Monday, September 8, 2014

I'm Still Around!

Good morning everyone!  I apologize for the lack of activity on this blog over the last month.  I really miss sharing my thoughts on the Twins and other related subjects.  I appreciate those of you who have reached out to check in on me.  Everything is great and I appreciate your concern!  There have been a series of events that have kept me from my computer and kept me from watching Twins baseball.

First, my wife and I sold our house.  We sold it quickly too.  So quickly that we don't have a new place just yet.  We're staying with very understanding and accommodating family, so we're in good shape.  Second, my school started back up and we've been extremely busy.  Most of the nights I used to devote to writing are being devoted to my school.  I'm happy to do that, but it really gets in the way of a good Kennys Vargas KWL chart.  I've been begging my school to add Vargas Studies to our curriculum, but I keep getting shot down.  Third, it's wedding season and we're in the thick of it.  I swear every person I've ever met is getting married between 8/2014 and 9/2014.  It's wild.

These events are all positive, but when they compounded, the time to absorb Twins baseball enough to post a cogent thought and a silly photoshop is simply not there.  Plus, I haven't watched a lot of games and it would be disingenuous to write about something that I haven't seen.  Now, if you want my analysis of how awful wedding music is or how to Tetris-ly fill a storage locker with everything you own, please reach out.  

I am hopeful that things will slow down in the next couple of weeks and I can get you some hardcore analysis.  I have plans to write about the ten best performances in the Twins organization in 2014.  I have plans to analyze the 40-man roster and look at free agent targets.  I have plans to take Oswaldo Arcia's hair and photoshop it onto important historical figures.  These are the things I want to share with you and I want to share them very soon.

I do have some very quick Twins thoughts that I just can't keep inside me any longer.  Because I am still short on time, these thoughts will be only half-baked, slightly less baked than my typical 60%-baked thoughts.

Eduardo Escobar will reach 400 at-bats, likely in his next game.  When I invented the Eddie 400, it was all about giving an opportunity to a younger player with more potential.  I had no idea he would seize his opportunity so greatly.  In fact, when I do write about the ten best performances in the Twins' organization, Escobar will likely be one of the ten.  Plus, that smile.

Aaron Hicks is back, which pleases me greatly.  He's finally getting some ground ball luck too.  Just watching this weekend, I saw at least two ground balls that actually found holes instead of gloves.  While Hicks hasn't consistently hit the ball hard as a Twin, his .266 career BABIP is shockingly low for someone with his speed and power-potential.  He has been quite horrible as a Twin, but I still think he can be a valuable piece going forward.  His current .347 OBP would be in the top 50 in the Majors if he qualified.  Hey, he has a skill!

These are too baked, it's time to move to some true quick-hits!
  • Kennys Vargas is a monster who does monstrous things to baseballs.  No analysis here, he's just really fun to watch. 
  • Josmil Pinto is back in Minnesota, so I can finally stop crying.  
  • Kyle Gibson looks tired.  Not like he didn't sleep well but like he's thrown a lot of innings.  He's already past his total from last season and he's improved substantially in year two.  I think he could really break out next season.
  • Oswaldo Arica continues to be my favorite player despite a complete lack of any sort of discipline.  Who am I kidding?  That's why he's my favorite player!
  • Uh, Phil Hughes was a pretty good signing.  
  • Uh, Ricky Nolasco was a pretty unfortunate signing.  I think he's much better next year though.  Of course, that's a bit akin to saying that Fall will be colder than Summer.  
Well, that's all I've got.  A month away and I can't muster up more than this?  I'm excited to get back to regular posts.  Hopefully, I can keep battling and grind out some good posts.  Have a good day, everyone!

Friday, August 15, 2014

My Talk to Contact Appearance

Good morning everyone!  My apologies for not posting this week.  Of course, the Twins played the Astros this week, so does that really count as baseball?  I did appear on the Talk to Contact podcast last evening.  It was fun and the hosts were very nice.  That's how a six-year-old would describe it, sure, but it's true.

You should really be listening to this podcast and not just this episode because I'm on it and you want to hear what I sound like (it's unpleasant, spoiler).  This podcast combines great Twins talk with a really fun, light atmosphere.  All of the hosts are great, super nice people and they know their Twins baseball.  If you haven't checked it out, listen to this episode and you'll be hooked.

Here's the link to episode 95.

Once you're hooked, subscribe on iTunes and leave them a five-star review.  That's the best way to get the word out.

In my segment, we talked for almost ten minutes about various topics like putting players' heads on bird bodies, how to name a podcast/blog and why I think Eduardo Escobar should retire when he hits 399 plate appearances.  I also pledged to join him in retirement if he goes down that path.  We'll see how it all plays out.

Here are some very abbreviated Twins thoughts, just to prove I'm still paying attention:
If you are curious about the bird thing, you can check out my "Funny" Stuff archive here.  There's all kinds of silly stuff in there, some of which might be amusing for a few seconds.  I hope to be back with new stuff next week.  If not, I'll eat an entire pizza to make it up to you.  Have a great weekend, everyone!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday Morning Madness: August 11, 2014

Weekend Recap
Well said, me.

I'm not going to dwell on May's debut.  He was wild; he was nervous.  It wouldn't shock me if we just witnessed one of May's only truly disastrous starts of his career.  One start doesn't mean much to me.  I still think that May can be a good 3rd/4th starter on a good team.  I like his durability and the fact that his stuff can play better than a 3/4.  I like that he seems to have an affable personality, likely perfect for shrugging off a rocky debut. 

It would have been awesome if May had come out and fired off eight shutout innings with a bunch of strikeouts and no walks.  Maybe he's saving that performance for Minnesota.  Yeah, that's what he's doing.  He's got flair!  I just hope the Twins don't overreact to one bad start and send him away.  I don't think that's likely, so I'm not even going to address it further. 
I'm not sure when this happened, but I've become a pretty big Trevor Plouffe fan.  I've been impressed with him this season.  His batting average is still nothing special, but he's improved his walk rate enough to post a respectable OBP.  In fact, his .322 OBP is just slightly higher than the AL average (.319).  His SLG is better than the AL average, thanks to 31 doubles.  He only has 8 home runs, but his HR/FB% is down about five percentage points from his career rate.

Most importantly, he's become an adequate defender at third.  He doesn't have a ton of range, but he makes routine plays.  His arm is no longer a danger to the fans behind first, which is great because his arm has always been very strong, just not very accurate. 

I tweeted earlier this week that Plouffe would be on pace for about a 3.5 rWAR season.  He did miss some games, so he won't get there.  Only 7 third basemen reached 3.5 rWAR or better in 2013.  Most likely, Plouffe won't be the Twins' third baseman at this time next season, but he's rounded into a pretty nice player.  My question to you - is Trevor Plouffe, based on his first-round pedigree, a disappointment?  I'm curious what everyone thinks.  I'll weigh in later.  I need a sandwich.

Youth Movement
While May's debut did not go well, it does seem to signify that the Twins are furthering their "youth movement."  Kennys Vargas made his debut just a couple weeks back.  Ryan Pressley is back on the roster.  Danny Santana is basically the starting center fielder.  The Twins have even taken looks at Logan Darnell and Jorge PolancoEduardo Escobar has proved that he's an MLB player in some capacity.  Oswaldo Arcia has awesome hair.  Every player in this paragraph is either 25 or younger. 

As I wrote last week, I want this movement to continue.  I hope to see Alex Meyer, Michael Tonkin, Josmil Pinto and (gasp) Aaron Hicks before the season ends.  If the Twins are truly committed to seeing what they have in their young, on-the-cusp players, then those four should be on the MLB team before too many games pass by. 

Former Twin Update - Kevin Correia
Well, well, well, the Twins found a taker for Mr. Correia.  The Dodgers now employ two of the more maligned former Twins of the past decade in Correia and Drew Butera.  I bid Correia a very fond adieu.  I was extremely critical of his signing, but I have been very satisfied with his performance over the last two seasons.  I could try to explain my feelings with my words, but why do that when someone else nailed it:


Weekly Josmil Pinto Update
I'm adding this section and including it every Monday until Pinto is recalled.  Hopefully, there aren't many updates. 

Pinto was 0-4 on Sunday, completely justifying this section.  However, if you throw out that game, he had hit .357/.444/.643 in five games this week.  He had four doubles.  He had a sacrifice fly.  That kind of selfless play goes a long way with coaches and managers. 

I know, there's nowhere to put Pinto right now.  He isn't polished enough to catch and Kennys Vargas is about to become the full-time DH with Joe Mauer (remember that guy) coming back this week.  I don't care.  Find a way.  Listen to A Tribe Called Quest (or Amy Grant) for inspiration. 

Fun Stat - Doubles
Eduardo Escobar is tied with Jose Abreu for 10th in the AL with 29 doubles.  It seems like a good time to remind everyone that he was behind Pedro Florimon on the depth chart when the season started.  Pedro Florimon was batting .108/.194/.154 when the Twins finally switched to Escobar on May 7. 

Just a reminder -

Some of us were ahead of the curve.  Please play this song while you think about that.  

Let's Get Excited About a Prospect - Max Murphy
Two Minor League sections?  The MLB club isn't too great, I think it's justified.  Murphy was so good at Appalachian League Baseball that he was promoted to Cedar Rapids a couple weeks back.  He was batting .298/.365/.489 for the Kernels going into Sunday's game.  His plate discipline isn't great, as he has 18 strikeouts with just one walk. 

Wait, how can his OBP be so much higher than his batting average with just one walk?  He's been hit by four pitches in 52 plate appearances.  He was hit six times in the Appy League.  He's been great at getting hit, which might be a replicable skill, right?  Does this guy just have one of those faces?  If so, he should probably roll with it.  If he can add 40 points to his OBP by being "hit-able," then he could be set. 

Plugging My Way
You know that feeling when you're really proud of something and then it takes you 15 seconds to find something better?  On Friday, I wrote about the Twins selecting their 5th hot dog.  I thought it was pretty clever.  Then, I went to Twinkie Town later that morning and read this piece by RandBall's Stu and I realized that I am but a tadpole to his giant, agile frog.  Read them both, but I'm going to be honest, I enjoyed the Jade Idol piece more. 

Parting Thoughts
The Twins were leading in the 9th inning against the Padres on Wednesday.  I had a tweet fired up because that win would have put the Twins on a 75-win pace.  Of course, they didn't win that game, then they lost three of four in Oakland.

Now, they're on a 72-win pace.  That's still better than the last three seasons, but not the big improvement I was expecting.  Plus, the Twins have been known to coast through September.  It's looking like another sub-70-win season.  Hopefully, it's the last one.  Have a great week, everyone!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Twins to select 5th Hot Dog after Friday's Game

Looking to bolster a somewhat depleted and disappointing hot dog rotation, the Minnesota Twins will add a fifth hot dog to their hot dog starting rotation.  In order to make the best possible decision, the Twins will wait until after Friday night's game.  While the new hot dog will not debut in front of the home crowd until after the current road trip, many fans are paying close attention to which hot dog will be selected.

Schweigert, the Twins' hot dog vendor, currently provides four hot dog options:  The Dugout Dog, The Dinger Dog, the Twins Big Dog and the Original Twins Dog.  In selecting a fifth hot dog, the Twins will need to decide between the Minnesota Dog and the Kelsobasa hot dog, a play on this hot dog's Washington roots and the popular kielbasa sausage. 

The Minnesota Dog is a hot dog very similar to the Original Twins Dog and a hot dog that many Twins fans are used to because of how similar it is to their traditional hot dogs.  The Kelsobasa hot dog is considered to be the more exciting and talented option, although it is new and young and that scares some members of the front office and coaching staff.  Count Ron Gardenhire among those leery of the Kelsobasa hot dog:

"For me, I want a hot dog that I can rely on.  I don't need bells and whistles.  I need a dog that will play hard in my stomach without leaving a bad aftertaste.  If I'm going to be honest, the Minnesota Dog sounds like an attractive option.  It reminds me of the Twins Dog and I like that familiarity.  I've never had a Kelsobasa and that makes me nervous."

Fans appear to be divided.  Some fans prefer the more familiar Minnesota dog, much like Gardenhire.  Others have heard about the Kelsobasa Dog from various websites and news sources and are intrigued by the hot dog's upside.  Many feel this Kelsobasa hot dog could be a mainstay at Target Field while the Minnesota Dog is not different enough to be a fixture in the hot dog rotation.  Gerald Reid of Andover is one of those fans:

"If the Twins add another freaking pitch-to-contact hot dog like the Minnesota Dog, I'll be beyond upset.  I'm ready for a more exciting hot dog.  We've basically been eating Minnesota Dogs since the 90s and I'm sick of it!" 

When pressed to explain how a hot dog can pitch-to-contact, Reid repeatedly apologized for the mixed metaphor and ran off crying.

It is possible that the Twins will add the Minnesota Dog and then replace another similar, but more established hot dog with the Kelsobasa Dog down the line.  However, the Twins have been slow to adapt to the concession-related evolution in Major League Baseball.  Some fans are worried that the Twins will not act even though the time is right and even though they've said all the right things about trying to add more zip to their hot dog selection.  Andrew Mathis of New Hope has that very concern:

"My biggest worry is that the Kelsobasa Dog will be at Target Field for a few weeks, not perform to a high standard that has been unreasonably set and then disappear for a long time.  The Twins are prone to going back to the safe option.  If that happens, we could be eating Minnesota and Twins dogs for a really long time." 

An anonymous member of the Twins' front office explained that the choice is ultimately not all that important.  The casual fan is likely not very aware of either option and will simply listen to what Dick Bremer thinks of the new hot dog. 

Regardless of their choice, the new hot dog will arrive from Schweigert's little-known Rochester distribution center prior to Saturday's game, even though the Twins are currently in Oakland.  It is logical to assume that the new hot dog will wear the same wrapper as it wore while with Rochester.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

5 more moves I'd make to improve the Minnesota Twins

A couple months ago, I proposed a few moves that I thought the Twins should make to improve their team.  Of those five moves, the Twins completed 1.5.  It might be fun to try to top that 30% success rate in August.  I have five more moves that I feel would improve the Twins or at least create a better fit for a franchise that appears to still be rebuilding.  These aren't all moves that need to be made immediately, but should be considered as soon as they become reasonable and/or possible.

You'll notice a trend with my suggestions.  The Twins have work to do to make these moves.  That's kind of the job of the Front Office though.  I'm just a guy with Microsoft Word and access to the internet.

Move #1 - Find someone willing to take Kevin Correia for anything and promote Trevor May

This has kind of gone on long enough.  May isn't perfect and I don't think he projects to be anything more than a 4th starter (a valuable one though, read this).  However, he's done just about everything he can do at AAA.  Has he been inconsistent at times?  Sure.  Is he a young pitcher?  Yes.  There, inconsistency explained. 

Correia's two-year contract worked about as well as it possibly could have.  He's been serviceable for 53 starts and he's performed better than just about anyone expected.  He's also a free agent in about two months and very unlikely to return.  If the Twins can get a player who can fill a role in the Minors, they should take that player, call up May and start thinking about the future. 

Move #2 - Find someone willing to take Josh Willingham for anything and install Chris Parmelee and Oswaldo Arcia into the everyday lineup until the end of the season

Along those same lines, Josh Willingham needs to go.  I like Willingham.  He was excellent in 2012.  He...he seemed like a nice guy from 2013-2014.  Of course, he's also hit .212/.348/.383 while being that nice guy.  His trade market has evaporated and we can always argue later about whether or not he should have been traded after his big 2012 season.  The fact is, Willingham is not part of the future and he's clogging up the lineup/outfield.  He might net the Twins a prospect in return, but he might just be worth a million bucks or something. 

Oswaldo Arcia is definitely part of the future and he's starting to break out of his slump as well.  He needs to be cleared to start every day.  I also think that he's a better left fielder than right fielder, despite his arm being better suited for right.  If I'm right, moving Willingham opens left for Arcia and right field for Parmelee. 

I'm not a huge Parmelee fan, but I think just about everyone would be interested to see what he could do with two months of consistent at-bats.  I'm not sure he's ever gotten that kind of playing time over the course of the last three seasons.  Even if he flops, at least then the Twins know that they cannot rely on him as a stop-gap solution or bench option.  These are the kinds of things a team can figure out during a lost season. 

Move #3 - Find someone willing to take Jared Burton and promote Alex Meyer to the bullpen

Jared Burton, meet Kevin Correia and Josh Willingham.  It's the same situation as described before, so I won't go into it in too much detail.  Jared, you were good for a year, you're nice, we like you, but it's time.  There.  That conversation gets easier each time you have it. 

Adding Meyer to the bullpen might seem controversial, but there are very practical reasons why it makes sense.  First, Meyer has already exceeded his workload total from last year by about 40 innings.  He's also approaching his Minor League-high that he set in 2012. 

Second, he's got great stuff and would likely thrive in the bullpen.  Imagine seeing a 6'9" warrior throwing 100 MPH fastballs at your dome.  He'd be a lot of fun to watch, no doubt.  It's a temporary move, so drop your pitchfork.  Next season, he'd be in the Twins' rotation. 

Speaking of the Twins rotation, and third, the Twins rotation is pretty full.  With May being added (see above), Kyle Gibson, and Phil Hughes, three spots are taken.  Tommy Milone might be joining them at some point too.  Yohan Pino has done little to lose his spot, but Ricky Nolasco is coming back soon.  If Nolasco replaces Pino, there's nowhere to put Meyer.  If Nolasco has a setback, Pino has likely earned the right to keep his job, at least for now. 

Putting Meyer in the bullpen is a temporary move to get him some MLB experience while limiting his innings and unleashing his talent for the fans.  It's pretty win-win-win if you ask me.  Plus, lots of guys get their start in the Majors out of position.  For example...

Move #4 - Find more starts for Danny Santana at short

Of course, there does come a time when you have to start playing that player at their natural, and therefore best position.  Danny Santana has been fantastic this season.  He's more than exceeded his expectations and has done so while filling in at a position that he had played just 25 times in the Minors.  That said, he's a shortstop and shortstop is the most important position on the diamond.  If the Twins view Santana as part of the future, it should be at short. 

Everyone knows that I live and breathe the Eddie 400, but everyone needs a day off from time to time.  Santana is versatile, but Eduardo Escobar is more versatile (so long as he stays in the infield).  Escobar should coast to 400 plate appearances, and could use an occasional day off himself. 

With Escobar able to play short about half of the remaining games and fill in at second and third and rest in the others, Santana would be left with about 20-25 games at short.  He was still developing at that position, so those extra games could be very important.  It would be silly to harm Santana's development at short just because the Twins' roster is completely devoid of a good center field option (yes, including Jordan Schafer).  They'll just have to make it work, but not at Santana's expense.   

Move #5 - Find a way to get Josmil Pinto onto the MLB roster

I'm not offering any advice on this one.  I'm not the one who sent him to AAA because he was slumping while playing irregularly.  I'm not the one who values his defense more than his offense.  I'm not the one who jumped Kennys Vargas past AAA, effectively clogging the DH spot when Joe Mauer returns.  I'm not the one who extended a catcher having a career-year to block Pinto's chances at starting for 2015 and possibly 2016. 

All I know is that Pinto is still showing good plate discipline, power and promise with Rochester and I still firmly believe that he is one of the Twins' four or five best hitters right now.  Pinto will be 26 next season and he owns a 125 OPS+ in 241 MLB plate appearances.  He had a tough May and was injured in July, but he's healthy now and ready to come crush some baseballs.  As I pointed out many times before, this is a lost season.  It's time to see what all the kids can do.

For the record, I like Kennys Vargas and I'm glad he's on the roster, so let's not focus on that one part, please.

What do you think of my roster management?  Is it too much veteran-slashing?  Too much rookie-lusting?  If nothing else, it would be more exciting to watch a team with May, Meyer and Pinto than Correia, Burton and Eric Fryer.  Nothing against those guys, I'm sure they are very nice.

What moves would you make?  Would you hire me as your GM?  Will you hire me as your GM?  Sound off in the comments or send me a slideshow!