December 20, 2007

Twins Notes: Swings, Silva, and "Something"

  • In an ESPN.com article about baseball's best and worst lineups, friend of AG.com Jerry Crasnick passed along this interesting Delmon Young stat:
    Young has lot of potential, but he might want to take a pitch once in a while. According to Stats Inc., Young took 1,484 swings last year in Tampa Bay. The only player in the last 20 years who swung at more pitches was Alfonso Soriano, who took 1,519 hacks for the 2002 Yankees.

    My lengthy day-after analysis of last month's six-player swap with the Rays questioned Young's horrible plate discipline and noted that "he's hacked at everything while showing only moderate power since advancing past Double-A in mid-2005." My focus was primarily on his lousy walk rates and sub par strikeout-to-walk ratios, but the fact that he literally hacked at a historic number of pitches as a rookie may illustrate the point even better.

    At just 22 years old Young obviously still has plenty of time to develop some selectivity at the plate, but being rushed through the minors relatively quickly tends to hurt that aspect of a hitter's game and the Twins aren't exactly known for preaching plate discipline. For Young to become a great hitter he'll have to essentially double his walk rate at some point, along with also showing that his power potential has been undersold by the mediocre pop that he's displayed over the past two seasons.

  • After Carlos Silva made his final start for the Twins back in early October, Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune suggested that he could be in line for a three-year, $25 million contract as a free agent. Given the dearth of pitching talent available on the free-agent market this offseason those figures seemed low to me in terms of both years and money, so my prediction at the time was that "Silva's next contract is likely to be worth closer to $40 million than $20 million."

    It turns out that Christensen's figures were off and even my prediction sold the market for Silva short, because he's reportedly on the verge of signing a four-year, $44 million contract with the Mariners. Silva's unlikely to be worth that and there was no reason for the Twins to compete for his services at that price given their organization-wide pitching depth and modest payroll. Still, it's a shame that Terry Ryan's unwillingness to trade Silva in July leaves the Twins with nothing to show for a $44 million exit.

  • I've complained plenty about the way that Ron Gardenhire used Jason Tyner by ignoring his awful numbers against southpaws to frequently start him against left-handed pitching and misguidedly deploying one of the least-powerful hitters of all time as a corner outfielder and designated hitter. With that said, it was surprising to see the Twins cut Tyner loose last week rather than pay what figured to be around $1 million via arbitration, if only because of the current hole in center field.

    As a corner outfielder or designated hitter Tyner's decent defensive ability is wasted and his weak bat is a liability. However, with no clear replacement for Torii Hunter emerging yet Tyner could have been teamed with a right-handed hitter to form a cheap, mildly productive platoon in center field given his .311/.347/.377 line against right-handers during three seasons in Minnesota. Perhaps Bill Smith simply realized that Gardenhire was unlikely to actually platoon Tyner and decided not to chance it.

  • Tyner was let go, but the Twins tendered a contract to Juan Rincon for 2008, meaning that they'll either take him to arbitration or agree to a pre-arbitration deal. Actually, a third option is trading Rincon, which is hopefully the Twins' plan given that he was originally included in the six-player trade with Tampa Bay before the Rays became concerned about the state of his elbow. As discussed in this space previously, Rincon's performance has steadily declined since his breakout 2004 season:
    YEAR      SO%     K/BB     OAVG     xFIP
    2004 32.4 3.4 .181 3.15
    2005 26.3 3.1 .224 3.32
    2006 20.6 3.0 .270 3.73
    2007 18.1 2.0 .273 4.67

    Rincon has seen his strikeout rate (SO%), strikeout-to-walk ratio (K/BB), opponent's batting average (OAVG), and Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) each decline in three straight seasons. It's possible that his elbow problems may be smoothed out and he's not yet 29 years old, so he's not a completely lost cause. Still, the patterns aren't encouraging and Rincon figures to make at least $3 million via arbitration, so the Twins would be best off cashing him in for some value while they still can.

  • While Rondell White was hitting .229/.266/.354 during two seasons in Minnesota the local media constantly told Twins fans that he was a wonderful person and a clubhouse favorite. That may still be true, but now we also know that White spent thousands of dollars on steroids, including one purchase that took place shortly before signing with the Twins. In fact, copies of seven checks that White wrote to steroid supplier Kirk Radomski were included in last week's Mitchell Report.

    According to the report: "Radomski recalled teaching White a lot about steroids ... walking him through HGH injections for two hours on the phone one night." Also of note is that rather than breaking his cover by putting "steroids" in the memo portion of one $2,400 check to Radomski from December of 2005, White instead stealthily wrote "bought something." Seriously. My interest in the whole steroids situation is minimal, but details like that made it worth slogging through the entire 409-page report.

  • Sidney Ponson had a 6.93 ERA in seven starts with the Twins before they cut him loose in mid-May, failed to latch on with another team to finish the season, hasn't posted an ERA below 5.00 since 2003, and has a career ERA of 4.94 in 1,566 big-league innings. On the other hand, he's over 30 years old and was briefly a good pitcher, so naturally the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the Phillies are considering signing him to a minor-league contract as they "continue to search for pitching."
  • Giants outfielders Dave Roberts, Rajai Davis, and Fred Lewis were among 25 options included in last month's examination of potential replacements for Hunter. The availability of all three players has seemingly increased now that the Giants signed center fielder Aaron Rowand to a five-year, $60 million contract. The San Francisco Chronicle notes that Davis and Lewis are "destined for backup roles if they aren't traded" and suggests that "the Giants also could seek a taker for Roberts."
  • As they've done several times in the past, Seth Stohs recently interviewed Pat Neshek, who once again proved to be an interesting subject. Neshek also recently sent Will Young several wedding gifts, including a hand-written note saying that he likes to check out Will's blog to see how he does in terms of Win Probability Added after each game. Being a native Minnesotan with a wacky delivery and a 2.68 career ERA is more enough to make him a fan favorite, but Neshek is also a pretty special person.
  • Apparently my first in-studio radio appearance must not have been a total disaster, because I'll be back on the KFAN airwaves Friday night to talk Twins for an hour or so with Doogie Wolfson. I'm not sure if we'll be fielding phone calls--we planned to last time, but instead ended up just babbling for the entire time--but you can listen to the show (via radio or the station's website) beginning at 9:00 p.m.

  • Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

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