December 17, 2002

Okay fellas...line it up!

Semester one of my sophomore year of college is officially over!

That means I have about a month off from school and essentially a limitless supply of free time.

Which means...lots of baseball blogging!

That is good news for everyone that enjoys this site and bad news for...well, I guess if they didn't like the site they wouldn't be here anyway.

Over the next 4-5 weeks I expect to write a whole lot about baseball.

I have pretty much been posting one column per day during the school year and I still plan to do that during vacation.

However, if the mood strikes me, I will just post stuff whenever I feel like it, which could mean like 50 times a day depending on how bored I am.

So, let's start the vacation blogging...

Yesterday I talked about the Twins for the first time in a long while, so I figured I would talk about them again today (how's that for logic?).

(By the way, I am a complete idiot when it comes to computers and a perfect example of that is the fact that I just accidently deleted yesterday's column. I wrote like 2,000 words on the Twins and other subjects yesterday, several hundred people read them and now they are gone forever. I am such a moron. If, for some reason, someone out there saved yesterday column or printed it out or something and could somehow send it to me, I would be forever greatful.)

Ron Gardenhire is talking about making some major changes in the batting order for next season.

Most notably moving Jacque Jones from the leadoff spot and inserting Torii Hunter into the #3 spot.

I am in 100% agreement with both of those moves.

Jacque Jones is wrong for the leadoff spot for 2 big reasons:

1) He doesn't get on base a whole lot.

2) His power is wasted there because no one is on base during his at bat at least once a game.

I also agree with putting Torii in the 3-hole.

I have always felt that the best overall hitter on the team should bat 3rd and I feel like Torii is that guy for the Twins.

Now, having said all of that, moving Jones out of the leadoff spot also creates a problem because that means you have to find a new leadoff hitter.

And that is something the Twins don't have.

Well, that's not really true, they do have a leadoff hitter in Bobby Kielty, but they don't seem to be thinking of him as an everyday starter.

(A side note: Now that Erubiel Durazo has been set free, I ask all statheads to join with me in my effort to "FREE BOBBY KIELTY!" Thank you.)

Cristian Guzman is a perfect leadoff hitter - switch-hitter, can bunt, runs well, hits for a good average - except for one major thing: he doesn't walk. EVER!

If Guzy could somehow just up his walk total to like 40-50 per season, he would be soooooo much more valuable to the Twins and he could really help them organize their lineup too.

Since I don't foresee Guzman suddenly learning to take more walks, I had a radical solution for the leadoff spot.

Normally, managers like to have guys with good speed at the top of lineup, despite the fact that the stolen base is really becoming less and less of a weapon in the current era of baseball.

But, that is a topic for another time.

My radical idea was to bat Doug Mientkiewicz leadoff.

He is certainly not your prototypical leadoff hitter, because he isn't going to cause much trouble on the basepaths (at least not for the opposition).

But, Mientkiewicz certainly is not a complete slug on the bases and I would say he probably has average speed.

More importantly, he gets on base and he does it against both right handed and left handed pitching.

He also takes a lot of pitches and works long counts, which is a nice skill for your leadoff man to have too.

Another bonus of having Dougie bat #1 is that you don't have to worry about having him in the middle of the order, where his lack of power is not something you want in a mid-lineup spot.

I have said this before and I will say it again: one strength of good managers and general managers is the ability to see what a player can do and not what he can't do.

Mientkiewicz can't hit 30-40 homers a year and because of that he will never be an elite 1B and the Twins shouldn't commit themselves to him for very long.

But, right now, Mientkiewicz can help a lineup by getting on base, which is something he does better than every Twin not named Bobby Kielty.

However, somewhere along the line my Mientkiewicz-leading-off plan hit a snag, because I couldn't quite figure out who I would bat #2.

Corey Koskie?

Koskie gets on base a lot too and he hits pretty well against lefties and very well against righties, but I would rather have him bat in a mid-lineup spot.

Plus, having 2 lefties (Doug and Corey) to lead off a game isn't such a great idea and it also causes problems because it leaves too many righties in the 3-9 spots in the lineup.

Amazingly, by ditching David Ortiz in favor of Matt LeCroy and adding Cuddyer as the likely everyday right fielder, the Twins have quickly gone from a lefty dominated lineup to one that is actually sort of righty dominant, at least as far as the power hitters go.

Okay, I already said I like to use the hitter that I feel is the overall best on the team in the #3 spot, so Hunter bats 3rd and is not a candidate to bat #2.

Luis Rivas?

No thanks, I will keep him at the bottom of my lineup at all costs.

Matt LeCroy or Michael Cuddyer?

Definitely not.

Too slow and too much power for the #2 spot in the lineup.


That creates the same lefty-lefty problem at the top and right handed bunching in the middle problem that Koskie did.

Jacque Jones?

Same L-L problem as Koskie and Pierzynski, plus I want Jacque batting in the middle of the lineup.

Guess who that leaves?

The one and only hacking machine, Cristian Guzman.

The problem with the Twins, if you can call this a problem, is that they have too many 3-4-5-6 type hitters and zero top of the order guys.

Which is why they need Bobby Kielty, but I think you are probably sick of me saying that by now...

Okay, so I am resigned to batting Guzman at the top of the order.

That said, if Guzman and Mientkiewicz are going to bat in the first two spots, in which order should they go?

Guzy-Dougie or Dougie-Guzy?


I really don't think it matters too much really.

With Guzy-Dougie you have the more powerful hitter (Mientkiewicz) able to possibly drive Guzman in, but with Dougie-Guzy you have Mientkiewicz on base a lot more for Guzman to possibly drive in.

6 in one and half a dozen in the other, right?

Let's go with Guzman #1 because I don't want to be too unconventional, it might scare away readers.


1) Guzman - S

2) Mientkiewicz - L

3) Hunter - R

So far, so good.

We go switch, lefty, righty.

Speed at the very top, good OBP #2 and then your best overall hitter.

Now, the cleanup spot...

I started to lean towards Michael Cuddyer here, because I believe he has the most power potential on the team.

But, he is a rookie and it might be too much pressure to put on him right away.

Plus, if possible, I would like to stick to the alternating lefty/righty sequence.

Which means Corey Koskie is my cleanup man.

Then, I stick Cuddyer in at #5 and Jacque Jones at #6, which is where Gardenhire has mentioned he may put Jacque.

Now we've got this:

1) Guzman - S

2) Mientkiewicz - L

3) Hunter - R

4) Koskie - L

5) Cuddyer - R

6) Jones - L

I already said I want Rivas hitting 9th and accumulating the least amount of plate appearances (and thus making the least amount of outs) as humanly possible.

Which leaves LeCroy and Pierzynski for the final 2 spots.

We might as well keep alternating L/R, so let's put LeCroy #7 and A.J. #8.

My 2002 Twins lineup:

1) Guzman - S

2) Mientkiewicz - L

3) Hunter - R

4) Koskie - L

5) Cuddyer - R

6) Jones - L

7) LeCroy - R

8) Pierzynski - L

9) Rivas - R

See how easy that was?

We start with a switch hitter and then alternate lefty/right all the way through, which is always nice.

Against left handed pitching, you can occasionally sub Tom Prince in for A.J. at #8 and put Kielty in for Jones (hopefully!) at #6.

Otherwise, everything remains the same.

That is a lineup that will score some runs, particularly if Cuddyer is as good as I think he will be and Guzman gets his head out of his butt and starts improving and playing consistently.

In other news...

I was checking out one of my favorite baseball sites,, when I saw a survey that BA conducted with the MLB team front office types at the Winter Meetings in Nashville.

Unfortunately, the article is part of their "premium" content, which costs money and requires a password, so not everyone can check it out.

Basically, Baseball America just asked the GMs and assistant GMs some questions and got their opinions.

A few of the quotes just made me smile...

BA asks: "Your top pitching prospect just threw 126 pitches in Double-A. How do you feel?"

Paul DePodesta, Oakland A's: "It would never happen. We’d probably be listening to the game on the Internet, and would call the manager before he had the chance."

Exactly the sort of answer I would expect from a magnificently run organization like the Oakland A's.

And then you have this...

Art Stewart, Kansas City Royals: "I’d pat him on the back. We’re making babies out of farmhands in baseball today. Then we wonder why they don’t go eight or nine."

First of all, I disagree with that statement.

But that isn't what made me laugh.

What got a chuckle out of me is that, while Paul DePodesta and the A's are concerned with pitch counts and producing stud pitchers like Barry Zito, Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson, the Royals are letting their prospects throw 130 pitches in meaningless minor league games, patting them on the back and producing pitchers like...well, they really haven't produced a decent pitcher from their system in quite a long time.

I am a believer in pitch counts.

I don't think they are the be all and end all for young pitchers and I don't think 1 game of 120+ pitches will ruin a career or anything, but I am pretty sure that a sustained pattern of high pitch outings for a young pitcher is just asking for trouble.

So, while the A's are "babying" guys like Zito, Hudson and Mulder, not to mention guys like Rich Harden (who is on the way to the Big Show), the Royals are producing a bunch of really tough and manly guys with torn labrums and a complete inability to get Major League hitters out.

On to the next question...

BA asks: "What is the worst contract?"

Terry Ryan, Minnesota Twins: "That isn’t a fair question. You never know. One of our own players a few years ago, when we signed him to a long-term deal everyone was patting us on the back. Now it’s, ‘You dumb sons of bitches.’ "

Terry is definitely right that this isn't a fair question, particularly if the results are going to be published like this.

His answer immediately got my brain going...who's contract is he referring to?

I think it is probably one of three possibilities: Cristian Guzman, Joe Mays or Brad Radke.

The only other semi-long term deal the Twins have handed out recently was to Eric Milton and I doubt anyone is really complaining about that.

I don't really have a point (as usual), I just thought the comment was interesting and I wish I knew which guy he was talking about.

Next question...

BA asks: "Did you grow up playing Strat-O-Matic or similar statistics-based game?"

Mike Arbuckle, Philadelphia Philles: "No. I grew up on the field."

I don't know what Arbuckle looked like or what his tone of voice was when he said that, but when I pictured it in my head right after I read the quote, I immediately thought to myself, "Oh, what a f@$%ing tough guy!"

Nope, no analysis or stats for Arbuckle, he's an old school tough guy, not one of those nerds with the calculators and spreadsheets.

Arbuckle might be a great guy (and he might really be into OBP and pitch counts), but that quote immediately gave me the impression that he is a jerk.

And then I got to this question...

BA asks: "Who is the best GM prospect in the game?"

Dan Jennings, Marlins: "Mike Arbuckle. He’s an evaluator, has excellent people skills and is intelligent."

And don't forget, he "grew up on the field!"

Okay, maybe I am wrong and the quote just struck me as weird.

What the heck do I know.

There seems to be a sort of bully mentality directed at guys like Epstein and Beane and Ricciardi and their front office people because they dare to use statistics to help run their teams.

I just don't get it and, being a stathead myself, I guess I get a little defensive.

And finally...

Be on the look out for 2 new articles of mine on in the next week or so.

I will, of course, let everyone know when and where to get them when they are available.

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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