Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Thursday, October 23, 2008
For some reason this fact is viewed as traitorous amongst those in Twins Territory, as though I was fully decked out in White Sox gear and rooting for Ozzie and the Mighty Whities with a Homer Hanky spray-painted black. No joke, when I was at a bar watching Game 5 of the ALCS and I loudly cheered as Boston erased a 7-0 deficit in the late innings to notch one of the greatest comebacks in postseason history, a guy further down the bar looked at me in disgust and informed me that I "didn't deserve to be wearing" the Twins hat that adorned my head.
In fairness, I was only cheering for the Red Sox because of a gentlemanly bet I'd made with my roommate. Coming into this season, so convinced was I that the Red Sox were the class of the American League that I confidently told my roommate without a hint of doubt that they would be representing the AL in the World Series. Naturally, he rebutted that the playoffs are unpredictable and these things are impossible to predict... a fair argument. Nonetheless, I stuck to my guns, and that Boston came within one game of the World Series makes me feel pretty good about my prediction, even though I lost the bet.
So I wasn't exactly rooting to the Rays to their first ever World Series berth, but that's not to say I'm not glad to see them there. This is a fun team to watch and an easy team to cheer for. And truly, they do make for a great story.
When writing up an American League Preview back in March, I suggested that I was probably "going out on a limb" by picking the Rays to finish third in the AL East, but couldn't overlook their talent-laden roster. My writeup:
3. Tampa Bay Rays"Surprise some people" they did. That I felt I was stretching it by predicting a third-place finish for a team that now finds themselves in the World Series just illustrates how amazing the rapid rise of this Rays team has been. To all those who underestimate the value of quality young talent or who vehemently reject the notion that ability trumps experience, take heed of the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays.
Perhaps I'm going out on a limb with this pick, but boy is this a talented young roster. The Rays feature a great trio of young pitchers at the head of their rotation in Scott Kazmir, James Shields and Matt Garza. Meanwhile, the offense features several studs, from Carl Crawford to B.J. Upton to Carlos Pena (who quietly had an absolutely stellar season last year) to Rookie of the Year candidate Evan Longoria. The bullpen could present some problems, but I think this is a team that could surprise some people.
I don't really have a significant rooting interest in this series. As much as I enjoy seeing the Rays succeed, I have no problem with the Phillies, and in fact I feel that by cheering against them I'd have to watch my back in public for fear of vindication from the wife of one prominent Twins' blogger.
The World Series got off to a promising start last night when the Phils scored a close 3-2 victory in a well-pitched game on both sides. Whoever ultimately wins the series, I expect an interesting and relatively even match-up in this series. And with the landslides that we've seen take place in recent years, what more could you ask for?
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Sunday, October 19, 2008
AL MVP: Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins C
Its really hard for me to make the decision and be able to demand there wasn't any homerism. But, really, how much can that take away from a pretty clear-cut argument? Mr. Nelson mentioned that there are other contenders like the Red Sox's Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia, as well as Grady Sizemore, Alex Rodriguez, Josh Hamilton, Milton Bradley, and Justin Morneau. But what this list also emphasizes is that there wasn't a particularly strong MVP field in 2008.
This goes to two more reasons, in addition to the arguments about offensive and defensive greatness at a crucial position given by the other Nick. For one, when there isn't a strong field and there is a player having a historically great season, the vote should lean his way. In case anyone forgot, Joe Mauer is the only AL catcher to ever win a batting title (Ernie Lombardi won a batting title in the NL in 1938, hitting .342) and he has now done that twice at the age of 25. Unbelievable. Of course, this is my argument and is clearly not agreed upon by the voters. There are obviously examples like no MVP for McGwire in the 70 homer season, but only Jose Canseco won a MVP in a 40/40 campaign and there have been only four of those. The second reason is that Mauer's ability to get on base and score runs (98 of them) was a big reason for Morneau's 129 RBI that make him a contender. (For argument's sake, Mauer was even better than Morneau with runners on, but didn't have quite the amount of RBI opportunities)
NL MVP: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals 1B
There are a great many reasons to pick Pujols over many much weaker "contenders." I frankly find the argument for Ryan Howard laughable, since Chase Utley (62.2 VORP) and Jimmy Rollins (43.5 VORP) were more valuable hitters (Howard had a 35.3 VORP to go with his unsightly .251 average) and not only play more valuable defensive positions, but are actually good defensive players. Howard is a sub-par defender and Pujols is the best in the league at his position. As for VORP? Pujols is #1 in both leagues with a 96.8, way ahead of Hanley Ramirez at 80.7.
Now I am not arguing that VORP is the greatest or most useful stat, since Mauer did not lead the AL in VORP (A-Rod did) and I am still picking him. However, it still is a great tool for evaluating offensive value and, as I noted, my argument for Mauer goes beyond that. If you don't like that stat, Pujols also lead both leagues with 142 runs created and 342 total bases. He produced a total of 81 extra-base hits and arguably his best hitting line at .357/.462/.653, good for a 190 OPS plus. Pujols is simply the best hitter in the league, a very good defender, and without him, the Cardinals wouldn't have smelled the playoffs in my opinion.
AL Cy Young: Roy Halladay, Toronto Blue Jays
Its hard to pick against Cliff Lee. I hate the wins stat, because I think that the pitcher does not have much control over wins and thus it is not that useful of a statistic in analyzing who is the best pitcher. (That is, if that is how you think of Cy Young - league voting rules would agree with me)Lee also lead the league in ERA, which is more valuable than wins but still not entirely in the pitcher's control. I think Halladay cuts the lead by not only coming very close to Lee with 20 wins and a 2.78 ERA (compared to 22 and a 2.54 ERA), but also leading the league in WHIP (1.05, with Lee at 1.11), coming in third in strikeouts (206, to Lee's 170), leading the league in innings pitched at 246 (to Lee's 223 1/3), was harder to hit (.237 OBA, to Lee's .253), and had a better K/BB ratio (5.28, to Lee's 5.00).
Most of these are very close, but I feel like a few things give Halladay the edge, mostly given his lead in innings, strikeouts and opponent batting average, showing more dominance and value to his team. His Blue Jays also were in the playoff hunt, which I don't like to give a lot of credence to, but does help in a close race.
NL Cy Young: Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants
I thought this race was actually easy, but apparently my colleague disagrees given his vote for Brad Lidge. Granted, I said historically great seasons should get an edge in these votes if the field is not great. However, there is a difference between a catcher winning two batting titles at the age of 25 and a closer having a flawless season in terms of not blowing a save. While impressive, I just don't think they are the same ballpark. I've written on here before that saves are not only a flawed statistic, but not even a particularly good one for accessing relievers in many ways. Given that, a reliever also needs to have a incredible season for me to find them Cy Young worthy (I would have given Jason Schmidt the 2003 Cy Young over Eric Gagne, for instance) and I'm not sure Lidge had that.
On the other hand, Lincecum was far and away the best pitcher in the NL this year. He lead the league in strikeouts by a wide margin with 265 (three were tied in second with 206), was second in the league with a 2.62 ERA and a 72.5 VORP (behind our old friend Johan Santana, with 73.4), was second in the league with 18 wins (on a horrible Giants team and while Brandon Webb had 22, I have gone through the limitations of wins before and Webb isn't a contender outside of his win total), first in league in hits allowed (7.22/9), first in strikeout ratio (10.51/9), and first in adjusted ERA at 164.
There were some other fine contenders and one of those I should point out is Santana. Santana had only 16 wins, but suffered through seven blow saves and countless other head-pounding games with the Mets. Outside of that, he still lead the league in ERA, had 206 Ks, and had his usual second-half run of brilliance. He isn't Cy Young, but he deserves some praise.
Rookies of the Year: Evan Longeria, Tampa Bay Rays and Geovany Soto, Chicago Cubs
I won't spend much time on these because neither are too hard of choices. Each pick was clearly the best rookie in their respective league. Both played particularly good defense for important positions (though catcher is more valuable than third-base) and each had standout statistics at the plate, with Longeria tallying 27 home runs and 85 RBI after starting the year in Triple-A and Soto having 23 home runs and 86 RBI. Honorable mentions go to Mike Aviles of the Royals and Joey Votto of the Reds.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
As most are aware, the Twins have a bit of an outfield glut. In Delmon Young, Carlos Gomez, Denard Span, Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel, the Twins have five players who probably should be starting regularly but can only fill four spots (unless Cuddyer were to move back to third base, which seems highly unlikely). Each of these players is expendable in his own way, but at the same time, now seems like a poor time to move any of them.
I explained on Monday why this is the wrong time to give up on Kubel. Gomez is a fan favorite and trading him could cause the team to take a huge PR hit, which makes such a move unlikely. Some might argue that Span's value will never be higher, but his solid plate approach makes me believe that he can continue to have success, and he profiles as the only legitimate leadoff option on the roster right now. Trading Young at this point might be selling low, since he failed to show any progress from 2007 to 2008 but figures to (perhaps drastically) improve within the next couple seasons. Cuddyer appears to be the odd man out, but with his hefty new contract and the poor injury-riddled season he just finished up, he's hardly a hot commodity around the league.
One area where the Twins do have some depth is in the low minors, and this actually may play to their benefit in negotiating with a team like the Mariners. Seattle will no doubt covet the Twins' major-league ready pitching, but quite frankly the M's are deluding themselves if they think they'll be competing any time soon, so it might be in the organization's best interest to bring in some promising prospects that may be able to help out three or four years down the line.
Ben Revere is one name I would consider giving up in a Beltre trade. That's likely not a popular idea, since Revere flirted with .400 for much of the season while playing for Low-A Beloit and has some impressive physical tools. But there's a decent chance Revere will take a step back in the higher levels of the minors if he can't add some power and patience, so his value might be at an all-time high right now. More importantly, the Twins have a younger player in Aaron Hicks who performed extremely well in the Gulf Coast League this season after being drafted in the first round of June's amateur entry draft, and there's a fairly good chance he could supplant Revere as the organization's top outfield prospect within a year. With three players under the age of 25 currently populating their outfield and another talented young player in Jason Pridie standing by in Triple-A, the Twins are in no hurry to usher in new outfield help, so dealing Revere and patiently waiting for Hicks would make some sense.
Catcher Wilson Ramos is another talented player who had a strong season in the low minors, hitting .288/.346/.434 with 13 home runs and 78 RBI as a 20-year-old in High-A ball, and the Twins might be willing to consider parting with him since they've got that Joe Mauer guy locked in at the catcher position. However, scouts rave about Ramos and he is quietly rising to the top of this organization's prospect list, so he might be moving into that "untouchable" territory unless another club could offer up something truly tantalizing.
Tyler Robertson, Alex Burnett, Deolis Guerra and Mike McCardell are all quality arms in the low minors who the Twins should consider putting on the table in trade talks. Furthermore, any of the team's hurlers in the high minors (Anthony Swarzak, Kevin Mulvey, Jeff Manship, Zach Ward) would be attractive pieces in a package offer to any team looking to rebuild and add quality pitching depth. As much as I'm against trading any member of The Fab 5, the Twins do have a number of solid (if unspectacular) pitching prospects throughout the organization who are pretty much all expendable at the right price.
My personal feeling is that the Twins would be best served trying to address their problems via free agency rather than through trades this offseason. That's an area where I'm in stark opposition to some other bloggers, such as Aaron Gleeman. But, as much as I make note of this organization's past failures in free agency in past years, they are significantly under budget. I don't think the climate is right for the team to make a major trade. Pulling a starter out of their rotation would only create another hole to fill, and despite the fact that they feature something of an outfield glut, no member of that corps seems like an obvious trade candidate.
With all that being said, if the Twins do decide to make a trade to upgrade their big-league roster during the offseason, they have plenty of pieces littered throughout their minor-league system that could be used toward that end.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Tuesday, October 07, 2008
Monday, October 06, 2008
Christensen guessed in his post that Cabrera could probably get a three-year deal worth around $30 million. That sounds about right. He's currently finishing up a four-year, $32 million contract that he originally signed with the Angels back in January of 2005 and he'll turn 34 in a little under a month.
So would such a signing be worthwhile for the Twins? Well, they do enter the offseason significantly under-budget and they do have a hole at shortstop. Adam Everett will certainly not be back, and while Nick Punto did a solid job there this year most would agree that he's stretched as an everyday starter. The closest prospect the Twins have at shortstop is probably Trevor Plouffe, and he has yet to post an OPS higher than 735 at any level of the minors.
Cabrera has his strong points. He's durable, experienced and possesses a solid glove. He's played at least 141 games in each of the past eight years, and at least 153 in seven of those. He won a Gold Glove in 2001 and another one in 2007.
But this guy is just not a good hitter. His career line is .274/.322/.399, and this year in Chicago he hit .281/.335/.371. For comparison, Punto hit .284/.344/.382 this season. Punto also is three years younger than Cabrera, at least an equal defender, and considerably less expensive. One can point to Punto's 2007 season as a sign that you just don't know what to expect from him, but I think it's a safe bet that he can post offensive numbers somewhat close to Cabrera's. It doesn't make sense to put significant money toward a player who is not a clear upgrade over what the team currently has.
The Twins could afford to put $10 million towards a mediocre player like Cabrera next year, but that commitment becomes significantly more worrisome in the following seasons. Jason Kubel, Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker will be arbitration eligible soon, and Joe Mauer's contract is up in 2010. I'm not opposed to the idea of trying to tab a free agent to fill a need during this offseason, but Cabrera is just not the right guy to target.
I'll discuss some options that I find more palatable in the coming days.
Saturday, October 04, 2008
Friday, October 03, 2008
If you don't believe me, check out his answers to some Twins-related questions from a chat that took place on ESPN.com yesterday...
This guy cannot answer any question related to the Minnesota Twins without including some vieled (or not-so-vieled) insult toward the organization, many of which are ridiculous and totally baseless. This is unfortunate, because Law is a pretty intelligent baseball mind. But his opinions when it comes to the Twins are not even worth taking seriously.
Jon (Mass): Hi Keith, What do you think of the idea of Joe Mauer for MVP... he was great at the plate this year, played a much more physically demanding position than Pedroia, and handled a very young pitching staff well.
Keith Law: I wouldn't have any real criticism of any of the following players if they won the AL MVP: Mauer, Pedroia, Sizemore, Youkilis, Lee. It's a pretty open race. Bad choices would include Morneau or K-Rod.
Ben (Charlotte): What is the ETA for Ben Revere?
Keith Law: 2011, although the Twins promote very (too?) aggressively and a good 2009 between high-A and AA could put him in the majors sooner. I hope that they see Carlos Gomez' struggles and decide to be more conservative with Revere, who, like Gomez, doesn't draw a ton of walks and hasn't shown power yet.
Clint (Grand Island NE): With one year of additional experience under there belts, where do you see the Twins finishing next year? AL pennant?
Keith Law: I see them finishing somewhere between 5th and last place in there division next year. Look for regression across the board from everyone except Mauer. If I were the Twins I would be inquiring about Crede ASAP
Allan (TX): Woah, From what I have read...people say the Twins promote a little slow...Besides Gomez, give an example. Not sure where you came up with that one. Ha, I act like you will respond!
Keith Law: Joe Mauer had less than a half-season in AA when he was called up. Zing!
Mary (Okoboji, IA): Ron Gardenhire for Manager of the year? If he doesnt win, he definitely should get top 3, right?
Keith Law: If luck was a coachable trait then he would run away with it. Unfortunately for Ron, luck is not coachable. Any manager who benches there 3rd best hitter (Cuddyer) during the most important week of the season deserves to be run out of town. Win? No. Top 3? No. Top 25? Maybe.
Normally I wouldn't care much what some talking head at ESPN.com thinks, but reading his chat yesterday got to be too much for me. So I sent him an e-mail, which reads as follows:
My name is Nick Nelson and I blog about the Twins. As I and many others have noticed over the course of the year (and years past), you seem to harbor some sort of grudge against the Twins franchise. We get it, they were lucky to score as often as they did this year due to a high batting average with runners in scoring position. But why do you feel the need to insult the organization just about every time you answer a question relating to them?
Your chat today was just too much to take. It's fine to claim that the team's offensive production this year was buoyed by unsustainably high numbers with RISP, but some of your criticisms are totally baseless and come off as sheer contempt for the ballclub. Ron Gardenhire is a bad manager because he benched the team's "3rd best hitter" in Michael Cuddyer? Do you have any clue what you're talking about? Cuddyer isn't the team's third-best hitter when he's healthy (Jason Kubel is), and he is certainly not anywhere close to being the third-best hitter when he's hampered by a foot injury and hasn't played regularly in months, as was the case during the timespan you referred to. Then you insinuate that the team promotes prospects too aggressively (an absurd notion) and use as evidence the rare instance in which they promoted can't-miss prospect Joe Mauer straight to the majors from Triple-A. Yeah, that didn't work out for them at all, did it?
I don't know where this disdain for the Twins organization comes from, but how about you show some professionalism rather than turning every one of your chats into a hatchet job against the team? It's impossible to take your analysis seriously when you show such an obvious bias against a particular club. That's unfortunate, because I do appreciate the way you judge players and break down the game. You're writing for one of the most trusted and respected sports media outlets in the world. Act like it."
We'll see if he responds. Somehow I doubt he will. And really, I don't care.