February 20, 2007

Twins Notes

It was a long, mostly boring offseason for the Twins and their information-starved fans, but now that pitchers and catchers have reported to spring training, the mainstream media's coverage of the team will thankfully begin to rise dramatically leading up to Opening Day. For instance, not only are LaVelle E. Neal III and Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune down in Fort Myers, writing articles for the newspaper, they've hopped onto the blogging bandwagon as well.

I already talked about this development a bit Friday--back when it was my own little quasi-scoop for a few hours--but both LEN3 and Christensen have hit the ground running since then, pumping out multiple entries already. Beyond that, the Star Tribune also has Howard Sinker of Minnesota Public Radio blogging what they call "an expert fan's perspective," smartly providing three new reasons for people to check out the newspaper's website on a regular basis.

As I've suggested here many times in the past, newspapers shifting more and more of their content and resources online is a good long-term move and, in this specific case, good news for Twins fans. It gives LEN3 and Christensen a chance to share information that they likely would have kept hidden away in their notebooks last season because of space constraints, and it also gives them both an opportunity to show a lot more of their personality to readers.

Anyone who's read this site for a while knows all too well that I have all kinds of strong feelings about blogs and newspapers, not to mention blogs run by newspapers. However, more than any of that, this simply means there will be more Twins-related content for fans to devour, which is always a positive thing. Plus, LEN3, Christensen, and Sinker all got on my good side right off the bat by linking to AG.com under their respective "blogrolls" (although, truth be told, they were each on my good side already).

Sinker even went so far as to devote an entire entry to my Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2007 series, saying all kinds of nice things about the series and this site (albeit while also calling me "sometimes grumpy"). Playing up to my ego has always been a sure-fire way to get on my non-grumpy side, but more importantly all three of the Star Tribune's new bloggers appear willing to be very generous with their links to non-mainstream sites.

Not that they asked, but my three main pieces of advice for the Star Tribune's threesome is to let your personality show as much as possible, make sure to pump out content on a daily basis, and don't be afraid to keep tossing around the links liberally. Too many mainstream-housed bloggers don't fully integrate themselves into the blogging community, linking only to fellow mainstream writers or not linking at all.

There are plenty of reasons for that, one of which is that a lot of mainstream writers aren't exactly thrilled with the idea of becoming bloggers (particularly after many of them trashed bloggers in the past). I'm hopeful that LEN3 and Christensen will realize that becoming a legitimate part of the Twins blogosphere is actually a good thing, even for a print journalist. Some day, they might even blog about something other than Sidney Ponson's weight.

While I try to cope with the fact that three guys who started blogging last week already have more of an audience than I've built blogging nearly every day since 2002, here are some other Twins notes ...

  • LEN3 penned an excellent article about pitching coach Rick Anderson, who's perhaps the most overlooked part of the Twins' success this decade. While I'm wildly opposed to the Twins' decision to bring in Ramon Ortiz for $3.1 million, Anderson's track record at least makes it somewhat comforting that he's optimistic about turning Ortiz into a non-horrendous pitcher. Anderson suggests that perhaps Ortiz needs to "slow it down a bit and work the changeup in to keep the hitters off a little more."

    I'm beyond skeptical that Anderson has enough tricks in his bag to override the fact that Ortiz has simply been a horrible pitcher for quite a while, but the good news is that he does have a long and varied history of past success stories. One of the pitchers who's thrived under Anderson's tutelage is Juan Rincon, a good-but-not-great minor-league starter who's turned into a dominant setup man. Here's what Rincon had to say about working with Anderson:

    When I had some issues with my mechanics, the other guy [former pitching coach Dick Such] wasn't able to tell me anything. Andy picked it up right there. He's very good. And I can tell how he's helped the other guys. The younger guys especially. If I'm tipping [my pitches] or jumping out [on my delivery], he's able to tell me right away.

    Of course, if Anderson is indeed so good with young pitchers, the Twins should have been willing to let him work his magic on Matt Garza, Scott Baker, Glen Perkins, and Kevin Slowey instead of Ortiz and Ponson. The article ends with Anderson saying: "If Ponson and Ortiz come in and do a good job, that means we're having a good year." If Anderson can get either of those guys to spend all season in the rotation while posting an ERA under 4.50, the Twins should double his salary.

  • Christensen checks in with a rehabbing, post-surgery Francisco Liriano, who says: "They told me this morning that I'm not going to try to pitch this year. I'm going to take it easy, make sure everything's fine and come back in 2008."
  • In the wake of Joe Mauer's four-year contract extension, there's been a lot of speculation about whether or not the Twins will be able to lock Justin Morneau up to a similar deal before Opening Day. As recently as last week there were reports that Morneau wasn't particularly interested in working something out long term at this point, but apparently that may have changed once Mauer signed his deal. Here's what LEN3 reported Sunday:
    The Twins and reigning American League MVP Justin Morneau will resume talks on a multiyear contract during spring training. Mark Pieper, Morneau's agent, spoke with the Twins over the weekend, and the Twins confirmed their interest in trying to get a deal done after offseason talks broke down.

    Instead of signing a long-term deal then, the Twins and Morneau agreed to a one-year, $4.5 million contract to avoid arbitration. The Twins are in better shape to reopen talks now that they have reached deals with all of their arbitration-eligible players, including catcher Joe Mauer, who agreed to a four-year, $33 million deal that could be within range of what it would take to sign Morneau.

    It's likely that Morneau's stock will never be any higher than it is a few months after winning the AL MVP and the Twins have him under their control for several more seasons, so there's no big rush to work something out immediately. With that said, agreeing to something similar to Mauer's deal would be a good move for both sides. On the other hand, it doesn't sound like the Twins are strongly pursuing long-term deals with Joe Nathan or Michael Cuddyer, who seem like the natural odd men out.

  • Remember last month, when I took a business trip to Dallas? Well, here's the main reason why:

    In addition to picking up the Rotoworld 2007 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide at local bookstores or directly through Beckett via subscription, there's also an enhanced online version available through Rotoworld.com. I'd recommend buying the print version that's published by Beckett simply because the physical magazine looks great and a lot of work went into putting it all together. Plus, I'm proud of the fact that I talked everyone into putting Johan Santana on the cover.

    However, the online draft guide is probably the better overall value, assuming you don't mind not being able to carry it around with you. It's sort of a souped-up version that offers all the same stuff from the magazine (sans the Santana cover), plus a bunch of additional content. Perhaps most importantly, the online version gets updated constantly, whereas the print version went to press while I was in Dallas. In other words, you should buy both, if only because I wrote about 50,000 words for the project.

  • February 19, 2007

    Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2007: The List

    I posted the final installment of my eight-part "Top 40 Twins Prospects of 2007" series here two weeks ago, but I figured it'd also be good to have another entry where the entire list could be found, if only for future reference. So, below you'll find the complete rankings, links to all 40 player profile write-ups, and some commentary on the overall state of the Twins' minor-league system, as I see it, heading into the 2007 season:
     1. Matt Garza, SP [Profile]              21. Jay Rainville, SP [Profile]
    2. Chris Parmelee, RF [Profile] 22. Tyler Robertson, SP [Profile]
    3. Glen Perkins, SP [Profile] 23. Trent Oeltjen, CF [Profile]
    4. Kevin Slowey, SP [Profile] 24. Yohan Pino, RP [Profile]
    5. Anthony Swarzak, SP [Profile] 25. Kyle Waldrop, SP [Profile]
    6. Alexi Casilla, SS [Profile] 26. Garrett Olson, 3B [Profile]
    7. Pat Neshek, RP [Profile] 27. Jay Sawatski, RP [Profile]
    8. Eduardo Morlan, SP [Profile] 28. Jose Mijares, RP [Profile]
    9. Oswaldo Sosa, SP [Profile] 29. Denard Span, CF [Profile]
    10. Alexander Smit, SP [Profile] 30. Alex Burnett, SP [Profile]
    11. Joe Benson, CF [Profile] 31. Trevor Plouffe, SS [Profile]
    12. Jeff Manship, SP [Profile] 32. Brian Duensing, SP [Profile]
    13. David Winfree, 3B [Profile] 33. Danny Valencia, 3B [Profile]
    14. Paul Kelly, SS [Profile] 34. Brandon Roberts, CF [Profile]
    15. Erik Lis, 1B [Profile] 35. Doug Deeds, LF [Profile]
    16. Whit Robbins, 3B [Profile] 36. Garrett Guzman, LF [Profile]
    17. Zach Ward, SP [Profile] 37. J.D. Durbin, SP [Profile]
    18. Alex Romero, LF [Profile] 38. Steven Tolleson, 2B [Profile]
    19. Matt Moses, 3B [Profile] 39. Loek Van Mil, SP [Profile]
    20. Ryan Mullins, SP [Profile] 40. Matt Fox, SP [Profile]

    The strength of the Twins' minor-league system has long been pitching, but their current crop of young arms is among the best in all of baseball. As the simple math involved would tell you, most teams would love to have one of baseball's top 25 pitching prospects, but the Twins boast at least three of them in Matt Garza, Glen Perkins, and Kevin Slowey, and might have a fourth top-25 guy in Anthony Swarzak.

    Philip Hughes of the Yankees and Homer Bailey of the Reds clearly stand out as baseball's truly elite pitching prospects, but once you get past those two Garza has an argument for claiming the No. 3 spot. At the very least, I think he definitely slots in the top half-dozen. Perkins and Slowey aren't quite in that class of pitching prospect, but can each safely be placed in the 15-25 range. Swarzak is more likely in the 25-40 range, which is damn good for the team's fourth-best young arm.

    However, as impressive as those first four guys are, what makes the Twins' collection of pitching prospects so amazing is that they also have a ridiculous amount of depth throughout the organization. Guys like Eduardo Morlan, Oswaldo Sosa, Alexander Smit, and Jeff Manship would be one of the top 2-3 pitching prospects in most organizations, but with the Twins they almost get lost in the shuffle. Beyond that, the Twins have all kinds of what I'd call "C-level" starter prospects.

    That group includes Zach Ward, Ryan Mullins, Jay Rainville, Tyler Robertson, Kyle Waldrop, Alex Burnett, Brian Duensing, and J.D. Durbin, which is pretty impressive. For a lot of teams those guys would be considered top-notch arms, but for the Twins they're just one of the masses. Add it all up and the Twins have no fewer than 15 prospects who have a legitimate chance to be big-league starters, including several major league-ready guys.

    Only Garza is a good bet to become an ace-caliber starter, but there are all kinds of No. 2 and No. 3 starter candidates in the mix, and the Twins already have a pair of aces in Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano. In fact, at just 23 years old Liriano can certainly be included in the young pitching discussion, although his MLB experience means he's no longer a "prospect" for ranking purposes. Along those same lines, Boof Bonser (25) and Scott Baker (25) could also be thrown into the mix.

    In other words, while the Twins sign mediocre veterans like Ramon Ortiz and Sidney Ponson to avoid trusting their young pitching and fans start worrying about losing Santana to free agency in two years, the organization will be absolutely stacked with potential starters for the foreseeable future. Actually, the Twins are so loaded with starter prospects that unloading a few of them in trades seems almost inevitable.

    Even assuming Carlos Silva is let go after the season and no further veterans are signed, it's going to be difficult to fit Santana, Liriano, Bonser, Garza, Baker, Perkins, and Slowey into five rotation slots this time next year. Plus, even if the Twins find a way to make that work--and/or deal someone like Baker, who they appear to have soured on--where does the next wave of Manship, Sosa, and Swarzak fit into the picture?

    Some of the starter prospects mentioned above with surely end up as relievers, but the Twins have plenty of intriguing bullpen arms already. Pat Neshek is technically still a prospect, but he'll resume duties as one of Joe Nathan's setup men this season. Yohan Pino, Jay Sawatski, and Jose Mijares will also be knocking on the door for a bullpen spot relatively soon, and Durbin might have to stick as a reliever coming out of spring training if the Twins want to avoid losing him on waivers.

    Through shrewd drafting, trades, and development, the Twins have assembled an embarrassment of young pitching riches. Pitching prospects tend to weed themselves out with injuries and stagnation, which means you can never have too much young pitching, but the Twins appear capable of putting that theory to the test over the next few years. It'll be vital for Terry Ryan and company to determine which ones are truly keepers and then deal the other guys for some value before they die on the vine.

    Of course, the flip side to having an insane amount of quality young pitching is that the Twins are lacking in top-notch position-player prospects. At this point Chris Parmelee is system's best bet for a middle-of-the-order offensive force, and he's a year out of high school and has barely stepped past rookie-ball. The Twins have zero of baseball's top-25 hitting prospects, and only Parmelee and Alexi Casilla have a good argument for being included in the top 50.

    With that said, the Twins' lack of top-notch hitting prospects is somewhat misleading, because they've graduated elite prospects Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Jason Kubel to the majors during the past three years. Much like with Liriano, Bonser, and Baker on the pitching side, Mauer (24), Morneau (26), Kubel (25), and Jason Bartlett (27) are young and/or inexperienced enough be included in the young hitting picture.

    On the other hand, even including Mauer, Morneau, Kubel, and Bartlett along with the prospects leaves the Twins with big holes on the long-term depth chart. There's no clear replacement for Torii Hunter in center field, where none of Denard Span, Trent Oeltjen, and Brandon Roberts currently look capable of stepping in for the pending free agent. At this point it looks like Hunter's replacement will have to come from outside the organization, which is where trading some of that pitching could come into play.

    There's a similar lack of quality options in the outfield corners and at designated hitter, because the Twins simply don't have any impact bats close to the majors. The hope is obviously that Kubel and Michael Cuddyer will take care of two-thirds of those spots for the rest of the decade, but the third place for a big bat remains wide open. Even in terms of long-term bench depth behind Kubel and Cuddyer, losing Alex Romero on waivers earlier this offseason leaves the cupboard bare.

    Bartlett is finally entrenched at shortstop and Casilla should be more or less ready to replace Luis Castillo at second base in 2008, but beyond those two the organization's long-standing lack of middle-infield depth remains. Even more extreme is the complete absence of quality catching prospects throughout the system, although that won't be an issue until at least 2011 and hopefully will throw further water on the misguided notion of Mauer moving out from behind the plate.

    The Twins have a solid collection of intriguing prospects at third base, but with no clear long-term solution stepping forward they'll try to hold down the fort with Nick Punto and Jeff Cirillo until someone emerges from the group of David Winfree, Whit Robbins, Matt Moses, Garrett Olson, and Danny Valencia. There's plenty of talent there, but several of the guys still have a long way to travel up the organization ladder and questions about defense apply to all but Olson.

    Taken as a whole the Twins' farm system is among baseball's best, which is impressive given the number of impact players they've graduated to the majors recently. However, what they really have is one of the 2-3 best collections of young arms, several of which are MLB-ready, and a sub par group of young bats, almost none of which are MLB-ready. That's not such a concern with Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Kubel, and Bartlett around, but it may be necessary for them to balance the scales a bit.

    February 16, 2007


  • The Minneapolis Star Tribune named a new editor this week, promoting deputy managing editor Nancy Barnes to the position after former editor Anders Gyllenhaal left for the Miami Herald. It remains to be seen how much influence Barnes will have on the newspaper's content, but so far at least she's on the right track, with one of her first stated goals being to "develop new ways to reach readers through the Star Tribune's website."

    Along those lines, someone at the Star Tribune tipped me off to the fact that the newspaper will soon have both of its baseball reporters blogging. The Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com, LaVelle E. Neal III, has a blog called "Twins Insider" that appears to still be in the developmental stages, while Joe Christensen's "Around the Majors" blog looks to be up and running (or at least walking briskly). Even knowing LEN3 just a little bit, I'm confident that his blog will be a must-read if he lets loose at all.

    The Star Tribune is the only newspaper I read on a daily basis and I've developed relationships with a number of its employees over the past few years, so I'd like to see it do well. I'm hopeful that Barnes agrees with me that newspapers will be better off long term the less they continue to rely on the actual paper version of their product and the more they begin to think of themselves as one of many websites competing for an online audience that doesn't need their content delivered to them.

    I often go months without reading the physical version of a newspaper, but include several newspaper websites in my weekly reading rotation, alongside dozens of sites without print versions. There are still tons of people who read what gets delivered to their doorstep each morning, but there's little doubt that the numbers are skewing more toward my usage patterns with each passing day. A large portion of the newspaper industry has taken to fighting that change, whereas the smart move is to adapt with it.

  • Meanwhile in the significantly less popular newspaper on the other side of town, columnist Charley Walters is attempting to pass off stuff like this as secret-worthy information:
    Because of shrewd investing, Twins catcher Joe Mauer, 23, was financially set for life even before signing a four-year, $33 million contract this week.

    Like much of Walters' columns, that sounds noteworthy until you think about it. Between a $5.15 million bonus in 2001, over $1 million in big-league salaries, and various endorsement deals, it's likely that Mauer earned in excess of $7 million "even before signing a four-year, $33 million contract." Walters may actually think that being "financially set for life" with $7 million before the age of 24 takes "shrewd investing," but I'd suggest that it'd only be noteworthy if Mauer was unable to do that.

  • On a semi-related note, Star Tribune blogger Michael Rand--yes, another one--pointed out how much more interesting things would have been if Mauer had dated 2006 Miss USA Tara Conner, rather than 2005 Miss USA Chelsea Cooley. There's still time, of course. He is, after all, very shrewd.
  • Controversial as it may be, I've decided to keep the Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com title vacant until someone special emerges from the rest of the pack as the clear choice, even if it means another three months with the throne empty. Keeley Hazell and Jenna Fischer remain the leading candidates, although a viable third-party choice has emerged in the (ridiculously nice) form of Marisa Miller. Rumor has it that she's a really big Rolling Stones fan and loves listening to her iPod.

    Despite that, her overall taste in music seems somewhat flawed. For one thing, she replied "I don't know a lot about him" when asked about Gnarls Barkley. "Him" is actually two guys who essentially look like complete opposites, which is a fact that Miller would know if she wasn't busy posing instead with the human hat-rack known as Kenny Chesney. Of course, needless to say I'm willing to overlook all of that, or at least look at these 47 pictures of Miller in Sports Illustrated instead.

    As a wise man once said: "Suddenly, a new contender has emerged."

  • In addition to the aforementioned tremendous photo galleries from their annual swimsuit issue, SI.com also posted an excellent interview with Baseball-Reference.com creator Sean Forman. I've had the pleasure of hanging out with Forman on several occasions--even going out for sushi with his family in Seattle last year--so I can safely say that he's an even better person than he is a website designer, which is really saying something.

    Baseball-Reference.com is without question the most essential baseball site in existence and I use it constantly. Not only can you find almost any piece of information within seconds because of how well Forman presents the immense content, it's incredibly easy to get lost for hours in the never-ending pages of interesting "stuff." If I was somehow stuck on a desert island with access to just one website, B-R.com might be my pick (assuming MapQuest wasn't going to get the job done, obviously).

  • In most weeks either of these videos would run away with Video of the Week honors, but they'll have to settle for a first-place tie this time: The Berenguer Boogie and Joe Rogan vs. Carlos Mencia. Actually, the truth is that as good as the Rogan-Mencia video is, it can't possibly compete with The Berenguer Boogie when it comes to inexplicable ridiculousness. What kind of life am I leading where something like that gets made in the 1980s and doesn't flash in front of my eyes until 2007?
  • I know absolutely nothing about playing guitar, but as a big fan of both John Mayer and Derek Trucks' wife, Susan Tedeschi, I enjoyed reading Rolling Stone's article on "The New Guitar Gods." The accompanying video is worth watching too. Of course, none of it will keep a certain segment of the population from writing Mayer off as nothing more than the "Your Body is a Wonderland" guy, although he apparently put the song's theme to good use while in Minnesota this week.
  • Nationals bloggers, I know all too well how you feel. My only advice is that if you close your eyes and pray--which, incidentally, is how Tony Batista approaches at-bats--it'll all be over soon enough. My favorite part of the whole thing--aside from Batista simply being some other team's problem this year--is MLB.com's Bill Ladson reporting that "Batista can also play shortstop and second base" in addition to third base. That's actually selling Batista short, because technically he could pitch too.
  • Most fantasy baseball sites seem to be overwhelmingly populated by twenty-something "experts" like Yours Truly, but long-time fantasy veteran Lenny Melnick also has a blog and accompanying podcast that's worth checking out.
  • One nice side effect of my ongoing Top 40 Minnesota Twins series is that after I profile someone from the 1960s or 1970s--for instance, Zoilo Versalles or Camilo Pascual--my baseball-loving uncle calls me to excitedly discuss the player in question. The discussions often veer off into random parts of Twins history, with my uncle providing the memories and me providing the facts and stats. Last week, our talk someone got into Walt Bond's one season in Minnesota.

    After discussing the tragic end to Bond's career and life--the basic story of which I wasn't aware--my uncle said, "You really should do some research on Bond and write it up on your blog." I put it on my ever-expanding to-do list, with a target date right around the time the Twins' new ballpark figures to open. Thankfully--and in what is an incredibly odd coincidence--Steve Treder of The Hardball Times wrote an excellent piece on Bond this week that's many times better than I ever could have done.

  • Sure, the Star Tribune has joined the mainstream-going-blogging frenzy, but the ongoing bloggers-going-mainstream movement also claimed another victim in True Hoop's Henry Abbott. Welcome to the club, Henry.

  • February 15, 2007

    Top 40 Minnesota Twins: #19 Dave Goltz


    247 215 1638.0 96 79 3.48 112 39.2 104

    Born in Pelican Rapids and raised in Rothsay, Dave Goltz was a fifth-round pick in 1967 who became the first native Minnesotan drafted by the Twins to reach the big leagues with them. After going 38-18 with a 2.69 ERA in 460 minor-league innings, Goltz made his major-league debut on July 18, 1972, tossing 3.2 scoreless innings in relief of Ray Corbin against the Yankees. He soon moved into the starting rotation and posted a 2.67 ERA in 91 innings as a 23-year-old rookie.

    Goltz began his second season pitching out of the bullpen before sliding back into the rotation late in the year, finishing with a disappointing 5.25 ERA in 106.1 combined innings. The poor sophomore performance earned Goltz a trip back to the minors in 1974, but he was quickly called back up after going 3-1 with a 3.30 ERA in four starts at Triple-A. Goltz joined the rotation full time at that point, going 10-10 with a 3.25 ERA in 174.1 innings

    In his fourth season, Goltz established himself as a durable innings eater, tossing 243 innings while going 14-14 with a 3.67 ERA. He turned in a nearly identical year in 1976, going 14-14 with a 3.36 ERA in 249.1 innings to become the only pitcher in baseball history to win double-digit games with an exactly .500 record in three straight seasons (10-10 in 1974, 14-14 in 1975, 14-14 in 1976). More statistical oddity than anything else, the streak nonetheless snapped in a big way the next season.

    Known for being a slow starter, Goltz had a 4-16 career record in March and April, compared to 109-91 in all other months. That trend was never more evident than in 1977, when he went 0-2 in five April starts before going 20-9 with a 3.30 ERA for the remainder of the year. Goltz was remarkably consistent once he got on track, winning four games in each of the first four months and three games in September, before grabbing his 20th win with a complete-game victory over the Brewers on October 2.

    Goltz completed 19 of his 39 starts in 1977, including a one-hitter against the Red Sox on August 23, logging 303 innings to rank second in the league behind only Jim Palmer's 319. Goltz tied Palmer and Dennis Leonard for the league lead with 20 wins, but finished just sixth in the Cy Young balloting thanks to his eighth-ranked ERA (3.36) and modest strikeout total (186). A 6-foot-4 right-hander armed with a heavy sinker-slider combination, Goltz relied more on inducing ground balls than missing bats.

    He managed just 887 strikeouts in 1,638 innings with the Twins, which was essentially a league-average rate, but Goltz did a fantastic job keeping the ball on the ground and in the ballpark. In fact, when compared to the league-average rates, no pitcher in Twins history allowed homers less often than Goltz, who served up a total of 119, or one every 14 innings. For comparison, Camilo Pascual--a similar pitcher in terms of overall effectiveness--coughed up 123 homers in nearly 400 fewer innings.

    When Goltz tossed 303 innings in 1977--a total that has been topped just twice in Twins history--29 different pitchers served up more long balls. Goltz was even batter at suppressing homers in 1978, giving up one every 18 innings, but got off to another slow start and then fractured his ribs during an on-field scuffle with the Angels in an April 22 game that he didn't even appear in. Goltz started just once in May, but returned in early June and went 14-7 with a 2.27 ERA in 24 starts to finish the year.

    With free agency looming following the 1979 season, Goltz got the Opening Day nod for the third straight year. He beat the A's, throwing the first 8.1 of what would 250.2 innings that ranked seventh in the league. However, he allowed a league-high 282 hits on the way to a 14-13 record and 4.16 ERA, and then left the Twins by agreeing to free-agent deal with the Dodgers that was worth a then-massive $3 million over six seasons.

    Goltz uncharacteristically got off to a good start in Los Angeles, hurling back-to-back shutouts against the rival Giants in April of 1980, but then fell apart. He finished 7-11 with a 4.31 ERA overall, went 2-7 with a 4.09 ERA while being yanked from the rotation in 1981, and was released a month into the 1982 season. Goltz signed on with the Angels and pitched relatively well as a long reliever, but shut things down for good because of a torn rotator cuff after beginning the next season 0-6 with a 6.22 ERA.

    Goltz's lack of strikeouts meant he wasn't flashy, he put together just one season that was truly Cy Young-caliber, and the Twins were within five games of .500 either way in all but one of his eight years in Minnesota. All of that is why Goltz is seemingly an overlooked part of team history and why you'd win an awful lot of bar bets asking fans to name the Twins pitcher who ranks sixth all time in wins, innings, and starts behind the "Big Five" of Bert Blyleven, Jim Kaat, Jim Perry, Brad Radke, and Frank Viola.


    Comp. Games 80 3rd
    Shutouts 11 5th
    Wins 96 6th
    Innings 1,638 6th
    Starts 215 6th
    Winning % .549 7th
    Strikeouts 887 8th
    ERA 3.48 10th

    February 13, 2007

    Top 40 Minnesota Twins: #20 Camilo Pascual


    184 179 1284.0 88 57 3.31 111 34.5 87

    Signed by Washington as an 18-year-old out of Havana, Cuba in 1952, Camilo Pascual made his major-league debut two years later. He struggled to throw strikes in his first two seasons, combining to go 6-19 with a 5.23 ERA and 142-to-131 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 248 innings primarily spent as a long reliever. Pascual moved into the Senators' rotation in 1956 and began to rack up strikeouts with his world-class curveball, but went 14-35 with a 5.01 ERA in 365 innings over the next two seasons.

    Pascual's first good season came as a 24-year-old in 1958, when he posted a 3.15 ERA and 146-to-60 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 177.1 innings, leading the league in strikeout rate and finishing second in strikeout-to-walk ratio. Unfortunately, the Senators were an awful team, finishing dead last in the AL with a 61-93 record, and Pascual went just 8-12. Washington finished dead last again in 1959, but this time Pascual took it upon himself to win when he was on the mound.

    He led the league with six shutouts and 17 complete games on the way to going 17-10 with a 2.64 ERA and 185-to-69 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 238.2 innings. Pascual made his first All-Star team and ranked among the AL's top five in ERA, wins, innings, and strikeouts. He was great again in 1960, making his second All-Star team while posting a 3.03 ERA and boasting the league's top strikeout rate by a wide margin, but injuries limited Pascual to just 151.2 innings.

    Tagged with the nickname "Little Potato" after his older brother, Carlos "Big Potato" Pascual, Camilo came to Minnesota along with the rest of the Senators when the team became the Twins in 1961. He shook off prior arm problems to complete 15 of his 33 starts while tossing 252.1 innings with a 3.46 ERA and league-leading 221 strikeouts. Unfortunately, the Twins continued the Senators' tradition of horrible play, and Pascual finished with a 15-16 record despite leading the league with eight shutouts.

    With a young core of 27-and-under players that included Harmon Killebrew, Bob Allison, Jim Kaat, Earl Battey, Zoilo Versalles, Rich Rollins, and Jack Kralick, the Twins emerged as a surprise force in 1962, finishing second to the Yankees with a 91-71 record. Pascual was 28 years old by then, making him an elderstatesman among the team's big contributors, but led the charge by going 20-11 with a 3.32 ERA in 257.2 innings while leading the league in strikeouts, complete games, and shutouts.

    As great as that performance was, Pascual was even better in 1963, going 21-9 with a 2.46 ERA in 248.1 innings while again leading the league in strikeouts and complete games. Thanks in large part to Pascual's second straight 20-win season--along with an MLB-best 225 homers from a lineup that had Killebrew, Allison, Battey, and Jimmie Hall each going deep 25-plus times--the Twins won 91 games for the second year in a row, this time finishing third in the AL.

    Both Pascual and the Twins declined in 1964, as the 30-year-old right-hander went 15-12 with a 3.30 ERA in 267.1 innings for a 79-83 team. The Twins came back stronger than ever in 1965, going 102-60 to capture the AL pennant, but Pascual wasn't as fortunate. After going 8-2 with a 3.06 ERA in a great first half, injuries limited Pascual to nine relatively ineffective second-half starts and he lost his matchup with Claude Osteen in Game 3 of the World Series, allowing three runs in five innings.

    A decade of buckling hitters' knees with his sweeping curveball had taken a toll on Pascual's right shoulder. He made 17 first-half starts in 1966, but posted a 5.07 ERA and then managed just 16 innings after the All-Star break. That offseason the Twins traded Pascual and once-promising second baseman Bernie Allen to the new Senators for 35-year-old reliever Ron Kline, who pitched just one season in Minnesota.

    Pascual was no longer a durable, top-of-the-rotation workhorse capable of racking up strikeouts, but he still had a little gas left in the tank for his return to Washington. He went 25-22 in 58 starts over the next two seasons, before getting off to a brutal start in 1969. Washington sent him to Cincinnati, where he gave up seven runs in seven innings before being released. Pascual bounced around after that, with a couple briefs stints as a reliever in Los Angeles and Cleveland.

    His career fittingly ended with a strikeout, as Pascual got strike three past Earl Kirkpatrick in a scoreless ninth inning on May 5, 1971. That strikeout was No. 2,167 of Pascual's 18-year career, which saw him lead the league three times and finish second twice. Pascual possessed a good fastball, particularly in his prime, but it was his curveball that accounted for most of those strikeouts. Tony Kubek, who struck out more against Pascual than any other pitcher, recalled facing his curve:

    He'd come straight over the top with it and it would just dive off the table. The spin was so tight, you couldn't identify the pitch until it was too late. It didn't flutter, it didn't hang, it just kept biting. When Pascual was right, nobody had a chance. That curve was unhittable.

    Of course, when the curveball hung, it also accounted for lots of homers. To paraphrase Cool of the Evening author Jim Thielman, Pascual was Bert Blyleven before there was a Bert Blyleven. He ranks 82nd all time with 256 homers allowed, a huge total for someone who pitched most of his career in the pitcher-friendly 1960s. Mickey Mantle once said Pascual and teammate Pedro Ramos "would laugh and rag each other about which gave up the longest home runs to me." Mantle went on:

    I hit two home runs into the tree beyond center field in old Griffith Stadium off Pascual, and Ramos is up waving a towel at Pascual while I'm rounding the bases. Later that year I hit one off the facade in Yankee Stadium off Ramos, and as I'm rounding third I see Pascual waving the towel at Ramos.

    Although Pascual is often wrongly credited with being on the mound for it, Ramos served up what's generally considered one of the longest homers in baseball history against Mantle in 1956, the aforementioned shot that nearly exited Yankee Stadium. Mantle also hit plenty of long bombs off Pascual, who he took deep 11 times in total, but viewed those homers differently: "I hit those off Camilo Pascual, one hell of a pitcher."

    Pascual's career numbers are a mixed bag, with a 174-170 record and 3.63 ERA that was just slightly better than average in a pitcher-friendly era. However, he took some beatings by debuting before he was likely ready, spent his first seven seasons pitching for a horrible Washington team, and wound down his career away from Minnesota. In other words, Pascual's Twins-only performance--which is what these rankings are all about--is far more impressive.

    Pascual arrived in Minnesota by putting together one of the greatest four-year runs in team history, winning 15, 20, 21, and 15 games while leading the league in strikeouts in the first three years and finishing second in the fourth year. In six seasons with the Twins he made three All-Star teams, won 20 games twice, posted a 3.31 ERA in 1,284 innings, and went 88-57 for a .607 winning percentage that ranked as the best in team history until Johan Santana came around. One hell of a pitcher, indeed.


    Winning % .607 2nd
    Shutouts 18 3rd
    Comp. Games 72 4th
    Wins 88 7th
    ERA 3.31 7th
    Innings 1,284 7th
    Strikeouts 994 7th
    Starts 179 8th

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