Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday Morning Madness: April 21, 2014

Series Recap

The Royals series didn't quite go to plan.  The Twins' starters threw almost 18 innings in three games, holding the Royals' offense in check for the most part.  However, when the Royals struck, they typically struck for multiple runs (more on that below).  The Twins managed to win the final game and therefore, they sit at 9-9 as they head to Tampa Bay to finish up this road trip.   

I'm officially worried about Aaron Hicks.  I preached patience with Hicks in 2013 all the way to the bitter end.  I preached patience this Spring and early this season.  But now, I can't ignore what I see.  He looks passive.  He looks shaken.  He looks unconfident.  I'm not in his head, so I can't truly gauge his confidence, but it doesn't look good as an observer.  His strikeout rate is far too high and he isn't driving the ball when he's actually hitting.  He's walking more, which would be a good sign if he didn't look so passive in doing so. 

He's reaching historical territory as well.  Since 1961, Hicks has the 46th most plate appearances of any player with a sub-.200 career batting average.  There are a lot of backup catchers in the list of 45 players ahead of Hicks.  If the Twins continue to give him at-bats and he doesn't pull things together soon, he could find his way into the top 20 by the All-Star break.  Here's the full list, if you're a masochist:

It's gross, be warned.

For the record, I don't think Aaron Hicks will be on this list forever.  Although, I'm starting to wonder if some time in Rochester might serve him well. 
To add to Hicks' discomfort, the Twins claimed Fuld off of waivers from the Athletics and DFA'd Darin Mastroianni.  Fuld is a slight upgrade over Mastroianni, but he's not someone who should be replacing Hicks.  I don't think he will replace Hicks, at least not at first.  However, if Hicks continues to falter at the plate, he could lose starts.  If he loses starts, I hope he gets sent to Rochester.  Fuld is a slightly more viable option than Clete Thomas and should be a decent 4th outfielder if Hicks cooperates. 

Starting Rotation

Big innings.  Crooked Numbers.  Get used to seeing them from opposing teams.  The Twins have assembled a rotation that should be better than the previous few seasons, but as we saw all weekend, they are prone to innings where the other team strings together a series of hits.  I looked at the leaders in hits per nine innings among all active starters with at least 500 career innings pitched.  Here is how the Twins' four qualified starters rank:
Many of the players in the top 40 are no longer starters at all.  If you remove all the guys who have not started a game in 2014, here is how the Twins rank:
  • Mike Pelfrey - 2nd
  • Kevin Correia - 8th
  • Ricky Nolasco - 10th
  • Phil Hughes - 22nd
For the record, Kyle Gibson would top this list, but he's about 430 innings short of 500 and will have improved his H/9 substatially by the time he gets there.  Only the Diamondbacks and Phillies have more than one starter in the top 22.  The Twins have four. 

The point of all this?  Expect the hits to keep on coming!  Sam Deduno would be in the mid-60s on this list, for the record. 


Former Twin Update - Denard Span

The Nationals activated Span from the 7-day concussion disabled list over the weekend.  Span missed just the minimum seven days after his most recent concussion, his third since becoming a regular MLB player.  I wish Span the best and I hope he's dealt with his last concussions.  Multiple concussions really worry me, but I do think the MLB concussion protocol is improved and truly designed to make sure players are healthy before resuming play.  If he's healthy (and I have to assume he is), I'm glad he's back in action. 

Random Photoshop - Easter Bunny

Easter was yesterday and in honor of that Holiday, I thought it would be fitting to photoshop a Twins player onto the Easter Bunny's body.  I thought for a good twenty minutes about who it should be or if there was a punny name I could make.  I got nothing.  Since the photoshop is supposed to be random, I truly randomized it.  Here's my proof:

I also learned that I do know the entire active roster by heart, something my wife will no doubt appreciate the next time I forget something at the grocery store.  I made this on Saturday, so my apologies to Sam Fuld.  Kevin Correia was the winner, so here he is, in honor of Easter:

Response to a Hypothetical Facebook question

Q:  How about giving some of his salary back because he never won anything but worthless stat awards and popularity contest!

Note - This, along with a ton of additional vitriol toward Joe Mauer, was written in response to a post wishing Mauer a Happy Birthday.  The nerve of the Twins to do such a thing!

A:  Well, Mauer does contribute a fair amount of money to charities, but I'm guessing that wasn't what you meant.  He COULD give some of the money back to the team, but I'm willing to bet that you also feel that the team doesn't spend enough, so what would be the point of that? 

Those "worthless stat awards" that he has won are pretty helpful toward winning baseball games, but then, is winning baseball games really a baseball player's goal?  I can't deny the popularity contest part.  I mean, the sheer volume of aggravating comments about "Mauer the Sissy" in response to some innocuous birthday wishes pretty much sum up his "popularity." 

Random Top 10 List - Destroying the Narrative

By the way, to all the "Hey Mauer, why not get an RBI for your birthday" crowd, here's a top ten list for you.  These are players with the 10 highest batting averages with runners in scoring position since 1989 (at least 2000 career PA):

1 Tony Gwynn 1044 .359 1632 1322 702 475 98 14 29 655 221 64 .434 .520 .954 688 60 70 131
2 Paul Molitor 1043 .341 1764 1430 709 488 82 14 23 622 242 164 .422 .466 .889 667 38 71 67
3 Joey Votto 620 .339 1007 762 383 258 64 2 41 365 217 165 .479 .589 1.068 449 19 21 80
4 Miguel Cabrera 1287 .334 2157 1750 710 585 123 3 91 868 334 337 .432 .564 .996 987 101 57 180
5 Joe Mauer 857 .333 1417 1089 538 363 81 5 23 518 274 157 .455 .480 .935 523 43 45 105
6 Albert Pujols 1429 .332 2376 1778 962 591 135 3 128 979 487 180 .466 .628 1.094 1116 100 81 272
7 Adrian Gonzalez 971 .328 1565 1258 505 412 90 3 64 614 249 258 .429 .556 .985 700 50 48 126
8 Manny Ramirez 1767 .327 3053 2341 1038 765 171 7 147 1248 579 491 .454 .594 1.048 1391 122 90 212
9 Mike Sweeney 1040 .327 1721 1416 556 463 96 1 66 691 216 161 .411 .536 .947 759 56 59 61
10 Barry Bonds 1862 .326 3045 1909 1276 623 129 16 140 1061 1026 294 .550 .631 1.181 1204 58 84 607
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/19/2014.

Hmm, is that Joe Mauer behind just FOUR other players in all of baseball in the last 25 years?  But...but...he doesn't drive in runs??????  Turns out, maybe he doesn't get enough opportunity in RBI situations because he certainly converts his opportunities at a high rate. 

Hey Facebook Twins fans/Mauer haters...YOU suck.

I apologize for my actions one second ago.  It won't happen again. 

Poll Results!

Thank you very much to the 14 people who voted in the last poll.  That is a truly discouraging number.  I blame myself, as it was a very self-serving poll.  Here are the results:

Question - Who will you tire of me writing about first?
  • Chris Colabello - 1 vote
  • Aaron Hicks - 1 vote
  • Eduardo Escobar - 4 votes
  • Mike Pelfrey - 3 votes
  • Some player with a name that sounds like a bird - 5 votes
Well then.  I guess my Chickie Nolasco photo will have to wait a few weeks. 

I have posted a new poll and it's much better.  Please check it out and vote it up. 

Plugging My Way (sung to the tune of Thumbing My Way by Pearl Jam)

Actually, you know what, no singing.  I wrote about Clete Thomas for one last time and I want to share it with you. 

Also, I wrote about the national perception of the Twins and why I don't think it quite matches reality.  Of course, this last weekend doesn't help my argument but whatever.  In a post about outdated opinions, it only stands to reason that I would provide an outdated opinion.

Song of the Week

With all my talk of the Afghan Whigs and their new album, I don't want Mark Lanegan to think that I am favoring one Gutter Twin over the other.  Here's one of my favorite Lanegan solo songs:

Parting Thought

Last Monday, I wrote about Kyle Gibson and his early success.  I wasn't sold on how he was achieving his success, but I was pleased with the outcome.  This past week, he pitched his best game of the season and he looked good while doing it.  I've been sold on Gibson since the Twins drafted him and I think he's going to be in the rotation for a lot of years.  One piece of the Twins' puzzle seems to be in place; will anyone else join Gibson this season?

Have a great week, everyone! 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Forgotten Twins? Clete Thomas

My Memories of Clete Thomas

My most distinct Clete Thomas-related memory is arguing with one of his cousins on Twitter.  I actually don't know that he was Thomas's cousin, but the passion he brought to the pro-Clete side of things could only have come from a family member.  They had different last names, so I'm going with cousin instead of brother.  That's my process, the art of deduction.

Beyond my personal Clete history, Thomas was a "center fielder," a "hitter" and a "replacement" for Aaron Hicks and Darin Mastroianni.  He must be an excellent AAA player too, as he's gotten a fair amount of MLB chances.  I also remember that he hit a home run in his first game with the Twins, earning his place in the Twins' Inaccurate Perception Hall of Fame. 

Let's see what else we can learn about Clete Thomas.

Thomas was drafted in the 6th round of the 2005 draft.  He is eligible for free agency in 2018, so circle your calendars.  Thomas attended A. Crawford Mosley High School, where their motto is "Being a Dolphin is a Lifestyle."  I'm not kidding.  It is a lifestyle.  They have two mascots, "Rocky" and "Roxy" and I can't find any evidence to support that Thomas held either position. 

Thomas was with the Tigers from 2005 to 2012.  In 2008, he reached the Majors at age 24.  He hit .284/.366/.405 in 40 games.  Not bad!  He played 102 games with the Tigers in 2009, hitting .240/.324/.385.  Um, not terrible?  After just three games with the Tigers in 2012, he was DFA'd and scooped up by the crafty Twins.  He played just 12 games with the Twins in 2012, hit .143, and earned a Minor League deal for 2013 (for some reason). 

Aaron Hicks got off to a slow start in 2013 and Thomas was hot at AAA.  The Clete Thomas Bandwagon Project Experience was formed and he would eventually play a staggering 92 games for the Twins in 2013.  He hit .214/.290/.307.  He's with the Phillies now.

Thomas had a respectable walk rate in 2013.  At 9.3%, he was over a full point better than the AL average (7.9%).  Unfortunately, his 28.6% strikeout rate was over 8 points higher than the AL average (19.9%).  Thomas finished the 2013 season with a 0.4 fWAR, but that's only because he was a terrible hitter.  His fielding was actually quite good and his baserunning was fine.  Silver linings. 

His home run-to-fly ball ratio of 6% indicates that he may have been somewhat unlucky in 2013.  If you correct for his bad luck, his batting line looks much more impressive - .487/.671/.981.  Please double check my math for me.     

Thomas is from Jacksonville, Florida, so you know he's wrestled 'gators.  His Wikipedia entry is surprisingly long, but mostly just a list of things he's done as a baseball player.  Bor-ring!  His Wikipedia picture depicts him with a batting glove on his bottom hand.  The one thing I liked about Thomas was his complete lack of batting gloves.  I hope this was a poor photoshop done to defame his character.

Here are a few fun tidbits from his entry:
  • He hit his first career walk-off home run off of Danys Baez on August 20, 1999.  It was also his first career walk-off home run against anyone. 
  • While in the Minor Leagues, former Tigers' GM Dave Dombrowski referred to Thomas as "a prospect."
  • Thomas made his very first major league putout against Joey Gathright.

I found an article about Thomas signing with the Phillies where Jim Leyland refers to Thomas as a "dirtbag."  Apparently he means that in a nice way, but then why is he kneeing Thomas in the groin in the picture from the article? 

Switching to Google images, I found some pictures that aren't creepy. 





First off, when you search for Clete on eBay, there are only 144 results.  That seems low.  Most of the results are baseball cards, so that's no fun.  The best listing I found was a youth small Twins Clete Thomas shirsey.  My goodness.  I hope that kid asked for that shirt because if he got it as a gift, I imagine he was disappointed.  You know how your Grandmother kind of knows what you like but can't quite get it right?  That's how kids end up with Clete Thomas shirseys. 

Oh well, if you want one, it's just 12 bucks.  It has no bottom seam.  That seems like a metaphor, but I'm not sure.


Clete Thomas has one of those generic Facebook pages that just copies their Wikipedia entry.  BUT!  He also has a fan club that has 45 members.  It's an open group if you want to join.  I did.  My membership is currently pending.  Everyone in our group keeps referring to him as "my Tiger" which seems oddly possessive.  Clete Thomas is truly a man of the people, so maybe he set up himself as an IPO or something.  It's worth looking into. 


It's not too hard to find some quality Clete Thomas on Twitter.  Here's an odd one that must have some subtext that I am not aware of.

Apparently other players on the team are hot dogs?   

Yep, that happened just about two years ago.  Seriously.  They're teammates again (of sorts) and Revere's off to a slow start...

Do you love me?  If you don't, here's a tweet from Clete's biggest fan:

Good follow through!  He's still got a great arm. 


There are a lot of Clete Thomas highlights on YouTube, all posted illegally by a bunch of thieves.  I have no idea why MLB isn't making these thieves take down these videos so they can post them at and get all the traffic.  It's baffling.  It's to our benefit I suppose.  I found better videos though.

Here's one of a Clete Thomas bases loaded walk that was filmed from the grassy knoll.

If you look closely, you can actually see a second walker.  The second video is a walk-off sacrifice fly from MLB '09 The Show.  Either this person didn't want to play the game long enough to get a better video or they don't understand the high standards that a YouTube posting implies.  Either way, you are the winner:

I was hoping for some interviews, but no luck.  If you have any, please post links. 

Random Person

My wife is sitting right here, let's ask her.

"Yeah, wasn't he really bad but better than Hicks?" 

Tough crowd.  Not inaccurate though.  She also said something borderline offensive, but I have the right to censor.  Call me "The Goodfather."

Verdict:  Not adequately remembered

Swerve!  I'm all about swerves lately.  I was very hard on Clete Thomas last year and in this post.  I want to apologize for everything.  I took a lot of liberties, I made jokes, I made animations, but Clete Thomas is a fantastic baseball player.  I say this without any hint of sarcasm.  Clete Thomas has struggled in the Majors, but the fact that he reached the Majors is awesome. 

He fully deserves any additional MLB games that he earns in the future.  If he does reach the Majors, I may make more jokes.  I may make more animations.  I apologize for those too.  If Clete Thomas and I played a game of 1-on-1 baseball, he'd smoke me.  We'd have to figure out the rules on the fly, but he'd win.  He filled in last season when the Twins needed him and I appreciate him for that. 

Thank you, Clete.  I'm sorry, Clete.  Can I get you a beverage, Clete? 

Hi there.  Do you want to read about more potentially forgotten Twins?  Here are a few more, free of charge.  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Sky is Not Falling

Writer's block.  It's very real.  I was feeling it on Monday night.  The baby was sleeping, my wife wasn't feeling well so she was watching TV, and the dog was just sleeping like the lazy dog he is.  I was all by myself.  When I'm by myself, I often want to write.  I wanted to write something about the Twins season so far, but nothing excited me.  I couldn't think of a thing.    

As I often do when I can't think of anything to write, I read.  I read Papa Shango's Wikipedia page, but that didn't really help.  I read the back of the Lucky Charms box, but that maze just frustrated me.  Finally, I read Jonah Keri's "The 30," his form of MLB Power Rankings.  He featured the Twins this week, so there was plenty of content for a Twins-head like myself. 

Note - I want to coin the term "Twins-head." 

I found myself annoyed by his analysis.  I know, it's childish.  I agree.  I love Jonah Keri.  I just recommended his book to my 15 readers on Monday.  Even so, I just can't agree with his ranking or his analysis.  He ranked the Twins 29th, ahead of only the Astros and behind such powerhouses like the Cubs, Marlins, Mets, and Diamondbacks.  Each of these teams suck and each has a record worse than the Twins.  Yet, the Twins don't really deserve a higher ranking because, well...because...

I don't know.  They're the Twins?  He referred to the 2014 Twins as "already lousy."  Did he have that description queued up and ready to go?  Was he worried he wouldn't be able to use it later?  It doesn't seem to fit, at least not at this moment.   Besides, it sucks enough to be a fan in Minnesota, why kick us when we aren't actually fully down? 

The Twins are 6-7 now.  They have scored a lot of runs.  They do have a revamped rotation.  Isn't it possible that they could out-perform their pre-season expectations for the rest of the month...through the All-Star break...until the end of the season?  Why can't Minnesota be the surprise team of 2014?

Then again, they're 0-1 since Keri wrote this column.  Maybe he's on to something.

To validate his ranking, Keri cites the offense, showing the career slash lines of each of the starting nine.  He compliments Joe Mauer, as a smart person would.  After Mauer, it's just dismissal after dismissal.  Jason Kubel has a good line, but he was bad last year.  There's simply no way he could bounce back.  Josmil Pinto's line is impressive, but he's only had 113 plate appearances.  Chris Colabello is 30 so he couldn't possibly be this good. 

I'll just go ahead and translate:  If you've never been good, you can never be good.  That's the only explanation for just completely brushing aside Pinto and Colabello.  These guys have never accomplished a thing, so how could they possibly have good seasons?  Also, your career means nothing if your most recent accomplishment is a participant ribbon.  Jason Kubel and your career 113 OPS+ prior to a bad 2013 season?  I hope you enjoy your retirement.  Your good days are behind you, that's the only possible explanation.

Focusing on those three players also ignores three young players who could conceivably improve on the paltry numbers that are cited in "the 30."  Sure, Trevor Plouffe, Brian Dozier and Aaron Hicks look like complete stiffs when you look at their career numbers and of course, there's no way they could get better as they gain experience.  Only Plouffe has been productive so far this season.  Couldn't the other two youngsters bounce back?

He also mentions that with Oswaldo Arcia and Josh Willingham out of the lineup, the offense is "lamentable."  Did those guys lose limbs?  Are they out for the season?  It seems that Arcia could be back fairly soon and Willingham can't be too far behind.  Besides, Willingham was awful last year, so by The Jason Kubel Corollary, he won't help this year anyway.  Even so, if they return, will the lineup be fine?  I guess I don't get that part.      

The topic shifts to pitching after a quick dismissal of this two-week blip on the run-scoring radar.  Clearly the Twins can't maintain, so let's just move on, right?  The Twins wasted $84 million on Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes and Mike Pelfrey.  Of course they did!  Ignore that Ricky Nolasco has been at least league-average and throws nearly 200 innings each season (not exactly high praise, but hardly a waste of money).  Ignore Phil Hughes' potential upside due to age and a more pitcher-friendly ballpark.  Mike Pelfrey...well...he was good in 2010!  Those guys were a complete waste and in no way an upgrade over the dregs who started for the Twins from 2011-2013. 

Oh, and Kyle Gibson's been good, but don't get excited!  He's got bad command and his strikeout to walk ratio is below one.  There's simply no way that he could improve his command, perhaps to the level  that made him a good prospect.  He can't overcome his good, but lucky start.  He's never been good, so he can't be good.  Remember?

At the very end, Keri piledrives the proverbial dead horse, lamenting that the Twins better not be relying upon Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano to reverse their fortunes.  Those two aren't enough.  Don't mention the other young prospects in the system or any of the young players already on the roster.  That would ruin a good closing paragraph. 

To summarize, all the Twins' good is fools' gold and all the bad is 100% real and sadly spectacular.  The wheels will fall off.  The train will go off the tracks.  No soup for you. 

There seems to be a national narrative, and it's mostly coming from the statistically-inclined, that the Twins are miles behind organizations like the Cubs and Astros.  The Twins are a joke and those teams are on the right track.  I guess I don't see it.  Sure, the Twins don't go for broke with stats, but does that make their farm system less impressive?  Does that change the budget that has ample room for spending?  Does that change the fact that this regime has built a perennial winner once before?

The Astros are the darlings of the baseball world and they haven't done anything.  They blew it all up, but they haven't rebuilt a single thing yet.  The Cubs were getting Wild Card buzz.  There's no way.  That team is awful.  The White Sox finished behind the Twins in 2013 and good luck finding a single expert who thinks the same will happen in 2014.  This is despite the fact that they did almost nothing to improve their team and their farm system-cupboard is almost completely bare. 

But then, who really cares?  Who cares what the experts think?  Who cares what the national perception is?  Why does that matter to me?  To you?  To anyone?  And yet, it does.  It got me upset for a brief while.  It made me write a 1300-word rebuttal of sorts.  If the entire expert community thinks the Twins are terrible, there's still a chance that they could be anything but terrible.  None of this matters; it's just fun and games. 

In a week, the Twins could be 6-12 and deservedly in the 29th spot of Keri's MLB Power Rankings.  Right now, the Twins aren't the second-worst team in baseball because they've won more games than quite a few teams.  Maybe they shouldn't have won those games, but they did.  

I guess I don't see things the exact same way as everyone else.  Or exactly as the experts see things.  That's ok.  I do wish for once that my favorite team could make everyone look like fools instead of simply looking like fools themselves.  For now, I'll just enjoy the Twins' terrible, yet productive offense and hope that they can keep winning at least as many games as they lose.    

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday Morning Madness - April 14, 2014

Weekend Recap

The Twins bounced back from a bad sweep to execute a good sweep!  They got three good starts and won three games.  What a concept!  In addition, the AL's second-best offense scored 21 runs and the bullpen threw 4.2 scoreless innings.  The Twins dismantled the Royals.  They made them look like little babies.  They stole their marbles.  Too much?

Kyle Gibson has been the Twins' best starting pitcher through the first 12 games.  He's 2-0, he has an ERA of 1.59 and if he keeps pitching as he has, he'll be in Rochester by July.  SWERVE!  It's true though.  Gibson has pitched well, but he's doing some things could lead to future heartbreak.  His ground ball rate is very encouraging, sitting at an elite 58.8%.  By way of keeping the ball on the ground, he has yet to give up a home run.  These are good things, of course. 

He's been fortunate though.  His BABIP currently sits at .235, which is not only low but unsustainably low for a ground ball-pitcher.  His strand rate is 87.5%, which is a combination of holding runners well, limiting big innings and luck.  Off paper, Gibson's command has not looked solid so far, and his 16.7% walk rate backs up that observation.  He cannot carry a .75 strikeout-to-walk ratio much longer and expect to keep his ERA under five, much less two. 

You'd rather have a fortunate start than an unfortunate start, so we should be happy with Gibson to this point.  Hopefully, he will start to tighten up his command while keeping the elite ground ball rate.  If that happens, he will have a very nice season. 

I have been very impressed with Plouffe this season.  His numbers are great, no doubt, but watching him hit, he looks to have put some conscious effort into changing his approach.  It's really paying off so far.  Through Saturday, Plouffe is seeing 4.17 pitches per plate appearance, nearly .5 pitches per plate appearance better than his career figure.  His new approach specifically jumped out to me in the 8th inning of the Sunday game.

The Twins started the inning down 3-2 and Pedro Florimon and Brian Dozier walked to give the Twins first and second with no outs.  Joe Mauer struck out (sad) and up came Plouffe.  Rather than swing out of his shoes at questionable pitches, Plouffe worked the count, worked a walk and extended the inning.  In the Twins' next at-bat, Wade Davis gave the Twins an early birthday present and the Twins went on to a 4-3 win and a sweep.

Plouffe currently sits at .326/.446/.413.  Against right-handed pitching (as of Saturday), he's batting .344/.462/.406.  His line drive rate is about 11 points higher than his career-average.  His walk rate is nearly double his career-average.  If he has reversed these three bug-a-boos from his past, he could easily maintain this performance all year.  

I don't have analysis here, just an apology.  Jason Kubel, I was wrong about you.  I wanted the Twins to cut you after spring training.  I preferred Chris Colabello as the Twins' DH.  I forgot about the times you made my life special in the past.  I'm glad the Twins saw past a slow start in spring training and remembered the ability that you have.  Jason Kubel, I am sorry. 

Kubel has been the Twins' best hitter so far and a big reason why the offense has been much better than expected.  There are plenty of reasons to be wary of his hot start, but I already used stats to ruin one life today and I have a strict one ruined life limit per post.  Let's just enjoy his renaissance. 


Former Twin Update - Frank Viola
This is glorious news.  Back in March, a physical revealed that Viola had a heart issue that required surgery.  Surgery is always a big deal and heart surgery magnifies the seriousness significantly.  The fact that Viola is out of the hospital and ready for rehab is truly great news.  I hope he makes a full recovery and gets back to baseball.  Now, what do we need to do to get him back in the Twins' organization?

Random Link/Mini-Rant - Patrick Reusse's Mauer article

Patrick Reusse of the Star Tribune and ESPN 1500 wrote a piece about Joe Mauer this week.  It was kind of your typical "here's what Joe Mauer doesn't do and here's what he should do" piece that honestly, bores the daylights out of me.  I like Reusse, don't get me wrong, but his clear anti-Mauer stance does not jive with my own beliefs. 

Nick Nelson at Twins Daily wrote all about Mauer as a lightning rod and it generated a ton of discussion.  You can read his article here and you should because it's really well-written and poses an interesting question. 

Going back to Reusse's article, he compares Mauer in 2014 to Roy Smalley in 1979.  He wants Mauer to "put the rebuilding 2014 Twins on his back" and lead them like Smalley did back in '79 when the Twins were in a similar position.  He cites Smalley's ridiculous first half (.372/.452/.595 prior to July 5) as evidence and certainly, Smalley deserves a lot of credit for that performance. 

I think this article ignores three major things.  First, baseball is the ultimate team sport.  One player cannot carry a team regardless of how strong your narrative is.  Mike Trout put together two transcendent seasons in 2012 and 2013 and the Angels played in zero playoff games.  Second, Roy Smalley wishes he was Joe Mauer.  Smalley finshed his 1979 season with a 110 OPS+ a figure that Mauer has eclipsed in seven of his nine full seasons. 

Finally, it ignores the fact that regardless of what we all want Joe Mauer to be, Joe Mauer is who Joe Mauer is.  He's fantastic at avoiding outs (one of the best in this generation), he's quiet and he's not going to change his approach to satisfy our desires.  We (as fans and observers) can either pine for Mauer to become a completely different player after ten seasons as "Joe Mauer - Nice OBP Guy" or we can accept his greatness even if it doesn't look like the greatness of other great players. 

I've flipped on Mauer over the years.  I used to call him a "glorified singles hitter" with impunity.  I've found my own solace with Mauer's greatness in recent years and I've enjoyed his work a lot more as a result.  Articles like Reusse's are great for the "rah-rah" element of sports that we do love, but challenging a great player to be an even greater player to fit someone else's mold of greatness?  What's the point?

AIM chat with 16-year-old Brad

    BSwanson0928:  Hey Brad.
    KPuckFan34123456:  What?  I'm watching Power Rangers.
    BSwanson0928:  You tell everyone that you hate Power
    Rangers.  Stop doing that, just be you.  Guess who got
    the save for the Rockies on Saturday night?
    KPuckFan34123456:  Um, I have no idea.  
    BSwanson0928:  You'll never guess.  He's on the Twins in 
    1999 and you really don't like him.
    KPuckFan34123456:  Denny Hocking?
    BSwanson0928:  Yep, great guess.  I can see why you're 
    getting straight Cs right now.  He's a pitcher.
    KPuckFan34123456:  Um, probably a young guy...Dan
    BSwanson0928:  Who?  No, LaTroy Hawkins.
    KPuckFan34123456:  WHAT?!?!?
    BSwanson0928:  IKR?
    KPuckFan34123456:  What?
    BSwanson0928:  Oh, in the future we don't have time to type
    words.  We're all busy playing The Simpsons: Tapped Out.
    KPuckFan34123456:  Wait, what's that?
    BSwanson0928:  It's a video game on the iPad. 
    KPuckFan34123456:  What's an iPad?
    BSwanson0928:  It's like a computer with no keyboard and
    a touch screen.  
    KPuckFan34123456:  Hmm, that sounds productive.
    BSwanson0928:  That's why we shorten "i know, right" to
    IKR.  We're very busy screwing around.
    KPuckFan34123456:  That sounds really cool.  Hawkins 
    is a starter, he has a career ERA over six.
    BSwanson0928:  Yeah, I know, it's shocking.  In 2000, the
    Twins make him a reliever and he's pretty good at it.  He's 
    inconsistent at first, but he's still pitching at 41 in 2014.  
    KPuckFan34123456:  Wow, is there like really good
    medicine in 2014? 
    BSwanson0928:  Well, yes, in Washington and Colorado,
    but that's a totally different story.  He's just in great shape
    and he's always thrown hard.
    KPuckFan34123456:  Huh, strange.  I guess I can tape his
    rookie cards back together then.
    BSwanson0928:  I wouldn't bother, baseball cards are on
    holograms and stuff now.  The paper stuff isn't popular.  
    KPuckFan34123456:  Ah, bummer.  Ok, I'm going to get 
    back to Livin' la Vida Loca.  The lifestyle, not the song.  Bye.
    BSwanson0928:  Ah, now I remember why we had so many
    friends.  Take care.  Bye.

If you aren't sure how I can communicate with my past selves with AOL instant messenger, here's the explanation.

Pie Charts?

I wrote a little ditty about 3-0 take signs last Wednesday.  In the post, I feigned anger about the automatic 3-0 take but then learned a valuable lesson.  If you missed the post, here's a link.  If you prefer a summary, here are some dope pie charts that I made with my gangster math/Excel skills:

Batter outcomes on a 3-0 count

Batter outcomes on a 3-1 count

Batter outcomes on a 3-2 count

You're actually more likely to make an out than get a hit with a 3-0 count, if you swing.  If you just stand there, you'll walk or get hit by a pitch over 92% of the time.  What conclusions can you draw?  Please respond in 3-5 complete sentences and use at least one of our vocab words.    

Random Plug - Jonah Keri's book

I just finished Jonah Keri's Up, Up & Away:  The Kid, The Hawk, Rock, Vladi, Pedro, Le Grand Orange, Youppi!, The Crazy Business of Baseball, & the Ill-Fated but Unforgettable Montreal Expos and it was fantastic.  The title is impressively long and the book is impressively detailed.  He talks with former players, coaches, executives and fans to give a comprehensive look at a team with a surprisingly complex and elaborate story.  I highly recommend this book to baseball fans and I challenge a Twins fan/writer to write a similar book for me to read.  It's all about what I want. 

Baseball Card of the Week

Yes!  Look at how young these two look!  Trevor Plouffe absolutely knows how handsome he is.  It's the only explanation for that pose.  Here's a look at your two best offensive players on the 2014 Twins so far.  When this photo was taken 11 years ago, the Twins would have been extremely pleased to know that these two would make up 2/9ths of their 2014 starting lineup.  Their journeys to where they are today were completely different, but in the end, I believe that these are two prospect success stories. 

Song of the Week

I'm branching out, but only slightly.  I'm going to include a song of week because I think it's fun.  If you hate my musical tastes, just leave a really nasty comment like a civilized adult. 

The Afghan Whigs will release their first new album in 16 years on Tuesday, April15.  I will be up at midnight when my pre-order becomes available.  I plan to listen to it once, sleep for an hour, listen again, sleep for an hour, etc.  My wife will divorce me around 4am.  Here's a classic song by this extremely underrated band:

Parting Thought

Sitting at 6-6, the Twins are exceeding their paltry expectations.  I believe we were in this position last year, as the Twins weren't terrible in April of 2013 either.  That said, I think this 2014 team has a better chance to maintain this level of success.  Their starting pitching is improved and starting to show it.  The offense is clearly better than we expected and the bullpen should be reliable.  I predicted 75 wins before the season and I've seen nothing yet to make me back off on that prediction.

Have a great week, everyone!