Thursday, December 29, 2005

And Again...

We Twins fans have been preaching it for years and I'm sure we've heard it all before, but Jim Caple has put together a nice write-up on why Bert Blyleven belongs in the Hall of Fame. With no major players being introduced for the first time on the ballot this year, I think it might happen this time. I certainly hope so.

Garland Signs

The White Sox continued their off-season rampage yesterday by signing pitcher Jon Garland to a 3 year-deal for $29 million. Of course, the immediate reaction of most Twins fans will be to laugh and proclaim Sox GM Kenny Williams a fool. Almost ten million a year to a guy who has had one good season? The notion seems a little trigger-happy. And while I would love to leap atop the pile and heap criticism upon Chicago's management, I think it is necessary to take a moment and consider the possibility that this may have been a savvy move on the part of the White Sox.

I personally don't consider Garland to be all that great of a pitcher, and I think his success last year was probably a fluke to some extent. However, I will not rule out the possibility that Garland simply had a break-out year and will carry that success into the future. Let's look at this objectively. Garland had a tremendous season; 18-10, 3.50 ERA, .298 opponent OBP, and 3 complete game shutouts. His early success catapaulted the Sox into the dominant force they would become in the AL Central. And Garland is only 26 years old. It could be that he finally figured it out last year, and could even improve this year, which would be bad news for the Twins. Sure, the White Sox are giving him this gaudy contract after just one season of proven success, but didn't the Twins give Johan Santana a similar contract after just one half a season of dominance? And while you might make the argument that Santana has a more impressive history than Garland, let's not forget that Garland was a pretty highly touted prospect when he came up for the Sox and Santana was originally a Rule V draftee.

I don't mean to say that this was a good move on the part of the White Sox. I simply think that many Twins fans are far too quick to dismiss the possibility that this guy is for real, and unlike the 34 year-old Jose Contreras - who is almost guaranteed not to replicate his unexpected production of '05 next year - Garland is young and may have simply developed into the pitcher he is capable of being. I know that if Kyle Lohse, who is similar to Garland in many ways, had posted similar numbers last year, we Twins fans would be very optimistic about his future and would probably feel the same way about him that Sox fans do about Garland.

Then again, Garland could easily collapse next year and make the Sox look absolutely foolish for throwing all this money at him. I know that's what I'll be rooting for. Just don't be stunned if Garland remains one of the better pitchers in the American League next season.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Holiday Notes

Here we are, just a couple days before Christmas, and Terry Ryan seems to have gotten all his shopping done in a timely fashion. He came into the off-season with three glaring holes in this offense: 2B, 3B, and DH. By trading for Luis Castillo and signing Tony Batista and Rondell White, he has filled those positions with fairly big-name players and at relatively minimal cost. I have to give him some credit.

I think everyone has some questions about how well Batista and his dismally low OBP will fit with this offense, but the other two should undoubtedly be significant upgrades. Furthermore, Ryan has quietly kept the league's best pitching staff intact. I still believe Kyle Lohse and his potential $4.5 million salary should be dealt, because I think Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano are both ready to join this rotation, but we will have to wait and see what happens there.

Anyway, on to a few news items on the Twinkies...

*Charley Walters had some thoughts from Torii Hunter on the Rondell White signing in his column in the PioPress today. In the article, Hunter hinted that Lohse may yet be dealt, saying, "We also have Kyle Lohse, but you don't know what's going to happen — there's still a lot of winter left. Anything can happen." Hunter also, upon being asked what his opening day batting order would be if he were manager. Here was his lineup:

2B Castillo
C Mauer
LF Stewart
CF Hunter
1B Morneau
3B Batista
DH White
RF Kubel/Ford/Cuddyer
SS Bartlett

That's not a bad lineup. It is interesting that Hunter would place himself in the cleanup spot, as in the past he has supposedly been against the idea of hitting in that spot in the order. I don't know how much I like the idea of Mauer hitting second instead of third, unless Stewart can really bounce back. Granted, Mauer is going to be the team's best OBP guy, but he is also the best hitter with runners aboard and I think he would get more RBI opportunities behind Stewart and Castillo. I also don't think Morneau is going to see any decent pitches if he has Batista hitting behind him.

*One move that seems to have been almost completely overlooked by the media and the Twins blogging community is the Twins signing of left-handed reliever Dennys Reyes to a minor league contract for $550K. The 28 year-old Reyes is not exactly a stud, holding a 4.80 career ERA, but his .208/.306/.265 opponents' line against lefties last year indicates that he probably will be sufficient as a southpaw specialist. Playing in the same division against lefty sluggers like Travis Hafner and Jim Thome, he could be fairly important. It is useful to note that Reyes gets hammered by righties, to the tune of .359/.464/.508 last year, so hopefully Gardy will only be using him as a LOOGY.

*According to, the Blue Jays and D-Backs are very close to completing a deal that would send third-baseman Troy Glaus to Toronto. This is an interesting move for the Jays, who already have in abundance of corner infielders. By acquiring Glaus, he would join a group of first and third basemen that already includes Lyle Overbay, Shea Hillenbrand, Corey Koskie, Eric Hinske, and Aaron Hill. Even by playing one of those guys at DH, the Jays would still have a few extras. If the Glaus deal goes down, I would not be surprised to see the Twins make a move for Hillenbrand or Koskie.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Twins Add White

Just a couple days after the Cubs signed Jacque Jones, the Twins made a move today to replace his production in the lineup by signing former Tiger Rondell White. While it seems at this point that he has been signed to play designated hitter, it seems he may see some action in the outfield. He played 65 games last year in left field, and while he has also seen action in center field in his career, he has never started a game in right, Jones' vacant position.

White appears to be a pretty good fit for this team. While he doesn't carry the potential slugging upside of Mike Piazza or Frank Thomas, he doesn't carry as much downside either. White has had 500+ at-bats in a season only twice in his 13-year career, and he struggled with a shoulder injury last year. However, his contract for next season is completely dependent on how much he plays. He is guaranteed $2.5 million, but can make more by getting a full season's worth of at-bats. This is the type of contract the Twins needed for one of these injury-prone candidates, and probably one that Piazza and Thomas were un-willing to sign.

While White is a steady player, he's not really great in any category. With a full season's worth of at-bats, he'll probably hit about 25 home runs with 80 RBI, and that's being optimistic. On the surface, that's not much of an upgrade over Jones. Also, like Jones, he doesn't draw very many walks (17 last year in 374 ABs). However, unlike Jones, he didn't hit .249 last year. In fact, he has hit below .270 only once in his career since his rookie season. He also isn't going to post a nasty little .319 or .315 on-base percentage like Jones has put up the last two years.

Essentially, White looks a guy who, if healthy, will have about the same power numbers as Jones did while getting on base more often and striking out less. All that for for a couple million dollars less. It seems like Terry Ryan has done well here. White doesn't have the potential to hit 40 homers like Piazza or Thomas, but he's also less risky. He's cheaper, has less of an ego, and should fit well with this Minnesota club. If they Ron Gardenhire chooses to slot the right-handed White between lefties Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau next season, this is what the opening day lineup could potentially look like:

LF Stewart
2B Castillo
C Mauer
DH White
1B Morneau
CF Hunter
RF Kubel
3B Batista
SS Bartlett

And you have a pretty decent bench with Nick Punto, Juan Castro, Michael Cuddyer, Lew Ford, and Mike Redmond available. To me, this offense stands to be significantly improved over last year, especially if Stewart and Morneau bounce back from underwhelming efforts and Mauer and Bartlett continue to develop.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Damon to New York: Good Idea

One of the nice bonuses about running a blog with another knowledgable baseball mind it that occasionally you have disagreements and both can say their piece in a friendly debate. Much like we did a couple weeks ago with the JC Romero trade, Mr. Mosvick and I have differing opinions on the decision of Johnny Damon to sign with the Yankees. I think this is a good move for both parties and it is going to make that powerful bronx offense all the more formidable.

First of all, my associate makes the argument that Derek Jeter, who hit leadoff for the Yankees last year, is a better leadoff hitter than Damon. I guess this case could be made, although it's disputable. Jeter draws more walks and posts a higher on-base percentage, but Damon hit for higher average last year and is a superior base-stealer. Either way, the point is pretty much irrelevant. It's not like they're taking Jeter out of the lineup, their moving him down one spot in the order to the number 2 spot, one in which he has had plenty of success in his career. Whichever order the two are in, you're going to have two of the best OBP guys in the league setting the table for two of the best run-producers in the league in Alex Rodriguez and Gary Sheffield. Throw in Hideki Matsui, Jason Giambi, Jorge Posada, and Robinson Cano, and this is going to be an absolutely monstrous lineup. The Yankees have filled their hole at center field with a great player in Johnny Damon, and he should complement this lineup very well.

Perhaps the most important thing the Yankees have done in making this move, however, is crippling their biggest division rivals. The Red Sox were making a concerted effort to bring back Damon, because they knew as well as anyone that they needed him. But the Yanks put the pressure on Damon and his agent Scott Boras, and pulled him to New York. Now the Red Sox have huge holes at shortstop and center field, and no one apparently ready to step into that leadoff spot and set the table for the big boys in the middle of the lineup.

I think Johnny Damon will do well in pinstripes, and the Yankees have made a major improvement in adding this excellent leadoff hitter. It's hard to imagine any other offense in the Majors even approaching what these guys will be capable of. Of course, they still need to add some pitching...

Damon to New York: Bad Idea

I just had to give my two cents on this signing. Now, a lot like former Twins reporter Jim Caple, I'm not upset because he left Boston. To me, Boston isn't much worse than the Evil Empire. They, after all, have the second biggest payroll, so its Boras had to be the big reason for this. Whatever he told Damon to get him to sign with New York (and betray the good legacy he had in Boston), it worked the way it did with A-Rod in 2000.

Damon isn't going to work out for the Yankees, though, for a few reasons. For one, he does address the center fielder issue, yes, but he is a highly overrated defender. He's got speed, yes, but he's like getting Bernie Williams circa 2000 or 2001. Some speed out there, but no arm and in Yankee Stadium, that could get ugly again.

More than that, he's displacing Derek Jeter as leadoff hitter on that team, or so the stories say. This is not a good idea. To begin, Damon is a worse leadoff hitter than Jeter. Now, in many ways, this isn't such a bad thing, because Damon is still a very good one on his own, but he isn't the future Hall-of-Famer Jeter is. For example, to look at a few key stats Jeter beats Damon on. For one, its known that Jeter performs better in that spot. He scores more runs then Damon (122 to 117 last year, 1154 to 1041 since 1996, including 2003 when Jeter was out for a time), more power (169 HR to 127 HR in that same time frame, although Damon has hit a few more doubles and nearly twice the triples), has posted a higher OPS (.847 to .784), and hits for a higher average (.314 to .290). All in all, Jeter has the edge in nearly all categories. Damon has slightly better speed, has stolen 59 more bases in that period, and has the edge in triples and doubles (albeit, by only seven).

But no one can take away Jeter's obvious leadership qualities. As many have already pointed out, Damon doesn't fit in with the New York crowd. The minute he shaves his beard, cuts his hair, and kills his personality, he'll end up much the same way Jason Giambi has. He won't be the same player. Sure, he'll be productive and its not to say he can't handle New York, but he won't the way Jeter does.

If the Yankees want Damon to really help their cause (and, based on their moves thus far, they still need a 1B and a lot more pitching), he needs to move to the second spot in front of A-Rod, Sheffield, Giambi, Matsui, Posoda, Cano, and whomever else. Damon will begin to regress and I think he'll lose his better aspects a lot quicker than Jeter will.

I don't love Derek Jeter and I certainly don't love the Yankees. But its clear that he is the superior leadoff hitter and leader on that Yankees team. He has to be number one in the order and to his teammates. After all, A-Rod and his $252 million contract didn't take his position away, so why should some "idiot" come in and take it from him?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A Couple Unexpected Signings

The Twins made a couple of moves to fill needs today, signing third baseman Tony Batista and DH candidate Shawn Wooten. Batista spent last year playing in Japan, and Wooten spent most of last year playing in Triple-A.

Batista, who is perhaps most well-known for having one of the most open batting stances in Major League history (he literally faces the pitcher) historically has had some pretty decent power numbers, but he is not overall a very good hitter, as indicated by his career .298 on-base percentage. He's not a patient hitter, he's not particularly fast, he's a relatively bad fielder, and he's 32. With all that said, I don't mind this pickup.

While the economics of the deal are not yet known, I can't imagine the Twins paying him all that much, and it's only a one-year deal so even if he fails to produce it won't kill them. Furthermore, while he is yet another guy who won't draw walks, he does have serious power potential. Batista slugged 41 home runs in 2000 with the Blue Jays (and still only had a .307 OBP... shudder), and while that was his biggest power season, it wasn't a major anomaly. He is a guy who can typically be counted on for 25-30 home runs, which the Twins could sorely use from the third base position. In 2004, his most recent season in the Majors, Batista hit 32 home runs and drove in 110 for the Expos, but he also posted only a miserable .272 on-base percentage, drawing just 26 walks in 606 at-bats.

All this indicates that Batista will be a fairly frustrating player to watch. But will he be more frustrating than Michael Cuddyer, who last year seemed to ground into a double play or strike out in almost every key situation he stepped to the plate in? That's difficult to conceive. And if he can put up 30 home runs and 100 RBI and show at least a little discipline at the plate, he would be a big addition to the lineup.

Wooten is a decidedly less important signing. The 33 year-old, who plays catcher and first base, was brought in on a minor-league contract today and may be candidate for the open designated hitter job. It's difficult to get a read on Wooten. I seem to recall him being a pretty decent player when he was the DH for the Angels a few years ago, but he really doesn't have a whole lot of Major League experience. At age 33, Wooten has little over one full season's worth of ML at-bats in his entire career. The most play-time he's gotten was in 2003 with the Angels when he appeared in 98 games. He hit .243/.303/.349 with 7 home runs and 32 RBI. We'll have to wait and see how he performs in the spring.

Technically, these signings address areas of major need for the Twins, but let's hope they aren't done yet. While Batista may fill the gap at third base and provide some bottom-of-the-lineup power, it's hard to imagine Wooten stepping in as a full-time DH.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Chicago Trades for Vazquez

The White Sox made another big move Wednesday, sending Orlando (El Duque) Hernandez, top outfield prospect Chris Young, and Luis Vizcaino to the Diamonbacks for starter Javier Vazquez. Vazquez's name will be added to a rotation including Mark Buerhle, Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia, Jose Contreras, and Brandon McCarthy as backup. This seems quite the impressive move, but i'm not so certain it will work out as planned.

I'm not contending that Hernandez or Vizcaino are worth much. They aren't. Hernandez is nearing the end of his career, as despite a memorable appearance in the playoffs, he had a 9-9 record with a 5.12 ERA last year. Its doubtful much of the old "El Duque" will show up in Arizona, where hitters might feast on his finesse stuff. Vizcaino wasn't bad last year, with a 6-5 record and a 3.73 ERA as a middle-reliever, but he was far from the best in a very good bullpen last year. He'll probably do fine for Arizona, but its Young they should be concerned about. After trading Aaron Rowand to the Phillies, Young seemed to be the natural replacement for Rowand. Brian Anderson will be out there next year, but he won't be able to replace Rowand's defense and he doesn't have the future capabilities of Young. In that sense, this deal may hurt them.

But, for next year, it seems to help a lot. But I question the move simply because I'm not sold on Vazquez. Realistically, he's had three good seasons and they were all with Montreal, in an extremely low pressure situation. He was great in 2003, when he struck out 241 batters, but when he signed with New York following a trade in January 2004, he regressed. He was 14-10 in New York with a 4.91 ERA, but he'll be remembered there for his horrible second half and the grand slam he gave up to Johnny Damon in game 7 of the 2004 AL Championship series.

Last year, with Arizona, he was inconsistent. He had streaks of excellent pitching, but he was a dissapointment overall, going 11-15 with a 4.42 ERA and .266 opponent batting average. The reason those numbers should jump out is because Chicago plays in a hitter's park that may not be so friendly to Vazquez, who gave up 35 HRs last year. Those numbers should jump out. If anyone expects Vazquez to come up here and post the numbers he did with Montreal, they are in for a dissapointment. Vazquez doesn't seem to handle pressure well (and the White Sox have plenty of it with big expectations next year) and he hasn't really regained his form since 2004.

Its possible that he'll catch on fire because of a very good staff and follow suit the way Jose Contreras did late last year. But I don't think there are any guarantees that Don Cooper will get to him the way he did with Contreras. He just got Contreras to trust his fastball. Vazquez has a much broader repertoire that includes an outstanding change-up, but his mechanical issues and inconsistent delivery remain problematic.

He'll probably win 12-15 games and have an ERA around 4.50. That won't hurt the White Sox too much if the rest of the staff performs up to expectations. But, in many ways, I believe that last year won't be repeated. Career years for Garland, Contreras, and basically the entire bullpen carried them to the World Series. Its hard to believe all that success will be repeated when the White Sox sold off a key member of that group (Rowand) for a ticking time bomb in Thome and now their future center fielder for what is now another mediocre starting pitcher.

Maybe he'll be like Loiza and surprise everyone with a great year. Its very possible that Chicago will be better next eyar. But Vazquez, like Thome, brings no guarantees with him. But the Twins should be nervous anyways, because there is no marathon trade for Terry Ryan on the horizon and the White Sox may have gotten a lot better this offseason.

Twins Tidbits

*It should come as no surprise to anyone in Twinsland that Jacque Jones will be rejecting the Twins' arbitration offer. The Twins have made it clear since they signed Jones to a one-year deal before last season that he wasn't in the team's long-term plans. Now, with Jason Kubel hopefully returning from a major knee injury and the team still looking to sign a veteran hitter, it looks like Jacque's time with the Twins is done.

I have already discussed this topic at length in the past, but to reiterate, I will not miss Jones. During his time with the Twins, he has shown flashes, but generally I don't consider him to be a very good player. He cannot hit left-handed pitchers, he has no strike zone judgment, he is a boneheaded fielder, and he is not a good base-runner. To his credit, he is a nice guy and he has hit some very dramatic home runs and done some great things for this team, but I think it is best for all parties that he move on. In a lineup where he has some protection, he may very well put up some gaudy numbers (although if he ends up in Kansas City, one rumored destination, I wouldn't be suprised if we see him fall off the face of the earth).

*The cover story on's MLB page yesterday was a Jerry Crasnick article about the Twins and their incredible lack of power over the past couple decades (Insider account needed). I knew the Twins were one of the worst teams in baseball in this regard, but I hadn't realized quite how bad it was in relation to the league's other 29 teams. As most of us know, the Twins have not had a player hit 30 home runs since the 1987 season when Kent Hrbek, Tom Brunansky, and Gary Gaetti all did it. The next longest dry streak of any Major League team belongs to the Kansas City Royals, who have gone 5 years since Jermaine Dye clubbed 33 dingers in 2000. The Rockies have had 27 players hit 30+ homers since 1987, while the Twins have had zero.

What could be the cause of such a colossal lack of power? It's not like the Metrodome is a giant pitcher's park. Is it the scouting, the coaching, or simply the organizational philosophy? Whatever the case, the Twins will never be able to win a World Series without a decent power threat. Fans were hoping that last year Justin Morneau, who hit 19 dingers in about half a season's worth of at-bats in '04, would break the tragic streak, but unfortunately he regressed into one of the worst-hitting first basemen in the league. The Twins' current roster has several players capable of hitting 30 home runs - Torii Hunter, Joe Mauer, Morneau, and perhaps Jason Kubel - but when will one or more of these players put it all together and become a consistent power threat? We can only hope it's soon.

*The Phillies a couple days ago sent pitcher Vicente Padilla to the Rangers in return for a player to be named later. This move negatively impacts the Twins in a few ways. For one thing, it fills a pitching need for the Rangers, reducing their desperation and thus making them less likely to deal Hank Blalock or Kevin Mench to us. Also, it tells us that Kyle Lohse's trade value is probably not as high as we would have liked to believe. As Aaron Gleeman notes, Padilla is similar to Lohse in a lot of ways, including age, salary, and career stats. The fact that he only garnered a PTBNL for the Phillies, the same thing the Twins gave up in the trade for the dreadful Bret Boone, is a pretty sobering fact.

It's hard to see the Twins making a trade in the near future. The trades occurring around the league are making it evident that the pieces they have to move are not particularly valuable at this point in time. I think Terry Ryan will probably wait until the spring to try to make a move, when needs of other teams become a little more urgent and values tend to rise a little bit. That said, I certainly hope he can make a move for a free agent hitter of some sort, any sort. I will be beside myself if the Twins go into training camp with Michael Cuddyer at DH and Glenn Williams or Juan Castro at third base.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Adios, JC

In a move that has been a long time coming, the Twins finally got rid of disgruntled lefty reliever JC Romero, sending him to the Angels in return for minor league infielder Alexi Casilla. With all due respect to my associate, who posted below with his analysis of the trade, I would like to voice my disagreement with his opinion that the Twins got the short end of this swap.

I'm happy with this move, if only because I was sick of Romero's despicable lack of control and almost amazing inability to hold inherited runners on base in any situation, not to mention the fact that he was taking up a couple million dollars of salary which could be used to sign a free agent DH.

It's true, Casilla doesn't appear to fill any immediate needs. He is a second baseman with good speed who still appears to be a couple years away from making an impact at the Major League level. He spent the first month and a half of last season in Double-A and Triple-A, putting up unimpressive numbers in both, before being knocked down to Single-A for the remainder of the year and doing pretty well. In 78 games there, he hit .325/.392/.409 with 3 home runs and 17 RBI. Perhaps most notably, he was 47/59 on stolen bases attempt, showing that this guy is a potential monster on the basepaths. He also looks to have some patience at the plate, something the Twins sorely need. In 366 at-bats last year (all levels combined), Casilla struck out only 40 times while walking 34 times.

At only 21 years old, Casilla can be taylored as the eventual replacement to recently acquired Luis Castillo. Keep in mind that, at age 30, Castillo isn't exactly young for an infielder whose game is based on speed. To me this looks like another heady move by Terry Ryan that will hopefully pay off down the road. It didn't look like such a smart manuever several years ago when he shipped Brian Buchanan to the Padres for mediocre infield prospect Jason Bartlett, but it was looking a lot smarter a couple years ago when Bartlett hit .330 in Triple-A and last year when he was the starting shortstop for the Twins on opening day, while Buchanan turned into a minor league castaway.

The problem with this move is that it opens up a hole in the Twins bullpen. There are no obvious candidates to fill the left-handed specialist role. There are a few decent, but old, options on the free agent market (35 year-old Alan Embree, 40 year-old Buddy Groom, 39 year-old Chris Hammond), and no lefty in the Twins' minor league system appears prepared to make the leap to handling the pressure associated with the role. With all that said, I'd say there is a strong possibility that we will see Francisco Liriano in the bullpen next season.

Romero jumps into an interesting situation in Anaheim. If he can put it together and eliminate the walks, and his problems last year were indeed the result of him being unhappy with his situation here as he says they were, the Angels will have a formidable bullpen, with Romero and Scot Shields setting up for stud closer Francisco Rodriguez.

Romero Traded

Well, scratch all the rumors about Hank Blalock for now. Unless, that is, we are going to trade Lohse and one of our prospects. The Twins traded J.C. Romero today for Alexi Casilla, a minor league infielder who ended last year at Triple-A. No big package or Brandon Wood or any of the Angels' best infield prospects. It is, seemingly, a bad trade for the Twins.

The Twins need help right now in their infielder. Are they planning on using Castilla right away? Casilla spent most of last year at Class-A Cedar Rapids, where he hit .325 with 47 stolen bases and a .392 OBP. However, with 3 HRs and 17 RBI only, he doesn't present the power option we need as well. So, was the trade purely a salary drop or the overwhelming desire to get rid of clubhouse cancer?

If so, I still believe we could have done better. After all the talks of various deals involving Romero, it makes little sense that Terry Ryan would take this deal. It doesn't really address any of the Twins needs and doesn't improve us for 2006. Romero to Texas or Boston in a deal to at least get a decent 3B option would have been better. And it seems the Angels have much better options to give us for Romero, when it appears he had at least a little value left on the market.

After a week of much talk and hard work from Ryan, this is not a very good result. Perhaps Casilla can help soon, but it seems doubtful. We still need a DH and a third baseman. Why would Ryan throw out one of the cards he has if he doesn't want to trade Baker or Liriano? I just hope this clears up money to sign Piazza or some bat. Cause we certainly need it.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Hank Blalock's Texas Cookin'

Rumor has it the Twins are very interested in Rangers' third baseman Hank Blalock, and GM Terry Ryan is dangling pitchers Scott Baker and JC Romero for him. The sentiment from Twins' fans is that this would be a bad deal, because Baker is a top prospect who has proven himself at the Major League level and Blalock can't hit outside of Texas. I would argue that both of these points are blown way out of proportion.

I think Baker will indeed be a very nice pitcher, but he's not untradable. He's a steady guy who throws strikes and gets outs, it's too early to say he would be a great full-time starter over the course of a season. If we traded Baker, we would hold on to Kyle Lohse. Lohse can be counted on for about a 4.50 ERA and 10 wins, and when we're talking about a guy who would be 5th in the rotation behind four potentially excellent pitchers, I think we can live with that. While I would rather send Lohse and Romero off, possibly along with another decent prospect like Boof Bonser or JD Durbin, I somehow doubt the Rangers will make the move unless it includes Baker. Personally, I don't think it would be the worst thing in the world.

Blalock hit .297/361/534 at home last year vs .231/.276/.335 on the road. Granted, that is a substantial difference, and would lead to the impression that Blalock can only get the job done in Texas' hitter-friendly stadium where he has spent his entire young career. However, I don't think everyone should be jumping to the conclusion that he will put up the latter numbers in the Metrodome. Players generally hit better at home than on the road, that is a simple fact. And while Texas does have a ballpark conducive to big offense numbers, this isn't Coors Field we're talking about.

Take Ivan Rodriguez for instance. His last year in Texas in 2002, he hit .354/.389/.660 at home, while putting up a line of only .270/.314/.413 on the road. Not as large a disparity as Blalock, sure, but a considerable one nonetheless. The next year, Pudge played for the Marlins in what is generally considered to be a pitcher's ballpark. His home numbers? .317/.403/.506. Not bad, and a significant improvement over his road numbers while in Texas. The next year, Rodriguez goes to Tiger Stadium, an even more pitcher-friendly ballpark. His home numbers there in '04? .354/.410/.514. So while his power numbers did decline a little bit, Rodriguez was still getting the job done after leaving Texas. Now, obviously, he and Blalock are very different players, but the point I'm trying to make is that he wasn't putting up unrealistic numbers all because of his ballpark.

The Twins need to make a move, and Blalock is a proven slugger, as well as a terrific defensive player, not to mention only 25 years old. Terry Ryan has already stated he does not want both Baker and Francisco Liriano in the Twins' rotation this year, and if that is the case, it doesn't make sense to leave one of them rotting away in the minors since both appear Major League ready. There are other pitchers in the Twins' minor league system who have the potential to be where Baker is currently at in just a year or two. I would not be opposed to this trade.


One other thing. This is a direct quote from the Twins' official website regarding our Rule V draftee OF Jason Pridie:

"Pridie garnered the attention of the Twins during this year's Arizona Fall League. Pridie batted .232 with one home run and 10 RBIs for the Phoenix Desert Dogs."


Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A Few Musings

Just a couple thoughts on some off-season observations...

*Apparently Terry Ryan was in talks with the Baltimore Orioles at the winter meetings regarding Kyle Lohse. I wonder who the Twins would seek in such a trade. To me, the obvious candidate is third baseman Melvin Mora. Mora would be a solid acquisition for the Twins, as he hit .283/.348/.474 last year at a salary of only $3.8 million. He is not great defensively, but would be no worse than Michael Cuddyer was and would certainly provide more offense. Furthermore, the Orioles have a top minor league prospect at third base in Tripper Johnson.

*According to Peter Gammons, the Rangers and Dodgers are close to a deal that would send Alfonso Soriano to the LA in return for minor league pitcher Jonathan Broxton. As far as I can tell, Broxton is not exactly an amazing prospect; he posted a 3.12 ERA in Double-A last year and a 5.93 in 14 appearances at the Major League level. Why is this guy better than a package of Kyle Lohse and JC Romero?

*In an in the Pioneer Press, Twins beat-writer Jason Williams contemplates the notion that the Twins use Cuddyer as their DH next season. For a team with a lack of power and bad discipline problems, this seems like an absolutely awful idea. I am not at all convinced that the Twins are serious about signing Frank Thomas or Mike Piazza, but I do hope that they can find a veteran hitter somewhere with some pop who could fill in this role.

*According to LaVelle E. Neal, the Twins probably will not sign Bill Mueller, as the interest he has gained from the Dodgers, Giants, and Pirates will likely put him out of the Twins' price range. As Mueller was really the only free agent third baseman who would've provided a significant improvement, the impetus is now on Terry Ryan to work out a trade for a guy who can come in and fill this gaping hole for the team. Hank Blalock would be splendid, but Toronto's Shea Hillenbrand is also a viable option.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The Offseason So Far

After a few weeks of trading and big signings, the need for a little insight has come about. Needless to say, its been an offseason with more parallels to 2000 then 2004. At one point, we may have found ourselves complaining about Johnson contract or the Pedro signing. But no more. 4 years and 52 million doesn't seem all that excessive in the wake of recent signings. Here's a rundown of the most perplexing ones:

B.J. Ryan, 5 years, $47 million with the Toronto Blue Jays - Now I grant Ryan is a great talent. In the last three years, he has average a 2.88 ERA and has had over hundred Ks the last two years. His 12.8 Ks/nine innings this year was very impressive as was his .208 opponent batting average. But all those things don't add up to the highest-paid closer in history. He was only a full-closer last year and he was not under the pressure of a big contract. He isn't exactly Billy Wagner or Eric Gagne. He won't strike out nearly 15 hitters per nine innings anytime soon or hold them to a sub .180 average. So, therefore, its crazy to pay him like he is better than either Wagner or Gagne. By doing so, Toronto gives themselves a player that may help them now, but who will not live up to the contract given to him. And such contracts only hurt teams like the Twins in their pursuit of offseason options.

Estoban Loaiza, 3 years, $21 million with the Oakland Athletics - Loaiza has had exactly two good years in his long, journeyman career. In 2003, he went 21-9 with a 2.90 ERA with the White Sox, representing a career-year. The next year, he went from mediocre to awful when he was traded to the Yankees. Last year, he had a decent year under little pressure and in a pitcher's stadium playing for the Nationals. 12-10 with a 3.77 ERA isn't bad, but if Carl Pavano is any proof, there is no guarantee. Thats why it makes not sense that people in baseball believe that Oakland will now trade Barry Zito with Loaiza on board. Zito may not be an ace, but his numbers are far superior to Loaiza and Loaiza is getting too old to be consistent.

Paul Konerko, 5 years, $60 million with the Chicago White Sox - It seems like a good reasonable contract, but Konerko doesn't seem to breathe consistency to me. Konerko may also have an degenerative hip, so signs of Mo Vaughn do spring in the background. But, beyond that, 2005 was in many ways a career year. Konerko had his best OBP at .909 and and hit 40 HRs with 100 RBI. Along with 2004, when he hit 41 HRs and had 117 RBI, these have been his best years. However, for $12 million a year, Konerko isn't exactly Albert Pujols. He doesn't run well (as he has never scored 100 runs), is immobile on defense, and had an atrocious year in 2003. Its the same reason Pat Burrell has been a risk for the Phillies, but this wasn't the strangest signing this offseason. It was, instead, pretty predictable.

Rafael Furcal, 3 years, $39 million with the Los Angelos Dodgers - This one I don't get at all. The Dodgers certainly need offense, but this is overpaying big time. As Buster Olney put it, Furcal remains spectacularly inconsistent. I'd agree. Last season was a perfect example, as Furcal had a great second half but was awful in the first. Furcal has other issues as well. He has never hit over .300, which is troubling for a leadoff man, his career OBP is .348, and he has only begun now to realize his potential use of speed. Also, Furcal has a great arm, but he committed 31 errors last year, which is an awful lot for a Dodgers pitching staff with guys like Derek Lowe who need good infield defense. Understandibly, Furcal and Cesar Izturis, when he returns, can be a great combo. But he isn't worth $13 million. That's more than what Miguel Tejeda makes for being a superior offensive and defensive player. Furcal is more in Jimmy Rollins territory and Rollins is only getting $8 million. Thats a wide gap.

Scott Eyre, 3 years, $11 million with the Chicago Cubs - This is where my bigger concerns appear. Overpaying for relief pitchers escalates the market price for many free agents big time. Eyre had one good season last year amidst tons of mediocre relief performances. And he gets this contract? Same goes for Bob Howry. What are the Cubs thinking? They need support for Derek Lee, a new center fielder not named Corey Patterson, a corner outfielder, a shortstop, and a second baseman. They have far bigger concerns. Why throw some much money on what is clearly a bad invenstment.

Overall, so far it has been overpayment after overpayment. Contracts have been absurb nearly the way there were in 2000. Will Johnny Damon get seven years and $100 million and if so, why? There are very few players worth this kind of cash, but in a weak free-agent class, clubs decided to get competitive and offer out terrible contracts to unproven players. The point is this is bad news for the Twins. It destroys much of their hope to get a guy like Bill Mueller or Mike Piazza or especially Nomar Garciaparra. It seems now we can only hope for inconsistent guys like Rondell White and Tony Graffinino. Lets just Terry Ryan has a surprse for us this week.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Twins Get Castillo

It seems Terry Ryan was tired of idly sitting around and watching White Sox GM Kenny Williams make moves to improve his championship ballclub. Earlier today, Ryan pulled the trigger on a deal with the Florida Marlins to bring second baseman Luis Castillo to Minnesota. In return, the Twins shipped off pitching prospects Travis Bowyer and Scott Tyler.

Bowyer had a phenomenal year in AAA last season, becoming one of the best prospective closers in baseball. He appeared in eight Major League games during a September call-up. He didn't look great, posting a 5.59 ERA and allowing three home runs in 9.2 innings, but there is little question that he is going to be a very good reliever and he could become Florida's closer as soon as next season. Tyler, on the other hand, is a low level prospect who is still a few years away.

The Twins, however, are in a position where they can afford to lose some good minor league pitchers, as they still have several pitching prospects waiting in the wings. Granted, Bowyer was the most polished and Major League-ready of these prospects, but it's hard to question the trade as Castillo fills several major areas of need for the Twins. He gets on base, he can run, and he hits lefties supremely well. These factors will make him a perfect candidate to wedge between Shannon Stewart and Joe Mauer at the top of the lineup. Castillo posted a .423/.467/.650 line against left-handed pitchers last year, meaning he'll nicely off-set Stewart's and Mauer's weakness against southpaws. He also posted a .391 on-base percentage, so he should nicely set the table for Mauer and whoever hits clean-up. On top of all that, Castillo is a reigning three-time Gold Glove winner with excellent range.

There are a few things to consider when looking at Castillo's transition to the Twins, the first Major League club other than the Marlins he will have played for. First of all, there is the transition to turf. Due to the dearth of National League indoor ballparks, Castillo has very little experience playing on artificial grass (he played only 3 games on turf last year). That said, there is no reason to think that his game will not translate well, as players have generally been complimentary of the Metrodome's new turf and Castillo has the type of game that usually excels on artificial turf.

One other factor of note with Castillo is his apparently dwindling base-stealing proficiency. He was once a supremely excellent base-stealer, swiping 50 bases on 67 attempts in 1999, 62 on 84 attempts in 2000, and 48 on 63 attempts in 2002. However, in 2003 he stole only 21 bases while being caught 19 times, and since then he just hasn't attempted to steal as much. Only 25 attempts in 2004 (successful 21 times) and only 17 attempts last year (successful on 10). The indication is that Castillo has lost some speed, or else perhaps it is a reflection of a change in the Marlins' style of play under Jack McKeon. Whatever the case, it will be interesting to see if the Twins run him aggressively on the bases and if he can gain back a little speed on the artificial turf.

With the Twins rumored to be very interested in former White Sox slugger Frank Thomas, the starting lineup for 2006 is shaping up to be heavily improved over the meager group put out last season. If the Twins sign Thomas, and assuming Jason Kubel's knee is well enough for him to play the field by the start of the season, this is what the lineup might look like:

LF Stewart
2B Castillo
C Mauer
DH Thomas
1B Morneau
CF Hunter
RF Kubel
3B Cuddyer/Mueller?
SS Bartlett

Obviously there are some serious questions about this lineup. Thomas is getting old ans has had serious injury problems the past few years, Bartlett needs to improve on a disappointing rookie season, Morneau needs to be more consistent, and Terry Ryan has stated definitively that Cuddyer will not be starting at third base (though it's hard to visualize another option unless they sign a free agent like Bill Mueller or Joe Randa).

In any case, it is nice to see Ryan make a major move to show that the Twins will not bow down and hand the division over to Chicago. Right now, all signs point to this being a very good move for the Twins, and chances are they're not finished yet, as they still need to address third base and hopefully unload Kyle Lohse and JC Romero. We'll continue to keep you updated as the off-season progresses.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Jacque's Future

As most are undoubtedly aware, right-fielder Jacque Jones' contract with the Twins has expired and he will be a free agent this winter. With Jason Kubel hopefully being ready to return from a devastating knee injury next year and Lew Ford also showing the ability to be a possible starter, there is a lot of sentiment that the Twins will not make an effort to bring Jones back. And I couldn't be happier.

I have made no secret of my distaste for Jones on this blog. He puts up decent numbers and has a knack for the occasional dramatic home run, but in general his total inability to hit left-handed pitching and complete lack of any semblance of patience at the plate in his entire career, not to mention his poor base-running ability, have caused me to grow weary of him. The San Diego Union reports that the Padres have a great deal of interest in him. This makes sense, since Jones is a San Diego native and there is a very good chance the Padres will not re-sign their current right fielder, Brian Giles. There is also some speculation that the Mariners and Cardinals, among others.

I always felt that once Jacque's contract expired, some team was going to overpay him because he puts up decent power numbers and he has decent speed. From watching him on an everyday basis over his entire career, I can say that the only thing he can do consistently is ground out to second base, and I am more than ready for the Twins to go another direction in right field. I think I'd rather see Michael Cuddyer starting out there, to be totally honest.

Wherever Jones ends up, good luck to him. It should be interesting to see what type of contract he lands.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Thome may be back

Jim Thome might reenter the AL Central next year, but with the Chicago White Sox instead of the Cleveland Indians. Thome, who was injured most of last year while managing a pathetic .207 average with 7 HRs and 30 RBI. Thome is now 35 and looks like another familiar slugger (Mo Vaughn) who vanished after signing a big contract. Will a different scenario change things? Was it worth it to trade Aaron Rowand?

Rowand has emerged into a solid hitter with some speed and run-scoring abilities at the top of the lineup. 2005 was a bad year compared to his 2004 breakout season in which he hit .310 with 24 HRs, 69 RBIs, and scored 94 runs. He isn't a great center fielder, but a stable part of the world-champion's lineup.

Thome, on the other hand, seems to be fading away. After his career-year with the Indians in 2002, in which he hit 52 HRs, had 118 RBIs, batted .304, and owned a 1.122 OPS, Thome has slipped little by little with each season. He, of course, still has the potential to hit home-runs, but Thome looks like the stereotypical steroids user who now is readjusting. The worst-case scenario for the Twins seems fairly likely. Even if he is terrible, he'll probably show up at the Metrodome and cream homers off of our control pitchers the way he did for 12 years in Cleveland.

The deal is final, as the players need to take physicals first to complete it. But, if it goes through, it may be bad news for both the White Sox and the Twins. Thome probably will beat up on the Twins, but don't expect too much more than a .250 average (or even less) with 25 HRs and 80 RBIs. He'll be the new Carl Everett for the team, so he probably won't be a game-changing slugger the way he used to be. On the other hand, Cleveland will remain the rising star of the AL Central, even with this big trade.

Addressing the Outfield

This offseason is definitely one centered around offensive improvement. As Nelson pointed out yesterday, third-base is in desperate need of improvement. So is the outfield. Last year, we lost the "Soul Patrol" early and saw much more of Lew Ford out there when we need to. All he did was show 2004 was more of a fluke and that he is a better support guy then anything else. So what options do the Twins have for improvement?

The idea of trading Torii Hunter has been thrown around, but its a bad idea for this very reason. We already have issues in the outfield and its doubtful Hunter could allow the Twins to acquire a good player like Robinson Cano. Even if it did, we would then need another outfielder and Ryan would probably foolishly resign Jacque Jones. And we'd have an inadequate second baseman who would struggle on defense.

Hunter should, therefore, most certainly be our opening day center fielder. What about Stewart? Instead of getting rid of Hunter and his contract, Stewart seems to make more sense. $6 million is a lot for the Twins to shell out for a guy cleary nearing the twilight of his career. Stewart migth not be embarrassingly awful, but his lack of defensive prowess is showing and his power outage made him one of the worse leadoff men last year. If we could, trading Stewart would be a good option, if we could pick up a decent veteran infielder or an outfield prospect, which we are now short one.

Otherwise, there is Lew Ford. But last year, Ford showed us that he may not have the skills to compete everyday. His lapses in defense and base-running can be awful on a Manny-level and he lacks any consistent offense to make up for it. Jason Kubel seems geared to take one of the positions, but his knee is questionable and he may not be at full-speed when spring training starts. Of course, if he is, he's an excellent option. He can hit for average and some power and seems like an excellent replacement for Stewart's role on the team.

For free agent options, the Twins have had rumored interest in Reggie Sanders. Despite a postseason that started well, Sanders is getting old and has had a long career of injury problems. He isn't Juan Gonzalez, but he is no guarantee for 4 or 5 million. On the other hand, if healthy, Sanders could give the Twins the kind of year he gave the Pirates in 2003: 25-30 HRs, .270 average, 90 RBIs. That would certainly make the Twins far more potent for not too high of a price.

Brian Giles' name has also been floated around, but for a guy who managed a big contract before, its unlikely. Giles would be great, because he is a good hitter with lots of patience who has power (which was certainly hurt by San Diego's spacious park) and whose presence would help a swing-happy Twins lineup.

Rondell White is a possibility, but he's more of a DH and thats for a different discussion and time. White can provide good offense, but I don't think the Twins are willing to sign such a defensively-challenged player right now. Bobby Higginson is another free-agent from Detroit, but he doesn't look to have anything left in the tank. Juan Gonzalez, too, is an option, but it seems he'll never be fully healthy again. Juan Encarnacion, Preston Wilson, Jeremy Burnitz, and Jeff Conine are all also good options. Wilson and Encarnacion are unlikely because they'll demand high salaries and Burnitz doesn't seem likely to consider Minnesota in his options. Conine, though, seems realistic. He's a good, solid veteran who could give the Twins a patient hitter with some power left in his bat. (No signs of a Molitor-esque year at 40, but hey its worth a shot)

What, therefore, is the best course of action? Keep Hunter, hope Kubel is healthy, trade Stewart, and try to sign Conine or Sanders. If not, we'll probably end up with Jeffrey Hammonds and a crew of minor league castoffs. Lets hope Ryan does something at least a little above that.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Addressing Third Base

No doubt about it, the Michael Cuddyer experiment last season failed miserably. Cuddyer, who the Twins were relying on to provide offensively as a replacement for Corey Koskie, was awful at the plate last season and perhaps even worse in the field. He will not be starting at third next season, so it is back to the drawing board for the Twins as they look into other possibilities on the free agent market and in trades for the hot corner. Matt Moses is the only third baseman in their system who looks even close to ready to making a splash in the Majors, but he didn't exactly tear up the Arizona Fall League so there's no reason to think he'll be ready within the next year.

Monday, the Marlins traded Mike Lowell, a third baseman the Twins were rumored to be interested in, to the Red Sox along with Josh Beckett. I never thought Lowell was that great of an option, as he carries a hefty pricetag and was absolutely awful last year, but his glove would be nice and there is reason to think he could bounce back next season based on his history as a major offensive threat. There's no guarantee that the Red Sox will hold on to Lowell, as he basically just came stapled along with Beckett (who they really wanted) and they have a nice young third baseman in Kevin Youkilis who will likely start next year. That said, I don't see the Twins making a move for Lowell.

Another name the Twins are rumored to be interested in is Texas' Hank Blalock. Blalock has posted gaudy numbers in his young career with the Rangers and is a terrific defender, but a quick look at his stats away from the Rangers' friendly stadium quickly tell why acquiring him might not be the wisest idea. He hit .231 on the road last year with a .611 OPS, and only five of his 25 home runs came away from home. Now, I'm not a person who's going to say that Blalock will be a poor hitter whenever he leaves the Rangers; I have seen him hit on several occasions and I know that he is a great hitter who can drive the ball and bring home runners, but it wouldn't necessarily be wise to expect the same production from him in the Metrodome as he has had in Texas the past four years. Then again, it should also be noted that he made only $850K last year, although he will likely be demanding a raise next year.

Nomar Garciaparra is another name worth looking at. The Cubs' shortstop who has struggled with injuries the past few years is on the free agent market, and he probably won't be demanding an insane amount of money. He has some experience playing third base and has stated that he wouldn't mind playing there on a regular basis next year. I think Garciaparra would be a very nice option, but he would probably struggle on defense and he hasn't played much in the past couple years so he might have trouble returning to his old form.

Of course, the Twins have also expressed interest in former Red Sox 3B Bill Mueller, who is in free agency as well, but his age and lack of production on the road put up some immediate red flags. The previous three names would most certainly be better, albeit more expensive, options.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Reusse Speaks Again

Patrick Reusse wrote a blurb in his column today about Johan Santana's third-place Cy Young finish, which may or may not be in response to the e-mail I wrote him last week criticizing him. Here's what he said:

"Twins followers and statistical freaks continue to complain that Johan Santana was robbed in voting for another major award: AL's Cy Young.

These folks want Santana to receive full credit for going 6-2 with a 1.09 ERA in his final 10 starts -- domination that took place in garbage time of a lost season for the Twins.

It was in his previous 10 starts the Twins needed Santana to dominate. That's when they were going from 35-22 and 4 games behind the White Sox in the AL Central to 58-56 and 16 ½ games behind the Mighty Whities (and from 7 ahead to 4 behind Cleveland).

Santana was 3-4 with a humdrum 4.64 ERA in that decisive stretch of the season, making a third-place Cy Young finish a generous reward."

My response to Reusse:

On the surface, this is a valid point. However, there are several fallacies in the argument. For one thing, each and every game played on the 162-game schedule is of the exact same importance, it's not like you get more points for winning in August as opposed to winning in April. If you want to make the argument that pitching well "down the stretch" is of such utter importance, though, it is still difficult to craft a convincing argument in Bartolo Colon's favor. While Colon did have a great month of August, posting a 1.72 ERA and a 5-0 record, his ERA in September was 4.91 (at a time that the Angels had by no means clinched the AL West) and in July it was a ghastly 6.12. He still won six games over this stretch thanks to something called run support which Santana very rarely received. Santana, on the other hand, posted earned run averages of 3.45 in July, 1.75 in August, and 1.29 in September. Now you can make the argument that the Twins were already out of it by this point, but you seem to forget that he lead them on a hot streak that brought them within a few games of the Wild Card, highlighted by the dramatic pitcher's duel against Freddy Garcia and the White Sox where Johan pitched 8 innings without allowing a run and Jacque Jones' solo home run was enough for the Twins to garner a 1-0 victory.

Any way you look at it, Santana had the better season. What it all comes down to is run support. In the combined months of July, August and September, Santana clearly pitched better, posting a lower ERA each month and a significantly lower opponent's batting average in August and September. However, during that span Santana won a total of only 8 games while Colon won 11. How this makes the Colon the better pitcher, I will never understand.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Somebody Start a Petition

While it is clear that most members of the Baseball Writers' Association who vote for the Cy Young awards are fairly dumb, most of them do not decide to write entire articles in their publications spouting forth indefensible claptrap. Patrick Reusse, however, did so in the Star Trib. The following quote illustrates perfectly well all the reasons you need for why he should be stripped of his vote:

"Get this through your skulls here in Twinsland: Starting pitchers who win 16 games for mediocre teams do not win Cy Young Awards."

Why? Is it Santana's fault that his team was mediocre? He pitches one out of every five games, how could one possibly expect him to turn around the team's fortunes when they had no offense and every other starter was inconsistent at best? It boggles my mind that some of these select 28 people who actually have the privilege of being able to vote for this important award have no idea the critera on which it should be judged. This is not homerism opinion, this is common sense. The Cy Young award is designed to judge the BEST PITCHER in the league, and looking at one statistic that is really not even in their control is absolutely idiotic and amateurish.

His article about a month ago explaining his decision to vote for Colon ahead of Santana on his Cy Young ballot, which I just recently stumbled upon thanks to a commenter, frustrated me so much that I actually e-mailed him and told him straight-up that he should have his vote stripped. I'll let you know if I hear back.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Hell of a Shame

I would make a long post explaining my disappointment and frustration with the announcement today that the Angels' Bartolo Colon won the AL Cy Young award over Johan Santana, but analyst Jayson Stark has already stolen the words right out of my mouth.

The hardest I try, I still can't come up with any idea as to why a knowledgable baseball fan would give Colon a first place vote considering that two American League pitchers were CLEARLY better than him, without any shred of a doubt. But what really boils my blood is that Johan Santana, who was deserving of the award for reasons I have already exhaustively discussed, received only THREE first-place votes is absolutely appauling. The fact that he is on a small-market team like the Twins prevented the nation from really being able to grasp just what a phenomenal season he had, and that is one of the main problems with Major League Baseball. You would never see something like this happen in the NBA or NFL. If Randy Johnson had put up the same stats this year, he would have won the award, no question.

The Cy Young award has lost a great deal of its prestige, at least in my mind.

Just disguisting

You knew it would happen. So do I. But I certainly wasn't looking forward to it. Bartolo Colon won the AL Cy Young, grabbing 17 first place votes and 118 total points. The two men, Mariano Rivera and Johan Santana, who both were legitimate winners trailed with 68 points and 51 points respectively. Riveria had 8 first place votes and Santana had 3, with 12 third-place votes. Sadly, Colon won only because of his 21 wins, which don't show what a mediocre season he had in comparison to Santana, or Rivera.

Rivera is a Hall of Famer who had a career year, saving 43 games for the Yankees and posting a career-high 1.38 ERA. (Its the only number really close to Gagne's amazing 2003 season, but we are also talking about a man who may not have enough awards to show just how great he's been) Santana was by far the most dominanting starter in the majors. Giving Colon the Cy Young this year is like trying to give Daunte the MVP just because of his 110.9 passer rating. As many know now, that ignores all of his other mediocre traits and the factors that go into essentially making him look more talented than he is.

Santana struck out 81 more batters and lead the majors, had a .97 WHIP, a .210 OBA, a .594 opponent OPS (all which lead the AL), and a major-league high .250 opponent OBP. The only thing that held him back were his 16 wins, which is obviously due to the dissapointing Twins season and their ridiculously inept offense.

Johan was the AL Cy Young and in my mind, this was his second-straight. Its just another example of the national media ignoring Minnesota players when they deserve it most. He is the best starter in the AL and if you ask opposing players, I'm sure they'll agree. Colon isn't even close. The only thing he has more of is girth.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Hunter wins fifth straight Gold Glove

Torii Hunter, the much-discussed and nearly ousted Twins center-fielder, won his fifth straight Gold Glove, as the awards were announced today. Along with Hunter, Oakland 3B Eric Chavez and Seattle outfielder Ichiro Suzuki also won their fifth straight. Some of the other winners were questionable. Vernon Wells from Toronto and Mark Teixiera from Texas. Teixiera seems like a strech to me and another case of winning the award for offense over anything else. (Although his .998 fielding percentage lead AL first baseman, Darin Erstad has a higher zone rating) That is to say, Paul Konerko also has a high fielding percentage, but he isn't exactly known to be a great first baseman. I say give it to Erstad, the highlight reel guy who isn't even close to an offensive force. Why not? He won't be winning the MVP anytime soon.

But, enough about those complaints. Hunter gets his award and his $100,000 bonus, but we haven't talked much on this sight yet about whether or not he is staying or going. Hunter is certainly great to have in the field, but I wonder if his issues are about his lack of leadership or a desire to be traded. Either way, he should be. There is no reason to keep a cancerous presence around the clubhouse for $10.75 million. Especially when that cancer doesn't do much leading with the bat. He'll be the biggest free-swinger in the lineup with Jacque Jones. Time to move on. Even if Joe Vavra gives me little hope that the Twins will do anything next year. Congrats, Torii. Hope New York treats you well.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

New hitting coach

Joe Vavra is the new hitting coach. Did you just ask the same question I did? Probably. Who is this guy? According to ESPN, well-regarded minor league staffer in the organization, who previously was a player and coach in the Dodgers' system, starred at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, and has been the Twins' minor league field coordinator for the past four years.

Wow. That's a star. (Fingers crossed) So the Twins interviewed Hall of Famers Rod Carew and Paul Molitor, and should-be-in-the-Hall Tony Olivia was probably asked, about the job and they declined. As I've said, I'm suspicious that has something to do with Gardy's attitude and the general aura in the Twins clubhouse, which is sumed up with the word "cancerous."

So what we have instead of below-.500 OPS Ullger is a guy who never even played in the majors. I have to ask if this is even an upgrade. But I suppose any change is good. Who knows. Maybe guys will respond to someone else who never could hit major league hitting.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Don't Blame Lidge

I apologize, to begin, to our readers for the lack of recent posting, but there is little going on in the Twins world right now. Yes, Paul Molitor turned down the hitting coach job and that's unfortunate. It probably reflects a lack of desire to work with Gardenhire, but that's just me. The next best option is likely Tony Olivia or, of course, the Twins can try to find some help outside the organzation, but we know that's unlikely. (But let's pray its anyone but Ullger) Eventually, both of us here at the blog will post needs for the offseason, but lets wait til the season is truly over. Because there is plenty going on.

What I wish to touch on is Game 5 of the NLCS. Albert Pujols, as most baseball fans should know, hit a majestic three-run blast with two outs in the ninth off of Brad Lidge to starve off elimination for the St. Louis Cardinals. It was an amazing feat. Pujols, in that moment, showed what an great, patient, and smart hitter he as he demonstrated his clutch abilites. But, instead of reading about a great game and just how stunning the home run was, lots of pundits are instead concentrating on Brad Lidge.

Lidge emerged last year out of the shell of Billy Wagner and Octavio Dotel to go from a great set-up man to a dominant closer. He set a strikeout record for relivers with 157 last year and absolutely dominanted the playoffs, giving up one run and eight hits in 14 innings with 22 Ks. Those are Riveria-esque numbers and he should that again this season, sparkling with another great campaign. Lidge has two pitches: A 95-99 MPH fastball and likely the best slider in all of baseball. His slider is so good that he has, on many occasions, struck out hitters on three straight sliders. Its simply unhittable. And his fastball isn't too shabby either. So why blame Lidge?

Lots of pundits are saying that he shouldn't have thrown the slider, that he should have walked Pujols or thrown a fastball to challenge him. (With two outs, after striking out two, he gave up a hit to David Eckstein and walked Jim Edmonds) This is ridiculous for many reasons. For one, he didn't have control of the fastball that night (or in Game 4 for that matter). He showed that when he got a strike on Edmonds with his slider before walking him on four straight fastballs. Secondly, Pujols is a great fastball hitter. Challenging that good of a hitter, who is that clutch, in such a calm mindset, with a fastball is just mind-boggling. Lidge is a closer and closers, especially in the postseason, tend to rely on their best pitch for good reasons. If Rivera gave up a home run to Barry Bonds or Manny Ramirez in the postseason, would you blame Rivera? No. He would have gone up against the best hitters with a great pitch and lost. Almost 99 percent the time that slider is going to work. But we aren't talking about giving up a homer to John Mabry here. We are talking about Albert Pujols, the best hitter in all of baseball right now.

Pujols, in the easiest terms, simply won the battle. He knew that Lidge would challenge him, but he also knew it was unlikely he would get a pitch to hit or that he would hit the slider hard. But when you have such a pure, powerful swing like Pujols, the slightest miscalculation throws things out of orbit. So lets not be ridiculous guys and lets put things in perspective:

* Pujols is one of the best hitters the game has ever seen. If Babe Ruth hit a Game 4 homer off of Lefty Grove or one of Walter Johnson's infamous fastballs, no one would blame Johnson. Ruth is just that good. So is Pujols.

* Lidge is one of the best closers we have ever seen. His stuff is just nasty and unhittable. What happen should be classic because if you replayed the inning, it probably wouldn't happen again.

* Houston is not done with the series. Everyone acts like Pujols' homer crushed any chance of them winning. How? Houston is up 3-2. Pujols saved the Cardinals, whose starting pitching isn't that great and whose bullpen is a mess. The pressure is all on St. Louis right now. If Lidge comes in to close out Game 6, don't expect a repeat. It won't happen.

* Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt will be pitching the last two games of the series against a very hittable Mark Mulder and the fading Matt Morris. Clemens and Oswalt have won over 400 games combined and are two of the best pitchers in the NL. Mulder has lost his step and Morris hasn't been the same for years. They'll both get knocked around and no one should expect either Oswalt or Clemens to crumble under pressure.

It was a great moment and its unforgettable, but in the end, Houston still has this series. This won't be a repeat of the 86' series between Boston and California, like everyone wants it to be. Its Houston's year and be prepared to watch Lidge celebrate the biggest save of his career in the next 24 hours.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Just a Few Thoughts

Perusing the Twins official website, we come across a few tidbits regarding the past season. Any surprises here among the Twins team leaders for the season?

Batting Average: Joe Mauer (.294)
Home Runs: Jacque Jones (23)
Runs Batted In: Justin Morneau (79)

ERA: Johan Santana (2.87)
Wins: Johan Santana (16)
Strikeouts: Johan Santana (238)

Nothing very surprising there, except for the unimpressive nature of the offensive numbers. If you would've told me at the beginning of the season that our leading RBI man wouldn't even top 80, I would've called you crazy.

The end of this disappointing season brought some quick changes, which is good, although they aren't necessarily the changes one would like to see. The cutting of underperformers Joe Mays and Luis Rivas were pretty obviously going to happen, but still it was good to see it. Matt LeCroy being cut was a bit more surprising, and the team might miss his lefty-mashing big bat, but I stand by the opinion that I've had all along the a player who can't run, can't field, and can't hit right-handed pitchers simply doesn't have enough value to deserve a roster spot on a contending ballclub. Therefore, I wasn't too unhappy to see him go. His agent is Scott Boras, which should lead to an interesting market search.

Despite all the changes that the Twins SHOULD make this offseason, I don't think it's too terribly likely that they will be making any major ones, knowing the history of Terry Ryan and Carl Pohlad. Instead, we will have to remain content with overanalyzing any small free agency pickups they make to fill holes and track the performance of our young prospects in the Arizona Fall League. First baseman Garret Jones has already hit 4 dingers and Travis Bowyer and Glen Perkins have both looked dominant. And while I don't suspect the Twins will add the reliable veteran bat they need this winter, there is some hope for improvement in this offense in that Jason Kubel will be returning and the Twins do have 2 minor league hitters among Baseball America's top 25 prospects in Matt Moses and Denard Span.

I will be very disappointed if the team resigns Jacque Jones. I think that his style of play epitomizes what is wrong with this offense. He swings at too many bad pitches, he has worthless at bats, and he constantly hits weak grounders to the right side of the infield. Despite the fact that he was statistically the best power hitter on the team last year (and for the last few years, for that matter), and he has been known to come through with the occasional dramatic clutch hit, I am sick and tired of his inconsistency.

That's about all for today. More later.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Reign of Doug "The Terrible" Eddings

Well, I at least assume a name like that will soon be attached to Eddings. Its not so much that Eddings made a terrible call and possibly took away the ALCS from the Angels. He never made it clear to anyone what his call was. Based on his explanation, he never made a call (but he made a motion) so therefore the ball was still in play and AJ needed to get tagged out.

Now, if anyone is confused to what I'm writing about, they apparently havent seen any tv or read any papers in the last 12 hours. Eddings might have made the right call by saying that the ball was in the dirt. Close replays show some sort of directional change in the path of the baseball. And yea, Josh Paul showed his worth as a third-string catcher, doing something Corky Miller would do by not tagging Pierzynski out. I fault Paul at least half as much as I do Eddings. He butchering of the call allow the White Sox to keep two basrunners on after what would have been the third out. And, yep, the winning game very quickly thereafter.

Now, did Eddings admit any wrong doing? Nope. He was right, and his crew seems to have his back on that. So who needs to be discliplined and what should have been done? Well, Josh Paul shouldn't catch again anytime soon. That was a bonehead play and there is no defense for that. He should have tagged Pierzynski or when he saw him going to first, thrown the ball there as a precaution, not back to the pitcher. Its not as if AJ runs fast. (He tried to steal in this postseason in a most embarrasing way) But what should have happened was a third out, and thats mainly because Eddings was unclear about his call. He made a hand gesture suggestion a strike three before calling the ball in the dirt and Pierzynski safe at first.

Lets just hope this doesn't do to the Angels what calls tend to do to playoff contenders: Suck the life out of them. I would like nothing more than to see the White Sox and Guillen fall to their own arrogance. Lets just hope the Angels can find some starters around that clubhouse who don't lob basic throws over their first-baseman's head.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A Question of Patience

Now, this is just begging for a long, and maybe pointless, rant. But after reading Aaron Gleeman's post this morning, I had a thought I bet most of us have had: Why is the Twins' patience so inconsistent? Most of have lulled over Joe Mays' 20 million dollar contract in 2001 and of course, the lack of a small one to David Ortiz.

Why do we continue to ask such questions? A few reasons: For one, obviously Ortiz has developed into a great player. But its unrealistic to say he would have done the same here. He wouldn't. Want to know why? Scotty Ullger isn't a great hitting coach, where is Boston actually pays guys to teach people to drive in runs. He likely would have hit 30-35 HRs and driven in 100 RBIs and been a star for us, but not quite the way he is in Boston. A let us keep one thing in mind: The man is hitting behind Manny Ramirez, the best right-handed hitter in the AL for years now. Don't listen to any pundets who tell you otherwise. Pitchers are a lot more afraid of Manny, because of his incredible power to the opposite field and his strike-zone knowledge. But even so, a nice 3 year, 9-10 million deal would have likely kept him around for a few years. Thats not asking a lot, but for some reason the Twins were impatient and acted like 20 HRs, 75 RBI, and a .500 slugging percentage are bad numbers for a little over 400 at bats. (Those are 2002 numbers, by the way)

Those aren't bad numbers at all, especially for a Twins hitter. So, what I conclude from this case study is simple: The Twins have no patience with hitters who can emerge, and thats likely cause they don't teach them or develop them very well. On the other hand, they have infinite patience with terrible pitchers and terrible small-ball players. Nick Punto? Has very little talent, in my opinion, but he gets plenty of playing time over a guy like Jason Bartlett, who has plenty of high-end talent. Or how Corky Miller over Michael Restovich? Or Terry Mulholland and Joe Mays over any one of our talented Triple-A pitchers?

Now, there is no complaints about a 3.71 team ERA or our pitching in general. But, thats because Rick Anderson does a good job with his staff because he keeps them throwing strikes. The same can't be said for Gardenhire and Ullger, who do not push guys the right way and who consistently bench the wrong guys. Many of us are still looking at that .259 with a giant "what-if" in our heads. What if we signed David Ortiz? What if we kept Corey Koskie? What if we kept Matt Lawton? But its better to clear our heads and look at every situation popping up. Who does everyone seem to have a problem with? Gardenhire. Ortiz never said it, but I'm sure Gardy didn't think he played well into "small-ball." But Newman? He didn't have kind words upon leaving. Lohse and Morneau are clearly immature players, but Gardy didn't help those situations. Its the nasty clubhouse atmosphere in the end. Chemistry could change those numbers. So could a few "veteran" bats. So could a new staff. But will it happen? I sure hope Terry Ryan is thinking real hard about that right now.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Fatty Says Goodbye

Wow. More wonderful news from the Twins front-office! When Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire said they had big changes in store, they may have meant it. After letting Rivas going yesterday, they made another move they should have made a while ago: Getting rid of Matthew LeCroy. As everyone who reads this site knows, I am not a fan of LeCroy's. I am glad that the front office finally sees that they are overpaying a guy who's only good use is against left-handers. I grant that we don't have much against left-handers, but if Gardy doesn't want to be smart and platoon him against lefties, then they might as well get rid of him because he'll just hurt the team.

In addition, Glenn Williams and Jason Tyner were outrighted to Triple-A. This means, as with all the others, that they have been removed from the 40-man roster. That means that anyone of them could return, but its far more likely that Tyner, Williams, or Abernathy will return then LeCroy or Rivas. I'm sure we'll be seeing Fatty soon, where he belongs: In a beer league or, better yet, Tampa Bay.

Changes Afloat

Shortly after the finish of a disappointing 2005 season, changes are taking place in the Twins organization.

The most exciting of these changes is the fact that the Twins have finally cut ties with under-performing second baseman Luis Rivas. For four years, Rivas has been doing essentially nothing while starting at second base for the Twins, and it seems that finally the team has gotten the hint and gotten rid of him.

Also cut were outfielder Mike Ryan and second baseman Brent Abernathy. The team will make an effort to bring back Abernathy, who was decent in his stint filling in at second for the team this year; they will not pursue Ryan, who was mediocre at best in trying to fill the left-handed bench bat role for the Twins.

On a sadder note, it was announced yesterday that third-base coach Al Newman will be leaving the team to become an advance scout for the Diamondbacks. Newmy was with the organization for 19 years and it will be sad to see him go. I respected him as a guy who would tell it like it was, which made him different from a lot of other guys in the organization, namely Gardenhire.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Postseason Predictions

Alright, readers. Here's my chance to have some fun and give everyone an idea of who will win the World Series. Now, both me and Nelson predicted the Marlins and Red Sox would go to the series, me choosing the Marlins to win and Nelson picking the Red Sox. Obviously the Marlines had a dissapointing season and aren't in the playoffs and I doubt the Red Sox have the pitching to get to the big series. So here are my predictions:


Boston over Chicago, Four Games

LA Angels over New York, Five Games


Houston over Atlanta, Four Games

St. Louis over San Diego, Three Games


Angels over Boston, Six Games

MVP: Fransisco Rodriguez


Houston over St. Louis, Seven Games

MVP: Andy Pettite

World Series:

Houston over Angels, Six Games

MVP: Roger Clemens

Yes, Houston is a popular choice. In fact Rob Neyer, Jayson Stark, and Peter Gammons all agree with the choice. But the fact is, I don't see anyone in the postseason who has anything resembling the four-headed monster Houston has for pitching. The Clemens-Pettite-Oswald combo is 1-2-6 respectively in ERA for the National League. Nothing like that has been done since Atlanta's John Smotlz, Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine in 1995. (That's three likely Hall of Famers, mind you) Oh yea, they also have this guy Brad Lidge in the bullpen. I may have to change my MVP at some point because if its not one of these starters, its going to be Lidge. For anyone who skipped over the glamour of the Boston-New York series last year, they saw an amazing performance from Lidge. He was a post-season monster unlike anything this side of Mariano Riveria. His slider is unhittable beyond explanation and him and Riveria go up against each other this postseason, I'd put the tape recorder on for the history books.

Clemens, as I've mentioned, had a great year for a outerwordly career. Pettite had a career year, as he has added many pitches to offset his cutter. Roy Oswalt has been one of the best pitchers since he came up in 2001 and he is the only pitcher with two 20-win seasons in 2004 and 2005. Offensively, they aren't the greatest, but I'd love to believe that Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio have something left to prove after all their great years. And Morgan Ensburg (36 HR, 101 RBI) isn't a slouch and neither is Lance Berkman. They are constant underdogs and I almost think its easier to pick St. Louis or the Angels. But the Angels don't have a true ace. I'm sorry, but Colon doesn't qualify as that in my book just because he has the wins. Lackey is a good pitcher too, but Byrd won't do too much for them. Donnelly has been off this year and Shields has broken down and Rodriguez isn't the dominating closer Lidge is. And offensively, they are more of a mess than the Astros are. Guerroro is their man, but Anderson has had a year plague by back injuries and a power outage and Steve Finley has been a big bust.

The Red Sox? Count them out. They'll destroy the soft arms of Buerhle, Garland, and the other White Sox, but they won't match up well against the Angels, just like the Yankees won't either. The have an incredible offense and the best 3-4 team I've ever seen in Ramirez and Ortiz, but that's not enough when none of their starters have a sub-4.00 ERA, Schilling has a 5.69, and the bullpen is the worst in the AL.

Mark down Houston. If they don't go to the series, they'll at least be the most exciting team to watch with the kind of pitching they have. That combination rivals the one we saw a few years ago in Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling and everyone remembers what an incredible series that was.

The Nelson Picks

You've seen my associate's picks, now my picks for winners in the playoffs.


New York Yankees over LA Angels

I didn't even like the Yanks to make the playoffs, honestly, but right now I simply like them to beat the Angels. Anaheim has a great bullpen, but their starting pitching will not be able handle the big bats of New York. Granted, Randy Johnson is only going once in this series, and I love Vladie Guerrero, but Mariano Rivera will make it a 7-8 inning game and the New York offense will give the questionable starting pitching plenty of breathing room. Yankees in 4.

Boston Red Sox over Chicago White Sox

Boston's pitching sucks, but I just don't like the White Sox in any post-season series. They didn't fare particularly well against good competition in the regular season, and they certainly weren't extraordinary in the last two months. Boston will lose a couple of games because their pitching is just not very good, but I still like Manny and Ortiz to carry them to the AL Championship Series. Boston in 5.

NL Division Series

Atlanta Braves over Houston Astros

My buddy Mr. Mosvick likes the Astros to go all the way. And while I love their pitching, I don't think their offense will take them anywhere. The Braves are a very solid all-around team, with solid starting pitching and some great young bats. The bullpen isn't great, but I still like them to come through against the 'Stros. Braves in 4.

St. Louis Cardinals over San Diego Padres

This one's not too hard to pick. The Padres will win a game, but will get blown out in the other 3. The Cardinals are just a FAR superior team.


Boston Red Sox over New York Yankees

Sox return to the World Series after taking out the Yankees in six games in a championship series featuring plenty of fireworks.


St. Louis Cardinals over Atlanta Braves

The Cards sweep the Braves easily to return for a World Series rematch with the Bo-Sox.


St. Louis Cardinals over Boston Red Sox

Pujols and the Cards' tremendous pitching staff overcome the shoddy Red Sox pitching to get revenge for last year and take the World Series in six games.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Season Awards and Assessment

Its been a tight season all around the MLB, so its a little fun to get out of the Twins hellhole and jumped into the fray. All the awards seem to be up for grabs between a few select choices, so here are my MVPs, Cy Youngs, and Rookie of the Years:

AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez, 3B Yankees

.321, 48 HRs, 130 RBIs, 124 runs, 21 SB, .421 OBP, .610 slugging, 1.031 OPS

Yes, of course I realize that Ortiz had a magical season. He did. But regardless, the DH is a trouble spot for me. The position itself should likely be removed for competitive reasons, but beyond that, the DH can only effect the game one way: with the bat. In, over the course of the entire season, Ortiz only had the upper hand on two accounts: RBIs and in general, the clutch stats. Its easy to paint an MVP win based on Ortiz's September, but thats not to say Rodriguez's was so bad. He hit .317 in September with 7 HRs (one on Oct. 1 as well) and 14 RBIs.

And, of course, he hasn't had an error since June. His defense is spectacular at third, as he had only 12 errors over the year. His gaving saving plays are another MVP factor. So is being a smart player. Rodriguez scores runs (124 runs to lead the AL) and steals bases (21). And this is all in addition to a campaign on par or superior to Ortiz's. Rodriguez's .321 average was second in the AL and his 48 HRs lead the AL, with most of them coming at Yankees stadium, a place not necessarly friendly to right-handers and breaking Joe Dimaggio's 1937 club record.

Yes, Ortiz was great but he also has Manny right behind him with his 45 HRs and 144 RBIs and a similar average and great clutch performances in September. So, unless its shared, the MVP is undoubtably A-Rod. Congrats to the best overall player in the bigs.

AL Cy Young: Johan Santana, Minnesota Twins

Yes, I know he's our hometown favorite. But he's also the most feared starter in the AL and maybe in the majors. Its hard to pitch in the AL and he managed to put up numbers starkingly similar to last year's great Cy Young season. 16 wins on this year's last-in-AL-in-runs-scored-mess-of-a-offense Twins isn't just impressive, its great. For all the terrible run support and losses in one-run games, he managed those 16 wins. And oh yea, he lead the big leagues in Ks with 238. That's a first for the club since 1921, when Walter Johnson did so. And he may be the best pitcher ever.

Lets run down the line in all the categories he leads the AL in, by a good margin I might add: Opponent OPS (.595), opponent BAA (.210), opponent OBP (.250, best in bigs), 2.87 ERA (barely second in the AL), WHIP (.97), and there is his record against the AL Central: 9-1. The highest ERA he had was against Cleveland, at 3.33 but with 36 Ks in 27 innings. He went an amazing 4-0 with a .92 ERA against the White Sox, beating them three times in a month down the strech. He went 9-2 after the All-Star break with a 1.59 ERA that would have been comparable to last year's 13-0, 1.21 run if the Twins could actually score.

With that said, Colon may well win it, but like our President, its never official in my mind. If not Santana, it should be Mariono Rivera, who has had a career-best season for the greatest closer of all time.

NL MVP: Albert Pujols, Cardinals

Three things tell me to pick Pujols: his amazing history and consistency, the line-up around him, and Andruw Jones' September breakdown. With a .330/41/117 line, its not Pujols' best year (2003 was that, and if not for Bonds, he was the MVP far and above everyone else). But it is the best in the NL this year. Jones' 51 HR and 128 are impressive and he's a great fielder, but he seriously broke down after getting to 50 HRs and a .263 average is not what to look for in MVPs. Jones couldn't even break 100 runs. Pujols has for 5 straight seasons, including a MLB-high 129 this year.

In fact, he has done something in his first five seasons no one has. He has had a .300 average, 30 HRs, 100 RBIs, 100 runs, and a OPS over .950 in every season he has been in the majors. No one has done that. His seasons have only comparison to greats like Williams. And this year has not been a down year at all. Just look at his constantcy: .322, .324, .370, .358, .287, .318. That is his averages for each month. I wouldn't exactly called .287 a slump. Especially with 7 HRs and 16 RBI in August.

And with injuries to great stars like Rolen, Edmonds, and Walker, Pujols has had little protection around him and has still managed to put up amazing numbers. He even stole a career-high 16 bases this year. Pujols had a MVP year, but his also has had a historical five years that will put him in the Hall of Fame. Its unquestionably his award, especially with no Barry.

NL Cy Young: Roger Clemens, Houston

I realize that all my picks may be unrealistic to some, but despite a 13-8 record, Clemens had a historical year in terms of dominating the league. And he's 43 years old people. This was an incredible season for him, on par with 1986 and 1997. He has earned a eight Cy Young, which is the record by far. Roger Clemens may be the best pitcher ever and he's by far the best any of us have ever seen and he got better this year.

Look at the stats: 1.87 ERA (Pedro was the last sub-2.00 starter and that was in 2000, an amazing season as well), 185 Ks, .198 opponent BAA, .284 opponent slugging, .542 opponent OPS, 1.01 WHIP. No one can come close to these numbers he has put up. If the Cy Young is about the best pitcher, its Clemens. And the post-season should prove it. His only competition should come from his teammate Andy Pettite, whose 17-9 record and 2.39 are career-bests, and Dontrelle Willis, who had a MLB-high 22 wins, and of course Chris Carpenter. Carpenter was great, but he broke down big time down the strech, with a 5.73 ERA in September. He may still win the Cy Young, but only because of his 21-5 record.

AL ROY: Huston Street, Oakland

Street had a amazing rookie year after being a dominant college closer before his drafting. When Octavio Dotel went down with an arm injury in May, Street was called on to take up closing duties and he preformed very well. His 23 saves, 1.72 ERA, and 72 Ks gave Oakland a winning chance to go to the playoffs this year and the award should be his in the face of a overall weak crop this year.

NL ROY: Ryan Howard, Phillies

Howard had a situation similar to Street's, and like the A's, the Phillies almost went to the playoffs because of Howard's strong play in a rookie season. Long highly-touted as a prospect but held back because of Jim Thome, he got his chance when Thome fell hard to injuries and Howard was given his chance. With 22 HRs, 62 RBIs, a .286 average, and a .568 slugging percentage, Howard beats out his rookie class. Jeff Francoer had a great month of July, but he quickly faded. Willy Taveras has had a good season, but just not strong enough to beat out Howard.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

A Disappointing Season Comes to a Close

Today was the last game of what has been a very disappointing 2005 season for the Minnesota Twins. Picked by many before the season to contend for a World Series title, the Twins instead barely finished above .500 with a mediocre 83-79 record, 16 games out of first place and watching the playoffs from home for the first time in three seasons.

There will be plenty of analysis of the team's failures this year in the days to come as look back at the season that should have been, but for now I will just make a small commentary on Johan Santana, who picked up his 16th win today. Bartolo Colon is getting a lot of hype for the Cy Young Award, but there is no question in my mind that Santana is more deserving as he has undoubtedly been the best starting pitcher in the AL this year. He is significantly ahead of Colon in every meaningful stat except for wins, and it seems totally unfair to punish him for the Twins' horrid offense. I wouldn't be upset at all to see Mariano Rivera win the award, but to see Colon win it over Santana would simply make me sick.

Be sure to check in over the next couple weeks for analysis of the playoffs and our picks for the MVP and Cy Young awards, plus post-season analysis of the 2005 season and a look into the future at next season.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Liriano's First Win

Fransisco Liriano has had a pretty turbelant MLB-debut throughout September, beginning with his first batter hitting a homer, following with five straight Ks through two games, and then following a few disasterous starts. Tonight, he finally settled down. His problem, of course, had been control and hopefully it seems Rick Anderson has helped him out. If that's the case, look at AL. Liriano threw seven innings of solid ball without walking anyone, while striking out eight and giving five hits and two runs. This, hopefully, is an indication of things to come. With Liriano's solid start, he sets a pattern of things to come along with a intimidating rotation for next year: Santana, Radke, Silva, Baker, and Liriano. A perfect blend of power and control, there aren't too many holes in it. (Of course, that's not to ignore the great bullpen either. With Nathan, Crain, Rincon, Bowyer, and Balfour if he ever returns, the Twins have so many power arms to throw at oppenents, its unfair) With that said, here's to next year Fransisco Liriano. Can't wait.

One more first came tonight, that being Justin Morneau's first grand slam. Replacing Terry Tiffee at first in the eight, he slammed the big hit off of Jamie Walker. Here's to you Justin. 22 HRs and 78 RBIs isnt the worse thing we've seen. Its decent. But that .236 average and .302 (ugh) on-base percentage need to go up big time. Don't fire yourself, Justin, just help us all get rid of Scotty "Go the other way and bunt lots" Ulger. (I was sooo unhappy to hear that Gardy displaces the blame and wants to keep him around next year. Great. The hitting won't improve at all. Really smart)