Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Links-N-Thinks

It's playoff time in Major League Baseball and that means there was a lot happening in the wide world of baseball this week. The Twins ended the season on a high note by winning both of their last two games to avoid the 100-loss mark. MLB has declared September 28th as the "Best. Day. Ever." for all of the drama that unfolded in the Wild Card races.

There is a chill in the air as the Fall Classic sneaks closer for the elite eight teams that qualified for the MLB Playoffs. Now it is time to find out who will be top dog.

Here are some links to enjoy on this Friday that marks the beginning of the playoffs in 2011.
  • Carl Pavano wanted to grow a handle bar mustache and as long as he pitches like Wednesday night, I don't care what's on his face.
  • Pavano also propelled the team to their 63rd win with a CG that was capped by a Span double and a Plouffe walk-off hit. Here is the photo evidence:

Monday: Searching for a 10-game winner
Tuesday: Twins versus White Sox won't be the same
Wednesday: Twins Short-Hops: Tosoni's clutch, Ben's bunting, and avoiding 100
Thursday: Handing out Twins season ending awards
Thursday (night): 2011 MLB Playoff predictions sure to go wrong

Thursday, September 29, 2011

2011 MLB Playoff predictions sure to go wrong

How amazing was last night? There are few words to describe the events that unfolded in Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and Baltimore. Multiple teams were down to their last out before making comebacks for the ages. The Rays were down by a touchdown in the middle innings and fought their way back for two improbable home runs. The Red Sox had their closer on the mound with the season on the line and he couldn't get the job done. The Braves fought their way into extra innings before the Phillies crushed their hopes and dreams.

It might have been the single greatest day of regular season action in the long history of Major League Baseball. The Commissioner's Office only has to hope that the excitement carries over to the playoffs.

At the beginning of the season, I made predictions about the playoff teams in both the American League and the National League. How did I do? Well, not too hot. I did not predict a single team correctly in the American League but I was a little biased towards the Twins. I did manage to select two of the four National League playoff teams and my match-up for the NLCS is still possible so I was not totally off base.

Here are my 2011 MLB Playoff predictions that are sure to go wrong:

ALDS
Yankees versus Tigers
The question for the Tigers is, "How can we get Justin Verlander to start every game in the series?" and there is a good chance that doesn't happen. This means the superiority of the Yankees offense will shine through during the five game set. I think CC Sabathia and Verlander will spilt the two games they face each other as starters. The Yankees have their own starting rotation problems but their offense is strong enough to propel the team.
PREDICTION: Yankees in five games

Rangers versus Rays
The Rays are riding a dramatic high into the postseason but starting tomorrow night, it is a whole new season. The Rangers offensive was clicking on all cylinders to end the year. It didn't matter who was in the game because they were all crushing the ball. The Rays have not had time to get their rotation set up for the playoffs and that can hurt a team in a best of five series. The bullpen of the Rangers could be tough for any team to handle this postseason.
PREDICTION: Rangers in four games

NLDS
Phillies versus Cardinals
The Phillies have been the class of the National League for the entire season. Their starting pitching staff  was built to play in the month of October. The Cardinals are in the same boat as the Rays in that they used up most of their energy just to qualify for the postseason tournament. Chris Carpenter, the best starting pitcher for the Cards, had to pitch on Wednesday night and that means he won't be ready again until later in the series. The Phillies are going to be tough for any team to beat especially against a club that worked so hard to get to this point.
PREDICTION: Phillies in three games

Brewers versus Diamondbacks
The D-Backs might be the most surprising team to qualify for postseason play. Their roster is not full of recognizable names and the playoffs will be new territory for most of them. The Brewers won their first division title since 1982 and are in the playoffs for only the second time since joining the National League. The Brewers have an offense centered around two MVP candidates in Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. The D-Backs have Justin Upton and not much else.
PREDICTION: Brewers in four games

ALCS
Yankees versus Rangers
The ALCS will be a rematch of the great ALCS of a year ago. One difference could be that the fact that Cliff Lee has moved to the National League and he won't be there to help the Rangers. Both of these teams are not without their flaws. The Yankees are going to have to use more of their pitching depth in their first round match-up with the Tigers. This means that the Sabathia will only be able to make two starts in the seven game series. That advantage will swing the series in favor of the Rangers.
PREDICTION: Rangers in seven games

NLCS
Phillies versus Brewers
After their sweep in the first round, the Philles are going to have plenty of time to rest before the start of round number two. The team from Philadelphia also has plenty of experience with making it to this round of the playoffs. The Brewers were lucky with their match-up in round one and their inexperience will show in this round. The Brewers might be able to squeak out a win in front of their hometown fans but the Phillies have been here and done that.
PREDICTION: Phillies in five games

World Series
Phillies versus Rangers
During the offseason, Cliff Lee was one of the biggest free agent prizes for a contending team. The Rangers were rumored to be near the top of his list but his final decision ended up being with the Phillies. Lee showed he could carry a team in last year's playoffs and now he has even more help around him. In each of the last three seasons, one of these teams has made the trip to the Fall Classic. Out of those trips, only the Phillies have come out victorious back in 2008. The starting rotation of the Phillies was built to win the World Series. The Rangers fell short last season in their attempt at the crown and that story line will carry over to 2011.
PREDICTION: Phillies in six games

Handing out Twins season ending awards

The Twins ended their season last night and the only thing left to decide was whether the team would reach the 100-loss mark for the season. A tremendous pitching performance from Carl Pavano and a late inning hits from Denard Span and Trevor Plouffe preventing the team from reaching their 100th loss.

It is hard to imagine how far the Twins have fallen from this point last season. At the end of 2010, the Twins looked like one of the top teams in the American League and the organization was still basking in the glow of Target Field's first season. A year later, the Twins have the worst record in the American League and Target Field does not seem to fill up quite as easy any more.

This could be the most disappointing season in Twins history but there were players that did help the team at different points during the year. At the onset of the season, I picked out my preseason award picks for various categories across the team. Those picks did not go as planned and during the All Star break, I picked the mid-season award winners for the club.

Each of the awards is named after a player that epitomized excellence with the team in their specific area. Here are the final award winners for the 2011 season:

Harmon Killebrew Most Valuable Player: Michael Cuddyer, RF; 1B; 2B; P
Stat Summary: .284/.346/.459, 20 HR, 70 RBI, 29 DBL
During the first half of the season, it looked like Denard Span or Jason Kubel could be on their way to being the team MVP. Injuries forced those thoughts to become a thing of the past. Cuddyer came to the forefront as the best player on a very bad team. His consistency at the plate and defensive versatility made him irreplaceable on the 2011 version of the Twins. 

Cuddyer represented the team at the All-Star Game in Phoenix this July and he has been a leader on the team for the entire season. There are only two players, Cuddyer and Danny Valencia, that will finish the season with enough plate appearances to qualify for listing on the leader boards of the American League. That being said, Cuddyer finished as the team leader in almost every offensive category. This includes batting average, home runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and hits.

The offseason could see Cuddyer move on to a team other than the Minnesota Twins for the first time in his career. For now, he should be recognized for the season he had as the Killebrew MVP of the team.

Johan Santana Pitcher of the Year: Carl Pavano, RHP
Stat Summary: (9-13), 4.30 ERA, 222.0 IP, 102 K, 3 CG, 1.36 WHIP
It seems as if there should be no winner of this award for the way the starting pitchers performed in 2011. At the midpoint of the year, Scott Baker looked well on his way to an excellent season and he was even mentioned as a possible All-Star candidate. Like the players mentioned above in the MVP balloting, Baker was hit with the injury bug and missed a large chunk of the season.

On Opening Day, Pavano was the team's starter and he is the only starting pitcher to make it through the season without an injury concern. He has been a horse for the team and Mr. Pavano was the team leader in quality starts. He is the only pitcher that will pitch over 200 innings on the season and he leads the qualifying starters in ERA. The problem is that only he and Brian Duensing qualify for the ERA title.

There was a lot of bad defensive play behind Pavano that make his numbers look much worse than they should. He was brought back to be the veteran presence in a starting rotation that was very successful last season. Hopefully that success returns for 2012.

Rick Aguilera Relief Pitcher of the Year: Glen Perkins, LHP
Stat Summary: (4-4), 2.48 ERA, 2 Saves, 1.23 WHIP
There were many question marks surrounding the Twins bullpen at the start of 2011. The team had lost some important cogs from the previous year and the Twins needed some new arms to step-up and fill the appropriate roles on the team. Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch, and Brian Fuentes left the team for greener pastures and the Twins looked to fill their bullpen from within.

Perkins was the one player that stepped up and consistently was asked to get some big outs in the late innings of the game. He leads the team in holds this year and he was even asked to get a couple saves during the middle part of the year. His value has been shown in the fact that he leads all relievers in wins above replacement.

Because of his performance in 2011, the Twins could look to Perkins to play an even more in 2012. He seemed to have more velocity on his fast ball and this made his other pitches even harder to handle. The lefty had some squabbles with the Twins in the past but all that stuff was put behind him as he excelled for the Twins this year.

Rod Carew Rookie of the Year: Ben Revere, CF; LF
Stat Summary: .267/.310/.309, 30 RBI, 56 R, 34 SB, 9 DBL
Injuries lead the Twins to make multiple call-ups of young players this season and many rookies were given a chance to shine on the stage of the major leagues. The Twins first year player list includes the likes of Kyle Waldrop, Chris Parmelee, Brian Dinkelman, Joe Benson, Rene Tosoni, Lester Oliveros, Liam Hendriks, Scott Diamond, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Some players have struggled with the transition to the  the big league level and others have found minimal success. 

Revere joined the Twins in May to an outfield that had already run into some injury concerns. He did not  exactly light it up at the plate but Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire was hesitant to send him back to the minor leagues at the end of May. His return to Rochester was short lived and his call-up at the beginning of June would be permanent. During the late weeks of the season, Revere passed Luis Rivas for the most steals by a Twins rookie.

A hot streak to end the season has moved Revere's offensive numbers to a more respectable level. There are still parts of his game that could improve but the odds are good that Revere has played himself into the 2012 Opening Day outfield for the Minnesota Twins.

LEAVE A COMMENT. Who do you think should have won each award?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Twins Short-Hops: Tosoni's clutch, Ben's bunting, and avoiding 100

<> On Tuesday night, Rene Tosoni surprisingly became the first Twins player to hit a grand slam at Target Field. In the first two seasons at Target Field, there have been numerous power hitters that would have been much higher on the expectation list for the first grand slam. Tosoni was given the opportunity and on the first pitch he saw from Vin Mazzaro, he crushed a pitch out beyond the flag poles in right field.

Tosoni seems to be trying his best to keep the Twins away from the 100-loss mark for the season. He had a game winning double at Target Field last Thursday to end the Twins 11-game losing streak. The next Twins win came on Sunday and a home run from Tosoni in extra innings put the Twins on top.

Stat Summary (Last 10 Games)
BA: .385
HR: 2 
RBI: 8
R: 4
K: 1

Finding his swing at the MLB level has been a challenge for Tosoni in 2011. His rookie season has not gone exactly as he hoped but ending the year like this could make the Twins take a harder look at Tosoni when it comes to Spring Training.

<> Ben Revere has shown some positive signs in his first full season with the Twins. There have been some tremendous defensive plays and tons of speed on the bases. The team has also found some items for Revere to work on in the offseason and the one that has surfaced in the last two weeks has been his inability to bunt.

The speed that Revere has shown with the Twins would seem to make it natural for him to be able to bunt for hits. He has used his speed to leg out 31 infield hits this season but only four of those hits were on bunted balls. In a game last week versus the Mariners, Revere was asked to lay down a bunt to keep the runners moving as the Twins attempted a late inning rally. Both of his attempts to bunt were not close to landing in the field of play.

During his time in the minor leagues, Revere has always hit for a very good average. This meant there was little reason for his coaches to ask for him to bunt. The pitching at the MLB level has been more of a challenge for the speedy outfielder and his average has shrunk. For Revere to be a successful player at the MLB level, he is going to need to get on-base at a better rate next season. Perfecting the bunt could be the ticket Revere needs to be more of an offensive threat.

<> There is only one game left for the Twins to avoid the dubious 100-loss mark for the season. The team has to win the final game of the season to finish the year with only 99-loss and to stay clear of becoming the second team in franchise history to be defeated 100 times.

The Twins' opponent on the mound will be left-handed pitcher  Bruce Chen, a 12-game winner on the season. He was outstanding in the month of August by posting a 5-1 record for the month with a 3.19 ERA. The Twins have managed a 1-1 record in three starts made against Chen in 2011. His one win against the Twins was two-weeks ago. In that start, he went eight strong innings by only allowing two hits, no runs, and striking out eight.

Carl Pavano is scheduled to make the start for the Twins after a regressive season for the burly right-hander. He is leading all of baseball in hits allowed this season and he has given up at least nine hits in 10 of his last 13 starts. Pavano is the only member of the starting staff that has lasted through the entire season and rough infield defense behind him has played a role in his struggles. Some in the Twins clubhouse have voiced the opinion that Pavano is exactly the man they want on the mound to avoid the team's 100th loss.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Twins versus White Sox won't be the same

The Twins and the White Sox have combined for quite a rivalry during the tenures of managers Ron Gardenhire and Ozzie Guillen. On Monday night, half of that equation was no longer part of the AL Central. Guillen has coached his final game as the manager of the White Sox and he has been sent to the Florida Marlins for two minor league players.

Guillen has always been a very outspoken man and it became clear in the final weeks of the season that he did not want to return to the team without a contract extension in hand. He had a deal signed through the 2012 season with the White Sox but he has been released from that deal to sign a new contract with the Marlins. His new team will also be opening a brand new stadium for next season and that could mean the ball club has a little extra money to throw his way.

In recent years, the White Sox struggled against the Twins with Guillen at the helm. The teams he lead finished second to the Twins in the AL Central during the 2004 and 2010 seasons. He did manage a World Series title in 2005 and he defeated the Twins in Game 163 in 2008. The only winning season he held a winning edge against the Twins was in 2005, the White Sox World Series year.

Twins Record vs. White Sox (Manager Guillen)
2004: 10-9
2005: 7-11
2006: 10-9
2007: 9-9
2008: 10-9
2009: 12-6
2010: 13-5
2011: 9-9
Overall: Twins up 80-67 (.544 win %)

During his time with the White Sox, Guillen found interesting ways to express his admiration of the Twins ball club. There was the infamous piranhas nickname that was given to the Twins by Guillen all the way back in 2006. The Twins played a scrappy brand of baseball that Guillen felt was like piranhas slowly eating away at their prey. Players like Punto, Tyner, and Bartlett would scurry around the base paths to destroy the White Sox.

About midway through last season, Guillen took the piranhas nickname away from the Twins because the club no longer used a pesky style of play that was characterized by hustle. The Twins did not have to wait long to get a new nickname from Mr. Guillen. In June of this season, Guillen accused the Twins of being little sardines. The Twins had to trot out a line-up without the likes of Mauer, Morneau, Thome, and Kubel. But on that night it did not matter, the Twins still found a way to win.

I have never really been a fan of the way the vocal approach that Guillen used to coach his club. However, I would be lying if I said a part of me did not want him to leave the rivalry that has been created in the AL Central. The Twins facing off against the White Sox just won't be as much fun any more and Guillen had a lot to do with excitement of that match-up.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Searching for a 10-game winner

It seems like the Twins continue to hit new levels of futility as the season winds to a close. At the end of the season, there are going to be plenty of negatives to look at from all parts of the year. The injuries piled up, the bullpen was unproven, the middle infield was a disaster, etc. There are plenty of headlines to describe the ineptitude of the 2011 Minnesota Twins.

One specific thing stood out to me from this weekend's series in Cleveland. During the doubleheader on Saturday, the Twins sent multiple pitchers to the mound in search of their tenth win of the season. This is something interesting to look at because there is currently no pitcher on the Twins roster that has accumulated double digits in wins for the season. 
Twins Wins Leaders (2011)
Francisco Liriano 9
Brian Duensing 9
Carl Pavano 8
Scott Baker 8
Nick Blackburn 7

The scheduled starters for the Twins the rest of the season are Kevin Slowey, Anthony Swarzak, and Carl Pavano. There is always the possibility that the Twins could use Liriano or Duensing out of the bullpen to push their win total to 10 on the season. If that situation does not present itself, this means the Twins could be left without a pitcher reaching the double digit wins mark for the first time in quite awhile. 

The Twins had a lot of bad teams in the mid to late 1990's and the only Twins team to lose 100 games was all the way back in 1982. So when was the last time the Twins failed to have a pitcher win ten decisions in a season?

The year was 1981 and 38 percent of that season was lost to a work stoppage. The Twins struggled to reach 41 wins that season and ended the season with 68 losses. The second half of the season was much better than the first as the team finished only five games under .500 in that half.
Twins Wins Leaders (1981)
Pete Redfern 9
Fernando Arroyo 7
Albert Williams 6
Jerry Koosman 3

This raises the question about whether a shorten season should even count for the purposes of finding a double digit wins leader on the Twins. The Twins franchise moved to Minnesota from Washington for the start of the 1961 season. Since that time, there has yet to be a team in a full season to finish without a pitcher accumulating ten wins for the year.

Pitching has come a long way since the Twins franchise moved to the Twin Cities. Starters of the past could be asked to throw over 250 innings in a season. The development of the bullpen and closers role over the last few decades has taken some emphasis off of starters throwing as deep into games. The only Twins pitcher that will throw 200+ innings in 2011 is Carl Pavano who currently sits at 213.0 innings pitched.

Injuries have also plagued the Twins starting staff and this has meant the use of nine pitchers as starters. Anthony Swarzak, Kevin Slowey, Scott Diamond, and Liam Henriks have each been asked to make multiple starts because of injuries to the Opening Day starting rotation of Pavano, Liriano, Baker, Duensing, and Blackburn. In comparison the 2010 Twins also used nine pitchers to start games but there were only six pitchers who made multiple starts on the year.

The Twins have an interesting situation with their starting pitching for next season. All of the pitchers that have been used as starters are under team control for next season. If the team wants to revamp their rotation, there would need to be some moves elsewhere to bring in another starting pitching option. There are plenty of other things on the team's offseason wish list so it will be interesting to see how starting pitching plays into the team's plan. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Links-N-Thinks

It is another Friday as the end of the Twins' season is only a few short days away. The last weekend series of the year will see the Twins head to Cleveland before one more three game set at home to end a miserable 2011.

Here are some interesting links from the last week for your enjoyment...
My posts from this week:
Finally, a video to help us remember back to this time last year:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Parmelee proving his worth

The Twins called up a pair of prospects at the conclusion of the season for the New Britain Rock Cats. Joe Benson and Chris Parmelee have both developed into top 20 prospects in the Twins organization. Since the Twins named Benson their Minor League Player of the Year last season, his debut was something that Twins fans could look forward too. Benson can provide power at the plate and some great defense in the field but many of his skills have not been in full force at the big league level.

Between the two recent call-ups, Parmelee has provided more consistent play on the field for the Twins. Last night was his 13th game at the big league level and he has hit safely in 11 of those contests. His last five games have all been multi-hit games and during that stretch he is 12-21 for a .571 batting average. These were not the type of numbers that were expected right out of the gate from Mr. Parmelee.

Stat Summary:
G: 13
BA: .413
HR: 2
RBI: 9
SLG: .630
OPS: 1.121

The Twins could find themselves in a tough predicament when Spring Training rolls around in 2012. Justin Morneau has missed large chunks of the last two seasons with concussion related problems and a cornucopia of other injuries. To get Morneau back on the field, it might take switching him to being a full-time designated hitter. This would mean the Twins would be in the market for a new first baseman and there is a good chance the team would like to save money if they can.

Parmelee has yet to play a game at the AAA level but his production at the big league level has to have impressed the front office. He could be the solution for the Twins to play most of the games next season at first base. Joe Mauer could get some repetitions at first base and Parmelee could make the starts when the $23 million man is behind the plate.

The biggest issue for Parmelee could be his defensive ability at first base. In his short time with the Twins, he has looked average at first base with his glove. There have been some struggles with low thrown balls in the dirt. With the Twins not knowing which players will compose the middle infield for next year, the thought of a first baseman that is shaky might push some fans over the edge. Reports during the television broadcast said that Parmelee has been arriving early to the park to work on fielding his position. This is a good sign for a player that could have a huge opportunity in front of him during the next year.

Ideally, the Twins would like to have Parmelee start next season at the AAA level so he can continue to develop in the minor leagues. Morneau's future in baseball is questionable at this point and the team might need a cheap option to play first base. The Twins have many areas that need improvement during the offseason and Parmelee is trying to prove that first base is not one of those areas.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Contemplating Cuddyer's looming free agency

Michael Cuddyer was a first round draft pick by the Twins in 1997 and in his eleven year big league career there has only been one name on the front of his jersey, the Minnesota Twins. That could change this offseason as Cuddyer will be facing free agency for the first time in his career.

Cuddyer was elected to his first All-Star Game earlier this season and he will likely be named the MVP of the Twins at the conclusion of the season. It is not much of an honor to be named the MVP on what could be one of the worst team's in franchise history. He has moved all over the field once again this season and he even found himself pitching an inning out of the bullpen earlier this year.

For his career, Cuddyer has made $29 million and his total career salary could double with the contract he will sign over the winter. The outfield market is tight this year and Cuddyer will be near the top of many different team's want lists for the offseason. This means the asking price for the services of a reliable 32-year old veteran could be in high demand.

The Twins made Cuddyer a ridiculous contract offer earlier in August for a total of $16 million over two years. The Twins know that Cuddyer wants to stay in Minnesota and the team tried to take advantage of that fact by offering him a low-ball contract. He is currently earning $10.5 million in a team option year of a contract he signed in 2008. Entering the open market could mean that Cuddyer will be receiving a contract in the range of three years and $30 million. At the end of that contract, Cuddyer would be 36-years old and most likely nearing the end of his career.

If the Twins are really content on keeping Cuddyer, there are a few options the team can pursue after the season has concluded. According to the latest Elias Rankings projections, Cuddyer ranks as the last type A outfielder in the coming free agent class. This means the Twins could offer Cuddyer arbitration and if he turns it down and does not resign with the Twins then the team would receive two draft picks in next year's draft. The Twins would get the first round selection of the team that signed him, if it is not a protected pick, and a pick in the compensation round.

There is no question that Cuddyer is looking to sign a multi-year deal so there might be less risk in the Twins offering him arbitration. If he were to accept arbitration, he would end up making a decent raise for next season but his future earnings would be in doubt. The Twins can offer him arbitration and hope that other teams will be scared away from him in the free agent market because of the draft picks it would cost.

Cuddyer will also consider the direction of the franchise in the offseason. There have been so many things to go wrong with the Twins in 2012 and the losing could have been tough on Cuddyer this season. The franchise cornerstone trio of Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Denard Span are all question marks entering next season. Is this a team that is going to win a championship in the next three to four years? All signs point to no and that has to be something that will cross through Cuddyer's mind.

Attendance has dropped significantly at Target Field in the waning weeks of the season. This loss of capital could mean the Twins are looking at cutting back on payroll for coming year. There are many holes the Twins need to fill to improve on what could be only the second 100-loss team in franchise history. Cuddyer's hefty free agent contract might not be in the cards unless he is willing to take a drastic hometown discount to stay with the club.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Twins Short-Hops: Mo, 100 losses, and running Revere

<>The Twins were part of history on Monday afternoon in the Bronx when Mariano Rivera set the all-time saves record for a career. It is kind of interesting to think the Twins were suppose to play this game much earlier in the season when there is no chance he would have set the record against them. But in a season when everything has gone wrong, it is fitting that the Twins were the victims of this record breaking save.

Rivera has piled up numerous saves against the Twins throughout his career and that includes playoff games versus the Minnesota nine. It was the 32nd time he was on the mound to close the door for the save against the Twins. Out of American League teams, the Twins are runner-up for least amount of earned runs scored against Mr. Rivera. The Tigers are the only team to have scored less against the save king.

Mo is one of the most dominant pitchers that I have every seen on the baseball field and he deserves every accolade that comes his way. Congrats to the best closer in the history of the game.

<>The way the Twins have been losing games in the last month there is a good chance the team could compile 100 losses for only the second time since the team moved to Minnesota in 1961. The team has not accomplished this feat in my lifetime and I would like that streak to continue in the final weeks of this season. The Twins will have to go 4-6 in the last ten games to avoid that fate and at this point that is not going to happen.

Twins Worst Losing Seasons
1982: 60-102
1999: 63-97
1997: 68-94
2000: 69-93
2011: 59-93

The 1982 team that lost 102 games was full of young players and some of those players would be part of the franchises first World Series run half of a decade later. With the way the Twins look at this point, it seems like it would be quite the turnaround if the team were to win a World Series in the next five years. There are certainly weirder things that have happened in the game of baseball.

<>There was another record set in the Bronx on Monday afternoon but it was far less prestigious than the record that Mariano Rivera set at the end of the game. Earlier last week, I wrote about the chances of Ben Revere breaking the Twins' all-time rookie record for steals in a season. Revere entered play on Monday with 30 steals and he sat one steal behind Luis Rivas' record of 31 steals in a rookie campaign. The Twins speedy center fielder swiped two bags during the game and became the rookie record holder for the Twins.

Twins' Rookie Top Five: Stolen Bases
32   Ben Revere........................2011
31   Luis Rivas...........................2001
25   Willie Norwood....................1978
25   Chuck Knoblach...................1991
20   Marty Cordova....................1995

Rivas played in 153 games during his rookie season and that allowed him plenty of opportunities to get his motor running. By comparison, Monday only marked the 107th game that Revere had appeared in during his rookie campaign. After the game Revere talked about what he could do in a full season at the big league level. His goal, "I'm thinking like 80, 90."

As the guys over at Diamond Centric would say, "Nothing Runs Like Revere."

Monday, September 19, 2011

Blyleven's infamous home run record could fall

Bert Blyleven has been known for many different things in his life. He had one of the best curveballs in the history of baseball and he has always been a jokester. One of the longest running jokes for Blyleven has been his infamous record from 1986 when he gave up 50 home runs for the season. He broke Robin Roberts record of 46 home runs given up in 1956. One pitcher is making a run for Blyleven's punch-line as the 2011 season comes to a close.

Bronson Arroyo of the Cincinnati Reds is currently sitting at 44 home runs allowed and he is scheduled to make two more starts before the conclusion of the season. Arroyo currently finds himself tied for fifth on the list of home runs allowed in a season. He has been quickly moving up the list because he is allowing a home run ever .242 IP.

Top 5 Seasons for Home Runs Allowed
1.  Bert Blyleven 50 (1986)
2.  Jose Lima 48 (2000)
3(t).  Bert Blyleven 46 (1987)
3(t).  Robin Roberts 46 (1956)
5(t).  Bronson Arroyo 44 (2011)
5(t).  Jamie Moyer 44 (2004)

There are a few things that seem to be in the way of Bronson reaching this dubious home run mark. His next two games come in very favorable conditions for him to avoid giving up home runs.  One team has struggled to hit home runs all season long and no it is not the Minnesota Twins. The other game will be played in one of the toughest parks to hit the ball out of the park. These combined conditions could mean that Blyleven's record will be safe for another season.

Here is a closer look at the team's that are left to swing for the fences against Arroyo:

Wednesday, September 21st vs. Houston Astros
Arroyo vs. Houston (2011): 8.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 0 HR, .609 OPS
His next scheduled appearance is at home against the team with the worst record in baseball, the Houston Astros. Great American Ball Park has been known to give up some home runs but the Astros are runner-up for least amount of home runs hit in the 2011 season. Hunter Pence, the man tied for second on the team in home runs, now plays in Philadelphia. This leaves Carlos Lee and Clint Barmes along with a slew of other young players to harness their inner Babe Ruth.

Tuesday, September 27th @ New York Mets
Arroyo vs. New York (2011): 6.0 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 1 HR, .899 OPS 
The final start of the year for Mr. Arroyo will be played in the friendly confines of Citi Field, a park that is known for it's cavernous outfield fences. According to ESPN's Park Factors, Citi Field has surrendered the third least amount of home runs in 2011. The Mets are also near the bottom in all of baseball in the home run hitting department. With one home run on Sunday afternoon, the Mets had hit 102 home runs on the season, a number only higher than a handful of teams. The top home run hitter for the Mets on the season, Carlos Beltran, is currently a member of the San Francisco Giants. This leaves David Wright and Jason Bay to try and make the big apple rise above the outfield fence at Citi Field.

After looking at the match-ups discussed above, it would be quite the accomplishment if Arroyo were to allow six or seven home runs in his next two outings. The Reds along with the Mets and the Astros have little to play for in the next two weeks except for the pride of finishing the season on a good note. The rosters of all MLB teams have been expanded so there should be more than enough arms in the Cincinnati bullpen to relieve Arroyo if the going gets tough. It is hard to imagine that the coaching staff of the Reds would allow Arroyo to get close to the record.

Baseball is a funny game and this is the first chance for Blyleven's infamous home run record to fall in over a decade. Bert has put together quite the year by being inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and by having his number retired by the Minnesota Twins. Taking away his record for long balls allowed in a season could be the icing on the cake.

But then what would he be left to joke about...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Links-and-Thinks

It's a Friday and the Twins are closing in on the 100-loss plateau for the first time in my life. Kind of depressing so here are some entertaining links on a Friday morning.
  • The song of the weekend is "Thome at the Plate" by the Whipkey Three. Jim Thome will be making his first trip back to Target Field since he moved on to Cleveland. A very welcoming crowd should be waiting to greet him on Friday night.


Thome At The Plate - Whipkey Three from Nick Neary on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Naming the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year

In yesterday's post, I composed a countdown of the top hitters in the Twins minor league system for the 2011 season. There were many great performances by hitters in the farm system and it was hard to narrow the list down to just one person. That being said, the three people on my list could all end up being top 15 prospects for the Twins entering next season.

Today the focus shifts to the men on the mound for the affiliated teams of the Twins. Once again there were some great performances throughout the different levels of the farm system. This list was much easier to figure out who should be placed on the top for the season. Who else should be considered for the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year?

Here is the countdown of my list of the top three pitchers in the minor leagues for the 2011 season.

#3 BJ Hermsen (Fort Myers and Beliot)
Stat Summary: (13-8), 3.33 ERA, 1 CG, 151.1 IP, 101 K, 1.335 WHIP

Hermsen was selected by the Twins in the 6th round of the 2008 MLB Draft out of the high school. He spent half of last season and most of this season with the Beliot Snappers. The organization felt comfortable moving him to a higher level in the middle of each of the last two seasons. Each of those transitions has come with some rough patches but for the most part Hermsen has been able to handle the midseason moves. By throwing out his two bad starts with Ft. Myers, his other performances look very good. In each of those three games, he pitched six innings and he allowed a total of three runs in those starts. If the Twins keep Hermsen on the same plan, he will start next season at Fort Myers and be called up to New Britain in the second half of the year.

#2 Adrian Salcedo (Beliot)
Stat Summary: (6-6), 2.93 ERA, 1 CG, 135.0 IP, 92 K, 1.170 WHIP

The Twins signed Salcedo in 2007 as a 16-year old minor league free agent from the Dominican Republic. Salcedo has showed dominant stuff throughout his minor league career and that trend continued in 2011. He was one of the best pitchers for the Beliot Snappers and he was selected as a Midwest League Mid-Season All-Star in June of this year. Along with Liam Hendriks, Salcedo may be the only other pitcher the Twins have in their list of top 10 prospects. He is on track to be a very good pitcher for the Twins but fans will not catch a glimpse of Salcedo for at least a couple of seasons. He will start next season at Fort Myers but the future still looks bright for this right-handed hurler.

#1 Liam Hendriks (Rochester and New Britain)
Stat Summary: (12-6), 3.36 ERA, 2 CG, 139.1 IP, 111 K, 1.134 WHIP

Hendriks has worked his way up the ladder to become the top pitching prospect in the Twins organization. He showed dominant ability at the AA level and he was selected to play in the Futures Game during MLB's All-Star festivities in Arizona. After being promoted to Rochester, his nine games at that level were not as dominant as at the AA level but that can be expected. The rough outings he had at AAA were interspersed with some very strong performances. His last start of the season in the minor leagues was masterful as he pitched eight innings and only allowed one run on three hits.

At the beginning of the season, the consensus was the Kyle Gibson would be the pitching prospect that would be debuting late in the season for the Twins. That story line took a different direction and now Hendriks has shown the organization that he deserves a shot at the MLB level. It will be interesting to see how the team approaches the offseason with the starting rotation. The organization has a log-jam of starting pitchers and Hendriks could be forced to start next season at the AAA level to gain some more experience against that level of competition.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Naming the Twins Minor League Hitter of the Year

At the end of last week, I took a look at some of the breakout players from the Twins minor league system this year. I tried to look at this list as the players that had breakout seasons for the different levels. There are players that have compiled great seasons in previous years and this list was meant to be players that were coming out of their shell and playing up to their potential. In some cases, this was the first time in their careers that the organization had seen this level of play from these players.

A few of the Twins minor league affiliates had rough seasons but there were many great individual seasons from players throughout the system. It is hard to narrow down the list to just one player that should come out on top as the Twins Minor League Hitter of the Year.

Here is the countdown of my list of the top three hitters in the minor leagues for the 2011 season.

#3 Brian Dozier, SS (New Britain and Ft. Myers Miracle)
Stat Summary: .320/.399/.491: 33 2B, 12 3B, 9 HR, 56 RBI, 24 SB

Dozier showed some great power this season and he could easily be named as the top player on this list (In fact another blogger, Seth Stohs, did have him as number one). As a shortstop, Dozier is a leader on the defensive side of the ball but his offensive numbers also helped to lead the teams he was on in 2011. Twins manager Ron Gardenhire repeatedly mentioned Dozier and the season he was having with the Rock Cats. That is not something the manager would typically do in the media. On the business side of things, the Twins did not have to add Dozier to the 40-man roster at this point since he was only drafted in 2009. Another thing holding Dozier back is the facat that the Twins have plenty of other middle infielders that need some repetitions before next year. Dozier will be heading to the Arizona Fall League in a couple of weeks and the hope is he will continue to improve upon his breakout season.

#2 Eddie Rosario, OF (Elizabethton Twins)
Stat Summary: .337/.397/.670: 9 2B, 9 3B, 21 HR, 60 RBI, 17 SB

Rosario might have been one of the hottest hitters in the minor leagues for the entire length of his short season. He was also being pushed throughout the season by his teammate Miguel Sano, possibly the best prospect in the Twins organization. The home run battle these two squared off in was something amazing to behold in the final weeks of the season. Rosario was named Co-MVP for the Appalachian League because of the offensive numbers he produced. It was great to see him combine a high batting average with great power and he was still able to be a very good defensive player. His speed on the base paths also makes him more of an offensive threat. There is a good chance that Rosario will start next season in Beliot but with numbers like the ones he produced this season, it will be hard for the Twins to hold him in the lower levels for very long.

#1 Joe Benson, OF (New Britain Rock Cats)
Stat Summary: .285/.388/.495: 28 2B, 4 3B, 16 HR, 67 RBI, 13 SB

Benson has struggled at the plate through most of his time at the MLB level but his numbers at the minor league level were hard to ignore in 2011. A year after being named the Twins Minor League Hitter of the Year, Benson put together another great campaign during this season. Even after having knee surgery that cost him 4-5 weeks of the season, Benson still put together an offensive campaign that is hard to ignore. His athletic ability allows him to combine power and speed to make him an offensive threat at every place he has played in the minor leagues. During his minor league career Benson has struggled with his contact rate and his short time in the major leagues has shown a few holes in his swing. This still takes nothing away from Benson and he has shown the Twins that he is one of the top prospects the team has in the higher levels of their system. Depending on the moves the Twins make in the coming months, there is a good chance that Benson will start the 2012 season at the AAA level. There are some offensive things he could work to improve at that level and he could be ready for a mid-season call up if the Twins need him. At the very latest, Benson should be in the Opening Day line-up for the 2013 Minnesota Twins.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Revere caught stealing a record

The horrible season for the Twins has offered some positives for fans of the youth movement at Target Field. Ben Revere has seen significant playing time because of injuries to Denard Span and some of the other outfielders. All of this playing time has allowed Revere to get close to one of the Twins all-time rookie records for a season.

In 2001, the Twins had many young faces that composed the roster and one of those players was Luis Rivas. This youth movement in Minnesota would be the start of a magical run of division titles as the Twins played their way back to relevance in the American League. Rivas played in 153 games that season for the Twins as the starting second baseman.

Stat Summary Luis Rivas (2001): .266/.319/.362: 7 HR, 21 DBL, 43 RBI

This would be the best season that Rivas would compose in a Twins uniform and he was lucky enough to set one team record for rookies. During the course of the 2001 season, Rivas stole 31 bases to break the team rookie record that was held by Willie Norwood and Chuck Knoblach with 25 steals apiece. Norwood accomplished his feat in 1978 and Knoblach did it while playing his way to a World Series title in 1991.

The speed that Revere adds to the game is something that made it hard for Ron Gardenhire to send him down earlier in the season. When Revere gets on base, he is a threat to steal on any pitch from the opposing hurler. This has allowed Revere to sneak up the list of best rookie base stealers in Twins history.

Twins' Rookie Top Five: Stolen Bases
31   Luis Rivas...........................2001
26   Ben Revere........................2011
25   Willie Norwood...................1978
25   Chuck Knoblach...................1991
20   Marty Cordova....................1995

The interesting thing to note about the players on this list is the fact that each of them saw more playing time than Revere to get to their portion of the record.

Games/ Plate Appearances 
Luis Rivas: 153 G; 619 PA
Ben Revere: 101 G; 406 PA
Willie Norwood: 125 G; 471 PA
Chuck Knoblach: 151 G; 634 PA
Marty Cordova: 137 G; 579 PA

Revere's batting numbers on the season do not really jump off the page at anyone but he is only 23-years old. He also did not get a full season at the AAA level in 2011. He played all of the 2010 campaign with the New Britain Rock Cats and he got a taste of the big leagues to end the year. Fans that want to look on the bright side with Revere can say that this season was really his AAA year and he had to spend it learning the ropes at the major league level. 

Stat Summary Ben Revere (2011): .249/.295/.283: 5 DBL, 22 RBI, 48 R

The Twins have left much to be accomplished this season so seeing Revere slide his way into the rookie record book would be fun. His smile and energy have been a joy to watch this season. There might not be too many reasons to watch the Twins over the course of the next few weeks. Revere's hunt for the Twins' rookie record for steals is an exciting thing fans can keep an eye on as the season comes to a close.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Benson struggles with strikeouts

For Twins fans, most of the excitement involved with the 2011 Minnesota Twins has come and gone. After a 2010 season that was full of fun and excitement, the team had high expectations that could never be reached in 2011. The amount of open seats at Target Field in the last few weeks also verifies the fact that fans have turned their attention to other parts of the sports world.

For the diehard Twins fan, there are always going to be story lines to watch during a season. Fans are getting their first look at players like Liam Hendriks, Joe Benson, and Chris Parmelee. Out of the three players, only Henriks had seen play at the AAA level. This means there are going to be plenty of rough moments for Benson and Parmelee as the Twins try to discover what each player can offer the team for the future.

While Hendriks is the best pitching prospect the Twins have in the upper levels of their farm system, Benson intrigues many with his athletic play and offensive talents. At the end of last season, Benson was named the Twins Minor League Player of the Year for his tremendous 2010 campaign. The Twins and their fans are getting their first look at Benson and there are some flaws that need to be worked on during the last two weeks of the season.

There have been some obvious base running gaffs that have frustrated the Twins manager. In his weekly radio show, Ron Gardenhire made it be known that Benson is struggling with breaking pitches on the outside part of the plate. As a power hitter, Benson has been prone to strikeouts at many levels in the minor leagues. Here is a look at the rate in which Benson strikes out per AB in his minor league years with the Twins:

Year (Level): K/AB
2006 (Rookie-A): 47/215= 0.219
2007 (A): 124/432= 0.287
2008 (A): 73/290= 0.252
2009 (A+): 74/263= 0.281
2010 (A+-AA): 136/459= 0.296
2011 (AA): 109/400= 0.272

Benson managed to cut down at his strikeout level at New Britain this season. The shift to MLB level pitching has been a little rough for the 23-year old. In his first five games with the Twins, he has 18 official ABs and he has struck out in seven of those chances. In limited action, Benson has also struggled to show fans the power potential he put together in the minor leagues. He has done a good job of stretching a couple hits into doubles but his strikeout rate needs to improve down the stretch.

Without spending time at the AAA level, Benson is trying to improve on his plate discipline on the fly at the major league level. Benson has shown a tendency to go after pitches that are out of the zone during his limited action with the Twins:

Plate Discipline w/ Twins
Outside-the-zone swing %: 33.3%
Outside-the-zone contact %: 50.0%
Swinging-strike %: 14.1%

The Twins have some very good outfield prospects that are working their way to the big leagues. Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia, and Eddie Rosario are all top 10 prospects in the Twins system but Benson is the only player out of that group that projects to make an impact on the 2012 version of the Twins. An outfield that includes Ben Revere, Denard Span, and Joe Benson could be very fun to watch on the defensive side of the ball. The huge catacombs in the outfield of Target Field could be conquered by these outfielders tracking down fly balls in all parts of the field.

But there is clearly a list of things for Benson to work on during his time at AAA to start the 2012 season...

Friday, September 9, 2011

Baseball brought hope back after 9/11

It is hard to believe that it has been a decade since the most tragic day in American history. The events of that day and the recovery following it have been well documented over the last ten years. The anniversary will always be a time of remembrance but it will also be a time to reflect on how far America has come since the events of September 11th.

It seemed that all of America came to a standstill as the events unfolded in New York, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania. The professional sports world took a time-out as people realized that there were more important things in life than the sports that can consume people's lives. MLB stopped all of their games for over a week in the middle of the pennant races. At the time, it was the right thing to do as the nation tried to piece itself back together.

The Twins were in Detroit on September 10th and they found themselves in second place and only six games out of first place. It would be the last year Tom Kelly would manage the team. It was also the first year the team would finish higher than fourth in the division since 1992. For eight days, the Twins waited to get on the field again and all of America waited for relief that might not appear.
"The only two things that got my mind off of [9/11] were baseball and my son's football games"- New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani 
The nation needed to get back to some semblance of a normal life and for many that meant the return of America's Pastime. The Twins took the field on September 18th for the first time since the tragic events of September 11th. There was a pre-game ceremony in the Metrodome where two hot air balloons were inflated. One bore the image of the American Flag and the other was black and white to honor prisoners of war and others still missing in action. Donnele Burlingame, the cousin of the pilot of the hijacked plane that crashed into the Pentagon, held an eagle at home plate during the pre-game ceremony.

Brad Radke was masterful for the Twins after the long layoff. In front of a small crowd of 10,878 fans, Radke took a no-hitter into the eighth inning and he had a perfect game through six innings. At the end of the night, he would finish with a 7.2 IP, 2 H, 2 ER. The Twins offense pounded out 18 hits including three hits from Corey Koskie and Luis Rivas. The team also got home runs from Koskie and Christian Guzman and three RBI from Torii Hunter. The final score was 8-3 and many of the players expressed their emotions after returning to the field:
"I don't know how I did it. I don't think anybody's mind was on baseball."- Brad Radke
"I was hoping he'd get [the no hitter]. It would've meant a lot with all that's been going on."- A.J. Pierzynski
Radke was not perfect during this game but in a way that was a fitting tribute to the heroes of September 11th. There was much that still needed to be accomplished at Ground Zero and a perfect game from Radke might have taken some of the light off of the things that were left to accomplish. The focus of the nation was on recovery from the events of that day and rebuilding the crumbling parts of our lives. Baseball offered fans a glimmer of hope at the end of a dark tunnel.

After being the team to watch in the first half of the season, the Twins struggled through some rough patches in the second half to finish in second place in the AL Central. On this night, it was not about playoff races, multi-million dollar contracts, or winning and losing. Baseball's return brought hope back to nation struggling to find it's identity. It brought groups of people together to celebrate something that is truly American and it allowed players and fans to pay homage to those that gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Naming the Twins' minor league breakout players

At the beginning of the season, Seth Stohs of SethSpeaks.net asked some of the Twins Blogosphere to give their input on who would be the best players in the minor leagues for the Minnesota Twins. It was a fun exercise to see what other bloggers thought about the promise of a new season and who would shine as the top prospects in the organization.

Below you will find my picks from the preseason and the winners I have chosen now that the season is complete.

Breakout Hitter (Upper Levels)
Pre-season Picks: Chris Parmelee, 1B; Rene Tosoni, OF (Runner-Up)
Both of my picks from the preseason have shown the Twins enough in the minor leagues to be part of the roster in September. They each had very good minor league seasons but one player stood out above the crowd in only 78 games with the Rock Cats. There was plenty of buzz around the Twin Cities with the way Brian Dozier was playing in the minor leagues. Since being drafted by the Twins in 2009, he has shown the ability to hit for average and power at a tough defensive position for the Twins. He will start next season at Rochester but he could get a shot with the Twins in 2012.
2011 Winner: Brian Dozier, SS: .317/.384/.502: 22 2B: 7 3B: 7 HR
2011 Runner-Up: Trevor Plouffe, SS: .313/.384/.635: 11 2B: 3 3B: 15 HR


Breakout Pitcher (Upper Levels)
Pre-season Picks: Liam Hendriks, RHP; Kyle Waldrop (Runner-Up)
The Twins needed the service of both of my preseason picks during the last couple days. Hendriks and Waldrop both earned their first call-up and got to see MLB action for the first time. With Kyle Gibson having Tommy John surgery, Hendriks becomes the Twins top pitching prospect in the higher levels. He was dominant at times in AA this season and the Twins are hoping to see some of that consistency from Hendriks at the big league level in the last month of the season. Hendriks could develop into a solid number two starter for the Twins and he shown a lot of that ability this season.
2011 Winner: Liam Hendriks, RHP: (12-6): 3.36 ERA: 111 K: 21 BB: 1.134 WHIP
2011 Runner-Up: Chuck James, LHP: (3-2): 2.30 ERA: 67 K: 27 BB: 1.213 WHIP

Breakout Hitter (Lower Levels)
Pre-season Picks: Oswaldo Arcia, OF; Niko Goodrum, SS (Runner-Up)
This is a tough category to decide since there were quite a few great seasons put together by the Twins hitters in the lower levels of the minor leagues. At 20 years old, Arcia had a great hitting season between Beliot and Fort Myers. But at the same time, Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario were torching the hitters of the Appalachian League. Arcia did miss a month of the season with elbow surgery but he came back and showed that he could hang with the hitters at Fort Myers. The decision came down to the fact that it is hard to ignore when a player is named MVP of his league even if it is one of the short-season teams. Rosario's numbers were off the charts but a person can't go wrong with picking any of these players.
2011 Winner: Eddie Rosario, OF: .337/.397/.670: 9 2B: 9 3B: 21 HR 
2011 Runner-Up: Oswaldo Arcia, OF: .291/.335/.531: 23 2B: 4 3B: 13 HR

Breakout Pitcher (Lower Levels)
Pre-season Picks: Alex Wimmers, RHP: Adrian Salcedo, RHP (Runner-Up)
Before the season, I predicted that Wimmers would have a break-out campaign similar to what the Twins got from Kyle Gibson in 2010. That did not go as planned but the young right-handed pitcher did end the season on a high note with a seven inning no-hitter. Salcedo had a very good year for the Snappers and he will continue to develop into a top-notch pitching prospect for the Twins. The pitcher that stood out for Beliot and Fort Myers was BJ Hermsen. After shining with the Snappers, Hermsen got promoted to Fort Myers for the last few weeks of the season. It will be fun to see how good the Fort Myers starting rotation can be with both of these players at the beginning of next season.
2011 Winner: BJ Hermsen, RHP: (13-8): 3.33 ERA: 101 K: 37 BB: 1.335 WHIP
2011 Runner-Up: Adrian Salcedo, RHP: (6-6): 2.93 ERA: 92 K: 27 BB: 1.170 WHIP

Make sure to check back at the beginning of next week when I will reveal my picks for the Twins Minor League Player of the Year and the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Morneau's days at first base are numbered

During the past couple days news has come out of the Twins organization that when Justin Morneau returns to the line-up his role will be relegated to that of the designated hitter. The team is blaming Morneau's recent headaches on a diving play he tried to make down the first baseline. Joe Mauer, Luke Hughes, and recent call-up Chris Parmelee will get chances to play at first base for the rest of the season.

Looking to the future it seems as if it might be in the best interests of the organization to make Morneau the permanent DH for the two years remaining on his contract. The variety of injuries that have plagued Morneau in recent seasons have left fans wondering if he will ever be the same player again on the field. Some of that worry could be taken away by shifting Morneau to the designated hitter role and not allowing him to re-injure himself while playing in the field.

It takes the right type of hitter to make the transformation from playing in the field everyday to being a full time DH. There are plenty of players that have been able to successfully make the shift between these two roles. Morneau has played in 88 games as a DH and that is a very small amount when compared to the 907 games he has played at 1B. His offensive production is slightly lower when he is the DH but it is important to note that this is a smaller sample size than compared to his 1B numbers.

Stat Summary: 1B (DH)
BA: .282 (.266)
OBP: .354 (.329)
SLG: .502 (.443)
OPS: .856 (.772)
BAbip: .292 (.295)

Entering the 2011 season the Twins had two options for the DH role. Jim Thome has already exited the team for Cleveland and Jason Kubel is a free agent at the conclusion of the World Series. That means the Twins could be looking for someone to fill the DH role and Morneau is already under contract with the club. Chris Parmelee has shown some promise in the minor leagues and in the coming weeks he could prove to the Twins that he wants to be in the mix for the starting 1B job on the 2012 version of the Twins. 

Morneau, the four-time All Star, is under contract with the Twins for $14 million in each of the next two seasons. That is decent money tied up in a player that might be only allowed to play DH. The Twins are forced to not only think about what is best for the team but also what is best for Morneau and his family. Concussions can impact a person for the rest of their life and that might not be something Morneau is willing to risk during the rest of his playing career.

When Morneau was healthy, he had molded himself into one of the finest defenders at first base in the American League. The Twins have not seen a healthy Morneau on the field for an entire season since 2008. There needs to be some drastic changes to extend Morneau's playing career and switching away from the riggers of defending on an everyday basis could be just what the doctor ordered. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Previewing the Twins' 2012 MLB Draft

The Twins were swept on Labor Day in a day-night doubleheader by the Chicago White Sox at Target Field. For the first time since 2000, the Twins could find themselves in last place in the Central Division at the end of the season. The positive side to finishing with a really bad record is the Twins would be positioned to have a very good draft pick in next June's first year player draft. After finishing in last during 2000, the Twins had the number one pick in 2001 and used that pick to draft Joe Mauer.

The folks over at MLB Trade Rumors have compiled a list of the draft order for 2012 by reversing the standings from the 2011 season. The Astros are almost guaranteed the first pick in the draft as they are close to having a double digit lead in the standings over the Orioles. After last night's games, the Twins are in line for the third pick in next year's draft. There is a close race among the top eight teams in the draft order. The Twins could play well down the stretch and find themselves with a pick later in the draft. On the other hand, the team could put together the same effort that has been shown lately and end up with as high as the second pick.

The Twins strategy is always interesting to watch over the course of the draft. It can be hard to predict what players a team will go after and what kind of relationship the team has developed with the talent that is available. The fans have seen some of the holes in the organization and it looks like pitching and infield help could be on the Twins draft list for next year. It will be interesting to see what kind of players the Twins target for 2012.

The order of the draft is something that is hard for even the experts to predict. Over the course of the rest of this fall and next spring, the players at the top of the draft board can change dramatically. For now, here is a look at some of the players that could be on the Twins radar for next June.

High school players to watch
Lance McCullers, RHP, Tamap Jesuit HS, Florida: His dad of the same name pitched in the big leagues for seven seasons. McCullers has been projected by some to be the top available player in the 2012 Draft. His fastball has been clocked in the high to mid 90s and he also has a plus curveball and change-up.

Lucas Giolito, RHP, Harvard-Westlake HS, California: Giolito has a low-effort delivery and he has shown the ability to hit the mid-90s with his fastball. His favorite player to watch over the past year was the number one pick in June's draft Gerrit Cole from UCLA. There have been some control issues with Giolito and his commitment to UCLA could drop his stock.

Addison Russell, SS, Pace HS, Florida: Russell is arguably the best high school bat that will be available in next year's draft. He has the ability to play multiple infield positions and he has a tremendous arm that is a huge asset to his defense. His great bat speed and quick wrists will transfer easily to professional baseball.

College players to watch
Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford: If the draft was held today, there is a good chance that Appel would be selected as the number one overall pick. He has been one of the best pitchers in the starting staff of a college baseball powerhouse for the last two seasons. He pitched in Cape Cod League this summer and in three starts he only allowed three earned runs for a 1.35 ERA.

Deven Marrero, SS, Arizona State: Marrero could be the best college position player available in next year's draft. He has shown tremendous defensive ability at shortstop and his bat projects well to the next level. The only thing holding the Twins back could be the fact the organization used their first round pick on a college infielder in 2011.

Michael Wacha, RHP, Texas A&M: Wacha pitched in some big games this year for the Aggies and that experience should carry over to his junior year. There is still some room for development with his secondary pitches but he has the chance to be a future workhorse at the big league level. One of his strengths is his ability to pound the strikezone so he sounds like a player that fits the Twins mold.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Minor league season coming to a head

The Twins might be out of the playoff race but there is sill some exciting baseball being played in the minor league system of the Twins as each team gets close to the conclusion of their season. The New Britain Rock Cats are only one game behind the Reading Phils for the wild card spot in the playoffs. Alex Wimmers had the fantastic culmination of a season that started as a nightmare for himself. Also, two players got the call-up to the big leagues for the first time in their careers and will be debuting with the Twins in the next couple days.

Let's take a look at some of these headlines from down on the Twins farm system.

Wimmer's tosses a 7-inning no-hitter
It is hard to believe how far Alex Wimmers has come since the beginning of the season. For those that don't remember, the first start of the year for Wimmers was horrendous. In that first outing, he did no manage to record an out and he walked in three runs. Overall, he face six batters, walked them all, and was charged for four earned runs. He threw 28 pitches and only four of them were strikes. There was obviously something wrong with the mechanics of this young pitcher.

The Twins pulled Wimmers out of minor league action and spent time working with him on some of the basics of his mechanics. During the course of the season, he slowly worked his way back to pitch single innings, then a few innings, and eventually back into the starting rotation for the Miracle.

On Saturday night, everything came together for Wimmers and the Fort Myers Miracle. The team had already won the first half of a double header with the Jupiter Hammerheads by a score of 7-0. If the teams are scheduled for a double header in the minor leagues, the games are only scheduled for seven innings. In those seven innings, Wimmers would be masterful by facing the minimum of 21 hitters and only allowing two base runners to reach on walks.

The defense behind Wimmers made some great plays to back up their pitcher's performance on the mound. Danny Rams called a great game from behind the plate and he gunned down a runner trying to steal second to end the sixth inning. Aaron Hicks provided the only offense that Wimmers would need with an RBI in the fifth. Oswaldo Arcia had to make a leaping catch against the fence for the dramatic final out of the game.

Wimmers truly came full circle since his first start of the year. With the bad news about Kyle Gibson, the Twins need some positive news from their starting pitching prospects in the minor leagues. This start from Wimmers offered a glimmer of hope at the end of a long season.

New Britain clinging to their playoff hopes
The Rock Cats have one game remaining in the season and they stand a full game behind the Reading Phils for the last playoff spot in the Eastern League. That means on the final day of the season, the Rock Cats must win their game against the Trenton Thunder and the Phils must lose their contest with the Binghamton Mets. If situation does play itself out, the two teams would be tied for the final playoff spot. This would mean the Rock Cats would host Reading in a one-game play-off game on Tuesday.

The last week of games has been back and forth for the Rock Cats. The team has not been able to string together a series of wins to propel themselves into the playoffs. The last seven days have seen the team alternate wins and losses as the playoff race has hit it's hottest point. That pattern will have to end on Monday for the Rock Cats to have any chance at making the playoffs.

At the conclusion of the team's game today, the players will either be able to celebrate on the field or get ready for some of the call-ups that could be heading their way. It would be fun to have one team in the Twins organization get to taste the playoffs. The Rock Cats will have to take care of their own business first and hope that Reading falters at some point during their game.

Hendriks, Waldrop get the call for the first time
One of the best things about following the minor league system of the Twins is hearing about the players that get called up to the big leagues for the first time in their careers. This is the direct byproduct of all of the hard work and dedication that these players have put in during their time in the Twins organization. Liam Hendriks and Kyle Waldrop have each followed a different path to get their debut and it makes their appearances that much sweeter for fans of the team.

Hendriks has been outstanding this season for the Rock Cats and the Red Wings. His performance on the field will most likely garner him the Minor League Pitcher of the Year Award from the Twins organization. This is the second year in a row that he could have won the award but an emergency appendectomy cut six weeks out of his season in 2010. The 6-foot-1 right-handed pitcher from Perth, Australia has quickly become the best pitching prospect in the higher levels of the Twins organization. He will take the mound at Target Field on Tuesday night and it will be fun to see what he can show the Twins in the last few weeks of the season.

Waldrop has a much different tale to tell when it comes to making his debut with the Twins. He could have been a six-year minor league free agent after last season but he decided to stay with the Twins. That dedication is paying off for the team and the player with Waldrop getting the call for the first time in his career. After beginning his career as a starting pitcher, a shoulder injury forced the Twins to shift Waldrop to a relief role in the last three seasons. Waldrop has the chance to prove to the Twins that he belongs in the bullpen picture for 2012.