Friday, October 13, 2006
Twins-land may be in full-on Hot Stove Mode, but real baseball continues to be played. Last night, the Mets rode Tom Glavine and Carlos Beltran to a two-zero victory in game one of the NLCS (http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/recap?gameId=261012121). Without Pedro Martinez, the Mets are going to need a few more nights like that one out of Mr. Glavine: seven shutout, four hits and a couple of walks on just eighty-nine pitches. Beltran cranked a two-run shot in the sixth to provide the margin.
On the other side of the bracket, the Tigers are up two-nothing in the ALCS, but will be without a key part of their bullpen: rookie Joel Zumaya is out with wrist problems (http://sports.espn.go.com/mlb/playoffs2006/news/story?id=2622785). It will be interesting to see who fills that role for Detroit while Zumaya is out; he’s been dominant all year.
Game three of that series will pit Kenny Rogers (http://mlb.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/news/article.jsp?ymd=20061011&content_id=1708776&vkey=ps2006news&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb) against Rich Harden. Harden has the pure talent to pull this one out for Oakland, of course, but we’ll see if he can shake off the rust. More on Rogers in the Strib here (http://www.startribune.com/509/story/739740.html).
Back in Twins news, Francisco Liriano is going to rehab in Florida (http://www.startribune.com/509/story/731707.html), hoping to avoid surgery. That article also mentions a few other upcoming/already made movies, including the impending decision on Carlos Silva.
And, finally--it’s been a wee bit chilly in the Cities the last few days. That new outdoor stadium will hopefully be hosting plenty of baseball around this time of year, so it’s going to have to be kept warm somehow. The Strib has the scoop (http://www.startribune.com/509/story/739630.html).
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Time to reach into the mailbag...
There’s a game I like to play when the playoffs roll around, and I thought you & your readers might like to play, too (although I’m not leaving much lead time). I make 7 predictions for a series (trying not to be too obvious or too obscure), and need four of them to come true to claim victory. I welcome you to do the same. Here are mine for the ALCS:
1. Jim Leyland, managing in two pitchers’ ballparks, will choose to challenge Frank Thomas rather than pitch around him; no more than four walks for Thomas in the entire series (I'm assuming the series goes to six or seven
2. The bullpens generally will shine, but there will be at least one loss hung on a closer due to a blown save or extra inning game (Todd Jones, Huston Street).
3. Placido Polanco will have to leave a game or miss a game due to injury.
4. Both 3b basemen – Chavez and Inge – will generally struggle at the plate (hitting less than .250 combined, one home run max), but one of them will get an important late inning hit.
5. Craig Monroe will be more productive at the plate than Magglio Ordonez.
6. Kenny Rogers will have the worst start of all the Detroit starters (bonus credit for me if: Jimenez and Scutaro are his biggest problems).
7. Jason Kendall’s relative defensive weakness will be a factor; the Tigers, normally not very speedy, will have at least two players with two or more steals in the series.
Ok, I'm game. And I invite readers to give their best shot in the comments. Here's mine:
1. Frank Thomas will be walked intentionally at least three times.
2. There will be at least two shutouts in this series.
3. Rich Harden will get hurt.
4. Joel Zumaya will give up a run.
5. Detroit will come from behind in the late innings to win one game.
6. Esteban Loaiza will not get a win.
7. Detroit will not lose a home game. (And I don't just mean in this series.)
I'm sure glad I decided to skip Terry Ryan's 2007 Cheat Sheet yesterday and publish Hunters Option(s) yesterday, because today it would have been obsolete. The decision to pick up Hunter's option was basically a foregone conclusion given the risk tolerance of this organization, and given the way Hunter finished the season, it's defensible, and maybe even necessary.
But it doesn't mean that the Twins shouldn't be hustling to find the right-handed #3 or #4 hitter they still need. And there shouldn't be too many untouchables in that search.
Don't worry. I haven't forgotten about Terry Ryan's 2007 Cheat Sheet. I should have it tomorrow.
Monday, October 09, 2006
The Twins reportedly need to decide on whether to pick up Torii Hunter's contract option for 2007 before the end of the week. Hunter's option isn't the only decision that needs to be made, and it might not even be the biggest, considering the impact of guaranteeing Carlos Silva $4.3 million and a rotation spot next year. But Hunter's is the most expensive contract option the Twins will have ever picked up, so it requires its share of consideration.
The debate has raged for most of the year. Two months ago, you were hard-pressed to find someone who thought the Twins would pick up the option. A week ago, you were hard-pressed to find someone who didn't. Ironically, that swing corresponded with a decrease in Torii's defense, the facet of the game for which Torii is best known. The .314 BA and 9 home runs he sported in September might have had something to do with that.
It's assumed now that the Twins will pick up Hunter's option, but the reasons given aren't always clear. Some say it's because he's earned it. Some say it's because not doing so would send the wrong message to the fans, or the team. And some think they Twins should because they only recently figured out the concept of "sunk cost" and had previously assumed it was a $12 million option ($2.5 M is guaranteed regardless).
The problem is that none of these are the question that really should be asked. That question is - would the team be better with Hunter in center field at $9.5 million, or with someone else in center field with a different amount of money. That's a harder question to ask, of course, becuase it requires some research. At GameDay, we're all about research (though not so much about html formatting, which is why you're going to need to scroll down a bit), so let's take a look at the other options, and you can decide for yourself what the answer is.
|Gary Matthews Jr.||Tex||32||620||19||79||10||0.313||0.371||0.495||0.866|
You'll notice that these are not young men. You'll also notice that above Torii, there aren't a lot of sure things.
David Dellucci is listed as a center fielder, but played a corner spot most of this year, and was traded away from the Rangers because he wasn't a true center fielder. He also has never hit left-handers, and really only played as a utility outfieder in Philly, though he had a very good 2005 in Texas. I suspect his defense isn't deemed solid enough for the Twins to be interested, but he would certainly cost less than Hunter - he made just $950,000 last year.
The most interesting free agent test will be that of Gary Matthews Jr. It's unusual for a breakthrough year to happen to a 31-year-old, but Matthews was the complete package, offenseivly and defensively. This will be his last, best chance at a payday, but he's also probably cheaper than Hunter. I wouldn't be shocked if he signs for $15M over 3 years. If he's legit, that's going to be a great buy for some team.
I'm including Mike Cameron on the list, but he likely won't be available, because the Padres have a $7M option ($0.5 M buyout). Cameron may be the most comparable player on this list for Hunter, and another playoff team is debating whether to pick up his option, which is $3M less. However, it sound like they are planning on picking up that option, so the market is more or less set.
You can take a look at the options below Hunter yourself. Several qualify as "speedsters", which would require some fancy stepping as the the Twins would need to move Castillo. The only one likely to cost more than $5M per year would be Juan Pierre.
There are more options here than I thought, and it shows that if the Twins decide not to pick up Hunter's option, it doesn't necessarily mean they're going to turn to Lew Ford or Jason Tyner or Denard Span. But they would need to risk losing Hunter before the free agent season starts, and then they're at the mercy of the market. Ultimately, their risk aversion likely means they'll still pick up the option.