Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Day Games vs. Night/Evening Games

Well it's been a little while since the last post, but I figured it was necessary to get back on here again to address an issue that has become repetitive the last couple years. Last year on August 17, the Twins were 7 games above .500 in night games (41-34) and 12 games below .500 in day games (15-27). This year the Twins are 13 games above .500 in night games (35-22) compared to 6 games under .500 in day games (10-16). This pattern has killed the Twins the past two seasons, keeping them from winning the division in the regular season and forcing them to play an extra game - 163 - which the team is 1-1 in.

Now what is causing this change? Some people say that it is a change in routine that is causing players to not perform well, but the opposing teams also have to change their routine. It seems pretty obvious that Gardenhire usually rests his players on the day game after a night game, which sometimes makes sense, but not when you do it every single time. Is there really any difference resting a player the night game before a day game instead? Or how about a night game between two night games?

With a team that has the depth this team does, Gardy should be able to rest one player a night/day throughout the week. Sure some of the players (Span, Cuddyer, Young, Hudson, etc.) may just have their scheduled off day once every two weeks, but it still would allow the team to put out a lineup everyday that can produce solid offense. One of Gardy's reasons in the past for not hitting Mauer 2nd in the order was that he didn't want to put a Tolbert or Punto at the bottom of the order and having 2-3 non productive offensive players in a row - really? What about the lineup where Punto was leading off, Tolbert was hitting 2nd, Harris was hitting 8th, and Butera was hitting 9th? Yes - this was a day game lineup. Anyways, back to my point, if you rest Mauer on the night game before this day game, then the Twins are able to have Mauer in the game when they are resting a different player.

Now in some of these cases, where the Twins trot out their "B" lineup and don't score any runs, the starter gives up 4, 5, 6 runs or so and then Gardy uses the pitching as an out. Well these guys are human and if they see the Butera's, Punto's, Tolbert's, and before being sent down Harris in the lineup, I think that they would feel the pressure put on them, that they need to shut down the opponent to even have a chance at winning the game.

It just seems like Gardy is giving away these day games and just hoping they can scrap together a win, instead of spreading out the days these guys get days off. It is something I hope changes before they are headed towards another game 163.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Nathan done for the season? ... Closer options

With it looking like Joe Nathan will miss the entire 2010 season, the Twins will have a huge hole to fill. Most media outlets are pointing at either Matt Guerrier or Jon Rausch being the leading candidates. There really are not too many current closers available, but one who seems like he should be readily available is Padres closer Heath Bell. Bell, who saved 42 games on a bad Padres team, is signed for a relatively cheap $4 million for this season (sure the Twins might not have that much room left after raising their current payroll to around $95 million, but compared to some other closers who might be available - Wood, Cordero, etc. - his contract is pretty cheap).

Earlier this offseason it was rumored that the Twins offered Glen Perkins to the Padres for Kevin Kouzmanoff, but the Padres wanted Alexi Casilla included. The Twins turned down that counter-offer. Maybe now that the Twins have Orlando Hudson signed, they could package the two (Perkins & Casilla) for Heath Bell. I doubt that would be enough for an all-star closer, but you never know how other teams may value your players. I think a deal including Perkins and one of the following prospects: either Ben Revere, Anthony Slama, or Rob Delaney could land Bell.

I know the Twins value their prospects, but the Twins are extremely deep in outfield talent throughout the organization and they also have some very solid relief pitching prospects. Revere is projected to be a similar player to Denard Span with more speed, but less power. The Twins have top prospects Aaron Hicks, Angel Morales, and possibly Chris Parmelee all projected to be solid outfielders, so losing Revere would not hurt them or set them back much at all.

As far as relievers go, I feel that they have not moved Delaney or Slama through the system fast enough. Each has dominated at each level they have been at (except maybe at AAA, but neither spent the entire season at AAA - both started at AA and were moved up during the season) but yet the Twins did not move them up to the next level until the following season. I feel the Twins may be regretting the decision to move so slowly on these players as if they would have moved them a little faster, one or the other could possibly be ready to step in closer's role and do an adequate job. Instead, each will more than likely start at AAA and be moved up sometime during the season when necessary. Anyways, with this said, the Twins have a good amount of relief prospects that are in the system, so trading either Delaney or Slama would hurt the club's depth too bad. They have prospects Alex Burnett, Billy Bullock, and Ben Tootle, who all throw hard and any one of them could develop into a closer in the future.

While I hope that Nathan is able to pitch through the pain this season, I realize that it is very unlikely. With that said, the Twins will most likely go with an in-house candidate for their closer. I believe this team is ready to win now and they should trade for Heath Bell. Like I mentioned above, I believe that (based on reports earlier this offseason) the Padres are/were interested in Perkins and Casilla, but I also believe that the Padres would want a solid prospect in return for Bell. The thing with prospects is that you never know what they will turn out to be, so my philosophy is trade the unknown for the known in this situation. Look at two of the Twins current starters who will likely start the season in AAA - Jeff Manship & Anthony Swarzak. Each of them were among the top 10 Twins prospect as recent as last spring and now neither looks like they will be better than a #3 starter at the major league level. Granted they are both still young and have upside, but my case is that a player can dominate at A, AA, or AAA and that doesn't necessarily mean that they will dominate at the major league level.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Offseason thoughts

After reading multiple sources (La Velle E. Neal III & John Paul Morosi) it seems like the Twins are looking for a third baseman to sign for next year. Some of the names being included are Mark DeRosa, Adrian Beltre, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Juan Uribe, and Joe Crede. If it were up to me I would lean towards Mark DeRosa as he can play multiple positions (2B, 3B, LF, RF) and the other three are exclusively third basemen with the possible exception of Uribe, but I am not a big fan of how he would fit into this offense.

I also am a fan of Kouzmanoff. It has been documented that he has worked tirelessly on his defense in the past few seasons and it has paid off as he has reduced his errors in each of the past three seasons - only 3 errors in 2009. He has some pop (hit at least 18 HRs each of the last three seasons) and while some do not like his low average, you can look at his home/away splits to see that hitting at Petco has really hurt his average throughout his career. Kouzmanoff is a career .285 hitter away compared to .239 at home. I believe in this lineup Kouzmanoff would hit around .280 with 20 HRs and 80-85 RBI, which would be solid numbers for a guy who would be hitting 7th or 8th. Also, it seems like he would be available since the Padres do not want to pay him the raise he is due especially when they have Chase Headley waiting to take over 3B duties.

I would like to see Bill Smith get creative and sign one of the 2B available. I know that he said that Gardy would find a place for Punto - likely 2B - but Punto's place should be as a utility player. I think either Felipe Lopez or Orlando Hudson would fit nicely into this lineup hitting in front of Mauer. Neither would cost the Twins any draft picks and both play solid defense.

With the Twins having at least one hole (3B) and probably another (2B) it at least seems like they will sign another infielder or trade for one to shore up their lineup. As of now it seems like JJ Hardy will be hitting in the 2 hole, but it would be nice to have someone with a little higher obp hitting there. Hopefully Mr. Smith can get something done to help solidify this club and hopefully make it more than just a Central Division contender.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Hardy and other offseason predictions/suggestions

I still believe that the Twins need to get a veteran pitcher and I have been pushing hard for the Twins to go after Garland. The Twins had a ridiculous record when they held opponents under 4 runs (something like 42-7 through mid-August) and Garland gave up 3 or fewer earned runs in 23 of his starts this past season which would probably translate into 14-15 wins if you consider no decisions and the couple times the offense fails. I do like the other options (Pavano & Washburn) as well, but I think Garland would be my preference - see my August 20 post.

I think taking a chance on a Sheets/Bedard/Harden type would be a good risk as the Twins need to be able to match up with Verlander and Peavy. Especially since the Twins did not have to give up any pitching (Perkins or Liriano) for Hardy, they still have some depth in the rotation if one of those oft-injured free agents can't get healthy. I think that's the one part of the Hardy deal that people haven't really looked at - it seems like the Brewers really are in need of starting pitching and the Twins didn't have to give up any.

With the outfield now pretty much set, I would like to see the Twins sign Polanco even though it would mean that Gardo would put Punto at 3rd. Polanco would fit perfectly in the 2 hole in front of Mauer and the rest of the lineup would fall into place (Span, Polanco, Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Kubel, Young, Hardy, Punto - Gardy might interchange Kubel & Cuddyer in the 5th/6th spot and Young & Hardy in the 7th/8th spot, but with one signing that makes the Twins lineup pretty deep and formidable - if Hardy hits 8th, he should have more pitches to hit as well as less pressure on him to perform than when he was in Milwaukee, not to mention the Twins really have no one ready in their system that should threaten his spot). I think if that's the route the Twins would go, then if Valencia was tearing up AAA (which might or might not happen), then he could step in at 3rd midway through the season - assuming that Punto is struggling offensively (which is hard to tell because it is an even year - Punto has proven to perform better during contract years.)

Another thing to look for is to see if Harris or Tolbert take extra fly balls. I think that Tolbert makes the most sense as he has the advantage in speed and athleticism, but I think Harris has a better arm. I do not see either having much difficulty converting to the outfield as many teams draft shortstops and convert them to the outfield - see BJ Upton, Justin Upton, Cuddyer. The main point behind my reasoning is that it would allow the Twins to use an extra roster spot for someone like a Mike Sweeney (a veteran bat to come off the bench) or an extra reliever. The Twins will have their starting 9 plus these two players as utility players giving them 11 position players and not needing an extra outfielder taking up space. If you add a Mike Sweeney or Kevin Millar type player that would leave room for 13 pitchers. Now I doubt the Twins want to go with 13 pitchers, but with the way the Twins baby their pitchers, they might need that extra guy out there, especially if they do not sign a veteran innings eating pitcher. Below is ideally how I would see their roster shaping up:

1. Span - CF
2. Polanco - 2B
3. Mauer - C
4. Morneau - 1B
5. Cuddyer - RF
6. Kubel - DH
7. Young - LF
8. Hardy - SS
9. Punto - 3B

IF - Harris
IF/OF - Tolbert
IF - Sweeney/Millar

Starting Pitching
1. Harden/Bedard/Sheets - if they are unable to sign one of these pitchers - then try for Garland/Washburn
2. Baker
3. Slowey
4. Blackburn
5. Duensing

Relief Pitching
CL: Nathan
RHSU: Guerrier
RHSU: Rausch
LHSU: Mijares
RHRP: Bonser/Neshek - I'm putting them down as one spot as I think the Twins will be lucky if either pitcher can be effective the first year after surgery (see Jesse Crain)
LRP: Liriano/Perkins
LOOGY: Liriano/Perkins - Liriano has better splits against lefties than Perkins

That is how I see the roster looking going into next season. Obviously there are many decisions that Bill Smith needs to make and I that I made that I did not like was non-tendering Jesse Crain. Crain performed very well in the second half of the season and would be a nice addition to the now surprisingly crowded bullpen, but he will probably be paid between $3-4 million which is a lot to pay seeing that they are already paying Nathan well over $10 million ($22.5 million over the next two years). I think, if it is possibly, that the Twins could tender Crain and possibly trade him for a mid level prospect, and the worst case scenario would be that they can't find a trade partner and end up with a solid reliever.

Just wanted to make sure I wrote this, but obviously the number one priority this offseason is to sign Mauer to an extension and then secondly to keep Wilson Ramos healthy (he just hurt his knee after getting off to a great start in the fall league) so that they can use him to trade for a missing piece either this offseason, during the season, or next offseason.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Twins Offseason - Part 1

Now that the Twins are officially done for the season, it's time to look at what areas they can improve going into next year. I have listed the following areas in order of need - these all are lower on the priority list than signing Mauer to a multi-year extension.

1. Starting pitching. The Twins were 60 -9 when they gave up 3 runs or less. The starting pitching was very inconsistent throughout the year until the last couple weeks of the regular season. Part of that had to do with the injuries the staff had to deal with, but Blackburn had a great first half and a so-so second half and Baker was the opposite with a poor start and a great finish to his season. If the Twins could get an innings eater who puts up quality start after quality start (Zambrano, Vasquez, Garland, Pavano to name a few), then they would have a much better chance at being successful next year.

2. Left side of the infield. Bill Smith finally admitted he made a mistake by signing Punto in his actions when he traded for Orlando Cabrera. While Cabrera had two hot streaks with the Twins sandwiched around a very poor stretch where he was a double play waiting to happen. I would not be upset if the Twins kept Cabrera, but I would rather have them go in a different direction - see posts regarding the Twins trading for JJ Hardy or possibly trade Cuddy to Atlanta for Escobar. Third base is a different issue. Danny Valencia is supposed to be the third baseman of the future, but he struggled down the stretch at AAA. It's too bad Bill Smith did not pull the trigger while trying to get Freddy Sanchez (who is actually a true #2 hitter) - but that is a seperate issue. If Valencia could come in and hit .275 with 10-12 HRs and 25 doubles while driving in around 65 RBIs that would be solid for a rookie, but it is hard to confidently say that will happen given he put up similar numbers in AA and AAA. One free agent option could be Chone Figgins who could play 3B or SS, but he will probably cost nearly $10 million/year which currently seems too expensive. The reason I only have the left side as a need is that Punto is ok at 2b and next year will be a contract year and we have all seen what Punto does in a contract year compared to a non-contract year.

3. Figure out the outfield situation. Gardenhire obviously struggled with his outfield rotation this year. He kept Span and Cuddyer in the lineup night in and night out (which is the right thing to do) and had to try to work in Delmon Young, Carlos Gomez, and Kubel. It seems like a trade of one of the outfielders would help add some help somewhere else, while clearing up the outfield situation. I think the obvious player would be Delmon Young, but the player who would bring in the most value would be Cuddyer. Cuddyer is coming off of a career year and is signed relatively cheap and could realistically bring in a top starter like Javier Vasquez or a top shortstop like Yunel Escobar. That would allow the oufield to have either Young/Gomez/Span or Span/Gomez/Kubel with either Young or Kubel DHing everyday.

If the Twins can address these three issues (4 if you count the Mauer contract), then they should have no problem repeating as central division champions and if they can get the right mix of players, even make a run at a world series. This all depends on the kind of job Bill Smith can do, and although he did a good job during the season of adding pieces, we've all seen what he has done in the offseason.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


There are reports that the Cubs are debating whether to shop Zambrano this offseason or not. Zambrano would be a perfect fit in the Twins starting rotation as long as he stays healthy. He is an innings eater and a strikeout pitcher that this team needs (we all know that Baker is not a strikeout pitcher, even though he leads this team in strikeouts).

What would it take to get Zambrano? Well there probably aren't any minor leaguers the Cubs want from the Twins organization. The Twins do however have a player that the Cubs would be extremely interested in - Jason Kubel - who would be the left-handed power hitting outfielder they covet.

Now I am a huge Kubel fan and have been for quite some years, and now he is starting to reach his prime. He is a legitimate .300 hitter with 30 HR potential who has started to hit lefties just as well as righties since the all-star break. Just like any trade however, you have to give something to get something. Kubel is signed to an extremely affordable contract for the type of hitter he is growing into and it would be tough to trade a guy who the Twins have been patient with. However, with the growth in overall team power - Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer each hitting close to 30 HRs and with Delmon Young hopefully reaching his potential - the Twins can afford to trade some power hitting for power pitching.

If both sides would agree to a straight up deal, it would allow the Twins to start Span, Gomez, and Cuddyer in the outfield (Gardy's preference) and have Delmon Young get his ABs as a DH and rotate in the outfield giving the other outfielders a day off. Delmon Young is about 3 1/2 years younger than Kubel and hopefully can start reaching his potential next season.

Granted, the Twins would have to get the go-ahead to add the contract of Zambrano, and still be able to re-sign Mauer, but a move like this would really go a long way in showing Mauer that the front office is willing to do what it takes to add players to make a run at the world series.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Rauch too!

This is a solid trade especially because it lands the Twins a reliever who can help them out next year. Rauch has been solid - not great - but solid is what this team needs now and in the future. If the Twins are going to actually be a factor, then they need to have a strong bullpen and cannot have a surplus of average to below average pitchers in their bullpen. Finally, it's taken more than an entire year, but Bill Smith actually acquired a bullpen arm that the Twins can use in late innings to help out Guerrier and Mijares.