Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Thoughts on the Casilla Move

Let's get one thing straight - Alexi Casilla was not the Twins biggest problem. He might not have been in the top five. In fact, I'm quite sure he's not in the top five, because the top four are all starting pitchers and the next couple can be found in the bullpen. But I'm not here to talk about those problems.

Though I will justify that statement. The Twins starters' ERA this year is 5.32 which ranks 25th in the majors. They're a little bit better in quality starts, with eleven. That ties them at 17th, along with five other teams, which means they're also tied for 21st. That's as many as Cleveland, whose rotation has been a punchline. It's only one more than Detroit, and it's less than Kansas City or the White Sox.

And I'll also say that I was totally wrong about Casilla this year. I've trumpeted Casilla for years, and I viewed his quiet and workmanlike spring training as a sign of a breakout year, and for the first couple of games, I was right. But he's been terrible, both offensively and defensively, for a few weeks.

Nationally, people are wondering if Casilla is still the second baseman of the future for this team, and I still think he is. Matt Tolbert just turned 27 years old, Brendan Harris is 28, and Casilla is just 24. It's still pretty clear where the upside lies in this equation.

That doesn't mean Casilla will be a factor this year, or even be in a position to control his own destiny. If he tears up AAA for a while, he could displace Harris, because after a year-and-a-half I think we can conclude that Harris is always going to be a defensive liability at second base. But he and Tolbert bring the same skill set to the Twins roster, and if Tolbert hits consistently, Harris and Casilla might end up waiting their turn for some time.

The whole scenario is reminiscent of the Carlos Gomez/Denard Span soap opera from last year. Speaking of which, I wouldn't be shocked if we see a similar swap soon in the outfield. The only thing saving Gomez now is his defensive value, but Dustin Martin or Jason Pridie can replace Delmon Young late in games too. They don't bring Gomez's glove, but it would give him a chance to see some regular plate appearances and become more than a fourth outfielder.

Pop Quiz Hot Shot: Since April 22nd (two weeks ago) how many at-bats has Gomez had?
Answer: Nine. In twelve games. I know he missed two games because he had his first kid, but that's ridiculous.

The Gomez move should be made for the same reason that the Casilla move was made - to help him become a productive major leaguer as soon as possible. Casilla has shown a tremendous amount of potention to be a top-of-the-lineup fixture as a 22-year-old and 23-year-old in AAA. Over two shortened years there, he's sported a .348 OBP, and drew 52 walks versus 68 strikeouts. He's also stolen bases at every level, including his introduction to the majors when he stole 11 bases in 189 at-bats.

His minor league history suggest he can be a capable lead-off guy and a great complimentary #2 batter, and now he'll get to add to it. Meanwhile, Tolbert has sported similar offensive numbers in AAA, except without the speed. He'll get to try and prove that his time with the club last year, his promotion this year, and Ron Gardenhire's apparent man-crush on him, are all justified. There's a decent chance he will.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

There's Only One Thing To Do. ROAD TRIP!

I'm not too interested in recapping a fairly bleak series against the Royals. If you do want to hear more about it, stop by and listen to Seth Stohs and I try to talk each other off the ledge in last night's podcast.

Instead, how about we talk about a road trip?

At the end of June, the Twins travel to St. Louis and Kansas City, and at a blogger get-together a few weeks ago, we talked about arranging a Twins blogger road trip to watch the games. I've done quite a bit of research on this, and if we can get twenty-five people, we're in. Here's the details:

How much: $649. That's a little more expensive than I would like, so we're making sure things are done right, with first-class accommodations, great tickets, and a baseball-packed five days.

(The most expensive part of this trip is the damn tour bus. If anyone has a lead on an independent tour bus operator with a nice bus and a baseball addiction, I'd sure like to hear about it! That could bring the price down considerably.)

Overview - During the last weekend in June we take a five-day, four-night bus trip to watch the Twins play in the new Busch Stadium in St. Louis and renovated Kauffman Stadium in KC. It also includes a minor league game watching Beloit and visits to the Negro League Baseball Museum and the Field of Dreams.

What it includes
- Transportation, all hotels (including fantastic hotels in downtown STL and KC), great tickets to all ballgames, beer and snacks and tailgating supplies, admission to Negro League Baseball Museum.

Preliminary Itinerary
Friday, June 26th
10 AM - Get on the tour bus in Mpls, snack, drink and watch Field of Dreams on the way to....
2:00 PM - Stop at Dyersville, Iowa, home of the Field of Dreams Movie Site. Hang out there for an hour or so and get back on the bus.
5:00 PM - Stop in Clinton, Iowa to watch the Twins High-A Beloit Snappers face the Clinton Lumberkings. Before the game there is a picnic in the stadium where we get all we can eat and drink prior to the game.
7:00 - Watch game
9:30 or 10:00 Back on bus
1:30 AM - Arrive in St. Louis at the upscale Millennium Hotel in downtown St. Louis, one block from Busch Stadium.

Saturday, June 27th
12:05 - Watch the Twins play the Cardinals. We'll have lower level tickets down the right or left field line (whichever is better).
The rest of the day is yours. We expect guests to generally act irresponsible.

Sunday, June 28th
Before 12:00 - Check out of the Millennium and load bus with stuff
12:05 - Watch the Twins play the Cardinals. We'll have lower level tickets down the right or left field line (whichever is better).
3:05 or so - Travel to Kansas City with snacks, drinks and baseball DVDs.
8:05 - Arrive in KC at the Westin Crown Center Hotel in downtown Kansas City, right next to some famous historical stuff that I forget right now.
The rest of the night is yours. We expect guests to generally act irresponsible.

Monday, June 29th
Most of the day is yours. We expect guests to generally act irresponsible. The Crown Center is apparently a pretty nice shopping area.
3:00 or so - Get on the bus and go to Kauffman stadium. We'll tailgate in the parking lot before the game.
7:00 - Watch the Twins play the Royals. We'll have lower level tickets.

Tuesday, June 30th
Before 8:30 - Check out of the Westin and load bus with stuff.
9:00 - Visit the Negro League Baseball Museum in KC. We'll get a small tour and time to explore
12:00 - Leave KC to travel back to Mpls with snacks, drinks and baseball DVDs
7:00 or so - Arrive in Mpls

That's it. I already have filled several spots filled with friends and various Twins bloggers and I need to gauge whether we can put this together within the next week or two. If you're interested, contact me at and I'll include you on the mailing list where we'll work out the details.