Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Blaine Boyer and the opening bullpen

Blaine Boyer is 9-15,
4.63 with two saves
in eight seasons in
the majors.
The Twins announced Monday that Blaine Boyer had been added to the 40-man roster and would be on the 25-man active roster, Then they started the 33-year-old relief pitcher against the Red Sox that evening.

Not that the start means anything in terms of the team's plans, Kyle Gibson was ill, and a bullpen game fit Paul Molitor's stated intent to stretch out some of the relief pitchers this week.

It didn't go well. Boyer was OK, even though he couldn't get out of the second inning. But Brian Duensing was shelled, and Caleb Thielbar didn't help his slender chances of going north.

It was kind of cute listening to Dan Gladden pretend there is still question about the final bullpen spot. There is no way the Twins are giving J.R. Graham back to the Braves, and that makes this seven-man bullpen:

Glen Perkins, the
one "sure thing"
in the Twins pen,
has had just three
Grapefruit League
Closer: Glen Perkins
Setup 1: Casey Fien
Setup 2/LOOGY: Duensing
MR1: Tim Stauffer
MR2: Boyer
MR3: Graham
Long: Mike Pelfrey

All bullpens are works in progress. The pecking order and personnel behind Perkins is very likely to be shuffled and reshuffled over the course of the season. Fien and Duesning are not ideal for the setup roles, I didn't care for the Stauffer signing from the beginning, Pelfrey is Pelfrey and Boyer's impressive spring is out of context with his track record.

Boyer hit 95 on the stadium gun at least once Monday night. Even if the radar guns in Fort Myers are a bit "hot", he's shown more velocity than he has in the past, and there's been some dispute over one of his pitchers. He calls it a cutter; Terry Ryan, veteran evaluator, says it's a tight slider. Whatever one calls it, it's been effective. Time will tell if this is an illusion.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Sending down velocity

Stephen Pryor cleared
waivers and remains
in the Twins system.
The Twins had optioned out Stephen Pryor about a week ago; on Sunday they outrighted him to Triple A. So now they have the two openings on the 40-man roster they needed to to fit Shane Robinson and Blaine Boyer onto the 25-man roster.

Pryor is a big bodied (listed at 6-4, 245) right-handed reliever who the Twins picked up from Seattle last summer for Kendrys Morales. His reputation is as a hard-thrower, but he was recovering last year from arm surgery, and I really don't know if the velocity and or command is back. For what it's worth, he had a 1.50 ERA in six spring training innings, but just one strikeout. The Twins, at least, were not impressed enough to keep him in the hunt for a bullpen job, and they supposedly are looking for velocity.

The same can be said of Lester Oliveros, outrighted late last week: Has had good velocity in the past, has had significant arm surgery, didn't show enough in camp to remain on the 40, much less crack the active roster. (I had thought that Oliveros had been outrighted before, but that's incorrect. His previous time on the 40-man roster ended when he was non-tendered; the Twins then re-signed him as a minor league free agent. Since he had never been formally outrighted before, the Twins retain his rights.)

The Twins retain both in their system, so they haven't completely discarded either. But they were passed this spring by non-roster invitee Boyer and by Rule 5 pick J.R. Graham, and there are a bunch of big-armed relievers coming up behind them. The clock is ticking.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Pic of the Week

Alex Rodriguez fist-bumps a young autograph seeker
before a spring training game in Clearwater, Florida, on Friday.

If you believe the New York City tabloids (frequently a risky proposition), Alex Rodriguez entered spring training on the verge of physical breakdown and with the Yankees management devoutly wishing that he would quickly reinjure his post-surgical hips. Supposedly the Yankees covet the insurance money on A-Rod's bloated contract more than they covet whatever he can do on the field. (That they had the veteran make the long haul to Clearwater says something about how they view him.)

So far this spring, the 39-year-old is slashing .306/.405/.583 with three homers. He's seen only limited time on the field -- a little third base, a little first base action scheduled for today -- but mostly DH. This was expected; the Yankees re-signed midseason trade acquisition Chase Headley for third base and have Mark Teixeira at first. (It's completely possible that Teixeira will break down before Rodriguez does. Neither veteran has a stellar health record of late.)

There's no need to root for the widely-reviled Rodriguez, who missed all of 2014 to suspension for his involvement in the Biogenesis performance-enhancers scandal. But he's a no-loss proposition for devoted Yankee haters such as me. The Yankees many not want him, but he's not going anywhere, and he's got two more seasons on his contract after this one.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

'Clarity,' indeed

Tommy Milone
gets the fifth
slot in the rotation.
I suppose I could have waited a couple hours to post.

The Twins this morning optioned out Aaron Hicks, Eddie Rosario and Trevor May and reassigned Mark Hamburger. They also announced that Tommy Milone will be the fifth starter.

This sets up a center field platoon of Jordan Schafer and Shane Robinson, which I saw coming a few days ago. I'm fine with this. After the last two springs, nothing Hicks did in Florida was going to sway my view of him, and while I have high hopes for Rosario, I don't think center field in April 2015 is the right job at the right time for him. Schafer and Robinson aren't much of a much, but that just makes it easier to decide that it's Byron Buxton's time in June or July.

Ron Gardenhire would have made a different decision. Gardy never ran a true left-right platoon for more than a month or so. He'd have picked one center fielder to open the season, probably Hicks, and changed to somebody else in late May when Hicks didn't hit, and we've seen this movie before.

Hamburger's departure was also foreseeable. He opened eyes early in camp but faded late; he didn't make either of my bullpen projections this week. He's got a real good chance of coming up at some point this season, though.

I'm glad Milone is in the rotation, even more pleased that Mike Pelfrey isn't, and a bit discouraged that May is not. As I said earlier this morning, May probably needed some veteran injuries to get a rotation spot. The front office stacked too many contracts in front of him. Milone is a good starter with a better track record than Pelfrey or Ricky Nolasco. We didn't see him pitch that way last year.

So what decisions still await? The backup catcher has yet to be determined. One or two or even three bullpen jobs are still in question. We know Glen Perkins, Casey Fien and Brian Duensing are safe, and it would be a shocker if J.R. Graham didn't come north. That leaves three jobs for Tim Stauffer, Caleb Thielbar, Pelfrey, Blaine Boyer and maybe somebody not currently in the Twins organization.

The coming of 'clarity'

Lester Oliveros has
the right to accept
free agency after
being removed from
the 40-man roster
for the second time.
Paul Molitor on Friday promised "clarity" this morning about the pitching staff, specifically about the fifth starter.

Trevor May got dinged up in his start against Pittsburgh. Apparently Aaron Hicks didn't help matters by turning a catchable deep fly into a "double," but it still wasn't a good line score for May. I've figured all spring that May was going to need some injuries among the veterans to snag a rotation spot, and that hasn't happened.

Meanwhile, the Twins outrighted Lester Oliveros. I was barely aware he was on the 40, to be honest, and now he isn't. There are at least three non-roster guys in camp with a legit chance to make the 25-man roster (outfielder Shane Robinson and right-handed relievers Blaine Boyer and Tom Hamburger), so there might be other moves to come.

Oliveros is an alleged hard-thrower (he had, during his brief September callup last year, the single fastest pitch thrown by a Minnesota Twin), but he had arm issues early in camp and was sent out in the first wave of cuts. Meanwhile there is chatter that the Twins are dissatisfied with the velocities left in their bullpen and reports that they're sniffing around Rafael Soriano, the veteran reliever who lost the closer job in Washington last summer and has gone unsigned this winter.

Which, ugh. Soriano's 35 and there must be reasons why nobody signed him.

Current bullpen projection:

Closer: Glen Perkins
Setup 1: Casey Fien
LOOGY 1/Setup 2: Brian Duensing
MR1: Tim Stauffer
MR2: J.R. Graham
MR3: Boyer
Long: Tommy Milone or Mike Pelfrey

If they bring in somebody from the outside, who gets bumped? Not any of the first three, and not Graham, who is a Rule 5 guy with velocity. Ryan's downplayed Stauffer's struggles all month, but maybe he's the guy they're looking to replace in that mix,

Friday, March 27, 2015

Aiken's achin': Implications of a surgery

Brady Aiken, last summer's first overall draft pick whose failed negotiations with the Houston Astros wrecked the signing plans of two other prospects, had Tommy John surgery Wednesday.

The rapidity with which Aiken's injury appeared this spring (in his first start for the IMG Academy's postgraduate team) suggests that the Astros were right last summer about the condition of the lefty's elbow. Aiken and his advisors publicly denied that there was any issue, and I was, for whatever it's worth, skeptical of the Astros' good faith in the entire fiasco. Still am, for that matter; I can name other draft picks whose signing agreement ran aground on the medical exam without turning as ugly as this one did.

Aiken had signed with UCLA before the draft, but never enrolled there; the public nature of last summer's dispute made it likely that the NCAA would deem him ineligible under its nonsencial rules about agents. He's eligible for the draft again this summer, and even with this surgery is very likely to go top 10 again. (Last year a pitcher named Jeff Hoffman went ninth overall despite having Tommy John surgery about a month before the draft.)

The Twins draft sixth in June. Aiken is presumably on their radar.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Center field revisited

Aaron Hicks' stat line
is less impressive than
it was a week ago.
When I wrote here last week about the center field competition, Aaron Hicks was sporting a .330 spring training average. He had maybe one hit since then and dropped to .207 -- which, really only illustrates the silliness of relying on spring training stats to evaluate players. The sample sizes are small, the competition is uneven, the numbers are essentially meaningless.

Even if he were still hitting three-something, so what? He did that in spring trainings 2013 and and 2014, and it didn't prove indicative of anything. Hicks has 150 regular season games, 538 regular season plate appearances, in which he's hit .201. Letting a couple dozen spring training at-bats outweigh that would be silly.

Meanwhile, Eddie Rosario's spring training stats display a red-flag glitch: 40 plate appearances, no walks. He still has a batting average (.256 per Baseball Reference) higher than his on-base percentage (.250). His minor league stat line hardly reveals a Kevin Youkilis-type base-on-balls machine, but it's not that bizarre.

My take on this is that he's trying too hard to impress. There used to be a cliche about Dominican players and their hacking tendencies: You can't walk off the island. The idea was that these players were encouraged to swing at everything because they had to hit the ball to get the scouts' attention. Rosario is from Puerto Rico, not the Dominican, but the concept holds.

Hicks and Rosario are the two young guys in camp who can be seen as full-time center fielders. Veteran fringe players Jordan Schafer and Shane Robinson are more likely to be platoon mates, and that increasingly looks like the direction the Twins will take. Terry Ryan doesn't sound very enthused by that prospect, while Paul Molitor this week expressed openness to platoons and invoked the success Earl Weaver had with platoons back when Molitor was a young player.

One difference, of course, is that Weaver platooned aggressively. His Orioles collected players like John Lowenstein and Benny Ayala specifically to use in such roles. A Schafer-Robinson platoon would be more a passive platoon, chosen out of a lack of better options not for a strategic advantage. Robinson's career splits actually suggest he's a bit "backwards," meaning better against right-handed pitchers, although I don't think 200 or so plate appearances over five seasons each way proves a whole lot. He's probably not the right-handed outfielder you'd pursue if you wanted to build a center field platoon.

Still, Schafer-Robinson is more palatable to me this spring than either Hicks or, I'm sorry to say, Rosario. (If Rosario does come north, I will not complain, but I won'be have high expectations; if it's Hicks, I will complain.) Schafer-Robinson are acceptable until Bryon Buxton arrives, and I hope that's sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Dozier extension

Brian Dozier's negotiating stance:
Give me $20 million or ...
The Twins announced Tuesday morning a four-year contract extension with Brian Dozier. The deal buys out the second baseman's arbitration seasons but doesn't delay his entry into free agency.

As such, it represents a smoothing of the risks. The Twins' risk: If Dozier's knee gets blown out by a baserunner in April, they're still paying him $20 million through 2018. Dozier's risk: If he hits .320 with 45 homers, he can't cash in on that level of production.

$20 million is a life-changing sum, to be sure, but it is a reasonable, maybe a bit low, approximation of what Dozier figured to make in his arbitration years. The Twins didn't add to their years of control of his contract, and they can plug a precise figure into their spreadsheets when figuring salary totals for the next four years.

None of which matters much to me. I'm more concerned about this: Dozier turns 28 in May. The typical peak season for a major league player comes at age 27. So Dozier is already past his theoretical peak year, and the Twins chose this moment to deepen their commitment to him.

The Twins apparently don't see it that way:

Put this contract in the list of reasons to believe the Twins are more resistant to the analytic approach to running a team than they think they are.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Mike Pelfrey and pitch nomenclature

For his career,
Mike Pelfrey has
an ERA+  12 percent
below league average.
I predicted in Monday's post that Mike Pelfrey would get the fifth slot in the starting rotation. I made that prediction on this basis:

  • He's owed $5 million for this season, and the Twins will try to get something for the money.
  • He apparently has a long warmup routine in the wake of his surgeries, which works against putting him in the bullpen. And
  • The Twins have a well-established pattern of preferring veterans in the rotation to open the year, although it's possible Paul Molitor isn't wedded to that philosophy.
All that said, the tone of the reports after Pelfrey's outing Monday against the Phillies suggested that Tommy Milone and Trevor May are ahead of Pelfrey at this point. 

We'll see, I'll be surprised, still, if Pelfrey isn't in the opening rotation.


Pelfrey is well-known as a "sinker-slider guy." So is Kyle Gibson. Sinker-slider guys, by definition, don't have a good change-up; if a pitcher has that as well, he's not limited to sinkers and sliders. 

As part of Neil Allen's mission as pitching coach to emphasize the change-up, Pelfrey has been featuring something the stories about him typically call a "split-change." (In the piece linked to above, Molitor calls it a "split-finger.")

I have a theory on the difference between a "forkball" and a "split-finger fastball." The theory is that if the mindset is to throw the pitch hard (even though it won't have the velocity of a true fastball), you call it a split-finger fastball. The word fastball sets the attitude behind the pitch.

If the reporters are calling Pelfrey's new pitch a split-change, it's because that's what Pelfrey and Allen are calling it. Which suggests the obvious mindset behind this pitch. They want to see significant velocity separation from his other pitches.

The Twins had, since the mid-90s or so, downplayed or discouraged use of the splitter. I remember a spring when Carlos Silva showed up with a splitter. The first day the stories called it a splitter. The second day it was a forkball. By the end of the week it was a changeup. And in the end it was a nonfactor. Silva was a sinker-slider guy to the end of his career.

Which is what I expect will happen with Pelfrey and his new pitch. Obviously a good change would be his benefit, but he's 31 and hasn't mastered one yet. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Molitor's first bullpen

J.R. Graham is a Rule
5 selection and must either
be retained on the 25-man
roster or offered back
to the Atlanta Braves.
The Twins this weekend sent out Michael Tonkin and Ryan Pressly, two right-handers who spent time on the major league roster last season and who entered camp as reasonable bets to win jobs.

Dick Bremer on Saturday described the 2015 bullpen as a "total makeover" or something along those lines. That's overblown. Glen Perkins is still the closer, Casey Fien and Brian Duensing are still the top righty and lefty set up men. Yes, Jared Burton and Anthony Swarzak are gone, but replacing the fourth and sixth men in a seven-man bullpen -- and even the fifth if Caleb Thielbar loses out on a job -- is more rearranging furniture than remodeling.

Of course, Bremer also called the bullpen of the past few years a "strength," and that's overblown as well. You want to see a team whose bullpen in a strength, look at Kansas City -- and realize that neither Fien nor Duensing would get serious use there.

One of the spring training staples of this blog has been projecting Ron Gardenhire's bullpen, Let's take a stab at Paul Molitor's first, with the guys in parenthesis as the ones I'm least certain about:

Tommy Milone may
mark time in the
Closer: Glen Perkins
Setup 1: Fien
LOOGY 1/Setup 2: Duensing
MR 1: Tim Stauffer
MR 2: J.R. Graham
Long:  (Tommy Milone)
LOOGY 2: (Aaron Thompson)

I'm putting Milone in the long man's spot because I've concluded that the Twins will open with Mike Pelfrey in the starting rotation. I wouldn't, but I would have dumped him before spring training. The Twins do not have five better starters than Tommy Milone, but they do have four who are higher paid. Maybe they'll trade him, but I think they'll keep him and wait for somebody to get hurt or fail.

Graham is a Rule 5 pick out of the Atlanta organization who had serious surgery a couple years back and struggled on his return as a starter. The Twins thought a bullpen role would suit him, and that idea is promising enough that they shouldn't return him. I would also think that his role will be lesser until he gets himself established.

Who still in camp am I leaving out? From the 40-man roster, competing for the spot I give to Graham: A.J. Achter and Stephen Pryor. From the non-roster invitees, Blaine Boyer and Mark Hamburger. I'd prefer any of those four to Stauffer, but the Twins made that decision well before camp. For the slot I assigned to Thompson, there's Thielbar.

UPDATE: Since this was posted, the Twins have optioned out Pryor. (I also corrected Mark Hamburger's first name.)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Pic of the Week

Oswaold Arcia (31) loosens up between innings at
Jet Blue Park in Fort Myers while the manual scoreboard
is updated.

Jet Blue is supposed to be a mini-Fenway, complete with its own version of the Green Monster. But, obviously, one difference is that in Boston, the score can be updated from inside the scoreboard.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The demotion of Alex Meyer

Alex Meyer listens to Triple A pitching coach
Marty Mason earlier in spring training.
Meyer's going to be hearing more from
Mason this season.
In reality, the odds of Alex Meyer making the Twins rotation out of training camp became very slim the moment Ervin Santana was signed. There were just too many big salaries lined up in front of Meyer, and the Twins never moved any of the veterans out of his way.

The Twins optioned him out Friday. It was inevitable. Trevor May will follow soon. Meanwhile Mike Pelfrey remains. Ugh.

To be sure, Meyer's outing Thursday illustrated why the Twins are reluctant to create an opportunity for him. He walked four and had catcher Josmil Pinto hopping around to corral pitches.

Still, Meyer is 25 now, and it's probably about time to see something out of him. I understand the rationale behind not considering him for the bullpen; if he's relieving, he'll not be using/developing a change-up.

But that's only an important consideration if he's destined to be a starter. The Twins are showing no urgency on that, not merely because they optioned him out on Friday but because they have stockpiled so many veteran starters to block him (and May, and Jose Berrios ...).

It's going to take some injuries to get the inexperienced pitchers a chance. I don't root for injuries. But this situation is testing that rule.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The center field competition

Shane Robinson was
a popular player among
Cardinals fans.
First there were three genuine candidates for the Twins center field job. Now there are four. The winnowing process, it would appear, is going in the wrong direction.

There remains more than two weeks of spring training, but the indications are that Paul Molitor wants to use the last week of camp to "practice manage" game situations, not evaluate talent. Remember, he's never run a game on any level. So the expectation is that that Twins will look to essentially set their Opening Day roster in 10 days or so.

Let's look at the candidates in alphabetical order:

Aaron Hicks is, for the third spring in a row, putting up good spring training numbers (slash line .330/.400/.500). Call him Mr. March.

Twenty at-bat sample sizes are meaningless to begin with, and particularly so in spring training, and even more so with Hicks. This kind of thing has fooled the decision makers each of the past two springs. I've said this before: I don't know what Hicks can do this spring to convince people that he's better than he's been. He certainly didn't help himself with his wool gathering early on.

He's 25, so growth is possible if  unlikely. Molitor says in this story that Hicks is too young to be a bench guy, that he should play everyday. My take is that Hicks is never going to be more than a fourth outfielder/platoon candidate.

Roster status: 40-man roster, has an option left.

Shane Robinson, 30, split the past four seasons between St. Louis and its minor league affiliates. He's a right-handed hitter, no power, with some speed -- classic fourth- or fifth-outfielder tools. I may be wrong, but he seems to have mainly played corner outfield this spring.

Roster status: Non-roster invitee, but he has, as many non-roster veterans do, an opt-out clause -- if he's not on the 40 by a specific date (in his case, apparently, April 2) he can declare free agency and walk away.

Eddie Rosario, 23, is the guy who wedged his way into the conversation. He has an odd set of splits, .276/.267/.586; he has an on-base percentage lower than his batting average because he has literally never walked but has picked up a sac fly. Patrick Reusse's kind of hitter line, I guess.

Rosario is the only one of the four without major league experience; in fact, he's not played above Double A, and he didn't do much at that level. He is also, presumably, the weakest defensively of the four.

Jordan Schafer is
a .229 lifetime hitter
in  more than 1,300
plate appearances.
Rosario is definitely what Molitor says Hicks is: A young guy with a high ceiling who needs to play every day at some level. He only makes the big league roster as the regular center fielder.

Roster status: 40 man roster, has all three options left.

Jordan Schafer, 28, is the one guy most certain to make the roster, either as the backup behind Hicks or Rosario or in a platoon with Hicks or Robinson. Left-handed hitter who fared better in his 41 games with the Twins late last season than he did in any previous stretch in the majors. Another guy with reserve outfielder tools.

Roster status: On the 40, presumably out of options, has a $1.55 million contract for 2015.

These are the realistic choices for the Molitor and general manager Terry Ryan:

  • Hicks as the regular, Schafer as the backup, Rosario to the minors, Robinson gets to make his choice.
  • Rosario as the regular, Schafer as the backup, Hicks to Triple A, Robinson gets to make his choice.
  • Schafer platoons with Robinson, Hicks and Rosario to the minors.
  • Schafer platoons with Hicks, Rosario to the minors, Robinson gets to make his choice.

My impulse is to vote for the second option, Rosario as the regular. It's consistent with my wish for the organization to push the talent and find reasons to play them. But ... I am also a firm believer that the outfield defense is a bigger problem than the Twins acknowledge, and Rosario as a center fielder doesn't figure to be a defensive asset.

I want him up, but the positions that fit him best aren't available. My guess is that the Twins will opt to follow the same logic that they are following with Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano and send him down.

In which case, I'd say go with option 3, a Schafer-Robinson platoon. There can be no illusion there: These are two low-ceiling players whose purpose is to fill the position until somebody better is ready. Having them in center will give the front office incentive to decide that somebody better -- be it Buxton or Rosario -- is ready.

What's most likely, I fear, is option 1, Hicks as the regular. The definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The shortstop non-competition

Eduardo Escobar led
regular AL shortstops
in OPS last year.
The Twins came into spring training with new manager Paul Molitor saying two somewhat contradictory things about shortstop: First, that he was't "prejudging" the competition between incumbent Eduardo Escobar and Danny Santana, who spent most of 2014 in center. Second, that he views Santana as a shortstop.

Considering how well Santana hit in his major league time last year -- an OPS of .824 -- there was never much doubt that Santana will be in the lineup. It was just a question of where. And the question of where seems answered: Shortstop.

Santana hasn't played any outfield this spring that I'm aware of. The center field competition, which opened with Aaron Hicks, Jordan Schafer and Shane Robinson, has expanded, but to include Eddie Rosario, not Santana.

I remain a skeptic on Santana. There's no reason to expect a guy with a .708 minor league OPS to continue to post a major league .824 OPS, and I don't expect him to be a defensive upgrade over Escobar. But this will play itself out. Santana will open the season at short, but I won't be surprised if he plays himself out of the job by the All-Star break.

If that happens, the Twins still might not restore Escobar to the job. Jorge Polanco might get the call. I sense that the Twins see Escobar as a low-ceiling shortstop, and they'd rather try some high ceiling guys first. I can't really argue with that proposition, other than to wish that they apply that same philosophy to the starting rotation,

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

How not to earn a Gold Glove

This has nothing to do with the 2015 Twins or spring training, but so be it.

I spent some time this past weekend with my Strat-O-Matic project, and got in the process a disillusioning lesson about Jim Kaat.

Part of Kaat's reputation is that he was a legendarily great fielding pitcher, a reputation buttressed by 16 Gold Glove Awards. But in the series I just played, Kaat lost a game in part because of his own error -- and I was stunned to see him graded with an e50 rating. That's not the worst pitcher's e rating I've seen in Strat (another pitcher in the 1969 set, Ray Culp of the Red Sox, has an e56), but it's close.

So I went spelunking into the records. Kaat and Culp, it turns out, tied for the AL lead in pitcher errors in 1969, eight apiece.

And eight errors, at least since the lively ball took most of the bunts out of the game, is a LOT for a pitcher. Since World War II, I count only seven seasons in which any American League pitchers committed that many errors.

I went through Kaat's game logs for 1969 on Baseball Reference. What I found:

  • April 19: errant pickoff attempt at first base, with the runner advancing to third base.
  • June 14: threw ball into center field trying for a force at second. Runner was thrown out trying to take third, but the error stands.
  • July 17: three errors in one game, two on consecutive plays. It started with a throwing error on a squeeze bunt by Walt Williams. Kaat then booted a grounder by the next batter, Luis Aparicio. A couple innings later, Kaat committed a throwing error on a grounder. Kaat was the winning pitcher anyway.
  • Sept. 6: booted a grounder
  • Sept 9: errant pickoff throw, runner taking second.
  • Oct. 2: throwing error on a ground ball.

Certainly there is more to fielding than the avoidance of errors. But that's a pretty lengthy litany of miscues. It's difficult for me to square eight errors with a Gold Glove.

I also noticed some ... interesting pitcher use.

Kaat, in his first start of the season (second game for the Twins), pitched 11 innings. Eleven innings! (He actually opened the 12th but allowed a leadoff walk and was pulled). I'll bet no pitcher goes nine innings in his first start this year, much less 11. (The Kansas City Royals won that 1969 game 4-3 in 17 innings, by the way.)

That Sept. 6 error came in a 9.1 inning relief stint (game went 18 innings). On Sept. 9 -- on just two days rest after the equivalent of a complete game-plus -- Kaat pitched five more innings (and committed another error). Billy Martin, death to pitchers arms.

Part of the legend of Martin's firing as Minnesota manager after a 97-win season is that Calvin Griffith wanted Kaat to pitch Game 3 of the playoffs against Baltimore. Martin started Bob Miller instead, Miller didn't get out of the second inning, the Twins were swept and Martin got fired.

But looking at Kaat's pitching log, it's no surprise Kaat didn't get the ball. Kaat made just two starts after August, giving up eight runs in 10 innings in those starts. (He had six relief outings in September.) His ERA after July was 5.09. Griffith may have wanted Kaat in Game 3; Martin certainly didn't.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Position competition

Chris Herrmann might be the backup catcher. He might
be a general utility player. Or he might get sent back to
the minors.
The Miguel Sano demotion was made official Monday morning, underscoring the new phase of spring training. It's now not about looking at prospects while easing the players into action. Now the job competition begins in earnest.

In that light, the weekend saw two players who had drawn attention earlier get starts at positions of need.

On Saturday, Chris Herrmann started at catcher. He had two hits in three trips to the plate. More important: Starter Ricky Nolasco pronounced himself pleased with how Herrmann received his pitches.

For what it's worth, Herrmann made a poor throw on an early steal by the Cardinals Saturday. A few batters later, Yadier Molina took off, and Herrmann threw him out. Molina might be the fastest of the Molina brothers, but that's merely to say he can outrun a boulder. Having Molina try to steal was sort of an insult, a "Let's see if this guy can throw anybody out" move.

On Sunday, Eddie Rosario got the start in center field. That the Twins are seriously considering Rosario for the job while Byron Buxton and Sano have already been sent out suggests that they're not anywhere near satisfied with the Aaron Hicks-Jordan Schafer-Shane Robinson options. After all, the rationale for sending Buxton and Sano out applies to Rosario as well. It also suggests that they are unwilling to resort to the Danny Santana fallback option for center.

Center field is not Rosario's end game, but there is certainly more upside to him as a hitter than there is with the other three candidates. The question is, can he handle the position defensively? No matter who winds up with the job, he's not getting a lot of help from the corner outfielders.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The next step of spring training.

Jose Berrios was among the first cuts the Twins made,
but not because he pitched poorly.
The Twins made one set of camp cuts before Sunday's game and another set after it.

We know that Byron Buxton, Jose Berrios and Max Kepler were sent to the minor league side. There are conflicting reports on Miguel Sano, who told reporters he had been told he was being sent out but who wasn't on the list issued Sunday afternoon by the Twins.

That sounds like some language barrier at work. My guess is they told Sano he will be sent out soon, and he understood it to be immediately.

The departure of Buxton, Sano and Berrios -- plus Kepler and Jorge Polanco -- removes much of the interest from spring training for me, so it's just as well that this isn't a year for a Fort Myers jaunt for me.

Nor are these early demotions a surprise.

The Twins were never going to seriously consider either Buxton or Sano for the big club this spring, not after their injury-ridden 2014s. And the millions the front office has invested in veteran starting pitchers -- Phil Hughes, Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco, Mike Pelfrey, Tommy Milone, even Tim Stauffer -- appears to preclude more advanced arms than Berrios (Alex Meyer and Trevor May) from getting April action.

Early demotions for Buxton, Berrios and the others were the plan, and the Twins are sticking with that plan. I'm not endorsing the plan, but I understand it. If Buxton isn't going to be the centerfielder, and he isn't, send him down and free up the playing time for the guys who might be. If Berrios isn't going to be in the April rotation, send him down and open the innings to stretch out the guys who will be.

I say that even though I would much rather watch Berrios and Buxton than Aaron Hicks or Jordan Schafer, or Pelfrey or Stauffer. When we get down to it, the Chattanooga Lookouts figure to be a much more interesting team to watch this year -- Buxton, Sano, Polanco, Kepler, maybe Berrios -- than the big league team will be. That was my expectation coming into spring training, and it's my expectation halfway through spring training.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Pic of the Week

Miguel Sano follows through on his swing on Saturday's
two-run homer against St. Louis in Jupiter, Fla.

A bit of the future today. Maybe you saw this one on TV Saturday -- the game was broadcast back home. A long, towering tater from "Bocaton," and it impressed observers:

That last tweet is interesting. because when Sano gets to the majors, it's to take Plouffe's current job. Maybe Plouffe switches positions, maybe he switches teams, but there isn't room for both on the Twins in the long run.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Rosario Scenario

Eddie Rosario had
a lost 2014 season
after his drug suspension.
Eddie Rosario had a pretty good game Friday.

As a left fielder, he showed off his throwing arm, nailing Pittsburgh leadoff man Josh Harrison at second on a ball Harrison hit off the left-field fence,

As a hitter, he hit his third home run of the spring.

From 1500ESPN's Derek Wetmore, Twins assistant GM Rob Anthony:

"He's a guy that can play center field. He's a guy that could jump right into that competition with the [Jordan] Schafers and [Aaron] Hicks and [Shane] Robinsons of the world. So keep an eye on him as spring progresses." 

While my opinion certainly carries no weight in the Twins roster deliberations, I thought off Rosario's Arizona Fall League stint that he ought to be given a real opportunity this spring, so that kind of talk from the likes of Antony should sit well with me.

But I'm not sure I take it that seriously. Yes,. Paul Molitor has been saying good things about Rosario's supposedly improved work ethic. But ... the corner outfield jobs are sealed off by Oswaldo Arcia and Torii Hunter, The one outfield job available is center field, which isn't Rosario's end game.

Rosario's spent much of the past three years at second base; he hasn't had all that much center field time since 2011. Even this spring, with the CF job open, Rosario has been mainly playing left field. Center has belonged to Hicks, Schaefer and Byron Buxton.

I'll believe Rosario is viewed as a serious center field candidate when he gets serious center field time.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Chris Herrmann, catcher

Chris Herrmann  is now
27, the theoretical
prime year for a baseball
Chris Herrmann is listed on the Twins 40-man roster as an outfielder. This apparently irks him; he views himself as a catcher who happens to play other positions as well.

But Ron Gardenhire used Herrmann for all of one inning behind the plate last season. He essentially split his major league playing time between right and left fields. Even in Triple A, he caught in 26 games, played left in 23, right in eight. (There was chatter last year about trying him in center field, but that doesn't appear to have happened on any level.)

Still, Herrmann is right, at least in terms of what he might do to help a major league team. If he has a big league future ahead of him, it's as a catcher. Everybody needs a backup catcher. And Herrmann has a mix of attributes that theoretically play well for a bench role.

He hits left-handed, and hit rather well at Rochester (.304/.373/.505). He his, unlike his compettion for the backup job, experience at other positions.

He's a better defensive catcher than Josmil Pinto but not as good as Eric Fryer. He's a better hitter than Fryer but not as good as Pinto. Whether he's good enough at either to justify putting him into games to do it is unproven.

Paul Molitor appears more interested than Gardenhire was in taking advantage of platoon opportunities. That gives Herrmann a leg up on Pinto and Fryer for the backup job. Kurt Suzuki, the regular, hits right; so do Pinto and Fryer.

One aspect to Thursday's game that got some comment afterwards was the performances of \Herrmann and Eddie Rosario, a pair of left-handed hitters, against left-handed pitchers late in the contest.

Herrmann apparently impressed Molitor with the quality of a late at-bat in which he fell behind a left-handed pitcher but extended the at-bat before driving home the eventual winning run with a sac fly.

Patrick Reusse has said that he believes Molitor really wants Herrmann to win a roster spot. But what we haven't seen, at least so far, is much use of him behind the plate. Herrmann played left field Wednesday; he was at first base Thursday. To be sure, there are plenty of other catchers in camp, and getting Kurt Suzuki ready is priority one.

Minor league camp has opened now, and presumably Molitor will start to thin out the crowd of pitchers and catchers on the major league side. Also presumably, Herrmann will then start to get some time receiving. If he doesn't, it's hard to see what role he can have on the roster.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

"... out of the reach of an outstretched Torii Hunter"

From Wednesday's exhibition game, Twins vs Rays:

I suspect we'll be seeing and hearing a lot of that second sentence this year.

To be sure, that sentence is open to interpretation. I bring my expectations to it, you bring yours. I am quite certain that Hunter's range isn't good any more, a belief I hold in large part because of the defensive metrics; at least one of my readers thinks I'm nuts to put any weight on the objective measurements. He and I are never going to convince each other, and I'm fine with that. I didn't see this play, and I haven't seen or heard anybody describe it in detail.

Maybe it was a ball that reasonably should have been caught but Hunter couldn't get there. Maybe it wasn't catchable. Maybe Hunter came closer to it than right field predecessor Oswaldo Arcia would have -- which isn't necessarily saying much. I don't know.

I expect that there will be an above-average number of extra-base hits against the Twins outfield (at least until Byron Buxton is installed in center). Some will say that's on the pitchers. I think the outfielders will share a big part of the blame. Arcia, by either the metrics or the eye test, is a poor outfielder; Hunter, by the metrics, is now worse than Arcia; and none of the likely center fielders is good enough to make up the difference.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The center field competition

Byron Buxton chases down a ball
in an early spring training drill.
Aaron Hicks has legitimately been the best outfielder in the Twins spring training the past two years. Not just the best centerfielder, the best outfielder, period.

And once the season began, it meant nothing.

So I'm not sure what the Twins are looking for from Hicks this spring to convince them he's the man for the center field job. I'm quite sure that it isn't the vapor lock he's exhibited the past couple of games.

The other day Hicks was picked off first and saved by a balk call, which moved him to second -- where he promptly got picked off again.

On Tuesday Hicks lost track of the outs, and Paul Molitor pulled him from the game and inserted Byron Buxton.

Buxton drew a pair of walks and pulled off a Buxton baserunning move, going first-to-third on a single to left that the Toronto broadcasters described as a "looping liner." Baserunners generally don't make that play work -- the throw to third is a short one -- but Buxton motors. I don't know that he's the fastest guy in baseball, as Tom Kelly suggested in the summer of 2013, but he's close. Hicks is fast. Buxton is faster.

Meanwhile, Shane Robinson, the former St. Louis Cardinal reserve, committed an error in right field.

I know full well this isn't going to happen, but I will again say: Buxton is probably the best bet, right now, for center field in the Twins camp. I know he barely played more than two weeks at a time last summer, and I know he has one game above A ball on his resume. Put him in the lineup, and he'll provide Gold Glove defense, steal some bases and outhit Hicks, not that that last is all that impressive.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Sano's spring

Miguel Sano takes a throw at third base
during a spring training drill.
Miguel Sano hit an impressive home run Monday -- impressive for distance (well over 400 feet), impressive for the quality of the pitcher (Garrit Cole of the Pirates).

Impressive, too, because it seems nobody believes he really hit it that well. One of the Pirates announcers -- I think it was the old pitcher Steve Blass -- said he thought it was an infield fly when he hit it. Sano apparently told the writers the same, then laughed and pointed to his biceps.

I expect he'll be sent to the minor league side soon. He's on the 40-man roster, and he's not really competing for a major league job this spring, so the sooner he's officially optioned out the sooner the Twins are protected from starting his service time with a DL stint should he get hurt.

The early exhibitions have marked Sano's first game action in more than a year, since his elbow started barking at him and eventually led to Tommy John surgery a year ago. He's apparently shown some rust afield with a couple of errors; he's also prompted the writers to issues some admiring tweets for sharp defensive plays.

He's a big man, is Miguel Sano, bigger than most third basemen, and his bulk leads to a lot of speculation about whether he can play third in the majors. But he's also mighty big for an outfielder.

One thing we haven't seen at all this spring is any serious sign of a position shuffle to prepare for his ascension to the big club. Sano's a third baseman. Trevor Plouffe is the incumbent at that spot, While Sano's been spotted making flip throws as a first baseman during pitchers fielding practice, manager Paul Molitor and general manager Terry Ryan continue to say Sano's a third baseman -- and moving Sano to first wouldn't shift him to a vacancy anyway. Meanwhile, there's been no indication that Plouffe has been asked to brush up the outfield skills he spent spring training 2012 polishing.

These things have a way of working themselves out. My guess is that this one will work itself out with Plouffe getting traded. But that's some time away from happening.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Non roster infield depth

Jose G. Martinez
is 29 and on his
fourth organziation.
I made this point during the winter: The Twins list of non-roster invitees this spring is relatively light on players from other organizations and particularly light on guys with major league resumes. For the most part the NRIs are guys from the Twins own farm system.

This suggests that the organization is comfortable with the idea of stocking its upper level minor league clubs (Triple A Rochester in particular) with the products of the lower levels. That really hasn't been the case for several years.

Argenis Dias has a
career average in
the minors (11 seasons)
of .264.
There are exceptions, however. There are five infielders among the non-roster invitees, and three of them are new to the organization. (James Beresford has never played for anybody else, and Triple-A lifer Doug Bernier is entering his third season with the Twins.)

Jose Martinez, for example. He started with St. Louis, spent two years with Houston  and last season at Triple A for Oakland. He's 29 and has yet to see the majors.

Argenis Diaz has -- back in 2010, he got 33 at-bats with Pittsburgh. He was 23 then. Now he's 28, and the Twins are his seventh organization.
Heiker Meneses
has 117 minor league
stolen bases.

Heiker Meneses is the youngest of the trio (23) and the least traveled; he's spent all seven of his professional seasons in the Red Sox system. He also appears to be the lightest hitter of the three newcomers.

Presumably these five will be the Rochester infield (other than first base) while Double-A Chattanooga brims with the real prospects, such as Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco, They are playing this spring not so much in hopes of cracking the opening day roster as to be first in line should an injury open a spot on the major league roster.

The Rochester Five are all multi-position guys. None figure to be anybody you'd want to plug into the starting lineup. My guess is that right now Bernier would be option one for a bench spot. By July, Polanco and Sano might be deemed ready to be given big league playing time, but they're not coming to Minneapolis to be reserves.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Pic of the Week

Tampa Bay third baseman Evan Longoria gets his
hair cut by 6-year-old Joshua Fisher before Friday's
spring training game against the Twins as part of a
charity fundraiser.
The idea: Donate $100 to a pediatric cancer charity, you get to cut a Tampa Bay player's hair.

It might be a gamble for the player, but they're not like me. They're young. Their hair will grow back.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Josh Hamilton issue

Josh Hamilton, faded superstar and drug addict, is reportedly the subject of a heated debate over how to handle his apparent relapse. Should he be suspended for as much as the entire season or not? Should he be required to enter rehab? Supposedly the four-member panel has split evenly on what to do.

I can't pretend to know what outcome here is best for Hamilton. I do think this: The primary goal of a drug program should be the employee's sobriety and safety. I hope that the reported split on the panel is the result of honest disagreement over what is best for Hamilton, not a labor-management split over money.

The panel ought not be concerned with protecting the Angels from the consequences of their five-year, $125 million contract with the outfielder. The Angels doubtless regret the deal; it was a foolish contract even without Hamilton's well-known history of substance abuse. But they went into the deal knowing that he was into his decline years, knowing that he was leaving one of baseball's most hitter-friendly parks, knowing that his sobriety was hard-won and never secure. None of that was any sort of secret.

I have the same attitude on this as I do on the Yankees' desire to be out from under the Alex Rodriguez contract. You made this bed, fool. Lie in it.

Friday, March 6, 2015

What does a miracle take?

There's spring training optimism, and then there's this. from Terry Ryan via MLB.com's Rehtt Bollinger:

"We need to set the bar higher here. There's no sense in talking improvement. We want to get to the postseason."

Well, sure, you want to. But ... go through the list of "miracle" teams -- teams who spent years in the dumps and suddenly emerged to win a pennant -- and you're just not going to find any who did it by importing 39-year-old outfielders and 32-year-old starters.

I'm reading a book now on the "Impossible Dream" 1967 Red Sox, one of those miracle teams. What happened in Boston:

  • A new, caustic manager (Dick Williams) broke up the country-club atmosphere that had long settled into the clubhouse. Williams was fired two years later -- nobody could stand being around him anymore -- but short-term it worked.
  • Williams gave young talent a chance to play. He put Reggie Smith, a player without a set position in the minors, in center field and lived with offensive struggles early. He installed Mike Andrews at second base and was smart enough, despite his tendency to ramp up the pressure, to ease off on the fragile psyche of shortstop Rico Petrocelli.
  • Carl Yastzremski and Jim Lonborg, two talented players of (to that point) lesser accomplishment, emerged as the best hitter and starter respectively in the league that year.

The youth is the thing here, really, Look at the 67 Red Sox in Baseball Reference, and the oldest player among the eight regulars (no DH) was Yaz. He was 27. Of the five pitchers with more than 100 innings, the oldest were 30 (Lee Stange and Gary Bell).

Meanwhile, Ryan's 2015 projected regulars include five names older than that: Kurt Suzuki, Joe Mauer, Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe and Torii Hunter. The pitching staff figures to have at least six guys older than 30 (Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco, Glen Perkins, Casey Fien, Tim Stauffer and Brian Duensing, and that's assuming that somebody comes to their senses and gets rid of Mike Pelfrey).

Youth. Williams, first-year manager, was 38 in 1967. Paul Molitor, first-year manager, is 58.

The Twins could go young, But they won't.

Now, going young hardly guarantees a miracle team. There's a reason they're referred to as miracle teams, after all. But going old ... that's guaranteed not to produce breakthroughs.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The team of the future

I sure didn't mind listening to the Twins-Gophers radio broadcast Wednesday night. I was even happy to hear Dan Gladden, although the charm will soon wear off, I'm sure.

The game itself didn't mean much other than as a lineup to dream on. Byron Buxton in center, Miguel Sano at third, Eddie Rosario in left field, J.O. Berrios on the mound.

I expect that those four will open the season at Double A Chattanooga. I wouldn't mind -- at all -- if any of them opened the season with Minnesota. That's not the way Terry Ryan prefers to operate, however.

Still, I have to believe that Buxton could hit a least .250 with top-shelf defense and 50-plus steals if the Twins just put him in center and let him go. And we should know by now that they aren't going to get anything close to that from Aaron Hicks, Jordan Schaefer or Shane Robinson. The Twins aren't going to burn a half-year or year of service time to develop him at the highest level, however. I know that.

It's just something to dream on. And wait on, for a while.

Yeah. I just wish it was here.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Front office wanna bes

There are 30 teams in baseball and 30 general manager jobs. Well, some of the teams call the job something else -- Tampa Bay's org chart calls it "president of baseball operations" -- but each team has somebody at the top of the heap delegating, supervising, making the final call on moves (and getting the praise or heat on same).

Terry Ryan followed a essentially traditional route to the job: He pitched in the minor leagues, got hurt, went into scouting, moved up the ladder into the front office and eventually into the top job. But many organizations, maybe most, now have GMs -- and future GMs in the pipeline -- with no professional playing background whatsoever. Jed Hoyer (or if you prefer, Theo Epstein) of the Cubs. Jeff Ludnow of the Astros. Michael Silverman of the aforementioned Rays. Ben Cherington of the Red Sox. Sandy Alderson of the Mets, the man who built the Bash Brothers dynasty of the Oakland A's, was the pioneer of the type -- outsiders with academic acumen instead of athletic accomplishment.

Few men at the top of organizations today played in the majors. There are Billy Beane of Oakland, Ruben Amaro of Philadelphia and Dave Stewart of Arizona, and it's unclear to me how much authority Stewart actually has. I don't think there are any other former major leaguers now serving as general managers.

Beane is famous for his embrace of the sabermetric approach and Amaro notorious for his rejection of same -- from which we should draw afresh the caution that humans don't come out of cookie cutters. But in the main, front offices are becoming the domain of the non-athlete because the academics have the better grasp of the analytics.

Let us, with that background established, consider the front office ambitions put forth in recent days by a pair of Twins veterans, Glen Perkins and Torii Hunter. Perkins -- white and a college man who is, at least by player standards, knowledgeable about sabermetrics -- specifically talked about going into the player development side and merging traditional scouting with the new-age numbers. Hunter -- black and a high-school signee who this winter disparaged defensive metrics and those who consider them -- talks of wanting to someday be a general manager.

From USA Today:

"I really want to get into that front office, make some changes, and build a team that I want to build,'' Hunter says. "I'd love to learn everything from Terry. He'll be a mentor. One day, that's my goal, to be GM of the Twins.''
Watching this team from the outside, I see few signs that the front office takes the analytics seriously, even if Ryan insists he never makes a move without out consulting Jack Goin, the team's in-house numbers guy.

It is my hope that Ryan's successor, whoever it is and whenever that occurs, will be more attuned to to analytics than Ryan himself is. Off his commentary on the subject during the winter, that's not Hunter. Perkins has the more palatable mindset for a modern front office.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Notes, quotes and comment

Something you don't see every day: Ervin Santana is obliquely referred to in a corporate financial report.

The Atlanta Braves are owned by Liberty Media, which late last week (per the Atlanta Journal Consitution) filed a document with the Security and Exchange Commission blaming an unspecified profit decline on Santana and Dan Uggla

The AJC:

Liberty didn’t specifically name the players, but cited “increased player payroll due to season ending injuries at key positions which required additional players to be added to the roster” and the release of other players whose “full (remaining) contracts were recognized” during the year for accounting purposes.
Those explanations are clear references to Santana, signed for $14.1 million after injuries to other starting pitchers last spring, and Uggla, released in July with about 1 ½ seasons remaining on a multi-year contract.

Santana, of course, is now with the Twins.


When the pitchers started throwing bullpens, I cited Glen Perkins as one arm to watch. Did the winter's rest-n-rehab suffice to fix the problems that ended his 2014 season prematurely?

So far, the answer is yes. Perkins, according to Mike Berardino, is throwing not only fastballs but sliders during live batting practice and getting swings and misses even when the hitters know the slider's coming.

Perkins will get an inning Wednesday in a game between the Twins and his (and my) alma mater, the University of Minnesota. Yes, the games are starting.


I spent much of the past week fighting a virus, so I can sympathize: There's a bug of some sort (reports are calling it the flu) going through the Twins clubhouse. Among the players who've missed workouts: Trevor Plouffe, Byron Buxton, Oswaldo Arcia, Kurt Suzuki and Trevor May. That's far from a complete accounting. It's probably not over yet, either.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Minnie Minoso, underappreciated legend

Orestes "Minnie" Minoso finished in the top four
of MVP voting four times in his distinguished
career. He was 92 when he died, unless he was
a different age; nobody's really sure when
he was born in Cuba.
News broke Sunday of the death of White Sox icon Minnie Minoso, the first black major leaguer for a Chicago team, a standard bearer for black Cubans in the majors and one heck of a baseball player.

The Cuban Comet's not in the Hall of Fame; he was among the finalists turned down in December by the Veterans Committee. That he wasn't in already was and remains a mistake, of course. Beyond his pioneer status in the integration of baseballs and the influx of Caribbean players, Minoso was a standout.

In his most recent Historical Abstract, which is admittedly not very recent, Bill James ranks Minoso 10th all time among left fielders. Among the left fielders James ranks lower: Billy Williams, Ed Delahanty, Joe Medwick, Jesse Burkett, Lou Brock, Goose Goslin, Ralph Kiner, Fred Clarke, Zach Wheat, Joe Kelley, Heinie Manush, Jim Rice ... Hall of Famers all. Maybe you think some of them are better than Minoso, but this is not a random ranking.

So why is Minoso out of Cooperstown? Timing, perhaps, has a role. Minoso's career essentially spans the Stengel years of the Yankee dynasty. Minoso was with the White Sox in the year Cleveland won the pennant; he was with Cleveland the year the Sox won the pennant. His career didn't really get started until his age 25 (per Baseball Reference) season, late for a player of his caliber; race may have played a role in that. His home park for most of his career, Comiskey Park, was designed to suppress hitting; Minoso would have more impressive totals had he played for almost any other team.

But those are excuses, not reasons, Minoso was a superb player and a fan favorite, and he was recognized as such in his playing days, How the writers overlooked him for induction is yet another of their travesties.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Pic of the Week

A Cleveland Indians player's shadow during a round
of batting practice in Arizona.

Shadows and silhouettes. There were a lot of them in last week's spring training photos, and ultimately I had to just pick one to get this ball rolling.