Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Talk to Contact: Episode 57

Episode 57 of the Twins baseball podcast, Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.
This week Eric and Paul are joined by Jay Corn (@jay__corn, that's right, two underscores!) to talk Twins baseball. This will be our fist dive into the post-season hot stove, and this week we talked about available starting pitching and which pitchers we thought, if any, made sense in Minnesota. Pedro Hernandez was removed from the 40-man roster and signed a AAA deal, Terry Ryan is putting the band back together, so to speak, and the AFL continues down in the "Valley of the Sun." All that and more on this week's Talk to Contact podcast. 

Thanks for listening!

You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at Puckett's Pond, and you can find Eric on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read his writing at Knuckleballs!

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which helps Paul Molitor use the infield shift in 2014.
__________________
Follow me, @NoDakTwinsFan, on Twitter. Check out the Talk to Contact Podcast (@TalkToContact) or email the show: talktocontact@gmail.com


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

UPDATE: Minnesota Twins in the AFL

Around the country, the weather continues to feel more like fall but in Arizona the weather is just right for playing baseball. The Arizona Fall League is a place for the top prospects in baseball to gather to continue to work on their baseball skills. This showcase of top level talent from multiple organizations helps scouts and front office evaluate the talent across the game.

The Twins sent players with very familiar names as majority of this year's AFL attendees rank near the top of the club's prospect list. Byron Buxton and Eddie Rosario are two of the best hitting prospects in the organization. Alex Meyer and Trevor May are two starting pitching prospects that could help the Twins rotation as early as this coming season.

Let's head down to the "Valley of the Sun" and see how these big name prospects have performed so far in the AFL.

Byron Buxton, OF 
Stat Summary: .206/.263/.412, 2 HR, 1 2B, 6 R, 11 SO
Accolades have been thrown at Buxton for most of this season as he is widely considered the game's best prospect. There have been a few struggles for Buxton in Arizona. In seven games, he has been limited to seven hits over 34 at-bats. Close to half of those hits have been for extra-bases so his power continues to be better than expected. Since he is getting on base less than 27% of the time, he has been limited to one steal in one attempt.

Eddie Rosario, 2B
Stat Summary: .279/.304/.302, 0 HR, 1 2B, 1 R, 7 SO
Rosario has played in 10 games so far in the AFL. His 12 total hits rank him second on his team and this has helped to raise his batting average. There hasn't been much power from Rosario as he has one extra-base hit out of 12 total hits. He has multiple hits in four out of his 10 starts. Rosario has gone 6-for-13 versus left-handed pitching and 6-for-30 versus right-handed pitching. It would be nice to see some more power from Rosario as the AFL continues to go on.

Max Kepler, 1B/OF
Stat Summary: .250/.311/.350, 0 HR, 4 2B, 6 R, 6 SO
Kepler's four doubles are the most on the Glendale Desert Dogs and his six runs scored are good enough to rank him third. Facing many pitchers older than himself, Kepler has been able to control his strikeouts and still get on base over 31% of the time. His slugging percentage is over .200 points higher versus left-handed pitching as he has gone 4-for-13 with a double. Half of his six strikeouts came in the first game he played in the AFL so things have continued to get better for him as the season has progressed.

Alex Meyer, RHP
Stat Summary: 2-0 record, 3.63 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 18 SO, 5 BB, 17.1 IP
Reports have been impressive for Meyer so far in the AFL. He reportedly hit 100 mph in his first start. In his next start, he laid off his fastball and relied on his off speed pitches to be very effective. These are all good signs for a pitcher that missed a large chunk of the second half of the season because of some shoulder issues. There is a chance Meyer appears in Minnesota's rotation next year and his AFL season is helping to push him closer to making his big league debut.

AJ Achter, RHP
Stat Summary: 0-0 record, 0.00 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 6 SO, 1 BB, 6.0 IP
After making it all the way to Rochester this season as a relief pitcher, the Twins wanted to see more of Achter in the AFL. Over six appearances, he has yet to allow a run and he is giving up a base runner an inning. He has six strikeouts in six innings pitched and opponents are hitting .217 with him on the mound. The Twins have made the most out of this 46th round pick and he could show up in the Twins bullpen at some point in the future.

Zack Jones, RHP
Stat Summary: 0-1 record, 13.50 ERA, 2.81 WHIP, 8 SO, 7 BB, 5.0 IP
Jones spent most of 2013 as the closer for the Fort Myers Miracle, one of the best minor league teams in 2013. His first appearance in the AFL was a little rough as he allowed five runs while only recording two outs. In his next four outings, he allowed one run or less before giving up four runs (two of them earned) in his last appearance. The AFL can be a tough pitching environment and Jones is going against some very good hitting prospects so his numbers should be taken with a grain of salt.

Trevor May, RHP
Stat Summary: 0-1 record, 7.20 ERA, 1.80 ERA, 4 SO, 3 BB, 5.0 IP
Like Meyer, May will be a familiar name to Twins fans because he was acquired in an important trade last offseason. May spent all of this season with New Britain in the Eastern League where he pitched the most innings of his professional career. In three AFL appearances, May has been getting progressively worse. He didn't allow a run in his first outing, he allowed one run in his next outing, and his last outing resulted in three runs being scored. After being used as a starter for most of this season, only one of his appearances has been in a starting role.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Talk to Contact: Episode 56

Episode 56 of the Twins baseball podcast, Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.
This week we are joined by a couple of special guests including our new producter/media relations guro, Jay Corn (@Jay__Corn) to talk about the pros and cons of being a season ticket holder for 2014. We are also joined by the famous/infamous Andrew Bryz-Gornia of Twinkie Town (@BryzTwinkieTown) to talk all sorts of things Twins (Platoon splits, off-season acquisitions, Ushering). We discuss Paul Molitor's new job with the Twins, minor league acquisitions and the Diamond award winners, among other things (namely Beer, pie and WS predictions). It's 103 minutes of pure ear awesome. The off-season is fun, you guys. 

Thanks for listening!


You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at Puckett's Pond
and you can find Eric on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read his writing at Knuckleballs!

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which helps Paul Molitor use the infield shift in 2014.
__________________
Follow me, @NoDakTwinsFan , on Twitter. Check out the Talk to Contact Podcast (@TalkToContact) or email the show: talktocontact@gmail.com

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Parmelee and Plouffe Disappoint

As part of the Twins Daily preseason preview, I took an in-depth look at Chris Parmelee and Trevor Plouffe as they headed into the 2013 season. Going into the season, both former first round draft picks figured to get extended playing time. The hope for Twins fans was for each of these players to show some of the potential they had shown while playing at the Triple-A level.

Plouffe showed some impressive power in 2012 with 24 home runs and 19 doubles. He had a career high .756 OPS and it looked like the Twins might have found someone to be an offensive threat in the second half of the line-up. At the beginning of 2012, there was talk of him moving into the outfield but he found a new home at third base. There was hope of improvement from Plouffe as the team headed to Florida for spring training. 

Minnesota wanted to bring in some competition for Plouffe at third base during spring training but this never happened. Plouffe was penciled in as the starting third baseman and he started 118 games there. Over the course of the season, his batting average rose to the point where he hit .330/.369/.417 in September. He posted a positive defensive WAR for the first time in his career but his other defensive numbers were lacking. 

It's hard to know what the role of Plouffe will be going forward. Stud prospect Miguel Sano will enter spring training with a chance to take over the starting third base job. This could mean Plouffe spending more time in the outfield or keeping Sano's spot warm while he gets some seasoning at Triple-A. Injuries impacted different parts of his 2013 season but Plouffe is surely going to feel the heat from Sano entering 2014. 

For Parmelee, there were high expectations after his strong September call-up in 2011. Justin Morneau was a giant question mark at first base and the Twins fan base thought Parmelee could take over the role of starting first baseman. In 2012, he received sporadic big league playing time and this might have been the main reason for his struggles. Minnesota was going to find more at-bats for him in 2013 and this meant a move to the outfield.

The power Parmelee showed in Triple-A and in his September call-up has continued to be absent. His OPS dropped this season and he had the same OPS+ as in 2012. Left-handed pitchers owned Parmelee by holding him to hitting .172/.250/.276 in 58 at-bats. Even his time at Triple-A was unimpressive (.231/.318/.370) following a year where he was a force in the minor leagues. 

If the Twins are going to have to find playing time for Joe Mauer at a position besides catcher, it will likely be first base. This takes at-bats away from Parmelee and the outfield might start to fill-up with more viable options. Josh Willingham, Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia, and Ryan Doumit all need playing time and this could leave Parmelee without regular at-bats. It's looking more and more like Parmelee will be the odd man out. 

The Twins need their first round draft picks to make it at the big league level. As I said in the article from the beginning of the year, "It takes a lot to become a regular on a major league ball club." The hope was for Parmelee and Plouffe to be part of the long-term solution in Minnesota.

At this point, that is starting to look more like a dream than a reality. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Cutting Out Collisions Could Help Mauer

One of the questions facing the Minnesota Twins and their fans this offseason is the future of Joe Mauer. The All-Star catcher and face of the franchise didn't play a game after August 19th because of concussion related symptoms. With the Twins heading for their third straight 90-loss season, there was no need to rush Mauer back to the field.

When the Twins head to Florida this spring, there will continue to be questions about how much time Mauer should play at catcher. Catchers are in the line of fire when it comes to repeated foul tips and collisions at home. In the past, Mauer has repeated his desire to continue to catch but one has to wonder if Minnesota can continue to allow this to happen.

Two home plate collisions in the American League Championship Series brought out continued concerns about the men wearing the protective gear. As continued concern is raised about concussions and head related injuries, reports have some baseball officials believing home plate collisions could be banned this offseason.

Moving forward the Twins might be more likely to let Mauer spend time catching if the front office knew the play at the plate was banned. Both of the Twins catchers from the Opening Day roster, Mauer and Ryan Doumit, missed time this season because of concussion related issues. These symptoms were brought on by foul tips to the mask so even cutting out collisions might not be enough to keep Mauer catching.

In the last month of the season, the Twins used a combination of Chris Herrmann and Josmil Pinto at catcher. Pinto was impressive by batting .342/.398/.566 with nine extra-base hits. His shoulder had been a concern throughout the minor league season but he fought through these issues to have an impressive September. Herrmann batted .204/.286/.325 with 11 extra-base hits over 157 at-bats this year.

If there are any concerns with Mauer's concussion related issues heading into spring training, the Twins will be forced to make a decision about his catching future. Even if collisions are out of the game, foul tips will continue to impact catchers until helmet technology can be improved. Minnesota has Mauer under contract until 2018 and they can ill afford to have him on the disable list for extended periods of time.

Because of baseball's extensive history, it can be tough to change something like collisions that have been part of the game for so long. The time is right to ban collisions before another player gets seriously hurt. Catchers can be one of the most important positions on the field and it's time to protect them from future head injuries.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Cabrera, McCutchen were top players in each league

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:
Stan Musial Award for Top Player
American League
1. Miguel Cabrera- Detroit Tigers
.348/.442/.636, 44 HR, 137 RBI, 26 2B, 103 R, 7.2 WAR
The Cabrera versus Trout Debate continues this season but maybe it doesn't have as much mustard as last year. Los Angeles was a debacle this season and some of Trout's amazing numbers got lost in the shuffle. Cabrera continued to show why he is the best overall hitter in the game. He won his third straight batting title and he was the league leader in OBP and SLG. It will likely be his second straight MVP award as Trout is starting to become the Albert Pujols-like runner-up to a Barry Bonds type player.

2. Mike Trout- Los Angeles Angels
.323/.432/.557, 27 HR, 97 RBI, 39 2B, 109 R, 9.2 WAR
A year ago, I picked Trout as the top player because his rookie campaign was amazing and he almost single handily carried the Angels to the postseason. His impact was clear to see because Los Angeles became such a better team once he was in the line-up. It was going to be hard to live up to his first year but he found areas to improve. He scored the most runs in the AL for the second straight year and he increased his walk total by 43. This helped to raise his OBP by over 30 points. MVPs are coming his way.

3. Josh Donaldson- Oakland Athletics
.301/.384/.499, 24 HR, 93 RBI, 37 2B, 87 R, 8.0 WAR
The A's surprised the baseball world for the second year in the row and Donaldson's improvements helped to fill the void left by some departed players. His breakout season as a 27-year old was key to Oakland winning the AL West. He played strong defense at third base and it's hard to imagine that he was a full-time catcher just two seasons ago. The transformation of Donaldson was certainly one of the stories of the year.

4. Robinson Cano- New York Yankees
.314/.383/.516, 27 HR, 107 RBI, 41 2B, 81 R, 7.6 WAR
It seems like Cano has become a regular finisher in the top five for AL top player balloting. In a contract year, he went out and continued to do what he has been accustom to doing. He hits for average, he hits for power, and he plays Gold Glove caliber defense at second. The Yankees didn't have a lot this year but Cano was still strong for them.

5. Chris Davis- Baltimore Orioles
.286/.370/.634, 53 HR, 138 RBI, 42 2B, 103 R, 6.3 WAR
A magical first half had Davis on a record breaking home run pace but things slowed down after the All-Star break. He still ended up leading the AL in home runs and RBI. Davis floated around in Texas but he has found a power swinging home in Baltimore. The Orioles hope there is plenty more of this version of Davis to come.

The rest of the ballot...
6. Manny Machado- Baltimore Orioles (6.5 WAR)
7. Evan Longoria- Tampa Bay Rays (6.3 WAR)
8. Dustin Pedroia- Boston Red Sox (6.5 WAR)
9. Jason Kipnis- Cleveland Indians (5.8 WAR)
10. Joe Mauer- Minnesota Twins (5.4 WAR)

National League
1. Andrew McCutchen- Pittsburgh Pirates
.317/.404/.508, 21 HR, 84 RBI, 38 2B, 97 R, 8.2 WAR
The Pirates were the darlings of the baseball world in 2013 and McCutchen is the heart and soul of that franchise. His numbers were actually better last season when he finished third in the voting but the Pirates didn't collapse in the second half this year. Since the Pirates hadn't made the postseason in so many seasons and there aren't many other standout candidates, it seems likely for McCutchen to finish as the top player in the National League.

2. Paul Goldschmidt- Arizona Diamondbacks
.302/.401/.551, 36 HR, 125 RBI, 36 2B, 103 R, 7.0 WAR
Goldschmidt's season might have gotten lost in the shuffle with the Dodgers making so much noise in the NL West. He has transformed himself over the last two seasons to become one of the best power hitters in the game. Goldy finished with the most HR and RBI in the NL along with having the highest SLG and OPS. He made his first All-Star team and eventually teams just stopped pitching to him because he was issued 19 intentional walks, the top total in the NL.

3. Yadier Molina- St. Louis Cardinals
.319/.359/.477, 12 HR, 80 RBI, 44 2B, 68 R, 5.7 WAR
Without missing a two-week stretch at the beginning of August, Molina might have been battling McCutchen for the top spot on this list. He is one of the most important players on the best regular season team in the NL. The Cardinals pitching staff and defense rely on him and he continues to put up impressive numbers on the offensive side of the ball. At 30-years old, he continues to be a key figure to the Cards and the National League.

4. Carlos Gomez- Milwaukee Brewers
.284/.338/.506, 24 HR, 73 RBI, 27 2B, 80 R, 8.4 WAR
For most of the first half of the season, Gomez looked to be on top of the leaderboard for the NL MVP race. His batting line was crazy and he was combining some crazy power numbers with speed and outstanding defense. This was the Carlos Gomez teams had been looking for since he was a prospect in the Mets organization. His numbers tailed off in the second half of the year but he continued to rob home runs in center field for Milwaukee.

5. Joey Votto- Cincinnati Reds
.305/.435/.491, 24 HR, 73 RBI, 30 2B, 101 R, 6.4 WAR
The Reds continue to be one of the best teams in the NL and Votto is their star player. He was the league leader in OBP for the fourth consecutive season so he knows how to find a way to get on base. His 135 walks were a career high and 19 of those walks were intentional. It was the first time in his career that he played all 162 games for Cincinnati and it might have been his best season since his 2010 MVP award.  

The rest of the ballot...
6. Clayton Kershaw- Los Angeles Dodgers (7.9 WAR)
7. Matt Carpenter- St. Louis Cardinals (6.6 WAR)
8. Freddie Freeman- Atlanta Braves (5.4 WAR)
9. David Wright- New York Mets (5.9 WAR)
10. Andrelton Simmons- Atlanta Braves (6.7 WAR)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Talk to Contact: Episode 55

Episode 55 of the Twins baseball podcast, Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.
We're essentially geniuses, that's the only conclusion I could come to after recording and listening to this week's episode. Pure baseball genius. We talk about some issues surrounding the infield this off-season (The return of Justin Morneau? What Miguel Sano means to Trevor Plouffe and if anyone can or should challenge Pedro Florimon at SS), talk a little bit about the farm system and some possible trades that might develop. We also talk about beer. Eric was fired for drinking water, then immediately hired back, because he's my brother. We also made a wager of 100 beers while debating if Doug Bernier will ever post an OBP over .330 again in his career.
Thanks for listening!
You can follow Paul, @BaseballPirate, on Twitter or read his writing at Puckett's Pond and you can find Eric on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read his writing at Knuckleballs!

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which helps congress pass a budget and end the government shutdown.
__________________
Follow me, @NoDakTwinsFan, on Twitter. Check out the Talk to Contact Podcast (@TalkToContact) or email the show: talktocontact@gmail.com

Monday, October 14, 2013

Scherzer, Kershaw 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 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:
Walter Johnson Award for Top Pitcher
American League
1. Max Scherzer - Detroit Tigers
21-3 record, 2.90 ERA, 214.1 IP, 240 SO, 56 BB, 0.970 WHIP
For Scherzer, it wasn't just about his league leading win total.  He was able to put up impressive numbers across the board and even had the top WHIP in the AL. There will be some arguments made for Yu Darvish to come out on top but the numbers were too close to ignore what Scherzer was able to accomplish. His team won the division and he had to pick up victories in some important games down the stretch for Detroit. 

2. Yu Darvish- Texas Rangers
13-9 record, 2.83 ERA, 209.2 IP, 277 SO, 80 BB, 1.073 WHIP
His second season through the American League was even more dominant than the first. He finished with a ton of strikeouts and he had the lowest H/9 rate in the AL. One has to think that Darvish will eventually be named the top pitcher in the AL but this won't be the year. Either way, Darvish is making the free agent market for Japanese pitchers look good and other team's might start looking to Japan to replenish their pitching problems.

3. Anibal Sanchez- Detroit Tigers
14-8 record, 2.57 ERA, 182.0 IP, 202 SO, 54 BB, 1.154 WHIP
It's weird to have two Tigers on this list without mentioning the name Justin Verlander. Detroit's starting rotation was loaded with talent this year and they didn't even need Verlander to be at the top of his game. Sanchez was tops in the AL as far as ERA and HR/9 while living up to his offseason free agent deal. It might have been the best season of his career.

4. Chris Sale- Chicago White Sox
11-14 record, 3.07 ERA, 214.1 IP, 226 SO, 46 BB, 1.073 WHIP
The White Sox were in the middle of a brutal season but Sale continued to perform at the top of his game. He had the most complete games in the AL and he continues to defy physics with his lanky delivery. He pitched over 200 innings for the first time and he struck out a career high 226 batters. At the beginning of his career, Chicago didn't know whether to use him as a starter or a relief pitcher and they made the right choice.

5. Hisashi Iwakuma- Seattle Mariners
14-6 record, 2.66 ERA, 219.2 IP, 185 SO, 42 BB, 1.006 WHIP
Perhaps the least known name on this list, Iwakuma was impressive in his second full season. In qualifying for his first All-Star Game, he pitched over 200 innings and put up impressive numbers across the board. Felix Hernandez might still be king in Seattle but Iwakuma was the better pitcher this season and he deserves to be recognized for this accomplishment.

National League
1. Clayton Kershaw- Los Angeles Dodgers
16-9 record, 1.83 ERA, 236.0 IP, 232 SO, 52 BB, 0.915 WHIP
Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball and he continues to do some mind-numbing things on the mound. He was at the top of the leaderboard in ERA, strikeouts, and WHIP. This marks the third straight year for him leading the league in ERA and WHIP. His two complete game shutouts were also the best in the NL. It's hard to put into words how good Kershaw is on the mound. Oh yeah... he's only 25-years old. Scary...

2. Adam Wainwright- St. Louis Cardinals
19-9 record, 2.94 ERA, 241.2 IP, 219 SO, 35 BB, 1.068 WHIP
He's the ace of the staff on the best regular season team in the NL. Wainwright was a horse this year leading the NL in wins, games started, innings pitched, and complete games. Without Kershaw in the picture, this award would be his and it has been quite the comeback story since he missed all of 2011 due to surgery. The Cards played in one of the most competitive divisions in baseball and they needed every inning they could get from Wainwright.

3. Jose Fernandez- Miami Marlins
12-6 record, 2.19 ERA, 172.2 IP, 187 SO, 58 BB, 0.979 WHIP
I named Fernandez the best rookie in the NL last week and he looks to be well on his way to being the best pitcher in the league. His rookie campaign might have been the best ever for a pitcher and he deserves to be recognized with the best pitchers in the NL. There were questions about whether he should start the year in the Marlins rotation but he quickly put any of those thoughts to rest. He's here to stay.

4. Cliff Lee- Philadelphia Phillies
14-8 record, 2.87 ERA, 222.2 IP, 222 SO, 32 BB, 1.010 WHIP
The best part about Cliff Lee's season is the number of innings he pitched and his total strikeouts. Take a look above and tell me that's not creepy. His stellar season got lost in the shuffle of a disappointing year in Philadelphia. His numbers were solid across the board and he pitched over 200 innings for the sixth straight season. Other members of the Phillies staff struggled and Lee continued to get it done.

5. Matt Harvey- New York Mets
9-5 record, 2.27 ERA, 178.1 IP, 191 SO, 31 BB, 0.931 WHIP
Young pitchers are a theme on this ballot and Harvey was in the midst of an amazing season before being sidelined with some elbow problems. He got to start the All-Star Game in front of his hometown crowd and he was leading the league in strikeouts for a chunk of the season. Tommy John surgery will keep him out for all of next season but he still shined during his first full season as a big league player. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Talk to Contact: Episode 54

Episode 54 of the Twins baseball podcast, Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.
This week we keep things relatively brief (only 50 minutes of audio gold) and check in on Ron Gardenhire, the 40-man roster, and the start of the Arizona Fall League. We talk a little bit about May and Meyer pitching FAST, and Buxton, Rosario and Kepler making their AFL debuts. 

We spend some time discussing Wisconsin beer and Ginger Whiskey before we do a quick dive through the MLB postseason. 

Thanks for listening!

You can follow me on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read my writing here at NoDakTwinsFan, and you can find Eric on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read his writing at Knuckleballs! If you can't find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate), go over and read his writing at PuckettsPond.com!

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes (ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which helps Ron Gardenhire manage the team to more than 66 wins).

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Holland, Kimbrel were top bullpen arms in '13

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. Greg Holland- RHP - Kansas City Royals

2-1 record, 1.21 ERA, 47 Saves, 67.0 IP, 103 SO, 18 BB, 0.866 WHIP
Surprisingly the Royals were in the playoff hunt for a chunk of the season and Holland was a dominant force at the back of their bullpen. His SO/9 and SO/BB rate both increased this year as he qualified for his first All-Star Game. Before this season, he had never struck out more than 91 and he had never allowed less than 12 runs in a year. The nine earned runs scored against him were scored in seven games. If you throw out one early three run outing, his numbers would have been even more impressive.

2. Joe Nathan- RHP - Texas Rangers
6-2 record, 1.39 ERA, 43 Saves, 64.2 IP, 73 SO, 22 BB, 0.897 WHIP
Nathan seems to have found new life in Texas. In his second full year with the Rangers, Nathan returned to his pre-Tommy John surgery form. It was the first time he had an ERA under 2.00 since 2008 and his 297 ERA+ was the second highest of his career. He finished over 60 games for the sixth time in his career and he never allowed more than two runs in an outing. He's 38-years old and he doesn't show any signs of slowing down.

3. Mariano Rivera- RHP - New York Yankees
6-2 record, 2.11 ERA, 44 Saves, 64.0 IP, 54 SO, 9 BB, 1.047 WHIP
In his farewell season, Rivera still showed that he could be one of the best relief pitchers in the game. Team's honored him throughout the season for his contributions to the game and then he went out and rolled through the opposition. He is a once in a generation player and he got to go out on his own terms which is something not many players get to do. 

National League
1. Craig Kimbrel- RHP - Atlanta Braves
4-3 record, 1.21 ERA, 50 Saves, 67.0 IP, 98 SO, 20 BB, 0.881 WHIP
For the third straight season, Kimbrel was the league leader in saves but this was the first season where he failed to strikeout over 100 batters. His team was in the hunt for the playoff race during all of his outings and this adds extra pressure to those late inning situations. Last season, the argument could be made for Kimbrel to be in the Cy Young discussion. This season wasn't as dominant but he still stood out compared to his other counterparts in the National League. 

2. Mark Melancon- RHP - Pittsburgh Pirates
3-2 record, 1.39 ERA, 16 Saves, 71.0 IP, 70 SO, 8 BB, 0.958 WHIP
Pittsburgh needed to find a way into the postseason and their strong bullpen helped to keep them in close games throughout the year. Melancon wasn't the full time closer but he filled in the role when he was asked by his manager. He limited his walks and kept runners off the bases to be one of the best relief pitchers in the NL while making the first All-Star Game of his five year career.

3. Kenley Jansen- RHP - Los Angeles Dodgers 
4-3 record, 1.88 ERA, 28 Saves, 76.2 IP, 111 SO, 18 BB, 0.861 WHIP
Jansen had been quietly working his way to this kind of season over the last couple of years. He never had an ERA under 2.00 or struck out more than 100 but all of that changed this season. Jansen set career bests in innings, strikeouts, and ERA. The Dodgers needed someone to calm the storm at the back-end of their bullpen and Jansen has been the go-to guy when the pressure has been mounting.  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Myers, Fernandez top this year's 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. Wil Myers- RF - Tampa Bay Rays
.293/.354/.478, 13 HR, 53 RBI, 23 2B, 50 R
This year's rookie crop doesn't have quite the bite as last year's Trout/Darvish/Cespedes combination. The Rays left Myers down in the minor leagues for as long as possible but he was still able to come up and make a huge impact in the AL playoff race. Tampa Bay was a .500 club when Myers joined the fold and they would go on to force a Game 163. Myers almost became the first player to lead AL rookies in HR and RBI without playing in 90 games. Oswaldo Arcia of the Twins had 14 home runs and this kept Myers from achieving this feat.

2. Jose Iglesias - SS/3B - Detroit Tigers/Boston Red Sox
.303/.349/.386, 3 HR, 29 RBI, 16 2B, 39 R
It's not very often that a candidate for the rookie of the year award is traded from one contending team to another contending team in the middle of the season. That's exactly what happened with Iglesias this season and he was still able to finish the year hitting over .300 with adequate defense at shortstop. It will be interesting to see if the Tigers and Red Sox face off in October with Iglesias now wearing Detroit's colors.

3. Chris Archer- RHP - Tampa Bay Rays
9-7 record, 3.22 ERA, 1.127 WHIP, 128.2 IP, 101 SO, 38 BB
The Rays seem to have a rookie pitcher in the running for AL Rookie of the Year every season. Getting the most out of their young talent is one way this franchise has been so successful in recent years. Archer's numbers weren't fantastic but there weren't a ton of candidates in the AL. He probably wouldn't have finished in the top 10 for this award in the National League.

National League
1. Jose Fernandez- RHP - Miami Marlins
12-6 record, 2.19 ERA, 172.2 IP, 0.979 WHIP, 187 SO, 58 BB
It is going to be a tight race between Fernandez and Puig but Fernandez had arguably the best rookie season for a pitcher in history. Unfortunately, he had to pitch in Miami for a dreadful team. There were many questioning whether the Marlins should have him on their roster this season when he was a year removed from his teens. He proved all doubters wrong and looked like a force to be reckoned with in the years to come.

2. Yasiel Puig - RF - Los Angeles Dodgers
.319/.391/.534, 19 HR, 42 RBI, 21 2B, 66 R
Puig-Mania hit Los Angeles this season and the Dodgers fans were happy it did. The young Cuban outfielder put on a show with his bat and with his arm as he lit a fire under a struggling club. He continued to perform well even when pressure started to get put on him. Plenty of other things went right in LA but Puig helped to push the Dodgers towards the playoffs.

3. Julio Teheran- RHP - Atlanta Braves
14-8 record, 3.20 ERA, 185.2 IP, 1.174 WHIP, 170 SO, 45 BB
Teheran is one of about 10 players that could have completed this list. Hyun-Jin Ryu, AJ Pollock, Gerrit Cole, and Shelby Miller were just a few of the other names that could finish behind Puig and Fernandez. Teheran gets the vote because the Braves had to deal with some key injuries in their staff and Teheran continued to perform despite the adversity.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Francona, Hurdle were top skippers in '13

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 next 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 will be announced in the coming days:
  • Connie Mack Award (Top Manager) released today
  • Willie Mays Award (Top Rookie)
  • Goose Gossage Award (Top Reliever)
  • Walter Johnson Award (Top Pitcher)
  • Stan Musial Award (Top Player)
Connie Mack Award for Top Manager
American League
1. Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians (92-70, Wild Card)
Few outsiders looked at the Cleveland Indians job and saw it as a good opportunity. The team had just lost 94 games and there didn't seem to be a face to the franchise. Enter Francona and his tireless energy after spending a year as a broadcaster. He was able to put the Indians on a path back to the postseason while melding the new personalities of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn. The Indians finished the regular season one game behind the Tigers for the top spot in the AL Central and a lot of their success can be contributed to the man running the helm in Cleveland.  

2. John Farrell, Boston Red Sox (97-65, AL East Champions)
It will be a close race for the top manager in the AL and there are plenty of good things to say about Farrell. He came into a toxic atmosphere in Boston and he was able to forge their talent into the best team in the American League. Their run differential was 197 and this came in a division where more than one team was supposed to be fighting for the top spot. Farrell calmed the storm and brought winning baseball back to Boston.

3. Bob Melvin, Oakland Athletics (96-66, AL West Champions)
Last season Melvin was my pick for this award and he worked his magic in Oakland for the second year in a row. The Rangers and the Angels were supposed to make things tough at the top but the A's surprised everyone and ended up winning the west fairly easily. Melvin has to work with a smaller pay roll but he has led Oakland into October over the past two years.

National League
1. Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates (94-68, Wild Card) 
It had been a long time since the Pirates had tasted anything close to October baseball and Hurdle helped to guide this Pirate ship along the way. It took an MVP caliber year from Andrew McCutchen, a slump busting year from Francisco Liriano, along with plenty of other positive performances. This team had endured back-to-back second half collapses to miss the postseason but Hurdle made sure this wouldn't happen again. His club made the right moves and he was the captain of this ship in a city that has been dying for some postseason baseball for over two decades. 

2. Don Mattingly, Los Angeles Dodgers (92-70, NL West Champions)
To show how fickle these awards can be, Mattingly was close to losing his job at one point this season. Instead, the Dodgers made a huge run and dominated the NL West. Clayton Kershaw looked like the best pitcher in baseball and Yasiel Puig added some excitement to the air in LA. This team has all the right parts to make some postseason noise but it wouldn't have happened without a turnaround in the middle portion of the season to get back on track. 

3. Fredi Gonzalez, Atlanta Braves (96-66, NL East Champions)
The Braves weren't supposed to win the NL East. They were supposed to lie down and let the Washington Nationals dominate their way to the postseason. Someone forgot to tell Mr. Gonzalez and his crew this at the beginning of the year. They stayed near the top of the division for most of 2013 and Gonzalez looks like a perennial contender for the manager of the year award. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Handing Out 2013 Twins Awards

Even after a dismal 2013 season, there were some positive performances by players wearing a Twins uniform. No players on the club will be in the AL MVP or Cy Young discussion but it is still fun to pick out the best players across a variety of categories for the club.

For the past three years, I have picked out winners of various awards with the team. There are usually some surprise recipients because no one knows what is going to happen over the course of a 162-game schedule. There are ups and downs and that's all part of MLB player performances.

Each of the awards below has been named after someone that optimizes that award for the Twins organization. There are some legends from the past and even one current MLB player but all have had a significant place in Twins lore. If you want to see my attempt at pick out the preseason winner in each category, click here to see how those picks looked.
Harmon Killebrew MVP: Joe Mauer, C
Previous Winners: Josh Willingham (2012), Michael Cuddyer (2011), Joe Mauer (2010)
For the first time since 2010, Mauer wins the Killebrew MVP Award. The season didn't exactly end great for the team's best player and there are plenty of questions about him moving forward. He still put together a very fine season at the plate and in the field. He had his highest batting average since 2010 and he hit double digits in home runs for the second consecutive year. His OBS ranked third in the AL and it was the fifth time in the last six seasons that he ranked in the top three. Fans have to wonder if Mauer will be able to get back to this level in the years to come but he was still the team's best player in 2013.

Johan Santana Pitcher of the Year: Kevin Correia, RHP
Previous Winners: Scott Diamond (2012), Carl Pavano (2011), Carl Pavano (2010)
This is probably the toughest category to select and it was the hardest one to make a decision on during my preseason picks. I went with Vance Worley because he was getting the Opening Day start and he there were some high hopes surrounding him at the beginning of the year. Correia almost wins this award by default. A relief pitcher could be considered for the honor but starters pitch so many more innings that it is tough to consider a bullpen arm. Glen Perkins and Anthony Swarzak were both terrific but Correia was the best starter and he deserves the award.

Rick Aguilera Relief Pitcher of the Year: Glen Perkins, LHP
Previous Winners: Jared Burton (2012), Glen Perkins (2011), Jesse Crain (2010)
Perkins becomes the first two-time Rick Aguilera winner since I began handing out awards. If Burton wouldn't have put together a fantastic year last season, it could be the third year in a row for Perkins. On a team with very little to be happy about, Perkins has become a leader on the field and in the clubhouse. He is one of the most dominant closers in the American League and he was awarded with his first All-Star appearance. Fans might have been concerned when Joe Nathan left town but Perkins has continued a long line of dominant ninth inning men in Minnesota.

Rod Carew Rookie of the Year: Oswaldo Arcia, RF/LF
Previous Winners: Scott Diamond (2012), Ben Revere (2011), Danny Valencia (2010)
Winners of the Rod Carew award haven't exactly gone on to splendid big league careers but Oswaldo Arcia looks to be the man to change that trend. At the beginning of the year, Aaron Hicks looked to be the front-runner for this award but he struggled in his rookie year while Arcia found a way to shine. The Twins saw Arcia club 14 home runs and 17 doubles over 97 games. He finished third on the team in OPS and he ranked second in slugging behind Mauer. Not too bad for a first run through the American League.

Now it's your turn. What would your ballot look like for the top awards in the Twins organization for 2013? Leave a COMMENT and start the debate.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

2013 MLB Playoff Predictions (Sure to Go Wrong...)

There are plenty of playoff predictions being made across the interwebs over the last couple of days. I like to make things exciting and approach the predictions segment a little bit different. I spend time over-thinking my picks to the point where I don't remember why I went with the team. Then I ask my wife to pick out who she thinks will win. After that, I flip a coin for all of the match-ups to see who ends up king of the Fall Classic.

Last year's results were pretty entertaining and I correctly predicted the Giants winning it all. The coin flip tends to make some upset picks but anything can happen in the crazy postseason. Overall, it is a fun exercise and I will post results at the end of October. Enjoy our picks and check out my Twitter account for updates on the predictions race.
My AL Wild Card: Tampa Bay over Cleveland
Mrs. NoDak Twins Fan: Cleveland over Tampa Bay
Wild Card Coin Flip: Tampa Bay over Cleveland

My NL Wild Card: Pittsburgh over Cincinnati
Mrs. NoDak Twins Fan: Pittsburgh over Cincinnati
Wild Card Coin Flip: Cincinnati over Pittsburgh

My ALDS Picks: Boston over Tampa Bay, Detroit over Oakland
Mrs. NoDak Twins Fan: Boston over Cleveland, Detroit over Oakland
ALDS Coin Flip: Tampa Bay over Boston, Oakland over Detroit

My NLDS Picks: Los Angeles over Atlanta, St. Louis over Pittsburgh
Mrs. NoDak Twins Fan: Atlanta over Los Angeles, St. Louis over Pittsburgh
NLDS Coin Flip: Los Angeles over Atlanta, St. Louis over Cincinnati

My ALCS Pick: Detroit over Boston
Mrs. NoDak Twins Fan: Boston over Detroit
ALCS Coin Flip: Oakland over Tampa Bay

My NLCS Pick: Los Angeles over St. Louis
Mrs. NoDak Twins Fan: St. Louis over Atlanta
NLCS Coin Flip: Los Angeles over St. Louis

My World Series Pick: Los Angeles over Detroit
Mrs. NoDak Twins Fan: St. Louis over Boston
World Series Coin Flip: Los Angeles over Oakland

Talk to Contact: Episode 53

Episode 53 of the Twins baseball podcast, Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.
This week the boys discuss Ron Gardenhire's tenure in Minnesota and talk about what his new contact means. Everyone will hear plenty of talk about the regular season awards, ROY, MVP, Cy Young etc, but the Talk to Contact crew has invented a whole slew of awards you'll hear no where else, including: Best season by a former Twin, Most entertaining, Best Broadcast moment and much, much more. 



You can follow me on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read my writing here at NoDakTwinsFan, and you can find Eric on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read his writing at Knuckleballs! If you can't find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate), go over and read his writing at PuckettsPond.com!

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes (ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which helps Ron Gardenhire manage the team to more than 66 wins).