twins fans because we now know that he is focused on what he can do next season.  Target Field might be where homeruns go to die but a healthy Morneau can make the ball soar out of any park.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mauer's move from catcher

In a recent interviews this week Joe Mauer spoke how beat up he got this season.  This led to him discussing the possibility of moving to a less grueling position than catcher.  He said, "I know that's going to happen at some point.  I'm hoping it's a lot later than sooner.  But there will be a point where I won't be able to play (catcher) anymore, too.  Like I said, I hope I don't have to worry about that for a long time."

There are 13 catchers in the Hall of Fame.  Of those 13 catchers many of them were forced to switch positions towards the end of their careers.  If they didn't switch positions they saw their number of games cut back at the end of their careers.  Here is a look at some of the most famous catchers and how their careers looked in relation to other positions besides catcher.

Johnny Bench-  only played 13 games at catcher during his final three seasons in MLB.  He spent the most time at third base and also first base.

Yogi Berra- spent time throughout much of his career going between catcher and outfield.  This split of time between the two positions probably allowed him to play catcher for longer in his career.

Carlton Fisk- Had the advantage of being able to play DH during his career.  He did also spend time in the outfield, first base, and third base.

Gary Carter- His last three seasons were cut significantly back from the catcher position.  He had a few games at different positions in his career but for the most part he was a catcher.  This might have cost him later in his career when his games got cut back.

With the different issues that Mauer has gone through with his knee there has been speculation as to when this position change will occur.  Will he move to the outfield or a corner infield spot?  Mauer is a good enough athlete and he would be able to make the switch to either of these spots.  It will come down to what the team needs at that point.

If Danny Valencia and Justin Morneau are healthy and performing then the Mauer will find himself in the outfield.  If one of those corner infield spots is open Mauer might be in one of these positions.  Only time will tell.

Will Mauer have to switch positions at some point in his career?  Yes, but like he said hopefully it won't be for a very long time.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day Tribute: 2010

To honor all current military and veterans I wanted to write a post about a veteran with a baseball story involved.  It's my Veteran's Day Tribute: 2010.

This is the story of a World War II veteran.  A man that spent many of his years serving the country even after he returned from the war.  Darrell (Bud) Stenseth was born in a small town in North Dakota.

At the break out of World War II he decided to do what he could to help.  He began to build ships in the ship yards of Seattle, Washington in 1942.  Shortly after he was drafted into the service of the United States Army on May 8, 1943.  After completing his training as a medic he was assigned to the 69th Infantry Division.  He fought on the front line of the Siegfried Line.  This line would fight their way to Berlin, Germany.

When he returned from the front lines he took a job as a Rural Mail Carrier with the United States Post Office.  He would serve his country in this position for over 40 years.

In 1995 Bud and his family decided to take a trip to Minneapolis.  His family had never been to a Twins game and it was a trip that the family would never forget.  Along on the trip with Bud was his wife, his daughter, his son-in law, and two of his grandkids.

The game featured the Seattle Mariners visiting the Minnesota Twins.  Randy Johnson would be dominant in the game.  He pitched a complete game while allowing two hits and striking out 10.  Both hits for the Twins came off the bat of Scott Leius.  The Twins would be shut-out and the Mariners won by the final score of 12-0.

For Bud and his family the day was more important then a Twins win.  His family would be Twins fans for life.  They had also made a memory that would last a lifetime.

Thanks for being part of my first Twins game, Grandpa Bud.

Thank you, even more, for being a veteran and serving our country. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New Editions to Target Field

There will be a few new editions to the best ballpark in America next year.  Target Field will add the following amenities

1.  A new scoreboard in right field
2.  A 100 foot "Twins Tower"
3.  Free Wi-Fi
4.  More Minnesota-themed concession items
5.  More heat lamps
6.  Additional artwork tied to baseball history in Minnesota
7.  More bronze statues on the Target Plaza

For the most part I think these are all welcomed additions to Target Field.  The only one that might have to grow on me is the giant "Twins Tower."  I feel like this might be a little too much.  The way that they use it could really change my opinion on it.  If it is just another spot for advertising then I am against it.

Here is a few snapshots of what the proposed editions will look like at Target Field.

The new rightfield scoreboard and the "Twins Tower" (Populous, Twins)
A close-up of the new "Twins Tower." (Populous, Twins)
A view of the down-town with the new additions. (Populous, Twins) 
A home-plate view of the new editions (Populous, Twins)

End of Season Awards: What takes so long?

What takes so long?

I mean really MLB, does it take until two weeks after the World Series is over to tally up all of the votes for the end of season awards?  Do they only count one writer's votes a day from the last day of the season until the first awards are announced?  Come on!

I understand that they want to keep baseball in the limelight for as long as possible.  The problem is this doesn't work.  There needs to be a different approach to the end of the season awards and how they are given out.

Let's look at the schedule first:
November 15: AL and NL Rookie of the Year
November 16: NL Cy Young
November 17: AL and NL Manager of the Year
November 18: AL Cy Young
November 22: NL MVP
November 23: AL MVP

Many people will be out purchasing their turkey for their Thanksgiving meal and MLB will still be handing out their awards.  The Giants will have been World Series champions for over three weeks when the last award is announced.

The solution to the problem:
Give the awards out during the World Series

This might seem like an interesting solution but there are a few reasons to do it.

1.  Increase ratings during the World Series.  This could be done by having an on-field ceremony for the award winner.  Fans from teams that aren't competing in the World Series would watch to see if their favorite player or manager received an award.  As a Twins fan over the last decade it has been exciting to find out if Johan Santana won the Cy Young or if one of the M&M boys got the MVP.  Having them honored at the World Series would have been great to see.

2.  National attention to the award ceremonies.  Many of the national baseball writers would already be there to cover the World Series.  This way they would also be able to cover the awards as well.  Some of these writers might not be able to travel to all of the cities that these awards are given out in.  It can feel like the awards are very localized when it comes to coverage.  This way there can be better coverage of the players in all baseball markets across the country.  

3.  Let the focus at the end of the year be on the Champions.  The Giants were a great story this year and for them to win the World Series was a wonderful finale to the season.  By having all of the awards given away before the final game the last awards ceremony of the year can be the World Series trophy.  This is a team game, not an individual sport.  Let the focus be on the team that overcomes every obstacle and wins the title

As always feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Andy Marte's fall from grace

One item that can separate a  good organization from a great organization is the ability of a club to scout, draft, and develop young talent.  The role of prospects is something that many bloggers have a great passion about.  Writers will make a list of the top prospects in an organization and that can be ever changing.

Last week the Indians decided to part ways with a player that had been considered by many to be one of the top prospects over the last five years or so.  Andy Marte had been a highly touted prospect in the Braves organization during the mid-2000s.  According to Baseball America's list of top prospects in 2004 Marte was the 11th ranked prospect. This was a list that included many current Twins players (ranking): Joe Mauer (1), Delmon Young (3), Justin Morneau (16), JJ Hardy (19), and Jesse Crain (89).

The next season he was also highly ranked by Baseball America's scouting reports.  Marte moved up two spots to number nine.  Current members of the Twins also populated the 2005 list: Joe Mauer (1), Delmon Young (3), Jason Kubel (17), JJ Hardy (28), and Jesse Crain (63).

The final year that Marte was on Baseball America's top prospects list was the 2006 season.  Once again he found himself in the top 15 prospects.  Marte was listed as the 14th best prospect in baseball.  The members of the current Twins that were considered top prospects that year were Delmon Young (1), Fransisco Liriano (6), Matt Moses (75), Glen Perkins (91), and Anthony Swarzak (100).

The question that remains is what happens to a player that seems to have all of the talent in the world and
that talent never transfers to the big leagues?

Marte was traded twice in a span of six weeks during the 2005 season.  On the day he went to the Indians I remember being scared that he had ended up in the AL Central.  I didn't want the Twins to have to face Marte and the Indians as they began to stock-pile young talent.

Here we are a little over five years later and Marte will have a tough time finding another job in the big leagues.  His production just hasn't been there.  The Indians gave him plenty of chances at multiple positions and he couldn't produce the way that he did in the minors.

Did he not have the right attitude?
Could he not make the adjustments to major league level pitching?
Was Cleveland not the right atmosphere for a player to develop in?

The batting statastics at the major league level are horrid for Marte.  Here is a stat that I think might be the heart of the issue. Against Power Pitchers (pitchers in the top third of the league in strikeouts and walks) he is a career .193 hitter with a .601 OPS.  To give some perspective on that I will show you a comparison of the only Twins player that was on all three prospect lists with Marte, Delmon Young.  Against Power Pitchers Young is a .234 hitter with a .589 OPS. Granted Young's numbers are over three times as many games but you can see the comparison.

The place that Young makes a huge leap compared to Marte is in Finesse Pitchers (pitchers in the bottom third of the league in strikeouts and walks).  Marte was a .224 hitter and had a .657 OPS.  Young feasts on these lower level pitchers over his career.  He has compiled a .331 BA with a .862 OPS.

If I had just shown you the statistics for Young and Marte against the Power Pitchers, you might have said that they were very comparable.  The problem is that Marte wasn't able to improve himself against the lower level pitchers. To make it in the major leagues a prospect needs to develop this consistency.

No consistency = unemployment for Andy Marte

Monday, November 8, 2010

First Sweet Spot Reward

Awhile back I wrote a post about the new rewards program that the Twins have created for their season ticket holders.  It is called the Sweet Spot Season Ticket Benefit Program.  There are many benefits that they are planning on offering throughout the 2011 season.  Click on the link above to read about some of the many benefits of being a season ticket holder.

The Twins sent out their first portion of the Sweet Spot Rewards Program at the end of last week.  As part of the benefit for renewing your tickets for next season the Twins are allowing all returning season ticket holders to enter a contest.  This contest is for one of 30 framed player autographed Opening Day prints.  The specific player that signed the print is awarded randomly to the winners so there is no guarantee as to what player you would get.

It is a wonderful picture and it would be a great addition to have a player signed copy of the print.  It would be cool if they had players that did some of the "firsts" that day sign the pictures.
-Carl Pavano for having the first pitch, first start, first win
-Jason Kubel for having the first homerun
-Orlando Hudson for having the first Twins hit

This is the photo that will be given away in the first Sweet Spot promotion.
I am excited to see what other ideas that the Twins ticket sales staff develops this season to entice fans.

This was a good first step but I have a feeling it will get much better.

Friday, November 5, 2010

1935 Semi-Pro National Champions: The Bismarck Churchills

Two weeks ago I wrote a post looking at the impact that Satchel Paige played in baseball history in North Dakota (Satchel Paige: A part of North Dakota baseball history).  That was just the first piece in a series of stories that I will tell about the history of baseball in North Dakota.  I made reference to the national title run that Paige's team went on during the 1935 season.  Below you will find the account of that event.
In 1935 an integrated baseball club from Bismarck, ND made a run at the semi-pro national tournament in Wichita, Kansas.  The Bismarck Churchills capture the attention of fans in North Dakota and fans across the country.  The run wasn't easy but the team was able to overcome many obstacles in their way including harsh segregation in the country.

The team is now know as the Bismarck Churchills because they were owned by a man named Neil Churchill.  The team didn't have an official name at the time but newspapers often referred to them in a variety of names.  Those names included the Churchills, the Bismarcks, and the Giants.

Churchill was the owner of a car dealership in Bismarck and this is where he made his money to own the baseball club.  His main goals for the team were to win and to put fans in the seats.  He brought in the best players that he could, no matter what their race.

Satchel Paige had returned to Bismarck because Churchill was willing to pay him $400 a month plus a used car.  The team added many other negro league players in an attempt to field the best team possible.  The true face of the team was Paige and his dominant pitching.

In the mid-1930's a man by the name of Hap Dumont decided to create a national tournament for semi-pro teams across the country.  Times were tough in the country but Dumont felt that a profit could be made by showcasing America's pastime.  He needed a team and a player that would draw fans to the event.  His solution was Satchel Paige and his Bismarck team.

Dumont offered the team $1,000 just to take part in the tournament.  There was also a $7,000 prize for the team that took home the championship.  In the midst of the Great Depression this was enough money for Churchill and his team to pack up and make the trip to Kansas.

The team from Bismarck had seven games in the tournament.  Here is how they fared:

Game 1
Bismarck won 6 to 4
Paige 17 Ks

Game 2
Bismarck won 8-4
Paige 7 Ks (out of 8 batters faced in relief)

Game 3
Bismarck 4
Wichita Water 1
Paige 2 RBI

Game 4
Bismarck 7
Shelby, NC 1

Game 5
Bismarck 2
Halliburton Cementers 1
Paige 16 Ks

Game 6
Bismarck 15
Omaha V-8's 6

Game 7: National Championship Game
Bismarck 5 
Halliburton Cementers 2

The Churchills eased their way through the tournament and Paige was a vital part in many of the games.  Out of the teams seven wins during the tournament Paige pitched in five of them.  His statistics were astronomical:
Games started: 4
Pitching appearances: 5
Record: 4-0
Strikeouts: 60
His win and strikeout totals still stand as records for that tournament.  He was also named as the Most Valuable Player in the tournament.

Quite the wild ride from the bunch from B-town and quite a story of their national championship.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Catching-up with Lew Ford (in Espanol)

As I take a faded blue jersey shirt with a peeling number 20 out of the dryer, my mind flashes back. Everyone in the Metrodome is on their feet and the sounds of "LLLLLLLEEEEEEWWWWWW" echo off the Teflon roof. Lew Ford quickly became a fan favorite for his hustle on the field and his ability to be an impact player on a team pushing for the playoffs.  He even received some MVP votes for his performance in the 2004 season.

It isn't 2004 any more and Ford hasn't been a member of the Minnesota Twins since the end of the 2007 season.  So what has Lew Ford been up to in the last three years.

The 2008 season saw Ford out of the major league system and traveling across the Pacific Ocean to work in the Japanese Central League.  He played 47 games for the Hanshin Tigers.  He stats during that season looked like this:
Games: 47
BA: .225
R: 11
HR: 3
RBI: 11
OPS: .656
Lew's journey took a different path during the 2009 season.  He split time between an independent league and the Reds minor league system.  He started 2009 as a member of the Long Island Ducks.  During his time with the Ducks he put up these numbers:
Games: 93
BA: .330
R: 77
HR: 10
RBI: 55
OPS: .906
These numbers were impressive enough to get him another chance with an affiliate of a major league club, the Reds.  He joined the Louisville Bats for a brief portion of the 2009 season.  But facing major league quality pitching again brought those numbers crashing down.
Games: 11
BA: .158
R: 6
HR: 1
RBI: 6
OPS: .572

The 2010 season saw Lew cross the border into Mexico to play for the Oaxaca Warriors of the Mexican League.  His numbers improved and he ended the season with these statistics:
Games: 39
BA: .314
R: 21
HR: 5
RBI: 25
OPS: .961
There you have it.  The journey of Lew Ford since his playing days with the Minnesota Twins.  He has played on two continents, in three countries, and on four different teams during the past three seasons.  He was always a fan favorite and it is fun to get caught up with the path that players follow when they leave the team.

Thanks for all the memories, Lew.

Everyone say it one more time, "LLLLLLEEEEEWWWWW!"