June 25, 2014

Twins Notes: Berrios, Vargas, Dozier, Hughes, Hicks, Pino, and Perkins

Minnesota Twins v Boston Red Sox

• Right-hander Jose Berrios and first baseman Kennys Vargas will represent the Twins in the Futures Game, which is MLB's annual prospect showcase as part of the All-Star festivities. Berrios was the Twins' supplemental first-round pick in 2012, going 30 spots after they snagged Byron Buxton. Last season a mediocre ERA hid what was a strong overall performance for a 19-year-old at low Single-A and this season his ERA and secondary numbers are on the same page.

Berrios is one of just two 20-year-olds in the entire Florida State League with at least 50 innings, posting a 2.05 ERA and 98/21 K/BB ratio in 83 innings. His strikeout rate of 10.6 per nine innings ranks second in the league behind only a 23-year-old and he's held opponents to a .219 batting average with just three homers. Berrios ranked fifth on my list of Twins prospects coming into the season and has upped his stock even further since then.

Vargas placed 23rd in that same ranking, but has also upped his stock considerably by hitting .318/.395/.531 in 70 games at Double-A. At age 23 he's not particularly young for the Eastern League and massive first basemen who'll probably wind up as designated hitters generally aren't a great prospect group on which to bet long term, but the switch-hitter has huge power potential and has made big strides with his strike-zone control.

UPDATE: Triple-A right-hander Trevor May has also been added to the Futures Game roster.

Brian Dozier hasn't slowed down following his surprisingly powerful start to the season and in fact June has been by far his best month with a .310/.449/.549 line that includes four homers and more walks (16) than strikeouts (13) in 21 games. Going back even further, in the past calendar year Dozier ranks as the third-best second baseman in all of baseball according to Wins Above Replacement, behind only Matt Carpenter and Robinson Cano.

During that 365-day span Dozier has hit .252/.340/.444 with 26 homers and 23 steals in 160 games, which along with very good defense adds up to an all-around performance that tops big names like Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, and Chase Utley. Not only does Dozier rank among the league leaders in walks after showing strong strike-zone control in the minors, his power has come out of nowhere after he hit a grand total of 16 homers in 365 games as a minor leaguer.

Ricky Nolasco has been disappointing, but the Twins' other free agent pitching pickup has outperformed expectations in a big way. Phil Hughes has a 3.40 ERA and 82/9 K/BB ratio in 95 innings after posting a 5.19 ERA for the Yankees last season and a 4.53 ERA in seven seasons for New York overall. He's issued zero walks in nine of 15 starts (60 percent) this season. Prior to this season Hughes had zero walks in 24 of 132 starts (18 percent).

Aaron Hicks giving up switch-hitting to exclusively bat right-handed seemed like a reasonable decision given his struggles from the left side of the plate, but after all of one month and very few at-bats thanks to a shoulder injury he's already gone back to switch-hitting. Hicks is technically in the minors on a rehab assignment, but it's hard to see what's gained by keeping him in the majors at this point. Let him try to thrive versus Triple-A pitching for a while.

UPDATE: Hicks has been activated from the disabled list and demoted to Double-A.

Yohan Pino had the seventh-best "Game Score" by any Twins pitcher in his MLB debut behind Andrew Albers, Bert Blyleven, Anthony Swarzak, Allan Anderson, Eddie Bane, and Brad Havens. Take from that group what you will.

Kendrys Morales has hit .222/.271/.333 in 14 games for the Twins. Josmil Pinto has hit .282/.417/.513 in 12 games at Triple-A since his demotion. And his career OPS in the majors remains higher than Morales' mark since 2012.

• On a related note, Glen Perkins had some pretty damning things to say about Pinto's pitch-framing skills, which puts a dent into his already slim chances of being a catcher long term.

• Perkins' record as a reliever is 13-5, including 8-1 since 2012 and 5-0 since 2013, and the Twins have won five of his last six blown saves. Among all MLB relievers with 30 or more innings this season Perkins ranks fifth in K/BB ratio, seventh in strikeout rate, and ninth in xFIP.

• In the same presented-without-comment vein as the previous versions:

Tony Gwynn: .338 AVG, .388 OBP, .459 SLG, .847 OPS, 132 OPS+
Joe Mauer: .320 AVG, .401 OBP, .461 SLG, .863 OPS, 133 OPS+

• Random thing I noticed while looking up some other stuff: Denard Span had a .390 on-base percentage in his first two seasons. Since then he has a .329 on-base percentage in five seasons, never topping .342 in any year.

Johan Santana was on the verge of completing his multi-year comeback from multiple shoulder surgeries by joining the Orioles' rotation, but now he's done for the season with a torn Achilles' tendon. Just in case anyone forgot:

Clayton Kershaw, 2009-2014: 1,145 innings, 9.4 K/9, 3.4 K/BB, 155 ERA+
Johan Santana, 2002-2008: 1,413 innings, 9.5 K/9, 4.2 K/BB, 156 ERA+

• Since the beginning of last season the Twins are 16-10 (.615) against the White Sox and 86-125 (.408) against everyone else.

• For way more on Hicks, Vargas, Morales, and Pino, plus lots of talk about Oswaldo Arcia and Kyle Gibson, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.


This week's blog content is sponsored by R.F. Moeller Jeweler's repair department, which is recognized as the premier jewelry repair facility in the Twin Cities. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

June 5, 2014

Joe Mauer vs. Kirby Puckett

kirby-puckett

Presented without comment: Joe Mauer is 31 years old. Here are his career numbers with four months left in his age-31 season compared to Kirby Puckett's career numbers through age 31:

THROUGH AGE 31           KIRBY     MAUER
Batting Average          .320      .321
On-Base Percentage       .357      .403
Slugging Percentage      .466      .463
OPS                      .823      .866
Wins Above Replacement   35.8      44.7

This week's blog content is sponsored by R.F. Moeller Jeweler's repair department, which is recognized as the premier jewelry repair facility in the Twin Cities. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

June 4, 2014

Joe Mauer vs. Derek Jeter

joe mauer and derek jeter

Presented without comment: Joe Mauer is 31 years old. Here are his career numbers with four months left in his age-31 season compared to Derek Jeter's career numbers through age 31:

THROUGH AGE 31           JETER     MAUER
Batting Average          .314      .321
On-Base Percentage       .386      .403
Slugging Percentage      .461      .463
OPS                      .847      .866
Wins Above Replacement   48.4      44.7

This week's blog content is sponsored by R.F. Moeller Jeweler's repair department, which is recognized as the premier jewelry repair facility in the Twin Cities. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

April 16, 2014

Twins Notes: Dozier, Plouffe, Buxton, Mauer, Burton, Nunez, and Hughes

brian dozier and trevor plouffe

It doesn't make a lot of sense to attempt any meaningful analysis after just two weeks, but here are some random observations I've had while watching the Twins start 6-7 ...

• Last year Brian Dozier set the Twins' record for homers by a second baseman with 18, which came as a surprise after he totaled just 16 homers in 365 games as a minor leaguer. There was evidence that Dozier changed his approach at the plate to pull the ball more, and he's already gone deep four times in 13 games this year. I'm still not convinced he's a top-of-the-order bat, but 15-20 homers along with a solid glove would make him a long-term solution.

• It took 13 games for Trevor Plouffe to homer, but that might not be a bad thing because he looks like a much different hitter. He came into this season with a lifetime .240 batting average and 289/89 K/BB ratio, but so far he's hit .314 with an 8/8 K/BB ratio. His batting average will obviously go down soon enough, but Plouffe has been much more willing to push pitches to the opposite field and assuming at least some of the power remains that's a positive change.

• I'm not a big Alex Presley fan because he's stretched defensively in center field and stretched offensively in a corner spot, but as backup outfielders go he's a decent one. Losing him on waivers for nothing left the Twins lacking in outfield depth and injuries to Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia quickly made that a problem. When it's still early April and you're starting replacement-level talent like Chris Herrmann in an outfield corner something went wrong in the offseason planning.

• With that said, given their current options the Twins might as well continue to trade defense for offense by using Jason Kubel and Chris Colabello in the outfield corners. For one thing their intended corner duo of Willingham and Arcia is brutal defensively anyway. Beyond that by using Kubel and Colabello somewhere other than designated hitter it also allows Josmil Pinto to get into the lineup and his long-term development could be one of the biggest keys of the season.

• Back when Miguel Sano underwent Tommy John elbow surgery I wrote about how so many of the best Twins prospects of my lifetime have suffered major injuries early in their careers, ruining the chance to see what they were fully capable of becoming without any road blocks along the way. On a sadly related note, Byron Buxton hasn't played since injuring his wrist diving for a ball on March 16 and the Twins announced that he won't see game action until at least May 1.

• I'm curious to see if Joe Mauer is more vocal arguing balls and strikes with umpires as a hitter now that he no longer has to help pitchers get calls from them as a catcher. That certainly seems to be the case so far, although being on the wrong end of a couple incredibly obvious terrible calls could be skewing the small sample size. Thanks in large part to Mauer's patience at the plate, the Twins lead the league in walks.

Jared Burton has had back-to-back brutal appearances despite nearly a week off between outings. Tuesday night he walked three consecutive hitters with two outs and then served up a grand slam, which really should have its own name along the same lines as a "golden sombrero" for hitters. Burton also struggled down the stretch last season, so it might be time to let him get some low-leverage work with plenty of days off mixed in.

Ron Gardenhire and assistant general manager Rob Anthony had some odd quotes about Eduardo Nunez after acquiring him from the Yankees, saying stuff like "we know he can swing the bat" and calling him an "offensive-oriented player." Meanwhile, he's 26 years old and has hit .267/.313/.379 in 270 games as a major leaguer after hitting .272/.315/.366 in 712 games as a minor leaguer.

Phil Hughes' results haven't been very good so far, but he's managed to keep the ball in the ballpark in two of his three starts and a 17/5 K/BB ratio in 15 innings will definitely work over the long haul. On the other hand even with Hughes racking up plenty of strikeouts the Twins' rotation as a whole ranks dead last among MLB teams with 5.9 strikeouts per nine innings. By comparison, four rotations are averaging more than 9.0 strikeouts per nine innings.

• For anyone going to Target Field: I highly recommend the Butcher and The Boar rib tips. They're new this season in right field around Section 140 and one of the best things I've ever eaten at a baseball game. Plus for $5.50 you can get a shot of Knob Creek bourbon with them.

• For a lot more about Mauer, Nunez, Willingham, Arcia, Dozier, Plouffe, and Buxton--plus the sad story of how I tore my ACL--check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.


This week's blog content is sponsored by Fan HQ at Ridgedale Mall, which will be hosting an autograph and meet-and-greet session with former Twins closer Joe Nathan on April 26. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

January 10, 2014

Link-O-Rama

• I invite you all to share in the greatest moment of my life.

• Uh oh, now Joe Mauer is joining Chris Kluwe in speaking out about social issues.

Sid Hartman is having an estate sale this weekend to "sell clothes such as suits, shirts, pants, and shoes." I desperately want a Hartman-owned cardigan sweater, so I'm thinking about going.

Maggie LaMaack ranked the "Top 20 Twin Cities Twitterers" for City Pages, so I decided to do my own local Twitter power rankings. It's controversial and has ruined some friendships.

• For anyone not obsessed with Twitter but curious about those of us who are, this is a handy little guide to some of the silliness.

• I was correctly pegged as being from St. Paul by the New York Times' dialect quiz.

• I wrote a super personal thing about my life during the past year.

Parker Hageman's collection of the 10 best Twins moments of 2013 is really fun.

• I'm thinking about trying to rig the Minneapolis Star Tribune's "crush contest" so I can win it.

UPDATE: I asked Twitter to help me, so someone submitted me to the contest and I've already been approved. Based on the photo and quotes, it's honestly hard to imagine me not winning.

"Gleeman and The Geek" just surpassed one million total listeners, which is so far beyond the scope of anything we ever imagined. Thank you.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode I talked about drugs, got someone to disrobe in public, and bought drinks for a table of women at Town Hall Lanes.

Aubrey Plaza playing the saxophone is enough to make me sit through any video:

On a related note, I cannot believe they went on a vacation without me and Dana Wessel.

• This is why I'll take Rihanna over Beyonce all day.

• Not even Alicia Keys could save BlackBerry.

• As the comedic genius known as Ampersandria brilliantly shows, for women life on Tinder is a lot like an Alanis Morissette song.

• As someone deathly afraid of weddings, I thought this Talia Wischmann article was interesting.

• Bone Thugs-N-Harmony are coming to St. Paul next month. I saw them in concert 18 years ago.

• I'm completely sick of everything Hall of Fame related, but Frank Thomas is my favorite player of all time and his first-ballot induction makes me happy. Big Hurt, in his twenties: .330/.452/.600 in 1,076 games. Such a bad motherf-er.

James Avery, who played Uncle Phil on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and voiced Shredder on "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," died at age 65. He had a big role in any decent 90s childhood.

• Oh nothing, just a junior high school Trevor Plouffe in a Wu Wear shirt.

• I'd never read it before, but Gay Talese's famous Esquire profile of Frank Sinatra from 1966 definitely lives up to the hype and then some. I mean, this is the opening line:

Frank Sinatra, holding a glass of bourbon in one hand and a cigarette in the other, stood in a dark corner of the bar between two attractive but fading blondes who sat waiting for him to say something.

And then there are like 10,000 more words of greatness.

• At my house party a couple weeks ago "The Sportive" podcast crew recorded a star-studded, filthy, trainwreck of an episode in my basement. Literally one minute into the episode they accuse me of having killed multiple women in my basement. And then it goes downhill from there.

Louis C.K. was the first guest on the new season of "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee" with Jerry Seinfeld. They went boating and he explained getting high at the movies. I loved it.

• Being a huge Howard Stern fan also means I'm a huge Artie Lange fan, and his interview with Marc Maron was especially fantastic for anyone interested in addiction and recovery.

• Comedy Central posted the first episode of its new show "Broad City" online and it's really funny.

• Netflix added director commentaries to "House Of Cards" episodes, so I can fulfill my dream of hearing David Fincher talk about Kate Mara.

• Two really good movies recently added to Netflix instant: "Drinking Buddies" and "Amelie."

• Paparazzi caught me mid-brunch.

• Important interview with one of the all-time greats.

• An early heads-up: We'll be recording the February 8 episode of "Gleeman and The Geek" at Sociable Cider Werks in Minneapolis. Details here.

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

- "Minnesota's sexiest bloggers"
- "Cash considerations"
- "I need to lose 150 pounds"
- "Shirtless Jerome Felton"
- "Brad Ausmus shirtless"
- "Stallone twins"
- "Gillian Jacobs socks"
- "Robin Thicke socks"
- "SABR bourbon"
- "Fat-O-Meter numbers"
- "Calling up an old ex and catching up"
- "Lindsay Guentzel boyfriend"
- "Erin Gleeman"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is a combination of "Sure Thing" by Miguel and Lil Wayne's remix of the same song:


This week's blog content is sponsored by Sports Kingdom, which features a talk show that goes live weekdays at 5:30 pm EST. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

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