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 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 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.

December 5, 2013

Twins Notes: Morneau, Nathan, Kazmir, Pierzynski, and Saltalamacchia

joe nathan and justin morneau twins

Justin Morneau is joining Michael Cuddyer and LaTroy Hawkins in Colorado, agreeing to a two-year, $13 million deal with the Rockies. Morneau is smart to try to resurrect his career in the majors' most hitter-friendly ballpark and calling Coors Field home for half his games should lead to decent-looking raw numbers even if he doesn't actually improve any, but that's a whole lot more money than I'd feel comfortable investing in him at this point.

Joe Nathan is coming back to the AL Central, signing a two-year, $20 million contract with the Tigers that also includes a team option for 2016, when he'll be 41 years old. Nathan was brilliant in two years with the Rangers, saving 80 games with a 2.09 ERA, 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings, and a .198 opponents' batting average, and then shrewdly declined his $9 million player option for 2014 knowing that he could get a multi-year deal for similar annual money on the open market.

Scott Kazmir signed a two-year, $22 million contract with the A's, which is interesting within the context of Phil Hughes' three-year, $24 million contract with the Twins. Both signings seem reasonable to me, but as noted last month in my breakdown of free agent starters I think Kazmir has more upside than Hughes. Kazmir is perhaps also at considerably higher risk to provide zero value at some point, but there's only so much that can go wrong during a two-year commitment.

• There was quite a bit of buzz linking the Twins to free agents Jarrod Saltalamacchia and A.J. Pierzynski, but now both catchers are off the board. Pierzynski signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Red Sox and it sounds like he passed up multi-year offers to join the defending champs. Saltalamacchia got a three-year, $21 million deal from the Marlins, which is pretty reasonable and suggests he really wanted to play in Miami and/or the Twins' reported interest was overstated.

• As expected the Twins tendered contracts to all of their arbitration-eligible players: Anthony Swarzak, Trevor Plouffe, and Brian Duensing. All three are due for raises to around $1.5 million, so there were no monetary reasons to let any of them go. Last month the Twins parted ways with another arbitration-eligible player, Josh Roenicke, because they didn't think he was worth that type of money for a low-leverage middle relief role.

Caleb Thielbar, Andrew Albers, and Chris Colabello worked out well, so the Twins dipped back into independent ball to sign right-hander Jon Velasquez. He spent a couple seasons in the Phillies' farm system before moving on to the Canadian-American Association (where Colabello was MVP) and Atlantic League. Velasquez's track record was nothing special as a starter, but in shifting to the bullpen this year at age 27 he threw 74 innings with a 1.95 ERA and 82 strikeouts.

• They also signed career minor leaguers Brandon Waring, Chris Rahl, and Matt Hoffman to minor-league deals. Waring is a 27-year-old corner infielder with lots of power and strikeouts who hit .214/.317/.449 with 25 homers and 148 strikeouts in 109 games this year. Hoffman is a lefty reliever with just 117 strikeouts in 148 innings at Triple-A. Rahl is a 30-year-old outfielder who's hit .292/.328/.445 at Triple-A. Depth for Rochester, mostly.

Ron Coomer, who does television work for FOX Sports North during Twins games and co-hosts a daily radio show on K-TWIN, is one of two finalists for the Cubs' radio analyst gig.

Adam Platt interviewed Twins owner Jim Pohlad for Twin Cities Business magazine.

This week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode might be the most baseball-focused show we've ever done, with an hour of non-stop talk about the Hughes and Ricky Nolasco signings.


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October 25, 2013

Link-O-Rama

• Watching the evolution of the most popular girls names since 1960 is very fascinating and a little freaky. And there's a boys version too, although it's not nearly as interesting.

• Remember that "Twin Cities ladies you've probably dated" article from last week? There's a "Twin Cities guys you've probably dated" follow-up version, but as expected it doesn't include a "Blogger Guy" because none of us have ever actually had a date.

• Bloggers must be the coolest people in Japan.

• Twins Daily just posted their annual "Offseason Handbook" for the low, low price of $6.95, which includes a lengthy interview with Terry Ryan that I found maddening.

• Wednesday night Minnetonka police shot and killed a man less than a mile from my house.

• I took Time.com's "which state matches your personality" test and it said Wisconsin, which makes sense because I've always hated myself.

• I swear this is a headline from 2013: "Mase denies beef with Cam'ron."

• And in other 1990s rapper news, Ja Rule wants to write a cookbook of microwave recipes that he learned in jail and he broke that news to "Chopped" favorite Geoffrey Zakarian.

• I'm going to tonight's Jason Isbell concert at Varsity Theater. If any AG.com readers are going, let me know and I'll buy you a drink.

This week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode was recorded while sitting outside in the rain with a bunch of people staring at us and I sang a cappella Boyz II Men during the mailbag segment.

• My future wife sang another song, mashing up "The Middle" by Jimmy Eat World and "Cough Syrup" by Young The Giant:

I'm committed to linking to her videos until she marries me or becomes super famous.

• What should the Twins do with Trevor Plouffe and will they actually do it?

• On a related note, Plouffe doesn't seem too broken up by me saying he shouldn't be a starter.

Meatsauce from KFAN is hosting "Singles Night" at Xcel Center after a Wild game next month, which sounds like something I'm going to have to attend.

• I've become obsessed with reading about other people's dates and locally the woman behind "Meeting Flannel" is writing some really entertaining stuff.

• And of course Christina Walkinshaw remains the queen of date blogging. Are there any other good date recappers I should be reading and/or following on Twitter?

• My favorite excerpt from Maureen O'Connor's article in New York Magazine titled "There Is No Difference Between Online Dating and 'Real-Life' Dating":

Though most adults have never used a dating website, 30 percent of those who dated sometime in the last decade admit to using social media to research potential dates. One in five have asked someone on a first date online. Though only one in three "single and looking" adults use dating websites, half have used the internet to flirt.

I use the internet exclusively to flirt.

• Aw, dang. They're not even going to blow up the Metrodome, it turns out.

Thanks to Dodgers.com now you can carve Vin Scully's face into a pumpkin for Halloween.

• Congratulations to Lenovo for becoming the first people interested in buying a Blackberry in at least five years.

• I had a college teacher from North Carolina and it was one of my favorite classes just because I liked hearing her talk, so I'll sign off on a study rating "southern" as the most attractive accent.

• I dare you to find a sexier picture:

aaron kfan coors

Well, maybe this one from earlier in the night.

Giddy up.

• Multiple people sent me this same GIF, which tells me I've properly established my persona.

• I do my "manfluencing" every Sunday night at Cub Foods. Also: Men are dumb and predictable.

• Speaking of which, the manager at Cub Foods in Minnetonka is campaigning for us to record a podcast there and I'm actually thinking about it. Gonna give Knollwood some time to step up.

• I want to be at Thanksgiving dinner when the researchers' parents ask what they've been up to and they explain figuring out that men walk slower when they're on a date with women.

Good news for "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" and Chelsea Peretti fans.

• I think Bill Withers is probably the most underrated musician of all time and Jesse Thorn got him to do a rare interview.

• My favorite quote from Esther Povitsky's chat with Lauren Greenberg: "I've been having to see a lot of doctors and dentists lately because I'm Jewish."

DMX and Snoop Dogg combined for one of the sweetest tweets you'll ever see.

Francisco Liriano was named Comeback Player of the Year by The Sporting News.

• Very proud to say I'm a part of this, although I guess it means I need to start writing.

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

- "Paul Molitor speaks Spanish"
- "Jim Thome net worth"
- "Doug Bernier new and exciting for the Twins"
- "What kind of diet should an 87-pound person be on?"
- "Best workout for a 29-year-old on an elliptical machine?"
- "Joe Nathan hot tub commercial"
- "Lean Cuisine diet success"
- "Link-O-Rama qualifications"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Alabama Pines" by Isbell:


This week's blog content is sponsored by Twins Daily's new "2014 Offseason Handbook" featuring everything you need to prepare for the Twins' winter moves for just $6.95. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

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