November 29, 2005

Sheldon, ZiPS, Shecky, and Wily Mo

  • The anonymous tipster who stopped by the comments section a couple times last week was right on the money: MLB.com's Mark Sheldon is officially leaving the Twins beat to cover the Reds. As I said Wednesday, I am sad to see Sheldon go. I enjoyed his work, and while I didn't always agree with what he wrote and occasionally criticized him here, he was always friendly to me and other Twins bloggers. Here's hoping Sheldon's replacement, Kelly Thesier, can take up right where he left off.
  • Dan Szymborski released his 2006 ZiPS projections for the Twins over at Baseball Think Factory yesterday, and the outlook is not pretty. The pitching staff looks great, of course, with Johan Santana leading the way at 18-6 with a 2.91 ERA in 232 innings. The lineup, however, looks an awful lot like the group that depressed me all season:
                         AVG      OBP      SLG
    Joe Mauer .303 .377 .427
    Justin Morneau .266 .336 .491
    Lew Ford .285 .363 .411
    Torii Hunter .264 .328 .447
    Michael Cuddyer .263 .340 .427
    Shannon Stewart .283 .342 .399
    Jason Bartlett .281 .354 .387

    Those are just some of the main guys, but there are also projections for everyone from Luis Rodriguez (.281/.343/.374) to Matt Moses (.235/.291/.353). Among the 32 players with projections listed, only four have on-base percentages above .350. One of them is Joe Mauer, and the others are a second-year shortstop (Jason Bartlett), a rookie who may not be healthy for the beginning of the season (Jason Kubel), and a guy the team views as a fourth outfielder (Lew Ford). That's not good.

    Among the players the Twins currently have under their control, here is the best lineup that can be pieced together:

                                   AVG      OBP      SLG
    1) Shannon Stewart, LF .283 .342 .399
    2) Lew Ford, RF .285 .363 .411
    3) Joe Mauer, C .303 .377 .427
    4) Justin Morneau, 1B .266 .339 .491
    5) Torii Hunter, CF .264 .328 .447
    6) Jason Kubel, DH .296 .355 .432
    7) Michael Cuddyer, 3B .263 .340 .427
    8) Jason Bartlett, SS .281 .354 .387
    9) Luis Rodriguez, 2B .281 .343 .374

    Yuck. For some context, the Twins hit .259/.323/.391 as a team this season. And just so this isn't too depressing, here's the best possible pitching staff:
                                   IP      ERA
    SP Johan Santana 232 2.91
    SP Scott Baker 185 3.99
    SP Carlos Silva 195 4.02
    SP Francisco Liriano 159 4.08
    SP Brad Radke 211 4.09

    CL Joe Nathan 71 2.41
    RH Juan Rincon 81 3.00
    RH Jesse Crain 80 3.82
    RH Travis Bowyer 79 4.33
    RH Matt Guerrier 119 4.46
    LH J.C. Romero 64 4.50

    You'll notice that Kyle Lohse (190 innings, 4.64 ERA) doesn't quite make the cut. Again, for some context the Twins had a team ERA of 3.71 this season.
  • Remember how I criticized Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Jim "Shecky" Souhan for being too shticky last week (and in general)? Well, he followed up his one-liner about the Pamela Anderson-Tommy Lee video in last week's column with an attempted joke about Paris Hilton yesterday. His Monday morning Vikings columns are like Jay Leno monologues from three years ago. My prediction for next week: A hilarious mention of O.J. Simpson's ride in the white Bronco.
  • A lot of commenters and e-mailers have mentioned the Reds as a potential trading partner for the Twins. Cincinnati is heavy on hitting, especially in the outfield, and light on pitching. And now it sounds like having four quality outfielders for just three starting spots is finally becoming a problem:
    Cincinnati Reds outfielder Wily Mo Pena said Saturday that he's ready to play full time with the team, or they should trade him to another club.

    [...]

    "The best thing they can do is to play me or trade me because I no longer want to be on the bench," he told The Associated Press on Saturday after a winter league game in the Dominican Republic.

    Wily Mo Pena wouldn't be the first Reds outfielder I would go after -- I'd want Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns before him -- but he's an intriguing player.

    YEAR      PA      AVG      OBP      SLG
    2003 181 .218 .283 .358
    2004 364 .259 .316 .527
    2005 335 .254 .304 .492

    On one hand, Pena has a career on-base percentage of just .303, including .304 this season. He also sports a miserable 288-to-54 career strikeout-to-walk ratio, including 116-to-20 this season. Pena is basically like a less patient, slightly more powerful, corner outfield version of Torii Hunter, which I'm not sure the Twins need at this point.

    On the other hand, he has 45 homers over his last 699 plate appearances and has a career slugging percentage of .477. He also doesn't turn 24 years old until January, is going to be making very little money for several more seasons, and unlike most of the Twins' better young hitters, swings the bat right-handed.

    Pena's "Most Similar Batters" list over at Baseball-Reference.com includes Jesse Barfield, Rocky Colavito, Pete Incaviglia, Bobby Bonds, Dave Kingman, Willie Montanez, Billy Conigliaro, Willie Horton, Harmon Killebrew, and Roger Maris. Anyone with such a wide assortment of interesting names as comparables at the age of 23 has the potential to be a very good player. From the age of 24 through the end of their careers, those 10 guys hit .261/.341/.468 with an average of 250 homers.

  • Today at The Hardball Times:
    - Third Base: The Crossroads, Part Four (by Steve Treder)
    - What Makes a Game Exciting? (Part 2) (by Dennis Boznango)

    Pick of the Day (144-123, +$2,055):
    Dallas +1.5 (-110) over Milwaukee


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