Friday, October 19, 2012

2012 Twins Report Card

I am a teacher by trade.  I am a teacher period.  One of the most important parts of teaching is giving quality feedback.  Students need to understand what mistakes they are making and how they can fix them.  It is equally important to provide good feedback to students when they do something well.  Without feedback, students have a hard time understanding whether or not they met expectations. 

Grades are given because they are fairly universal.  Most people know what an A or an F is.  Although, a letter by itself is not effective either.  Combining a letter grade with good feedback can help a student understand where they are successful and what they need to work toward.  The Twins are a work-in-progress.  They need reinforcement for what they are doing well and they need instruction on what they can do better.  Who better to give them this feedback than some random Middle School Social Studies teacher with just enough free time to write about the Twins a couple times per week?

Can someone mail this report card to the proper place for me?

Language Arts

Teacher Feedback:
The Twins have shown both increased creativity and decreased creativity during the same period of time.  Signing a player like Ryan Doumit shows that the Twins are willing to think outside of the backup catcher box.  Doumit is versatile enough to play outfield and has enough pop in his bat to DH.  Having a player like Drew Butera on the roster as a 3rd catcher shows that the Twins still value that backup catcher role. 

I'd like to see the Twins think creatively more frequently going forward.  Creating some platoons might be a good avenue, rather than employing a bench with mostly utility players. 

Grade - C

Statistics and Probability

Teacher Feedback:
The Twins seem to be a lot less interested in the statistics part and much more interested in the probability part of this equation.  I will say, the Twins seem to be more interested in some of the new ways of statistical thinking, as they seem to be trying to add on-base type players to their lineup (Willingham, Doumit, Carroll, etc) instead of simply looking for guys with high batting averages.  I would like to see the Twins continue in this way, over the next offseason.  My comment about probability refers to the fact that the Twins seem to think it is good enough to have a 1 in 5 chance of winning a poor Division, rather than trying to build a team that can win a World Series.

I would like to see the Twins continue to build a statistically balanced team.  In addition, I would like to see the Twins break the American League Central Probability conundrum.

Grade - C+


Teacher Feedback:
I don't see any specific issues with Chemistry on this team.  It seems that the manager is well-liked by his players and there doesn't seem to be a particular player that rubs his teammates the wrong way.  Even through two consecutive long, losing seasons, the team does play hard.  They were trying all the way until the very end, which is commendable.  Hopefully this team will be given a chance to show how their chemistry works in more pressure situations going forward.
I imagine that there are some players who assume the role of team leaders within the clubhouse.  

Since I was not invited to the clubhouse, I cannot comment on that area of chemistry.

Grade - B


Teacher Feedback:
Some of the issues the Twins had with economics this year were beyond their control.  The team was terrible for the second straight year, which really hurts attendance.  Lower attendance means less revenue.  Less revenue means a lower payroll.   However, the Twins must remember that lowering a payroll for another season will be a major turnoff to the fans.  The demand might go down.  They can't build another ballpark, so the Twins have to stay creative with their economics. 
My advice would be to spend the money.  Forget about the lower revenue and put money toward the big-league club.  A temporary loss of revenue can be made up with future revenue, if the team becomes competitive again.  Spend as though the team will be good again.  Get the fans energized and keep the demand high.  The 2012 Twins were better than the 2011 Twins, but you wouldn't know it from the stands. 

Invest in pitching.  There aren't going to be off-seasons with the quality of starting pitching available very often.  Take advantage of your opportunities, Twins.

Grade - D+


Teacher Feedback:
The offense stayed mostly healthy.  The pitching was mostly unhealthy.  The medical staff was much maligned.  I am not going to go through the litany of odd injuries with inaccurate recovery times.  Needless to say, this part of Health was not a success.  The Twins need to make sure that injuries are diagnosed properly, by their experts.  Don't rely on players to be honest about their injuries.  Players gon play. 

The Twins have not been fully healthy for 2 straight years.  I will be very interested to see what a healthy 2013 can bring.

Grade - D


Teacher Feedback:
The Twins do not seem to have a good handle on the evolution of the game of baseball.   They seem to be stuck in an era where "pitching to contact" and "doing the little things" were King.  Those things are all well and good, but have not lead to a bit of playoff success for this team.  The Twins' bench often consists of players who are just flat out terrible or have but one skill.  This works on a good team, but not on a bad team. 

Perhaps the Twins should look to Oakland and their model of using their bench to create platoons.  Instead of having a 3rd catcher, why not sign a lefty who can play 3rd base and let him split time with Trevor Plouffe?  Maybe they could find an infielder who can hit for some power?  Your middle infielders don't all have to be slap hitters with zero power.  Paying close attention to how the game is evolving is key.  I am not sure the Twins are doing that.

I won't harp on the lack of power pitching.  That is much harder to find than we give credit for.  However, the offense needs to evolve to make the bench more efficient and a part of the team that can contribute. 

Grade:  Incomplete

Architectural Design

Teacher Feedback:
Target Field is a wonderful place.  No one can take that away.  The field is beautiful the concourse is easy to navigate.  The seats are pointed in the proper direction and there seems to be no bad seat in the house.  I have nothing bad to say about Architectural Design.
However, Twins, don't rest on this building's charm.  The charm will wear off eventually.  Pretty soon, everyone will have been there, and done that.  When that happens, the team better be watchable.  I can sit outside just about anywhere, so that novelty isn't going to cut it forever.  Make sure that the product on the field is equal to the product that is the field.

Grade - A

What grades would you give the Twins?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Twin Season of the Past - Shane Mack 1992

Shane Mack was my little brother's favorite player.  It was perfect because Kirby Puckett was my favorite and Mack was almost like the little brother to Puckett.   Well, maybe that isn't perfection, but it is poetic if nothing else.  Regardless, in most cases, there comes a time when the little brother "catches up" to the big brother.  They start to be more competitive in head to head sporting events, they get taller/bigger and they get more confidence.   Often, you can tell who grew up with big brothers, as they tend to be surprisingly athletic, due to competing against older kids as they grow up.

By 1992, you could make the argument that Shane Mack was just as good a baseball player as Kirby Puckett.  Some will scoff at that sentence and shut their laptops too strongly, breaking the escape key.  Some will immediately run to to see if I am crazy. 

Are you back?

I'm not crazy, right?  Here is a chart for those who are too lazy to hit ctrl+t and then type in, search Shane Mack, then hit ctrl+t, type in, search Kirby Puckett, then open Microsoft Excel, create a chart with some stats, then move Google Chrome to one side of your screen, move Excel to the other, then start filling in the chart:

Shane Mack
Kirby Puckett

1992 was a freaking great season for the Twins left and center fielders.  Mack was every bit as good as Puckett.  He was probably a better outfielder by this time, but you can't just move Kirby Puckett off of center.  Mack got on base at a higher rate, stole more bases and was 4 years younger.  Kirby Puckett was 2nd in MVP voting that year; Mack didn't receive a single vote.  Mack was the younger brother after all.  George Bell received some votes that year.  Go look at his stats if you want to get a good laugh.  Puckett was robbed that year and should have been the MVP of the league.  Dennis Eckersley won, and he looks like Gallagher. 

MVP arguments aside, this was the second consecutive monster season for Shane Mack.  He was only going to be 29 years old in 1993 and the Twins were coming off of two straight excellent seasons.  Unfortunately, things did not play out as one would have expected in 1993.  Mack didn't play as many games, didn't steal many bases, didn't add any power and was just generally less exciting.  1994 was better statistically, but he only played 81 games that year.  He did hit 15 home runs and post a 147 OPS+ that year, but that means a lot less over the course of a half season.   Although, it wasn't like he was injured the whole time, as most of that season was lost to a Player's strike.

Then, Mack signed a monster deal to play in Japan.  I was only 12 and my family didn't get the newspaper.  We didn't have time, what with all the TV we had to watch, so I have no idea why he signed in Japan.  Now, I know it was a pretty big contract and there was some speculation that the strike could last for a long time.  By the time he returned to the U.S. , he was older and not really a full-time player. He also was not a Twin, so I didn't care. 

Mack's 1992 is very interesting to me.  The MVP vote shows that he was not a player that was strongly appreciated nationally.  He had just played for a World Series championship team and was one of the better players on that team.  He had a great balanced game, with power, speed and defense.  He is the type of player that would likely have been more appreciated now, with advanced statistics and metrics being more mainstream.  He played in the shadow of one of the greatest Twins of all time, but by 1992, he seemed to be reaching his equal.

I can't really remember if Shane Mack was appreciated in 1992.  I was 10.  My brother doesn't remember either.  He was 7.  I am sure there were some fans that appreciated him.  My brother did, although neither of us can remember why.  I do know that if anyone wants a fairly large volume of Shane Mack baseball cards, I can give that person my brother's number.  

Friday, October 12, 2012


End of year awards are fun.  That is really all they are, but they are fun.  Fun is fun, and everyone knows that.  Therefore, I thought it might be fun to share my Award Winners.  Regardless, I will have fun.  My 5th grade Gym teacher always said, "if you had fun, you won."  So, I win.  Fun = Won. 

We'll start with the most fun award and move down the list.

NL Cy Young Award - R.A. Dickey

He lead the league in Batters Faced.  Need I say more?  Yes?  Ok.  Well, this was super close for me.  I thought Johnny Cueto and Clayton Kershaw were right there.  According to, Clayton Kershaw is nicknamed "The Claw" and that almost convinced me to select him.  However, I am trying to not let nicknames sway me, now that I am in my 30s.  R.A. is a nickname as well.  So...

Dickey throws a cool pitch.  If you know me well, and none of you do, you know that I love novelty.  Kershaw is your prototypical left-handed, dominant pitcher.  Cueto is an outstanding right-handed pitcher.  Dickey was a Twin.  When he was a Twin, he had some success.  He also had a lot of failness.  Failure.  Now, he is inning eater.  He also led the league in strikeouts and innings pitched.  He had consecutive 1-hitters.  The late-career emergence is impressive.  With three candidates who have such similar resumes, I tend to vote for novelty and no one is more novel than R.A. Dickey, at least not this year.

NL Rookie of the Year - Bryce Harper

I think Bryce Harper hits 40 home runs next year.  That is not why I am selecting him.  He is 19.  When I was 19, (insert story of immaturity and weak strength here).  He hit 22 home runs and had an OPS+ of 119.  I am told he had the greatest teenage season of all time.  Beyond being a good hitter, he played great defense, as he received a lot of his surprising 5.0 bWAR from his defense.  He gets criticism for doing hilarious things like blowing kisses and pointing bats, but really, isn't he everything people want in a player?

He plays really hard.  People tend to like that.  Although, it seems like they like that less when it is a really talented player who is playing hard.  When Nick Punto or Matt Tolbert makes that "I'm running as fast as I can" face, they get praise.  Harper didn't seem to get his due gamer-cred.  Perhaps he will in the future.  For me, the combination of immense talent, hard work, and effortful effort, makes him a generational talent.  I am looking forward to watching him for many, many years, hopefully never as a Yankee. 

NL MVP - Buster Posey

This was an interesting race.  You could make good, logical arguments for Posey, Yadier Molina, Ryan Braun, David Wright, and/or Andrew McCutchen.  Braun's offensive numbers are very impressive, as are McCutchen's and Wright's.  The latter two fell off a bit as the year went on.  Braun got stronger.  But, so did Posey.  I swear that every time I turned the Giants on, Posey was driving in a run.  I know that RBI are evil, but I can't shake that anecdotal evidence from my dome.  Molina is just a fantastic catcher and is starting to be a better offensive player.  With many things being equal, I think that being a catcher on a playoff team matters.  Posey was just slightly better than Molina, so that would be my pick.

Posey is like Joe Mauer 2.0.  I know I wrote about this before, but it is just so true.  If Mauer had power, he'd be Posey.  In fact, if you combine their names, you get Pouer.  Think about it.  Posey is just outstanding, and has been since his extended debut in 2010.  He hits for average, gets on base, hits for power and plays most of the games (some at first).  Most of his value comes on offense, but he isn't a horrible catcher.  That sounds a lot like Pouer to me.  He also led the NL in WAR, so he must be selected by any sane person with a brain and access to decimals.

AL Cy Young Award - Justin Verlander

I just realized that I always add Award to the end of this award, but none of the others.  Is that true of everyone?  I choose Verlander because he is the best.  See last night for proof.  He also led the league in batters faced, strikeouts, innings pitched and then also threw in ERA+ for the pitching QUADRUPLE CROWN.  I made that up.  David Price is right there.  He led the league in ERA and had 20 wins.  I just think Verlander is better.  If Price had thrown 25 more innings, I think his ERA would have been higher.  I have no way to prove that, but I don't have to either.

Verlander could win the next 4 Cy Young Awards and it would not surprise me a bit.  He is a true workhorse and probably the best pitcher in baseball.  He throws hard and has good control.  There is a lot to like.  The fact that he maintains and sometimes exceeds his early game velocity in later innings is impressive.  He throws a lot of pitches and it doesn't seem to affect him.  He seems like the type of pitcher that could be dominant for a long time. 

AL Rookie of the Year - Mike Trout

I am kind of surprised that I haven't come across any articles that are arguing for someone else.  You know, someone saying that Player X is actually the Rookie of the Year for such and such reasons.  People love to do that kind of stuff just to poke bears.  Wait a minute, I should do that!

Actual AL Rookie of the Year - Yu Darvish

Have you seen how many pitches this guy has?  He has like 7, each cuts in and out.  Therefore, if you take the number of pitches he has and multiple by the number of cuts, it is literally like he has 400 pitches.  Ok, my heart isn't in this.

Just Kidding, Actual Actual AL Rookie of the Year - Mike Trout

Trout is just too obvious.  He hit 30 HR, stole 49 bases, had an OBP around .400, and played a ridiculous center field.  He led the league in WAR by a extremely large margin.  He had one of the greatest rookie seasons of all time.  It was like he was shot out of a cannon, but then just stayed in motion for 5 months.  When he finally hit that fat guy in the stomach, he had amassed stats that are jaw-dropping and perhaps a little iconic?

AL MVP - Mike Trout

Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown.  No one should even attempt to take that away from him.  Anyone arguing that leading the league in those three categories doesn't mean anything, is just trying too hard.  Cabrera was the most dominant offensive player this year.  In fact, he is probably the best overall offensive player in the game right now.  People tend to criticize him for his lack of base running and defense, but then ignore the fact that he is one of the best contact and power hitters, lumping those two things together to downplay his overall dominance.

I read a lot of opinion pieces on the AL MVP race.  Pretty much everyone picks a side and then states that their choice is the obvious choice.  There is no obvious choice in this race.  You can pick Cabrera, explain why and be either right or wrong.  You can do the exact same thing with Trout.  My point would be that base running and defense matter to me.  You can't argue that Trout isn't a better base runner or a better defender.  In addition, he plays a more difficult position.  At the same time, you can't argue that Trout has more power than Cabrera.  Cabrera's track record alone gives him the nod in overall hitting, although Trout is extremely close. 

A few arguments, I simply do not subscribe to.  Cabrera agreeing to play third base does nothing for me.  He could have just as easily agreed to DH, and their offense would have been just as good and their defense likely would have been better.  He also does not get extra credit for mediocre play at a position, just because he wanted to.  Trout is just naturally awesome in center, and I think that is a lot more impressive. 

The Tigers making the playoffs means nothing to me as well.  The Angels had a better record, but played in the much better division.  I wonder how well the Angels would have finished if they would have played Kansas City, Minnesota and Cleveland over 50 times.  You can't say for sure, but it is enough of an argument to remove that factor from my decision.  Also, the Angels won more games than the Tigers.  I don't like that argument, but I get it.

I don't get the "Trout didn't play in April" argument or the "Cabrera was awesome when games mattered" argument at all.  Had Trout played more games, he likely would have accumulated more stats.  While he should be slightly penalized for playing fewer games, that fact should even that part out.  Cabrera was awesome in September, but Trout was awesome in June.  Last time I looked, all those games count the same.  I get the pressure of September, but I don't think that is enough to sway this decision.

Ultimately, either choice makes at least some sense to me.  I will not be upset, regardless of who wins.  I might cry just a bit, but quickly recover.  Likely just alligator tears.  For me, Cabrera was the most impressive offensive player this year, with Trout trailing slightly behind.  Since offense is not the only part of baseball that matters to me, his defense and base running push him past Cabrera.  This does not mean that I don't value Triple Crown stats.  This does not mean that I am not completely impressed with what Cabrera did this season.  This does not mean that I think the Triple Crown is stupid and/or overrated.  This does not mean that I think RBI is a terrible stat.  This does not mean that I think WAR is the only important stat.  This does not mean that Cabrera did not have a truly amazing and historic season.  It just means that I think Trout's season was better.  Sometimes, that is all there is to it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Twin of the Future - Joe Benson

This Twin of the Future is also a Twin of the past.  Joe Benson was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2006 draft.  He has tools.  He has power, speed, an arm (yeah yeah, he has two, a good arm, smart guy), and he is a good fielder.  The one tool he doesn't seem to have is the hit tool.  Regardless, he showed enough in the Minors to earn a September call-up in 2011.  He and 2006 first round pick Chris Parmelee were given some time that month.  They were two completely different prospects.  Parmelee was a 1st round pick who didn't really show much to get excited about.  Benson was a 2nd round pick who flashed enough to be interesting.  He was the 2010 Twins Minor League Player of the Year, after all.  Well, Parmelee thrived that month and Benson floundered.

Benson's 2012 was about as bad a year as a prospect can have.  Benson was sent to AAA after Spring Training.  Had he been successful, he may have earned some MLB time around June or July (maybe earlier, I have no idea).  Instead, he went the absolute opposite direction.  He was so awful that he was sent down to AA, where he had already played over 200 career games.  Instead of dominating the league as I am sure the Twins had hoped, he was terrible there as well.  Then, he got hurt.  Then, he came back.  He proved he could hit in Rookie and A ball, then resumed being disappointing in a level much too low for a player of his experience.  Then, he got hurt.  Specifically, he had knee surgery late in the season, will miss about 3-4 months, but should be ready for Spring Training in 2013. 

So, why even be excited about a guy who failed as a big leaguer (in an extremely small sample), 
then seemingly regressed as a minor league player, then got injured a whole bunch?  Well, those tools are still there.  At his peak, Benson has the ability to be a 20 HR, 20 SB type of player, with some upside from there.  He is a good enough fielder to play all three outfield positions, as he has the range for center and the arm for right.  That player has a ton of value.  That player has statistics that don't look super exciting, but ends up with a 5.5 WAR.  That player reminds me a lot of Shane Mack.

Ok, all Mackness aside, as I am going to be writing about him soon.  Benson reminds me of two current MLB players, depending on how things shake out.  One is Jayson Werth and the other is Drew Stubbs.  At his peak, Werth was a player with a 4 WAR, 20-20 HR/SB (sometimes more HR), and could play the outfield adequately.  Benson is a better fielder.  Stubbs had that same type of upside.  He even flashed it in 2010, when he had 22 HR, 30 SB and played a decent center field.  Stubbs has had issues with contact since that breakout year, with it all falling apart in 2012, to the tune of a 61 OPS+.  Stubbs has major contact issues, and strikes out a ton.  Werth only strikes out a lot. 

So, which one does Benson become?  Maybe neither.  However, if Benson can cut his strikeouts down, he can have a Werthwhile career.  If not, he might be too Stubby to last.  Wordplay!  It really does seem that contact and strikeouts are the key.  His power did disappear a bit last year, but that could have more to do with the injuries.  Knee surgery also worry me a bit, as it could sap some of his speed.  Diminished speed would make Benson a lot less exciting.  If the tools he has always had are still present in 2013, he jumps right back to the top of Twins prospect lists for me.  I can't quit those tools.

He will be 25 (25!) when 2013 starts.  2013 is make or break time, and that might be an understatement.  It is even too premature to label Benson a AAAA player, as he hasn't proved he can cut it in AAA.  The outfield picture is only going to get more crowded, as Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia are likely ready for AAA themselves.  Further down the line, there are even more talented outfielders to watch for.  If Benson wants to have a career with Minnesota, he had better translate tools into performance, or he will be out of the Twins' plans.

It is entirely possible that Benson seizes an opportunity and wins a spot with the Twins in 2013.  Terry Ryan recently said that no one is untouchable on this team.   The Twins could go completely loco and trade Josh Willingham and Denard Span this off-season, in their eternal quest for good starting pitching.  If that happens, a corner spot would seem to be right there for the taking.  Benson is certainly good enough with the glove to make that work. 

Will he hit enough?  You can't steal first base, as they say.  You also can't hit a home run while striking out.  Or wait, can you?  If so, that might be a sight to see.  Unlikely.  Anyway, Benson will have to make better contact and cut his strikeouts down.  Some strikeouts are fine, but the 7:1 K to BB ratio he flashed in 2011 (in a small sample) will simply not work.  Benson could be a late bloomer, or a player that simply needs a lot of at bats in a new league to adjust.  If either of those scenarios are correct, the Twins should be patient.  The payoff could be Werth it.  I am so sorry.      

Friday, October 5, 2012

Playoff Predictions with My Wife (Borat Voice)

I decided that I could predict the playoffs just like everyone else in the World.  Or, I could ask my wife Liz, what she thinks.  Liz knows a lot about baseball, way more than most.  She also has a lot of crazy ideas and a bit of attention-deficit disorder.  She is self-proclaimed to be "eccentric."  Anyway, I decided to get her opinion on the series and write her thoughts.  She gets off topic in an extremely effective manner and some of her thoughts are often completely unrelated to anything that is asked.  That being said, she does know a lot about baseball.  Trust me.  It doesn't always come through in print.  She knows less about answering my questions properly. 

So, basically, from here on out, these are her thoughts.  My own predictions and notes will be in bold, with no analysis, as I have no fun opinions.

AL first.

Wild Card Game  - Baltimore v. Texas

Can I just say, it's really cool that the As made the playoffs, with their $52 million dollar roster.  Baseball is the only sport that would work in.  Its Moneyball style.

Snake.  I liked all the cool gestures they made last year.  Let's hope Hamilton doesn't get in trouble again and/or caught with 'roids.  (Note:  Liz thinks everyone is on roids)  My prediction:  Texas

ALDS - New York v. Texas

New York

Hmm, that's a tough one.  I'm gonna go Yanks.  I'm not too happy about it though.  After the playoffs last year, I had a real loyalty for Texas, who knew?  Yanks have deep pockets and they are cocky.  They have Jeets and ARod.  My prediction:  Texas  

ALDS - Oakland v. Detroit


Who cares?  I guess Detroit, right?  Fielder.  Cabrera.  Two fatties equals two good hitters.  Detroit 
needs something, right?  They lost LeBron, who got caught with a bunch of drugs or something. (Note:  What?!?  She doesn't know much about basketball.)  My prediction:  Detroit

ALCS - New York v Detroit


Let's go Detroit.  The Yankees are kind of over.  They need some fresh blood.  They kind of lost the pizzazz.  People aren't feeling them, myself include.  Although, I did like Robinson Cano, but I haven't heard anything about him since the hitting competition (Note:  Huh?).  Ah, the Home-Run Derby, the lameness.  Why Detroit?  Two fatties - see above.  Don't they have a Yank?  Whatshisname?  I can see him...  Older, dark hair.  Seriously?  (Note:  No clue).  My prediction:  

NL Next.

Wild Card Game - Atlanta v St Louis


Ugh.  I don't like either.  I don't even know who plays on either team.  Is Atlanta still the Braves?  Isn't that not PC?  (Note:  I might have overstated her baseball knowledge).  I seriously don't know.  St. Louis lost McGwire and they lost the coach (Note:  Tony LaRussa).  Wait, McGwire doesn't play for them anymore?  Who is their hitter?  Hmm.  I guess we'll go with the Braves.  Seriously, who plays for St. Louis, or the Braves?  My prediction:  Atlanta

NLDS - Washington v Altlanta


Washington, duh.  Harper, did they hold Strasburg for the playoffs?  I only know about that saga because I had him on my fantasy team (Note - She finished 3rd of 12).  Did they end up saving him?  (Note:  No).  Well, whateves.  Let's hope Bryce Harper shoots his mouth off at the media again.  That's a clown question, bro.  My prediction:  Washington

NLDS - Cincinnati v San Francisco

San Francisco

(Note:  Still trying to figure out that Yankee player.  Not figuring it out, thinks she made it up).  Giants.  Do they still have that stoner?  (Note:  Lincecum?)  Plus, my parents, you know.  (Note:  You don't know, but her parents live in Santa Cruz.  Also, we have an update on the Yankee player - Matt Damon.  Still getting there.  Ok, its Johnny Damon).  I'm too old-school to know these new players.  I miss Damon and McGwire.  I don't really care much about this one.  
My prediction:  San Francisco

NLCS - Washington v San Francisco


Washington.  No hesitation.  I'm not really that big in the Giants.  Washington has a couple players I've heard of.  I feel like they are getting a lot of buzz, I want to ride that wave.  Harper seems kind of frat-boyish.  (Note:  He did not go to college).  This would have been easier to talk about if hockey wasn't gone.  I'm taking that very hard.  Plus, football has all the buzz right now.  Kluwe took his shirt off for a magazine, so there's that.  Plus, Frank is pawing me.  (Note:  Our dog).  My prediction:  San Francisco

World Series - Detroit v Washington


Throwing a curve-ball.  I can't really see them winning 3 years in a row.  Plus, as a first-born, I am all about fairness and Cabrera just won a bunch of stuff and shouldn't be allowed to win more.  I don't feel super confident about Texas though.  (Note:  She is fully aware she picked against Texas earlier.  She just thinks they will make it, despite her earlier picks.  Nothing magical I believe, but just that they will win a series she thinks they won't.  If that makes sense) 

(Note:  While we were working on this, the news of the Twins' coaching staff changes came out)

Whoa, the Twins fired all their coaches but one.  Did they fire the fat pitching coach so I don't have to watch him go out to the mound?  No, just the guy who stands at first and the guy at third.  (Note:  Bored with this, she now posted some stuff on Facebook)

I really just like the Snake.  We need to start a softball league again, so I can do all those moves.  Ok, I thought we were getting some ice cream tonight.  I usually just guess a team without much rationale behind it.  Usually it comes down to the least fat players or coaches.  That is the beauty of it.  My prediction:  Texas

I'm very excited for these playoffs.  I think having teams like Baltimore, Oakland and Washington makes the playoffs a lot more exciting.  When teams come back to the playoffs after long absences, they really win my heart.  I hope that one of those teams plays another of those teams in the World Series.

I tend to think that San Francisco and Texas will meet in a rematch from 2010.  I love San Francisco's pitching and I love the balance of Texas's team.  I think this is the year Texas wins the whole thing.  This seems odd, since they just collapsed to lose the division.  However, that could be a wake-up call as well.  I don't trust the Yankees against good pitching and I don't trust Detroit against a good offense.  The National League teams are all pretty even.  I'd like Washington a lot better with Strasburg. 

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed our analysis.  This was meant to be fun, so my apologies to any player that was disparaged by Liz.  If you are interested in her opinions, we are planning to start a blog with some undetermined topics and ideas.  Just give me a call if you want the url.

Who do you think will win "it all" this year?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What If? - Twins trade for Cliff Lee in 2010

In July of 2010, the Texas Rangers traded a prospect package highlighted by Justin Smoak for Seattle Mariners ace Cliff Lee.  The trade helped propel an already talented Rangers team to the World Series in 2010.  In the Winter of 2010, Lee surprised everyone by signing a multi-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, spurning a reportedly larger offer from the New York Yankees.  Ok, so what?  What does this have to do with our beloved Minnesota Twins?

Well, the Twins were reportedly in on Cliff Lee during the summer of 2010.  No one really knows for sure, but it sounds like the prospect package would have centered around Kyle Gibson and Aaron Hicks, with some lower level prospects potentially added to sweeten the deal.  I remember being very confident that Twins would make this happen.  I thought those prospects were extremely attractive.   The Twins were coming off a decade of relative success, but were languishing through a pretty difficult first half.  Cliff Lee could have changed everything, but it didn't come to fruition.

Without Lee, the Twins surged in the second half of 2010.  They instead decided to bolster the bullpen by trading for Matt Capps and Brian Fuentes.  Their strong second half brought them home field advantage in the divisional series against the Wild Card winner New York Yankees.  In Game 1, Francisco Liriano pitched well through 5 innings, fell apart in the 6th and then watched a seesaw game that ended with a Yankee win.  The Yankees then won the next two games, started by Carl Pavano and Brian Duensing.  The Twins had been swept by the Yankees once more.

The question is, would Lee have helped?  I'm not so sure.  The Twins didn't hit in that series, other than game 1.  Perhaps winning game 1 behind Lee (who was brilliant in the first two rounds of the 2010 playoffs) would have allowed the Twins to find their bats in Game 4 and have Lee ready for Game 5 at Target Field.  That alternative reality might exist, but it is also entirely possible that the bats stayed dormant in Game 4 and the series ends anyway. 

From this point, it is impossible to know how things would have been different.  Texas may not have beat Tampa Bay in the other first round series without Lee.  Or, Texas may have traded for a different stud pitcher and still won.  It is impossible to know.  Lee would have helped the Twins to a Game 1 and Game 5 advantage, but would Liriano, Pavano and/or Duensing have been favored in any of the other games.  Well, it is hard to know considering we cannot even know which team the Twins would have met.  Texas had a better offense than the Twins and Tampa had a better rotation, even with Lee.  It is very likely the Twins would have lost in the ALCS, even if they beat the Yankees in the ALDS.

Odds are, Lee walks after the 2010 season.  The Twins would have gotten a draft pick (number 33 to be exact) and would not have had some of their top prospects.  Knowing what we know about Kyle Gibson now, that impact might not have been felt as immediately.  Hicks floundered in 2011 but has bounced back in 2012.  Gibson looks like he could be in the rotation by the end of 2013.  Who knows which low level prospects would have been included. 

So, I guess my question is, would it have been worth winning that 2010 ALDS and having a chance to get to the World Series, for what looks like a future number 3 or 4 starter and an outfielder with exciting upside?  I would personally take that trade-off every time, as I tend to subscribe to the "World Series or bust" philosophy.  I can see the argument on the other side though.  The Twins need pieces to rebuild after two terrible seasons.  However, I don't think anyone would have thought in 2010 that things would fall apart so spectacularly.

Would Seattle have even been interested in the Twins' package?  Justin Smoak was a better prospect, at that time, than pretty much anyone the Twins had in their system.  He projected as a switch hitter with a swing that would produce power and average.  He also was graded as a good defensive first baseman.  That sounds like Mark Teixeira to me.  Gibson was considered a future MLB starter, but nowhere near that level.  Odds are, the Twins were never really that close to acquiring Lee.

Ok, in a field of uncertainty, one thing is certain:  Trading for Cliff Lee would have been a ton of fun.  The 2010 Twins had a great second half and ended up hosting a playoff series.  With Lee, the team would have been even better.  In addition, Lee was so locked in that year that every game would have been an event.  The excitement leading into the playoffs would have been even greater and when Lee took the mound for Game 1, there would have been an extreme sense of confidence at Target Field.  It is impossible to know how that series would have turned out differently, but the psychological impact with Lee on the mound could have been enough to turn the tides.  We will never know for sure, but it is one of the more interesting What ifs in Twins history.