January 22, 2014

Twins Notes: Arbitration, Korea sales, Molitor shifting, and drugs of abuse

Philadelphia Phillies v Minnesota Twins

• As usual the Twins avoided arbitration with all of their eligible players, agreeing to pre-hearing 2014 deals with Trevor Plouffe for $2.35 million, Brian Duensing for $2 million, and Anthony Swarzak for $950,000. They previously non-tendered Josh Roenicke rather than paying him approximately $1.5 million via the same process. Following the Plouffe, Duensing, and Swarzak signings the Twins' payroll sits at $83 million, which is nearly identical to last season's spending.

Here are their payroll figures since moving to Target Field in 2010:

2010: $98 million
2011: $113 million
2012: $100 million
2013: $82 million
2014: $83 million

When the Twins signed Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes there was a lot of talk about how they were finally spending some money--and certainly within the context of free agency they opened their wallets like never before--but in the grand scheme of things nothing has really changed despite revenue across baseball rising rapidly. Barring a late acquisition their payroll will likely rank among the bottom third of MLB in 2014.

• It's not official yet, but Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that the Twins are finalizing an agreement to sell Andrew Albers to a Korean team. Albers reaching the majors at age 28 and tossing 17 scoreless innings in his first two starts was a helluva story, but a mid-80s fastball and lack of missed bats made it tough to envision a scenario in which he was anything more than a back-of-the-rotation starter.

Once the Twins re-signed Mike Pelfrey in addition to signing Nolasco and Hughes it became clear that Albers wouldn't be getting another extended opportunity this season unless a ton of injuries struck the rotation. Going to Korea allows him to pitch regularly somewhere other than Rochester, New York and gives Albers a chance to make big-league money as opposed to Triple-A wages. And for a guy who was in an independent league a few years ago, that ain't bad.

• As part of his new job on the Twins' coaching staff Paul Molitor will be in charge of positioning the infielders defensively during games and Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com has an interesting note about his approach to those duties:

Molitor has already got a head start on positioning, as he met last week with Sean Harlin, the club's major league video director, and Jack Goin, the club's manager of major league administration and baseball research, to learn more about the club's video system and the advanced defensive statistics available for infield shifts.

The Twins haven't been a club that leans heavily on shifting aggressively in the past, but Molitor believes that baseball is trending that way and that it can help the Twins, especially given that the club has several ground-ball pitchers.

"The game has changed so much; we're seeing more overshifts and people not afraid to give up space based on tendencies, so it's something I'm excited about learning about and applying to the way we play defense," Molitor said. "They showed me the capabilities of not only pregame information but how we can use whatever data we have, including our in-house cameras at Target Field, to try to line up the defenses based on the pitcher's capability of executing pitches and the hitter's tendency of where they might hit the ball."

Those are the type of open-minded, analysis-driven quotes that we've rarely seen from anyone involved with the Twins over the years, which is awfully encouraging.

• Twins prospect Eddie Rosario received a 50-game suspension after a second positive test for a "drug of abuse." On one hand that means it wasn't a performance-enhancing drug. On the other hand that means Rosario tested positive once already and couldn't stop himself from continuing to use the unnamed drug. As a 22-year-old trying to make a position switch to second base the lost development time could be costly, but he remains a very good prospect.

Yohan Pino, who the Twins traded to the Indians for Carl Pavano in mid-2009, is back in the organization on a minor-league deal. Pino posted great numbers in the low minors before a lack of velocity caught up to him and now he's 30 years old with a 4.27 ERA in more than 800 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.

Joe Benson, who was released by the Twins in the middle of what proved to be a lost season, is now with the Marlins on a minor-league contract. Benson is still just 26 years old, but injuries and the inability to make consistent contact at the plate have turned him into a non-prospect.

• Just as I feared at the time of the signing Terry Ryan has already dropped some hints that Kurt Suzuki could be the Opening Day catcher, with Josmil Pinto heading back to the minors.

• For a lot more about the arbitration process and how it works, plus a lengthy discussion about Molitor and embracing analytics, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.

January 17, 2014

Link-O-Rama

• Link-O-Rama favorite Dayn Perry went in search of Paul Molitor at his most handsome and what he found changed his life forever.

• I may never forgive myself for missing Sid Hartman's estate sale.

• I saw "Inside Llewyn Davis" and liked it enough to re-rank my favorite Coen Brothers movies.

• On a related note: Twitter is amazing and I'm horrible.

• In addition to being a great stand-up comedian Kyle Kinane spits truth about beards.

• I took a "what city should you actually live in?" quiz on Buzzfeed and got London, but honestly that's probably a little too far from Stella's.

• I was a "Baseball Stars" kid, but this is still fun news for anyone who grew up in the 1990s.

Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David, and Jason Alexander got the band back together.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode we talked about the Twins' spring training invite list, planned my upcoming move to New Zealand, and witnessed a first date in progress.

• It turns out that Robert Downey Jr. can really sing:

(Or at least can really sing kind of like Sting.)

Chris Brown of Grantland wrote a really good, in-depth article about how Pete Carroll and the Seahawks built the best defense in football.

• It's obvious from his eyes that the Cubs' new mascot has seen a lot of pain.

• I would watch CNN more if this was a regular thing for Randi Kaye.

Eric Decker has really come a long way since his days at the University of Minnesota.

• There's a new "concept store" opening in Hopkins "seeking individuals with existing knowledge of craft beer and/or whiskey." I'm happy to have a fallback plan in case NBCSports.com fires me.

• One of the most rewarding aspects of writing a super-personal birthday post about my life was hearing from people who've struggled with similar issues, including this well-written version.

• Who wore it better: Yours Truly or Bill Murray?

• Yeah, but still.

• As an egg-thrower from way back, Justin Bieber's current situation amuses me.

• Old friend Delmon Young signed a minor-league deal with Baltimore, where he could replace old friend Danny Valencia as the Orioles' platoon designated hitter versus left-handers.

• How did Possum Plows follow up her life-changing video from last week?

I like it. You know, for a song that isn't dedicated to me.

• I was pleased to see Bruce Springsteen give a nice shoutout to Jason Isbell.

Jeff Dubay was fired by 1500-ESPN in what the station called a cost-cutting move.

• Sisyphus Brewing is opening a taproom that features comedy and podcasting. Not a bad idea.

• Your weekly reminder that Aubrey Plaza is perfect.

• I really enjoyed the first episode of "True Detective" on HBO and you know there's some serious acting involved when these two can convincingly play police detectives.

• One of my favorite comedians, Morgan Murphy, has a new stand-up special on Netflix.

• Congrats to friend of AG.com Jon Marthaler for getting engaged to a lovely woman with iffy standards. I believe this means he owes $100,000 to John Bonnes now. Is that how it works?

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

- "Clarence Clemons wanted to date Robin Quivers"
- "Nigella Lawson lookalike porn."
- "Son loses 150 pounds without telling family"
- "Lost weight using Lean Cuisines"
- "Chelsea players carrying brooms"
- "Drew Butera girlfriend"
- "Kate Mara with Boston Terriers"
- "Are the Coen brothers Jewish?"
- "Who has a crush on Aaron Gleeman?"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is Cory Chisel and Adriel Danae singing a live cover version of "Rosie" by Tom Waits:

June 27, 2013

Who are the best old hitters in Twins history?

twins best old hitters

Last week I wrote about the best young hitters in Twins history, using OPS to highlight the most productive seasons by players at ages 20 (Butch Wynegar), 21 (Tom Brunansky), 22 (Kent Hrbek), 23 (Joe Mauer), 24 (Hrbek), and 25 (Harmon Killebrew). I'm going to focus on the other side of the age spectrum today, examining the best old hitters in Twins history. Let's start with the 35-year-olds ...


AGE 35              YEAR      PA      OPS
Kirby Puckett       1995     602     .894
Harmon Killebrew    1971     624     .850
Tony Oliva          1974     494     .739
Terry Steinbach     1997     489     .696
Vic Power           1963     578     .682
John Roseboro       1968     435     .611

Those are the only six 35-year-olds in Twins history to log 300 plate appearances, led by Kirby Puckett in the strike-shortened 1995 season. In what was his final season he hit .314/.379/.515 with 23 homers and 39 doubles in 137 games. Defensively he'd shifted to right field, but Puckett remained a force offensively with an OPS that was 60 points above his career mark. He smacked his most homers since 1988 and set career-highs with 56 walks and a .379 on-base percentage.

And adjusting for the offensive levels of the two eras Killebrew's age-35 season was arguably even more productive than Puckett's despite lower raw numbers. Puckett edged Killebrew by 44 points of OPS, but the league average was .771 in 1995 compared to .681 in 1971. Killebrew split time between third base and first base while hitting .254/.386/.464 for the league's 10th-best OPS and led the AL in both RBIs (119) and walks (114).

Tony Oliva joins Puckett and Killebrew as the only other Twins who were above average at 35, hitting .285/.325/.414 in league that hit just .258 with a .371 slugging percentage as a whole. Terry Steinbach was well below average while hitting .248/.302/.392 in 1997, but his modest .696 OPS was just slightly below the AL average for catchers and he caught 116 games in his first of three seasons with the Twins. Oh, and he doubled his career-high with six steals.


AGE 36              YEAR      PA      OPS
Harmon Killebrew    1972     532     .817
Tony Oliva          1975     515     .722
Terry Steinbach     1998     465     .720
John Roseboro       1969     406     .654

Only four 36-year-olds in Twins history topped 300 plate appearances and all of them were also on the age-35 list, led by Killebrew hitting .231/.367/.450 with 26 homers and 94 walks in 139 games. Those may not stand out as huge raw numbers, but in 1972 he ranked third in the league in both homers and walks while placing among the AL's top 10 in on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS.

Just like the previous season Oliva remained a slightly above average bat, hitting .270/.344/.378 in a league that hit just .258/.328/.379 in 1975. Steinbach was actually better at 36 than he was at 35, upping his OPS by 25 points and catching 119 games. John Roseboro made his name with the Dodgers, but after a decade in Los Angeles he moved on to the Twins for two seasons and, like Steinbach, was remarkably durable for a mid-30s catcher.


AGE 37              YEAR      PA      OPS
Terry Steinbach     1999     380     .748
Harmon Killebrew    1973     290     .698

For the young hitters lists the cutoff was 300 plate appearances, but because there aren't nearly as many old hitters I've reduced the minimum to 200 plate appearances for age 37 and up. And even then Steinbach and Killebrew are the only 37-year-old regulars in Twins history. Steinbach again raised his OPS, going from .696 at 35 and .730 at 36 to .748 at 37. He wasn't as durable, but still started 96 games behind the plate and posted a career-high .358 on-base percentage.

Killebrew was a shell of his former self in 1973, as major knee problems limited him to 69 games and he managed just five homers, although he still walked 41 times and posted a .352 on-base percentage. Oliva fell too short on playing time in 1976 to make the list, but he played his final season at age 37 and was a below-average hitter for the only time in his career, struggling for 67 games before calling it quits.


AGE 38              YEAR      PA      OPS
Harmon Killebrew    1974     382     .672
Jamey Carroll       2012     537     .660

Killebrew is technically the most productive 38-year-old in team history, but it wasn't pretty. He was healthy enough to play 122 games in 1974, but hit just .222/.312/.360 with 12 homers in his final Twins season before moving on to the Royals for one last forgettable season. Meanwhile, in basically matching Killebrew's age-38 production Jamey Carroll set a career-high with 537 plate appearances and also drove in the most runs of his career.

Mike Redmond's limited action as a backup catcher keeps him from appearing on any of these lists, but he spent ages 34-38 with the Twins and hit .294/.337/.352 for them after turning 35. Only six players in Twins history logged more plate appearances than Redmond after age 35 and his .690 OPS is plenty solid for a catcher. In fact, Redmond's adjusted OPS+ was the exact same as Steinbach's post-35 mark.


AGE 39              YEAR      PA      OPS
Jim Thome           2010     340    1.039
Paul Molitor        1996     729     .858
Jim Dwyer           1989     254     .794
Otis Nixon          1998     500     .705

When the Twins signed Jim Thome for just $1.5 million in 2010 he was supposed to fill a limited role as a bench bat and occasional designated hitter, but instead he turned in one of the best age-39 seasons of all time. Thome hit .283/.412/.627 with 25 homers and 60 walks in 340 plate appearances for a 1.039 OPS that's the fourth-highest age-35 mark in MLB history, one spot ahead of Babe Ruth and trailing only Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, and Ted Williams.

Not only is his 1.039 OPS in 2010 the best mark by any Twins hitter after age 35, no one else has even cracked .900. And regardless of age his 1.039 OPS in 2010 is the highest in Twins history for all hitters to play at least 100 games, with only Killebrew twice and Mauer and Rod Carew one apiece joining Thome in the 1.000 OPS/100 games club. Not bad for a guy who signed for $1.5 million and began the season behind Delmon Young in the line for playing time.

Thome's age-39 season is so amazing that it overshadows an incredible age-39 season by Paul Molitor, who batted .341 with a league-leading 225 hits in 1996. Molitor signed with the Twins after three seasons in Toronto and joined the 3,000-hit club in September, missing just one game while setting a career-high with 113 RBIs, tying a career-high with 41 doubles, and stealing 18 bases. Molitor is the only 39-year-old in MLB history to top 200 hits or 110 RBIs.

Otis Nixon looked 39 years old for his entire career and had one of his best seasons as an actual 39-year-old, hitting .297 with a .361 on-base percentage and 37 steals in 110 games during his one-season stay in Minnesota. Nixon broke his jaw in April when Royals shortstop Felix Martinez kicked him in the face during a double play, yet still managed the second-most steals in MLB history for a 39-year-old behind Rickey Henderson.


AGE 40              YEAR      PA      OPS
Jim Thome           2011     242     .827
Paul Molitor        1997     597     .786

Here's how ridiculous Thome's age-39 season was: He lost more than 200 points from his OPS the next year and still had one of the most productive age-40 seasons ever. Thome hit .243/.351/.476 with 12 homers in 240 plate appearances for an .827 OPS that tops the Twins' age-39 list ahead of his lone competition in Molitor. And then Thome was even better after being traded to the Indians in August, hitting .296/.390/.479 in 22 games back where his career started.

Molitor was also very good as a 40-year-old, hitting .305/.351/.435 in 135 games to join fellow Hall of Famers Ty Cobb, Sam Rice, Luke Appling, and Henderson as the only players in MLB history to bat .300 at age 40. Thome and Molitor are the only Twins to get regular playing time at 40 and the only other hitters in team history to see any sort of game action at 40 are Jim Dwyer, Ruben Sierra, and Elmer Valo, who combined to bat .179 in 144 trips to the plate.


AGE 41              YEAR      PA      OPS
Dave Winfield       1993     594     .767
Paul Molitor        1998     559     .718

Three seasons before Molitor notched his 3,000th hit in Minnesota fellow St. Paul native Dave Winfield signed with the Twins and did the same at age 41. And he was hardly just a novelty act, hitting .271/.325/.442 with 21 homers in 143 games in 1993. Winfield joins Williams, Bonds, and Darrell Evans as the only 41-year-olds with 20 homers. Molitor managed a nice-looking .281 batting average at age 41, but his .718 OPS in his final season was below the AL average of .771.


AGE 42              YEAR      PA      OPS
Dave Winfield       1994     328     .746

Winfield is the only hitter in Twins history to appear in a game at age 42 or older and he was still a decent hitter in 1994, batting .252/.321/.425 with 10 homers and 15 doubles in 77 games before the strike ended the season. Unfortunately he didn't call it quits during the strike, instead coming back in 1995 with the Indians and hitting .191 in 46 games to end a Hall of Fame career. Winfield has the ninth-most plate appearances in MLB history after turning 40 with 1,722.


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October 24, 2012

Twins Notes: Coaching changes, Rantz retires, and Gibson impresses

• It turns out the coaching shakeup wasn't as extreme as first believed, as the reconfigured staff includes Joe Vavra and Scott Ullger sticking around in new roles. Vavra goes from hitting coach to third base coach and Ullger goes from bench coach to first base coach. Ullger is running out of jobs he can be moved to, going from hitting coach to third base coach to bench coach to first base coach, which is the role he filled upon joining Tom Kelly's staff in 1994.

Vavra and Ullger remaining on Ron Gardenhire's staff and Rick Anderson keeping his job as pitching coach means the shakeup led to just three new coaches: Tom Brunansky replaces Vavra as hitting coach, Bobby Cuellar replaces Rick Stelmaszek as bullpen coach, and Terry Steinbach replaces Ullger as bench coach. Brunansky and Cuellar were the Triple-A hitting and pitching coaches, while Steinbach has been an assistant coach for Wayzata high school.

Cuellar is an intriguing addition because he has a lengthy track record in the minors that includes being credited with teaching Johan Santana his incredible changeup and also gives the Twins a much-needed Spanish-speaking coach. Brunansky was promoted from Double-A to Triple-A this year and has drawn some rave reviews for his work with young hitters, so it will be interesting to see how his approach differs from Vavra's, especially with Vavra still around.

Cuellar and Brunansky were expected additions, but Steinbach seemingly came out of nowhere after the Twins decided against taking Paul Molitor up on his offer to join the staff. Steinbach is a Minnesota native who starred for the Gophers and spent the last three seasons of his 14-year career with the Twins, but he's never coached professionally beyond being a spring training instructor. In addition to bench coach duties he'll work specifically with catchers.

It's not often that you see both a hitting coach and a bench coach demoted to base coaches, but it fits with the Twins' overall reluctance to make sweeping changes. Even when they shake things up they still can't quite say goodbye to longtime staffers and in the end Stelmaszek, first base coach Jerry White, third base coach Steve Liddle are the only members of the 2012 staff who won't be on the 2013 staff.

• There was a major change in the front office, as Jim Rantz announced his retirement after an astounding 52 years in the organization as a player, scout, and executive. Rantz was born in St. Paul, pitched for the Gophers, and actually predates the team's move to Minnesota, signing with the Washington Senators in 1960. He never made the majors, but pitched five years in the minors and went on to become one of the most important people in Twins history.

For the past 27 years Rantz has been the Twins' minor league director, overseeing the draft and development of prospects that has consistently played such a key role in any success the organization has found during that time. He's specifically credited with picking Kirby Puckett third overall in the 1982 draft and repeatedly received awards from his peers in the scouting community. Rantz's right-hand man, Brad Steil, has been named the interim replacement.

Kyle Gibson is turning heads with his performance in the Arizona Fall League, combining great results with better velocity than he showed prior to Tommy John elbow surgery last year. So far we're only talking about a total of 13 innings, so the sample size is barely worth mentioning, but Gibson has a 0.69 ERA and 19-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio while inducing nearly three ground balls for every fly ball. Keith Law of ESPN.com filed this scouting report:

Gibson was very impressive Tuesday in his second start of the fall, working from 92-94, driving the ball down in the zone, and showing a plus slider at 83-86 that he would throw in any count, in or out of the zone, and would even back-foot to a left-handed hitter when the guy might be looking for a changeup away. He did show a true changeup, but was mostly fastball-slider and looked like a big leaguer, and one with a higher ceiling than he showed as an amateur when he had a pretty-but-slow curveball as his primary breaking ball.

Gibson wouldn't be the first pitcher to come back from Tommy John surgery throwing harder than before, but that certainly hasn't been the norm for Twins pitchers over the years and too often the opposite has been true. He still has a long way to go, but so far so good.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode we did a tutorial on transaction, roster, and service time issues and one of them was the circumstances in which "Super Two" players get an extra year of arbitration eligibility. Based on MLB Trade Rumors' calculations Twins reliever Alex Burnett missed qualifying for "Super Two" status by four days, so he'll make the minimum salary in 2013 rather than potentially doubling that amount via the arbitration process.

• In preparation for the offseason teams are clearing 40-man roster space by waiving players and because of their high waiver wire priority the Twins may be able to snag someone useful. Their own housecleaning should come soon and marginal players on the 40-man roster include Luis Perdomo, Esmerling Vasquez, Matt Carson, Jeff Manship, P.J. Walters, Deolis Guerra, Cole DeVries, Samuel Deduno, Carlos Gutierrez, Kyle Waldrop, and Drew Butera.

• Just a reminder in the wake of his ALCS MVP: Delmon Young has hit .268/.296/.422 in 191 regular season games for the Tigers, was moved to designated hitter on a team that has Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder in the field, hit .240/.270/.320 in "high leverage" situations this year to rank dead last among 143 qualified hitters in Win Probability Added, ranked 139 out of 143 in Wins Above Replacement, and hit .235/.278/.235 in the ALDS. Shit happens.

• I wrote the foreword for the "2013 Offseason Handbook" published by Twins Daily, which includes an incredible amount of good, unique content written by John Bonnes, Seth Stohs, Nick Nelson, and Parker Hageman, plus a lengthy interview with Terry Ryan. I'm not part of the Twins Daily crew, so my recommendation is based purely on merit: For just $6.95 you can get a great product and support writers who provide tons of free Twins content year-round.

• There's no real correlation between playing ability and coaching ability, but I ranked Brunansky as the 28th-best player in Twins history.

• I'll start breaking down potential free agent options, trade targets, and other offseason topics once the World Series is over, but in the meantime this week's episode of "Gleeman and The Geek" includes a lengthy preview of the Twins' payroll situation and winter plans along with a position-by-position look at free agency.

October 17, 2012

Twitter Mailbag: Answers

Last week I asked for mailbag questions submitted via Twitter, so here are about 1,600 words worth of me answering 140-character queries ...

@mdidrikson: What is the best baseball book you've read?

Without question "Ball Four" by Jim Bouton. I've read it at least five times and it never ceases being amazing. For him to write something that great in 1970 is crazy. Meeting him at the SABR convention in Seattle a few years ago was a big thrill.

@caniwarrior: How did Rick Anderson survive the coaching purge?

Rick Anderson became pitching coach when Ron Gardenhire replaced Tom Kelly as manager in 2002, so the combination of a decade on the job and Gardenhire's support is a pretty strong one. My assumption is that Gardenhire fought to keep Anderson around, perhaps at the expense of multiple other coaches, but that's just speculation. Obviously the Twins' pitching has been in decline for a while now and Anderson is presumably on the hottest of hot seats.

@ZBurmeister: What are your favorite podcasts I probably haven't heard of?

I work from home and listen to podcasts constantly all day while I write for NBCSports.com, so at this point I subscribe to more than 40 of them. There's a complete list on the right-hand sidebar of this page, but in terms of podcasts you may not be familiar with my favorites right now are:

- "Stop Podcasting Yourself" with Graham Clark and Dave Shumka
- "The Best Show On WFMU" with Tom Scharpling
- "Fan Graphs Audio" with Carson Cistulli and Dayn Perry
- "The Long Shot" with Sean Conroy, Eddie Pepitone, Jamie Flam, and Amber Kenny
- "Throwing Shade" with Erin Gibson and Bryan Safi

And of course "Gleeman and The Geek." Once the playoffs are over and my work schedule settles down a bit I think I'll write up a guide to all the podcasts I like, because it's something people ask about a lot and as someone who loves the medium spreading the word would be nice.

@jacoblaxen: What is Terry Ryan's first move this offseason?

It's always hard to predict the timing of moves, but based on Terry Ryan's repeated comments about upgrading the rotation and not liking the free agent market my guess would be some sort of trade for a starting pitcher. Reading between the lines, it sure seems like he has a trade or two on the table that he feels reasonably comfortable with.

@skrypzUSN: Who would you rather see traded for starting pitching, Denard Span or Ben Revere?

It all depends on what type of returns they would fetch. Denard Span is a better player than Ben Revere right now and generally seems underrated by Twins fans, but he's also older, much more expensive, and much closer to free agency. If they both had identical trade value I'd probably lean toward trading Revere and sticking with Span, but they don't. Span should be able to command a lot more in return.

@commnman: Are there any bargain free agent starting pitchers you'd be comfortable with the Twins targeting this offseason?

Quite a few, actually. This is a pretty deep crop of free agent starters, at least relative to other offseasons. There aren't many elite, top-of-the-rotation options, but the Twins wouldn't be in the mix for them anyway and there are plenty of mid-rotation types available. As soon as the playoffs end I'll have an article breaking down all the options, but for now some names to ponder: Joe Blanton, Hisashi Iwakuma, Ervin Santana, Gavin Floyd, Brandon McCarthy.

@dbrugg999: Twins talk is about how they need starting pitching, but what other position is crucial that they upgrade?

Middle infield, but that's been true for essentially the past decade. Right now Pedro Florimon is probably the favorite to start at shortstop in 2013, which says a lot about a lot.

@jackthumser: How closely do you follow other sports?

Pretty closely. I've always been a big basketball and football fan, and for several years I wrote about the NFL for Rotoworld. I know absolutely nothing about hockey and don't have a ton of interest in other sports except for mixed martial arts and, if you consider it a sport, poker.

@mattusaurus: Who has the best pitch in baseball?

Mariano Rivera's cutter was the correct answer to this question for 15 years, but since he missed the entire season I suppose we need a new one. Fan Graphs assigns run values to pitches and based largely off those my picks would be Craig Kimbrel's fastball, Fernando Rodney's changeup, Clayton Kershaw's curveball, Yu Darvish's slider, and R.A. Dickey's knuckleball. And along the same lines as Rivera's cutter, I guess Dickey's knuckler is the best.

@salmensays: Do right-handed hitters or left-handed hitters get more infield hits?

I'm guessing most people would assume left-handed hitters get more infield hits, by virtue of being a couple steps closer to first base. However, studies have shown that right-handed hitters actually get more infield hits because they hit more ground balls to third base and shortstop, which require longer throws than ground balls hit to second base and first base.

@ZnelND: Who's the best Twins prospect no one has heard of?

I'd say probably Jorge Polanco. He was overshadowed by Miguel Sano and Max Kepler when he signed for $750,000 as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic in 2009 and then got off to a slow start as a professional, but Polanco had a great half-season at rookie-ball. He's years from potentially entering the Twins' plans, but as a shortstop with a good bat Polanco is one of their highest-upside prospects.

@jimcamery: Do prominent ex-players make better coaches than scrubs? Is there any real data?

That question was about Paul Molitor being turned down for a job on the Twins' revamped staff. Many fans assume that great players like Molitor would make great coaches, but there isn't much evidence to support that. Very few Hall of Fame-level players go on to become great coaches or managers and many of the best coaches and managers were marginal players. Molitor, for instance, was fired by the Mariners after one season as hitting coach in 2004.

@MeatSauce1: Bring Alex Rodriguez to the Twins?

That question comes from the world renowned Meat Sauce of KFAN fame, so of course I have to answer it. There's zero chance of the Twins trading for Alex Rodriguez, but it'll be interesting to see if the Yankees try to trade him, period. He's owed $114 million for the next five seasons and I'm guessing they'd have to eat at least $75 million to unload him. Also worth noting: Rodriguez hit .272/.353/.430 this season. Justin Morneau hit .267/.333/.440.

@mdidrikson: What's the best team in the past 25 years to not win the World Series?

There are a lot of them, because the nature of baseball means being the best team during a 162-game season and winning the World Series are often very different things. I'd probably go with the 2001 Mariners, who set the modern record with 116 wins and lost in the ALCS. Any good baseball team can beat any other good baseball team three times in five games or four times in seven games, which simultaneously makes the playoffs great and maddening.

@ScandiAngel: What's a reasonable expectation for Kyle Gibson in 2013? Will the Twins treat him like Stephen Strasburg?

I'm sure Kyle Gibson will be on a workload limit in 2013. In terms of what to expect, he's off to an impressive start in the Arizona Fall League and reportedly throwing harder now than he did before Tommy John surgery. He'll compete for a rotation spot in spring training before most likely heading to Triple-A. Expectations should be held in check because Gibson wasn't an elite prospect before the injury, but if things go well he could join the Twins' rotation midseason.

@jimcamery: Was Prince Fielder worth the money?

Prince Fielder hit .313/.412/.528 with 30 homers in 162 games, so he certainly earned his $23 million salary this season. That was always pretty likely, though, because he's 28 years old with a great track record. He's still owed another $191 million for the next eight seasons and the odds of the second half of that deal looking good for the Tigers seems iffy at best. Then again, I'm more or less against handing out massive long-term contracts to any player.

@SpitThatHotFire: Where do you see Josh Hamilton ending up next year?

Josh Hamilton is one of the most interesting free agents ever. Based solely on his track record at age 31 he'd be in line for well over $100 million, but because of his off-field (and on-field) issues it wouldn't surprise me if he signed for less than $100 million. As for where ... I have no idea. It sure seems like the Rangers don't want him back unless it's cheap and most of the usual free-spenders seem unlikely to go nuts for him. "Not the Twins" is the best I can do.

@wombat_socho: Is there any cure for Ron Gardenhire's addiction to scrappy/useless infielders?

Well, the most obvious cure is for the front office to stop providing him with such players, but then that brings up the question of who has the addiction in the first place.

@commnman: How are Twins fans supposed to decide between rooting for Delmon Young and rooting for the Yankees?

We actually discussed this at some length on this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode and ultimately concluded that rooting for the Tigers made sense under these circumstances.

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