Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The "Overlooked MVP" Ballot

Yesterday on the TwinsCentric blog, Seth Stohs presented the results of his poll for Twins 2010 MVP, with Joe Mauer claiming top honors.

I agree with the panel's decision. Mauer was my top choice, but singling him out as the team's most valuable contributor was not nearly as easy as it was last year. This division title felt like much more of a team effort than past seasons, where a few key players were forced to shoulder the load.

Today, I thought I'd highlight some of the people who didn't finish near the top of Seth's team MVP balloting (or didn't appear at all), but still deserve credit for the their important and perhaps overlooked contributions to this outstanding season.

5. Alexi Casilla

Casilla's bounce-back year has been a quiet one. He was very much a non-tender candidate after a dreadful 2009 campaign, but the switch-hitting infielder has stepped up when needed for the Twins this year. His .738 OPS would stand as a career high (granted, he's only made 162 plate appearances). He's made multiple highlight reel plays on defense. He's swiped six bags and been caught only once. A backup infielder can only make so much of an impact, but when given the chance, Casilla has shined.

4. J.J. Hardy

Trading for Hardy was a gamble, to be sure. The shortstop was coming off an absolutely miserable campaign in Milwaukee, and Bill Smith was parting with a fairly valuable asset in Carlos Gomez to bring Hardy aboard. Fortunately, the deal has worked out well. Gomez failed to take any meaningful strides with the Brewers while Hardy bounced back with a productive season in spite of some wrist problems. While his offensive numbers don't compare to the ones he posted in 2008 or 2007, Hardy's .733 OPS is significantly higher than the .695 average for big-league shortstops, and he was absolutely phenomenal on defense with an 8.4 UZR in 832 innings.

3. Orlando Hudson

I wrote recently about my frustration with Hudson's seemingly half-hearted play late in the season, and that continues to be an issue as his September numbers are even worse now than when I posted the article a couple weeks ago. Still, there's no denying Hudson's significant impact on the team over the course of the year as a whole. Last season, Twins' second basemen combined to hit .209/.302/.267, rendering the position a complete offensive black hole. This year, with Hudson leading the charge, the team has received a far more respectable .263/.332/.380 line from second. Depending on your flavor of defensive metric, Hudson also might have been the league's best defender at the position, and his strong on-base skills throughout much of the year were critical at the No. 2 spot in the batting order.

2. Jon Rauch/Matt Capps

When it was announced this spring that Joe Nathan would be forced to undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the season, panic spread across certain factions of Twins Territory. Some believed that the elite closer's absence could cost the team several games and perhaps even a shot at the division title. Instead, Nathan's injury has been almost a complete non-factor. That's because -- while it hasn't always been pretty -- Rauch and Capps have consistently gotten the job done in the ninth inning, and in my opinion they don't get nearly the credit they deserve. The Twins are 83-2 this year when taking a lead into the ninth, and there's simply no way anyone could expect better results than that even with Nathan filling the closer role.

1. Ron Gardenhire

Alright, so I'm bending the rules a little bit. Obviously, Gardenhire isn't actually a player. But if we're looking to assign credit to those who've been overlooked in the Twins' success, there's no way I can pass over the manager. It's easy to point out areas where Gardy's questionable managerial moves have been detrimental, it's less easy to clearly identify the moves that paid dividends. After all, it is the players who dictate the outcomes of games; all a manager can do is put those players in position to succeed and keep them performing at a high level over the course of a long season. Did Gardenhire's timely resting of a banged up Mauer during a soft patch in the schedule help the catcher take his game of the next level in the second half? Did Gardenhire's easing of Brian Duensing from bullpen to rotation factor into the left-hander's outstanding results? Has Gardenhire's handling of Jim Thome helped the aging slugger stay strong late into the season, something he was unable to do last year?

We might never know the answers to those questions, because there are a lot of things that happen behind the scenes that we aren't privy to. Considering what this team has been able to achieve without its best hitter for half the year and without its best reliever for the entire year, I'm inclined to believe Gardy's done a whole lot more good than bad.


Anonymous said...

You certainly are consistent about overvaluing capps/rauch and gardenhire. Wrong, but consistent.

Nick N. said...

Sure. Get back to me when they start losing this team some games.

Jack Steal said...


You cannot be serious. Gardy and his B lineups the last game of every series make me cringe. I especially love the way his team has folded during the last week after clinching the division. Here are 2 stats for you!! Gardy is 7-30 (regular season) and 2-9 in the playoffs against the Yankees. He is also a very repsectable 6-18 lifetime in the playoffs. Wait until he wins something before crowing him king of the County..

Anonymous said...

respectfully disagree.

Matt said...

He didn't "crown Gardy king of the country" he simply stated that he did/does more good than harm. There have been teams in the recent MLB past with talent levels equal or greater than the Twins who have failed to win 80 games, much less 90.
True, he's not the perfect or ideal manager, but 92 wins including a second half tear without Morneau deserves at least an honorable mention.

Ed Bast said...

Have to agree that Gardy's gotten the results this year. However, I'm already nervous about the playoffs and they're still a week away. The last 2 games have only reinforced my fear that his 4-man ALDS rotation has the potential to be a colossal blunder.

Then again, none of his starters have looked good of late, so who knows if it'll even matter.

Matt said...

The last 2 games have only reinforced my fear that his 4-man ALDS rotation has the potential to be a colossal blunder.

Then again, none of his starters have looked good of late, so who knows if it'll even matter.

I know, and it's too bad, because there's little to nothing they can do at this point from a coaching/managing standpoint. Just pick your pitchers and hitters and go with it.
Maybe Gardy will be rippable due to playoff roster selections when all is said and done, or rippable for putting on unsuccessful plays (steal, hit/run, etc.), but what he really needs to do is figure out why the Twins are so intimidated by the Yankees and the big show!
Case in point, Texas had a winning record against NY this year, and we had a winning record against Texas. Twins are capable, but can Gardy get them to show up?
We shall see!

Ed Bast said...

Well, he could juggle the rotation so that Pavano goes in games 1 & 4, Liriano goes in 2 & 5, and Duensing goes Game 3.

Granted, Pavano was less than stellar in his last outing. But I'd rather have Pavano going on 3 days rest than Blacky, Bake, Slowey, etc. on infinite rest.

Or you could have Liriano buck up and go on 3 days rest like the other AL "aces" that the blogosphere so desperately wants Liriano to be defined as.

Of course this would mean Gardy would have to sit one of "his guys", which he's proven time and again is more important to him than giving his team the best chance to win.

So get ready for CC vs. Blackburn in Game 4 at Yankee Stadium, and just hope it isn't an elimination game.

rghrbek said...


You are assuming we make it to the 4th game?

I couldn't agree more that Pavano s/b the game 1 starter, if only to start game 4.

The twins need to get past rd. 1 of the playoffs for this to be a successful season. Anything short of that, is an unsuccessful season, in my eyes. You have to play like that is your world series.

Gardy getting that kind of love is fine Nick. I think it's a bit off, but that is fine.

I think someone needs to do a detailed post about Gardy's record vs. the central since 2002, and his record vs. the rest of the AL (and separate inter league too). He's essentially managed in the worst division in the AL and maybe baseball.

It's great we've won 6 of 9, truly. But 2006 was the only year I really felt our division was "respectable". In order to shut guys like me up, he's gotta do something, anything, in the playoffs.

Anonymous said...

If gardy chooses to carry three catchers on the playoff roster, with the ability to replace players on the 25 man if theres an injury, id be alright with gardy being fired.

Anonymous said...

I look at capps and rauch have a great team record when they pitch as less of an indication of their ability and more of an indication of just how not difficult it is to close games. Jon Rauch transitioned seamlessly from effective closer to worst right handed late inning option and if capps had been drafted by a competent team hed probably be an ok setup man right now.

During this losing streak the twins have lost 2 games 10-8 and 11-10 in 13. In the 10-8 game randy flores came in with a lead and guys on base and gave up what ended up being the difference in the game, and in the 11-10 game randy flores came in with the bases loaded and no one out before losing that game. 2 close games where randy flores pitched by far the most important segments and matt capps never pitched. Now yesterday in a 10-1 loss capps did get some work in. Id be more impressed with capps and gardy if capps were used properly and not just handed 9th inning leads.

Jim Johnson said...

Nick, you do have to be admit that Gardenhire seems to manage scared against the Yankees. His record is beyond terrible against them.

Dave said...

I don't know where the argument that "the central is weak and therefore Gardy sucks" comes from. Its been around forever, but is the central really that bad? Managing in the AL west is by far easier, as you have equally weak opposition as well as one less team to compete with for the post season. For most of the decade the Angels were the only decent team, and now they suck and Texas is good.

Ed Bast said...

Dave it comes from the fact that Central is actually weak, and also from those who wish to temper the Gardy admiration a little by assigning a little context to the issue. It's not to say he sucks, it's more like: He's not the best manager in baseball as some (Joe Posnanski) claim.

Case in point: sure, Gardy's been to the playoffs 6 times. Sounds great, right? In that same time frame, however, 8 AL teams have won more playoff games than the Twins. That puts the Twins slightly above the likes of Seattle, Texas, Baltimore, Toronto, and Kansas City, and below the rest of the league in terms of playoff success during Gardy's tenure.

Nick N. said...

Blaming Gardenhire for the team's postseason failures seems lazy to me. Last year, I think the guy deserves credit for even making those games close -- the Yankees were a MUCH, MUCH better team, not to mention they were well rested and had home field advantage.

In 2006, against Oakland, the offense shut down. Did Gardenhire tell Hunter to dive after Kotsay's liner to center?

Gardy has had some bad moments, but for the most part, the Twins haven't lost playoff games because they've been out-managed. They've lost because they've been outplayed and they've suffered an inordinate number of bad breaks. I can't put that on Gardenhire's shoulders.

Anonymous said...

My problem with giving credit to managers is its really arbitrary and ultimately impossible to do. Im fairly certain gardy is a bad game manager. I dont think he critically thinks about many baseball decisions he makes and how it will effect his teams ability to win games and i dont think hes very creative with the how he manages, both things hurt the twins. But on field decisions in the context of a full season effect the team very little, probably just a few runs. So nick must giving grady a lot of credit based on his perception of gardys behind the scenes management, which in the end is impossible to quantify even a little and ends up as just pure conjecture. No one know how good the twins would be without gardy. They might be a 100 win team hes hurt or an 80 team that couldnt do without him. The whole process of assigning a manager a value is a lazy way to explain results without taking the time to actually figure out why. Talented teams playing well make great managers, not the other way around.

Anonymous said...

How do you not look at Michael Cuddyer for Twins MVP? Cuddy stepped up very selflessly when the twins needed a replacement 1st basemen. He's hitting a very respectable .272 and 14 hr. He's played very well at 1st base, committing only 2 errors. Good enough for any starting 1st basemen. More than his numerical stats though, Cuddyer has been the vocal leader of the team. Guys like Mauer and Kubel are quiet for the most part and let their bats do the talking, but Cuddyer has helped rally the troops in the clubhouse when they needed a leader. Michael is without a doubt my Twins MVP.

Anonymous said...

Having Micheal Cuddyer in the top 8 for mvp is a stretch, he is way overrated. Hes had a league average offensive years at two premium offensive positions. He gets a ton of credit for being willing change positions but hes terrible defensively everywhere he goes. I dont care that hes willing to play multiple positions badly, I dont see that as a plus. As for the leadership garbage, like gardenhires managing prowess, its just biased second hand speculation.

Ed Bast said...

Nick, of course I don't solely blame Gardy for the playoff failures. By the same token, though, plenty of folks seem to give him sole credit for the team's regular season successes over the years. In my mind you can't have it both ways. Why the manager of a mid-market team expected to win the division should be MOY because they did, in fact, win the division is beyond me. Sure, they've had injuries. How about the Red Sox? Miracle they've been remotely competitive, and in the toughest division in baseball. How about the Rays? They might win the East with, what, half the payroll of the Yanks? Do you think the Rays are happy just to be in the playoffs, like the Twins up to this year have been? Are they going to use the payroll excuse if they don't win the Series?

And my criticism of Gardy's playoff performance isn't necessarily tied to in-game management. Same as the regular season: it's fun to pick apart some of his decisions, but every manager makes mistakes. A manager's main job is to steer the ship. He does this well in the regular season, but his teams seem to play differently in the postseason.

And 2006? The team partied for 2 days after winning the division on the last day of the year, a week after clinching a playoff spot. They played like they were hungover. The Twins were the better team and had home field advantage.