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:

Exactly. 

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! 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Monday Morning Madness: August 4, 2014

Weekend Recap
I managed to catch the entire series this weekend, but I also had a pretty nasty fever so I'm not really sure what I did and did not see.  I've nearly recovered, but this is still going to be a bit on the short side because I'm all out of cool washcloths.  I'm pretty sure I saw a beatdown on Sunday, but that just doesn't seem right.  I know the Twins took two of three in Chicago and that's always fun.

My friend sent me a text last week and he was wondering when the last time the Twins had a guy come up from the Minors and completely exceed expectations.  I couldn't come up with anyone off the top of my head, but Santana is the obvious answer.  He's been outstanding at the plate and he's played a pretty competent center despite being an infielder and inspiring this movie poster:


Over the weekend, Santana had a dynamite series.  He went 0-5 on Friday, but I can't blame him because that giant swamp monster in the outfield was really creating havoc for everyone.  Then, from Saturday to Sunday, he went gonzo.  He went 7-10 with a double, triple, home run, two walks, two stolen bases, five RBI and five runs scored.  Santana is an exciting player with game-changing speed.  I'm not sure he should be kept in center, but he might just be outstanding regardless of where he plays.

Santana's counterpart in center is a pretty exciting player himself.  Adam Eaton was all over the place this weekend.  He's a pest, but I respect him.  Although, on Saturday, he singled, then ran up a rainbow and punched a hornless unicorn and got thrown out at second.  I cannot condone those baseball and non-baseball actions.  Just reckless.

Josh Willingham wasn't terrible this weekend, although he did go 1-7 during Sunday's hit parade.  I don't remember his dragon wings from before, but I'm guessing they help him in the field?  The Twins weren't able to trade Willingham before the deadline and might not be able to move him before the end of August.  If that happens, I think the Twins need to play Willingham sparingly in September. 

I appreciate Willingham's contributions to the Twins, but by September, he'll be in the final month of his contract and extremely unlikely to return.  Even if he starts breathing fire, I don't think he changes the Twins' fortunes in 2014, so it makes way more sense to get more at-bats for players who will be in Minnesota in 2015 and beyond. 

Gibson has taken over as the Twins' best starter, as his ERA is lower than Phil Hughes' and that's the only stat I can look up without getting up.  Gibson was good on Sunday and six strikeouts in seven innings is a great recipe for Gibson success.  That one pitch he threw that sunk under the plate and then popped back up into Eric Fryer's glove was particularly nasty.  I'm not sure if it was completely legal, but it was something to see. 

Former Twin Update - Sam Fuld
The Twins were quiet at the trade deadline, disappointing Brad Swanson and likely some other people.  I hoped they would make more moves so that I could complain about them on Twitter, but it didn't work out that way.  The Twins were able to parlay an early-season waiver claim into a 27-year-old starter with some MLB success.  While I am not a huge Tommy Milone fan, even I have to admit that this was a fantastic trade.  Fuld appears to be the World Series favorite's starting center fielder, thus nullifying the second part of the first part of this sentence.

Baseball Card from the past?

I really don't remember Will Clark's face being quite so melty, but that's what I see on my screen.  In the days before photoshop, you really saw the players' facial imperfections, huh?  It seems completely irresponsible and insensitive of Topps to match the background to his face.  Just classless; he can't help who he is.

Fun Stat - Sunday's Game
During Sunday's game, the Twins had back-to-back-to-back home runs, an inning when they batted around, a 5-hit game and a giant half lizard-half toad playing first base.  I am 100% certain that this combination of events has never happened in an MLB game.  If you know whether or not the first three feats are unique on their own, please make sure to leave a comment. 

I'm pretty sure I'm not hallucinating that hair, right?

Plugging My Way
I wrote a bunch of words about the Hall of Fame last week.  I read these posts again this weekend and it seems like I made some pretty outlandish statements.  I think I inducted a Yeti into the Hall of Fame, but you'll just have to read to find out.  Here's part one and here's part two.

Was it just me or were Joe Mauer's sideburns growing on the field on Saturday?

Parting Thought

It was really irritating to have to see all those pink and purple flashes on the screen all weekend.  I hope that whatever Fox Sports North was attempting with this new feature is very short-lived.  It was impossible to concentrate on the action with those periodic splotches.  I turned off the TV for a little while, but then it just turned itself back on.  Anyway, I'm feeling a lot better now and I'm looking forward to seeing if the Twins can take a home series against a pretty poor Padres team.  Have a great week, everyone!