January 12, 2009

Twins Notes: No Thank You

  • News that Michael Young requested a trade after the Rangers asked him to move from shortstop to third base led to quite a few e-mails and comments wondering if the Twins would be interested. Young is a recognizable name with five All-Star appearances and a Gold Glove under his belt, so casual fans and lazy media members would likely be in favor of the Twins acquiring him. However, in reality that's a horrendous idea because Young is perhaps the most overrated player in baseball.

    During the past four seasons his OPS has declined from .898 to .815 to .784 to .741, and those marks are also hugely inflated by Texas' extremely hitter-friendly ballpark. Young has hit just .279/.323/.404 on the road during his career. For comparison, Brendan Harris is a career .269/.330/.408 hitter. Beyond that, Young winning the Gold Glove last year was totally undeserved, as he's consistently rated among the league's worst defensive shortstops in most advanced metrics.

    Ultimate Zone Rating pegs him as 65.1 runs below average in over 6,700 career innings at shortstop, including negative totals in each of his five full seasons at the position. Revised Zone Rating shows him as three percent below the MLB average for shortstops during his career, including below-average marks in four of his five full seasons at the position. And last but certainly not least, Young is already 32 years old and is owed $62 million over the next five seasons.

    Twins fans should be praying that Bill Smith has zero interest in Young.

  • Justin Morneau will play for Team Canada, but Joe Mauer declined an invitation to be on Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. Mauer cited last month's minor kidney surgery when declining the invite, but regardless of his health status opting not to log unnecessary time behind the plate is smart. Mauer has been far more durable than most people give him credit for since his rookie season, but catchers' bodies wear down quickly enough as it is without volunteering for extra squatting.

    Mauer joins a lengthy list of American stars who've passed on playing in the second WBC tournament and the choice is especially sensible for a young catcher. Plus, with Brian McCann and Chris Iannetta already on the roster Team USA is in good shape behind the plate. Incidentally, Mauer ranked second in the AL in innings caught last year and in the four seasons since coming back from his 2004 knee injury he ranks second among all MLB catchers in plate appearances:

    Jason Kendall 2403
    JOE MAUER 2266
    Victor Martinez 2213
    A.J. Pierzynski 2119
    Ivan Rodriguez 2049

    Baseball history shows that catchers simply don't rack up 600-700 plate appearances per season, but the general lack of understanding about their typical workloads is one of the many reasons why Mauer is incredibly underrated. Along with ranking second to only Jason Kendall in plate appearances during that four-year span, Mauer leads all catchers in hits, walks, runs, batting average, on-base percentage, Runs Created, and OPS+. As long as no one tells Dan Barreiro, we should be okay.

  • Much like the Twins last offseason, the Tigers are under the impression that they've shored up their infield defense by signing Adam Everett to a one-year, $1 million contract. Signing him last winter was a decent idea that went wrong when lingering shoulder problems sapped Everett of his arm strength and made simply throwing the ball to first base a chore for one of the elite defensive players of this era. However, gimpy arm and all Everett still rated significantly above average in UZR and RZR.
  • LaVelle E. Neal III reports that the Twins are interested in signing Jason Kubel to a two-year contract, which sounds misleadingly newsworthy. Kubel is entering his second season of arbitration eligibility, so he's under the Twins' control for both 2009 and 2010. In other words, he can't become a free agent for another two seasons anyway and a two-year deal would merely give the Twins some cost certainty. If they're smart, the Twins will at least attempt to get a team option for 2011 included in the deal.

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