Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Deal or No Deal

Over at the Bleacher Bums, which is one of the many blogs I should really stop by more, David Zingler wrote up a piece called "Nathan Contract Doesn't Make Sense". His basic argument is that after the Twins didn't pay Johan Santana $137M, they certainly shouldn't pay Joe Nathan $47M.

His basic point is right on, which is that if the Twins can stretch and accept the risks inherent with Nathan, they should have been able to accept the risks inherent with the best left-handed pitcher of this millenium. I made a similar point in the days after he was traded. But there is a key difference for the Twins, and when I started to write it up, I realized I might well crash their comment posting system, so let's go over it here. (Hope you see this David.)

Tuesday night, The Voice of Reason was watching Deal or No Deal, which has become her latest innocent addiction. The contenstant was a young, recently engaged woman who had three cases left - $1,000,000, $500,000 and $25. She could either accept the offer from The Banker for $404,000 or choose to open a case. She would NOT get whatever amount was in that case, and The Banker would then give her another offer.

With two big amounts left on the board, she chose to open a case. In her mind, she had a 2/3 chance of making more money than was being offered. But, in fact, the opposite was true, and that became very apparent within the next five minutes.

Because the case that was opened was the $500,000 case, meaning she was going to end up with either $25 or $1,000,000. Or whatever The Banker offered her. What would you do?

It's obvious, right? You MUST take the banker's offer at that point. And in this case, he made it none too easy, lowballing her with a $340,000 offer. But as she's trying to get up the guts to stick it to The Banker and go for it, her fiance is saying "Be smart. Be Smart." He didn't even need to say what option was the "smart" one. She knew. We all knew. And of course she took the offer.

That's why, when she rejected the $404,000 offer, there was really a 2/3 chance of her leaving with less money than that. Despite 2/3 of the cases being worth more than that. It was going to be impossible for her to swallow that risk. A kid playing with imaginary money can take that risk. A millionaire who already has financial security can take that risk. But with a $25 stink bomb still in play, she was never going to be able to take that risk.

That's the difference between the Nathan deal the Twins signed and the Santana deal they didn't even offer. They can gamble on paying $11.25M four years from now. They couldn't gamble on paying $25 million seven (incuding the option) years from now. The money was too much. The length was too long. The risk was too great. As much as they wanted to, you know someone was whispering to them "Be smart. Be smart."

Which isn't to say that they shouldn't have, because sometimes it pays to take the risk. That's a lesson the contenstant now knows well. The case in her hand, the one she sold for $340,000 (because it was the smart thing to do), held $1,000,000.


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Speaking of blogs I should stop by more often, Judd Spicer has taken over the role that Pete Schilling Jr. had as the baseball guy at City Pages Balls Blog. Judd has written for GameDay on a number of occasions, usually something offbeat and entertaining, like when he tried to convince Joe Mauer to get a haircut at his girlfriend's salon. As soon as I can figure out how to get just th MLB posts to come over to the MNGameDay.com feed, I'll include it. In the meantime, check it out.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

"His basic point is right on, which is that if the Twins can stretch and accept the risks inherent with Nathan, they should have been able to accept the risks inherent with the best left-handed pitcher of this millenium."

I don't think that is true, nor do you need a game show analysis to figure out why. All you need to do is look at the dollars and years at risk relative to the team payroll.

As for the game show - I think you missed the real lesson. That first $300,000 was worth far more to the contestant than the last $700,000. Which is a lesson baseball statheads could learn something from as well.

Jack Ungerleider said...

I thought I had posted a comment to that entry that went something like this:

The two crucial points missing from the analysis are:

1. By most reports Santana didn't want to stay. No matter what the offer.

2. Also by most reports Joe Nathan wants to stay.

Take those two points and the no-trade clause in Santana's contract and the team's priorities (which were called into question in the MPR post) don't really matter that much. (It seems to have been eaten by the comment monster.)

On your analysis, I don't think its so much a risk based thing. What the Twins have shown since the front office changes is a willingness to pay "market value" or at least perceived market value for star players. Particularly for those stars that have expressed an interest in staying with the team.

Mark Rosen, in the context of discussing the Tom Pohl accident, touched on how this is a change in philosophy. He brought the case of Corey Koskie. As most Twins fans probably know he is at home attempting to recover from post-concussion syndrome (at least I think that's what they call it.) One has to believe that if the current philosophy was in place when Koskie was up for an extension he might still be here. (Whether that's good or bad is open to debate.)

Nick N. said...

Here's the key reason why the Twins can stomach Nathan's contract but not Santana's:

Right around 2011, Mauer, Cuddyer, Kubel and a slate of young pitchers (including Liriano) will all be reaching free agency. Morneau would be in the same boat if not for the contract he signed earlier this offseason. If the Twins were locked into a mid-30s Santana for $25M/yr for still another three or four years at that point, they would have an extremely difficult time retaining even the majority of those players. And as much as Santana is a better and more valuable player than any of them, there is NO question that this organization has proven to be far more adept at developing pitchers than hitters. They can absorb the losses of Santana and Silva and still probably put together an above-average rotation; yet, I strongly doubt that they'd be able to field a respectable offense with guys like Morneau and Kubel taking off.

The Twins aren't going to have any major financial concerns over the next few years. It's 2011-2014 that things will get sticky. This fact alone makes the Nathan deal palatable in relation to the Santana deal.

And, of course, as Jack mentions above, there is every indication that Santana had very little desire to remain in Minnesota, which is a fact everyone seems to ignore when heartily criticizing the Twins for failing to extend him.

TT said...

there is NO question that this organization has proven to be far more adept at developing pitchers than hitters.

Really? Which pitchers have they developed that have proved as good as Mauer and Morneau? I think the answer is Santana and you can argue Liriano.

There is no evidence the Twins are more adept at developing any type of player.

Nick N. said...

There is no evidence the Twins are more adept at developing any type of player.

Compare this organization's depth in terms of pitchers and position players and I think you'll find that statement to be grossly untrue. While the number of elite pitching and hitting talents produced by the club over the past decade may be roughly equal, there's simply no arguing against the fact that the Twins have produced MANY more quality pitchers than hitters in recent years.

To illustrate, the Twins have a homegrown rotation comprised of Baker, Bonser, Liriano, Slowey and Blackburn with a few extras to spare; a group that can probably be above average next year if not this year. Meanwhile, you've got an offense that is nearly barren of above-average talent if you go outside of Mauer/Morneau/Kubel and discount trades for established major-league players like Lamb, Harris and Young.

TT said...

To illustrate, the Twins have a homegrown rotation comprised of Baker, Bonser, Liriano, Slowey and Blackburn with a few extras to spare;

Well no, they don't. Blackburn and Slowey are both at least two years older than any of the Twins top position prospects and have yet to have any real major league success. Bonser and Liriano both came to the Twins in trades.

I wouldn't trade either Mauer or Morneau for any of the pitchers in the Twins rotation. I wouldn't trade Cuddyer for them either. Maybe Kubel.

Twins have produced MANY more quality pitchers than hitters in recent years.

Do these pitchers have names? If you look at the Twins bullpen you have Crain, Neshek and Rincon. The rest of the bullpen came from outside the organization.

The only top pitcher the Twins have developed is Garza. At his point he is closer to Kubel on the development ladder, not yet proven, than to Mauer, Morneau and Cuddyer.

The only thing obvious is that you have to grossly exaggerate the value of the pitchers the Twins have developed in order to even come close to quality of the position players.

Nick N. said...

I wouldn't trade either Mauer or Morneau for any of the pitchers in the Twins rotation. I wouldn't trade Cuddyer for them either. Maybe Kubel.

If you wouldn't trade a mediocre 29-year-old corner outfielder like Cuddyer for a 24-year-old Liriano or Slowey, you're out of your mind.

Bonser and Liriano both came to the Twins in trades.

...

Do these pitchers have names? If you look at the Twins bullpen you have Crain, Neshek and Rincon. The rest of the bullpen came from outside the organization.


You're misrepresenting my argument. I never said anything about where the players came from, I simply said that the Twins have done a better job of finding and developing pitchers than hitters. Be it trade, draft or Rule V, the Twins have consistently done a good job of finding pitchers and developing them into solid prospects with the potential to give above-average production in the big leagues. They have been unable to do that with hitters; indeed, many of the most competent hitters on their current major-league roster were either signed as free agents, or acquired via trade when they were already established major-leaguers.

There's a fairly large difference between getting a teen-aged Liriano as the third piece in a package and developing him into a star pitcher, and having to trade a top pitching prospect for Delmon Young when he's already established himself as one of the game's best young players.

TT said...

I simply said that the Twins have done a better job of finding and developing pitchers than hitters.

The claim you are defending was this: "there is NO question that this organization has proven to be far more adept at developing pitchers than hitters."

If you want to make the case that the Twins "developed" Nathan, Cali or Guerrier, go for it. I have a hard time buying it.

There's a fairly large difference between getting a teen-aged Liriano as the third piece in a package and developing him into a star pitcher, and having to trade a top pitching prospect for Delmon Young when he's already established himself as one of the game's best young players.

Liriano was available only because he had a history of injuries. How much he developed and how much he just stayed healthy for a couple years is an open question. There is no doubt the Twins developed Mauer, Cuddyer and Morneau. Or Kubel for that matter. And if you want to throw in traded players you can add Bartlett and to that list.

Rule V

The Twins have taken several players in the rule 5 (not V) draft and Santana is the only one who has amounted to anything. He was already pitching in the major leagues before the Twins drafted Morneau or Mauer.

Just to go year by year through the draft:

In 2000, the Twins had 5 of the top 100 choices. They took four pitchers and one position player. The position player and one of the pitchers didn't sign, the other three pitchers never produced anything to speak of. The Twins did take Kubel that year.

In 2001 they had three choices in the top 100 and took three high school players, producing Mauer and Morales at the major league level and one pitching failure. Blackburn was drafted out of college in the 29th round that year.

In 2002 they had three choices they took two high school players, Span and a pitcher, and a college pitcher in Crain.

In 2003, they had three choices and took two high school players, Moses and Woodard, and one college pitcher in Baker.

In 2004, they had 6 choices and took 5 pitchers and Plouffe. Perkins, who is now at Rochester, is the only one who has appeared in the major leagues.

In 2005, they took three college pitchers and three high school players. Garza and now Slowey are the only ones who have made it to the major leagues so far.

No one has made to the big leagues from any draft since 2005.

So, out of high school, the Twins have developed position players in Cuddyer, Morneau, Mauer and Kubel. Of all those pitchers taken in college, Neshek is the only one who has pitched an entire major league season in the big leagues.

But the Twins are clearly better at developing pitchers? I don't think so.

Nick N. said...

The only internally developed hitters that the Twins have produced who have proven to be high-quality players are Mauer and Morneau. I think Kubel will get there, but we'll see. And I think you're overrating Cuddyer in this discussion based on his one good season.

You can go back through draft history all you want; it's not really relevant to my argument, which is that the Twins are far more capable of producing pitchers than hitters.

If you want to make the case that the Twins "developed" Nathan, Cali or Guerrier, go for it. I have a hard time buying it.

I wouldn't argue that they developed Cali or Nathan, no. Both were relatively old and had considerable major-league experience when the Twins acquired them (although the team did get Nathan as a relative unknown and turn him into an elite closer). Guerrier, yes. When they got him, he was a mediocre Triple-A pitcher, and they've turned him into a highly reliable big-league reliever.

You seem to be hung up on the term "developed," and it's causing you to miss the point. I don't care how the Twins are producing these players, the fact is that they're producing a much higher quantity of quality pitchers than hitters. You can go over the semantics of the word develop -- you seem to think a team has to draft a player in order to develop him, I don't agree -- but how they acquire them is rather inconsequential.

The fact is that this organization has produced Baker, Bonser, Liriano, Slowey, Garza, Perkins, Neshek, Crain, Blackburn, Duensing and Guerrier, all of whom were either drafted by the Twins or acquired as untested prospects. And each of those players has a pretty decent chance of turning into a productive major-leaguer, if he's not already. The minor leagues are packed with more guys that fall into the same boat, such as Swarzak, Manship, Sosa, Robertson, Pino and, before he was dealt, Morlan.

Meanwhile, the high minors are almost totally barren of impact hitting prospects, and most of the Twins' better position players in the low minors are heavily flawed and have failed to put up impressive numbers.

All of this brings me back to my central point, which is that the team can absorb the loss of Santana and Silva much more than they could the loss of Mauer or Morneau because there is a much better chance that they will fill their rotation with above-average pitchers than their lineup with above-average hitters.

The biggest reason this current offense has much hope is because they've got Young and Gomez out there, and they had to trade Garza and Santana to get them.

TT said...

The fact is that this organization has produced Baker, Bonser, Liriano, Slowey, Garza, Perkins, Neshek, Crain, Blackburn, Duensing and Guerrier, all of whom were either drafted by the Twins or acquired as untested prospects.

Almost none of whom have pitched even one full season in the major leagues. You seem to be relying entirely on how you imagine they will develop rather than any actual accomplishments at the major league level. I doubt anyone would trade either Morneau or Mauer for the entire bunch.

And that is a problem. Because you keep talking about how well these players have developed when they have yet to even make the transition to major league players. Much less the major league impact players you project them to be.

The minor leagues are packed with more guys that fall into the same boat, such as Swarzak, Manship, Sosa, Robertson, Pino and, before he was dealt, Morlan.

The minor leagues are always "packed" with pitching prospects. But I agree they do all fall into the same boat...

Meanwhile, the high minors are almost totally barren of impact hitting prospects

Which is hardly unexpected given how they have drafted high school players and college pitchers in the last five drafts. How would you expect them to develop players they don't have? Eventually some of the high school kids will likely make it, but it isn't going to happen three years after they are drafted very often.

Nick N. said...

Almost none of whom have pitched even one full season in the major leagues. You seem to be relying entirely on how you imagine they will develop rather than any actual accomplishments at the major league level.

So what? They are all quality players with excellent minor-league credentials, which is more than you can say about the vast majority of hitters in this organization.

. I doubt anyone would trade either Morneau or Mauer for the entire bunch.

Of course not. I wouldn't trade Morneau or Mauer for pitching period, because they are two rare examples of quality hitters produced by this organization, an organization that can produce quality pitchers with relative regularity.

Using Mauer and Morneau as the base of your argument does nothing to support it. Wow, the Twins have produced two great hitters, one of whom was a No. 1 overall pick. This argument isn't about quality, it's about quantity. Unfortunately you can't build an offense around two great hitters; you can build a rotation around five good pitchers.

The minor leagues are always "packed" with pitching prospects. But I agree they do all fall into the same boat...

If you followed any other organization you would realize that this absolutely not universally true.

TT said...

So what?

So. .. they aren't evidence that the Twins can develop major league pitchers.

If you followed any other organization you would realize that this absolutely not universally true.

If you followed the Twins you would realize they have always had a list of pitchers like the one you created here and most of those pitchers failed at the major league level. It is a numbers game, but that long list pares down pretty quickly when they start trying to make the jump to major league contributors.

If you followed other teams closely you would realize they aren't producing a group of young hitters like Kubel, Cuddyer, Morneau and Mauer very often either. In fact, I doubt you can name a single other organization that has brought both a batting champion and MVP to the big leagues in the past decade.

This argument isn't about quality, it's about quantity.

The quantity of major league quality pitchers the Twins organization has actually produced is one - Pat Neshek. The rest are all just your guesses. None them have actually pitched a full season in the big leagues, much less pitched successfully.

There is a reason 3 of the 4 players the Twins got for Santana were pitchers. The Twins understand that most of the guys who have potential in the minor leagues aren't ever going to be able to do the job at the major league level. It is a numbers game, and the fact that the Twins have numbers there is a tribute to both they drafting and development. Just as the young hitters at the big league level and in the system are.

The problem here isn't with the Twins organization, its with your evaluations of its players. Exaggerating the future value of its pitching prospects and ignoring the value of the position players it has actually produced, as well as the prospects in its system.

TT said...

From 2000-2005 the Twins signed 24 choices who were taken among the first 100 players in their respective drafts.

College Pitchers - 8 -
High School Pitchers - 7
College Hitters - 0
High School Hitters -9

So who are the msjot league players developed from those drafts? Mauer, a high school hitter, is the only one who has established himself in the big leagues and Morales is the only other high school player to reach the big leagues. None of the high school pitchers have.

Among the college pitchers, you have Crain, Baker, Perkins, Garza and Slowey who have reached the majors. As I said above, none of them have pitched a complete, full season there.

It takes longer to develop high school players develop than college players and position players, in general, develop more slowly than pitchers.

No surprises there. Afterall, Cuddyer was drafted out of high school in 1997 and ten years later you are still arguing about how good a player he will be.

Here is the Twins top ten from 2001:

1. Joe Mauer
2. Justin Morneau
3. Michael Cuddyer
4. Michael Restovich
5. Adam Johnson
6. Brad Thomas
7. Juan Rincon
8. Rob Bowen
9. Matt Kinney
10. Sandy Tejada

The only pitcher on that list who contributed at the major league level is Rincon, a setup guy.

And here is the next 20:
11. Grant Balfour
12. J.D. Durbin
13. Jon McDonald
14. Kevin Fredrick
15. Angel Garcia
16. Bobby Kielty
17. B.J. Garbe
18. Jeff Randazzo
19. Kevin Cameron
20. Brian Wolfe
21. Ronnie Corona
22. Dusty Gomon
23. Jon Pridie
24. Scott Tyler
25. Colby Miller
26. Trent Oeltjen
27. J.C. Contreras
28. Dustan Mohr
29. Terry Tiffee
30. Ryan Mills

Not a successful pitcher for the Twins on that list, but you will notice several position players who contributed at the major league level. But there were a number of pitchers who would be on your list of "successes" today.

Nick N. said...

If you followed the Twins you would realize they have always had a list of pitchers like the one you created here and most of those pitchers failed at the major league level.

FACT: The Twins almost always have an above average pitching staff and a below average offense. Wonder what could explain that...

In fact, I doubt you can name a single other organization that has brought both a batting champion and MVP to the big leagues in the past decade.

You're still building your argument completely around Mauer and Morneau. Not compelling. Kubel and Cuddyer have not proven to be anything more than mediocre thus far.

The problem here isn't with the Twins organization, its with your evaluations of its players. Exaggerating the future value of its pitching prospects and ignoring the value of the position players it has actually produced, as well as the prospects in its system.

Right, my evaluations and the evaluations of every scouting service that agrees that the Twins have a farm system where position player prospects are consistently outnumbered by pitching prospects to a vast degree.

The quantity of major league quality pitchers the Twins organization has actually produced is one - Pat Neshek. The rest are all just your guesses. None them have actually pitched a full season in the big leagues, much less pitched successfully.

It's significantly more accurate to guess that Swarzak will end up being an above-average contributor at the big-league level than Trevor Plouffe or any of the other

TT said...

The Twins almost always have an above average pitching staff and a below average offense. Wonder what could explain that...


The Twins grabbed Santana in the rule 5 draft. They traded for Silva, Milton, Lohse, Reed and Mays. They signed Rogers as a free agent. They certainly developed Brad Radke, but he is the only pitcher who has made a significant contribution to their success in the last seven years who started his career in the Twins system.

In fact, the Twins rotation even this year has Hernandez, Bonser and Liriano who all came from outside the organization. And the bullpen is much the same, although Neshek and Rincon are home grown talents.

Right, my evaluations and the evaluations of every scouting service

Which scouting services are those? As far as I know, no major league scouting service publishes its evaluations. You must be referring to the fan publications and blogs you read.

the Twins have a farm system where position player prospects are consistently outnumbered by pitching prospects

And yet the quantity and quality of the position prospects it produces at the major league level outnumber the pitchers. You can't name four pitchers the Twins have actually developed you would trade for Kubel, Cuddyer, Mauer and Morneau. And when you look at who they drafted, the failure rate among pitchers is far higher than among position players.

It's significantly more accurate to guess that Swarzak will end up being an above-average contributor at the big-league level than Trevor Plouffe

No, it isn't, but whatever your guesses, they are just guesses. And the actual track record of players in the major leagues doesn't support the claim the Twins know how to develop pitchers and not players. To the contrary.

Nick N. said...

In fact, the Twins rotation even this year has Hernandez, Bonser and Liriano who all came from outside the organization. And the bullpen is much the same, although Neshek and Rincon are home grown talents.

Why do you keep returning to this point? For the third or fourth time: it doesn't matter where these players are coming from, the fact of the matter is that the Twins have produced and continue to produce a substantially higher number of quality pitchers than hitters.

Which scouting services are those? As far as I know, no major league scouting service publishes its evaluations. You must be referring to the fan publications and blogs you read.

I'm referring to publications like Baseball America, which -- while not an official scouting service -- is quite reputed and far from a fan publication or blog.

You can't name four pitchers the Twins have actually developed you would trade for Kubel, Cuddyer, Mauer and Morneau.

No, but I can name at least 10 or 11 quality young pitchers with a legitimate and realistic shot at big-league success in the Twins' organization and I can't name many hitters outside of those four (and Young and Gomez).

You seem to be taking a stance that every young player and prospect has an equal shot at major-league success, regardless of their level of talent or minor-league track record. This might conveniently support your point, but it is grossly inaccurate and a frustrating tactic to use. Players who perform well in the minors have a much stronger tendency to perform well in the majors than those who don't. This is a simple and easily provable fact, and if you're not going to acknowledge it then there is really no use in having this discussion.

And when you look at who they drafted, the failure rate among pitchers is far higher than among position players.

So they've drafted and traded for more pitchers than hitters, fine. What is at issue here is not the respective success rates with the development of pitchers and hitters, I never made any statement regarding that topic. My initial statement was that the Twins produce more quality pitchers than hitters; it's been true over the past ten years and it continues to be true today as evidenced by the Santana trade. The manner in which they acquire these players and the ratio of each type that they draft are wholly irrelevant but still something you seem to building your entire argument around.

TT said...

it doesn't matter where these players are coming from

I guess we can add Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez to the list of position players then. Along with Harris, Lamb, Everett and Monroe.

I can name at least 10 or 11 quality young pitchers with a legitimate and realistic shot at big-league success in the Twins' organization

There are 19 pitchers on that 2001 list of top Twins prospects. They all add a realistic shot at success, but only one, Rincon, produced anything for the Twins. You can add Kevin Cameron if you want to include guys who have had a full year in the big leagues.

I'm referring to publications like Baseball America, which -- while not an official scouting service -- is quite reputed and far from a fan publication or blog.

No, it isn't. Baseball America's target audience is entirely fans. They don't "scout" players, they talk to the people that do. At least the ones that are willing to talk to them. And they created that top 30 list based on those conversation, just like they created this year's list.


You seem to be taking a stance that every young player and prospect has an equal shot at major-league success, regardless of their level of talent or minor-league track record.


No, I'm not. I take the point of view that regardless of their talent or minor league track record, there is a pretty good chance they won't make the jump to the big leagues. There are exceptions to the idea there is no sure thing, but not many and almost none among pitching prospects.

Here, you seem to be treating all the pitching prospects as if they were sure things and evaluating the organization's ability at developing players based on your "guesses" about how good they will be at some point in the future.

the Twins produce more quality pitchers than hitters; it's been true over the past ten years

Over the last ten years the Twins organization has produced two allstar catchers Pierzinsky and Mauer, Mientkiewicz and Morneau at first, Rivas at second, Guzman and Bartlett at shortstop, Koskie at third base, Hunter, Kubel, Cuddyer, Kielty, Mohr and Ford in the outfield.

On the pitching side its tough to identify starting pitchers who came out of the Twins minor league system during that time. Kyle Lohse I suppose - although he came over in a trade. Santana had spent two years in the major leagues before he ever pitched an inning in the Twins minor league system.

The manner in which they acquire these players and the ratio of each type that they draft are wholly irrelevant

You seem to be arguing that the Twins have focused their efforts on attaining pitching. I agree. Far from a failing, I think that has been by design and explains their success over the last ten years.

Nick N. said...

I guess we can add Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez to the list of position players then. Along with Harris, Lamb, Everett and Monroe.

It cost Santana and Garza to get Young, Gomez and Harris. It's entirely possible that none of these three players will every play a minor-league game for the Twins, so there is no possible argument that the Twins developed or produced these players. They traded a lot of value to get them when they had already established themselves. This was also the Twins' busiest offseason in terms of offense in recent memory; they aren't going to be able to do this every year.

Everett and Monroe can't hit, so they don't exactly support your point.

There are 19 pitchers on that 2001 list of top Twins prospects. They all add a realistic shot at success, but only one, Rincon, produced anything for the Twins. You can add Kevin Cameron if you want to include guys who have had a full year in the big leagues.

Good prospects turn into productive major-leaguers at a certain rate. I don't know what that rate is off-hand. There may be a difference between the rate at which good pitching prospects and good hitting prospects develop into productive major-leaguers, but it's probably not very large. The Twins have (and have had) many many more quality pitching prospects than hitting prospects. Ergo, it is only reasonable to assume they will produce more major-league pitchers than hitters. And they have.

No, it isn't. Baseball America's target audience is entirely fans. They don't "scout" players, they talk to the people that do. At least the ones that are willing to talk to them. And they created that top 30 list based on those conversation, just like they created this year's list.

Any grudge you have against BA aside, I find them to be relatively trustworthy and have no problem taking their views over yours, or my own. They don't scout, they talk to scouts... which is certainly more than you or I do.

Santana had spent two years in the major leagues before he ever pitched an inning in the Twins minor league system.

And he mastered his changeup in the Twins' minor-league system.

You seem to be arguing that the Twins have focused their efforts on attaining pitching. I agree. Far from a failing, I think that has been by design and explains their success over the last ten years.

Yes, a string of division titles in a terribly weak division followed by prompt first-round playoff exits is the very definition of success.

The Twins' consistent focus on pitching at the exclusion of hitting is the very reason they have been unable to piece together an above-average offense, and the very reason they were forced to trade away two extremely valuable pitchers during the offseason in order to bring in the good young hitters they couldn't develop on their own.

Anonymous said...

This is a fascinating series of posts, and, I must say, conducted at a pretty high level. But that said, I'm not even sure I buy into the idea that a team - any team - is really responsible for developing a player. I would think that all teams have the basic competence to train young prospects. And which ones turn out to be stars, or even just make it to the bigs, is probably more a matter of luck than anything.

Who could have foreseen that B. J. Garbe's problems with night vision would have ended his career before it started? Mark Prior was supposed to be the pitcher that would never have arm trouble. Are the Twins to be saluted for choosing Mauer over him? I don't think it was because they saw more deeply.

It would be interesting to know how well the predictions from sources such as BA pan out. Are they any better than chance? Somebody should do a study...

Nick N. said...

Who could have foreseen that B. J. Garbe's problems with night vision would have ended his career before it started? Mark Prior was supposed to be the pitcher that would never have arm trouble. Are the Twins to be saluted for choosing Mauer over him? I don't think it was because they saw more deeply.

When a trend becomes systematic, though, you have to start wondering about an organization's coaches or overarching philosophy. Garbe may not have been their fault, but when I see so many talented young hitters like Matt Moses, Hank Sanchez and Denard Span come through and fail to progess at all, I really have to wonder. One thing that I've definitely noticed is that this organization really struggles to teach patience. Outside of Joe Mauer, you can't find any guys who can really take a walk in this organization. Meanwhile, look at Chris Parmelee, who was widely viewed as the most disciplined high school hitter in his draft class and has gone on to post a fairly ugly K/BB ratio during his first couple seasons in the Twins' system.

It would be interesting to know how well the predictions from sources such as BA pan out. Are they any better than chance? Somebody should do a study...

Projecting prospects is always an extremely inaccurate science. But there is little question that BA, with its vast resources, does a much better job than any of us could hope to do.

TT said...

And he mastered his changeup in the Twins' minor-league system.

Santana started 9 games and pitched 49 innings in the Twins minor-league system. He had started 9 games and pitched 129 innings for the Twins in the big leagues before that brief stint.

I don't know what that rate is off-hand. There may be a difference between the rate at which good pitching prospects and good hitting prospects develop into productive major-leaguers, but it's probably not very large.

We have a list of 30 prospects above. 19 pitchers and 11 position players. Your theory is that pitchers and players develop at the same rate. Yet of 19 pitchers only two are playing in the big leagues - both as middle relievers.

The 11 position players include a batting champion, an MVP and the Twins starting right fielder. Not to mention two other major league outfielders.

Your other argument, of course, is that the Twins are better at developing pitchers than hitters.

The Twins' consistent focus on pitching at the exclusion of hitting is the very reason they have been unable to piece together an above-average offense

And, along with the emphasis on defense, its the reason they have consistently given up fewer runs than average, ranking in the top 4 in the league most years.

I would think that all teams have the basic competence to train young prospects. And which ones turn out to be stars, or even just make it to the bigs, is probably more a matter of luck than anything.

To some extent that is probably true. But the Twins have consistently produced above average defensive players. Their pitchers are encouraged to throw strikes, challenge hitters and let their defense do the work. They tend to have "good citizens" who don't cause trouble in the clubhouse. Those are part of establishing a culture for how the game is played and what the organization values. That makes a difference.

so many talented young hitters like Matt Moses, Hank Sanchez and Denard Span come through and fail to progess at all

So many? You just named three and its not clear any of them fit that description. Hank Sanchez is only 20 years old and has 310 at bats as a professional. It might be a tad early to write him off.

Span almost took the center field job away from a guy with major league experience who was a center-piece of the Santana trade.

Moses problem has been finding a defensive position - which is why they are now moving him to the outfield. If they really didn't think he could hit, they wouldn't be trying him in the outfield.

If you want to point to a failure - Mike Restovich would be an example. Or Caleb Moore who was just released. But if you want to find pitching failures, the list is very long.

Projecting prospects is always an extremely inaccurate science. But there is little question that BA, with its vast resources, does a much better job than any of us could hope to do.

And they do it for the same reason we do, because its entertaining. Baseball America does a very good job of producing articles about baseball, including high school, college and the minor leagues. That, not projecting prospects, is the business they are in. Their prospect lists are supposed to be entertaining, not accurate representations of the organization.

BTW - Just to name a few players in the organization not on that BBA top 30 list who have played in the major leagues: Kubel, Morales, Rabe, Michael Ryan, Travis Bowyer, Willie Eyre. With the exception of Kubel, no one special but who knows what Morales will turn into.

So Baseball America is better than chance. They also understand that they are a newspaper reporting current events, not imparting timeless wisdom. All you need to do is follow their draft coverage to realize that a player who is at the top in January can fall off the list by June based on a couple months of play. The real problem, is that some fans take what they read as closer to gospel than to gossip.

TT said...

look at Chris Parmelee, who was widely viewed as the most disciplined high school hitter in his draft class and has gone on to post a fairly ugly K/BB ratio during his first couple seasons in the Twins' system.

Has it occurred to you that part of Parmelee's problem is that he takes too many pitches? Is there any reason at all to think K/BB has anything to do with "patience". You don't have to take the bat off your shoulder to strike out. Perhaps he is struggling with pitchers who throw a lot more quality strikes than the guys he faced in high school. He keeps waiting for his pitch that never comes.