Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Today, it's Liriano vs. the Twins, and the trade deadline

Francisco Liriano comes out
for the White Sox's batting practice
Monday at Target Field. I'm not
sure they found a cap that fits.
I fully expect that today's matchup will be so overhyped in Minnesota that you'd think nobody ever before got traded and then faced his former team.

It happens from time to time, however. And it happens tonight, when Francisco Liriano takes the mound in Target Field to face his former teammates.

As I post this, we don't know for sure which of his former teammates he'll face. The nonwaiver trading deadline is at 3 p.m. our time, and there are rumors of interest in Denard Span, Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham.

That teams are interested in trading for them is a given. Whether any are seriously bidding is another. There were, according to Terry Ryan, a goodly number of teams interested in Liriano, yet the offer Ryan thought was the best was reckoned disappointing to many fans.

Moving Liriano for small change made some sense; moving Span, Morneau or Willingham for pittances does not.

My sense of things is that other teams are mainly interested in profiting from a fire sale. I suspect that some teams eying Morneau in particular figure that the Twins may want to dump next year's salary and open first base for Chris Parmelee, who is having a big season in Triple A.

I will be surprised if that proves to be the case. My guess is that the Twins will not make a notable trade before the deadline. But I've been wrong before.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Further thoughts on the Liriano trade

Francisco Liriano and
pitching coach Rick Anderson
in 2011.
My Monday print column on the Francisco Liriano trade of Saturday night can be found here. It's short, deliberately so; it was a tight sports section, and between Vikings training camp and the Olympics, there was plenty of other things to fit into the limited space.

So I'll expound further here.


The wonders of social media reveals that a vocal number of Twins fans believe the Twins didn't get enough for Liriano. They expected more than a couple of Grade C minor leaguers.

Chalk this reaction up to what I think of as "Dick Bremer Disease" — the tendency many, if not all, of us have of taking a player's best short-term performance and holding that as the yardstick of his talent.

I saddle Bremer with the name, perhaps unfairly, because back in 2002, Torii Hunter hit .371 in the first month of the season, and Bremer latched onto that performance as a legitimate measure of Hunter's ability. It took years before Bremer stopped talking about Hunter as a guy who could hit for a high average.

Hunter wasn't a legitimate .300 hitter, of course. He just had a particularly good month.

Twins fans latched onto Liriano's periodic strong stretches and held those times to be who he is. About a half season of 2006; the last two months of 2008; most of 2010; his recent stretch of good starts this year. All told, a bit more than two seasons worth of quality pitching.

Two seasons — over a seven-year period.

Yes, Liriano was brilliant in 2006 until he got hurt. That isn't how the rest of baseball sees him, because he has too many other stretches in which he was awful, injured or both.

We may value Liriano as the wunderkind of '06. The rest of the world doesn't.


You may have seen elsewhere that Baseball America this winter ranked Eduardo Escobar, the shortstop the Twins got in Saturday's trade, as the White Sox' No. 10 prospect. The value of that ranking is somewhat diminished by the fact that BA regarded the Sox system as the weakest in the game.

Pedro Hernandez wasn't to be found the BA rankings for the Sox, but that's because he was included in the San Diego system; he came to the White Sox in the Carlos Quintin trade in late December. He was No. 23 on the Padres list.

Hernandez, as I indicated in the print column, is the acquisition I have the most hope for. The scouting reports I've seen on him say he has command, he has a quality change, and he has gained velocity in the past couple of years, from 87 mph or so to 90-92 mph.
Jeff Manship was
6-2, 2.35 in
Rochester this year.

What isn't clear is the quality of his breaking ball, and whether he can develop a usable one may determine his future as a major league pitcher.


Escobar and Hernandez are now on the Twins' 40-man roster; they cleared a spot by putting P.J. Walters on the 60-day disabled list, as they did last week with Carl Pavano. Walters last pitched on June 13, so he can't be reactived until sometime in mid-August — and as far as I know he won't be ready before then anyway. 

Jeff Manship got the call to replace Liriano on the 25-man roster. He may get to start; while Brian Duensing had a successful outing Sunday filling in for Liriano, the Indians are particularly vulnerable to lefties. It will be interesting to see which way Ron Gardenhire goes with this one.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pic of the Week

A clean-shaven Ichiro Suzuki acknowledges the ovation
from the Seattle crowd before his first at-bat with the
New York Yankees.
Of all the deadline trades to date and to come, only one figures to involve a franchise icon, a sure-fire Hall of Famer.

While the sight of Ichiro Suzuki in a Yankees uniform is emotionally grotesque, the trade makes sense for all three parties.

The Mariners have resolved what I call "the Ripken dilemma" — the issue of what to do with a fading face-of-the-franchise.

Ichiro, nearing the end of his brilliant career, gets a shot at the World Series.

The Yankees get a reasonable replica to fill in for the injured Brett Gardner.

Ichiro is no longer Ichiro!, and that was a problem for the Mariners.  They could no longer be built around him — not effectively, at any rate — and their shared history made a secondary role for him almost impossible.

The Yankees aren't tied to his past. And they don't need him to be great (although they certainly won't object if he has a three-month flashback to his prime).

Gardner is a pale imitation of Ichiro at his best, but at this stage of their respective careers, a healthy Gardner is better than Ichiro. Gardner being unable to play, Ichiro is an upgrade on the Yankees' alternatives.

Ichiro is said to have initiated the trade himself, and it's believable if only for the checklist of concessions he agreed to:

  • He'll play left field, not his accustomed right.
  • He'll hit at the bottom of the order, not at the top.
  • He'll be clean-shaven.
  • He'll wear No. 31, not his favored 51.

So this works for everybody, except for those of us sentimentalists who'd prefer to know the star only in one uniform.

A farewell to Frankie: Liriano traded

Francisco Liriano: 50-52, 4.33 in his
exceedingly up-and-down Twins tenure.
The deal went down soon after the Twins clobbered Cleveland Saturday night: Francisco Liriano goes to the Chicago White Sox for a left-handed pitcher (Pedro Hernandez) who appears to be more command than power, and a good-glove, no-hit shortstop (Eduardo Escobar).

Both players have seen some major league time with the Sox; both are being sent immediately to Rochester.

The trade will be the topic for my Monday print column, so I'm not going to delve any more deeply than this into it tonight.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The disabled list stall

Danny Valencia:
He's baaack.
It happens with almost comic predictability:

A Twins player suffers an apparently minor injury. He is deemed "day-to-day," and one day bleeds into another without him playing until, after a week or so, he finally goes on the disabled list.

It happened again over the past week with Trevor Plouffe and his bruised thumb. All through the road trip Plouffe was said to be a day or two away. Not today, maybe tomorrow -- and tomorrow never came.

On Friday, Plouffe was deemed ready. He was in the lineup. Then he took batting practice, and suddenly he was out of the lineup and (finally) onto the disabled list.

So predictable. One of my tweeps asked the day Plouffe was hurt how long it would take the Twins to put him on the DL. My guess was 10 days. It turned out to be six.

This is one of the many questions surrounding the Twins medical staff, at least for those of us on the outside. Are the diagnoses and recovery times being bungled by the trainers and doctors? Are the players simply lying about their condition? Is management deliberately holding back on putting players on the disabled list to save a few bucks? (Players on the DL are paid; the players called up to fill their roster spot have to get at least the major league minimum, which is more than they're paid to play in Triple A.)

It might be any, all or none of those things. I don't know. What I do know is that this kind of fiasco happens far too often. It's one aspect of the organization that really needs to be tightened up. The Twins are carrying 13 pitchers, and having one of the "active" position players unable to contribute really limits the manager's bench options.

In the Plouffe case, I suspect some wishful thinking was involved. The obvious player to take his roster spot was Danny Valencia, and there's no reason visible in the stats to believe he's earned a return to the majors. I don't think the Twins really want Valencia back on the big club. As it turned out, they couldn't avoid it.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Swarzak, Pavano, Perdomo

Luis Perdomo will
be the 41st player
used by the Twins
this season.
The Twins front office used Thursday's offday not to make a significant trade, but to do a little roster shuffling.

Anthony Swarzak went on the disabled list with what is described as a mild rotator cuff strain. Luis Perdomo was brought up from Rochester to fill the bullpen spot. And Carl Pavano was moved to the 60day disabled list to make room on the 40-man roster for Perdomo.

Start with Pavano. He went on the 15-day DL in early June, and he hasn't yet gone on a rehab assignment, so the 60-day designation means nothing in terms of his return. It does mean that if and when he's ready to pitch in the majors, somebody else is leaving the 40-man roster.

I say if and when. I fully expect Pavano to return, if only because his contract is up and he'd be better off in his search for a new contract if he demonstrates down the stretch that his shoulder is sound. It wasn't at any point this season. It could be the difference between a guaranteed contract and a minor-league deal.

Swarzak's injury came as the Twins were testing him out in higher-leverage situations. His season has had one significant plus -- his strikeout rate is up from 4.9 K/9 to 6.0 -- and one significant minus -- he's allowed 11 homers in 69 innings this year, as opposed to 9 homers in 102 innings in 2011. His ERA is slightly higher, his WHIP almost identical.

His best work has come as a long reliever. The thinning of the bullpen over the past month -- Matt Capps on the DL, Brian Duensing in and out of the rotation -- prompted Ron Gardenhire to try Swarzak in a set-up role. It hasn't gone swimmingly; for what it's worth, opposing hitters are hitting .247 against Swarzak when one team or the other is up by more than four runs, .298 when the game is closer. 

Perdomo is a 28-year-old right-hander who was signed as a minor league free agent during the winter and was an early cut in spring training. He opened in Double A, pushed his way to Rochester with 43 strikeouts in 39.1 innings, then racked up a 0.92 ERA in 19.2 innings in Triple A (18 Ks and just two walks).

Despite the impressive BB/K ratio in Rochester, his history suggests that command is a problem. He has 61 major league innings on his resume (San Diego), in which he's walked 5.3 men per nine innings and fanned 8.3. 

Perdomo will be the 24th Twin to pitch this season, counting Drew Butera. 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Blackburn being Blackburn

I found myself wondering in the moments leading up to the first pitch of Wednesday's game which level of performance from Nick Blackburn would be best in the long run.

Would a superficially impressive low-run outing, such as he had in his previous start, help con another organization into buying into the illusion that he can pitch? Or would it merely con the Twins into hanging on to him?

Or would another shelling help more by convincing management that the $7 million or so he's still owed (this year and next) is a sunk cost?

What we got, of course, was the shelling. Thirteen outs and 10 hits, eight runs, a pair of homers and one measly strikeout. That is the Nick Blackburn I've come to expect.

A couple of commenters on an earlier post dismiss the necessity for strikeouts. They could not be more wrong. Blackburn's strikeout rate for the season is now under 4 K/9; the league average is 7.3. You cannot name a successful pitcher with a K rate that far below league average -- not today, not at any point in baseball history. They don't exist.

Blackburn's strikeout rate was always subpar, and now it's worse. What's more, it's gotten worse as the rest of the league is striking out more hitters. He's losing ground. 

Losing ground. And losing games. It's not going to change. We have a sufficient track record to establish that.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A new set of baseball cards

Bryce Harper, Card No. 661
in the 2012 Topps set.
Long-time readers of this corner of the web are aware that some time ago my mother-in-law gave me a complete set of 1987 Topps cards. Some of those cards have appeared here — Jamie Moyer, Barry Larkin, Graig Nettles, Ted Simmons, Gary Carter ... that gift has been a useful resource.

But 1987 is an increasingly long time ago, and I have for a couple of years considered investing in a new set. This year my wife ordered a set for my birthday, and that set finally arrived. I picked it up Tuesday and spent some time going through it.

I was disappointed that Jamie Moyer didn't get a card; he was included in the 1987 set, and I had hoped to have him in both. True, he didn't pitch at all last season, and was only signed to a minor league contract, but he's spent more time in the majors than (to pick on a couple of Twins represented in the set) Joe Benson and Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

Desmond Jennings has two cards. So does Ben Revere. But Moyer didn't get one. (Neither, I believe, did Andy Pettitte, who also didn't pitch in 2011 and returned this year.)

But I did have a little chuckle out of this. The last "checklist card" ends with No. 660. But there is a No. 661— Bryce Harper.

Topps, I surmise, didn't expect Harper to play in the majors, and when he did, hurried him into the set.

It sure won't be the last time he's in a set. And if I get another set 25 years from now, he just might be in that one too.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Imagining the Twins outfield without Span

Denard Span is hitting .280/.344/.384 this year.
The metaphorical dam holding back the anticipated flood of pre-deadline trades appeared to break Monday afternoon. None, however, involved the Twins.

One of the names often bandied about -- last summer and this -- as trade bait is that of Denard Span, the Minnesota center fielder and leadoff hitter. I'm not going to argue that he should or shouldn't be traded -- the answer to that depends on who the Twins get in such a trade.

No, my thinking is along these lines: If Span is traded, and if the Twins don't get an outfielder who clearly should be playing as part of the deal (they probably wouldn't), what would the Twins outfield look like the rest of the way?

It's easy and obvious enough to say that Josh Willingham would remain in left field and that Ben Revere would shift over to center (and move into the leadoff spot as well). Right field is the question.

Option A: Chris Parmelee. He's spent most of his sporadic major league time at first base, but he's played almost as much right field in the minors as first.

As the roster is currently constructed, there's no real use for him; Justin Morneau/Joe Mauer/Ryan Doumit are splitting first base, DH and catcher, and Revere has taken over right field. But Parmelee has hit in Triple A (.302/.446/.510), and it makes sense to find some PT for him in the majors.

Drawback: Parmelee's not going to help the pitching staff much in right. Like Willingham, he'll have to hit to justify his lineup spot. 

Option B: Darin Mastroianni. The opposite of Parmelee: A right-handed hitter who is a good defensive outfielder, very fast, not a lot of power.

If Ron Gardenhire were so inclined, a Mastroianni-Parmelee platoon might make some sense. (It would also, as somebody -- I think Kirsten Brown -- said on Twitter a while back, sound like an Olive Garden entree.)

Drawback: Mastroianni is probably better suited to the fourth outfielder role than a regular's job.

Option C: Move Trevor Plouffe to right, with (most likely) Danny Valencia getting a fresh shot at third base.

Drawback: Valencia hasn't really earned a return. He entered Monday hitting .249/.287/.399 for Rochester.

Option D: Somebody now playing at Double A: Joe Benson, Oswaldo Arcia, Rene Tosoni.

Drawbacks: If Valencia hasn't earned a return, that goes double for Benson and Tosoni.  Arcia's been in New Britain about a month, and I can't see the Twins pushing him up two levels so quickly. If the Twins do go for one of these guys, however, I'd like to be Arcia.

On Chris Parmelee's defense

Chris Parmelee pursues a ball after misplaying it Saturday.
The Twins optioned Chris Parmelee back to Triple A after Monday's game to make room for Justin Morneau's return from the paternity list.

Parmelee was up for three games, and he played in only one. Even with Morneau gone, it was difficult to fit him into the lineup.

Anyway, I couldn't let him leave again without bringing this up from Saturday's game:

My wife and I were listening to the game as we navigated the various detours connecting northern Wisconsin with southern Minnesota, and at one point Dan Gladden compared Parmelee as a defensive first baseman to Wally Joyner and Mark Grace.

I immediately started snarling at the radio. Grace and Joyner were superb glovemen, with hands and range and, for the position, throwing arms. Grace won four Gold Glove awards; Joyner didn't win any of the ugly trophies but could have without disgrace.

Parmelee is not in their class. Neither is Justin Morneau, and Morneau is probably a better defensive first baseman than Parmelee.

Sure enough, a couple innings later Parmelee booted a ball — a play that cost the Twins a run — and I told the radio: Tell me again how he's as good as Grace or Joyner.

Parmelee may someday be a regular first baseman, and he may turn into a Grace or Joyner type of player. But he isn't there yet, and Gladden shouldn't pretend that he is.

Monday, July 23, 2012

What the Win stat tells us

Sam Deduno pitched 6.1 innings
Sunday to get his first MLB win.
Sam Deduno on Sunday became the 17th Twins pitcher this season to be credited with a Win.

There are some prominent bloggers — the esteemed Aaron Gleeman among them — who ridicule the Win statistic. It is a rare day now when I don't encounter an online opinion saying, at least implicitly, that the W is useless and should be abandoned.

I see things a bit less black-and-white. All stats, to some degree, are flawed. Nothing stands perfectly alone. Hit a fly ball in Wrigley Field one day, it's a home run; on another day, with the wind blowing in, it's an out. Hit a grounder in the hole with Luis Aparicio at short, it's an out; hit the same grounder with Ron Washington at short, it's a base hit.

And all attempts to winnow out the various biases that infect the traditional stats depend so heavily on assumptions and formulas as to resist understanding or audit. There are at least two different formulas for WAR — Wins Above Replacement, a favorite of the current generation of sabermetricans — and those formulas can come up with drastically different results depending on how they "measure" defense and how they weigh home field biases.

The Won-Loss record has this advantage to it: If a pitcher is credited with the Win, his team won the game. If he's charged with the loss, his team lost the game. Winning and losing is the whole point of the competition. It's simple, it's easy to understand, and it's directly tied to the outcome.

The pitcher's win stat isn't as meaningful as it once was, and it was probably never as meaningful as the consensus once held it to be. The rise of bullpens, the coming of the five-man rotation, the monitoring of pitch counts -- all these changes have whittled away at the innings worked by starting pitchers, and the fewer innings worked by the starters, the less significant the Win becomes.

So the Win's meaning is fading. But discarding information, even if it's flawed, does nobody any good. Understanding the limitations of the information is the key.

So ... we look today at the Twins wins this season, and we see that Scott Diamond leads the team in Ws with eight. Next comes middle reliever Jeff Gray, 5-0 despite an ERA of 4.73. He's followed by Nick Blackburn, who has four wins and a bloated 7.46 ERA. Two have three wins (Francisco Liriano and Alex Burnett) and then 12 others have either two or one.

And I do see some significance to this. That the team's scarce wins are so spread out, that two of the top five in wins are middle relievers, are symptomatic of the failure of the starting rotation. There are other markers telling us that the rotation has been horrid, of course, but this is an obvious one.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pic of the Week

Kevin Youkilis was greeted on his return to
Fenway Park with a standing ovation.

One of the many things that has gone right for the Chicago White Sox -- the surprising leaders in the American League Central for much of the season, until they fell behind Detroit on Saturday -- was the acquisition of Kevin Youkilis.

Youkilis was a mainstay for the Red Sox for years, but he fell out of favor quickly with new manager Bobby Valentine, went on the disabled list -- not a rare event for Youkilis -- and lost playing time to rookie Will Middlebrooks. "Youk" hit .233/.315/.377 for Boston this year.

So the Sawx traded him to Chicago almost a month ago. Since changing his Sox from Red to White, Youkilis has hit (entering Saturday's play) .299/.389/.506 and has hit as many home runs (four) as he did in twice the at-bast for Boston.

Meanwhile, Middlebrooks -- who was hitting .326 the day Youkilis was traded -- has faded. Since June 24 the rookie's slash line is .203/.213/.339. And the Red Sox have already designated one of the players they got for Youkilis (Brent Lillibridge) for assignment.

It has not been a particularly good trade for Boston so far.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The return of Nick Blackburn

Nick Blackburn had his best outing of 2012 on
Friday, lowering his ERA to 7.46.
Nick Blackburn said upon his return from Triple A that he had found and corrected some mechanical flaws.

He had on Friday what I view as a prototypical "good" Blackburn start: 6.2 innings, seven hits, one run, no walks, two strikeouts.

The no walks (and no home runs) is good. The two strikeouts, not so much.

Dick Bremer at one point said something like: As good as Blackburn's sinker has been, he hasn't gotten any double plays.

Well, sinker or no, Blackburn wasn't really ground-ball heavy. The MLB.com feed credited him with nine ground outs, seven flyouts. ESPN had his mix even -- nine grounders, nine flyballs. This is probably a higher ground ball rate than usual for him, but not all that heavy a rate. (Kansas City starter Luke Hochevar, a very similar pitcher to Blackburn, had a 10 GB/4FB ratio, according to MLB.com.)

It's an odd thing: Blackburn relies on a two-seam, sinking fastball, and doesn't get all that many grounders. Scott Diamond tends to rely on what MLB.com identifies as a four-seam fastball -- straighter and harder than a two-seamer -- and generally gets at least twice as many grounders as flyballs.

I'm not inclined to complain about 6.2 innings of one-run ball. But I view this outing much as I did Cole DeVries' start on Thursday. DeVries threw six innings of one-run ball with five strikeouts -- but he had just two ground ball outs.

DeVries gives up a lot of fly balls, which leads to a high home run rate. Blackburn can't miss bats.

It's certainly possible to have good outings despite those flaws. It's very difficult to do so consistently.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Target Field through fresh eyes

The blogger and his mother in the
gold glove sculpture on Target Plaza.
Photo made by Bill Thoma.

A brother and sister-in-law who live in the San Francisco Bay area made their first trip to Target Field Thursday. So did my mother. I tagged along as the resident expert on the place.

Bill and Janet have adopted the A's as their team -- they had partial season tickets during the A's good years in the late '90s/early '00s -- and, of course, the Oakland stadium is currently regarded as a consensus bottom-of-the-heap ballpark. (Oakland and Tampa Bay, neck and neck for the worst; I've not been to either.)

So I was joking when I asked how Target Field compared to "Mount Davis" -- which is just a piece of the Oakland park, but a significant reason why it's so poorly regarded as a baseball playground. But Bill surprised me by saying he thought Target Field was superior to the Giants' stadium in San Francisco.

Janet on one advantage Target Field has on AT&T Park: They both have big gloves, but you can sit in this one.

As a proud Mankato provincial, I pointed out that the stone used in Target Field came from Mankato ("we have some really big holes in the ground") and guided Janet to Angie's Kettle Corn. Then she hunted down a second bag to take home. I also introduced Janet to Killebrew root beer and all three to the glories of Kramarczuk's sausages.
The Twins, of course, lost in disappointing fashion, and I could probably wring a post out of how they lost, but this was a day when the game was secondary to introducing my mom, my brother and his wife to a special place.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Notes, quotes and comment

To remain part of the Twins system.
I took note a while back of the number of minor league affiliates whose arrangements with the Twins were expiring after this season. One of them has apparently been settled; John Shipley of the Pioneer Press tweeted Wednesday that the New Britain (Conn.) RockCats and Twins have extended their "working agreement" through 2014.

New Britain is the Double A affiliate in the Eastern League, and there was, at the time of the original post, speculation that the new owners of the franchise were interested in hooking up with the Mets.

Rochester (Triple A) and Beloit (Low A) are also expiring affiliations.


As far as I know, Brian Dinkelman is the only Twins farmhand involved in this bracket. I don't think he's got a chance.


Jonathan Sanchez was designated for assignment Tuesday by Kansas City -- a status that means We don't know what we're going to do with him, but he's not playing for us anymore. They have nine more days in which to dispose of him.

If there's any team in need of power arms for the starting rotation, it's the Twins. Of course, if there's another, it's Kansas City, and they've seen quite enough of Sanchez. Still, Sanchez' record with San Francisco was solid enough to start some Twitter chatter about whether the Twins should pursue him.

I don't know why his walk rate, never good, has ballooned, or (probably more important) why his strikeout rate has cratered. And without answers to those questions, I'd pass on him. Certainly the Twins ought not pick up the remains of his $5.6 million contract.

Trevor Plouffe hasn't homered in two weeks, but he hasn't had a hitless game this month and has only struck out eight times. He hasn't had a lot of multi-hit games  during the16-game hitting streak (Wednesday's was the fourth), and he's drawn only three walks, so the on-base percentage hasn't budged, the slugging percentage has actually dropped, and the batting average is only creeping up.

Still, the consistency is encouraging.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Reshaping the staff once again

Brian Duensing's tenure in the
starting rotation lasted four starts.
Matt Capps, back to the disabled list.

Nick Blackburn, back to the majors and the rotation.

Brian Duensing, back to the bullpen.

The only part of this I truly like is Duesning in a relief role. I went into some detail on this just the other day, so I won't rehash the reasons. I thought this would happen at some point, but I didn't expect it to happen so soon.

Blackburn's return was inevitable; the Twins aren't paying him $4.75 million to pitch in Triple A. He's to start Friday. I don't really foresee any change from what happened before his demotion; while his ERA for Rochester was 2.57, he struck out just seven men in 21 innings. He got hit before, he'll get hit again.

Capps made just two low-leverage appearances after his first disabled list stint; his velocity was down, and he gave up a homer in the second appearance on Monday night. He won't be eligible to come off the DL until the trade deadline; he's not getting moved anywhere this month.

Capps has become a popular scapegoat, and unfairly so. Some won't forgive him for the price the front office paid to get him; some won't forgive him for re-upping with the Twins last winter. It's silly-stupid to blame him for either move; if Terry Ryan-Bill Smith-Ron Gardenhire overvalue him, that's not Capps' fault.

He's a decent relief pitcher when healthy. He hasn't been healthy all the time. And it's truly obnoxious to hear the same people who criticize Joe Mauer for sitting when he's hurt rip Capps for pitching when he's hurt.

With Capps out of the picture indefinitely, it appears Glen Perkins and Jared Burton will continue to share the closer duties.

One thing to watch now is how Tyler Robertson and Duensing are used. Robertson has held the LOOGY role while Duensing was in the rotation, and had some good moments and some bad. I was impressed Monday with how well Robertson handled Jim Thome after Gardenhire had him intentionally walk J.J. Hardy in the sixth inning.

Retiring lefties is Robertson's forte; it is also Duensing's.

When Duensing was inserted into the rotation, righties had an OPS (on-base-plus-slugging) of just .645 against him. Today their OPS against Duensing is .909.

The Twins have a new surplus of left-handed relievers. How much value there is in that remains to be seen.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The 10-day vacation

I don't know if Scott Diamond is superstitious,
but the Twins seem to wear the "m" caps
when he starts.
Scott Diamond wasn't particularly sharp Monday -- he allowed five runs and nine hits in six innings, and, more to the point, didn't have the one-sided groundball-flyball ratio we're accustomed to seeing from him.

He won, but he's been better.

And that was to be expected. He hadn't pitched since July 5. The Twins used the four-day All-Star break to reshuffle the rotation and essentially skip a start for him, out of concern that the innings were adding up too rapidly.

I understand that; I don't think that pushing his innings from last year's 162 (majors and minors) to more than 200 this year is healthy. (He's pushing 120 now, with two and a half months to go.)

But there's also something to be said for keeping him in rhythm, and 10 days off is probably disruptive.

The Twins did something like this once before, in 2009 with Nick Blackburn. On July 10 that season, Blackburn beat the White Sox, raising his record to 8-4 with a 3.06 ERA. He didn't pitch again until July 20, when he gave up 13 hits and seven runs in five innings in a memorable loss.

It took a long time for him to get it back together that year, although he did finish the season with three quality starts. (Blackburn ended the season 11-11, 4.03, and led the league in hits allowed; he hasn't been nearly that good since.)  I hope it doesn't take that long for Diamond to snap back into his groove.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Contemplating Brian Duensing

Brian Duensing's
2012 ERA is now 5.06.
Brian Duensing worked out of the Twins bullpen through June 19, at which point he had a 3.12 ERA in 30 outings, 34.2 innings. He had almost 2.5 strikeouts for each walk, he had allowed just one home run, he had a batting average allowed of .224.

He was having a solid season, this on the heels of a 2011 disaster spent largely as a starting pitcher.

On June 23 Duensing was moved to the starting rotation, and it has been ugly. In four starts, he has an ERA of 10.13.

He started Sunday and went just two innings. He threw 41 pitches in the first inning; he allowed three home runs in the second inning.

In four starts, he's worked a total of 13.1 innings, partly as a matter of slowly increasing his pitch count, partly because he had to leave a game after being hit by a line drive, partly because he's been so ineffective.

The word Sunday was that the Twins aren't about to pull him from the rotation yet. They will, it appears, remain patient -- in part, I suppose, because they aren't eager to return either Nick Blackburn or Liam Hendriks to the rotation, and they have no other obvious options.

That said, it is becoming increasingly difficult to take seriously the notion that he can be a rotation piece for the future.

There are two factors that appear to make Duensing better suited to the bullpen, two factors that may be related:

  • He, like most pitchers, has better fastball velocity working in short bursts;
  • He has a sharp platoon differential.

Oakland on Sunday had just two left-handed hitters in its lineup; Duensing, working with lesser velocity, is ill-equipped to deal with right-handers. As a reliever, his manager can usually find ways to have him face mostly lefties, and with better velocity, he can cope with the righties.

I don't blame the Twins for looking once more at him as a starter; they need starters, and a competent starter is more valuable than a good relief pitcher. And I can see a rationale for sticking with the experiment a bit longer.

But I've lost my optimism about the project.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Pic of the Week

Bennet Krueger, catcher for a Campbellsport, Wis., team,
applies the tag to a Kewaskum baserunner.

Was this a baserunner or bomb?


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sealing the draft

The deadline for signing 2012 draftees passed at 5 p.m. EDT Friday -- mustn't delay the weekend at the commissioner's office -- and the Twins had a few adventures on the final day.

First they signed Florida high school outfielder Zach Larson, their 20th round pick, for $190,000 -- $90,000 more than MLB allots for picks after round 10. The extra $90,000 was charged against the Twins' bonus pool, which had sufficient savings to cover that and then some.

They failed to come to terms with 9th rounder L.J. Mazzilli, which doesn't disturb me too much. As I posted earlier this month, amateur second basemen aren't particularly good bets. Major league second basemen are generally guys who moved there from other positions. 

Andre Martinez was ranked
404th in the draft pool by
Baseball America, but the
Twins took him with the
190th overall pick.
But the weirdest developments came with Andre Martinez, a prep lefty from Florida selected in the sixth round. He had been reported early on by Baseball America's Jim Callis as having signed an over-slot deal with the Twins ($260,000 against a slot value of $200,000). On Thursday, Callis tweeted:

An ‪#mlbdraft‬ "unsigning": Had reported a while back that ‪#Twins‬, 6th-rder Andre Martinez had agreed on $260k. Now told deal unlikely

The prospect of losing out on Martinez did bother me. He might have been the best pure starting pitcher talent the Twins took last month. He doesn't throw with the velocity of several other Twins picks, but most of them were collegians who pitched primarily out of the bullpen. And supplemental rounder J.O. Barrios, another high schooler, is a "short" righty (six feet). 

Martinez has a college commitment to Florida State, and Baseball America had hinted coming into the draft that he could be a difficult sign. Callis' Thursday tweet led me to suspect Martinez had chosen to gamble that three years at FSU would make him a first-round pick.

Wrong again, Eddie. After the deadline passed, Callis tweeted that Martinez had signed -- for $80,000.

Apparently there had been an agreement on $260,000, but Martinez's shoulder failed his pre-signing physical. Or at least it failed for $260,000. For $80,000, it was passable.

So the Twins emerged having spent $298,500 less than MLB had allotted for the draft. It is my understanding that, for this year only, those savings can be added to next year's draft pool.


The big deadline news was that Mark Appel declined to sign with Pittsburgh. Apparently $3.8 million, which is what the Pirates are believed to have offered, wasn't enough for him and agent Scott Boras.

Appel's going back to Stanford for his senior season, and he is, right now, atop the consensus draft board for 2013. But he was a plausible No.1 overall pick this year too, and fell to No. 8 because teams didn't think he was worth the price he was setting on his services. Even if he doesn't get hurt, the same might happen in 2013. It's a risky move on his part.

The Pirates will get the ninth pick next year in compensation for Appel's refusal.

Appel was the only first-rounder who didn't sign, although a handful of others went to the final day. Oddly, all but one of the first-round holdouts were collegians. 

Odd because the new draft rules, with the bonus pool and penalties for exceeding the allotment, were expected to make it more difficult to sign high school players. It's likely that several prep players fell in the draft on that basis. But there were five first round picks who went into the final day unsigned, and four  of them were collegians.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Fixing the Detroit "D" relatively simple

Even bad defensive teams make good plays:
Detroit catcher Gerald Laird tags out
Minnesota's Darin Mastroianni.

Last week I posted a piece opining that the biggest reason the Detroit Tigers didn't live up to expectations int the first half was their offense -- that the defense, while bad, wasn't really much worse than expected.

Which hardly means the defense is blameless in the Tigers' struggles to play even .500 ball. As I said last week, the defense appears to have turned one of the American League's better pitching staffs into one of the worst. The offense has been disappointing, and the defense is preventing the pitchers from picking up the slack.

One thing that I found in looking at the Baseball Info Systems defensive metrics on the team is how little the plus-minus and runs saved stats agree with my perception of the Tigers defense. And if these metrics truly reflect reality, the defense can be pretty quickly fixed.

My perception: Of the eight defensive spots, one (Austin Jackson in center field) is well above average, one (Alex Avila at catcher) is about average, and the other six are below average. Ramon Santiago, utility infielder, is the best middle infield glove.

The metrics: Two positions -- second base and right field -- have been dreadful and everybody else is about average. And Santiago, in truth, isn't helping in the middle infield.

First baseman Prince Fielder and third baseman Miguel Cabrera are slightly worse than average defensively by these numbers, and shortstop Jhonny Peralta is slightly better. I would have expected all three to be near the bottom of the league at their respective positions. They aren't. (Watching Fielder butcher a high one-hop throw during the All-Star Game gives me further pause; I doubt I've seen a full-time first baseman who has more difficulty with bounced throws than Fielder. Still, the numbers are what they are.)

Jhonny Peralta probably isn't as bad a shortstop as I think.
Jackson is often touted as a Gold Glove candidate, but the metrics aren't nearly as impressed with him as they are with Denard Span. The Tigers have run through a bunch of second basemen, with Santiago logging the most innings; none have been close to a plus with the glove. And Brendan Bosch has been brutal in right field.

The Tigers opened the season playing Delmon Young every day in left. After his arrest and suspension back in late April, Young was assigned to the DH job, and left field --largely Andy Dirks (now on the DL) and Quintin Berry -- became a defensive plus. (As a group, the non-Young LFs are +9 in plus/minus with seven runs saved; Young is -7 and -5. Berry -- and this is odd for an outfielder with his speed -- is -2, -2.)

Assuming that Berry is not really that poor an outfielder, I think the Tigers could really improve their lineup simply by acquiring a competent full-time second baseman in the coming weeks. Even an average defender who can hit would upgrade the position in two ways. Right now they have poor defense and weak offense there.

Fix second base, and the Tigers are in good position to win the divisional title. Let it continue to fester, and they will continue to struggle.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Notes, quotes and comment

The regular season is a grind, and players welcome the respite offered by the All-Star break. Certain obsessive bloggers might benefit from taking a break also, but what's the point of taking a vacation from an obsession? There are always things that have fallen through the cracks:

Oswald Arcia's Futures
Game double was a
bullet pulled off a
97-mph heater.
* Twins outfield prospect Oswald Arcia doubled in two at-bats during the Futures Game last Sunday.

In a lot of ways, I'm more interested in the Futures Game than in the All-Star Game, but by scheduling it on the last day of the first half MLB has guaranteed it a smaller audience.

Arcia is a 21-year-old out of Venezuela who is already on the 40-man roster and has pushed his way to midseason promotions this year and last. He has less than 100 at bats in Double A at this point and isn't dominating the small sample size, so I don't expect to see him in Target Field this season even if one of the outfielders is traded this month. But his day is coming.

He was the sole Twins prospect selected for the Futures Game. Noteworthy by omission was Miguel Sano; missing for obvious injury reason (broken bone in face) was Eddie Rosario.

Baseball America consults with MLB in setting up the rosters, and one of its writers said in a chat that there were players they wanted but whose teams didn't agree. He didn't name Sano specifically, but his name came to mind immediately. The Twins are known to use such honors as a reward, and they may not wish to reward Sano while his defensive struggles are so glaring.

* Reggie Jackson was effectively suspended from his front office job with the Yankees for telling Sports Illustrated that Alex Rodriguez' admitted PED use raises questions about his Hall of Fame candidacy.

Reggie's title with the Yankees is "special advisor to the managing general partner," which is vague enough to encompass almost anything. My guess is that he is essentially vice-president in charge of being Reggie Jackson, which is probably more lucrative than anything I do without being much of a strain on his capabilities.

Criticizing A-Rod is an unpaid hobby for a lot of people, and nothing Reggie said about the Yankee third baseman broke any ground, but publicly badmouthing one's fellow employees is generally frowned upon. And put in the context of Jackson's listing of guys he doesn't think belong in Cooperstown -- including Kirby Puckett, Bert Blyleven, Jim Rice and Phil Niekro -- Jackson simply comes off to me as one of those guys who wanted the door shut behind him.

I happen to agree with Jackson on Rice's qualifications. I don't on Puckett, Blyleven and, especially, Niekro. While I don't find anything objectionable about being a "small Hall" guy, I believe that a Hall of Fame too small for Niekro is also too small for Jackson.

Among the players depicted: Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner and Christy Mathewson.
*I was fascinated by the story out of Ohio of the 700 rare, high-quality, century-old baseball cards found in an attic.

I happen to own five cards from that era -- no big names or money involved: John Titus, Dots Miller, Billy Sullivan, Larry McLean, Charley O'Leary. The pasteboards connect me to the deadball era, to generations past. Miller played second base next to Honus Wagner; O'Leary cut off Ty Cobb's throws; McLean took orders from John McGraw; Sullivan was part of the founding of the American League.

They may not have made history, but they were part of it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Joe Mauer, All Star first baseman

Joe Mauer singles leading off the ninth inning in
his only All-Star Game at-bat Tuesday.

Well, the drama got sucked out of that All-Star Game in a hurry. After the first inning, the only things that could pique my interest was (a) trying to determine the most nonsensical thing to come out of Tim McCarver's mouth and (b) Joe Mauer's appearance.

My choice for the former would be some babble during Elvis Andrus' ninth inning at-bat about all the different versions of "Kansas City" and Andrus being the only Elvis to play in the World Series. Identifying Fernando Rodney's change-up as a tailing fastball was pretty good too. But there were probably other highlights that I missed, because I was working and only occasionally had the opportunity to really listen.

And Mauer entered as a first baseman, got one at-bat, and singled to center. Which makes him 3-for-9 in All-Star games. Not that there's any great significance to that.

Waiting for Mauer to play is an example of why baseball is loathe to give up the every-team-is-represented rule. They don't want to snub a media market and lose viewers. (Although that happened to Miami this year; the injury to Gioncarlo Stanton wound up removing the only Miami Marlin on the NL roster.)

But hey, it counts, right?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

It may count, but it no longer matters

It's been 10 years since the infamous tied All Star Game, 10 years of the nonsensical "This Time It Counts" marketing mantra. 

Bud Selig and Fox desperately wish to convince the fans that the outcome of this glorified exhibition game is a matter of supreme importance to its participants.

To convince me, however, they're going to have to convince the participants, and it's obvious from the way they play the game that the outcome is secondary. Oh, they'd like to win -- athletes are wired to win -- but there are other, higher priorities.

Like getting everybody into the game. 

That wasn't always as important as it is now. You can tell by randomly googling some box scores from decades past.

In 1965 -- a game played in Metropolitan Stadium -- five members of the National League starting lineup played the entire game. So did two of the AL starters. 

In 1958, seven of the NL starters went the distance. Three pitchers pitched at least three innings. (And for the AL, the immortal Bob Cerv started in left field, with rinky-dinks Ted Williams and Al Kaline used as pinch hitters, which seems odd.)

I doubt any starter in today's game will play all nine innings. Few if any pitchers will work more than an inning. There are 34 players on each roster, and getting all of them into the game has to start early.

A few years ago Bill James drew up a detailed proposal for sharply condensed All-Star rosters -- I think it involved something like 16 players per league, and still kept the one-representative-per-team rule. It's not going to happen, but he's got a point.

Limit the rosters, and you'll automatically have All-Star games once again that feature actual stars -- and games that punish a league whose voters stick someone like Mike Napoli into the starting lineup. 

And if the stars are playing, rather than taking an at-bat and dashing out of town for their shortened vacation, the declining viewership might pick up.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Late night: Rangers 4, Twins 3, 13 innings

Josh Willingham dropped to the ground while leading
off first base in the fourth inning Sunday when a
bolt of lightning struck near the ballpark in
Arlington, Texas.
Box score here

Game story here

The Twins were one strike away. Numerous times.

We can lay the blame on Brian Dozier, whose error opened the ninth inning disaster. But even after that runner scored, Glen Perkins had a two-run lead with two outs in the ninth.

Then: Single, double, single — the latter two with two strikes — and the game was tied.

Too many bad pitches to good hitters. Or too many good pitches to good hitters. Perkins threw 28 pitches, and 25 of them were strikes.

But let us give credit to Cole DeVries. The Minnesota native shut out the best team in the American League for seven innings  — three hits, one walk, five strikeouts. Very sharp pitching performance.

He now has an ERA in the majors of 3.00 after five starts and one relief outing, a total of 30 innings.

We all know how desperate the Twins are for starting pitching, and an ERA of 3.00 almost certainly means more chances for DeVries. But we shouldn't expect him to maintain it; even with that very nice ERA, he's surrendered six home runs — one long ball every five innings. Nobody can feed the gophers that often and keep a respectable ERA. One of those stats has to give, and his minor league record, and his mediocre velocity, say it will be the ERA that gets worse.

He may never have a game this good again in the majors. But he certainly has this one.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Pic of the Week

Our old friend Michael Cuddyer and a vivid Denver
sky. I assume the various wildfires in Colorado have
something to do with the coloring.

I don't suppose Michael Cuddyer expected things to be worse on his new team than on his old one, but the Rockies entered the weekend four games behind the Twins.

When you're 31-51, it seems unlikely that anyone can (or should) claim to be having a good season. Cuddyer came into the weekend with 12 homers and a slash line of .266/.317/.483 —which is a lower on-base percentage and higher slugging percentage than we're used to seeing from the long-time Twin, but a OPS (on-base plus slugging) five points from his career OPS.

But this season he's in Coors Field, and that matters.

  • Cuddyer 2012 at home: .283/.351/.520
  • Cuddyer 2012 on the road: .246/.278/.440

The Twins essentially "traded," via free agency, Cuddyer for Josh Willingham. Willingham has been the better hitter just off the raw numbers, even without accounting for the distortions created by the difference between Coors Field and Target Field. Willingham is also less expensive. And the Twins landed an extra draft pick out of it, which translated into J.O. Berrios. It's far too soon to say what Berrios will amount to, but on the whole, it was a good move by the Twins.

Which doesn't make me less fond of Cuddyer. I hope he's happy with the choice he made, and I hope he does well. And I still expect that if he so desires, he will someday be a major league manager.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Plan H (for Horrible)

Sam Deduno has
pitched 5.2 innings
in the majors, but
this will be his
first start.
Today Sam Deduno is to be the 11th starting pitcher deployed by the Twins this season.

Eleven starters before the All-Star break. That's probably not a record, but it's hardly a characteristic of winning teams.

Plan A was a set of five veterans, each making a minimum of $3 million -- Carl Pavano, Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano, Nick Blackburn and Jason Marquis. That plan didn't make it out of Fort Myers. Between injury and ineffectiveness, the only one of that five now in the rotation is Liriano, and he was displaced himself for a while.

Plan B was Liam Hendriks, and he has been twice demoted to the minors. Plan C was Anthony Swarzak, and he pitched his way into a bullpen role (which he's filled nicely). Then came Scott Diamond (yeah!), P.J. Walters, Cole DeVries, Brian Duesning and now Deduno.

That makes Deduno, a 29-year-old Dominican, Plan H. Nobody is deep enough in pitching to have ... wait for it ... preparation H.

To be fair to him, he probably isn't, and wasn't, the 11th best starter in the organization. He was a non-roster  invitee to spring training, and guys on the 40-man roster logically get the first crack. He was on the minor league disabled list when DeVries was called up, might have been when Walters was too.

Deduno is out of a different mold than most of the right-handers the Twins have trotted out. He is said to have a good fastball, an even better curve, and control issues. In 42 innings in Rochester (nine starts) he has 46 strikeouts and 22 walks, a 2.14 ERA. He also spent some time on the disabled list.

I would expect to see better stuff than from Walters or DeVries, but less idea of how to use it.

If nothing else, Deduno is something different than Blackburn throwing batting practice. But how, or if, he'll fit into the rotation plans after the break remains to be seen. I assume he's out of options, as is Walters, who made his second (and final scheduled) rehab start Friday. If the Twins don't want to waive either, DeVries is the most likely demotion possibility. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

What's wrong with the Tigers?

Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder expected to do a lot
more celebrating this year than they have.

The Detroit Tigers last season won 94 games and pulled away from the rest of the AL Central, then won their first round of the playoffs and came close to knocking off the Texas Rangers in the ALCS.

Then they signed Prince Fielder, and everybody -- well, pretty much everybody -- figured them for 100-plus wins, an easy divisional title, a strong contender for the World Series.

We're now halfway through the season, and things aren't going that way for Detroit.

What's wrong?

Roy Smalley, doing the commentary on the Twins telecast Thursday, at one point said something along the lines of: The difference between the Twins and the Tigers is that the Twins play better defense.

Which is an odd thing to say, because if that were true — that the difference is defense, and the Twins are better — the Tigers shouldn't be 5.5 games ahead of the Twins in the standings.

But defense was the obvious flaw in the Tigers roster before the season, and it has been bad, and it's tempting to blame their disappointing first half on that flaw.

I'm not so sure that narrative is supported by reality.

Consider this: The average American League team entered play Thursday having scored 365 runs. The Tigers have scored 361.

The Tigers are fourth in on-base percentage (.331), and closer to second than to fifth. They're just barely above average in slugging percentage. That combination ought to provide more than average runs scored.

The problem, I think, is that the offense is basically three men: Austin Jackson, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Nobody else with 200 plate appearances is above average in either OPB or SLG.

The Tigers have allowed 368 runs, a bit worse than average — and given the defensive profile of their lineup, that's not too surprising. The "runs saved" defensive metric compiled by Baseball Info Systems suggests the defense has cost Detroit 30 runs compared to the average team; take 30 runs off their runs allowed, and they go from 10th most allowed in the AL to fifth. Good pitching negated by lousy defense.

If they were scoring runs the way they anticipated, the defensive problems wouldn't matter. That's what hasn't happened — yet — for them.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Late night: Tigers 5, Twins 1

Brian Duensing was charged with two
earned runs in 4.1 innings Wednesday,
but with better defense behind him
neither run would have scored.
Box score here

Game story here

Another day, another rain delay, another starting pitcher down.

On Tuesday, the Twins demoted Liam Hendriks and brought back Cole DeVries. On Wednesday, they sent Nick Blackburn and his 8.10 ERA to Rochester and added reliever Casey Fien. This move left a question regarding who would start Sunday against the Rangers.

Then Brian Duensing, who was pitching better than his line score indicates, got nailed in the ankle by a line drive and limped off the field. DeVries, who was scheduled to start Saturday, wound up working two innings (28 pitches). I would now expect DeVries to start Sunday, but that merely moves the starter vacancy up a day to Saturday.

It's a mess. The Twins entered Wednesday with a five-game winning streak, but they had had just one quality start in those five games. The All-Star break and its four days off can't come quickly enough for this patchwork rotation and overworked bullpen.

Duensing is said to have a bruised ankle, no fracture, and presumably will be able to take the ball after the break. Also presumably, P.J. Walters, slated for his second rehab start this weekend, will rejoin the rotation.

At a guess, after the break, the rotation will go Scott Diamond, Francisco Liriano, Walters, Duensing and DeVries. But that is based on the supposition that Walters is ready and Duensing's ankle isn't worse than initially reported.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Late night: Twins 8, Tigers 6

Joe Mauer had a homer, double and single Tuesday night.
Box score here.

Game story here.

Just another game for Joe Mauer: 3-for-5, seven total bases, three runs scored. His slash line is now .332/.420/.464.

But Nick Blackburn was terrible again — a four inning, six-run start that again taxed the bullpen. Blackburn's ERA is now 8.10.

The Twins have been far more patient with Blackburn than they were with Francisco Liriano or Liam Hendricks. I don't know how much more patient they will be.

Liam Hendricks and Cole DeVries

Liam Hendriks leaves the Comerica Field mound
on his way to Rochester.
Liam Hendriks had another rough outing Monday -- four innings, four runs, didn't get an out in the fifth inning after being handed a 5-1 lead -- and the Twins sent him back to Rochester on Tuesday and brought back Cole DeVries.

This is one of those moves that require me to remind myself that the men who make these decisions are closer to the situation than I am. I am an Outsider. There is much I do not know.

But off what I do know, I don't particularly care for this move.

Hendriks has not pitched well. That's obvious -- 0-5, 7.04 ERA, 10 homers allowed in 38.3 innings. DeVries, meanwhile, is 2-1, 3.43 in 21 innings (and five homers allowed) in his two brief major league stints.

But ... one of them figures to have a chance to be a rotation regular for this team, and that's Hendriks, who is four years younger than DeVries and has been consistently better than the Minnesotan in the minors.

Remember the Rule of 30 -- start judging a pitcher AFTER he has 30 major league starts on his resume. Yes, there have been pitchers who hit the majors running. But Greg Maddux was 8-18, 5.59 after his first 32 starts. Tom Glavine was 9-21, 4.76 after 43 starts. On a lower level of career success, Brad Radke was 11-14, 5.32 in his first season (28 starts).

Hendriks has a 3.29 career ERA in 16 Triple A starts. I don't think Triple A hitters are going to teach him much. (DeVries' Triple A ERA is 4.39.)

Hendriks is only going to get better if he faces tougher competition. This team isn't going anywhere. Investing starts in Hendriks now has a better chance of long-term returns than investing them in DeVries.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Prospect stuff

Monday opened the "international signing period," and the Twins inked Amaurys Minier, a 16-year-old Dominican, for $1.4 million -- about half their allotment under the new labor deal for international free agents this year.

Minier is a switch-hitter who is listed as a shortstop but generally reckoned to be destined (quickly) for another position. Baseball America ranks him as the No. 12 international prospect; MLB.com as the No. 4.

Twelve or four, he's 16. He's a long ways away from Target Field.


Miguel Sano reportedly committed three errors Monday night for Beloit, and that makes 31 E's for the super prospect. Seth Stohs astutely noted some time ago, back when there were Internet voices calling for Sano to move up to High A, that nobody who'd actually seen him play thought he was ready for a higher level.


The deadline to sign 2012 draft picks is July 13, and the Twins have inked 12 of the 13 players they selected in the first 10 rounds. The only holdout, according to Baseball America, is L.J. Mazzilli, son of fomer big league player and manager Lee Mazzilli. The younger Mazzilli is a collegiate second baseman, selected in the ninth round.

While I'm sure the Twins would rather sign him than not, I'm not too concerned either way. As a rule, amateur second basemen don't make it to the majors. If you're an infielder talented enough to play in the majors, you were almost certainly a shortstop in amateur ball.


I hesitate to mention this, because it means nothing -- nothing -- but Byron Buxton, the No.2 overall pick last month, is just 1-for-23 so far for the GCL Twins.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Joe Mauer, All Star

Joe Mauer bangs out another base hit, this time
wearing a Minneapolis Millers throwback uni.
I suspect he would rather the Twins
had gone with a St. Paul Saints throwback.
Of course Joe Mauer is the Twins' All-Star.

I generally have little interest in who makes the All-Star team; the selection system is sufficiently flawed and the player interest in the game sufficiently weak that I can't get emotionally connected to the game.

But as a purely practical matter,  making Mauer the lone Twins selection is the obvious choice.

First, let's deal with the "lone" bit. The Twins have had the worst record in the American League for most of the season. They're not getting multiple selectees. It's silly to see them talking about a fifth (or more) of the roster deserving to go. Mauer, Josh Willingham, Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, Denard Span, Scott Diamond ... all have been, more or less seriously, cited as legitimate candidates.

It's a bad team. The won-lost record says so. Bad teams don't have five All-Stars.

This is different than last season, when Michael Cuddyer was a mercy selection. Mauer leads the league in on-base percentage, the single most important offensive statistic. Willingham is having a career season. Neither would be an obvious weak link on the roster.

But there are plenty of outfield candidates as good or better than Willingham. Catcher is a different story.

And, to be blunt about it, the people complaining Sunday on Twitter about Mauer's selection were simply willfully ignorant.