January 19, 2004

Not So Gleeman-Length Thoughts

Well, I'm back at school. I packed everything up, shoved it in a few duffle bags, drove it over to campus, brought it into my dorm room, took it out of the duffle bags, and shoved it into some drawers. So basically everything is back to normal.

In fact, depending on when you're reading this, I might be back in class at this very moment, learning the tricks of the journalism trade and other wonderful things.

I'm not sure whether it is the fact that I have been thinking about starting school again or if it's just one of those weeks, but I haven't been able to think of one topic to cover with an in-depth blog entry. Yesterday, I touched on several different things, ranging from women's golf to porno conventions.

Today is going to be more of the same - a few scattered thoughts on different stuff - with one big difference from yesterday: everything today has to do with baseball.


Oh, great...

From Twin Cities sports gossip columnist Charlie Walters:

Insiders say contract negotiations between the Twins and pitcher Johan Santana, who is eligible for salary arbitration, have become contentious.

I have no inside information other than the stuff I read from Charlie Walters, so I don't know if Santana's contract demands are ridiculous or not. I also don't know if the contentious negotiations Walters refers to are in regard to a one-year contract or a long-term deal. That said, if the Twins piss Johan off and he leaves for free agency in a couple years, I am going to be one very angry Twins fan.

They brought Santana along very slowly and didn't give him a chance as a full-time member of the starting rotation until the second-half of his fourth major league season. Now, when they are finally going to let him shine and make him a huge part of the team, they are pissing him off during contract negotiations?

If Santana has the type of season I think he is capable of having in 2004, his contract demands are only going to grow next time around. I really hope the Twins are trying to lock him up long-term, before he has a chance to show what he can do with a full-season's worth of starts.

If anyone reading this knows the real scoop on the contract talks (you know who you are), I would love hear about it.

Moneyball: Part II

I stumbled across an interview with Moneyball author Michael Lewis in the San Francisco Chronicle over the weekend and found the following tidbit particularly interesting:

I'm going to write a sequel to "Money Ball" (2003). It's a story about what happens to the kids who the Oakland A's drafted last year. They drafted all these curious characters who didn't fit the description of professional baseball players. They were either too small or too fat.

I actually did a mid-season update on "The Boys of Moneyball" here on this blog and it might be something to do again at some point. Certainly if Lewis writes the sequel, I'll be reading it.

The first player to make a major league impact from that draft will likely be Joe Blanton, a right-handed pitcher from the University of Kentucky that the A's took #24 overall. I wouldn't be surprised to see him in Oakland by mid-season and he has the potential to follow in the footsteps of Zito, Mulder, Hudson and Harden and become the next great, young, homegrown Oakland pitcher.

Having read Moneyball some time ago and having read and heard a lot of varying reactions to the book, I think I feel safe saying that Lewis exaggerated some aspects of what was going on with the A's, in an effort to produce a better story. I'm not saying that's a bad thing necessarily or that he shouldn't have done it, just that I think it is fairly clear that the story he wrote isn't 100% factual. Although I suppose it could have seemed factual to him, depending on how much time he actually spent inside the organization.

There was no doubt some poetic license involved in writing the story and I think that's part of the reason for some of the negative response to the book that everyone saw in the months after it came out. Of course, there's probably a good chance Joe Morgan still thinks Billy Beane shouldn't have written Moneyball. And, obviously, he's right.

I was thinking the other day about how a Moneyball-type of book needs to be written about an organization much different than the A's. A team that doesn't rely heavily on statistics for everything and a team that doesn't preach on-base percentage and patience throughout its ranks. Perhaps a team that relies more on scouting and "tools." A team like...well, a team like the Twins, for example.

I would love to write that book about the Minnesota Twins and about Terry Ryan, but somehow I just can't see anyone, let alone someone like me, ever being granted the type of access Lewis got with Beane and the A's. Of course, I could be wrong. If Terry Ryan or Wayne Krivsky or someone else is out there and you wouldn't mind me hanging around for a year with a notebook and pen, just say the word.

Mauer Power

I have praised Joe Mauer as a prospect many times. I believe he is the best prospect in baseball right now and that he will have an extremely successful career as a starting catcher in the major leagues.

Each time I write about Mauer, I get bombarded will emails from people asking me how I can be so high on a player who has yet to show any sort of power as a professional. I usually reply that power is oftentimes the last part of a hitter's game to develop and that Mauer is still very young. I also explain that almost every scout or front office type I have heard speak about Mauer says they expect him to develop significant power in the future.

Baseball America's Jim Callis had some interesting thoughts on Mauer recently:

Mauer may have just nine homers in 277 pro games, but he's a magician with the bat. He always has been quite young for his league, yet he has a career .330 average with significantly more walks (129) than strikeouts (101). Power is often the last tool to develop, and as Mauer learns to loft more pitches and pull more pitches, he'll hit more homers. The Twins believe he has the pop to hit 35-40 homers annually if he wanted to focus on power, though he'll probably be a guy who hits for a very high average and hits 20 homers.

That is exactly the points I try to make in the "Mauer will add power" argument, although Callis does a much better job explaining things than I usually do.

He goes on to compare Mauer to Twins first base prospect Justin Morneau, who has a ton of power:

Mauer was 20 last season, when he hit .338/.398/.434 while splitting time evenly between high Class A and Double-A. When Morneau was 20 in 2001, he tore up low Class A and then batted .272/.359/.396 in high Class A (53 games) and Double-A (10 games).

In other words, as I have said here so many times before, the context in which numbers are put up is extremely important, particularly at the minor league level.

I will certainly have a lot more on this subject in the coming months, but let me just say that I don't think Joe Mauer is going to show much power as a rookie this season. I do think he will eventually develop into a well above-average power threat and the fact that Morneau's power numbers in high Class A and Double-A at the same age weren't exactly McGwire-esque is good news.

Of course, what's even better news is that Mauer and Morneau should be members of the same lineup from 2005 until about 2020 or so.

If Joe Mauer doesn't develop any power, he's a left-handed Jason Kendall. If he does develop power, he's a left-handed Johnny Bench. Frankly, neither of those options sound too bad.

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

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