December 16, 2010

Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain leave Twins for three-year deals

After seven seasons in Minnesota apiece Matt Guerrier and Jesse Crain both officially left the Twins yesterday. Guerrier is heading to the National League on a three-year, $12 million deal with the Dodgers, while Crain will be remaining in the division and relieving for the enemy after agreeing to a three-year, $13 million contract with the White Sox. Neither departure comes as a surprise, although Crain going to Chicago adds a little extra sting to the bullpen losses.

Guerrier was remarkably reliable and generally very underrated throughout his seven seasons in Minnesota and ranks as one of the best waiver-wire pickups in team history. Claimed from Pittsburgh in November of 2003 after the Pirates acquired him from the White Sox in a March of 2002 trade for Damaso Marte, he went on to throw 472 innings with a 3.38 ERA and allowed opponents to hit just .247/.308/.387 while earning a grand total of just $6.6 million.

He twice led the league in appearances, worked 70-plus games in each of the past four years, is one of just three MLB relievers to log more than 450 innings since 2005, and had a sub-3.50 ERA in five of his six full seasons. Johan Santana, Al Worthington, and Rick Aguilera are the only pitchers in Twins history to throw more innings with a better adjusted ERA+ than Guerrier. And the Twins were right to let him go.

Guerrier has shown some signs of decline, as his strikeouts per nine innings dropped from 7.0 in 2007-2008 to 5.4 in 2009-2010 and he lost a full mile per hour off his peak fastball velocity. And simply by virtue of being a 33-year-old relief pitcher with less than overpowering raw stuff and secondary numbers that never quite matched the sparkling ERAs his performance is likely to crumble before the Dodgers are done paying him like a top-of-the-line setup man.

Similarly, it's difficult to fault the Twins for failing to top the White Sox's bid for Crain when they demoted him to Triple-A less than 18 months ago and never fully trusted him as their primary setup man prior to this year. To his credit Crain returned from Rochester pitching better than ever with a 3.00 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 102 innings following the month-long demotion and was nearly unhittable down the stretch this year by allowing four runs in a 42-inning span.

Crain's second-half dominance can be traced to an increased reliance on his slider, as he used it a career-high 46 percent of the time after previously never topping 26 percent. His mid-90s fastball didn't go anywhere, but by throwing it just 42 percent of the time after never before dipping under 60 percent Crain became a more dangerous, unpredictable pitcher. Whether he can thrive long term throwing nearly 50 percent sliders, however, remains to be seen.

His change in approach and being four years younger than Guerrier made Crain my preferred choice to retain, but committing to three years for either pitcher would have been a misstep by the Twins. Their departures leave a pair of big holes in a bullpen currently in flux, but rarely do three-year deals for setup men work out well for the teams handing them out and if the Twins stay patient there will be capable relievers available at a fraction of the cost soon enough.

Crain is a Type B free agent, so the Twins will receive a compensatory draft pick between the first and second rounds for losing him (Crain was a second rounder himself in 2002). Guerrier is a Type A free agent, but by not offering him arbitration the Twins forfeited his new team's first-round pick, plus the same sandwich pick Crain brings back. Letting both Crain and Guerrier walk was the right call, but the decision not to offer Guerrier arbitration was less clear cut.

Receiving a three-year deal from the Dodgers and reportedly drawing two-year proposals from several other teams makes it seem like offering Guerrier arbitration should have been an easy call, but the situation is much more complicated. Offering him arbitration would've dramatically altered Guerrier's market value, as few teams are willing to forfeit a high pick for a 33-year-old reliever and in the past some lesser Type A free agents have struggled to drum up interest.

If the Twins offered arbitration and Guerrier found the market lacking it's possible he may have re-signed for a much more reasonable price, but it's also possible his agent would've advised him to simply accept, forcing the Twins into a one-year commitment worth around $5 million. I tend to think it was worth that risk, because bringing Guerrier back on a one-year, $5 million deal would hardly be disastrous and two compensatory picks carry millions of dollars in value.

With that said, it's tough to predict whether Guerrier would've accepted arbitration and even tougher to determine how many teams, if any, would've been willing to lose a first rounder to sign him. Offering arbitration to Crain was a no-brainer, because Type B free agents don't cost their new teams a pick, but unfortunately Guerrier was tagged as Type A by a ratings system that drastically overrates relievers and it forced a risk-versus-reward choice upon the Twins.

Guerrier and Crain will be hard to replace, as they combined for an average of 135 innings with a 3.40 ERA in the past six seasons, but out-bidding 29 teams for the right to give three-year deals to middle relievers is the wrong way to build a bullpen. Right now the bullpen's outlook may be grim, but smart teams rely on the fungible nature of relievers and the Twins are better off trying to find the next Guerrier and Crain than paying a premium to retain the originals.

November 24, 2010

Twins offer arbitration to Pavano, Hudson, and Crain

Last night was the deadline to offer departing free agents arbitration to receive compensatory draft picks if they sign elsewhere and the Twins did so to Carl Pavano, Orlando Hudson, and Jesse Crain, but chose not to tender arbitration offers to Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch, and Brian Fuentes. Pavano and Crain were no-brainers, as they'll both have plenty of interested teams on the open market and if not the Twins would gladly welcome them back on one-year deals.

Hudson was seemingly a tougher call, as he's had to accept one-year deals as a free agent in each of the past two offseasons and may simply decide to accept the Twins' arbitration offer to ensure another one-year deal for at least the $5 million he earned in 2010. That would hardly be disastrous, as he was certainly worth $5 million, but it's unclear how he fits into the budget for 2011 and I'd heard from several sources that the Twins weren't interested in keeping him.

As a Type A free agent Guerrier signing elsewhere would have brought back a first-round pick and a second-round pick had the Twins offered him arbitration. However, the odds of another team be willing to forfeit their first-round pick to sign a good but not great 32-year-old reliever seem slim and the Twins didn't want to risk Guerrier seeing his lack of other options and simply accepting the arbitration offer because that could have meant paying him $5 million in 2011.

My sense is that the Twins have little interest in bringing back Rauch, so while getting a draft pick when he signs elsewhere would've been nice they didn't risk his accepting arbitration and locking them into a one-year deal for at least $3 million. Fuentes earned $9 million this season, so any arbitration offer to him would essentially have been offering a one-year, $9 million deal and the Twins don't have that kind of payroll space even if they'd like to have him return.

I'm very curious to see how the Hudson situation plays out, especially since it could impact J.J. Hardy, and it'll also be interesting to see if they make efforts to re-sign Guerrier or Fuentes at lesser salaries. Doing so with Guerrier is far more likely, but it's possible Fuentes could also be an option to come back if he can't find any full-time closer gigs on the open market. As general manager Bill Smith put it: "We haven't closed the door on re-signing any of those players."

UPDATE: Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com speculates that the Twins may have a gentleman's agreement with Hudson that he'll decline their arbitration offer, which isn't unheard of (Javier Vazquez and Trevor Hoffman are also doing it) and would obviously make the entire situation a whole lot less surprising. If true, the Twins basically get a free draft pick out of the deal.

November 7, 2010

Twins Notes: Mauer, Puckett, Hudson, Guerrier, and Crain

Joe Mauer has taken a lot of criticism for his lack of playoff production, which includes hitting .286/.359/.314 in nine career games. My hope is that anyone who's been reading this blog for any length of time would realize that a sample size of nine games spread over three different postseason appearances is hardly meaningful, but Seth Stohs recently took a different view of Mauer's playoff performances that should hammer that point home even further.

Mauer has participated in the playoffs in 2006, 2009, and 2010. In all three seasons the Twins were eliminated in three games. Kirby Puckett has a reputation for being a postseason hero, and rightfully so, but much of that comes from his actually having the opportunity to play more than three playoff games at a time. For instance, Puckett made his postseason debut in 1987 against the Tigers and went 1-for-13 through three games of the ALCS.

What if, like Mauer after just three games in 2006, 2009, and 2010, the 1987 playoffs would've been over for Puckett at that point? They weren't, of course, but in the World Series that same year Puckett was 3-for-12 through three games. Again, what if he wouldn't have had a chance to play beyond a third game? And then in 1991 he was just 3-for-12 through three games of the ALCS and 1-for-12 through three games of the World Series.

My point isn't to take anything away from Puckett's postseason greatness, but rather to show that focusing on three-game samples spread out over multiple seasons as a way to conclude something about Mauer (or any player) is silly. If you take the first three games of Puckett's first three playoff series--essentially matching Mauer's career playoff opportunities--one of the greatest playoff heroes of all time would instead be 7-for-37 (.189). Mauer is 10-for-35 (.286).

• I wrote last month that several people who know about such things have told me that the Twins are highly unlikely to re-sign Orlando Hudson, in part because of payroll limitations and in part because the veteran second baseman wasn't universally beloved within the clubhouse. After talking to Hudson recently Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported more or less the same thing, but in slightly nicer terms, writing:

Hudson, who turns 33 in December, told me he would love to return to the Twins, but he's a pending free agent, and the writing is on the wall with their payroll situation. It looks like he'll be playing for his fourth team in four years in 2011.

Hudson provided nice value for the Twins on a one-year, $5 million deal, hitting .268/.338/.372 with good defense in 126 games, but right now my guess is Alexi Casilla will be the Opening Day second baseman in 2011.

• Speaking of Hudson, the official Elias Sports Bureau free agent rankings used to determine draft pick compensation have classified Carl Pavano and Matt Guerrier as Type A and Hudson, Jesse Crain, Brian Fuentes, Jon Rauch as Type B. Teams that lose Type A free agents receive the signing team's first-round pick and a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds, while teams that lose Type B free agents receive only a sandwich pick.

And in order to receive any compensation the team losing a free agent must first offer salary arbitration, with the risk being that the player may accept and force them into a one-year deal. Guerrier being ranked Type A complicates his status quite a bit, because many teams won't be interested in losing their first-round pick to sign him. That makes him far more likely to accept the Twins' offer of arbitration, which would mean a one-year contract for at least $5 million.

• Crain has said he'd like to remain with the Twins, but indicated that his chances of re-signing depend largely on whether other teams offer him an opportunity to be their closer:

Obviously, I'd love an opportunity to do that. I guess we'll see what happens this offseason. A team might come and offer me that. I'm kind of looking forward to seeing what happens. I'd love to be back here. I love the guys, I love the organization. It's the only place I've ever been. I feel comfortable. We'll just have to see what happens.

Crain has never closed for the Twins, saving a total of just three games in seven seasons, but certainly has the velocity most teams look for in the role and is hitting the open market at an ideal time after posting a 1.42 ERA, .170 opponents' batting average, and 42/20 K/BB ratio in his final 45 appearances (before serving up a homer to Mark Teixeira in the playoffs).

Justin Morneau told Kelly Thesier of MLB.com that there's "nothing really new to report" on his recovery from the July 7 concussion that caused him to miss the final three months of the season. Morneau ramped up his workouts in September in the hopes of perhaps being ready at some point during the playoffs, but was ultimately shut down again after experiencing more post-concussion symptoms and has yet to resume working out.

• While appearing on 1500-ESPN with Patrick Reusse and Phil Mackey general manager Bill Smith made it clear that the Twins will attempt to re-sign Jim Thome, which is no surprise.

Jacque Jones was among the many Twins minor leaguers who became free agents once the season ended and he's unlikely to be back after batting just .280/.319/.386 in 96 games at Rochester. Some other relatively well-known minor-league free agents: Brock Peterson, Matt Macri, Mike Maroth, D'Angelo Jimenez, Tim Lahey. No major losses and the bigger decisions will come when better prospects have to be protected from the Rule 5 draft next month.

• Bodog.com has posted some very early odds on each team winning the World Series in 2011 and the Twins are listed at 16-to-1, which is tied with the Rangers for seventh-best.

July 12, 2010

Anatomy of a collapse (Part 1: Pitching)

When the Twins woke up in Seattle on June 1 they were 31-20 and riding a five-game winning streak that gave them a season-high 4.5-game lead over the Tigers (and 8.5-game lead over the White Sox) in the AL Central. They were clicking on nearly every cylinder, with the pitching staff allowing the second-fewest runs in the league and the lineup scoring more runs than any team outside of the powerful AL East.

Through two months they had the second-best record in baseball, were on pace for 98 wins, and looked capable of running away with the division. Instead they've fallen apart. After losing two of three from the Tigers over the weekend the Twins are now 15-22 since the calendar flipped to June, turning a 4.5-game lead into a 3.5-game deficit in under six weeks and limping into the All-Star break in third place at a disappointing 46-42.

Here's a look at their run scoring and run prevention during the good times and bad times:

                      RS/G     RA/G
Through May 31        4.92     3.82
Since June 1          4.24     4.85

Through the end of May the Twins scored 4.92 runs per game, but since then they've managed just 4.24 runs per game for an offensive decline of 14 percent. And the decline of the pitching staff has been even steeper. Through the end of May the Twins allowed 3.82 runs per game, but since then they've coughed up 4.85 runs per game for a pitching (and defense) drop of 27 percent. Let's dig a little deeper and look at the individual pitching performances since June 1:

ROTATION                IP      ERA      FIP
Carl Pavano           60.1     3.13     4.29
Scott Baker           42.2     5.48     4.56
Francisco Liriano     41.2     4.75     1.90
Kevin Slowey          40.2     5.31     4.58
Nick Blackburn        36.0    10.00     7.48
TOTAL                221.1     5.41     4.53

While going 15-22 the Twins' rotation had a cumulative 5.41 ERA, with only Carl Pavano under 4.50 and Nick Blackburn checking in at 10.00. However, their cumulative Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) was a much more reasonable 4.53, with Pavano, Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey all right around 4.50 and Francisco Liriano at an excellent 1.90 thanks to his great 51-to-11 strikeout-to-walk ratio with zero homers allowed in 41.2 innings.

In other words the rotation as a whole didn't pitch quite as horribly as their 5.41 ERA suggests and in particular Liriano's secondary numbers were outstanding. That their ERA was a full run worse than their FIP shows that perhaps the starters had poor defense played behind them, received poor bullpen support, or maybe just had some bad luck (since we are talking about a very limited sample size here). That's the good news.

The bad news is that Blackburn had a 7.48 FIP in addition to his ghastly 10.00 ERA. It's rare for a pitcher's FIP to get that high, because the stat is designed to take bad luck, bad defense, and bad bullpen support out of the equation and ... well, few pitchers are still that bad once you strip their performance of those factors. For instance, no pitcher with more than 50 innings in a season has cracked a 7.00 FIP since 2006.

Blackburn's overall FIP this season is "only" 5.89, but he's compiled a 7.48 FIP since June 1 by striking out just 17 of 180 batters while walking 14 and allowing 11 homers. His strikeout rate has always been terrible, but he made up for it with great control and limited home runs. Now his strikeout rate is non-existent, with 91 percent of batters putting the ball in play since June 1, and he issued twice as many walks as before while serving up a homer every three innings.

BULLPEN                 IP      ERA      FIP
Brian Duensing        18.2     1.45     4.06
Alex Burnett          16.1     4.96     5.89
Matt Guerrier         16.0     5.07     4.70
Ron Mahay             14.1     2.51     4.60
Jon Rauch             13.0     1.39     2.97
Jesse Crain           12.1     1.46     2.96
Jose Mijares           8.1     2.16     4.40
Jeff Manship           5.1     3.38     6.01
TOTAL                104.1     2.85     4.38

Not surprisingly, while the rotation's ERA was much worse than their FIP the bullpen's ERA was much better than their FIP. During the 15-22 stretch the bullpen actually had a pretty looking 2.85 ERA, but inheriting runners from the starters and allowing them to score isn't reflected in the relievers' ERAs and their FIP was merely mediocre at 4.38, with only Jon Rauch and Jesse Crain below 4.00. Despite that Rauch and Crain were used for just 25 innings in 37 games.

In the past Rauch's durability was a major asset, as he averaged 80 innings per season from 2006-2009 while appearing in half of his team's games. However, now he's a "closer" instead of a "setup man" and so Ron Gardenhire has subjected him to the same extremely rigid usage patterns he employed with Joe Nathan, which is why four different relievers have more innings than Rauch since June 1 and he's on pace for just 62 innings in 59 appearances on the year.

Rauch has shown the ability to log tons of innings, but now that the Twins have entrusted him with the most important role in the bullpen he's on pace for 25 percent less work because the manager will only use him up 1-3 runs in the final inning. That means fewer innings for Rauch, who has a 2.38 ERA and 3.32 FIP, but also more innings for the lesser relievers and more work for Matt Guerrier, who Gardenhire is perfectly willing to wear out because he's not a "closer."

In the past few weeks Guerrier pitched three times in four days and then, after a short break, worked five times in seven days. Not surprisingly he began to struggle, taking the loss in three straight appearances. Rauch is capable of being a workhorse and Guerrier has worn down like this in the past, but since Gardenhire lets the "save" statistic dictate how he runs the bullpen Guerrier has pitched in 42 percent more games than Rauch since June 1.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

When a team goes from 31-20 to 46-42 fans start calling for all sorts of moves to be made and the pitching staff is certainly the most obvious place to point fingers, but realistically what can and should the Twins do? Some of the most plausible "solutions" involve guys like Slowey and Baker simply pitching better, but here are three other ideas that don't involve dumping half the roster or trading half the farm system ...

1. Blackburn needs a break from the rotation.

The misguided decision to hand Blackburn a four-year, $14 million contract this offseason when he was already under team control through 2013 complicates the situation, but whether he's injured or just finally tasting the downside of "pitching to contact" he's been bad enough for long enough that making a change is reasonable. I'm far from confident in Brian Duensing as a starter, but moving him into the rotation and shifting Blackburn to long relief makes sense.

2. If there aren't many save chances to be had, use Rauch more in non-save situations.

Gardenhire's rigid deployment of Rauch was fine when there was a steady flow of late leads to close out, but using the team's best, most durable reliever for 13 innings in 37 games simply because the "save" chances dried up is silly and a lesson in backwards managing. Gardenhire has unfortunately let Rauch's new role drastically alter the way he uses him, but that doesn't mean Rauch has forgotten how to pitch without a lead of 1-3 runs in the ninth inning.

3. Bring up Anthony Slama from Triple-A.

I've been banging the Slama drum for a while now and at this point I'm not sure what else the guy can do to get a shot in Minnesota. His numbers in the minors have been ridiculously good at every stop and he now has a 1.80 ERA, .152 opponents' batting average, and 79 strikeouts in 65 innings at Triple-A. His control is shaky and his raw stuff isn't overpowering, but so what? He's dominated at every level and is already 26 years old. Why not at least give him a chance?

June 7, 2010

Twitter Mailbag: Answers

Last week I asked for mailbag questions submitted via Twitter, so here are about 1,700 words worth of me answering 140-character queries ...

@Komencentz: Why don't the Twins put Michael Cuddyer back at third base?

My understanding is that Michael Cuddyer moved away from third base after the 2005 season in part because the Twins didn't like his defense there and in part because the loss of hearing in his left ear during childhood made it tough for him to play the position regularly. I've gotten questions about why the Twins don't put him back at third base ever since and they'd finally died down before Ron Gardenhire gave him a surprise start at second base last week.

Cuddyer was a bad defender at third base in 2005, with Ultimate Zone Rating pegging him as 10 runs below average per 150 games, so he'd presumably be downright awful moving back there after not playing the position at all for the past five years. Plus, while it would certainly improve the Twins' lineup the true impact would likely be overstated because Jim Thome and Jason Kubel aren't good versus lefties and Delmon Young isn't very effective versus righties.

@ThomasKelsey: Do you think Danny Valencia at least can be Kevin Kouzmanoff?

Danny Valencia being as good as Kevin Kouzmanoff is closer to the best-case scenario than an "at least" scenario. Kouzmanoff spent most of his career in MLB's most pitcher-friendly park, yet his numbers in the majors are more or less the same as Valencia's numbers at Triple-A. In the minors he batted .332/.395/.556--including .368/.426/.643 at Double-A and Triple-A--and Kouzmanoff was already an above-average everyday player for the Padres at Valencia's age.

@RyanHyde10: How good is Kyle Gibson?

Kyle Gibson struggled Saturday for the first time, but he still has a 2.27 ERA, .219 opponents' batting average, and 67-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 75 innings. He's not quite in the elite tier of pitching prospects because he doesn't throw in the mid-90s or miss a ton of bats, but is safely in the second tier as a strike-throwing, ground-ball pitcher with upside as a low-end No. 1 starter or high-end No. 2 starter. He's the Twins' best pitching prospect since Matt Garza.

@MLBgrrl: Why do I love Joe Mauer so much? I'm happily married and have no chance of meeting him?

I'm not sure, because I have a really hard time understanding why anyone would want to lust after someone they have no chance of ever being with.

@_2244: Do you see the Twins moving on a closer this year? Any thoughts on who or the price it would take to acquire him?

I wrote tons about the closer situation this spring, basically concluding the Twins were better off seeing if Jon Rauch (or another in-house option) could get the job done than overpaying for a so-called "proven closer." Rauch is 15-for-17 converting saves with a 2.74 ERA, so my opinion certainly hasn't changed. Closer is the most overrated "position" in baseball and it's funny how everyone saying Joe Nathan's injury would cost double-digit wins have vanished.

@djjlav: Is Matt Guerrier the most underrated Twin in terms of attention received by the local/national media and fans?

Generally speaking non-closer relievers don't get much attention and Matt Guerrier is further overlooked because his raw stuff doesn't blow anyone away, but he has a 3.30 ERA over 428 career innings and has posted a mark above 3.50 just once in six full seasons. Setup men are always underrated relative to closers because of the misguided focus on saves, but since his debut in 2004 only three Twins pitchers have a higher Win Probability Added than Guerrier.

(Twins pitchers with a higher WPA since 2004: Nathan, Johan Santana, and ... Juan Rincon.)

@nicosamuelson: Now that Ken Griffey Jr. has retired, who's the greatest center fielder of all time still active?

Jim Edmonds, although many people seem to have a hard time believing that despite the fact that he's an eight-time Gold Glove winner with 385 homers and a .284/.377/.527 career line.

@ScandiAngel: Is there an overarching reason that speaks to the Twins' ineptitude versus the Yankees or is the abysmal record simply dumb luck?

I tend to believe there's been a significant amount of bad and/or dumb luck involved, but also think the Yankees have been a) extremely good, b) clearly better than the Twins nearly every season, and c) an especially poor matchup for a staff with strike-throwing, fly-ball pitchers. All of which I wrote quite a bit more about in an entry last month.

@hlrule: Will the high LOB counts and double plays eventually catch up with the Twins?

That's already caught up with the Twins in the sense that it's cost runs and wins, but it's not something that necessarily carries over to future games. Hitting poorly with the bases loaded in April and May doesn't have any impact on games played in August and September. Certainly strong on-base percentages and high ground-ball rates will continue to make the Twins prone to double plays, but hitting with runners on base is generally not a similarly sustainable skill.

@jarends703: Does the All-Star system need to be changed? How would you change it?

I really couldn't care less about the All-Star game at this point, in large part because the focus on first-half performances rather than multi-year track records leads to tons of mistakes in the selection process every season. To me the All-Star teams should feature the best players in baseball, not the guys who played the best for the first half of one season.

@bgipple: Any idea when Derek McCallum will be back for low Single-A Beloit? He's been on the seven-day disabled list for a while.

He should be back fairly soon. Derek McCallum had wrist surgery in mid-May and was given a five-week recovery timetable. This winter he ranked 31st on my list of the Twins' prospects.

@georoam: Why does Gardenhire stick with miserable Jesse Crain?

Amusingly, that was sent in before Jesse Crain blew the lead Saturday.

Coming into Saturday's game he actually had a 3.32 ERA and 14-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 19 innings since back-to-back ugly outings in April, but that's the problem with Crain (and why people call him things like "miserable"). He tends to be awful, then pitch well for long enough to reclaim a prominent late-inning role, and then immediately be awful again. Crain also has a career xFIP of 4.55, including 4.34 this year, so he just isn't very good.

Also, since I haven't ranted about how stupid "wins" and "losses" are for individual pitchers in a while, allow me to point out that Crain cost Francisco Liriano a win Saturday. Liriano racked up 10 strikeouts in seven innings of two-run ball, but because the guy who relieved him stunk he doesn't get a win. On the other hand, after Crain blew the lead Alex Burnett retired the only batter he faced on four pitches ... and got the "win" when the Twins later scored. Idiotic.

@ThomasKelsey: Why do the Twins hate Anthony Slama?

As my mom always says, "Hate is a strong word." I don't think the Twins put much faith in his minor-league numbers and have never believed he's the real deal. I'm not sure he is either, but much like with Pat Neshek once upon a time at some point the guy deserves a chance to prove it one way or another and he's already 26 years old. For a lot more on Slama, check out my interview about him with Baseball America editor-in-chief John Manuel last week.

@kdoggm1214: Why aren't you ever on Paul Allen's talk show?

He's never invited me, but Paul Allen does have Seth Stohs on as a regular guest. Both things are probably to his credit.

@Mnbeersportgeek: Any chatter on the Twins trying to acquire Roy Oswalt?

I haven't seen anything to indicate the Twins are legitimate players for Roy Oswalt, although a few prominent writers have suggested they'd be a good fit. I wrote about the possibility last week and basically concluded he'd likely be too costly in terms of both salary and prospects.

@jeffboone: With the Mariners playing so poorly, what are the chances the Twins could make a move for Cliff Lee down the stretch?

Probably even lower than their chances of trading for Oswalt, since Cliff Lee is an impending free agent and the Twins obviously wouldn't be in a position to re-sign him. Would it be worth trading multiple top prospects for a few months of Lee and a couple draft picks? I doubt it and making a big splash like that would certainly be very uncharacteristic. Intriguing to think about, but ultimately pretty pointless for Twins fans.

@jarends703: Could we see a shift to a new era with offense waning?

Between increased steroid testing and various standout pitching performances many are quick to assume a huge shift is taking place in terms of offensive levels dropping, but that really isn't supported by evidence. This year the average team is scoring 4.5 runs per game, which while slightly lower than the 4.6 runs scored in 2008 and 2009 is hardly a massive change. Beyond that, run scoring in general tends to be lower early in the season due to poor weather.

@2ndSwingGolf: Are you a golfer? Big fan of Highland National?

For a couple summers back in junior high I golfed a ton, including many rounds at the course in Highland Park that was just blocks from my house, but I never loved it and was so incredibly inconsistent hitting tee shots with a driver that being decent at everything else was pointless (although I did shoot one randomly great round while vacationing at Madden's). In retrospect I probably should have taken a few lessons first.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Ending with a question and answer that no one could possibly care about seems fitting. Thanks to everyone who submitted questions, as the response was strong enough that I'll try to make this a regular feature. In the meantime you can follow me and my 140-character ramblings on Twitter.

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »