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."