Monday, November 17, 2008

Simple Sanity Check

I blame myself for that whole David Ortiz thing.

Or at least, I don't blame Terry Ryan. That's because, just before they refused to offer him arbitration, I did a simple 'Sanity Check' of the Twins roster - and promptly ignored it. I had spit out the numbers for 2002 and they looked something like this:

See Ortiz there? 4th on the team in OPS, and third among the everyday starters? I wrote something about how I was shocked to find him that high, because he hadn't had a very good season. And so I ignored the simple evidence, instead writing about how he hadn't hit left-handers, and his injuries, and his positional inflexibility, blah, blah, blah.

The lesson? Sanity checks are only valuable if you're sane. In the hope of reversing my track record, let's do one for the 2008 Twins. Here are the numbers:

OK, let's run through them for the sanity check....

You might have guessed that Jason Kubel was going to be third on that list, but it's actually Denard Span. And just look'it that OBP. Holy cow. So long as he maintains that, he's got enought offense for a corner outfield spot. But those numbers would be all-star material in center field.

There is quite a gap between the first four hitters and the fifth. But that person is Delmon Young, and he wass the best right-handed hitter on this team last year, and it's not particularly close. Oh, and he's 23 years old. You might want to consider that before you start suggesting trade scenarios.

Brian Buscher and Brandon Harris are also in this next group, and that's their overall numbers, not their platoon numbers. I'm feeling more and more optimistic about patching together something at third base next year. Again, the priority is adding a big right-handed bat, not necessarily a third baseman.

Nick Punto outhit Alexi Casilla. Just slightly, but across the board. My perception (and expectations) for Casilla were far inflated from his actual performance. Some of his decline is tied to his injury, hopefully. And he's just 24, so there should be some growth. But he wasn't especially good, and a team needs more offense than that out of second base.

Michael Cuddyer had a terrible year and I'm choosing to chalk that up to injuries.

Randy Ruiz didn't get much opportunity to show much. His value was supposed to be in his ability to hit for power, and he didn't, but that often takes some time. Still, he wasn't an offensive asset. If you're looking for something encouraging about him, you can focus on a pretty nice OBP.
Mike Redmond was not good. So long as his defense stays pretty strong, he's acceptable as a backup catcher. But all of his rate stats declined, and you would expect that, seeing as he's 37. I love him as a ballplayer, but we need to be careful about romanticizing his offensive contributions.

And finally, we get to Carlos Gomez, who was awful with the bat. He was awful compared to other Twins, and he was awful compared to other center fielders. The only improvement he showed was in September, and that was largely because he had four extra hits that month, albeit a couple of them for extra bases.

Which isn't to say that I'm not excited about his future. He's just 22 years old, he plays outstanding defense in center field, and he has the speed/power combination that make superstars. But all the defense in the world doesn't make up for the 160 points of OPS he gave up to Span last year. He wasn't an asset. And with 59K vs 13 BB over the second half of this year, there is very little to suggest that he is going to be an asset next year.

There is no 'glut' of outfielders for the Twins for 2009. Gomez is a raw, incredibly promising youngster who is not ready for the majors. Not only does his major league career suggest as much, so does his minor league career. The place for a raw, incredibly promising youngster who is not ready for the majors is AAA-Rochester, where they are perfectly capapble of feeding him a steady diet of offspeed pitches that are outside and low.

It's a harsh conclusion, but one the sanity check supports. This time, I'll listen to it.

Seth's Book!

Now is the time to pre-order one of Seth's new books. You have until tomorrow (Thursday). I'm very excited to see this and have already ordered one. Frankly, you are incredibly lucky to have this kind of in-depth reference tool about the Twins minor leagues available to you. It just doesn't happen for other teams. I'm very excited to see how it turns out.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

From the Archives: The Evil of Familiarity

With all the rumors going around about the Twins and Casey Blake, I was wondering if I had written about him in his first stint with the Twins. I had. I count this as the 55th post I ever wrote, back on March 7th of 2002. It's even before I was referring to my wife as The Voice of Reason. If I had to estimate (and I think I do, because I think I've lost all stats from the old site) it was probably read by a dozen people, at most. So I'm hoping it's new to you. Providing the Twins don't sign Blake today, I'll be back tomorrow with a 'Sanity Check' story tomorrow. Hope to see you then.

The Evil of Familiarity 03/07/2002

The story of Twins camp is Koskie's wrist. The good news is we don't know that it's broken. The bad news is that we don't know that it isn't. The MRI showed nothing. The CT scan was inconclusive. Today he sees a hand specialist.

    "Replacements, if Koskie's wrist is broken, begin with Denny Hocking, the veteran utility player. Jay Canizaro, who missed all last season because of a torn right anterior cruciate knee ligament, is healthy and can play third base, too. Rookie Michael Cuddyer has played third base in the minors but has struggled with his throwing accuracy. That's why he's trying to make the team as an outfielder. Casey Blake is a natural third baseman but was a long shot to make the team before the injury."

I was a little dissappointed when the first names I started to see a couple days ago were the bevy of utility guys the Twins have in camp. One of the sins which a lot of organizations commit is choosing the lesser of two players, simply because they are the known commodity. People do it all the time, but an organization needs to rise above it. I'll give you an example:

Last week my wife got a speeding ticket. She hasn't received a speeding ticket in seven years. She especially never gets speeding tickets in this particular area because she knows the police watch closely and she's usually the driver pissing off the other drivers by going too damn slow. But last week she was in a hurry to pick up the kids and ended up going 40-something in a 30 MPH zone and fell into the speed trap. We know we have two options:

1) Pay the ticket. It's easy but it costs us $105. And even worse, it would be reported to our car insurance which would cost us much more.

2) Arrange a 'continuance'. Here we get a bit hazy. We know we have to arrange a court date and meet with the prosecutor and ask for a continuance. If so, we still have to pay the $105, but it doesn't get reported to our insurance. But we don't really have the details on this.

One option is clearly better than the other. But it has taken all my will to even try to find out any information about the second option. I don't want to do it. She doesn't want to do it. It's a little bit scary, and we're not really sure how much it buys us and we don't know if it's worth it or what the risks are if we screw it up.

Here are the Twins main options if they get caught speeding (according to the Wilton projections for 2002 in Baseball Prospectus 2002):

Clearly, the Twins should try this continuance thing. He has more upside (three years younger) and should produce better offensively. By the way, Casey Blake (continuance) also plays league average defense at third base. In fact, the numbers that BP2002 projects indicate he would be a league average third baseman all the way around, both offensively and defensively. And if Blake does that well, he becomes another 'chit' that Terry Ryan might be able to move to a different major league team when Koskie comes back.

On the other hand, Denny Hocking (the damn ticket) is more familiar, but will probably provide less offense, similar defense, and has no upside. Also, playing him just creates another utility infielder spot on the bench for Canizaro or Abbott, who'll have almost no value when Koskie comes back. But Blake also only has 92 at-bats in the majors, and Hocking, Canizaro and Abbott are all more familiar. And unless Blake tears it up in spring training, one of them will probably get the job by default.

To Ron Gardenhire's credit, he looks like he's going to at least give Blake (and maybe even Michael "Stay Awake Behind First Base" Cuddyer) a chance to win the spot:

"Everybody is going to play third [for now]," Gardenhire said. "Anyone and everyone I can find will play there. We hope for the best for Kosk and we will leave it at that."

Translation: "God, I hope that cop didn't have his radar on me."