For some reason I went through Pitchfork's top 100 songs of 2013 and predictably found myself either disliking or never even hearing all but around a dozen songs, so I decided to put together my own top 30 37. It turns out that most of the songs I thought came out in 2013 actually came out in 2012 or maybe 2005, so this is hardly a definitive ranking. But whatever. Here are a bunch of songs I liked this year:
• My assumption was that the Twins wouldn't want anything to do with Mike Pelfrey again after he posted a 5.19 ERA in 29 starts, but both Ron Gardenhire and Terry Ryan repeatedly made it clear that they wanted to re-sign him even with Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes already added to the rotation. Bringing back Pelfrey at all is odd enough, but bringing back Pelfrey on a two-year contract worth $11 million plus incentives is something I'm really struggling to comprehend.
In addition to the bloated 5.19 ERA and .300 opponents' batting average he managed just 6.0 strikeouts per nine innings to rank 81st out of 91 pitchers with at least 150 innings as starters. His walk rate of 3.1 per nine innings ranked 70th out of 91 and for all the talk about Pelfrey's ability to induce ground balls his actual ground-ball rate of 43 percent ranked 55th. He was a fly-ball pitcher with bad control and very few missed bats and he ranked next-to-last among all starters in xFIP.
Pelfrey was also in his first season back from Tommy John surgery and odds are he'll be stronger in 2014, but the problem is that he was never particularly good before the elbow injury. He was a durable innings-eater for the Mets, but in terms of actually preventing runs Pelfrey had a 4.38 ERA from 2009-2012 despite calling the National League and a pitcher-friendly ballpark home. Here's how his pre-surgery numbers from 2009-2012 compare to his post-surgery numbers in 2013:
There were certainly some changes within Pelfrey's post-surgery performance, but for the most part he remained the same pitcher relying very heavily on the same fastball thrown at the same speed and his overall results were nearly identical. Which is to say: Not good. Also of note is that Pelfrey has always worked slow, but his pace was excruciatingly lethargic this year. His average of 24.9 seconds between pitches was the ninth-slowest in baseball. He was brutal to watch too.
Clearly the Twins, like their fans, were sick of watching inexperienced starters get their brains beat in, because re-signing Pelfrey and signing Nolasco and Hughes to go with holdover Kevin Correia leaves just one spot in the rotation to be fought for by a group that includes Samuel Deduno, Kyle Gibson, Scott Diamond, Vance Worley, Kris Johnson, and Andrew Albers. And soon they'll hopefully need to make room for stud prospect Alex Meyer's arrival.
Gibson and Meyer are the only starters in that group around whom long-term plans should be made and the Twins had plenty of money to spend, so shoving aside various back-of-the-rotation options isn't a big deal. But why Pelfrey? And why lock yourself into a two-year commitment to a mediocre-at-best pitcher coming off a season in which he was one of the very worst starters in all of baseball?
• Jason Kubel left the Twins as a free agent following the 2011 season to sign a two-year, $15 million deal with the Diamondbacks and now, after one good year and one bad year, he returns to Minnesota on a minor-league deal. This year he struggled with injuries and hit just .216/.293/.317 with a 92/29 K/BB ratio in 97 games, so it's possible that he's simply done at age 32, but Kubel was an above-average hitter in each of the previous six seasons and smacked 30 homers in 2012.
He's never been able to hit left-handers and has no business playing defense at this point, but if used correctly in a part-time role Kubel could be a nice addition. And the price is certainly right. Of course, Gardenhire has yet to consistently platoon anyone in a dozen years and there was already a logjam at designated hitter and the outfield corners with Josh Willingham,Oswaldo Arcia, Ryan Doumit, Chris Parmelee, Chris Colabello, and possibly Josmil Pinto in the mix.
Doumit possibly no longer being an option at catcher means finding a taker for him and his $3.5 million salary would lessen the logjam considerably, but he was almost as bad as Kubel offensively and is every bit as bad defensively in the outfield. Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Pressreports that Kubel will get $2 million in upfront money if he makes the Opening Day roster and could earn another $1 million in potential incentives. Right now I'd bet on him making the team.
UPDATE: Apparently the Twins agreed. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports reports that they're trading Doumit to the Braves for Sean Gilmartin, a soft-tossing lefty who was a first-round pick in 2011.
• Designated for assignment last week to make room on the 40-man roster for the Nolasco and Hughes signings, Liam Hendriks was claimed off waivers by the Cubs. I've already said my piece on the Hendriks decision, but the short version is that despite never being a particularly promising prospect he's still young enough to be useful and the Twins had a handful of better choices to cut loose. There's a decent chance he'll find himself on waivers again before Opening Day, though.
• Thanks to everyone who bought tickets to the event I'm co-hosting with Twins Daily next month during TwinsFest. We sold out all 125 tickets in three hours, so we're trying to find a way to add some more spots. Stay tuned for more details.
This week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode was recorded at HammerHeart Brewing Company and topics included Jason Kubel's return to Minnesota, the insanity of a two-year offer to Mike Pelfrey, the challenges and rewards of starting a brewery, losing Liam Hendriks on waivers, a sold out Meltdown event, the bizarre roster decisions the Twins will face on Opening Day, Ron Coomer's new job, joining Stitcher, and the joys of having someone bring you beer.
• I'm co-hosting an event during TwinsFest next month with John Bonnes, Parker Hageman, Nick Nelson, Seth Stohs, and the whole Twins Daily crew. Saturday night, January 25, we'll be getting together for beer and baseball at Mason's Restaurant downtown, which is one block from Target Field where TwinsFest is taking place this year for the first time. We're calling it "Winter Meltdown" and we'll be joined by special guests, including Twins president Dave St. Peter.
Space is limited and we expect the event to sell out, so reserve your spot as soon as possible.
UPDATE: Wow. We sold out all 125 tickets to the event in three hours this morning.
• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode our waitress says she loves me and I waste no time reciprocating, showing once and for all that I have zero commitment issues. We also talked about lots of baseball stuff, if you're into that for some weird reason.
• Amy Poehler is the best, so I really liked Alex Scordelis' feature (and accompanying photo shoot) on her in Paper magazine. My favorite part:
Poehler laughs loudly at the thought of her tipsy Bostonian parents celebrating a Red Sox win. I ask if she thinks she's a generous laugher. "I don't break in scenes, but I do laugh too much," she says. "I was just directing Broad City, and the sound guy asked me, 'Can you laugh less during the takes?' And I was like, 'I can't promise you anything.' I like to laugh a lot. I have a crazy maniacal laugh that I try to maintain through diet and exercise."
And thankfully, the internet being the internet, there's a video compilation of Poehler's laugh:
For me, that's second only to the sound of rain falling in terms of soothing noises.
• Ann Friedman of Esquirewrote an interesting article about how men and women view dating someone taller or shorter than them and why everyone should be more open-minded.
• There was a discussion on Twitter about the blogs people had as teenagers and eventually quit, which I didn't realize was an option. It got me digging through my archives and I stumbled across this post from March of 2003--when I was a 20-year-old college student--and it's amazing how little has changed since then.
• "Why I'll Never Ask A Guy Out" by Malina Bickford made me sad, because think of how many potential love connections never happen due to men being clueless. We need help sometimes.
• We're recording a new "Gleeman and The Geek" episode Saturday afternoon at HammerHeart Brewing Company in Lino Lakes. We'll get started around 2:00 p.m. and much more importantly we'll be done podcasting and ready to have some beers around 3:30 p.m. Come hang out.
• I've never been to see "Wits" at the Fitzgerald Theater before, but their Valentine's Day show guests are basically hand-picked for me: Marc Maron, Jason Isbell, and Amanda Shires.
• To make room on the 40-man roster for Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes the Twins designated Liam Hendriks for assignment, cutting the 24-year-old right-hander loose just two seasons after he was named the organization's minor league pitcher of the year. Of course, last season's minor league pitcher of the year, B.J. Hermsen, has already been removed from the 40-man roster too and this year's winner, Andrew Albers, isn't exactly destined to remain there forever.
Here are the Twins' last 10 minor league pitcher of the year winners:
2013 Andrew Albers
2012 B.J. Hermsen
2011 Liam Hendriks
2010 Kyle Gibson
2009 David Bromberg
2008 Anthony Slama
2007 Kevin Slowey
2006 Matt Garza
2005 Francisco Liriano
2004 Scott Baker
There's obviously a lot more to the story, but that list is a good indicator of when things started to go wrong for the Twins. As for Hendriks, he's been terrible in the majors so far and even when he was putting up nice-looking numbers in the minors I was never a particularly big fan, viewing him as a potential mid-rotation starter long term. Still, considering his age and the replacement-level talent still residing on the 40-man roster letting him go isn't the call I'd have made.
• Even after adding Nolasco and Hughes the Twins are apparently still trying to re-sign Mike Pelfrey, which makes zero sense to me. He was a mess for the Twins and while he'll be another year removed from elbow surgery the problem is that Pelfrey was never much good before the injury with a 4.36 ERA and measly 5.1 strikeouts per nine innings for the Mets. I'd rely on young arms before turning back to Pelfrey and the idea of a two-year deal seems all kinds of misguided.
• Free agent outfielder Rajai Davis signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the Tigers and in doing so reportedly turned down a two-year offer from the Twins. Davis is incredibly fast, stealing 60 bases per 600 plate appearances during the past five seasons, but also hit just .271/.317/.382 over that span and is a surprisingly mediocre defender. It's interesting that the Twins made a run at him, because they're certainly not short on outfielders at the moment.
• Miguel Sano stopped playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic last month because of an elbow injury and the Twins are still waiting to determine whether Tommy John surgery is needed. That would obviously be a huge blow to Sano considering how close he is to the majors and how much of his ability to remain at third base revolves around arm strength, but position players do recover from Tommy John surgery more quickly than pitchers. Still, not good.
• Garrett Jones, who left the Twins as a minor-league free agent way back in 2008, signed a two-year, $7.5 million contract with the Marlins. I'm not sure why the Marlins of all teams need a mediocre 33-year-old first baseman coming off a career-worst season, but good for him. Jones always showed good power in the minors, but his all-around skill set was never very impressive and his hitting .256/.318/.462 in five seasons for the Pirates definitely qualifies as a surprise.
• As of now the 40-man roster is full and Terry Ryan indicated that the Twins don't plan to pick anyone in the Rule 5 draft Thursday. Last year they selected Ryan Pressly from the Red Sox and he stayed in the majors all season as a low-leverage reliever, throwing 77 innings with a 3.87 ERA and 49-to-27 strikeout-to-walk ratio at age 24.
• Tickets won't go on sale until Friday morning, but here are the details on the next Twins Daily and "Gleeman and The Geek" event. Should be a good one.
• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode we talked about the Twins missing out on free agent catcher targets A.J. Pierzynski and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the new homes for Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan, and Hendriks getting dropped.