April 10, 2006

Twins Notes

  • UPDATE: I just shot a piece for Channel 5 Eyewitness News (the local ABC affiliate) that's supposed to run tonight during the six o'clock news. If anyone has the ability to tape it and convert it to something people can watch online, I will forever be thankful. Drop me an e-mail if you'll be able to. And otherwise, look for me during their coverage of the Twins' home opener.
  • After pitching horribly with runners on base for the Twins last season, J.C. Romero has actually gotten the Angels out of some big jams already this year:

    The result was pleasing-to-the-palate, 5-4 season-opening victory over the Seattle Mariners in Safeco Field, the clutch relief effort provided by J.C. Romero, who bailed Colon out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the sixth.


    Romero, whose price tag dropped after he clashed with Twin Manager Ron Gardenhire, replaced the tiring Colon after Adrian Beltre reached on an error to open the sixth, Carl Everett singled and Kenji Johjima was hit by a pitch.

    Romero blew a full-count fastball by Jeremy Reed for strike three and retired No. 9 hitter Yuniesky Betancourt on a fly to left that was too shallow for Beltre to tag. Suzuki then slapped a grounder to Figgins, who fielded the ball and stepped on the third base bag to end the inning.

    "They say I thrive in those situations," Romero said. "To a lot of people, it's pressure; to me, it's fun. I'm not saying it's going to be a piece of cake every time, but things went my way today. It feels great."

    I always find it amusing when athletes are completely unaware of how fans view them. "They say I thrive in those situations" coming from Romero would be like if Britney Spears said, "They say I look better than ever."

  • Will Young has been tracking the "Win Probability Added" numbers for individual Twins players during each game. WPA is fairly complicated, but the basic idea is that it evaluates everything based on the impact it has on winning a specific game. In other words, hitting a game-winning single in the bottom of the ninth inning is worth more than hitting a grand slam in the sixth inning of a 12-2 game.

    Through the first six games of the season, Francisco Liriano leads the team in WPA at 4.5 percent, but since the Twins only have one win there hasn't been a whole lot of positive WPA to go around. There's plenty of negative WPA, however, and according to WPA the three players most responsible for the Twins' 1-5 start are:

    Kyle Lohse        -29.7%
    Tony Batista -24.8%
    Rondell White -23.2%

    Of course, there are limitations to the WPA system. For instance, Ron Gardenhire doesn't get proper "credit" for leaving Kyle Lohse in to serve up a first-pitch meatball Casey Blake with the bases loaded and Terry Ryan doesn't get proper "credit" for not trading Lohse for a hitter during the offseason. I'm really hoping that Will continues to track WPA for the entire season, because once we get deeper into the schedule the numbers will be very interesting and potentially extremely meaningful. So far they're just another way to rag on Tony Batista.
  • The Twins keep making noise about wanting a backup first baseman. It's gotten to the point that they took a light-hitting utility infielder, Luis Rodriguez, and taught him to play the position, thus missing the entire purpose of having a backup first baseman in the first place. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays designated Jason Phillips for assignment over the weekend.

    Phillips is a right-handed hitter who has batted .271/.352/.423 against left-handed pitching over the past three years, making him a solid platoon partner for Justin Morneau. Plus, Phillips is a capable defensive catcher who saw nearly 800 innings behind the plate for the Dodgers in 2005, and having him on the roster along with Mike Redmond could free Joe Mauer up for some time at designated hitter on his days off from catching.

    It'll never happen, of course, since the Twins would rather mess around with guys like Nick Punto and Ruben Sierra, but if they ever wanted to strengthen the bench while actually making the team more versatile, grabbing Phillips would be a start. I'm not generally in favor of having three catchers around, but if you're going to do it Phillips is the type of guy to go after (rather than, say, Corky Miller).

  • Here's why reality is a cruel bastard: On Wednesday morning some people in Kansas City were remarkably optimistic about Joe Mays not stinking this season. By Wednesday night he had a 12.46 ERA. My favorite quote, from Royals catcher John Buck:

    [Mays] said I hit pretty well against him, so hopefully that will indicate I can catch him.

    If hitting him well is all it takes, the list of guys who "can catch him" is a long one.

  • Similarly, here's example #1,593,958 of why spring training stats are meaningless: Lohse went 5-0 with a 2.42 ERA this spring, getting a shocking number of Twins fans delusional about his ability to suddenly "figure things out" despite a proven track record of mediocrity. Unfortunately the games start counting at some point, and when they did he gave up 11 hits and three walks in 4.2 innings against Cleveland.
  • I often get asked why I call LaVelle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune the "Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com." If you're one of those people who are curious about why I praise LEN3 so much, consider that after I criticized the local newspapers here Friday for not printing anything about Jay Rainville's season-ending injury, LEN3 actually stopped by to discuss the matter with everyone in the comments section.

    I thought his explanation (which you can read here and here) was lacking and told him so, but far more important than that I respect that he's willing to engage in a discussion about his work at a place like this. I frequently harp on what I perceive to be sub par writing in newspapers and a general air of superiority that is pervasive throughout the mainstream media, but if I were to make a list of the mainstream print guys who do their job well it would start with LEN3.

  • I was mentioned briefly Friday in Charley Walters' column in the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

    Highland Park graduate Aaron Gleeman, 23, who writes a lot about the Twins on hardballtimes.com and other blogs, was mentioned in last week's Sports Illustrated.

    Just to be clear, I "write a lot about the Twins" on exactly one blog, which is this one. The Hardball Times is not a blog and neither are the other sites I write for, like USAToday.com, FoxSports.com, and Rotoworld.com. But hey, rather than nitpick I should probably just say, "Thanks." While not quite being featured in Sports Illustrated, being mentioned in Walters' column was pretty cool. Back before I knew better I used to looking forward to reading the rumors in his column every day.

  • Like Bat-Girl, I'd really like one (or 50) of these to find their way to my house.

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