Friday, February 28, 2014

Twins Headlines Turned Into Oscar Movies: 2014 Edition

Over the last four years, one of the most popular posts at NoDak Twins Fan has been an annual occurrence at this time of year. I love the Oscars and I love Twins baseball so this is my attempt to combine both of these things.

In these posts, I take the plot from all of the nominees in the Best Picture category and I connect them to a Twins story line. The first time I did this back in 2011 there were some funny results since the team was coming off a positive year in 2010. The 2012 version wasn't as light hearted since the team had been terrible the previous year. Last year's rendition also offered some exciting results with some of the plots playing themselves out during the season.

Here are this year's nominees. Lights, camera, action...

12 Years A Slave
Plot Summary: In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.

Twins Plot: In Twins Territory United States, Andrew Albers, a left-handed pitcher from Canada, is released and sold to a team in South Korea.

Plot Summary: A medical engineer and an astronaut work together to survive after an accident leaves them adrift in space.

Twins Plot: An assistant general manager and a front office work together to survive after an health issue leaves them without the team's general manager in spring training.

American Hustle
Plot Summary: A con man, Irving Rosenfeld, along with his seductive British partner, Sydney Prosser, is forced to work for a wild FBI agent, Richie DiMaso. DiMaso pushed them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia.

Twins Plot: A former first round pick, Aaron Hicks, along with trade acquisition, Alex Presley, is forced to work with a Hall-of-Fame hitter, Rod Carew. Carew pushed them toward the starting center field job with few knowing who would win.

Captain Phillips
Plot Summary: The true story of Captain Richard Phillips and the 2009 hijacking by Somali pirates of the US-flagged MV Maersk Alabama, the first American cargo ship to be hijacked in two hundred years.

Twins Plot: The true story of unofficial team captain Joe Mauer and the 2013 hijacking of his catching career by concussion issues of this former All-Star's brain, the first full-time position change of his 10-year carer.

The Wolf of Wall Street
Plot Summary: Based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, from his rise to a wealthy stockbroker living the high life to his fall involving crime, corruption and the federal government.

Twins Plot: Based on the true story of Trevor Plouffe, from his rise as a former first round pick living the high life to his fall involving poor defense, inconsistent offense and the rise of Miguel Sano.

Plot Summary: A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that's designed to meet his every need. Could this relationship work?

Twins Plot: A lonely group of fans develop an unlikely relationship with their newly hired Hall-of-Fame coach that's designed to ease some tension in the coaching staff. Could he be the team's next manager?

Plot Summary: A world-weary political journalist picks up the story of a woman's search for her son, who was taken away from her decades ago after she became pregnant and was forced to live in a convent. 

Twins Plot: A loss-weary organization picks up three free agent pitchers as a team searches for their winnings ways, which were taken away after a decade of finishing near the top of the division.

Plot Summary: An aging, booze-addled father makes the trip from Montana to Nebraska with his estranged son in order to claim a million-dollar Mega Sweepstakes Marketing prize. 

Twins Plot: An aging, long-tenured manager makes the trip from Florida to Minnesota with his estranged team in order to claim their stake to a share of the AL Central.

Dallas Buyers Club
Plot Summary: In 1985 Dallas, electrician and hustler Ron Woodroof works around the system to help AIDS patients get the medication they need after he is himself diagnosed with the disease. 

Twins Plot: In 2014 Minneapolis, outfielder and designated hitter Jason Kubel works around his minor league contract to help Twins Territory get the medication they need to score more runs after he is himself coming off a poor offensive year. The team has a fever and the only solution is more Kubel!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Should the Twins trade for Didi Gregorius?

The Arizona Diamondbacks will be dealing with a problem this spring that many other organizations would love to have to deal with. There are two shortstops on their roster who look to be ready to be everyday players at the big league level. Incumbent Didi Gregorius will be battling with top prospect Chris Owings for the starting spot over the next few weeks.

Owings, a 21-year, won the Pacific Coast League MVP last season by hitting .330/.359/.482 with 51 extra-base hits. He is clearly a better offensive weapon than Gregorius who hit .252/.332/.373 with 26 extra-base hits in 103 games last year. For Gregorius, he was worth 1.4 WAR and that puts him in some elite company among rookie shortstops age 23 or less.

From the sound of things out of Arizona, the Diamondbacks might be ready to hand the starting job over to either one of their candidates. The team also knows both players need to be playing on a regular basis. This could leave Gregorius back in Triple-A at age 24 with not much left to prove at that level. Many teams would be happy to have both players on their roster but it is all about development for these two at this point.

It has been a long time since the Twins have been able to develop a long-term option at shortstop. Pedro Florimon has used some strong defensive skills to earn the starting job but his offensive skill leave something to be desired. Danny Santana is working his way through the system but there are questions about his long-term ability to play the shortstop position. This leaves Minnesota with an opportunity...

By simple supply and demand, the Diamondbacks have a surplus of shortstops and the Twins are lacking in this department. This could set-up the opportunity for the two teams to make a deal. Arizona has a lot of value stored up in Gregorius as he was the key piece they got in return for Trevor Bauer when he was traded to Cleveland. This could price the Twins out of any kind of Gregorius deal.

It would be nice for Minnesota to get some long-term stability at the shortstop position after trading away JJ Hardy and trying to work through the failed Tsuyoshi Nishioka experiment. If the Twins could form a trade package around a young player like Oswaldo Arcia or Eddie Rosario, it might only take another piece to get this deal done. If the Diamondbacks want an upper-level catching prospect, maybe start the conversation with Josmil Pinto.

Overall, this could be a pipe dream at this point in the season. One injury to a player in the comings weeks and the Diamondbacks wouldn't have a surplus of shortstops. There also might be more value for a player like Gregorius as teams in contention get closer to the trade deadline. The absence of Terry Ryan from the Twins front office could also be a detriment to a big time trade.

A young shortstop would be nice to have but maybe just not at this point.

Talk to Contact: Episode 72

You can put it on the board... YES! This week we are joined by lifelong Chicago White Sox fan Tom Flynn (@Mighty_Flynn) to check in on what's been happening on the South Side of Chicago since the season came to a close. You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here.

We check in on just about every relevant ex-Twin, including Johan Santana, who threw off a mound for several teams and Matt Garza, who signed with the Brewers. Eric takes the gang through a quick round of pepper and eventually we get around to discussing other happenings in baseball, including the new rule concerning collisions at home plate. Strangely enough, Drew Butera is mentioned a handful of times throughout the podcast and there is even talk of a dog running a sausage race.

Enjoy the podcast. You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at Puckett's Pond,  Jay Corn is on Twitter ( @Jay__Corn), 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 iTunesRatings and reviews have magical iTunes powers that will help Johan Santana to regain some of his Cy Young prowess.
Follow me, @NoDakTwinsFan, on Twitter. Check out the Talk to Contact Podcast (@TalkToContact) or email the show:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

25-Man Roster Dissection: Pedro Florimon

Minnesota hasn't had a shortstop make back-to-back Opening Day starts since Cristian Guzman run ended in 2004. There have been a wide variety of men who have tried to solve some of Minnesota's up the middle problems. Jamey Carroll, Alexi Casilla, JJ Hardy, Nick Punto, Adam Everett, Jason Bartlett, and Juan Castro all made Opening Day starts but with those starts came plenty of swings and misses.

Pedro Florimon is trying to give the Twins a little stability at shortstop. He is never going to be a guy with a high batting average but his defensive skills make him valuable. At 27-years old, Florimon isn't exactly an up-and-coming prospect so he needs to continue to prove he belongs at the big league level or Minnesota will find someone else.

2013 Recap: .221/.281/.330, 9 HR, 17 2B, 44 RBI (134 Games)
After never appearing in more than 43 games in a season, Florimon was given the chance to be an every day player. His batting average and slugging percentage were slightly above his career marks but the Twins don't keep him around because of his bat. His defense is where he gives the team the most value. He ranked sixth in the AL in Defensive WAR and his 101 double plays turned ranked second in the league. According to defensive runs saved, Florimon saved the Twins 12 runs last year and that can mean the difference in a couple different games. Minnesota got what they were expecting out of Florimon and the team will likely expect more of the same moving forward.

Forecasting 2014: .227/.284/.329, 8 HR, 19 2B, 43 RBI (130 games)
Minnesota doesn't exactly have a crop of minor league shortstops pushing Florimon for his starting job during spring training. Danny Santana is getting closer to the big leagues but there are questions about his defense at shortstop. Florimon recently underwent an emergency appendectomy so he will miss the first couple weeks of camp. This might mean he isn't ready for Opening Day so Eduardo Escobar could get a little more playing time at the beginning of the year. The Twins have reassured that Florimon will be the starter even with his recent setback. The 27-year old isn't going to light the world on fire at the plate but his defense is above average and Ron Gardenhire has a soft spot for a good glove man.

25-Man Roster Safety: Locked-In

Monday, February 24, 2014

Final Standings: Most Iconic Twins Moment

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a poll wondering what was the most iconic moment in Twins history after Kirby Puckett's dramatic walk-off home run in the 1991 World Series. The Sporting News had just named the most iconic moment for every organization and this was the easy pick for the Twins.

There have been other important moments in the organization's history and I set out to find what would rank as some of the other top moments. I asked my Twitter followers for suggestions of other iconic moments. There were plenty of responses and I narrowed down the list to a top eight.

As part of the original post, fans were asked to rank my list of eight iconic moments. Here are the results of that poll with some analysis along the way.
1. Kirby Puckett's Catch, Game 6 (1991): 52 1st Place Votes, 25 2nd, 12 3rd
If Kirby hadn't hit his walk-off home run, the most iconic moment in team history might have been his wall-scaling catch earlier in the same game. His tremendous defensive effort earned him enough first place votes to double up the second place finisher to make him the landslide victor.

2. Gene Larkin's Walk-Off Hit, Game 7 (1991): 26 1st, 18 2nd, 13 3rd
Walk-off hits made up a good chunk of the team's iconic moments and this moment ended what many consider the best World Series in baseball history. The game belonged to Jack Morris and there might not have been anything more iconic than him jumping out of the dugout to meet Dan Gladden at home plate after this hit.

3. Kent Hrbek's Grand Slam, Game 6 (1987): 4 1st, 20 2nd, 21 3rd
The Twins first World Series didn't have as many iconic moments but Hrbek's grand slam in a pivotal game helped to push the team towards victory. This moment didn't get a lot of first place votes but it only trailed Puckett's catch when it came to second place votes and it lead all moments in third place votes.

4. Metrodome's ALCS Celebration (1987): 9 1st, 9 2nd, 14 3rd
5. Kent Hrbek tags Ron Gant, Game 2 (1991): 2 1st, 10 2nd, 16 3rd
For Twins fans, each of these moments stirs up different emotions. The ALCS celebration is one of the most iconic moments for Twins players as they were astounded to find the Dome filled to the top when they arrived home from Detroit. Hrbek's tag of Gant still brings up some bad feelings in Atlanta and it even got it's own bobblehead in Minnesota.

6. Alexi Casilla's Walk-Off Hit, Game 163 (2009): 6 1st, 7 2nd, 9 3rd
7. Harmon Killebrew's 520-foot HR (1967): 1 1st, 7 2nd, 11 3rd
8. Bob Allison's Catch, Game 2 (1965): 0 1st, 4 2nd, 4 3rd
The biggest surprise to me was Casilla's walk-off hit in Game 163. It didn't crack the top five and it had a hard time staying in front of some of the older moments on this list. My guess is there were few fans of the early Twins who filled out this survey and that's why there wasn't a lot of love for Killebrew and Allison. These were still iconic moments but it's hard to compare them to some of the others on this list.

Friday, February 21, 2014

25-Man Roster Dissection: Brian Duensing

A bullpen can make a big impact for any baseball team. The game has evolved over time to the point where bullpens can be the difference in winning or losing a championship. It's funny then to think that bullpen's are made up of former starting pitchers who fizzled out at some point in their professional career. In baseball, it's all about extending your career at the big league level and these players know that all too well.

Last year's Twins All-Stars Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins are the only men who have a longer tenure with the Twins than Brian Duensing. These other two men have gone on to do some great things in a Twins uniform and it seems like Duensing is still trying to find his niche. 2013 was a year of changes for Duensing and the team hopes he is on a path for improvement.

2013 Recap: 3.98 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 56 SO, 22 BB (61.0 IP)
For the first time in his professional career, Duensing didn't make a start in 2013. The Twins let him get accustom to his role in the bullpen and this helped him to post an ERA of under 5.00 for the first time since 2010. As one would expect, his strikeout rate jumped from 5.7 SO/9 in 2012 to 8.3 SO/9 in 2013. Unfortunately, his walk rate was also the highest mark since his rookie season. It was nice to see the team not jerk him around between starting and relieving for an entire season. Minnesota has seen recent success in starters turned relievers with Glen Perkins being the poster child at the bullpen's back end. It would have been nice to see some better numbers from Duensing last season but this leaves him with plenty of opportunity to improve moving forward.

Forecasting 2014: 3.80 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 46 SO, 17 BB (58.0 IP)
It's an important season in the career of Brian Duensing. There were questions swirling this offseason as to whether the Twins would offer him arbitration since he is getting further along in the process. The team eventually decided to offer him arbitration and he will cost $2 million for 2014. Overall, this isn't a huge hit against the team but the Twins could probably find a replacement level player that would get paid the league minimum. The Twins are committed to Duensing for 2014 but his future in Minnesota might depend on how good he looks this year. If Scott Diamond, Vance Worley, or Sam Deduno don't make the rotation, they could join Duensing in the failed starters club out in the Twins bullpen. He will make some small improvements this year but it won't be enough for the Twins to keep him and his rising salary around for 2015.

25-Man Roster Safety: Locked-In

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Talk to Contact: Episode 71

The highlight of this week's episode is an interview with Josh Duggan (@oldmanduggan) of Royals Review to talk about what's been happening with our division rival's over in Kansas City. We review their off-season and make predictions about the future of the division in 2014 and beyond. You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here.

At one point during the podcast Paul professes the strangest fantasy a man has ever had involving another man's forearms, Jay Corn predicts the Twins to somehow win 83 games and Eric talks smack about his mother to his twin brother. Twins topics were also covered. Spring has sprung and the Twins are all down in Ft Myers for spring training and everyone is in the best shape of their lives. We discuss some notable signings from around the league take a look at Twins minor leaguer and 2013 draft pick Ryan Walker and course discuss what we're drinking and recommend traveling to Alaska.

The boys have their potty mouths on this week, so if you're listening near small children you may want to turn the volume down.

Enjoy the podcast. You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at Puckett's Pond,  Jay Corn is on Twitter ( @Jay__Corn), 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, that will help Ethan Mildren's fan club grow to MLB levels.

Follow me, @NoDakTwinsFan, on Twitter. Check out the Talk to Contact Podcast (@TalkToContact) or email the show:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

25-Man Roster Dissection: Kevin Correia

Last season there were plenty of question marks surrounding the Twins starting rotation. It looked like there were very few guarantees as the team headed to Florida. This might have been a bad omen as the Twins struggled with one of the worst rotations in the American League. The starting staff might have been one of the team's biggest flaws from a year ago.

This year is a little different as the Twins were very aggressive on the free agent market and the starting staff has added some perceived depth to start the year. Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes will be added to the front half of the rotation that will also include starters from last year, Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey.

2013 Recap: 4.19 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 101 SO, 45 BB (185.1 IP)
Correia came to the Twins after spending the first decade of his career in the National League. There can be a little bit of a bump in pitchers numbers with a transition to a DH league but things went about as expected for Corriea. He pitched over 180 innings for only the second time in his career and his ERA and SO/BB rate were better than his career marks. The problem was he became the Twins best starter and this isn't really a role he should be suited to fit as his 218 hits allowed were the sixth most in the American League. He added a veteran leader to the pitching staff and this might have helped with some of the younger members of the pitching core.

Forecasting 2014: 4.35 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 98 SO, 47 BB (184.0 IP)
If Minnesota can get close to the same season out of Correia in 2014, the team will likely be happy. He is in a contract year so maybe he will have a little something to play for throughout the season. He's already 33-years old so he might be playing for one of his last major league contracts. With Nolasco and Hughes brought into the fold, Correia can fit better into the middle of the rotation instead of being the man at the top. On the road, opponents hit 60 points higher than him when he pitched at Target Field and this helped him to have an ERA almost two runs lower. Look for this trend to continue with his home starts in 2014.

25-Man Roster Safety: Locked-In

Friday, February 14, 2014

All Valentine's Day Twins Team

Catcher: Javier Valentin
His last name was almost enough to be a "Valentine" but he fell a letter short. In parts of four seasons with the Twins, he didn't show a lot of love to the fans. He combined to hit .230/.288/.350 in 141 games during his early 20's. His career improved when he went to Cincinnati and he finished his career as a .251/.310/.402 hitter.

1B: Greg Wells
Sometimes you need to make a wish for love to come true and a wishing "Well(s)" is the best place to start. Wells played in all of 15 games for the Twins and barely hit over .200. He did collect three extra-base hits over 54 at-bats but that wasn't nearly enough to keep the 28-year old around in Minnesota. After he left the Twins organization, he went on to a very successful career in Japan including three seasons of 40 or more home runs.

2B: Chip Hale
A perfect Valentine's Day gift is something sweet and perhaps that would include a chocolate "Chip" or two. All but 12 of Hale's big league at-bats came while wearing a Twins uniform. Most of his playing time was on some of the rough Twins teams of the mid-1990's. He hit .333/.408/.425 in 213 plate appearances during the 1993 season but that might have been the pinnacle of his career. His career high in games played was 85 in 1996 and his career was over by 1998.

3B: Rich Rollins
On Valentine's Day, it always helps to be "Rich" so you can buy your lady all of the things she desires. One of the Twins regulars on their early years in Minnesota, Rollins averaged over 125 games played from 1962-1968. During that same stretch of time, he averaged double digits in home runs and over 15 doubles per season. With the roster created so far, he might be the team's middle of the order bat.

SS: Bill Bethea
On this day, it's very important for the guy to pick up the "Bill." Ten games as a 22-year old were the extent of Bethea's career. He floated through the minor league system of multiple organization but the Twins were the only place were he would make it to "The Show." In the minor leagues, he hit .235 with very little power so there was really no reason for him to get more than a cup of coffee at baseball's highest level.

DH: Tom Prince
Every girl is looking for her "Prince" especially on Valentine's Day. Prince spent parts of three seasons with the Twins in the early 2000's and he was part of the team's first AL Central Championship in 2002. He never played more than 64 games in a season and he was a career .208/.286/.331 hitter. All of his career postseason at-bats came with Minnesota when he was a 37-year old back-up catcher.

OF: Mike Hart
One of the themes throughout Valentine's Day is having a big "Hart" even if it is misspelled. Hart's time in Minnesota was short lived as he struggled to hit above .170 during a small sample size of 13 games. He didn't manage to collect a single extra-base hit but he played in over 840 games at the Triple-A level. Any success he had in the minors never translated to his big league career.

OF: Lenny Green
If you can't think of anything else to give your significant other, some flowers with "Green" stems are always a nice choice. Green played a dozen seasons for five different AL teams but the majority of his career came with the Minnesota/Washington organization. He hit .270/.359/.384 while compiling a WAR of 7.0 over 700 games. The 1962 season might have been his best as he had a higher batting average than Harmon Killebrew and Bob Allison.

OF: Quinton McCracken
The perfect Valentine's Day meal might be sitting back and "Cracken" some lobster tails open. Like many of the players on this list, McCraken's Twins career didn't last very long. He squeezed in 70 at-bats during the 2001 season but only went 14-for-64 during that stretch. It would be his only season with the organization but he would still play parts of the next three seasons at the big league level including a career high 134 games in 2005.

SP: Frank Viola
There's nothing like a little "Sweet Music" from Mr. Frank Viola to serenade a loved one. Viola used his sweet music to guide the Twins to their first World Series championship in 1987. He won MVP of that series and the next year he was awarded the Cy Young when he led the AL with 24 wins. Over his big league career, he pitched in one postseason but he made the most of it in 1987.

25-Man Roster Dissection: Kurt Suzuki

For the better part of the last decade, the Twins haven't had to worry too much about the catching position. Joe Mauer was locked in as the team's starting catcher and the organization could look to add to other parts of the roster. This was a great luxury to have but things have taken a different path this offseason.

Mauer's move to first base meant the team needed to be out looking on the free agent market for a veteran catcher. The team already has young catching prospect Josmil Pinto but he likely needs some more seasoning at the Triple-A level. Enter Kurt Suzuki and his seven years of big league service.

2013 Recap: .232/.290/.337, 5 HR, 13 2B, 32 RBI (94 Games)
Last season Suzuki found himself in an interesting situation. A year before, he had been traded from Oakland, the only organization he'd played for, to Washington to help with their postseason run. The same thing happened in 2013 but in reverse order. He started the year in Washington and was traded to Oakland later in the year. He's hit under .240 in each of the last three seasons and his OBP was under .300 in two of the last three years. He hit double digit home runs from 2009-2011 but hasn't hit more than six since then.

Forecasting 2014: .243/.300/.363, 8 HR, 18 2B, 37 RBI (101 games)
Unless something unforeseen happens in spring training, Suzuki should open the season as the Twins starting catcher. This should help him to get back over the 100 games played mark while Pinto spends some time in Rochester. The more experienced Suzuki will have a chance to work with the revamped pitching staff and the team hopes this leads to a better start the to season. In the second half of the season, he will likely start splitting time with Pinto as the Twins will want to see more of their young player. Look for a little bit of a rebound year from Suzuki but he won't do anything too amazing.

25-Man Roster Safety: Locked-In

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Talk to Contact: Episode 70

This week on the podcast we discuss the nature of government work and pushing children at work. You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here.

Last week we talked about Ethan Mildren when we went Down on the Pond, this week we talk to Ethan Mildren.  He tells us all about his offseason workouts, his goals for 2014, and what it has been like transitioning from college baseball to Minor League baseball.  We also discuss MiLBer Zach Larson, recent Twins news including Terry Ryan's health and the waiver claim of Brooks Raley.  And of course, we talk about all the beer we can drink, and all the news from around the league.  
89 minutes of fun.  
Enjoy the podcast. You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at Puckett's Pond,  Jay Corn is on Twitter ( @Jay__Corn), 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, that will help Ethan Mildren's fan club grow to MLB levels.
Follow me, @NoDakTwinsFan, on Twitter. Check out the Talk to Contact Podcast (@TalkToContact) or email the show:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Joe Mauer and Increasing Strikeouts

Members of the Minnesota Twins struck out 1,430 times last season. In the history of the Twins organization, no team had struck out more than 1,121 times (1997 team). That was the only year since the team moved to Minnesota that the club recorded more than 1,100 times.

Over the last three seasons, Minnesota strikeout totals have increased every year. It has been a rough couple of seasons and there have been some inexperienced players trying to make their mark at the big league level. Players like Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe, and Oswaldo Arcia all struck out more than 100 times last season and the Twins know this is an area that needs improvement.

One player consistently praised for his approach at the plate is Joe Mauer. His ability to work counts and get on base at a high rate has been one of his trademarks. Over his 10 year big league career, he has a .405 OPS and he averages 78 strikeouts per 162 games played. These are impressive totals but his strikeout totals have been rising along with the team's increase over the last couple of seasons.

Mauer didn't play a game in September last year after suffering from a concussion near the end of August. Even missing the end of the season, he still set a career high with 89 strikeouts. This came a year after he struck out 88 times. Prior to 2012, Mauer had never struck out more than 64 times and that happened back in 2005, his first full season in the big leagues.

Last season, Red Sox pitcher John Lackey owned Joe Mauer. Over seven at-bats, Mauer managed one hit, a single, and he struck out five times. Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Rich Hill did surprisingly well against Mauer with three strikeouts over five plate appearances. Anibal Sanchez was the only other pitcher to strikeout Mauer more than twice and those three strikeouts happened over eight at-bats.

Mauer's Most Strikeouts vs. Pitchers
1. CC Sabathia 19 SO (52 Plate Appearances)
2. Justin Verlander 10 SO (74 Plate Appearances)
3. John Danks 8 SO (60 Plate Appearances)
4. Ryan Dempster 7 SO (13 Plate Appearances)
5. CJ Wilson 7 SO (24 Plate Appearances)

In Twins team history, the most strikeouts in a season occurred in 1972 when Bobby Darwin struck out 145 times in 145 games. The only other men to strikeout more than 140 times for the club are Carlos Gomez (142 in 2008), Harmon Killebrew (142 in 1962), and Josh Willingham (141 in 2012). Mauer might not be on his way to the 140 strikeout plateau but he was on pace for 100 strikeouts just a season ago.

Former Hall of Fame players for the Twins, Kirby Puckett and Paul Molitor, never struck out more than 100 times in one season. Puckett cracked 90 in four different seasons with 99 strikeouts in 1986. Molitor's highest total was 93 and that came when he was a member of the Brewers organization.

Young pitchers are getting better and there isn't as much of a stigma around striking out on a consistent basis. Mauer will most likely be on the field on a more regular basis with his switch to first base and this could mean a continued increase in his strikeout totals. If it's up to his new coach Paul Molitor things might change for the Twins next year. He said, "We need to try and find a way to minimize strikeouts before the epidemic gets any worse."

After last season in Twins Territory, that sounds like a good philosophy to follow.

Monday, February 10, 2014

25-Man Roster Dissection: Anthony Swarzak

Minnesota's bullpen could be one place full of turmoil while the team is in Florida. Plenty of pitchers like Vance Worley and Scott Diamond are out of minor league options but the team might not want them in the rotation on a regular basis. This could mean someone else will be left on the chopping block for a spot in the bullpen.

Twins relievers lead all of baseball in innings pitched last year because of the troubles with the starting rotation. With the addition of some key offseason free agents, hopefully there will be less reliance on some of those bullpen arms. Anthony Swarzak pitched more relief innings than any other pitcher in 2013 and he was very successful along the way. Will he be able to continue that success?

2013 Recap: 2.91 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 69 SO, 22 BB (96.0 IP)
For the first time in his professional career, Swarzak did not start a game. He settled nicely into his long relief role and he was the sixth most valuable pitcher according to fWAR. This put him ahead of many other pitchers who were given the opportunity to start. His lowest ERA before last season was 4.32 back in 2011 and he also set career best marks in walks, strikeouts, and WHIP. It was a tremendous season and it became clear that this could be the role that was destined for Swarzak. As a starter, he struggled but being a long relief options seemed to bring out his best.

Forecasting 2014: 3.68 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 65 SO,  21 BB (85.0 IP)
It seems likely that there will be some kind of regression with Swarzak this season. The results were so far off from his career numbers that he should look a little bit more human in 2014. If the Twins have to use Diamond or Worley in the bullpen, they will need to be used in long relief roles as well. This could leave Swarzak's position a little up in the air. His innings could get cut back and he could find himself not asked to get as many outs in each outing. The Twins will stretch him out a little this spring to see if he could fit into a starting role again but his likely landing spot is back in the bullpen as he looks to repeat his successes from a year ago.

25-Man Roster Safety: Locked-In

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Talk to Contact: Episode 69

This week on the podcast we discuss good Twins related cat names, amongst other 80 grade banter. You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here.
This highlight of this week's podcast is an interview with Jim Callis (@jimcallisMLB) of MLB Pipeline to talk about Twins prospects. Jim answers questions about all of the top prospects in the organization Byron BuxtonMiguel SanoAlex MeyerKohl Stewart and then some. In addition to the interview this week's show also includes a discussion on what a successful 2014 Twins season means to each of the podcast hosts, the creation of the Ethan Mildren (@Emildren4040) fan club. Ethan was the Minnesota Twins' 2013 12th round draft pick out of the University of Pittsburgh.

Thanks for the download.  You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at Puckett's Pond,  Jay Corn is on Twitter ( @Jay__Corn), 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, that will help Ethan Mildren's fan club grow to MLB levels.
Follow me, @NoDakTwinsFan, on Twitter. Check out the Talk to Contact Podcast (@TalkToContact) or email the show: