March 1, 2006

Twins Notes

  • There has been a lot of talk recently about which relievers will fill the last couple bullpen spots for the Twins after Joe Nathan, Juan Rincon, Jesse Crain, and Matt Guerrier. Most of the discussion has centered around which lefty will make the team from the uninspiring threesome of Dennys Reyes, Gabe White, and Darrell May, but I was also glad to see that Ron Gardenhire is thinking about giving Willie Eyre a chance.

    Eyre isn't a lefty, although his older brother Scott Eyre is. Instead, he's a 27-year-old righty who has been in the Twins organization since being drafted in the 23rd round back in 1999. Last season he went 10-3 with a 2.72 ERA in 56 relief appearances at Triple-A Rochester. Those numbers are good enough to merit considering for a spot on their own, but the two things that make Eyre really intriguing are that he struck out 74 batters in 82.2 innings and had a ground ball-to-fly ball ratio of 2.78-to-1.

    The combination of strikeouts and grounders is a great one for pitchers, and it's particularly valuable for a guy who might be asked to come into a lot of jams with men on base. The Twins have shown a willingness to give unknown right-handed relievers a shot over the past few years -- Guerrier, Tony Fiore, Joe Roa -- and it's worked out pretty well. I'd like to see Eyre join that list in 2006. As Gardenhire said, he "probably deserves a look."

  • A lot of people have tried to analyze what went wrong with the Twins' offense in 2005, and one of the theories often brought up is that the hitters "didn't do the little things" well enough. Now, I would never argue that the Twins were particularly good at situational hitting last season, but I would definitely argue that it was actually "the big things" that hurt them the most.

    The other day on his ESPN.com blog Buster Olney ran a chart of the Productive Outs leaders from last season. Productive Outs has more or less been proven to be a junk stat with no correlation to actual run scoring, and Olney quickly stopped touting it after an initial love affair. With that said, the Twins ranked second in the league with 184 Productive Outs, trailing only the Angels' 187. In other words, they moved plenty of runners over.

    The Twins also ranked fourth in stolen bases and fifth in sacrifices, both of which typically fall under the category of "little things." What they didn't do enough of was avoiding outs, productive or otherwise, and hitting the ball into the gaps and over the fence. The Twins were 10th in on-base percentage, 12th in doubles, and 12th in homers, which is why I'm a whole lot more concerned about the "big things" this season.

  • Joe Christensen wrote an article about Luis Castillo in Tuesday's Minneapolis Star Tribune. It's a nice enough piece, but it's also an example of why I often find the mainstream coverage of the Twins lacking. Here's the part that bothered me:
    When Castillo first signed with the Marlins, in 1992, he was strictly a righthanded hitter.

    "He didn't want to switch hit," [former Marlins manager John] Boles said. "He just wanted to hit righthanded. We said, 'No, no, no. With your speed, from the left side, you're going to hit .280 just with your legs.'"

    As he enters his 11th big-league season, Castillo is a career .293 hitter, including .287 from the left side.

    The information about Castillo's switch-hitting roots is very interesting. However, following it up by saying that "Castillo is a career .293 hitter, including .287 from the left side" is simply misleading the reader. While technically correct, it would seem fairly important to point out that Castillo has the following career splits:

                AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS
    vs RHP .287 .368 .325 .693
    vs LHP .311 .378 .448 .825

    While the gap in batting average isn't much, the gap in overall production is huge. Castillo has an .825 OPS batting right-handed and a .693 OPS batting left-handed. The average reader would have no idea about that from the above passage, and would come away from the article thinking that Castillo was a very balanced hitter from both sides of the plate. Meanwhile, that's about as far from the truth as you can get.

    This is the sort of stuff that we apparently need blogs and other non-mainstream outlets to tell us, although I'm really not sure why it has to be that way. Incidentally, I'd love to see someone ask Castillo about his extreme splits and question him about whether or not he'd have been better off sticking to hitting right-handed all the time.

  • Joe Mauer spent part of his offseason modeling, and some of the photos are now out. As you might expect, Bat-Girl has some interesting thoughts on the subject. And while we're talking about pictures of Mauer, here's an amusing shot that one of my old grade-school buddies passed along after finding it on Facebook.


    I think that picture probably speaks for itself.

  • Torii Hunter provided a great quote when asked by MLB.com's Kelly Thesier if he will change his game at all after coming back from a broken ankle: "If I have to break it again, I'll do it. I'm going up on the wall every time."


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