Wednesday, October 31, 2012

All-Time Twins Halloween Team

Halloween evening is here and baseball has come to an end.
Still there's plenty to do with baseball thoughts in your head.
The Twins are off until the weather turns better.
So get out the candy and put on a sweater.
Little ghouls and goblins will come to your door.
But to them the hot stove talk is just a bore.
The new season will come in it's due time.
But for now you will have to settle for my little rhyme.
Let's look back at the creepiest Twins names from history.
Some of their hidden secrets are shrouded in mystery.
It's All Hallows Eve so let's have us some fun.
Then you can get back to dreaming about a Mauer home run.

Here is the list of the "All-Time Twins Halloween Team." I hope you enjoy!

C: Tom "Prince:" His daughter must have dressed up like a princess
1B: Ron "Coom Dog" Coomer: Haunting the night and FSN North broadcasts for many years
2B: Frank-"enstein" Quilici: Stored the heart of a monster in the body of a middle infielder
3B: Larry "Wolfe:" Left others howling at his .235 batting average with the Twins
SS: Denny Hoc-King "Kong:" Maybe not a monster on the field but still a monster in our hearts
OF: Carlos Gomez "Adams:" There was certainly something odd about Mr. Gomez.
OF: Al "Lost in the" Woods: Spent most of his career lost with the expansion team in Toronto.
OF: Michael "Myers" Cuddyer: He could be scary with a bat in his hands and a lefty on the mound.

SP: Jim "Kitty" Katt: How many of his nine lives did he use in his career?
SP: Jack "The Ripper" Morris: Ask the Braves about this one.
SP: Nick Blackburn "Creature from the 'Black' Lagoon": He got himself into plenty of swampy situations over the last couple years.
SP: Jim "Mudcat" Grant: Teaming up with Jim Katt to be the feline duo.
SP: "Jason" Marquis: His time on the mound was scary with the Twins.

RP: Eric "Hacker:" If that doesn't sound like a serial killer name, I don't know what does.
RP: Jack "Savage:" Sounds like a guy that would work with Eric Hacker
RP: Vince "Headless" Horsman: Riding into town to take down opposing batters
RP: Anthony "Sasquatch" Swarzak: He likes to search for the long-lost beasts
RP: Jose "The Blob" Mijares: If you have seen him in real life, you understand this nickname.
RP: Freddie "Krueger" Toliver: Haunted the Twins pitching staff with an ERA over 7.00 in his last year with the club.

Manager: Ray Miller "Dr. Ray Stantz:" Manager of the Ghostbusters

Happy Halloween everybody!

Glen Perkins set-up to be closer

For the first time since before the Joe Nathan era in Minnesota, the team will enter next season with a homegrown pitcher as the closer at the back-end of the bullpen. Glen Perkins exploded onto the scene in 2011 and he continued that success into 2012 by being a dominant relief man for the Twins. All of this came after he failed to be a starter and it looked like he might be out of the system for the Twins. Back in 2009, Perkins and his agent had the players association file a grievance against the Twins for a variety of reasons. He has come a long way from that point and he has put together stellar seasons in back-to-back years.

As I wrote about at the end of last week, the Twins ended their long, strange love affair with Matt Capps by declining his option for next season. For the Twins, this means there should be little doubt about who will be getting the majority of the save opportunities for the club. Perkins has posted an ERA of 2.52 since the beginning of 2011 and his WHIP is a very good 1.129 in those two campaigns. Unlike Capps, Perkins has shown the ability to strikeout batters on a regular basis with his SO/9 averaging 9.8 in the last two years and he set a career high in this department last season with 10 SO/9.

When Capps went down last season, Ron Gardenhire used an interesting approach for a few of the late inning situations for the club. Since Perkins is a left-handed pitcher, Gardenhire would sometimes turn to right-handed pitcher Jared Burton to be the man to close down the ninth inning. This was often done when most of the batters for the final frame were scheduled to be right-handed hitters. A few weeks of using a double-headed closer was enough for Gardenhire and Burton wouldn't record a save in the last couple months of the season. Perkins was the man at the end of the game and it seems that Gardenhire likes knowing which pitcher will be getting the final outs for his team.

Finding other relief options like Jared Burton has helped the Twins to solidify their bullpen in the last year. The team took a flyer on Joel Zumaya during last offseason but that risk didn't work out in favor of the club. There were still some other surprises from the relief core from Minnesota. Casey Fien emerged as a very reliable option by keeping runners off of the bases and keeping the ball in the park. Alex Burnett had the best season of his career and Brian Duensing did fine when he was used out of the bullpen and not as a starter. Anthony Swazak, like Duensing, fared much better as a relief pitcher versus being a starter. There seems to be a decent core of arms building around Perkins in the bullpen.

It has been a long journey for Perkins to get to this point. The Twins drafted him in the first round of the 2004 Draft and he would make his debut by the end of 2006. Injuries would force him to pitch a limited amount of innings in 2007 but he would pitch a career high in innings during the 2008 campaign. The 2009 and 2010 seasons would be his last as a starting pitcher and he struggled to keep his ERA anywhere near 5.00 in his time at the MLB and Triple-A level. It was time to try a different approach with Perkins so he was sent to the bullpen to try and save what was left of his career.

This decision turned out to be the right move for Perkins and the Twins as he made great strides in the last two seasons. The shift to the bullpen saw Perkins add more velocity to his fastball and this has made him tougher to hit as a pitcher. He struck out a career high 78 batters this season in 70.1 innings when his previous high had been 74 batters but that was in 151 innings on the mound. Perkins has reinvented himself as a relief pitcher and it seems like he continues to gain confidence on the mound with each late inning opportunity that he is given to pitch.

There have been plenty of things to be down about in regards to the Twins in the past two seasons but the emergence of Perkins as the closer of the present and the future is not one of them. He has offered a small glimmer of hope to fans in back-to-back terrible years. His road to the role of full time closer with the Twins had plenty of bumps along the way but the transformation from starting pitcher to set-up man and finally to closer seems like the perfect path for the former first round pick. He'll start next year as the closer for the Twins and fans hope the team can follow the path of Perkins by reinventing the franchise for the future success.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Preliminary Top 20 Twins Prospects

There were a couple of preliminary top prospect lists for the Twins released over the last couple of days. On Sunday night, Seth Stohs from released his primary list of the top 50 prospects for the Twins organization. It's a pretty extensive list and you should check it out after you have perused the list below. John Sickels from released his preliminary top 20 list for the farm system for the Twins. Both of these men have a ton of knowledge about the system for the Twins and I value their opinions.

Here is a quick glance at the way I have mapped out the Top 20 for the Twins at the end of the 2012 season. I will have a more permanent list in the coming months but this is the way I see them stacked at this point. After the top seven to nine players, there can be a whole lot of debate and that's what makes these lists so much fun.

1. Miguel Sano, 3B: The power is legit but it was disappointing to see his batting average drop so much during his first year in a full season league. He continues to work on his defense since this is one of his weakest points. There are still multiple seasons before he will make an appearance at Target Field so he has time to work on his flaws.

2. Byron Buxton, OF: The second pick from last year's draft had a decent start to his professional career. He has all the tools to push for the top spot on this list in the near future. One of the biggest questions when the Twins drafted him was his power and he showed more pop than expected in 2012.

3. Aaron Hicks, OF: He finally seemed to put it all together in 2012 by combining his speed, athleticism, and power to be a force at the Double-A level. With a plethora of outfielders on the major league roster, someone is going to need to be dealt to clear room for him next season.

4. Oswaldo Arcia, OF: Arcia could be featured higher on this list for a variety of reasons. He finally stayed healthy for all of last season and his performance was indicative of this fact. His defensive ability is nothing to scoff at but Hicks and Buxton sit higher on this list for being better in the field.

5. Eddie Rosario, 2B-OF: His power numbers dipped a little in 2012 but he is still one of the best prospects in the system. Rosario spent time transitioning to the infield last year so it will be interesting to see what kind of adjustments he makes as he moves up the ladder.

6. Kyle Gibson, RHP: Besides a rough start in his most recent outing, reports about Gibson have been great from the Arizona Fall League. He could start the year in Rochester or in the bullpen for the Twins so the team can keep his innings under control for the first couple of months.

7. Jose Berrios, RHP: A supplemental round pick by the Twins in June and he is quickly earning the hearts of fans that follow the minor leagues. He was outstanding across both rookie levels this season and he is only 18-years old.

8. Travis Harrison, 3B: The Twins used a supplemental round pick on Harrison in last year's draft and there were plenty of scouts raving about his power potential. He showed some rough defense at third base in '12 but there were glimpses of power.

9. Max Kepler, OF: He repeated at Elizabethton this season but he made some significant leaps along the way. His power numbers made huge jumps and he is still a teenager. There is still time for him to add some more muscle as he moves through the system.

10. Joe Benson, OF: It was a nightmare year for Benson as he struggled through injuries and demotions for most of the year. Next year can't get any worse for him so be on the lookout for him to have a bounce back season in '13.

11. Daniel Santana, SS: There has been plenty of trouble developing middle infielders in the Twins farm system over the course of the last decade and Santana could be a small light at the end of the tunnel. After some struggles in the lower levels, he had a quite the season for Fort Myers.

12. Jorge Polanco, IF: He was only 16 when the Twins signed him back in 2010 so there continues to be time for him to develop. The switch to second base helped him to make improvements on the defensive side of the ball.

13. Mason Melotakis, LHP: The hard throwing lefty got a taste of Low-A in his first professional season. He was the 63rd pick in the draft and he could be on the fast track to a bullpen job with the Twins.

14. Luke Bard, RHP: Bard is another early round draft pick for the Twins that could be making some noise next season. It will be interesting to see if the organization decides to start him or if he will continue to be used as a bullpen arm.

15. Kenny Vargas, 1B: He had a very good season in Beloit after sitting out the first half of the year due to a drug suspension. Vargas is already 22 and there are some issues with him on the defensive side of the ball.

16. Niko Goodrum, SS: Goodrum was sent back to Elizabethton for a second year to work on a few things. He saw a slight increase in power and his walk rate went up.

17. Alex Wimmers, RHP: Like Gibson before him, Wimmers will miss a large chunk of 2013 due to Tommy John surgery.

18. Adrian Salcedo, RHP: One of the top pitching prospects for the organization at the beginning of last year dropped over the course of 2012. He will be looking to rebound from multiple injuries.

19. Chris Herrmann, C/OF: He got a taste of the big leagues at the end of last year and he could be on his way to a Ryan Doumit type role with the Twins by 2014.

20. Adam Walker, OF: There is plenty of power in his swing and contact was an issue in limited action last year. Time will tell if he can move up this list.

Leave a comment below to let me know your thoughts about my preliminary list.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Congrats to the team from San Francisco

They weren't suppose to get past the Reds with their back to the walls.
But they did.
They weren't suppose to get past the Cardinals with their backs to the walls.
But they did.
They weren't suppose to put up much of a fight against the Tigers.
But they did.
In the end, they overcame the odds and find themselves on top of the world.
Congrats to the Champs.

Now we wait through the long winter for spring to arrive.
The hope of a new year is only a few months away.

Should Aaron Hicks be an Opening Day starter?

There has been plenty to get excited about with some of the minor league players for the Twins during the current offseason. Kyle Gibson has been doing very well in the Arizona Fall League in his three starts. He isn't the only player making some noise in a winter league as Aaron Hicks has put together some strong numbers in the Venezuelan League during his first handful of games down there. This comes on the heels of his best season as a professional while playing at the Double-A level for the Twins. As was mentioned on Twins Daily last week, his stock will be rising this offseason so it is interesting to consider where he could end up at the beginning of next season.

The Twins have a surplus of outfielders at the moment so some of the players at the major league level would need to be moved before the start of next year. This could open up the opportunity for Hicks to begin the season as a starting outfielder for the Minnesota Twins. Should Aaron Hicks be an Opening Day starter for next year's version of the Twins?

Since the Twins took Hicks with their first round pick back in 2008, things haven't gone perfectly for the toolsy outfielder from California. His defensive skills have always been top notch as he was named by Baseball America for being the top defensive outfielder and having the best outfield arm in the Twins system at the conclusion of last season. The offensive side of the ball has been a little sketchy on his way through the minors. He is a switch hitter so finding his stroke from the left side of the plate was a little bit of a challenge. Something clicked this year and the organization finally started to see the player they were looking for when they took him in the first half of the first round of the draft.

Hicks saw his batting average rise 44 points from the 2011 season to finish at the highest point since he started playing in full season leagues back in 2009. Reports have him shortening up his stroke from the left side to make more contact and this helped to get on base at a more consistent rate from both sides of the plate. His on-base percentage has always been high because of his ability to take walks but some people criticize him for being too picky at the plate. After hitting 41 extra-base hits in 2011, he hit 45 extra-base hits in 2012 and he hit double digits in home runs for the first time in his career. Last year, he hit 31 doubles and only five home runs while this year his home runs went up to 13 and his doubles dropped to 21 for the year. His speed has always been a threat and he set the Rock Cats record for triples in one season with 11 three baggers.

He has gotten almost 40 at-bats in Venezuela and his line is consistent with his minor league track record. There has been a little bit of power with a home run and a couple doubles. Hicks is also getting on-base at a .370 mark but he is striking out in a third of his at-bats. He has three multi-hit games so far and it's nice to see him getting a few stolen bases. So far in this league, he has reached base 17 times and he has scored a run in almost half of those appearances on the base paths. His team, the Bravos de Margarita, is in first place at the moment so he is having the opportunity to play for a winning team in a very competitive league.

During spring training the last two years, Hicks has been part of the major league camp for at least a portion of the schedule. This has given Ron Gardenhire a closer look at the young outfielder and now the coaching staff at the major league level is composed of plenty of men with minor league experience so they could be even more familiar with the ins-and-outs of Mr. Hicks. If the coaches and front office think the time is right, Hicks could get an extra long look for the job as starting outfielder for the Twins. There are plenty of things to consider when it comes to a young player and it seems like a little bit of a long shot at this point.

With Denard Span, Ben Revere, Josh Willingham, and Chris Parmelee all ahead of Hicks on the outfield depth chart, there would need to be some kind of trade to ditch one or more of these men. Willingham might be a prime trade candidate after having a career year in 2012 and Span's name has been out in the rumor mill for more than one season. The Twins have made it clear that they need more starting pitching for 2013 and the surplus of outfielders seems like the most likely place to find value on the trade market. Justin Morneau could also be dealt to free up a spot for Parmelee in the infield and this could give Hicks a quicker path to a starting role in Minnesota.

The Twins have been patient with Hicks since they drafted him four seasons ago and it seem most likely for the club to continue this philosophy for the beginning of next year. Hicks hasn't made an appearance at the Triple-A level so it seems more likely for him to get the opportunity to prove himself at that level before being asked to come up to the major leagues. If the Twins were seriously thinking about him being a starter for 2013, there is a good chance he would have been given a call-up at the end of this year. It's still great to be having a positive conversation about Hicks after multiple disappointing years in the minors. He seems to have turned the corner and fingers are crossed for him to continue on the path to making his debut in 2013.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Tumultuous Twins Tenure of Matt Capps

Wednesday marked the end of a sad love affair between the Twins and relief pitcher Matt Capps. The team turned down his multi-million dollar option for next season and instead decided to pay him a $250,000 buyout of his deal. Capps will become a free agent at age 29 and his time with the Twins looks to be over. It was an up-and-down ride for Capps during his stint in Minnesota but it seemed like plenty of more ups than downs. He came to the Twins in the middle of one of the team's best regular seasons on record and he stayed with the organization through two of their worst seasons ever. Throughout his career with the Twins, he has cost the team one of their top prospects, $13 million in salary, and a compensation round draft pick. This is a stiff price to pay for a man that accumulated mediocre statistics during his time on the mound.

When the Twins acquired Capps back in 2010 at the trade deadline, there was a small uproar from fans that were upset about the deal. Bill Smith and the other members of the front office thought it was a good idea to trade away Wilson Ramos, the best catching prospect in the organization since Joe Mauer, for the closer from the Nationals. Joe Nathan's elbow injury had left the team with a hole at the back-end of the bullpen so the team had tried to fill that void with other arms including Jon Rauch. The first half of the season hadn't been terrible for Rauch and it didn't seem like Capps would be much of an improvement. This caused turmoil between Capps and the fans before he had even stepped on the field for the Twins.

Capps would only throw 27.0 inning for the Twins in 2010 but he was very good in those appearances. He had a low 2.00 ERA and he only had a couple of blown saves down the stretch as the Twins made their way to the postseason. During the playoffs, he would make one appearance as the dreaded Yankees swept the Twins and he gave up one run on a couple hits in the frame. Fans of the Twins had seen the best of Capps in 2010 and the rest of his time with the club would not play out very well for the right-handed hurler. If Capps had been one of the integral pieces to lead the Twins to the World Series in 2010, fans would have forgotten about the deal to bring him to Minnesota. Instead fans had to deal with another playoff sweep by the Yankees and the loss of one of the team's best young players.

With question marks surrounding the return of Joe Nathan from major elbow surgery, the Twins felt it was in their best interest to offer arbitration to Capps. He would end up making $7.15 million through the arbitration process and the Twins would have a ton of money tied up between the two men at the back end of their bullpen. It was a rough year for Capps as he fought through some injuries and other aches and pains to stay on the mound for the Twins. Nathan was ineffective at the beginning of the year so the team turned the closing duties over to Capps for the first part of the season. His ERA bubbled to over 4.00 and he gave up a whopping 10 home runs in his 65.2 innings pitched. Fans took out their frustration on him at the end of the season as the boo birds came out in full force when he would take the mound at Target Field. There were high expectations for the Twins after 2010 so the ineffectiveness of Capps became a point of anger for the fan base.

At the end of 2011, it seemed like the Twins might be able to get away from Capps after his rough year with the club. He would be a free agent and the Twins would be compensated if he left the club and signed with another team. With some changes to the collective bargaining agreement, the Twins didn't even have to offer arbitration to Capps for the club to get the extra-draft pick. As long as Capps signed with another team, the Twins would get an extra pick in the round between the first and second round. It seemed like a no-brainer at the time for the Twins to let Capps pack his bags and to turn over the closing duties to Glen Perkins after a fantastic season from the left-handed pitcher. The Twins didn't see it this way and they brought back Capps on a deal that would pay him $4.5 million plus the $250,000 buyout for this year. It was a head-scratching move at the time and it is only more confusing after the injury-plagued season Capps put together.

It seems like Capps was a very nice man and the coaches and front office for the Twins enjoyed having him be part of the team over the last few seasons. Looking back at the total cost of Capps to the Twins, it can be frustrating to think about how little the team got for their money. There was one lousy season, an injury plagued season, and a portion of a good season when he first joined the club.

Here is the final bill for Capps as he exits the organization:

  • Salary and buyout: $13 million
  • Wilson Ramos (25-year old catcher): 2.1 WAR since being traded
  • 2012 Compensation Round Draft Pick: Value unknown
      • Total Bill: ?????

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Contemplating bringing Scott Baker back

The Twins held their organizational meetings last week and there are plenty of decisions for the club to make about the pending offseason. Some of those decisions might have already been revealed as the club announced the new members of their coaching staff and the readjustment of the men that were left after the firing frenzy. Phil Mackey from 1500 ESPN has the complete rundown of some of the items discussed by the organization but one of the most interesting items might be the fact the team is looking to add three starting pitchers in the coming months. These pitchers could join the Twins in a couple of different ways including trades and free agency but the team knows this is a weak point for the club.

One intriguing option for the Twins is a man that could already be under contract for 2013. Scott Baker injured his elbow during last year's spring training and he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery. The Twins hold a $9 million option on Baker but there doesn't seem to be much of a chance of the club exercising that option. This would leave Baker as a free agent when he is still recovering from the surgery he had seven months ago. There could be other team's interested in Baker but the 31-year old right-hander has only known the Twins organization and this could play to his favor.

At the end of the season, Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire spoke to season ticket holders in a conference call to answer a bunch of different questions about the organization. The topic of Baker came up in one of the questions and Ryan had very positive things to say about the pitcher. His rehab was progressing well at the time and he called him "one of the good guys" for the organization. This could be a good sign of things to come with Baker and it seem like a strong relationship exists between the pitcher and the general manager.

This isn't the only sign from the front office about the pending return of Baker to the Twins for 2013. Reports out yesterday have Ryan saying the Twins would like to keep Baker around for next season. With the very good chance of the Twins turning down Baker's option year, this would mean the team would be free to work out an incentive-laden contract for the future. It would also be nice if the team could include a reasonable option for 2014 for the chance Baker performs better than expectations on his way back from elbow surgery.

The most recent medical reports have Baker on track to be ready to pitch in game action by the time the Twins are in spring training. This is great news for Baker but one would have to wonder if he will be on some kind of innings limit for next year. He has only reached the 200 innings mark in one previous season so some of the innings limit might take care of itself with time spent on the disabled list. When pitchers are in their first season back from a major surgery, there can be a few bumps along the way. For example, Joe Nathan spent a little bit of time on the DL in his first year back with the Twins. From the Twins point of view, they already have Kyle Gibson working his way back from Tommy John surgery so it might not be ideal to have two recovering pitchers on track to be part of next year's rotation.

In the last season Baker spent on the mound for Minnesota, he got off to the best start of his career. He went 7-5 in the first half of 2011 with a 3.01 ERA and he was on pace to throw over 200 innings. Injuries forced him to the sidelines for much of the second half of the season and he would only make four more starts during that time. Even with his limited action down the stretch, he would still lead the pitching staff in WAR for the entire season. In his last three full seasons with the Twins, he has averaged 13 wins a year with 181 innings pitched and a 4.11 ERA. If Baker was able to reproduce these results in 2013, he would be a very welcomed member of the Twins starting rotation.

There are plenty of decisions for the Twins to make in the coming months and Baker will only be a small part of a much larger plan. It's nice to think the Twins would be loyal to a player the organization drafted and developed to see if he can come back strong from a tough injury. Baseball is a business though and the Twins have been at the wrong end of the American League for two consecutive seasons. Loyalty to players might have to be thrown out the window if the Twins want to get back to the top. The comeback story of Baker would be great to follow in 2012 but only if the team can work out an appropriate contract for the team and the player.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A look back at Kyle Lohse

In last night's do-or-die Game 7 of the NLCS, former Twins pitcher Kyle Lohse was given the ball to take the mound for the defending World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals. After one of the best seasons of his career, Lohse will most be remembered for what happened in the last pitching performance of the year. It's been six years since Lohse last pitched in the uniform of the Minnesota Twins and he has played in three different cities since that point. The 34-year old right-handed pitcher will be a free agent at the conclusion of the season and he could be set to make a pretty penny on the open market.

Unfortunately for him, last night's Game 7 was a debacle for him on the mound. He surrendered five runs in only two innings worth of work and the Cardinals went down in flames. For Lohse, he continued to fall behind in the count and this allowed the Giants to string together some good at-bats. So far in the 2012 Postseason, Lohse had yet to give up more than two earned runs in any of his appearances and he made it into the sixth or later in all three starts. But for how good he had been in his last few starts, he was equally as bad on Monday night.

The 2012 regular season was by far the best of Kyle Lohse. He set career highs in wins, innings pitched, ERA, WHIP, strikeouts, and the list goes on and on. It was the first time in his career where he ended the season with an ERA of less than 3.00 and he tied for the National League lead in games started. His 211 innings pitched marked the third time he had reached the 200 IP mark and it was the first time he had reached this plateau since 2008. After two injury shortened seasons in 2009 and 2010, Lohse has looked very good over the last two seasons. He has averaged 200 IP and he has a 3.11 ERA with a 1.127 WHIP during this stretch.

When the Twins had Lohse back in the early 2000's, this was the type of player they dreamed he could be for their club. There were some rough times for Lohse in a Twins uniform as he never had an ERA of under 4.18 and he struggled with his control for multiple seasons. Most fans will remember the story of him going after the door of Manager Ron Gardenhire's office with a baseball bat. Lohse was unhappy about the way he was taken out of the game and he found himself in the uniform of the Cincinnati Reds by the conclusion of that campaign.

Lohse was originally a 29th round pick of the Chicago Cubs in the 1996 draft and he would stay with that organization for a couple seasons before being traded to the Twins. In the early part of 1999, the Twins sent Rick Aguilera and Scott Downs to the Cubs for the services of Lohse. Since he was a late round pick, there weren't many scouts singing his praises on his road to the big leagues. He slowly moved through the system for the Twins but there were some bumps along the way. His first taste of Fort Myers and New Britain resulted in ERAs of over 5.00 and he lost 18 games for the 2000 version of the Rock Cats. By age 22 at the Double-A and Triple-A level, he seemed to have figured out the minor leagues as he moved seamlessly through both of these levels. By June, he would be in the Twin Cities making his MLB debut with the Twins.

With the end of the season for the Cardinals, it will be time for Lohse to reexamine what he would like to do for next season. He has put together some successful seasons in St. Louis including a World Series title in 2011. It could be time for him to move on from the Cardinals and find a different organization. St. Louis could decide they want him back but there is always the question of how much a team is willing to pay for a free agent. Fans of the Cardinals might not want Lohse back on the mound after he tossed a stinker in their final game of the 2012 season.

As Lohse approaches free agency, he has to be hoping that the GMs of other team's were busy watching the final Presidential Debate or they might of had the outcome of the fantasy football team riding on the Monday Night Football Game. He doesn't want the memory of Game 7 of the NLCS attached to him for the rest of his career. With Gardenhire still at the helm for the Twins, it seems highly unlikely for Lohse to be making a return trip to the Twins. Minnesota is desperate for pitching help but it will have to come in a different form than Lohse.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Paul Molitor's coaching snub is puzzling

When the Twins announced the retooling of their coaching staff at the conclusion of the regular season, one of the first names to come to mind for most Twins fans was former Twins player and Twin Cities native Paul Molitor. The Hall of Fame player is currently employed by the organization as a roving minor league instructor and he served as bench coach for Tom Kelly from 1999 to 2001. In interviews since the Twins cleared out their coach staff, Molitor expressed interested in coaching with the team if he was asked. General Manager Terry Ryan has come out publicly and stated Molitor isn't a fit with the major league version of the Twins. When asked about the issues in another interview, Ryan said, "It's not a fit right now."

So the question floating through the minds of Twins fans has to be, why isn't Paul Molitor a coaching option at this point?

From sounds of reports out of the Twin Cities, it sounds like Ryan and manager Ron Gardenhire made the joint decision to keep Molitor off of the major league coaching roster. Speculation can be made that one of these men has something working with Molitor. Before Ryan came back to his role as GM, he spent a lot of time working with the minor league system for the Twins. This should have given him plenty of opportunities to see Molitor working closely with the talent in the minor leagues. Both Gardenhire and Ryan see a lot of Molitor at spring training as he hops from field to field working with different groups of players. He knows the team and the organization so there must be something deeper to this dismissal of Molitor joining the coaching staff for the Twins.

The last time the Twins organization needed a new manager there were a few different candidates for Terry Ryan to pick from. Obviously, Gardenhire became the man for the job for a few different reasons. He had served as manager in the minor leagues for three seasons before joining the club as the third base coach in 1991. Gardenhire would keep that job for 11 seasons and he worked closely with Tom Kelly during this time. Molitor was another candidate for the job back in 2002 but he was only three years removed from his own playing career. In the three years since his retirement, he had been working as the bench coach for the Twins but the team went for Gardenhire, the man with more experience.

In your own life if you were going after a tough job opening, there can be plenty of pressures in the job interview process. If there was another candidate strongly considered for the position, it might be hard for you to work with them if they were hired to work below you in some capacity. This might be the thinking of Gardenhire as he assesses the situation this offseason. He knows his job is on thin ice after two terrible seasons in Minnesota and having Molitor on his bench as a coach could make his job even harder for next year. If the Twins were to get off to another rough start, Molitor could be the new manager in waiting. This can be a threatening situation for Gardenhire so maybe he put the axe on the thoughts of having Molitor added to his staff.

The men picked to fill the open positions for the Twins include most of the members of the staff for the Twins Triple-A affiliate, the Rochester Red Wings. Triple-A hitting coach Tom Brunansky has moved through the Twins system pretty rapidly in the last few years and he is lined up to take over the hitting instruction. Triple-A pitching coach Bobby Cueller is now the bullpen coach since Rick Anderson kept his position as pitching coach with the Twins. Cueller could also be useful as a translator for Hispanic players on the Twins as this has been an area of concern for the club. Rochester manager Gene Glynn didn't have a perfect first season with the Red Wings and it looks like the organization wants him to continue working with players at that level. The most surprising hire was Terry Steinbach to serve as bench coach and catching coach. He has no prior coaching experience so it's hard to imagine what coach would take over if Gardenhire was fired in mid-season.

In the end, it doesn't sound like Molitor will be joining the coach staff for the Twins at the beginning of the 2013 season. Ryan has made that point clear to the public over the last few weeks. The timing might not be right for Molitor to join the club but this doesn't take him out of consideration for future openings. Another bad season in Minnesota could mean the end of Gardenhire's time as manager and this could open up an opportunity for Molitor to rejoin the coaching staff. There are pressures surrounding all of the men at the top of the Twins organization and the coaching staff will continue to be scrutinized until the results change on the field.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Mixed Feelings about the Tigers Pennant

At the beginning of the season, it was the easy choice to pick the Tigers to win the American League Central because of their pitching depth and because of the additions the team made in the offseason. The run to the top of the Central didn't go as smoothly as fans of the Tigers would have liked during the course of the season. Detroit didn't runaway with the division as experts predicted because the White Sox turned out to be a better team than most thought they would be and there were some other struggles for the Tigers. By the end of the year, Detroit ended up on top of the Central but they had the least amount of wins for any team reaching the postseason.

Fast-forward through the first couple rounds of October and the Tigers are making their way back to the World Series for the first time since 2006. The ALCS looked like a joke as the Tigers pitching dominated the lackluster hitting of the Yankees, the supposed "Bronx Bombers." After a season of underachieving by the Tigers, they made it where many thought they could be at the beginning of the year. One of the amazing things about the playoffs in MLB is the fact that anyone has a chance to win when they reach October. It looks like this year two 88-win teams, the Cardinals and the Tigers, are going to square-off for the title. Just last season, the Cardinals shocked the world by sneaking into the postseason and winning the crown in dramatic fashion. It doesn't matter how you do it because the fans in St. Louis know that flag will fly forever.

As a fan of the Twins, another AL Central club, I have mixed feelings about the Tigers winning the American League in 2012. Here are some of the thoughts that went through my mind as it became apparent that the Tigers would be representing the AL in the World Series.

At least it's not the Yankees
Either the Tigers or the Yankees were going to come out of the American League so someone had to win. The Tigers look like the lesser of two evils compared to the Evil Empire from New York. When the postseason started, I would have liked to see some of the other Cinderella stories from the AL make it through the gauntlet of October baseball but it wasn't in the cards. The Tigers showcased their strengths in the last couple of rounds and they deserve to get this far. Anytime the Yankees can't add another title to their storied history, it's a good thing.

The AL Central might not be as bad of division as some think
The World Series is baseball's biggest stage and the Tigers will be right in the thick of it when the media coverage goes full-throttle. As the representative out of the AL Central in the playoffs, the Tigers have a chance to win a title out a division usually considered weak. Granted the playoffs can be a bit of a crap-shoot but the Tigers had to fight their way to the top of the Central during the season. They would be the second AL Central team to win the title in the last seven years and only two other divisions have been able to do that during that time span.

Why did Delmon have to win ALCS MVP?
Delmon Young turned himself into Detroit's version of Mr. October by hitting two home runs in the four game series. He also added six RBI for the Tigers and he had at least one RBI in all four of their victories in the ALCS. He hardly did anything for the Twins in his two postseason opportunities against the Yankees and that's what makes this tougher to swallow. It really comes down to the player that wins the MVP of the World Series since most fans don't remember who was MVP of the League Championship rounds. It still would have been nice for it not to be a former Twins player walking away with the hardware.

Leyland could go out on top
Jim Leyland, the manager of the Tigers, has been around the baseball world for a long time and there has been plenty of speculation about him stepping away from the game of baseball. He is 67-years old and a World Series title could be his ticket to retirement. With all of the chaos surrounding a postseason run, there hasn't been much talk about him retiring at the end of the year. He might want to continue coaching for a few more seasons or until the Tigers decided to move in another direction. Walking away into the sunset of a World Series crown might be too much for him to ignore. In fact, Tony La Russa did this after last year's title with the Cardinals.

In the end, I probably won't be rooting for the Tigers in the World Series because of their affiliation in the American League Central. The fan in me can't root for another team the Twins play 18 times a year. There might be some nice story lines if the Tigers were able to keep their run going to the title but I will be putting my chips behind the winner of the National League. I didn't like it when the White Sox won the title in 2005 and the same would hold true for the Tigers in 2012. The Twins aren't close to a title so I am stubborn and I don't want another AL Central team to get one either.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Searching the market for "affordable" pitchers

In an interview over the weekend with 1500 ESPN, Terry Ryan spoke about one of the Twins biggest needs during the offseason. The starting rotation for the Twins was in shambles in 2012 due to combination of factors like season ending injuries, poor play, and inconsistencies on the mound. Scott Baker, Carl Pavano, and Jason Marquis were supposed to comprise three-fifths of the starting rotation coming out of spring training. Baker wouldn't make it out of Florida after injuring his elbow and undergoing Tommy John surgery. Pavano and Marquis would make appearances for the club but Marquis was terrible and Pavano dealt with injuries for most of the year. There were plenty of concerns with the starting staff and this leaves a plethora of question marks for 2013.

For the sounds of the interview with Ryan, the Twins will be looking for "affordable" pitching while monitoring some of the big names on the market. Zach Greinke will most likely be the pitcher to earn the most as a free agent this offseason. Jake Peavy and Dan Haren could also be big names on the market if their teams pass on the large options each player has for next year. There have been some nightmares in the past when Ryan has tried to find "affordable" pitchers in the free agent market. Twins fans had to suffer through Jason Marquis, Sidney Ponson, and Ramon Ortiz as lower level options to fill out a rotation.

The Twins will again be scavenging through the lower levels of free agency to try and find a few pitchers to make an impact on this organization for next year. There are plenty of options on the free agent market but the important thing to remember is the price needs to be right for the Twins. With the team already having $74 million in committed money for next year, the payroll will end up being between $90 million and $100 million so that leaves a little wiggle room for the club.

Here are five starting pitchers the Twins might be considering this offseason:

Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP, Seattle Mariners
2012 Stat Summary: W-L (9-5), 3.16 ERA, 125.1 IP, 101 SO, 43 BB, 1.277 WHIP

As a 31-year old, Iwakuma made his MLB debut with the Mariners in 2012 and he put up decent numbers for a man transitioning from Japan. For most of the first half of the year, he was used as a relief arm out of the bullpen. The beginning of July is when Iwakuma became a staple in the starting rotation for the Mariners. He finished the season on a strong note by winning five of his last seven outings. These starts were also against teams that were fighting for the playoffs like Los Angeles and Texas. During his time in Japan, he was used exclusively as a starter so it will be interesting to see what he can do with an entire season in a rotation.

Ervin Santana, RHP, Los Angles Angels
2010-2012 Stat Summary: W-L (37-35), 4.08 ERA, 629.1 IP, 480 SO, 206 BB, 1.270 WHIP

There have been comparisons between Santana and former Twins pitcher Francisco Liriano so this could be a scary proposition to some. That being said, he has put together some decent seasons at the big league level. He had a sub-4.00 ERA in three of the last four years and he has pitched more than 200 innings in four different seasons. He is coming off of a rough year where he allowed the most home runs in the American League but switching to a more pitcher friendly Target Field could help his numbers. If the Twins could sneak in and get the Santana from previous seasons, it could be a steal for the club.

Gavin Floyd, RHP, Chicago White Sox
2010-2012 Stat Summary: W-L (34-37), 4.25 ERA, 549.0 IP, 446 SO, 166 BB, 1.295 WHIP

Twins fans will be familiar with Floyd since he played the last six seasons for AL Central foe Chicago. He has made 18 starts in his career versus the Twins and he hasn't fared very well with a 6-11 record and an ERA that is closer to six than it is to five. Since the Twins have moved to Target Field, his ERA has gone down and his strikeouts went up in games played in the Twin Cities. His familiarity with teams in the AL Central could also be a positive if the Twins wanted to consider that when sifting through these pitchers. The White Sox hold a $9.5 million option for next year and it seems likely for Chicago to turn his option down and let him hit the free agent market.

Erik Bedard, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
2011-2012 Stat Summary: W-L (12-23), 4.31 ERA, 255.0 IP, 243 SO, 104 BB, 1.376 WHIP

In his second season back since missing all of 2010 due to injury, Bedard ran into some tough luck as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates. He lost his first four appearances of the year but he allowed less than two runs per game over five innings or more. The Pirates only scored a total of three runs in his first four appearances and it can be tough for a pitcher to come back from starting the year in a 0-4 hole. There were some rough starts along the way for Bedard in 2012 and the Pirates released him by the end of August. This has been a pitcher to show some decent ability in the past and he is a couple of years removed from his surgery. If the Twins wanted to try and take a flyer on a player, this could be the guy.

Kevin Correia, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
2010-2012 Stat Summary: W-L (34-32), 4.77 ERA, 470.0 IP, 201 SO, 149 BB, 1.387 WHIP

Correia pitched in the same rotation as Bedard in 2012 but it doesn't look like the Pirates will have room for him in 2013. He seems to fit the mold of a Twins hurler because he doesn't strike out a lot of batters but his WHIP was decent this year over the course of 171 innings. He has bounced around a few different National League clubs since making his debut with the Giants back in 2003. The 32-year old pitcher might have a tough time switching to the AL after spending his entire career in the NL but the Twins could give him a chance to earn a rotation spot for next year.

These are just a few names to consider before free agency begins after the World Series. What other names would you like the Twins to consider? Do any of the above names seem like viable options for the Twins?

Leave a comment below and start the discussion.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Kyle Gibson continues to shine in AFL

When the Twins decided to send Kyle Gibson to the Arizona Fall League, it was considered an interesting choice since most teams tend not to send their top pitching prospects to this environment. The AFL can be a tough atmosphere for a pitcher to find success because most teams send their top hitting prospects and the parks tend to be a little more hitter friendly. Since Gibson is making his way back from Tommy John surgery, he didn't get many innings under his belt in 2012 so the AFL offers the Twins this opportunity. The team can control how many innings are thrown by their pitchers and pitch counts can be strictly watched by the coaching staff, all things that are critical when coming back from major elbow surgery.

So far during his time in the AFL, Gibson has been given the opportunity to start two contests for the Peoria Javelinas. He has been outstanding in both appearances and this is a great sign for the Twins organization that is a little low on top pitching prospects in the upper levels of the minor leagues. Gibson might be called on to slide into the rotation at some point in 2013 and his performance should only improve with each extra inning he can register against top hitters. As I mentioned in my post from yesterday, Gibson can't be relied on as the savior of the rotation but he could turn out to be a solid regular on a team looking for anything positive from their starters.

In his first start of the AFL season, Gibson threw five innings of shutout ball with eight strikeouts and no walks. He allowed four hits during his time on the mound but none of the hits were for extra-bases. His pitch count was at 66 at the end of five frames and there were 49 strikes out of those pitches. According to's Gameday, Gibson ranged from 90-95 with his fastball and he mixed in a slider and a change-up. He finished his last inning strong by striking out two men in the fifth. It was an impressive outing for Mr. Gibson so hopes were high that he would be able to duplicate those numbers when he made his next start.

Yesterday, Gibson took the mound for his second appearance with Peoria and he didn't disappoint. For the second game in a row, he threw five innings with eight strikeouts. Mesa was the first team to score a run against Gibson in the AFL as the leadoff man in the fourth inning cracked a double to deep center field. After a ground out and a strikeout, it looked like Gibson might wriggle out of trouble and leave the runner at third. Unfortunately, the next man knocked a single up the middle. It took a strong throw from center fielder Billy Hamilton to end the inning when the runner tried to go first to third on a single. Overall, it was another positive step for Gibson on his road to the big leagues.

It was good to see Gibson command the strike zone for the second consecutive outing. He threw 66 pitches for the second game in a row and he ended the game with 49 strikes thrown. His fastball ranged from 92-95 and he used his slider a lot in this game to keep batters on their toes. Unlike the first game, there were a couple of extra-base hits surrendered by Gibson. He was also able to make a few defensive plays since the ball was hit back to him on the mound. A lot of the success Gibson is going to have will come from his ability to control the strike zone with his assortment of pitches and to induce ground balls. At this time, it looks like he is trying to get more of a handle on his fastball and his slider.

The front office for the Twins has to be impressed with the way Gibson has looked so far in the AFL. If he continues these performances, there is a chance for him to make the starting rotation for the Twins out of spring training next year. It seems more likely that the team will allow him to get a few starts under his belt at the Triple-A level before promoting him to major leagues. This will allow the organization to control his innings at the beginning of the year and then the Twins won't have to deal with some of the hassle the Nationals went through when they shutdown Stephen Strasburg at the end of the season. No matter if he starts in Minnesota or in Rochester, it looks like Gibson will be making his debut at Target Field some time in 2013.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Examining the Twins Offseason Checklist

The big wigs in charge of the Twins organization will be gathering in Florida next week to go through the paces of the team's organizational meetings. From there, the men in charge of the franchise will try and make a plan to dig the Twins out of the hole they have been in for the last two seasons. Some of the items on the team's checklist have already been crossed off in the weeks following the end of the regular season. Now it's time for the Twins to continue making some of the changes that will be necessary for a turnaround in the Twin Cities.

Below you will find some of the items of the Twins Offseason Checklist. There are plenty of needs on a team that has been at the bottom of the American League for two consecutive seasons. Some of the items have already begun to get checked off so here are just a few of the things that will have to change for the team to get back to the top.
1. Take away the interim tag from Terry Ryan in his role as GM

Mark this one off the list because this item has already been taken care of in the days following the end of the regular season. Ryan's family is important to him and he needed the support of his wife and children to get the permanent role as the GM. When he came back to the position of GM during last offseason, it was hard to know what the interim tag meant for the future of the club. Would Ryan only be in the position for a year or two? Were they grooming someone else to take over a more permanent role as the GM? All of these questions seem to be put to rest with the recent developments from Target Field. Ryan was at the helm when the Twins made their turnaround in the early 2000's and it looks like the Pohlads and Dave St. Peter have faith in his ability to work his magic again.

2. Clean out some of the members of the coaching staff

The front office for the Twins took this to the extreme by cleaning house in the coaching department at the major league level. Manager Ron Gardenhire and Pitching Coach Rick Anderson were the lone survivors from this overhaul of the on-field instructors for the Twins. There is still work to be done with this task as all of the positions are still left unfilled at this time. Most coaching positions won't be addressed until after the playoffs have ended in baseball so the front office has time to interview all of the available candidates on their list.

In the past, the Twins had been very loyal to their coaching staff and Ron Gardenhire had nothing but praise for the men he worked with during his managerial career. It just seemed like time for some new voices to speak to the players and the odd men out were the members of the coaching staff for the Twins.

3. Revamp the starting rotation

It's no secret that the biggest weakness for the Twins over the past two seasons has been their starting rotation. In order for the team to find success in the near future, there is going to need to be some major changes for more than one spot in the starting staff. Going into the offseason, it looks like Scott Diamond is the only lock to make the rotation for next year. Players like Liam Hendriks and Sam Deduno will also have a good shot to make the club but they are hardly considered shoe-ins at this point.

Kyle Gibson has looked good in the Arizona Fall League but he won't be the savior to the starting staff since he will be entering his first full season following Tommy John surgery. It is pretty clear the team will have to look outside of the organization for pitching help. This could come in the form of free agents or trades but the winds of change are in the air and the rotation is full of holes to fill.

4. Formulate a plan for the middle infield

Brian Dozier was suppose to me the shortstop of the future but that plan didn't exactly play out in his favor during 2012. Now the Twins have to make a different plan for the men up the middle in the organization. Pedro Florimon has himself positioned to be the leading candidate for the shortstop position going into spring training but a lot can happen in the offseason. Last year the Twins brought in veteran infielder Jamey Carroll off of the free agent market and he is still under contract for next season.

It is possible for the team to try and find another free agent option to fill a hole but it seems more likely that the team will stick with the men currently on the roster. The free agent market isn't exactly stocked with middle infielders so it doesn't make sense to overspend for a mediocre player. A decision also needs to be made about Alexi Casilla and his future with the club. He is still arbitration eligible but his contract will continue to go up and there are other replacement level players with cheaper contracts waiting to take his spot.

5. Sort out the surplus of outfielders at the top of the organization

As fans saw during the past year, there were plenty of options for the Twins in their outfield positions. Denard Span, Josh Willingham, and Ben Revere saw the most time in the line-up for the club in 2012 but other players proved their worth over the course of the year. Darin Mastroanni was a positive pick-up for the club but it's hard to imagine him in a permanent starting role. When last season started, it sounded like Trevor Plouffe was going to get playing time at a corner outfield spot. He might have played his way into the starting third base job for 2013 but a few misplays on the offensive side of the ball could put him back in Gardy's doghouse. This might mean a shift back to the outfield.

There are also players poised to be knocking on the door to the big leagues. Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia are among the best prospects in the organization and they are set to make their debuts in 2013 after stellar season at the Double-A level. Anyone of these players could be on the trading block in the coming months but there needs to be some space cleared from the surplus of outfielders.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Delmon Young: Detroit's Mr. October?

A strange thing happened during the first game of the American League Championship Series over the weekend. It didn't revolve around Derek Jeter breaking his ankle although this is an intriguing story line for the media to follow. For Twins fans, a man familiar to their organization became the all-time leader in postseason home runs for a team with a history that stretches back to the beginning of the 1900's. There have been some rough seasons as part of the Tigers history but Delmon Young stands alone on top of the leader board for most long balls with a Detroit jersey on when the games matter the most. 

The man Young passed on the list, Craig Monroe, isn't exactly entrenched in the lore of the Tigers. It doesn't seem likely that either one of these men will be getting a bronze statue erected in the outfield of Comerica Park. All of this considered, this is a team that has been to the World Series nine times and they have won the title on four different occasions. The team has also been in the playoffs in 14 different years so there has to be some reason for Delmon being able to reign supreme in the history of Tigers sluggers.

One reason the postseason home run list for the Tigers might be a little unpopulated could be the fact the team was really bad during most of the steroid era. The Tigers won the World Series in 1984 and lost to the Twins in the 1987 ALCS and it went downhill from that point. The franchise lost over 100 games in 1989 and 1996 and it would get worse in the early 2000's with the team having back-to-back 100 loss seasons. This also included a season where the club lost 119 games. From 1987 to 2006, there were no playoff appearances for the Tigers and there were plenty of home runs flying out of ballparks across the baseball world during this time period.

Since the Twins parted ways with Mr. Young around the trade deadline in 2011, his career with Detroit has been anything but spectacular. He has played 191 regular season games with the Tigers and he is batting average is .268 during that time. As with most of his career, there have been glimpses of power as he has 26 home runs and 32 doubles in his 786 plate appearances. He doesn't take walks so he gets on base less than a third of the time and it's hard to imagine that the former first overall pick has lived up to expectations for any of the franchises he has played for in his seven year career.

The power-slugging version of Delmon Young didn't show in October during his time in Minnesota. In his two-playoff series as a member of the Twins, he went 5-for-24 which translates to a .208 batting average and he managed a double and a triple. His first taste of the playoffs in 2009 was horrendous as he finished the series 1-for-12 with five strikeouts. Both of these series were against the Yankees and it looked like Delmon was following the other members of the Twins in his struggles against the Bronx Bombers.

The October version of Delmon Young with the Tigers seems to have a little bit of a different feel to him. Since being traded to Detroit, Young has turned his bad playoff memories with the Twins into good feeling vibes in the Motor City. Last season, Young made up for lost time against the Yankees by going 6-for-19 in the series with three home runs and he even showed the ability to take a few walks. The next series was against Texas and even though he only managed two hits, they were both long balls. Five home runs in two series was quite the postseason for Young since he only managed 12 home runs during the regular season in 2011.

In the Tigers first playoff series of 2012, Young didn't go deep but he had a couple of RBI in victories for his club. His first game versus the Yankees on Saturday night made it look like he was starting right where he left off against them in 2011. He was pulled in the last inning for a defensive replacement but he finished the contest 3-for-6 with a home run, a double, and six RBI. On Sunday, he added to his RBI total by knocking in one of the three runs for Detroit. The Tigers are inching closer to the World Series and it looks like Young might be one of the reasons for their success in October.

The Twins outfield situation was one the least things for the club to worry about so it's not like fans are clamoring to see Young back in the Twin Cities. His play in the regular season has been the same old Delmon Young; he can't play defense, he doesn't take walks, and his power is spotty. The small sample size of the postseason can make anyone look like a legend and it will be interesting to see what someone is willing to pay for him when he hits the free agent market. For now, team's will have to settle for watching him hit balls out of the park in the postseason.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Trout, Posey were top players in '12

At the conclusion of every season, the members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) are asked to submit their ballots for the top awards across baseball. Each of these awards is named in honor of a player that epitomized the role in Major League Baseball. Over the course of the week, I released my ballots for each award and I will post the official announcements from the BBA with the combined votes of all member blogs. Today marks the final day of the awards and the other announcements from the BBA should be coming in the near future.

Here is the list of awards that have been announced during the past week. Click on any of the links below to see my ballot for each award.

Stan Musial Award for Top Player
American League

1. Mike Trout
2. Miguel Cabrera
3. Robinson Cano
4. Adrian Beltre
5. Adam Jones
6. Josh Hamilton
7. Prince Fielder
8. Joe Mauer
9. Yoenis Cespedes
10. Paul Konerko

Summary: Near the end of the regular season, I wrote a post about the tight MVP race in the American League between rookie phenom Mike Trout and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. There are plenty of different things to consider when it comes to picking out a winner including WAR, defensive ability, the significance of the Triple Crown, being on a playoff team, etc. Make sure to check out the article for my entire explanation for choosing Trout over Cabrera. An argument could be made for Cano to finish ahead of Cabrera but it won't happen. Beltre and Hamilton had strong seasons for the team that most thought should win the American League. Jones was the spark plug for the Orioles offense and they needed every run they could score.

Prediction: In the end, I think Cabrera walks away with the MVP but this takes nothing away from the outstanding year put together by Trout as a 20-year old rookie.

National League

1. Buster Posey
2. Ryan Braun
3. Andrew McCutchen
4. Yadier Molina
5. David Wright
6. Chase Headley
7. Jason Heyward
8. Clayton Kershaw
9. Matt Holliday
10. Joey Votto

Summary: The strong second half compiled by Posey on a team heading to the postseason should push him over the top for this award. He put up these numbers while playing most of his games behind the plate for the Giants so that should only help his cause. Braun put together an identical season to his MVP campaign in 2011 but the PED cloud surrounding him could keep him from the top spot. The Pirates looked like everyone's darlings in the first half of the year before falling off and McCutchen was a large part of their surge. An argument can be made for Molina to finish in the top spot because his offensive numbers are similar to Posey and he is better on the defensive side of the ball. Wright and Headley had wonderful seasons but it came on team's that struggled to win games.

Prediction: This looks like it should be a runaway win for Mr. Posey.

So what do you think of the ballot? Who would get your vote?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Verlander, Dickey ascend list of aces

At the conclusion of every season, the members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) are asked to submit their ballots for the top awards across baseball. Each of these awards is named in honor of a player that epitomized the role in Major League Baseball. Over the course of the week, I will release my ballots for each award and I will post the official announcements from the BBA with the combined votes of all member blogs.

Here is the list of awards that have been announced and the others that will be announced in the coming days:

Walter Johnson Award for Top Pitcher
American League

1. Justin Verlander- RHP - Detroit Tigers
W-L (17-8), 2.64 ERA, 1.057 WHIP, 239 SO, 60 BB, 238.1 IP, 6 CG
It would have been tough for Verlander to match his MVP season from 2011 but he still showed the American League why he was the best pitcher on the planet. He was tops in the American League in complete games, strikeouts, and ERA+. His win total was a little less than in 2011 but sometimes a pitcher can't control the final outcome of the game. It could be the second straight Cy Young for the right-handed hurler and it most likely won't be his last.

2. David Price- LHP - Tampa Bay Rays
W-L (20-5), 2.56 ERA, 1.100 WHIP, 205 SO, 59 BB, 211.0 IP, 2 CG
Price sits at the top of the American League in wins and ERA so there is a chance the writers will name him the Cy Young winner. The Rays were suppose to have a strong pitching staff and Price lead the way in a disappointing year for Tampa Bay. He finished second in the Cy Young award two seasons ago and it might be his turn to end up on top in 2012.

3. Jered Weaver- RHP - Los Angeles Angels
W-L (20-5), 2.81 ERA, 1.018 WHIP, 142 SO, 45 BB, 188.2 IP, 3 CG
Weaver finished tied with Price for most wins in the American League even though he missed some time with an injury. His other numbers are a little lower since he missed time so there isn't much of a shot for him to finish at the top of the awards voting. It would have been interesting to see how good of a year he could of had if the injury bug didn't bite him. Weaver finished second to Verlander in 2011 and he will be behind the ace from Detroit in 2012.

4. Fernando Rodney- RHP - Tampa Bay Rays
W-L (2-2), 0.60 ERA, 0.777 WHIP, 76 SO, 15 BB, 74.2 IP, 48 S
The year Rodney put together was one of the best in the history of the game for a relief pitcher. It was especially amazing since he is 35-years old and his career ERA was 4.29 before this season. If there were no other dominant pitchers in the American League, this could be Rodney's award to win. The three men ahead of him on this list had more of an impact for their teams so his season for the ages won't be honored with the top pitching award.

5. Chris Sale- LHP - Chicago White Sox
W-L (17-8), 3.05 ERA, 1.135 ERA, 192 SO, 51 BB, 192.0 IP, 1 CG
In previous seasons, Sale had been used primarily as a relief pitcher but it looks like the White Sox made the correct decision to move him to the starting rotation. In his first full year as a starter, there were some rough moments as the innings started to add up near the end of the year. He still was a strong starting presence on a team that was fighting for a playoff spot through September.

National League

1. R.A. Dickey- RHP - New York Mets
W-L (20-6), 2.73 ERA, 1.053 WHIP, 230 SO, 54 BB, 233.2 IP, 5 CG
It was a fantastic year for the 37-year old pitcher as he made his first All-Star appearance and he seemed to have a rebirth with the Mets. He finished the year with the most strikeouts in the league and he was the leader in innings pitched for the NL. There was a chance for him to finish near the top in most of the statistical categories in the league but he barely finished behind Clayton Kershaw for the ERA crown and he was third in WHIP. His five complete games were tops in the NL and he also had the most shutouts so Robert Allen deserves the award. 

2. Johnny Cueto- RHP - Cincinnati Reds
W-L (19-9), 2.78 ERA, 1.171 WHIP, 170 SO, 49 BB, 217.0 IP, 2 CG
His season was great for one of the best team's in the National League and it might go slightly unnoticed because of the market he plays in during the year. Out of the top three men on my ballot, he was the only player to help his team reach postseason play. He is also forced to play half of his games in a very hitter friendly ballpark, which makes his season all the more impressive. It will be a close vote and he could finish in the top spot if the voters appreciate his contribution to a first place club. 

3. Clayton Kershaw- LHP -Los Angeles Dodgers
W-L (14-9), 2.53 ERA, 1.023 WHIP, 229 SO, 63 BB, 227.2 IP, 2 CG

A year after winning the first Cy Young of his young career, Kershaw did his best to try and take home the honor again in 2012. He finished one strikeout behind Dickey for the league lead and he had six fewer innings to add to his total. His ERA and WHIP were tops in the National League for the second consecutive year. In what is shaping up to be a three-man race, Kershaw could slip in and steal the top spot from Dickey and Cueto.

4. Gio Gonzalez- LHP - Washington Nationals
W-L (21-8), 2.89 ERA, 1.129 WHIP, 207 SO, 76 BB, 199.1 IP, 2 CG
On a team where Stephen Strasburg was the most talked about pitcher, Gonzalez quietly went about his work and pitched his way to a league high 21 wins in 2012. He barely missed the 200 IP mark but he still managed to strikeout over 200 batters in his time on the mound, which translated to the highest strikeouts per nine in the NL. One of the biggest improvements with his switch to the NL was his ability to reduce his amount of walks. The 2012 season marked the first time in the last three years he had fewer 90 free passes.

5. Kris Medlen- RHP - Atlanta Braves
W-L (10-1), 1.57 ERA, 0.913 WHIP, 120 SO, 23 BB, 138.0 IP, 2 CG
When Atlanta inserted Medlen into the starting rotation on July 31st, it was almost like they had traded for one of the best pitchers in baseball but he had been part of their team for the entire year. Medlen looked like an ace over the course of the last two months of the year and the Braves seemed to gain confidence with him on the mound. He rattled off six consecutive victories in August and September and Atlanta didn't lose a single game he started from the end of July to the last day of the regular season.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Rodney, Kimbrel were top bullpen arms for 2012

At the conclusion of every season, the members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) are asked to submit their ballots for the top awards across baseball. Each of these awards is named in honor of a player that epitomized the role in Major League Baseball. Throughout the week, I will release my ballots for each award and I will post the official announcements from the BBA with the combined votes of all member blogs.

Here is the list of awards that have been announced and the others that will be announced in the coming days:
Goose Gossage Award for Top Reliever
American League

1. Fernando Rodney- RHP - Tampa Bay Rays
W-L (2-2), 0.60 ERA, 0.777 WHIP, 76 SO, 15 BB, 74.2 IP, 48 S
There is a good chance Rodney will be getting some votes for the Cy Young Award after the season he put together in 2012. For the entire year, he allowed five earned runs with a couple of home runs and that is why his ERA was the lowest of all-time. His strikeout to walk rate was fantastic and he wasn't even the planned closer for the Rays when the season was beginning. The 35-year old has pitched a lackluster career until this year and now he has one of the best seasons ever for a man on the mound.

2. Ryan Cook- RHP - Oakland Athletics
W-L (6-2), 2.09 ERA, 0.941 WHIP, 80 SO, 27 BB, 73.1 IP, 14 S
In a year where the Oakland A's used a variety of men in the closers role for their club, Cook was one of the most reliable options for the team. He split time between closer and set-up man but he ended up with 14 saves and 21 holds to his credit by the end of the year. Oakland fought their way back to the top of the AL West and it took some tough pitching in late inning situations by Cook and others to let them storm back for the top spot. If not for Rodney's historic year, Cook could have been honored with the top relief award at the end of the season.

3. Jim Johnson- RHP - Baltimore Orioles
W-L (2-1), 2.49 ERA, 1.019 WHIP, 41 SO, 15 BB, 68.2 IP, 51 S
One of the reasons the Baltimore Orioles were so successful in 2012 was their ability to win close games and the back-end of their bullpen had a lot to do with this. If not for the outstanding season by Rodney, Johnson's numbers would be hard to ignore. He led the American League in saves on a team that needed every one of the close victories they were able to achieve. Mr. Johnson wasn't as perfect as Rodney but it's hard to put up those kinds of numbers as a relief arm.
National League
1. Craig Kimbrel- RHP - Atlanta Braves
W-L (3-1), 1.01 ERA, 0.654 WHIP, 116 S0, 14 BB, 62.2 IP, 42 S
For the second year in a row, Kimbrel is the top relief pitcher in the National League. His numbers were almost like something out of a video game in 2012. He struck out half of the batters he faced during the course of the year. Let that sink in a minute... he struck out half of the men that stepped in the box against him. Just mind-boggling. He was untouchable on the mound and it looks like the Braves have their closer for the foreseeable future. Rodney didn't give up many runs but Kimbrel might have been more dominant with his ability to strikeout opposing batters.
2. Aroldis Chapman- LHP- Cincinnati Reds
W-L (5-5), 1.51 ERA, 0.809 WHIP, 122 SO, 23 BB, 71.2 IP, 38 S
Chapman didn't start the year as the closer for the Reds and he was still able to finish the year near the top of the league in saves. Cincinnati can't make up their minds about what to do with their hard throwing right-handed pitcher but he might have finally found his spot at the back-end of the bullpen. At one point during the year, it looked like Chapman might push Kimbrel for the top relief spot in the NL but he had a couple of rough appearances. This still doesn't take away from the fantastic season for Chapman and it will be interesting to see what he can do with a full season of closers duties in 2013 (if that's even what the Reds decide to do with him).

 3. Jason Motte- RHP - St. Louis Cardinals
W-L (4-5), 2.87 ERA, 0.917 WHIP, 86 SO, 17 BB, 72.0 IP, 42 S
During last year's World Series run by the Cardinals, fans learned the name of Jason Motte. In his first full season as the closer in St. Louis, Motte showed that his postseason performance was not a fluke. He tied Kimbrel for the league lead in saves and his other numbers put him in elite company at the top of the NL. It was a fight for the Cardinals to get back into the postseason and they needed every out they could get from Motte over the course of the year.  

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Trout, Harper are best from great rookie crop

At the conclusion of every season, the members of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance (BBA) are asked to submit their ballots for the top awards across baseball. Each of these awards is named in honor of a player that epitomized the role in Major League Baseball. Over the next couple of weeks, I will release my ballots for each award and I will post the official announcements from the BBA with the combined votes of all member blogs.

Here is the list of awards that have been announced and the others that will be announced in the coming days:
Willie Mays Award for Top Rookie
American League

1. Mike Trout- CF- Los Angeles Angels
.326/.399/.564, 30 HR, 83 RBI, 27 2B, 49 SB, 129 R
This might not be the only piece of hardware for Trout when it comes to the 2012 awards season. He is one of the leading candidates for the MVP award in the American League and he didn't even start the season in the major leagues. He lead the American League is stolen bases and runs scored and for most of the year he was near the top of the league in batting average. His combination of speed, power, and outstanding defense in center field should make him an outstanding player for years to come. There were some other great rookies across the American League but Trout put together a season for the ages.

2. Yu Darvish- RHP - Texas Rangers
W-L (16-9), 3.90 ERA, 1.280 WHIP, 221 SO, 89 BB, 191.1 IP
At the beginning of the season, Darvish looked like the front-runner for this award because of all of the hype surrounding his arrival from Japan. It wasn't a perfect first year but Darvish was very good during his first season in the United States. He had the second highest strikeouts per nine innings in the American League and his 16 wins were tops among rookie pitchers. His 221 strikeouts were almost 50 more than his closest rookie competitor in the American League.

3. Yoenis Cespedes- OF, DH - Oakland Athletics
.292/.356/.505, 23 HR, 82 RBI, 25 2B, 16 SB, 70 R
Much like Darvish, Cespedes was an older rookie that was making the shift to the US from baseball in another country. Cespedes used his powerful swing to help Oakland to their first division title in multiple seasons. On a team with no big name players, Cespedes is the highest paid man and probably the team's most recognizable name. He finished second to Trout in home runs for AL rookies and he was only one RBI behind the Angels outfielder. It was a surprise for the A's to sign Cespedes but he proved his worth to the team. 

National League

1. Bryce Harper- OF -Washington Nationals
.270/.340/.477, 22 HR, 59 RBI, 26 2B, 18 SB, 98 R
It's tough to look at the season put together by Trout and expect the same thing from young Mr. Harper.   Even considering this, it was still a great season for the 19-year old Harper. He made his debut at the end of April and he was an impact player on the best team in the National League. His powerful swing compiled quite the highlight reel of moon-shots across different parks for the Nats. He also put together some outstanding defense with his ability to track down fly balls and Mr. Harper has one of the best outfield arms in the game. It looks like the future is bright for the Nationals and Harper is a big piece of their rise to the top of the NL.

2. Wade Miley- LHP - Arizona Diamondbacks
W-L (16-11), 3.33 ERA, 1.182 WHIP, 144 SO, 37 BB, 194.2 IP
The Diamondbacks were suppose to fight for another division title in the National League West and Miley did his best to keep Arizona in the race for the top spot. He tied Darvish for most wins among rookie pitchers and he led rookies in innings pitched. If not for one of the most hyped rookies in the history of the game, Miley might have been named the top rookie in the National League. He will have to settle for a second place finish and the hope he can help to turn around the D-Backs in 2013.

3. Todd Frazier- 3B, 1B, OF - Cincinnati Reds
.273/.331/.498, 19 HR, 67 RBI, 26 2B, 3 SB, 55 R
Injuries to key players on the Reds allowed Frazier to have a more significant role for the team destined to win the NL Central. His insertion into the line-up for the Reds helped them to keep distance between themselves and the rest of their foes in the division. His 19 home runs were only behind Harper and Wilin Rosario among NL rookies. He also ranked second in OPS and RBI versus other first year players in the NL while being in the middle of the push for the playoffs.