August 26, 2004

Reader Mail (All Twins, All The Time Edition)

Would you believe people are complaining about me writing about the Twins over at The Hardball Times too much? As if they'd rather I write about the Royals and Orioles than discuss the best pitcher in the league.

Anyway, at the risk of people complaining that this blog has become too Twins-centric (save your breath on that complaint, by the way), here are some Twins-related e-mails I've gotten recently ...

Regarding Twins prospect Jason Kubel, who I wrote about on Wednesday, Andrew writes:

I saw Jason Kubel play for the Red Wings tonight in Buffalo. I hadn't seen him play before, so I was curious as to what he was like, and picked seats right along the first-base line.

As it turned out, he played left field tonight, so he was quite distant from me, and his first at-bat looked awful; two called strikes and a swinging third that looked like the ball was in another zip code from where he was swinging. He ended up going 0-for-3 with a walk, but after that first at-bat he made pitchers work; his third at-bat (in the seventh) was ended by an impressive running catch by the leftfielder in foul territory.

His last at-bat, though, impressed me with his patience against closer David Lee for the Bisons. He worked the count full, fouled off a couple more, and drew a walk that spawned a rally for Rochester that fell just short in a 3-2 loss.

What struck me about Kubel was, oddly, his fielding, which sounds weird for a corner outfielder. In the third inning, a Bison led off with a triple, the next one struck out, and then a long fly was hit to Kubel. The Bison runner tagged up, and Kubel threw home and nabbed the Bison running from third.

It was a very accurate throw, and the local fans booed but it was a good (if close) call. Considering he hasn't played in Buffalo more than a few times so far (Rochester plays here only eight times a year, and a few were when he was still in New Britain), it says a lot that he knew that it might be possible to beat the runner with a throw home. Certainly not a wondrous fielder (that's what we have in center), but one who seems to know what he's doing and willing to learn about different parks and opponents.

While these are my impressions of Kubel from one game, what do you know about his fielding, if anything?

Great e-mail, thanks Andrew.

The reports on Kubel's fielding are usually that he's a solid but unspectacular corner outfielder with a very good arm, but definitely could not handle center field on a regular basis. All of which is why his likely destination in Minnesota is right field.

My suggestion is that the Twins should replace Jacque Jones with Kubel next year and, while that will be a downgrade defensively, Kubel should be able to make up for some of that with his arm. It's not that Jones' arm is bad, but the problem is that half his throws literally don't even make it back to the infield without bouncing. He has some serious issues with his release point.

On a play at third base or home plate, his throw is either right on the money or it take eight bounces just to get to the cutoff man. It's a very strange thing, almost like Jones has the corner outfield version of whatever Rick Ankiel has (or had, if you've seen his numbers in the minors this year).

Staying on the subject of Kubel and Jones, here's an e-mail from none other than the Twins Geek himself, the world famous John Bonnes:

You're the second person in a week that I've seen suggest that Kubel will be in the lineup next year if Jones isn't. Given the Twins caution with prospects, I just don't see it. I don't think they'll re-sign Jones, but don't you think they play Ford in RF and have LeCroy DH? That also cleans up the LH thing. My guess would be:

1) Shannon Stewart - R

2) Lew Ford - R

3) Joe Mauer - L

4) Justin Morneau - L

5) Torii Hunter - R

6) Corey Koskie - L

7) Matt LeCroy -R

8) Michael Cuddyer - R

9) Punto/Veteran - R

I like that lineup. Maybe Hunter and LeCroy swap if LeCroy gets hot. Or, if LeCroy continues to struggle, or an OF gets hurt and has to play DH, we might get to see Kubel in there, but we won't see it in April or May.

There's no way they enter 2005 with Matthew LeCroy as the everyday designated hitter. Just no way. They tried that in 2003 and they tried that this season. In the past he has hit well while losing his job, but this year he hasn't even done that. I'm not sure what LeCroy's role will be with this team next year, but I'd bet a large sum of money that it won't be the everyday DH. That is, of course, if I had a large sum of money (or any sum of money).

I think John's belief that Kubel won't begin the season with the team is a solid one, if only because, as I've lamented here numerous times, the Twins never seem to do things quickly. Justin Morneau is their first baseman and cleanup hitter, but it took a while (and 38 Triple-A homers) to happen. Lew Ford has been their most valuable offensive player, but he's 28 years old and this is his first time playing regularly. And they still won't let Michael Cuddyer play more than once a week.

However, I have some hope that the Twins might view Kubel differently than guys like Ford, Cuddyer and even Morneau. What I mean is that the Twins' decision-makers gush over Kubel much like they gushed over Joe Mauer, and they don't seem to point out his faults like they often did with Morneau. And if the Twins view Kubel as similar to Mauer, he could very well be thrown into the fire right away, just like Mauer was this season after just 73 games above Single-A.

Regarding me saying "Carlos Silva is not an option against the Yankees (or anyone) in the playoffs" after his horrible outing against New York last week, Jim writes:

At some point I remember you seemed pretty high on the Silva but now you've soured on him. I'm wondering what role you see him settling into? He can't strike anyone out, thus relying on getting a timely grounder. I see him as a middle reliever guy that comes into trouble to face a right hander and hopefully induce a DP.

First off, I really don't remember ever being particularly high on Silva. I said I liked the trade that sent Eric Milton to the Phillies for Silva and Nick Punto, but that had more to do with getting rid of Milton's $9 million salary for this season than anything else.

I see Silva as a perfectly mediocre back-end-of-the-rotation starter, nothing more. He doesn't strike anyone out and he gives up home runs, which is an awful combination. However, he also throws strikes, has been very cheap, and, so far at least, pretty durable, which makes him someone who is nice to have soaking up innings at the end of the rotation. That said, if a team is counting on Silva to start a playoff game, they are in trouble. I have no dreams of him becoming anything better than an innings eater, but he does a fine job at that job, which has some value.

Oh, and by the way, the trade is still a good one and I'll argue that until Luis Rivas has a good season. Milton has a shiny won-loss record thanks to some incredible run support, but his pitching has been no better than Silva's this season. In fact, their numbers are amazingly similar, as they have both thrown 160.2 innings and they both have a 4.71 ERA. It's almost eery.

              IP      ERA      OBP      SLG      OPS      GPA     QS     VORP

Milton 160.2 4.71 .319 .511 .830 .271 15 16.5
Silva 160.2 4.71 .347 .474 .820 .274 13 18.8

One of those guys is being paid $9 million this year, while the other is being paid $340,000. Which do you think the Twins and their $55 million payroll are better off with?

See ya Monday ...

New article at The Hardball Times: Reader Mail (No More Twins! Edition)

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