August 11, 2014

Gleeman and The Geek #157: Oodbye Evin Orreia

Topics for this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode included Kevin Correia's long-awaited departure, Trevor May's shaky arrival, upside vs. known quantities, Joe Mauer's impending return, Francisco Liriano and Vance Worley thriving together, playing Danny Santana at shortstop, the good and bad of Twitter, penthouse plans, and car-buying 101.

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 157

In addition to the direct download link above you can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

August 8, 2014


• Well, this is a first on HardballTalk: "Seth Stohs of Twins Daily reports ..."

• Former general manager turned media member Jim Bowden had a very rough trade deadline and made things worse for himself at every stop along the way.

• I'm so sick of these nerds like Glen Perkins trying to act like they know so much about baseball when they never even played the game.

Gregg Popovich and the Spurs do things their own way and also a great way.

According to the Philadelphia Daily News the Wolves will get Anthony Bennett from the Cavs in the Kevin Love-Andrew Wiggins trade and then flip him to the 76ers for Thaddeus Young.

Phil Hughes gave up a hit to the outfield, but thought it was a line drive back through the box.

Delmon Young's older, much better-hitting brother, Dmitri Young, has lost a ton of weight.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode we reviewed the Twins' trade deadline moves and non-moves, looked ahead to Vargas' future, and I sang way too much.

Chris Pratt rapped the entire Eminem part of "Forgot About Dre" and it was actually decent:

I have zero interest in comic book movies, but I'd love Pratt to become a huge star.

Kennys Vargas is not David Ortiz, as Jesse Lund of Twinkie Town explains.

• On a related note: Vargas really, really doesn't like eating vegetables. "I don't like salad. I eat just meat."

Kate Upton and Justin Verlander are the cutest.

Jason DeRusha interviewed Twins president Dave St. Peter over lunch and I especially liked his quote about Twitter: "If you can filter out the crazy stuff and the people who are looking to push buttons, you can make a real connection."

• Here's my weekly half-hour chat with Paul Allen on KFAN.

Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal wrote about one of my least favorite (and increasingly prominent) aspects of sports media.

Sam Fuld, now starting in center field for the A's, made a sick full-body throw.

Drew Butera caught Chrissy Teigen's ceremonial first pitch at Dodger Stadium:

Much, much better than the time Butera hung out with Kim Kardashian (and Matt Capps).

• Should everyone be freaking out about how bad Oswaldo Arcia has been against lefties?

• Cedar Rapids will be home to the Twins' low Single-A affiliate until at least 2020.

• Impending free agent Pat Neshek has a 0.78 ERA and 49/6 K/BB ratio for the Cardinals, but says he'd like to stay in St. Louis.

• Brunch spot recommendation: Louie's Wine Dive, which has really good food and $12 bottomless mimosas that actually pack some punch. Go there for dinner, too.

• Some of this week's weird and random search engine queries that brought people here:

- "Danny Valencia defense"
- "Danny Valencia, is he a good fielder?"
- "How old is Roy Smalley?"
- "Ben Revere shirtless"
- "Brian Dozier shirtless"
- "Was Danny Santana supposed to be this good?"
- "Aaron Gleeman brunch"
- "Fattest baseball players"

• Finally, this week's music video is the original "Forgot About Dre" by Dr. Dre and Eminem:

This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

August 6, 2014

Oswaldo Arcia, lefties on lefties, and swinging “too hard”

oswaldo arcia twins

After a promising rookie campaign last year Oswaldo Arcia has been a mess for most of this season, hitting .199 with 56 strikeouts in 44 games since homering in back-to-back games in early June. He's been particularly helpless versus left-handed pitching, hitting .180 with 24 strikeouts in 68 plate appearances for the season, and Ron Gardenhire recently got Arcia's struggles against southpaws some media coverage by discussing them with reporters:

Not good. Hasn't been good. He missed some fastballs [Friday] night. He had two to hit. He's just got to put the barrel on them. He's got to hit them. The first one was right there, and he just fouled it off. He's just trying to hit the ball 8,000 miles right now. Every swing he takes, he swings so frickin' hard that I don't know any way possible that your head can be on the ball. ... He's got to get away from that. He's not going to hit at this level if he continues to swing as hard as he possibly can, trying to hit the ball 8,000 miles.

I'm certainly in no position to say whether those criticisms are legitimate and/or helpful, but I will note that the Twins had similar and similarly public "swings too hard" criticisms of Carlos Gomez and, before him, David Ortiz. I'll also note that Arcia is hardly the first young left-handed hitter to flail away against left-handed pitching. Through age 23 he's hit .229 with a .625 OPS versus lefties. Here's how that compares to some other left-handed Twins hitters at the same age:

vs. LHP                PA      AVG      OPS
OSWALDO ARCIA         185     .229     .625
Justin Morneau        110     .218     .630
Joe Mauer             398     .275     .671
Rod Carew             178     .286     .704
David Ortiz            78     .234     .734

Arcia is a rarity in Twins history simply by being in the majors and accumulating regular playing time versus left-handed pitching at age 23. In fact, only 11 left-handed hitters in franchise history have at least 50 plate appearances versus lefties through age 23. I've included four of the most prominent names on that list in the above comparison with Arcia. He has the worst production of the bunch, but Justin Morneau was almost exactly as unproductive and no one was very good.

Joe Mauer and Rod Carew hit for solid batting averages off lefties, because that's just what they were born to do, but they both had modest overall production and extreme platoon splits. And that's simply how it goes with left-handed hitters. Most of them struggle against lefties initially and many of them never really learn to hold their own against them. For instance, Jacque Jones hit .227 with a .616 OPS off lefties for his entire Twins career, totaling 848 plate appearances.

In other words, for his seven Twins seasons Jones was as terrible against lefties as Arcia has been through age 23. Gardenhire used Jones as an everyday player nearly that entire time, refusing to platoon him and often starting him in the leadoff spot versus lefties. Perhaps he didn't "swing too hard," but Jones was helpless versus lefties too and Gardenhire stubbornly never let that change his strategy and the Twins' coaching staff never helped him get any better.

Want more examples? No left-handed hitter in the history of the Twins with more than 200 plate appearances against left-handed pitching has ever topped an .800 OPS off them. And among that group only Carew, Ortiz, Doug Mientkiewicz, Denard Span, Kent Hrbek, and Matt Lawton topped .750. Here are some of the bigger names who struggled against left-handed pitching while in a Twins uniform:

vs. LHP              OPS
Jimmie Hall         .564
Jacque Jones        .616
A.J. Pierzynski     .647
Jason Kubel         .673
Tony Oliva          .690
Justin Morneau      .711
Corey Koskie        .725

Morneau won an MVP award and is one of the best half-dozen hitters in Twins history, but he hit just .251 with a .298 on-base percentage and .414 slugging percentage off lefties. Tony Oliva is a borderline Hall of Famer, but he had a lower OPS against lefties than thoroughly mediocre right-handed hitters like Brendan Harris, Steve Lombardozzi, and Dustan Mohr. Going beyond the Twins, across all of MLB this season lefty hitters have a .649 OPS off lefty pitchers.

My point isn't that Arcia ought to stick with his approach versus lefties. It also didn't work in the minors, where he hit .265 off lefties compared to .330 off righties. He absolutely needs to improve against them in order to fulfill his potential and hopefully Twins coaches can help him. However, the fact that he's struggling with lefties so far isn't necessarily some sort of character flaw and it may not mean anything at all other than he happens to be a left-handed hitter.

For a lot more about Arcia's struggles, plus a review of the Twins' trade deadline moves and non-moves, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.

August 4, 2014

Gleeman and The Geek #156: Trade Deadline Recap

Topics for this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode included swapping Sam Fuld for Tommy Milone, extending Kurt Suzuki, calling up Kennys Vargas, being a curmudgeon, looking for Alex Meyer and Trevor May, learning new things that sound dirty, overvaluing prospects, claiming Jordan Schafer off waivers, checking in on Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia struggling versus lefties, and moving into the penthouse.

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 156

In addition to the direct download link above you can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

August 1, 2014

Twins trade Sam Fuld for Tommy Milone, sign Kurt Suzuki to extension

tommy milone a's

This year's otherwise hectic and blockbuster-filled trade deadline came and went yesterday afternoon without a big splash from the Twins, but they did make one trade and one non-trade by sending outfielder Sam Fuld to the A's for left-hander Tommy Milone and signing catcher Kurt Suzuki to a two-year, $12 million contract extension with a $6 million vesting option for 2017 rather than dealing the impending free agent.

Fuld was acquired from the A's for nothing via the waiver wire in April when the Twins were scrambling for outfield depth, so trading him back to Oakland for actual value now is a pleasant surprise. He played well for the Twins, hitting .274/.370/.354 with good speed and defense in 53 games, but Fuld hit just .230/.301/.326 during the previous three seasons and at age 32 he didn't have a spot in the Twins' future plans beyond possibly being a backup.

Milone was recently demoted to Triple-A, but that was due mostly to the A's sudden abundance of rotation depth and not anything related to his performance, which includes a 3.55 ERA in 16 starts for Oakland this season and a career ERA of 3.84 ERA in 469 innings as a big leaguer. However, those raw numbers are misleading because Milone has spent three years in a pitcher-friendly ballpark with a strong defense behind him.

Milone's secondary numbers suggest he's more of a 4.25 ERA pitcher than a 3.85 ERA pitcher and among the 154 pitchers with at least 150 innings since last season his average fastball velocity is the seventh-slowest at 86.9 miles per hour. He's also an extreme fly-ball pitcher, ranking 141st among those same 154 pitchers in ground-ball rate, which along with a modest strikeout rate of 6.5 per nine innings means his upside is very limited.

He's under team control through 2017, but will get relatively expensive via the arbitration process beginning this offseason and could eventually become a non-tender candidate due to the price increases. Younger, cheaper, and (slightly) better than Kevin Correia is not a description to be particularly enthused about, but it does carry some value when the actual Correia will soon no longer be on the Twins' roster.

They swapped a 32-year-old fourth or fifth outfielder for a 27-year-old fourth or fifth starter, and while that isn't going to turn a franchise around it's a sound, logical decision. Suzuki's extension is much less of a no-brainer, in part because it's tough to judge fully without knowing what the trade market looked like. If the Twins could have gotten a decent prospect for a 30-year-old impending free agent in the middle of a career-year, that certainly would have been my preference.

There were plenty of local and national reports linking Suzuki to various catcher-hungry teams for the past few weeks, but who knows what offers the Twins were actually choosing from. If the offers were limited to unappealing prospects, then there's certainly an argument to be made that keeping Suzuki beyond this season is preferable to simply letting him walk for nothing as a free agent in two months.

However, one reason why the offers for Suzuki may have been underwhelming is that other teams no doubt recognize how much he struggled for the previous four seasons before joining the Twins. Suzuki hit just .232/.290/.337 in 94 games last season and a combined .237/.294/.357 in 477 games from 2010-2013. Those are backup-caliber numbers and suggested he was breaking down physically, which is why Suzuki's career-year has been such a surprise.

He's hit .306/.369/.391 in 90 games with an equal 29/29 K/BB ratio after totaling 113 walks compared to 221 strikeouts from 2010-2013. He's also drawn a ton of praise for his "handling" of the pitching staff, although Twins pitchers have a 4.25 ERA with Suzuki behind the plate compared to their overall mark of 4.31 and his pitch-framing numbers are among the league's worst just as they have been for several seasons (and multiple different teams) in a row.

If you trust the pitch-framing numbers and/or Suzuki regresses back to his 2010-2013 form offensively then he's a sub par starting catcher signed through age 32 (and perhaps age 33, if he manages to get 485 plate appearances in 2016 to trigger the vesting option). If you trust the word of teammates and coaches and/or believe he's found a new level offensively then he's one of the best all-around catchers in the league.

My guess is that the truth will end up being somewhere in between and the investment is minimal enough to limit the risk. Six-million dollars per season is realistically not going to alter even the frugal Twins' plans in any meaningful way and if they've determined that 25-year-old Josmil Pinto is destined to be a designated hitter rather than a catcher/designated hitter than the organization is devoid of MLB-ready catchers following Joe Mauer's move to first base.

This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

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