September 17, 2003

Nail? Check. Coffin? Check.

Yesterday, after the Twins beat the White Sox in the first game of their three-game series, I said the following:

"At the risk of completely jinxing my favorite team, let me be the first to say this:

The 2003 AL Central division race is over.

That's right, over. You heard it here first. Whether the Twins win either of the next two games against the White Sox or not, they will win this division. And they will have done it by holding their own against the Chicago White Sox.

I feel so confident about my prediction that you know what you can do with it?

You can put it on the board....YESSSSSSSS!!!!!

Hey Hawk and you like them apples?"

Shockingly, many White Sox fans took offense to me awarding the Twins the AL Central championship. I got a ton of emails yesterday, many of which contained things that really weren't all that nice (another big shocker, I know). I even stumbled across a White Sox message board where Sox fans were discussing yesterday's entry. Two of them had the following exchange:

"The guy in the blog said that it's over and the Twins will win, so you know they won't."

"Yeah, I get the feeling he'll get some nasty letters from Sox fans when we do pull this off."

To every White Sox fan reading this right now, particularly the many who emailed me yesterday and those two geniuses on the message board, I would like to say something...

It's over. Finished. The fat lady is already off the stage. Elvis and Runelvys have left the building. You can stick a fork in the Chicago White Sox, because they are done.

Minnesota 4, Chicago 2

                W      L     GB

Minnesota 83 69 ---
Chicago 80 71 2.5

If I were the White Sox, I'd start worrying about trying to beat Kansas City for second-place, because at least that's something they might have a chance at. Personally, I hope the Royals beat the snot out of Chicago during the 7 games they have left against each other before the end of the season. Why?

Because I am sick of the Chicago White Sox. Over the last several seasons, they have been the cockiest team to have never won a single thing that I have ever seen. I think Twins play-by-play man Dick Bremer said it best during a broadcast a few weeks ago. When told by Bert Blyleven that the White Sox seemed confident and were doing a lot of talking, Bremer quickly replied, "They did plenty of talking last year too, and they were 15 games back."

I am sick of hearing the White Sox run their mouths, but that's not all. I'm sick of Hawk and DJ. I'm sick of "He Gone!" and "The Good Guys." I'm sick of "putting it on the board." I'm sick of Jerry Manuel. I'm sick of hearing about Roberto Alomar's defense and seeing his fake hustle slides into first base. I'm sick of hearing about Chicago's "Three Aces," a group that includes two guys with ERAs of 3.83 and 4.13. I'm sick of Billy Koch and his ridiculous facial hair. I'm sick of hearing about the "brilliant" trades Kenny Williams made at mid-season. And I'm sick of getting emails from people telling me how dumb I'm going to look when the White Sox beat the Twins.

As the great (well, not really) Fredo Corleone once said, "I'm smart! Not like everybody dumb...I'm smart and I want respect!"

The Twins messed around long enough and gave the White Sox and their fans a little thrill. It was fun to have a pennant race for a while, but enough is enough. For all the "smack" the White Sox and their fans have been talking over the last couple months (and really, the last few seasons), the White Sox should now be working on getting tee times for next month, while the Twins will be finalizing their playoff-roster.

Okay, now that I've got that off my chest...

The other day, I commented on an article I saw in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune entitled "Stewart shows MVP talk isn't misguided." The article discussed whether or not Shannon Stewart deserves American League Most Valuable Player consideration. Here's a little of what I said in response:

"Don't get me wrong, I like Shannon Stewart as a player quite a bit and I'm perfectly willing to admit that he has been an excellent pickup for the second-half of this season. I'm even willing to listen to people talk about him as Minnesota's MVP, as misguided as I think that is. But please, let's not get completely crazy here."

I don't think anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis would be of the opinion that Stewart has been the MVP of the American League, but from the emails I received since I wrote that, it is apparent that many of you think he definitely deserves consideration for MVP of the Minnesota Twins.

I think the idea that a position player who is only on a team for 60 games can possibly be the MVP of the team is fairly crazy. Sure, Stewart has been very good since joining the Twins, but he's only been very good for 58 games. Plus, he's "only" hitting .325/.385/.476 as a Twin. Good numbers for sure, but it's not as if he's Barry Bonds.

The larger question in my mind is who is Minnesota's MVP. It's easy to say who isn't - Stewart, Luis Rivas, Cristian Guzman, Joe Mays - but it's a little tougher to determine who has been the Most Valuable Player on a team without any real superstars.

Here are the top 15 Twins according to "Value Over Replacement Position" (VORP):


Johan Santana 47.0
Corey Koskie 33.2
Latroy Hawkins 29.8
Brad Radke 28.4
A.J. Pierzynski 25.5
Kyle Lohse 25.2
Doug Mientkiewicz 23.8
Juan Rincon 20.8
Eddie Guardado 20.6
Kenny Rogers 18.7
Matthew LeCroy 13.8
Shannon Stewart 13.6
Jacque Jones 12.8
Torii Hunter 11.7
Rick Reed 11.5

Lots to digest here.

First of all, the list is dominated by pitchers, who hold 7 of the first 10 spots and 8 out of 15 overall. You'll notice Shannon Stewart ranks 12th on the team, sandwiched in-between Matthew LeCroy and Jacque Jones. You'll also notice that, if you go right to the top of the list, you see none other than "The Official Pitcher of Aaron's Baseball Blog" - Johan Santana.

So, according to VORP, Santana has been the most valuable Twin this season, by a fairly large margin. Of course, VORP does not account for a player's defensive contributions, which may be part of the reason why pitchers dominate the list. Certainly Corey Koskie is worth quite a few runs over a "replacement-level" third baseman on defense, and it's certainly possible he is worth enough defensively to overtake Santana for the top spot on the team. Similarly, guys like A.J. Pierzynski, Doug Mientkiewicz and Torii Hunter add quite a lot of value on defense and would definitely move up the list if that were a part of VORP.

Another way to look at this whole thing is by way of Bill James' "Win Shares," which, unlike VORP, takes defense into account. Here are the top 15 Twins in Win Shares (courtesy of


Corey Koskie 19
A.J. Pierzynski 18
Doug Mientkiewicz 18
Johan Santana 15
Eddie Guardado 13
Torii Hunter 13
Jacque Jones 12
Latroy Hawkins 11
Matthew LeCroy 10
Cristian Guzman 10
Brad Radke 9
Kyle Lohse 9
Kenny Rogers 9
Bobby Kielty 8
Shannon Stewart 7

Going from VORP to Win Shares propels Koskie to the top of the heap, in part because of the 4.57 Win Shares he gets for his defense at third. And, as I suspected, counting defense also helps Pierzynski, Mientkiewicz and Hunter quite a bit, moving A.J. from 5th to 2nd, and Doug from 7th to 3rd. Hunter makes the biggest jump, going from 14th in VORP to 6th in WS, mostly because of the 5.54 defensive Win Shares he is given credit for.

Meanwhile, Santana drops from 1st to 4th. Cristian Guzman joins the top 15, checking in at #10, while our old friend Bobby Kielty comes in at #14 - one spot and one Win Share ahead of the man he was traded for. Rick Reed and Juan Rincon drop out of the top 15, meaning just 6 pitches are included in the Win Shares top 15.

I think it's clear, to me at least, that Shannon Stewart has certainly not been the MVP of the Minnesota Twins this season. No matter what type of advanced metrics you want to look at, whether it is VORP or Win Shares or something else, Stewart most likely checks in somewhere between the 10th and 15th most valuable Twin this season. The main argument I have heard for Stewart actually being the MVP of the team seems to be that his contributions have come in the season's second-half, making them more important and thus more valuable.

That's not an argument I believe in and, even it were, Shannon Stewart has not even been the MVP of the Twins since he joined the team...

Since Stewart's arrival:

                     AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS     RC/27

Shannon Stewart .325 .385 .476 .861 6.83
Doug Mientkiewicz .317 .443 .448 .891 8.00

Johan Santana 75.2 3.21 7 1
Brad Radke 82.1 3.50 8 1

Sure, Stewart's been a "sparkplug" at the top of the lineup and all that other cliched stuff, but Doug Mientkiewicz has been the Twins' best hitter since Stewart joined the team. And Doug's defensive contributions, even at first base, trump Stewart's too.

And if you want to bring pitchers into the mix, Brad Radke and Johan Santana have both been excellent since Stewart came to the Twins. Radke is 8-1 with a 3.50 ERA in 12 starts and Santana is 7-1 with a 3.21 ERA in 12 starts.

I think sometimes in sports (and in life too, I guess), people get caught up in their emotions and feel the need to make something seem more spectacular than it actually is. Shannon Stewart came over to the Twins in a trade and has been very good and he has Twins fans so excited that suddenly he is being talked about as the savior of the team and the MVP. That is quite obviously not the case, whether you want to judge it on the entire season or on second-half contributions.

I wonder why it isn't enough to just say Shannon Stewart has been great for the Twins in the second-half. Why does it have to be taken to a new level, where his contributions are exaggerated to the point that he is said to have been the Most Valuable Player of the entire team?

There are still a few games left to be played this season, but if I were filling out my ballot for Minnesota Twins team MVP, it would look like this:

1) Corey Koskie (.290/.391/.452, 2nd in VORP, 1st in WS)

2) Johan Santana (11-3/147.2 IP/3.11 ERA, 1st in VORP, 4th in WS)

3) Doug Mientkiewicz (.304/.393/.456, 7th in VORP, 3rd in WS)

4) A.J. Pierzynski (.305/.351/.452, 5th in VORP, 2nd in WS)

5) Latroy Hawkins (9-3/75.0 IP/1.92 ERA, 3rd in VORP, 8th in WS)

Link of the Day:

Universal Baseball Blog, Inc. - "Roy Hobbs indeed"

In yesterday's entry, I coined a new nickname for Twins rookie Michael Ryan - "Michael 'Roy Hobbs' Ryan." Ben Jacobs over at the "Universal Baseball Blog, Inc." lives in Rochester, New York, where Ryan played Triple-A baseball for the majority of this season. Ben checks in with an entry about just how unlikely it is for Michael Ryan, who homered again last night, to be hitting .385/.419/.795 for the Twins right now. It's a good read, as all of Ben's stuff is, so go check it out.

Today's picks:

San Diego (Peavy) +175 over San Francisco (Ponson)

Total to date: + 2,685

W/L record: 237-236 (2-0 yesterday for +215.)

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

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