Wednesday, November 21, 2018

More roster stuff

On Tuesday I suggested that Luis Arraez is a better prospect than Nick Gordon. Later in the day, the Twins added Arraez to their 40-man roster. I am quite sure it is coincidental.

In another move Tuesday involving somebody who actually has played in Target Field, the Twins sold reliever Alan Busenitz to a Japanese team. The Twins yo-yo'd him last year, and he wound up with a really odd looking stat line: 4-1, 7.82. The ERA was a more accurate reflection of how well (poorly) he pitched than his won-loss record, of course. Twenty-five innings with 14 walks and 37 hits, including eight homers? Ouch.

I don't think he's really that bad a pitcher, but the Twins have plenty of other guys to pick from to staff their bullpen in 2019. Busenitz will get paid, and if he does well in Japan, he can try again in the States.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Roster additions

Today is the deadline for teams to add minor leaguers to their 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 draft. On Monday the Twins added infielder Nick Gordon and outfielder LaMonte Wade, bringing their 40-man roster to 38.

Wade and Gordon were generally viewed by outsiders as guys the Twins had to protect or lose in the draft next month. I guess I agree, if only on the basis that Gordon was a high first-round pick and among the Twins top 10 prospects a year ago, and somebody would take a shot at that as free talent. But I've been skeptical of him as a hitter for sometime now, and certainly nothing he did in Triple A has shaken that skepticism.

Unprotected, at least at the moment, is another infielder, Luis Arreaz. He's a level behind Gordon and has never been seen as a potential shortstop; he's strictly a second baseman. But he's always hit better than Gordon, and in my view that makes him a better prospect.

Wade, too, didn't hit worth a darn upon reaching Triple A last summer, and his stat lines are generally lacking in power. I'm not sure either was really an obvious choice to be claimed if left off the 40.

If the Twins were looking to "game" the system and protect the most likely claimants, I think they missed him. Tyler Jay has the Gordon high-draft pick pedigree. He's had injuries and didn't fare well in Double A last year -- but he's a left-handed pitcher. In an era of 13-man staffs, I can see somebody claiming him and figuring that they can carry him for the season as a LOOGY or even as an opener.

He's a more likely Rule 5 loss than either Wade or Gordon (or Arreaz). But lsat year demonstrated that the current front office isn't very concerned about losing minor league relievers in Rule 5.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Thoughts on the coaching staff

There's still a coach to be named, but the Twins this weekend largely filled out the coaching staff. A few thoughts:

* The era when coaches were largely the drinking buddies of the manager are clearly past, at least in Minnesota. It appears that the only one of these seven with a previous connection to Rocco Baldelli is Derek Shelton, and he's a holdover who's probably only with the Twins until he can land a managerial job elsewhere.

* A concept the Twins had emphasized a few years ago when restructuring the coaching staff -- positional coaches -- seems to be less of a focus. Last year, for example, Jeff Smith had the catchers, Gene Glynn the infielders and Jeff Pickler the outfielders. There is no former catcher on the staff right now, and Tony Diaz and Tommy Watkins were identified as third-base and first-base coaches respectively.

* Baldelli answered a question at his introductory presser with a brief commentary on the need for a highly diverse coaching staff. This crew has at least three guys with skin too dark to be acceptable in the pre-Jackie Robinson era, two native Spanish-speakers and a career college coach who apparently never played pro baseball. Yeah, this is a staff of varied backgrounds.

* Jeremy Hefner is identified not as "bullpen coach" but as "assistant pitching coach." Perhaps he'll be stationed in the bullpen during games, perhaps not. I rather suspect that the holdup on the final coach is that they'd like it to be Chris Gimenez, and Gimenez is checking to see if there's still a playing opportunity first.   

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Sunday Funnies

Another story featuring Willie Kamm and Frankie Pytlak, the duo of last week's tale.

Kamm was an established veteran when Pytlak was a naive rookie, and Kamm told him when their team, the Cleveland Indians, made their first trip to New York that they had to contribute $5 a day to the local gangsters or the gangsters would enter their hotel rooms and tear up their clothes.

Pytlak handed over the money. Kamm kept it for a month before returning it.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Mining the colleges

Johnson is believed to be the first major league pitching coach to be hired out of the college ranks without serving a minor league apprentanceship first. Such cross-pollination between the pros and college is routine in football and basketball but rare in baseball.

But cross-pollination -- a variety of backgrounds and experiences -- seems to be something this front office is prioritizing. Hefner has pitched in the majors, been a video guy, been an advanced scout. (And is only 32.) 

As for Johnson, this from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Whole Hog Sports website story on Johnson's departure: 

Johnson is known for developing power pitchers. His two Arkansas staffs finished with a combined 1,238 strikeouts in 133 games, and several Razorbacks saw significant increases to the velocity of their pitches as a result of Johnson's emphasis on lower-body workouts and pitch-mechanic analytics.
At Johnson's urging, prior to the 2017 season Arkansas installed a radar system called TrackMan that records and analyzes 46 data points for pitchers on every pitch.
“If you get into biomechanics, you find out really fast that a pitcher cannot repeat his delivery," Johnson told WholeHogSports in 2017. "You’ve got over 600 muscles in the body. To think that the roughly 240 that we use in pitching are going to fire at the same time - you’ve got a better chance at winning the lottery. TrackMan gives me a chance to show guys a consistent release height and some things we can repeat."
The Twins installed TrackMan at their minor league facilites a few years back, during the Terry Ryan administration. but they are hardly unique in that. 

And that said, none of this has been officially announced yet. As of this morning, the Twins website has changed only the manager on its coaching staff page.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Time marches on

A big week for the Mauer family:

Shooter's tweet was followed in my timeline by a bunch of predictable "Twins first round pick in 2035 born" jokes. Which may well be ... but I'll be the age at which my father died when this Mauer is 18. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Notes, quotes and comment

Eric O'Flaherty, a 12-year major league pitcher, asked on a Twitter thread about the Joe Mauer spray chart I wrote about Tuesday where the "450-foot doubles" were hit.

There are some pretty long doubles pinpointed. My guess is the longest were hit at Fenway Park to that "triangle" just to the right of dead center field. There are some cheap homers hit in Fenway; there are some really long blasts that that ballpark holds as well.


Manager of the Year is a a bit of a death knell honor. It seems a lot of recipients are fired soon after winning it -- see Molitor, Paul, as an example.

So I doubt any of the guys who didn't win the award Tuesday are all that upseat. Brian Snitker of Atlanta and Bob Melvin of Oakland took teams to the playoffs, and few writers before the season saw those clubs as contenders, so they got the votes. That's emminently predictable.

I'm still more impressed with Alex Cora, who inherited a Red Sox team loaded with talent and wrung out all the drama; with Kevin Cash, who -- with a lot of help and support from his front office, to be sure -- essentially reinvented the wheel with the Rays pitching staff; and with Craig Counsell, who worked around the Brewers weaknesses to emerge with the best record in the National League.

Not that Snitker and Melvin are undeserving winners. I was just a bit more impressed with the others.


This has little to do with baseball and more to do generically with my occupation, but I saw that a reporter said to NBA star Kevin Durant: "Talk about the game," to which Durant replied, "Ask a question about the game."

Love it. "Talk about" is a copout signaling that the questioner hasn't given the topic any real thought and just wants to be bailed out.

But there was a similar moment during the baseball postseason, involving the Red Sox' Chris Sale. Reporter: "Talk about your success against the Yankees." Sale: "No."