October 6, 2008
Twins Notes: Mauer, Lohse, Cabrera, Bartlett, and Media
JOE MAUER 127 2388
Yogi Berra 123 1925
Bill Dickey 119 1932
Mickey Cochrane 115 2001
Thurman Munson 114 1707
Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, and Mickey Cochrane are in the Hall of Fame, and Thurman Munson was an MVP winner and seven-time All-Star before dying in a plane crash midway through his age-32 season. None of them can match Mauer's production through the age of 25, which ranks as the best in league history for a catcher with at least 1,500 plate appearances. On a slightly less historic note, Mauer also broke his own single-season records for most RBIs and runs scored by a Twins catcher:
RBI YEAR RUN YEAR
JOE MAUER 85 2008 JOE MAUER 98 2008
JOE MAUER 84 2006 JOE MAUER 86 2006
Earl Battey 84 1963 Butch Wynegar 76 1977
Butch Wynegar 79 1977 Butch Wynegar 74 1979
A.J. Pierzynski 74 2003 Earl Battey 70 1961
Along with his oddly overlooked hitting exploits, Mauer also tied for second in the AL by throwing out 36 percent of steal attempts and was one of just four MLB catchers to log 1,200 innings behind the plate. Not bad for a guy who gets criticized constantly for what he doesn't do. As always, most people fail to realize how difficult it is for catchers to consistently post great numbers offensively, but Mauer is in truly rarefied air for his position through the age of 25 even if some critics can't get past his lack of homers.
However, Silva somehow managed to get a four-year, $48 million deal from the Mariners, while Lohse had to settle for a one-year, $4.25 million contract from the Cardinals. Fast forward to a year later. Silva went 4-15 with a 6.46 ERA for the Mariners, who likely regretted signing him shortly after the ink dried. Lohse went 15-6 with a 3.78 ERA for the Cardinals, who got great value out of a low-risk, one-year deal and then decided to follow in the Mariners' footsteps by signing him to a four-year, $41 million contract.
While examining the Twins' payroll situation for next season, Twins Geek recently noted that the team's current five-man starting rotation of Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins, and Nick Blackburn will make a combined $2 million in 2009 while Silva and Lohse combine to make right around $20 million. As always developing and then trusting young, cheap talent is incredibly important, but so is letting those same players leave when they aren't so young or cheap any more.
When asked about Lohse's new contract, the door to Ron Gardenhire's office had no comment.
Lohse has thrived when equipped with pitching coach Dave Duncan's game plans. Lohse embraced the Cardinals' culture and a strong working relationship with manager Tony La Russa and Duncan. After butting heads with manager Ron Gardenhire while with the Minnesota Twins, Lohse placed high value on this year's relative tranquility.
Cabrera is 34 years old and hasn't had an above average Revised Zone Rating in five seasons. Plus, even if you're willing to assume that he's still a solid defender, Cabrera hit .281/.334/.371 this season, batted .288/.338/.390 over the past three years, and has a .274/.322/.399 career mark. MLB shortstops as a whole batted .272/.327/.391 this season, so if everything goes well in terms of staying healthy and avoiding a dropoff in his mid-30s, Cabrera has a chance to be an average all-around shortstop.
Not only isn't that the type of player the Twins should be looking to pay anywhere close to $10 million per year, odds are that Cabrera will decline both offensively and defensively over the next few seasons. If he was young and cheap Cabrera would absolutely be worth targeting, but at 34 and the likely cost of around $10 million per season for multiple years he shouldn't even be on the Twins' radar. And if you're not yet convinced, take a look at this comparison of 2008 numbers:
PA AVG OBP SLG OPS RZR
Cabrera 730 .281 .334 .371 .705 .834
Player X 377 .284 .344 .382 .726 .860
Player X is none other than Nick Punto, another impending free agent who along with edging Cabrera this season in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and Revised Zone Rating is also three years younger. Shortstop is absolutely a big area of need for the Twins and they should be looking to upgrade over Punto this winter, but paying an aging, overrated Cabrera five times as much for similar production isn't the way to go.
2006-2008 PA AVG OBP SLG OPS RZR
Cabrera 2106 .288 .338 .390 .728 .808
Bartlett 1436 .284 .343 .369 .712 .823
Considering how most Twins fans slagged Bartlett during his underrated time in Minnesota, my guess is that not many of them would be too keen about paying his 34-year-old clone $10 million per season. Speaking of Bartlett, he was recently voted the Rays' most valuable player by the Tampa Bay chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America, which is amazing given that his first season with the Rays was essentially identical to his last season with the Twins:
PA AVG OBP SLG OPS RZR
Bartlett '07 570 .265 .339 .361 .699 .804
Bartlett '08 494 .286 .329 .361 .690 .807
Prior to that BBWAA vote this blog had been home to some of the most pro-Bartlett talk anywhere, but the notion of him as MVP of a 97-win team featuring Evan Longoria, Scott Kazmir, B.J. Upton, James Shields, Carlos Pena, Matt Garza, Grant Balfour, Dioner Navarro, and J.P. Howell is absurd. In fact, Bartlett had the lowest Win Probability Added on the team. He's a nice, solid player who was never fully appreciated in Minnesota, but the perception pendulum has now swung too far in the other direction.
For more on Zoilo Versalles and his MVP-winning 1965 season, check out my write-up ranking him the 22nd-best player in Twins history.
Third baseman Mark Reynolds committed his 33rd error of season and struck out twice, giving him 198, one short of Ryan Howard's major-league record established last season. Reynolds leads the league in both categories, something only seven players in baseball history have done before. He would be the first to do so since Minnesota's Zoilo Versalles in 1965. Versalles, who had 122 strikeouts and 39 errors at shortstop, won the American League MVP that season.
For more on Gary Gaetti and his postseason heroics, check out my write-up ranking him the 21st-best player in Twins history.
Triple-A hitting coach Gary Gaetti was sitting home in Houston on Thursday, watching Evan Longoria homer in his first two career postseason at-bats, when the memories flooded back. "I think Evan and I are the only two people that have ever done that," he told his wife, Donna.
Indeed they are. Gaetti, playing for the Twins, homered in his first two at-bats of the 1987 AL playoffs against Detroit. Longoria, whom Gaetti coached in 2007 and briefly this season, matched him. "I think that's really cool," Gaetti said.
Having met some of the people pictured I'm able to identify at least three and possibly as many as five of the media members surrounding Punto--seriously, look at them swarm around Nick Punto!--but I'll shut up and give everyone else a chance to guess. Here's one hint: Sid Hartman is not pictured, most likely because when the interviewing started he was either still finishing off his free soup in the press box or cleaning his tie after spilling the aforementioned free soup in the press box. And ... go!
Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.