November 17, 2009

Twitter Mailbag: Answers

Last week I asked for mailbag questions submitted via Twitter and you guys sent me a whole bunch of them, so here are some answers ...

Where do you expect J.J. Hardy to bat in the lineup?

This is tough to say before knowing who'll be playing second base, because history suggests that Ron Gardenhire will want to use a middle infielder in the second spot. J.J. Hardy wouldn't be a very good fit there because he has a poor .323 on-base percentage and grounds into a lot of double plays, which isn't the skill set that you want hitting directly in front of Joe Mauer. Ideally sixth or seventh would likely be the best spot for Hardy, taking advantage of his 20-homer power while minimizing the lack of OBP.

What are your favorite non-Twins baseball blogs?

Circling the Bases on, but you knew that already. Some others, in no particular order:

- U.S.S. Mariner (Dave Cameron, Derek Zumsteg)
- Al's Ramblings (Al Bethke)
- MLB Trade Rumors (Tim Dierkes)
- Sweet Spot (Rob Neyer)
- Big League Stew (Kevin Kaduk, David Brown)
- From the Dugout (Sam Miller)
- Major League Bastian (Jordan Bastain)
- The Zo Zone (Todd Zolecki)
- Ball Star (Sam Mellinger)
- Dodger Thoughts (Jon Weisman)
- Extra Bases (Peter Abraham)
- Obviously, You're Not a Golfer (Matthew Leach)

There are over 100 baseball blogs in my RSS feed for news-gathering purposes, so I'm surely leaving out a bunch of good ones, but those are a dozen that I consistently enjoy.

Does Alexi Casilla have a future with the Twins?

My sense is that the Twins aren't ready to give up on Alexi Casilla yet, but there's no real reason to hold out much hope. While it's tempting to remember how good he's been for various stretches, at the end of the day Casilla is a career .244/.301/.314 hitter through 243 games in the majors and also hit just .278/.352/.350 in 169 games at Triple-A. He's still just 25 years old, but that track record offensively and a lack of elite defense makes me very pessimistic about his long-term value.

Could Dan Uggla be a solution at second base or is he too pricey?

I'm not particularly high on Dan Uggla for the Twins, although certainly as a .257/.344/.486 career hitter with 30-homer power who draws lots of walks his bat would be a huge upgrade. However, he's also a bad defensive second baseman who's unwilling to change positions and figures to make at least $7 million via arbitration for 2010. Toss in the prospects to get him from the Marlins and the price is likely too high. Probably a moot point anyway, because the Twins don't target guys with 160 strikeouts a year.

Which of the Twins' championship teams was your favorite?

Definitely the 1991 team, because that was the first season that I remember watching. Helluva year to start being a hardcore baseball fan. At the time it seemed obvious to an 8-year-old me that the Twins would be in the World Series every year and I recall keeping overly detailed stats in a notebook during each game. Shocking, I know.

If Joe Nathan were to be traded, what kind of value could the Twins expect?

That's really difficult to predict. Joe Nathan has been an elite closer for his entire time in Minnesota, but he's also 35 years old and owed $11.25 million in each of the next two seasons, with a $12.5 million option or $2 million buyout for 2012. Even if they wanted to not many teams are in a position to give up significant value and take that kind of payroll hit for a guy who pitches 60-70 innings per season. Plus, there are a handful of other closers available via free agency or trade this winter, flooding the market.

If the Twins did trade Nathan, who in the bullpen could take his place?

For the most part any very good setup man can be a good closer, so the question is basically whether or not the Twins have any very good setup men. Jon Rauch has previous closing experience and prior to his injury Pat Neshek certainly looked capable of doing the job, but right now the Twins certainly lack a dominant setup man. Still, few people pegged guys like Eddie Guardado or even Nathan himself as an obvious closer success story before they were handed ninth-inning duties. It's a role, not a position.

Realistic thoughts on Ben Sheets?

I actually just wrote something about Ben Sheets over at Circling the Bases. He'd be an intriguing flier to take, because the demand doesn't figure to be particularly high coming off a lost season and prior to the injury he was consistently one of the best pitchers in baseball. My interest in Sheets would depend entirely on the price, but I'd certainly rather give him an incentive-laden one-year deal than hand out a multi-year contract to someone like Jarrod Washburn.

What's the story with Glen Perkins? Should he stay or should he go?

Glen Perkins has a 4.73 ERA and mediocre secondary numbers through 281.2 innings in the majors while missing a bunch of time with injuries and butting heads with the Twins over the handling of those injuries, so it wouldn't surprise me to see him traded this offseason. When healthy he's a solid fourth or fifth starter, but at 27 years old his upside is limited. There's certainly no need to trade him, but if the Twins can get decent value despite the injuries they should be willing to make a deal.

Where is a good place to learn about baseball stats in layman's terms?

This is a good question, but I'm not sure that I have a great answer. Fan Graphs, Baseball Prospectus, The Hardball Times, and all have very useful glossaries that explain various stats, although not always in tremendous detail. I'd start by doing some digging at those links and then Google topics that interest you most, but also try to read the analysis being done at Fan Graphs or THT to see how the stats are being used in context.

What's the probability that Francisco Liriano returns to his 2006 form?

Basically zero. Francisco Liriano was the best pitcher on the planet in 2006, albeit briefly, but has lost a significant amount of raw stuff since elbow surgery. I'm certainly not ready to give up on him being an impact starter long term and in general people are far too quick to criticize Liriano for what is no doubt an incredibly difficult situation for a young pitcher, but the guy from 2006 just doesn't exist at this point.

If Liriano doesn't return to 2006 form, what is his role with the Twins?

If he can't rediscover his control and learn to better command his fastball now that it's low-90s instead of mid-90s then Liriano is destined for a bullpen role. While coming up through the minors many felt that he'd end up as a reliever anyway, and Liriano certainly still has the stuff to be very effective there if things break right. Command and control are less important when you're going all-out for one inning.

With the money equal, would you rather the Twins sign Orlando Hudson or Placido Polanco?

Orlando Hudson, definitely. Similar recent value, but Hudson is two years younger and hasn't started to decline yet. But as noted in my look at realistic free-agent options for second base, I'd be in favor of the Twins pursuing either of them.

Same question, but with Jarrod Washburn or Carl Pavano?

I'd say Carl Pavano, but I'd be against giving either pitcher a multi-year deal unless the annual salaries were very reasonable. Pavano is probably a better bet for 2010 though, so he gets the nod.

What happened to the Fat-O-Meter?

Sadly, it might be a lost cause. I'm fatter than ever and busier than ever, which is a bad combination for any hope of jump-starting a weight-loss program. Losing over 90 pounds and then gaining it all back is probably the most depressing, pathetic, embarrassing thing that I've ever done. And that's really saying something. I might need to go on the Biggest Loser or have someone bet me $100,000 or something, because clearly just not wanting to be a fatso isn't working.

Keeping other potential acquisitions in mind, would you start Nick Punto at second or third base? The bench isn't an option.

All things being equaled I'd rather have Nick Punto playing second base, because his bat is less awful relative to the position and his glove has a shot to make a bigger impact up the middle. With that said, if you assume that Gardenhire is going to start him somewhere regardless of what other infielders the Twins add, then the best spot for Punto suddenly depends on whether the second baseman available to them is better than the third baseman available to them.

What do you think the Twins' plans are for Wilson Ramos?

Wilson Ramos is one of the Twins' best prospects, but after missing most of this season with injuries while at Double-A he's still far enough away from the majors that there's no need to really adjust plans for him quite yet. With that said, he's a 22-year-old catcher with the potential to be an asset offensively and defensively, and obviously the Twins already have someone like that behind the plate. He's likely still a couple years from potentially pushing for a big-league job, and a lot can happen in that time.

Do the Twins have any shot at Chone Figgins or Pedro Feliz? Would either even be a good fit for the team or the payroll?

Chone Figgins would be a nice fit, but he's going to be significantly out of the Twins' price range. Pedro Feliz is a possibility. I actually wrote about him as part of my look at the realistic free-agent options for third base, noting that he's either a poor man's Joe Crede or a healthy man's Crede, but then decided to publish only five options and he was the sixth choice. Very good defense, but not much else.

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