Saturday, September 24, 2016

This is a lousy fielding team

The phrase "E-Twins" generally refers to the Twins' Appy League affiliate in Elizabethton, Tenn. This year, it more accurately refers to the fielding "prowess" of the big league team.

Robbie Grossman's double error in left field Friday night inspires me to update this repeated complaint.

Grossman has now been charged with eight errors in left field. According to Baseball Reference, he had, entering the game, cost the Twins 19 runs compared to an average left fielder -- and this as essentially a half-time player (71 games).

Which is how a guy with an on base percentage of .384 and a slugging percentage of .454 is almost a wash in WAR (wins above replacement) as calculated by BR. Grossman has been an absolute liability in the field.

The Twins entered Friday's game with 118 errors. This was the most in the American League, second in the majors to Milwaukee (125). The Twins lead the majors in outfield errors by a wide margin. Nobody's committed more errors in left field than Grossman, Nobody's committed more errors in right field than Max Kepler (who at least has some range.)

Errors are far from a perfect measurement of fielding. But the figure is hardly meaningless, especially at the extremes -- and the 2016 Twins are definitely an extremely sloppy fielding crew.

Meanwhile, they find new ways to embarrass themselves.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Wild pitching an intentional walk

A team that loses 100 games is bound to embarrass itself with some frequency. Heck, a team that wins 100 games loses 62 games. Baseball is a humbling game.

But it's difficult to look worse than Pat Light did in bungling an intentional walk in the first game of Thursday's double header.

It's not the first time it's happened this year -- a quick Google search uncovered one less than a month ago by Washington's A.J. Cole -- but it was particularly embarrassing because Light had uncorked a wild pitch with his previous offering. That put runners on second and third and was the third ball, so Paul Molitor elected to put the batter on.

And Light lobbed it so high it left the view of the FSN center field camera. Juan Centeno is notably short, but Manute Bol wouldn't have reached that throw.

Molitor then removed Light, and Michael Tonkin entered and promptly served up a three-run homer.

I have some thoughts on Tonkin, but I'll save them for later. I'll just say of Pat Light, who has pitched now 12.1 innings for the Twins with 15 walks and five wild pitches: There is no way in Hades he's going to be back in 2017.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Contemplating Trevor May

Trevor May's '"pars
defect" was missed
repeatedly over the
past 13 months.
Trevor May, it turns out, has been trying to pitch for more than a year with a stress fracture in his back.

That had to hurt. It certainly didn't work. He had a 5.27 ERA in 42.2 innings. He gave up seven homers. He was charged with 10 wild pitches. His walk rate rose sharply.

As did his strikeout rate. The Twins had counted on May during the offseason to be significant part of their 2016 bullpen, and when he was relatively pain-free (which wasn't often) he was effective.

I wrote recently of Kyle Gibson that his regression this year was one of the biggest reasons for the failure of the 2016 Twins. So was the bullpen collapse. The late innings foursome of Glen Perkins, Kevin Jepsen, May and Casey Fien was expected to be a strength. It was exactly the opposite.

The plan now is for May to return to being a starting pitcher. Whether that plan survives the arrival of the new regime is, obviously, unknown.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Contemplating Eddie Rosario

Eddie Rosario cracked his left thumb on this
play in the 10th inning Saturday.
Eddie Rosario is deemed to have fractured his thumb on a dive into first base Saturday and is out for the remainder of the season.

It wasn't a good year for the outfielder. The slash line was pretty stable compared to last year, but the defense was noticably worse (albeit still superior to Robbie Grossman in left field).

The biggest problem: Rosario's walk to strikeout rate is still abysmal. He walked 12 times (and two of those intentional) and struck out 91 times in 354 plate appearances. This is why his on-base percentage is below .300.

You have to really hunt for reasons for optimism in his 2016. Yes, he hit over .300 after spending June in Triple A; but his BB/K ratio after his recall was still 9/60. "Minnesota high school math" here: he had three walks and 31 strikeouts before his demotion, basically one walk for every 10 strikeouts; after the demotion, 1.5 walks for every 10 strikeouts. For all the blather from Dick Bremer about Rosario's improved strike zone judgment, it doesn't show in the stats.

Rosario turns 25 in a week. He's had two partial seasons as more or less the regular left fielder, and it's still not clear that he deserves to be a regular major league outfielder. The Twins have been patient with his talent, but a more sabermetrically inclined operation might not be willing to give him more time to figure out what he's doing at the plate.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Talking prospects

The Twins top three prospects as listed by Baseball America  -- Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios and Max Kepler -- all graduated this year. So did Nos. 6 and 7 (Jorge Polanco and Byung Ho Park). So the prospect lists this offseason will look drastically different.

The dead-tree edition of BA that arrived in my mailbox over the weekend gives us a few hints of who might be pushing their way to the top of the Twins list.

Stephen Gonsalves, a left-handed pitcher who was No. 9 on the preseason list, was one of five starting pitchers named to BA's minor league all star team. Gonsalves split 2016 between High A Fort Myers and Double A Chattanooga and combined went 13-5, 2.06 with 155 strikeouts in 140 innings.

Some words of caution on the 6-foot-5 lefty from BA's writeup:

While scouts are unconvinced that Gonsalves possesses the current fastball command to dominate big league hitters, the 22-year-old lefthander does throw a changeup that improves each season. ... (He) must reduce his walk rate of 3.7 batters per nine innings, but he's clearly doing something right.

Gonsalves is scheduled to pitch in the Arizona Fall League, and it will be interesting to see how he fares there. My current guess is that he'll open 2017 in Chattanooga again, and if he continues to be too much for Southern League hitters to handle, he'll move up to Triple A by June.

Gonsalves was also named to BA's Double-A all-star team (as was Chih-Wei Hu, the Tawianese righty the Twins traded in 2015 for Kevin Jepsen).

Felix Jorge was named to the High-A team; he went 9-3, 1.55 in Fort Myers, then moved up to Chattanooga and struggled a bit (3-5, 4.12). I saw Jorge last year at Cedar Rapids and wrote about what I saw here. He was No. 24 on BA's preseason Twins list, and I wouldn't expect to see a big jump.

Nobody from the Cedar Rapids club was named to BA's Low-A all-stars. For the Rookie leagues honors, BA tabbed outfielder Alex Kirilloff, last June's first-rounder, who slashed .304/.341/.454 at Elizabethton. He will be in the Twins Top 10, maybe top 5, this winter, and a reason to make a relatively early trip to Iowa next year.

I was mildly disappointed to see that Nick Gordon, who slashed .291/.335/.386 at Fort Myers, didn't get the shortstop nod for High A. BA selected Gleyber Torres, who the Cubs traded to the Yankees in the Alrodis Chapman trade. But Gordon, No. 4 on the Twins preseason list, is likely to top the list this winter. Gordon's slugging percentage doesn't look like much, but the Florida State League depresses power; the league slugging percentage was only .356. Double A for Gordon next year.

Another name to take note of is Fernando Romero, who appears to have had a very good comeback from Tommy John surgery. He racked up 90 innings combined at Cedar Rapids and Fort Myers, with 90 strikeouts and ERAs below 2 at both levels. He's described as having three strikeout pitches. He's at least a level behind Gonsalves, but he might be a better starting prospect. Building his innings is the next project for him.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Notes, quotes and comment

While pretty much everybody else in Minnesota was watching some football game Sunday night, I was watching the Yankees-Red Sox game on ESPN.

Mookie Betts made two sensational catches in right field. This is nothing unique for Betts; ESPN said he leads the majors, all positions, in runs saved.

We Twins fans have a chronic bellyache about all the infielders the Twins have tried to play in the outfield the past several seasons. Danny Santana. Miguel Sano. The Eduardos, Nunez and Escobar. Jason Bartlett. None of them have been good outfielders, and other than Sano, none of them figured to hit the way you want an outfielder, particularly a corner outfielder, to hit.

Betts is a converted infielder; his "real" position is second base, but that is kinda occupied in Boston by Dustin Pedroia. The conversion certainly worked for Betts. Of course, he is faster than any of the infielders the Twins tried this with except maybe Santana, and that might have something to do with the difference.

---

As the Twins continue their search for new front office leadership, the San Diego Padres offer an example of what to avoid. A.J. Preller got a one-month suspension last week for misleading the Red Sox on the medical history of pitcher Drew Pomeranz. It's actually the second time Preller's been suspended by the commissioner's office for rule violations; he got nailed while with Texas for illegalities in negotiations in the Dominican.

As I suggested a couple weeks ago in a Monday print column, September is about as slow as it gets for a baseball front office, so Preller's suspension may not be much of a setback for the organization. But the man is getting a bit of a reputation as untrustworthy, and that matters.

---

Last week I wrote about Davey Johnson's 43-homer season and noted in passing that another future manager of note, Dusty Baker, hit 21 homers for that same Atlanta Braves team.

Going further down that rabbit hole: The primary catcher for that team was Johnny Oates, who managed for 11 years and won three divisional titles with the Texas Rangers. (Oates was diagnosed with brain cancer shortly after resigning as Rangers manager and died a few years later).

Oates' managerial record was 797-746. Johnson's was 1,372-1,071. Baker is still active, of course; he's at 1,750-1,565 after Sunday's loss. That's not the most impressive collection of future managers on a team in baseball history, but it's not bad. (The 1918 Pirates had three future Hall of Fame managers on their roster in Casey Stengel, Bill McKechnie and Billy Southworth.)

The 1973 Braves were managed by Eddie Mathews, Hall of Fame third baseman who is better remembered for his power exploits than for his dugout wizardry. I daresay none of those managers would cite Mathews as an influence. But they did have an interesting confluence of Hall of Fame managers. Johnson spent much of his career playing for Earl Weaver; Oates came up with the Orioles under Weaver and later played for Tommy Lasorda with the the Dodgers; and Baker had some of his best seasons under Lasorda.


Sunday, September 18, 2016

Pic of the Week

St. Louis centerfielder Randall Grichuk dives for a ball
hit by Chicago's Kris Bryant that went for a triple.
There are always photos of diving outfielders. Not many are framed as this one is.