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!


  1. What year is that card? Yeah, the Twins thus far seem to have consistency issues - one series, they look impressive, and the next, not at all. Hoping they can keep this momentum up against the Blue Jays.

    1. 2003, I believe.

      I guess with mediocre teams, they'll have a good series immediately followed by a bad series. It's a roller coaster. Not literally, although a Twins-themed roller coaster would be fun.