July 22, 2013

Gleeman and The Geek #103: Trade Deadline 101

Topics for this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode included what to expect from the trade deadline, Scott Diamond's demise, John Bonnes reviewing ballparks and beer from his West Coast trip, criticizing an opposing manager for once, analyzing the Twins' defense, dating by way of pitching matchups, eating money to move Justin Morneau, what to buy from the Metrodome wreckage, golf vs. baseball and the notion of clutch, and time traveling to kill middle infielders.

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 103

In addition to the direct download link above you can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.


This week's blog content is sponsored by the Twins Daily light rail pub crawl/Twins game, where you can join Aaron Gleeman, John Bonnes, Parker Hageman, Nick Nelson, and Seth Stohs for a day of bar-hopping and baseball on September 14. Space is limited, so book your spot.

July 19, 2013

Link-O-Rama

• Sign-ups are open for the Twin Daily light rail pub crawl/Twins game on September 14. For just $36 you get a ticket to the Twins-Rays game, a t-shirt commemorating the event, and a chance to go pregame bar-hopping with me, John Bonnes, Parker Hageman, Nick Nelson, and various other people of note from the internet. Space is limited, so go reserve your spot.

Daunte Culpepper, who once received a $16 million signing bonus from the Vikings, just had his 10,000-square foot house in Florida taken by the bank as part of a foreclosure case.

Carly Rae Jepsen looked good throwing out the first pitch at an Orioles game two months ago, but her second try at a Rays game didn't go so well.

• There was an entertaining profile of Mets ace Matt Harvey in Men's Journal and his comments about modeling his dating life after Derek Jeter drew headlines, but here's my favorite excerpt:

"Dirty martinis and music--that's the big motto in our family," he says, describing his extended Italian-American clan as a rowdy tribe, fond of letting loose as often as possible. "We get the booze going, and the music starts playing. Always old-school hip-hop. Jay-Z. Tribe Called Quest. The Pharcyde. My parents love that stuff."

Do you think Harvey's parents would adopt me? Imagine going to a family dinner and everyone is drinking and your mom puts on Tribe Called Quest. No wonder their son is a superhero.

• All-Star game reminder: Mariano Rivera is amazing, but Joe Nathan is pretty great too.

• I have a couple openings in my "Hardball Dynasty" league on WhatIfSports and the new season begins next week. If you're interested in joining, please read this first.

• This week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode includes a special guest co-host, on-air reactions to the Twins' just-announced roster moves, and lots of Ron Gardenhire talk.

• Oh nothing, just Rosie O'Donnell awkwardly introducing Puff Daddy and Mase to the crowd at the Nickelodeon awards in 1998:

I was 15 years old in 1998, so you can imagine how things got to be the way they are.

Bud Selig says he's never sent an e-mail in his life.

Tim Lincecum and Buster Posey are the cutest.

• Apparently the Kenny Chesney concert screwed up the grass at Target Field.

• My weekly half-hour chat with Paul Allen on KFAN included Glen Perkins trade talk, debating the merits of the Twins not spending money, and the apparent return of "Girls Gone Gleeman."

• On a related note, if the Twins trade Perkins this is the picture fans can look at before storming Target Field.

• And speaking of pictures of the Twins' closer, here's Perkins and Joe Mauer through the years as high school All-Stars, World Baseball Classic teammates, and MLB All-Stars. Pretty cool.

Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky forever.

• I'm apparently not the only blogger re-watching "The Sopranos."

Ben Revere, who hit .347 in 65 games since May 1, is now out two months with a broken foot.

• Before that injury Jeff Sullivan of Fan Graphs wrote a great piece examining how close Revere has actually come to hitting a home run.

• Netflix's new original series "Orange Is The New Black" is definitely worth watching. It's a little uneven at times in terms of tone and some of the performances border on cheesy, but there's lot of good characters, some very compelling scenes, and more humor than I expected.

• "Orange Is The New Black" has a scene in which a prisoner references a YouTube video about the positive impact from minimal amounts of exercise, so I found the video and it's good:

As a lazy person with a sedentary job that's basically the exercise approach that worked for me.

• I'm not sure why, since it was the All-Star break and the team is so depressing, but for some reason I wrote three lengthy Twins articles this week in addition to a two-hour podcast. It would make me feel better about my questionable use of time if you'd read all the stuff:

- Reviewing the Twins' first half: Hitters
- Reviewing the Twins' first half: Pitchers
- Who are the worst All-Stars in Twins history?

Those three articles were written in the span of 72 hours and include about 6,000 words. To put that in some context, many novels are 40,000-50,000 words. This is one of those weeks when I start to think about the amount of Twins content I could produce if it were a job rather than an unpaid hobby and then start to think about needing a new hobby. Anyway, do me a favor and read as many of those 6,000 words as you can.

• I went with a different photo to accompany my "Who are the worst All-Stars in Twins history?" post, but this "Ronald Coomer" baseball card definitely needs to be seen.

• I still can't believe they let my HardballTalk blog-mate Craig Calcaterra (and his HBT Daily co-host Kay Adams) on the field for the All-Star game.

Chris Davis quit Twitter right before the All-Star game and I'm surprised he lasted that long.

• I love when celebrities talk about their Howard Stern fandom and Jonah Hill was the latest to do so on Marc Maron's podcast.

• For my fellow Stern fans: Did you know the morning show that friend of AG.com Dana Wessel now produces on KTWIN-96.3 is co-hosted by longtime Stern show regular Cane? I just pieced that together last week and now I have so many Crazy Cabbie questions for him.

• Speaking of Maron, he was a guest on Joe Rogan's show and they had a good three-hour talk.

• Some of this week's weird and random search engine queries that brought people here:

- "What did the Twins get for Matt Capps?"
- "Picture of Brendan Harris hitting"
- "Famous people over 350 pounds"
- "Zooey Deschanel fantasy baseball"
- "Aaron Gleeman watches 'Blue Valentine'"
- "Man stuffing face"
- "Elliptical workouts at midnight"
- "Elisha Cuthbert in Minnesota"
- "Nikola Pekovic girlfriend"
- "Who was Roy Smalley?"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Royals" by Lorde:


This week's blog content is sponsored by the Twins Daily light rail pub crawl/Twins game, where you can join Aaron Gleeman, John Bonnes, Parker Hageman, Nick Nelson, and Seth Stohs for a day of bar-hopping and baseball on September 14. Space is limited, so book your spot.

July 18, 2013

Reviewing the Twins’ first half: Pitchers

glen perkins and joe mauer

Last year Twins starters ranked dead last in the league with a 5.40 ERA, but after big talk of fixing the rotation the actual additions were inexpensive and uninspired. This year Twins starters have a 5.23 ERA that ranks dead last in either league and even with surprisingly good work from a largely makeshift bullpen the pitching staff has the league's worst ERA and fewest strikeouts. Before the second half gets underway here's a pitcher-by-pitcher look at the individual performances ...

Kevin Correia: .296/.336/.472 in 472 plate appearances

Signed to a two-year, $10 million contract that didn't make much sense this offseason, Kevin Correia posted a 2.23 ERA in April that had people coming up with all sorts of theories about why he'd turned a corner at age 32. Since the calendar flipped to May he's made 15 starts with a 5.21 ERA, allowing opponents to hit .321 with 15 homers in 74 innings. Since completing at least seven innings in each of his five April starts Correia has done so just once in his last 15 outings.

Overall he has a 4.23 ERA compared to the AL average of 4.08 and across baseball Correia ranks 85th among 89 qualified starters in both strikeout rate and swinging strike percentage, which is some serious pitching to contact. He's been slightly less ineffective than expected thanks to the fast start, but Correia has shown why the multi-year commitment was misguided and if the Twins can trade him before the ERA rises any further they should.

Scott Diamond: .313/.355/.514 in 394 plate appearances

Scott Diamond's miniscule strikeout rate suggested that last year's success would be short-lived and sure enough he unraveled in the first half. His strikeout rate fell even further to 4.2 per nine innings, which is the worst in baseball, and his walk and ground-ball rates declined from excellent to merely good. Toss in a 30-point uptick in Diamond's batting average on balls in play and you end up with an ERA that jumps from 3.54 to 5.32.

Diamond wasn't as good as he looked last season and isn't as bad as he's looked this season, but overall he's a whole lot closer to a left-handed Nick Blackburn than a long-term building block. In fact, through three seasons the comparison between Diamond and Blackburn is eerily close. Diamond has a 4.27 ERA and rates of 4.5 strikeouts, 2.1 walks, and 1.0 homers per nine innings. Blackburn had a 4.14 ERA and rates of 4.4 strikeouts, 1.8 walks, and 1.1 homers per nine innings.

Mike Pelfrey: .313/.359/.478 in 363 plate appearances

All the offseason and early spring training talk of Mike Pelfrey being vastly ahead of schedule in his recovery from Tommy John elbow surgery gave way to his actually having to pitch and it was ugly. Pelfrey had a 6.66 ERA through 11 starts, including a .332 opponents' batting average and 26-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 51 innings. He then likely saved his rotation spot with a decent five-start stretch to finish the first half, with a two-week disabled list stint mixed in.

Pelfrey wasn't particularly effective before the surgery, serving mostly as an innings-eater for the Mets, and going under the knife didn't fix his inability to miss bats. He relies almost exclusively on a low-90s fastball, which is why Pelfrey is averaging fewer than 6.0 strikeouts per nine innings for the eighth time in eight seasons. That pitch used to at least generate lots of ground balls, but his current rate of 43.8 percent is a career-low and actually qualifies Pelfrey as a fly-ball pitcher.

Samuel Deduno: .262/.327/.371 in 264 plate appearances

Last season Samuel Deduno was relatively successful with a 4.44 ERA in 15 starts despite nearly as many walks (57) as strikeouts (53) in 79 innings. Even that modest success won't work long term with those secondary numbers and somewhere along the way pitching coach Rick Anderson appears to have hammered that point home to Deduno. Prior to this year Deduno had walk rates of 6.1 per nine innings in the majors and 5.0 per nine innings at Triple-A. This year he's at 2.9.

It's a sample size of 10 starts, but Deduno has three or fewer walks in all 10 of them after doing so just half the time last year. His strikeout rate has actually fallen to 4.5 per nine innings, which is among MLB's worst, but he's made up for the lack of missed bats by nibbling less and letting the movement of his pitches induce an AL-high 61 percent ground balls. Or, put another way: Pitching to contact actually works for Deduno. There's more reason to believe in him now than last year.

Anthony Swarzak: .281/.314/.412 in 237 plate appearances

After three sub par years split between the rotation and bullpen Anthony Swarzak has taken a step forward as full-time long reliever. Compared to his first three seasons Swarzak has upped his strikeouts by 28 percent, reduced his walks by 26 percent, and become less fly-ball prone. He's been one of the most effective pitchers on the entire staff, although that's admittedly not saying much and because most of his work comes in long-relief spots his impact has been minimal.

In fact, the Twins are 6-21 when Swarzak pitches. That should be blamed on his role rather than his performance, which includes a 3.55 ERA and 41-to-12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 58 innings. So far they've resisted the urge to put Swarzak back into the rotation and they've also yet to really move him up the bullpen hierarchy. Considering the overall state of the pitching staff if Swarzak keeps pitching this well in the second half he'd warrant some kind of higher-leverage gig.

Vance Worley: .381/.427/.577 in 234 plate appearances

When the Twins acquired 25-year-old Vance Worley from the Phillies in the Ben Revere trade he was supposed to step in as a long-term mid-rotation starter. Worley had thrown 278 innings with a 3.50 ERA for the Phillies and while there were questions about his many called strikeouts being sustainable there was little reason to expect a collapse. And then he went from Opening Day starter to Triple-A in less than two months, allowing 43 runs in 49 innings.

He generated just 15 strikeouts in 10 starts, got a swinging strike on an abysmal 4.5 percent of his pitches, and allowed a .381 opponents' batting average. Worley has been much better since the demotion to Rochester, but it's hard to be very encouraged by a 3.88 ERA at Triple-A when it comes with 34 strikeouts in 58 innings. He'll be back with the Twins at some point, but Worley hasn't been right since last year's elbow issues and was never a high-upside arm to begin with.

Ryan Pressly: .255/.321/.345 in 185 plate appearances

As far as Rule 5 picks go Ryan Pressly has been a big success. Used mostly for mopping up and long relief, he threw 44 innings with a 3.09 ERA and averaged 93 miles per hour with his fastball. Far less impressive than the shiny ERA is a 30-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio and Pressly is unlikely to be as stingy with homers going forward considering his high fly-ball rate, but he's been a useful member of the bullpen and has definitely shown some long-term upside.

Jared Burton: .247/.333/.377 in 184 plate appearances

Jared Burton picked up right where he left off following a fantastic 2012 season with a 2.10 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 26 innings through the end of May. Then he went through a rough patch while dealing with a groin injury, allowing 12 runs in 10 appearances as his ERA ballooned to 4.29 and he was removed from setup duties. Burton recovered to end the first half with six shutout outings in a row, although his usual swing-and-miss stuff still wasn't there.

Last year's .220 batting average on balls in play was always unsustainable and his overall stats remain decent with a 3.67 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 42 innings, but Burton has already walked more batters than all of last year and both his velocity and swinging strike rate are down slightly. Hopefully it's just a blip on the radar, because a healthy Burton can be light outs and he's signed through 2015 at salaries that make him a reasonably priced setup man or good trade bait.

P.J. Walters: .311/.383/.494 in 183 plate appearances

For the second time in two seasons the Twins called up P.J. Walters when their rotation was a mess, got a handful of decent outings from him before things fell apart, and then passed him through waivers unclaimed to keep the 28-year-old right-hander in the organization as Triple-A depth. Meanwhile, he has a 5.79 ERA in 20 starts for the Twins after posting a 4.60 ERA in 133 starts at Triple-A, making Walters the epitome of a replacement-level starter.

Pedro Hernandez: .311/.373/.517 in 169 plate appearances

Acquired from the White Sox in the Francisco Liriano trade, Pedro Hernandez is a soft-tossing, strike-throwing lefty who struggled against right-handed hitters in the minors and not surprisingly big-league righties have crushed him to the tune of .353/.423/.639 with eight homers in 137 plate appearances. He had two first-half stints with the Twins as a rotation fill-in, posting a 6.17 ERA in seven starts, and it's tough to see Hernandez having long-term success as a starter.

Josh Roenicke: .238/.331/.420 in 167 plate appearances

When the Twins claimed Josh Roenicke off waivers in November the story of his career was a big fastball and not much else, including a modest strikeout rate and poor control. His average fastball dipped to 91.2 miles per hour in the first half, but the rest of the story stayed the same with an awful 25-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 38 innings. And after some initial success he gave up 14 runs in his final 24 innings with as many walks (15) as strikeouts (15).

Brian Duensing: .300/.373/.393 in 159 plate appearances

Brian Duensing flopped as a starter, but has yet to rediscover his previous success as a reliever. Slated to be the primary left-handed setup man, Duensing struggled against lefties and righties while posting a 4.67 ERA and 30-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 35 innings and spent the final month or so of the first half working mostly in a mop-up role. His inability to handle righties will forever limit Duensing, but the good news is that his trouble with lefties looks like a fluke.

Lefties hit .307 off Duensing in the first half, but that was due to a ridiculously high .408 batting average on balls in play. Delving a little deeper, he posted a great 20-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio versus lefties and held them to just one homer in 82 plate appearances. Despite the rough first half not much has really changed with Duensing, but unfortunately that just means he's still a decent middle reliever who's a bad bet facing righties and a good bet facing lefties.

Casey Fien: .179/.217/.284 in 146 plate appearances

Burton and Duensing struggling as the main setup men pushed Casey Fien into a more prominent late-inning role and he responded by continuing to thrive. Not only did he have a 3.03 ERA and 42-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 39 first-half innings, dating back to his debut with the Twins last season Fien has a 2.57 ERA and 74-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 74 frames. Not bad for a guy who joined the Twins as a minor-league free agent last offseason at age 28.

He's probably due to come back down to earth at least a little bit and if that does happen it'll likely stem from serving up too many homers, as Fien was an extreme fly-ball pitcher in the minors and has one of the 10 lowest ground-ball rates in the majors since last season. However, his overall track record in the minors showed someone capable of being a quality middle reliever and so far he's allowed just seven homers in 287 plate appearances.

Glen Perkins: .172/.221/.262 in 131 plate appearances

Glen Perkins' first full season as the Twins' closer has been an overwhelming success except for the part about the team failing to find him consistent work. Perkins converted 21 of 23 saves with a 1.82 ERA and 47-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 34.2 innings, holding opponents to a .172 batting average. That's about as dominant as a pitcher can be and Perkins was rewarded with his first All-Star selection, yet the Twins used their All-Star closer for just 131 batters in 92 games.

Some of that stems from their lack of late leads, but Ron Gardenhire's refusal to use Perkins in non-save situations is the real culprit. Not only have 100 different relievers thrown more innings than Perkins, six Twins relievers have worked more. It's gotten so bad that Perkins requested more action, but Gardenhire continues to manage the bullpen around the save statistic while calling on lesser relievers in game-changing spots. Perkins is great, but his usage is terrible.

Kyle Gibson: .315/.392/.393 in 102 plate appearances

In his first full season back from Tommy John surgery Kyle Gibson entered spring training in the mix for a rotation spot, but pitched his way out of the immediate plans and then the Twins decided to keep him at Triple-A for three months. He was one of the International League's best pitchers, posting a 3.01 ERA with tons of ground balls and a 79-to-28 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 93 innings, and after going through eight other starters the Twins finally called him up three weeks ago.

Gibson had a very nice debut followed by three mostly poor outings, but looking beyond the ugly 6.45 ERA he induced 51 percent ground balls, generated a decent number of swinging strikes, and averaged 92.3 miles per hour with his fastball. Ultimately the key for Gibson is whether he can get enough strikeouts to be more than a mid-rotation starter who throws strikes and kills worms. At this point the jury is still very much out and his second-half workload may be limited.

Caleb Thielbar: .103/.205/.221 in 78 plate appearances

Twenty straight scoreless innings is an amazing start to anyone's career, let alone a 26-year-old rookie signed out of independent ball in 2011. Caleb Thielbar turned what looked likely to be a short-term call-up into a two-month gig, and while his secondary numbers and inherited runners allowed paint a much less impressive picture than his sparkling ERA he's shown more than enough to stick around with 21 strikeouts in 21 innings and 11 percent swinging strikes.

Note: For a similar first-half review of the Twins' hitters, click here.


This week's blog content is sponsored by the Twins Daily light rail pub crawl/Twins game, where you can join Aaron Gleeman, John Bonnes, Parker Hageman, Nick Nelson, and Seth Stohs for a day of bar-hopping and baseball on September 14. Space is limited, so book your spot.

July 17, 2013

Reviewing the Twins’ first half: Hitters

joe mauer and aaron hicks

Offense was expected to be a relative strength for the Twins this season, but instead they finished the first half hitting just .245/.316/.386 with the second-fewest homers in the league, rank 10th among AL teams in runs per game with 4.12, and are on pace to score the second-fewest runs of any Twins team during the past 30 years. Before the second half gets underway here's a hitter-by-hitter look at the individual performances ...

Joe Mauer: .320/.402/.473 in 403 plate appearances

Joe Mauer has done his part following the oft-debated decision to move him into the No. 2 spot, basically matching his career numbers by hitting .320 with a .402 on-base percentage that ranks second in the league. He's scored 32 percent more runs than anyone else on the team despite the guys hitting behind him not exactly thriving, but his RBI chances have dried up because the Twins' leadoff men and No. 9 hitters have combined for a laughable .262 on-base percentage.

Within the standard production is a huge spike in strikeouts, as 75 in 88 games is already the second-most of his career and a 75 percent increase per plate appearance. He's made up for that with career-highs in line drives and batting average on balls play in, leading MLB in both stats, but it's a different path to the usual destination. Defensively he's thrown out an AL-best 46 percent of steal attempts after sagging last year and his all-around value is on pace to surpass $30 million.

Justin Morneau: .273/.331/.406 in 366 plate appearances

At this point every time Justin Morneau homers fans and media members start talking about how it might be the start of him getting back on track, which is perhaps the surest sign that he's now just a shell of his former self. This season's power outage has been well-documented, but going all the way back to his mid-2010 concussion Morneau has hit just .259/.321/.404 in 289 games and 1,224 plate appearances.

There are 193 hitters with at least 1,000 plate appearances since 2011 and Morneau ranks 128th in batting average, 134th in on-base percentage, 138th in slugging percentage, and 143rd in OPS. He hasn't been even an average first baseman in a long time and at 32 years old with a lengthy injury history in addition to the concussion re-signing the impending free agent just doesn't make sense for the Twins. If they can get any kind of decent return for him a trade, they should.

Ryan Doumit: .237/.295/.393 in 325 plate appearances

Signed to a two-year, $7 million contract extension midway through last season, Ryan Doumit is having the worst season of his career. He's been particularly awful in 24 starts as the No. 3 hitter, batting .245/.299/.316 with one homer, and for the second straight season Twins pitchers have an ERA above 5.00 throwing to him. Doumit is a poor defensive catcher and very stretched in the outfield, so with an OPS below .700 he's been one of the worst regulars in baseball.

The good news is that his power is in line with his career norms, he's already drawn 25 walks in 81 games after totaling 29 walks in 134 games last season, and Doumit is actually striking out less than usual. His struggles mostly stem from a .256 batting average on balls in play, which is 43 points below his career mark. That suggests Doumit should bounce back in the second half, but whatever chance the Twins had of getting a decent return for him in trade is probably gone.

Brian Dozier: .235/.310/.386 in 322 plate appearances

After a brutal rookie season shifting from shortstop to second base dramatically changed Brian Dozier's outlook defensively, but through two months he was again bad enough offensively that the Twins were hinting at giving up on the 26-year-old. However, in his final 44 first-half games Dozier hit .270/.372/.493 with seven homers, 12 doubles, and nearly as many walks (20) as strikeouts (24), which is more than enough to buy him some more time.

In the minors Dozier generally controlled the strike zone very well, so that aspect of his recent improvement was particularly encouraging, and even while struggling overall he showed more power than expected. Of course, he's still 26 with a .235/.290/.358 career line in 165 games after hitting even worse than that at Triple-A, so the clock is definitely ticking on Dozier. He benefits from the lack of other MLB-ready middle infielders in the Twins' system.

Josh Willingham: .224/.356/.398 in 298 plate appearances

Josh Willingham followed up a career-year in 2012 with a big April, but then the 34-year-old's knee started bothering him and he hit .213/.338/.343 in 50 games from May 1 until the Twins finally shut him down in late June. Willingham needed regular days off and cortisone injections to stay in the lineup at what was obviously less than full strength and it didn't do anyone any good anyway, as he stopped hitting and was even worse than usual in the outfield.

It turns out he had a torn meniscus, undergoing surgery that will likely keep him out until at least mid-August and could cost him the rest of the season. Willingham is under contract for $7 million next season, which is reasonable enough, but whatever chance the Twins had of cashing him in for some long-term help in a trade last July or this offseason is long gone and it's hard to know what to expect from a 35-year-old should-be designated hitter coming off knee surgery.

Chris Parmelee: .223/.303/.372 in 274 plate appearances

Chris Parmelee's defense in right field was the highlight of his first half, which isn't exactly how things were supposed to go. Parmelee had a big September debut in 2011 and destroyed Triple-A pitching for two months last season, but he's hit just .226/.298/.376 in 147 games for the Twins since then. During that span he managed just 13 homers in 484 plate appearances while striking out 118 times versus 40 walks, which is why he was demoted back to Triple-A on Sunday.

Prior to the dominant stretch at Triple-A last season Parmelee's track record in the minors wasn't especially impressive and included a measly .416 slugging percentage in 253 games at Double-A. He's also 25 years old, so in terms of inexperienced hitters struggling Parmelee is much different than some other Twins. There's no need to give up on him yet, but it's looking more and more likely that Parmelee's overall track record is right and he's simply not a starting-caliber hitter.

Trevor Plouffe: .265/.323/.445 in 264 plate appearances

Last year Trevor Plouffe started slow, hit like Babe Ruth for a month, and then slumped down the stretch while dealing with a thumb injury. This season has been much less extreme, but his .265/.323/.445 overall line is close to his .235/.301/.455 mark last year. Plouffe's transformation from light-hitting shortstop prospect to big-league power hitter looks to be for real, as he's now hit .250 with 20-homer pop for 1,000 plate appearances dating back to 2011.

Unfortunately his defense cancels out most of that offensive value and his putrid .223/.285/.391 mark versus right-handed pitching suggests that Plouffe would be better suited in a platoon role. Plouffe can smack around left-handed pitching and that should keep in the majors for a while, but as an everyday player he's not really an asset and while a move across the diamond to first base would make him less of a defensive liability the standard for offense there is much higher.

Aaron Hicks: .197/.264/.366 in 263 plate appearances

Despite a brutal 2-for-48 start to his career after jumping from Double-A to an Opening Day job the Twins stuck with Aaron Hicks and he recovered to hit .237/.288/.447 with eight homers in his final 55 first-half games. He's still striking out a ton and Hicks' formerly strong plate discipline has vanished, but his power has been better than expected, he's made a handful of spectacular defensive plays, and now he simply looks like a 23-year-old rookie learning on the job.

Nothing has changed my opinion that he should have started the season at Triple-A, both for his development and service time considerations, but in contrast to their handling of Oswaldo Arcia the Twins have kept Hicks in the majors all season. Hicks has always projected as a low-average hitter, so the key will be rediscovering his ability to draw walks and cleaning up his defense so that the highlight-reel catches and throws aren't mixed in with poor routes and misplays.

Pedro Florimon: .235/.295/.342 in 261 plate appearances

Pedro Florimon's defense has been as advertised, with very strong overall numbers and plenty of standout plays along with a relatively high error count. Unfortunately his offense has also been as advertised. Florimon's fast start soon gave way to him being terrible at the plate and he's now hit .227/.285/.327 in 124 games as a major leaguer after hitting .250/.319/.352 in 290 games between Double-A and Triple-A.

Every few weeks Florimon unleashes a swing that shows he has plenty of power, but it's resulted in just six homers in 421 career plate appearances. Similarly, his relatively patient approach at the plate has led to just 31 walks versus 91 strikeouts. Florimon's defense is good enough that he's definitely worthy of a big-league job, but in an organization that wasn't so devoid of shortstop options he'd be headed for a utility man role.

Oswaldo Arcia: .257/.317/.403 in 224 plate appearances

Fast start, slump, demotion. Fast start, slump, demotion. Oswaldo Arcia has gone through that same three-stage cycle twice in his rookie season and now he's back at Triple-A. There's no doubt that Arcia looked brutal during his slumps, but they were 20 or 30 at-bats in length and the Twins have shown a far more patient approach with Hicks' prolonged rough patches. They also pushed Arcia very aggressively through the minors, so growing pains should have been expected.

His overall performance has been right around league-average offensively, which is both far from impressive from a poor defensive corner outfielder and very impressive from a 22-year-old with fewer than 100 games between Double-A and Triple-A. Arcia projects as a middle-of-the-order bat long term, but his plate discipline and ability to handle left-handed pitching are potential stumbling blocks. Remember, though: Arcia is younger than the average player at high Single-A.

Jamey Carroll: .219/.276/.252 in 164 plate appearances

Last season Jamey Carroll hit .315 in the second half, suggesting he'd have plenty of value this season at age 39, but instead he's struggled in a part-time role. He's made 22 starts at third base and 13 starts at second base compared to two starts at shortstop, which is where he began last season as the starter before giving way to Dozier and then Florimon. Controlling the strike zone has long been Carroll's main strength, but he had 28 strikeouts versus 12 walks in the first half.

Carroll has a $4 million team option or $250,000 buyout for 2014 that becomes a player option if he reaches 401 plate appearances, but with just 164 plate appearances through 92 team games that obviously won't happen. He's not part of the Twins' future plans and looks just about washed up, but it's possible that a contending team could be interested in Carroll as a utility man. If the Twins do find a taker for Carroll they aren't going to get much in return.

Eduardo Escobar: .214/.268/.328 in 143 plate appearances

Hitting well for a few weeks in April had an awful lot of people excitedly overlooking Eduardo Escobar's terrible track record, but he hit .137 in his final 41 games before being demoted back to Triple-A. Escobar has now hit .216/.273/.294 in 114 games as a big leaguer, which is exactly what you'd expect from someone who hit .267/.312/.348 in the minors. He's a good, versatile defender, but at no point has Escobar's bat looked better than utility man-caliber.

Clete Thomas: .234/.309/.351 in 123 plate appearances

Clete Thomas got off to a good enough start after being called up from Triple-A in June that he stuck around when Hicks returned from the disabled list, but he quickly came back down to earth by hitting .152 in July. Thomas' overall numbers more or less match his career totals, which is to say they're backup-caliber at most, but he's started 28 of 33 games since his call-up and is in line for continued regular action following the demotions of Arcia and Parmelee.

Note: For a similar first-half review of the Twins' pitchers, click here.


This week's blog content is sponsored by the Twins Daily light rail pub crawl/Twins game, where you can join Aaron Gleeman, John Bonnes, Parker Hageman, Nick Nelson, and Seth Stohs for a day of bar-hopping and baseball on September 14. Space is limited, so book your spot.

July 16, 2013

Who are the worst All-Stars in Twins history?

coomer and laudner

Because so many All-Star selections are based more on first-half performances than overall track records and there's a rule that every team must be represented by at least one player there have been plenty of head-scratching inclusions over the years. Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins are both deserving All-Stars this year, but that hasn't always been the case throughout Twins history and I thought it would be interesting to look back at the team's most questionable All-Stars.


Ron Coomer, 1999: With the Twins in the midst of their seventh consecutive losing season and their third straight 90-loss season Coomer was chosen as the team's lone All-Star in 1999. At the All-Star break the Twins were in last place at 34-52 and Coomer was hitting .282/.312/.458 with 11 homers and 12 walks in 75 games as a first baseman/third baseman. And his production was even worse than it looks because offensive levels across baseball were very high in 1999.

As a whole the American League hit .275/.349/.439 in 1999, which means during the first half that got him named to the All-Star team Coomer had an OPS that was 20 points below average. And not only was he a first baseman/third baseman--two positions where the standard for offense is even higher than the league overall--Coomer was 32 years old with no real history of success. He then made the All-Star nod look even worse by hitting .235/.300/.372 in the second half.

Coomer finished his first and only All-Star season hitting .263/.307/.424 with 16 homers and 30 walks in 127 games, posting an OPS that was 60 points below the league average. That year the AL had 31 first basemen and third basemen who played at least 100 games and Coomer ranked 20th in batting average, 28th in on-base percentage, 25th in slugging percentage, and 25th in OPS. He was also a very limited defender and baserunner.

So who should have been the team's All-Star in 1999? What makes the Coomer selection doubly weird is that the Twins actually had some very good players that season. Brad Radke threw 219 innings with the league's fourth-best ERA. Eric Milton threw 206 innings and ranked among the AL's top 10 in strikeouts, strikeout-to-walk ratio, and opponents' batting average. Corey Koskie hit .310/.387/.468 in 117 games. Coomer wasn't one of the Twins' five best players.


Tim Laudner, 1988: Laudner was 30 years old and in his eighth season when he was chosen as a first-time All-Star in 1988. Combined during the previous seven seasons he hit .218/.285/.393 in 1,580 plate appearances, ranking as one of baseball's worst hitters over that span, and Laudner typically split time behind the plate with catchers like Dave Engle, Mark Salas, Sal Butera, Jeff Reed, Ray Smith, and Tom Nieto.

Laudner hit .191 for the World Series-winning team in 1987, but then in 1988 he took on a bigger workload behind the plate and hit .264/.329/.462 with nine homers in the first half. That earned Laudner a spot on the All-Star team backing up starting catcher Terry Steinbach of the A's, but he turned back into a pumpkin in the second half by hitting .234/.299/.341 with four homers to finish his lone All-Star season at .251/.316/.406 with 13 homers in 117 games.

It was a weak year for catchers and the position's standard for offense is always low, but of the league's 14 regulars he was eighth in OPS while throwing out just 25 percent of steal attempts. And then one season after being a first-time All-Star at 30 he was retired at 31, calling it quits after hitting .222/.293/.351 for the Twins in 1989. Laudner was one of 293 players to log at least 2,000 plate appearances in the 1980s and he ranked 292nd in batting average and 280th in OBP.

So who should have been the team's All-Star in 1988? Believe it or not, Laudner actually wasn't the Twins' only All-Star. In fact, coming off the World Series victory in 1987 they had five All-Stars in 1988, including the deserving Frank Viola, Kirby Puckett, and Gary Gaetti. Allan Anderson also won the ERA title without making the All-Star team and Kent Hrbek wasn't picked in perhaps the best season of his career, hitting .312/.387/.520 for the league's seventh-best OPS.


Jim Perry, 1971: Perry is one of the best pitchers in Twins history and in 1970 he won the Cy Young award with an AL-best 24 victories and a 3.04 ERA in 279 innings. And then in 1971 he was terrible. In a very low-scoring year Perry posted a 4.23 ERA compared to the AL average of 3.46, allowing the most earned runs (127) and home runs (39) in the league. If you translate his 1971 numbers to today's offensive environment it equates to a 5.00 ERA and 53 homers allowed.

And he didn't even have a good first half with a 4.10 ERA and 20 homers in 22 starts. Perry did, however, have enough run support and luck to go 12-8 despite coughing up tons of runs, which is often enough to get an All-Star nod in 2013 and was certainly enough in 1971. It's not hard to see how the reigning Cy Young winner with 12 wins at the All-Star break got chosen for the team, but Perry had a worse ERA than all but three AL pitchers to qualify for the ERA title in 1971.

Perry was so good for so long that it seems wrong to put him on a list with guys like Coomer and Laudner, but strictly in terms of performance during an All-Star season no pitcher in Twins history was worse. Despite going 74-86 in 1971 the Twins had five All-Stars, yet the three players with the highest Wins Above Replacement totals on the team--Bert Blyleven, Jim Kaat, and Cesar Tovar--weren't picked.

                  GS      IP      ERA      SO      BB     HR
Jim Perry         39     270     4.23     126     102     39
Bert Blyleven     38     278     2.81     224      59     21

Blyleven was 20 years old, so no doubt the baseball world in 1971 was slow to come around to him being an elite pitcher, but that comparison between Twins rotation-mates is crazy. Blyleven allowed 95 runs in 278 innings, Perry allowed 135 runs in 270 innings, and Blyleven nearly had twice as many strikeouts, half as many walks, and half as many homers allowed. Three decades later Blyleven detractors used his lack of All-Star games to discredit his Hall of Fame case.


Dave Engle, 1984: As a prospect Engle was acquired by the Twins as part of the four-player deal for Rod Carew in 1979. Engle was very good for the Twins in 1983, hitting .305/.350/.449 in his first season as a starting catcher, and a solid first half in 1984 led to a spot on the All-Star team backing up Lance Parrish of the Tigers. He then hit .192 in the second half and finished the year at .266/.308/.363 with four homers in 109 games overall.

Engle never got 200 plate appearances in a season again after being a 27-year-old All-Star and played a grand total of just 269 career games after the selection, hitting .229 with 10 homers. He was the Twins' lone All-Star on an 81-81 team despite Viola and Hrbek having standout seasons as 24-year-olds and no fewer than a half-dozen other players being far more deserving by the end of the season.


Ken Landreaux, 1980: Landreaux, like Engle, was acquired from the Angels in the Carew trade. And, like Engle, he was the lone All-Star on a mediocre Twins team in 1980 that featured several stronger performances. Landreaux was actually much better for the Twins the previous season, hitting .305/.347/.450 in 151 games as their primary center fielder. He nearly duplicated those numbers in the first half of 1980 to get the All-Star spot, but then dropped off in the second half.

Landreaux wasn't bad in 1980, he just wasn't anywhere close to All-Star caliber. He finished at .281/.334/.417 with seven homers in 129 games split between center field and left field, grading out very poorly in modern defensive metrics. There were 47 outfielders to play at least 100 games in the AL and Landreaux ranked 22nd in batting average, 29th in OBP, 23rd in slugging, and 28th in OPS. That offseason the Twins traded him to the Dodgers for Mickey Hatcher.


This week's blog content is sponsored by the Twins Daily light rail pub crawl/Twins game, where you can join Aaron Gleeman, John Bonnes, Parker Hageman, Nick Nelson, and Seth Stohs for a day of bar-hopping and baseball on September 14. Space is limited, so book your spot.

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