Monday, April 28, 2014

Monday Morning Madness: April 28, 2014

Weekend Recap

Rain is stupid.  The Twins lost the opportunity to win their series against the Tigers because rain had to be such a massive jag.  By the way, the Dodgers series is in danger.  Here's the forecast from my weather app:


Thus, the Twins split the two-game series with the Tigers.  The Twins got one good start and won and one bad start and they lost.  It's almost like this starting pitching thing is important or something.  Let's look at some individual performances. 

If Ricky Nolasco was the "safe" signing this offseason, then Phil Hughes was the "home run" signing.  He's young, talented and has been inconsistent.  So far, he's been those three things in 2014.  He was great on Saturday.  He gave up two runs (one earned) in the first and then shut down a very solid Tigers offense for the next six innings.  He struck out six without issuing a walk, running his season totals in those categories to 26 and 6, respectively.  Hughes will always be more FIP-champ than ERA-champ, but he's certainly capable of great starts like this one.  I've given up the hope that he'll greatly exceed expectations, but I think he will have a handful of truly great starts each season.  

Brian Dozier is having a great, but super weird season.  The easiest of his weirdness to see is the fact that he has seven home runs but just nine RBI.  On pace statements are kind of stupid, but he's on pace for 49 home runs and just 63 RBI.  I'm going to go ahead and assume he doesn't get to those exact figures. 

Dozier currently sports a .217 batting average and a .217 BABIP.  He's also taken a ton of walks (more on that later) and scored a bunch of runs.  He currently has a 124 OPS+.  As a result, he's on pace for a bunch of additional weirdness. 

If Dozier's batting average holds and he maintains most of his run scoring pace, he would have the lowest batting average of any player with at least 100 runs since 1961.  Currently, Curtis Granderson owns that distinction with a .232 batting average and 102 runs scored back in 2012. 

In addition, if Dozier maintains his batting average and OPS+, he would have the second-lowest batting average of any player with an OPS+ greater than or equal to 124 (also since 1961).  Currently, Gene Tenace and his .211 batting average and 130 OPS+ in 1974 owns this weird title. 

The conclusion:  Brian Dozier is weird.

Josmil Pinto

Not a lot of analysis here, just awe.  Pinto has impressive power.  His home run in the 8th inning of Saturday's game was a bomb.  Pinto doesn't hit "just barely" home runs.  His homers go well over the fence.  Currently, Pinto is hitting a home run on over 22% of his career fly balls, a rate that will not continue.  That said, his power looks pretty real to me.  He may not keep up a 35-home run-pace, but I'd say he's a lock for 20-25 if he keeps getting at-bats. 


Former Twin Update - A.J. Pierzynski

The Twins were rumored to be interested in Pierzynski in the offseason, but he chose to sign with the defending champion Boston Red Sox.  I suppose that's logical.  The Twins settled for Kurt Suzuki and he's been great so far.  What about All-Star A.J.?  About what you would expect.  He's making good contact, he's barely walking, he's got occasional power, he's probably bugging people, you know, his normal routine.  Pierzynski's fine, but at nearly a third of the price, I'll take Suzuki. 

Random Link - The Twins are watching...pitches

Dave Cameron at FanGraphs had a pretty interesting article on the Twins' patience at the plate this season.  He noted that the Twins hadn't utilized the walk as an offensive weapon in the past, despite having one of the most famous walkers (Joe Mauer) on their roster.  However, this year, the Twins have the highest walk rate in the majors and the second-highest OBP.  In addition, they are swinging at pitches at the lowest rate in the majors.  You can read more here. 

This is interesting to me because the Twins are basically admitting that they don't have batters talented enough to drive in runs, so they'll be patient and generate runs by volume of baserunners.  If that's true, it will be interesting to see if they keep this philosophy as younger, more talented hitters start to join the team.  It seems to be working right now and Joe Mauer has proved how it can work for a more talented hitter.  Regardless, it's been noticeable and effective this year, so I'll support this new approach. now and going forward.

Randon Top 7 List - Walks

Speaking of walks, one of the Twins who has embraced this patient philosophy the most is Brian Dozier.  Dozier has 19 walks on the season, getting closer to the Twins' record for most walks in April.  Here's a chart with the top 8 walk totals in Twins' April history:

1 Chuck Knoblauch 1997 26 27 26 121 90 18 22 4 2 2 11 12 .244 .421 .400 36 2 2
2 Matt Lawton 2001 24 24 22 99 73 21 19 3 0 2 7 12 .260 .444 .384 28 1 2
3 Justin Morneau 2010 21 21 21 96 75 18 26 5 1 5 17 14 .347 .490 .640 48 0 2
4 Brian Dozier 2014 23 19 23 113 92 24 20 1 0 7 9 26 .217 .354 .457 42 1 0
5 Roy Smalley 1980 20 19 20 91 69 15 18 2 0 6 16 14 .261 .418 .551 38 1 1
6 Dave Hollins 1996 25 19 24 103 82 19 24 4 0 7 22 18 .293 .437 .598 49 2 3
7 Harmon Killebrew 1969 20 18 20 88 68 14 21 4 0 4 17 11 .309 .455 .544 37 1 4
8 Shannon Stewart 2004 19 18 19 94 75 12 23 3 0 2 13 8 .307 .436 .427 32 0 3
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/27/2014.

Dave Hollins sighting!  It would be nearly impossible for Dozier to catch Knoblauch, but he could pass Morneau for third with a couple of patient games against the Dodgers (if the rain cooperates).  Josmil Pinto would join this list with one more walk, as would Joe Mauer.  What a month!

Let's Get Excited About a Prospect! - Jorge Polanco

We hear a lot about Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Alex Meyer but the Twins have a ridiculous farm system with lesser known guys at every level who are truly exciting.  Jorge Polanco is currently playing at High-A Fort Myers and he's lighting things up.  Through Saturday's game, Polanco is hitting .354/.446/.532 with two home runs, six doubles and more walks than strikeouts.  He's 20.  This guy is going to be in the Twins' middle infield in the near future and he could be a star. 

Also, he's played primarily as a shortstop in 2014 and in 19 games he's made just...well, he's made 10 errors.  He's not perfect.  No one is. 

Baseball Card from the Past

I was thinking about Studio baseball cards this weekend.  I'm not sure why.  These cards were interesting because they weren't taken on the field, but in a photo studio.  There are plenty of seductive poses and players hugging their bats, but this Rick Aguilera card is my favorite. 

If it's possible to stare of a hole through a someone's face within a baseball card, this might be the example.  Just keep staring right into his eyes and you'll learn the meaning of life. 

Plugging My Way

I brought back the Power Rankings last Friday, counting down the ten best Twins performances thus far.  Brian Dozier was the winner, and I'll give you that one for free.  Also for free, the entire list, which you can find right here.  I mean, I guess you do have to click a button, so it's not completely free.  It won't cost you any money at least.  Pedro Florimon was not on the list, in case you were wondering.  I'll save you that time. 

Parting Thought

Last season, the Twins made it through 36 games with a .500 record.  They lost game 36 and then the next eight to fall well below that mark.  How far can the Twins make it with a .500 or better record this season?  I'm not sure, but I don't see a lot of 9-game losing streaks in their future.  The offense has been too patient and the pitching is just too capable, even if they are also capable of being terrible.  I thought the Twins would win 75 games in 2014 and I'm not ready to bump that figure just yet.  I do feel better about that prediction though.

Have a great week, everyone! 

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