Friday, May 30, 2014

Minnesota Twins May Power Rankings

It's the last Friday in May and you know what that means:  arbitrarily ranking ten Minnesota Twins players!  Remember, these power rankings are cumulative, so May performances don't weigh any more heavily than April performances.  I will not be bound by recency bias!  Let's get "it" on.

Santana hasn't received enough playing time to truly be considered, but man, what a fun player to watch.  He's not the greatest fielder (at short or in center) but he's exciting at the plate and on the bases.  I think he'll be back in AAA before long, but he should have a long Twins career ahead of him.

10.  Casey Fien

Fien did completely blow the game yesterday (joking) but besides that game, he's been pretty outstanding.  He hasn't allowed a home run this season, which has helped offset his drastic drop in strikeout rate.  Of course, with relievers, the samples are so small that a couple of high-strikeout outings and he'll be right back in line with his previous seasons.  Fien has emerged as the Twins' best set-up man, not bad for a guy they grabbed off the scrap heap.

Deduno got off to a rough start on Thursday, but recovered to pitch another solid game.  His 55.1% ground ball rate would be fourth in the American League if he qualified.  He has done a better job with strikeouts and walks since entering the rotation.  Gone are the days of 2012 when a five-walk performance is always looming.  It looks like Deduno has legitimately figured things out and has settled in as a nice back-end starter.  I'm glad the Twins were more patient with him than I ever was.  Daily reminder - I am a hack.

I actually flipped Gibson and Deduno based on their respective performances in the Rangers series, but both guys have been consistently solid and sometimes better.  Gibson looked great on Wednesday, going six shutout innings while striking out four and walking zero.  This was despite the fact that the strike zone was about as inconsistent as Josmil Pinto's playing time (more on that later).  His lack of strikeouts still worries me, but he has done a better job of limiting walks recently.  His ground ball rate is climbing and that might be the best indicator of all. 

7.  Josmil Pinto

Sam Deduno's personal catcher.  It has a nice ring to it.  No wait, that's horrible!  Pinto actually played baseball on Thursday and rewarded my constant complaining about his absence by going 0-4.  Pinto hasn't been hitting all that well when playing in May, but he's also getting playing time as patchy as a self-hair cut.  Pinto is young and talented.  That is a good combination.  The irrational fear of not having a backup catcher or a DH IN ONE GAME is just not worth keeping someone this talented on the bench.  Seth Stohs wrote about this in more detail at Twins Daily earlier in the week and you should read it because he's totally right.

Plus, I mapped it all out for whoever has to tell Ron Gardenhire to get him in the lineup.  Here, just read how.

6.  Kurt Suzuki

I read something that indicated that Suzuki is interested in an extension with the Twins.  I can see why the Twins would be interested.  Suzuki is off to a great start and he's the kind of leader the Twins have always loved.  However, a Suzuki extension might actually stop my heart because it would mean more off this Pinto situation than I can take.  Plus, he had a 78 OPS+ from 2011-2013 and he's starting to cool off, batting .189/.250/.324 over the past two weeks.  It's extremely important to not overreact to hot stretches and I hope the Twins remember that.  If not, I can certainly get Joe Mays and Nick Blackburn on the phone for them. 

Who would have ever thought that Trevor Plouffe would round into a relatively complete player?  Back when he was endangering the life of everyone in the first six rows behind first base, I would have collapsed if you told me that his arm would eventually become a decent weapon.  Of course, he's always had a strong arm and I've always had a proclivity for fake falling, but his arm was so inaccurate that it just never seemed he would be able to utilize that tool.  Now, he rates as an above-average defender at third and he's been an above-average hitter so far (108 wRC+).  He's also cooled off after a hot start, but he's still drawing more walks and hitting for better balanced power. 

Escobar is obviously playing well above his head, but let's just keep enjoying this wild ride while it's going.  When I advocated more playing time for Escobar in January, I never dreamed he would be this productive.  I did like his line drive swing and his doubles power, a combination that has helped him post a 145 OPS+ so far this season.  His defense at short is not as dynamic as Pedro Florimon's but he makes almost all of the routine plays and his arm is shockingly strong.  He's a fine solution at an important position, at least until Danny Santana or someone else is ready to take over full-time. 

31 strikeouts and 3 walks in 23.1 innings pitched.  Yeah, that's our closer.  I'm not sure if the national folks have fully noticed yet, but the Twins have one of the most talented closers in baseball.  I'm not sure that it matters if national folks have noticed either.  I would guess that Perkins is a lock for the All-Star game, as he's a local guy and he would be a great ambassador for the sport and the city.  He's been great, just as great as he's been in his entire career as a reliever.  I think I might ask him to Prom.

It was really tough deciding who was 1 and who was 2.  Hughes has been outstanding and probably the biggest positive surprise this season.  Everyone thought that his move from Yankee Stadium would help because he'd give up fewer home runs, but no one realized the effect that moving specifically to Minnesota would have on his walk rate.  The Twins preach to limit walks and Hughes has always done a decent job in that area.  Now, he's elite.  Elite walk rates turn marginal pitchers into effective pitchers (Scott Diamond, Carlos Silva, etc) and take effective pitchers and make them stars (Brad Radke and now Hughes).  If he maintains this level of control, I see no reason to believe that he won't also maintain this level of performance.  What a great signing!

Dozier has cooled off recently, but he's still giving the Twins great production in just about every way.  His defense is outstanding, his baserunning is opportunistic and while his batting average is not great, his on-base skills and power make up for that lack of contact.  He's doing all of this with a .252 BABIP, so I'd expect his average to start to rise in the coming weeks.  He's on pace for about a 6-WAR season, which is approaching Chuck Knoblauch territory.  Plus, that hair.

There we have it.  What do you think of my list?  Noticeably absent is Joe Mauer, who just can't seem to get a hot streak going.  I thought he'd be in the top 3 by now, but maybe I was just a month early.  I'd also expect Oswaldo Arcia to join this list in June, mostly because I love him and I am very biased.

Have a great weekend!  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Talking with Gardy about the roster

If you follow me on Twitter you already know that I loathe the lack of playing time that Josmil Pinto is receiving.  I have ca-razy ideas on how to deal with this situation but the decision is not up to me.  But, what if it was?  Here's how I would communicate my ideas to Ron Gardenhire.

Me:  Hey Gardy, we're making a few changes.

Gardy:  Swanny, you know how I feel about changes.

Me:  You know how I feel about being called "Swanny" and you know I prefer "Swanstar" or "Big Chief Swan."  We're sending Danny Santana back to AAA.  He needs to continue to develop as a shortstop so he can't be your backup center fielder.

Gardy:  Bummer.  Santanazy's done a nice job up here.

Me:  I know.  He'll be back before you know it, but we've got Eduardo Escobar and Eduardo Nunez to play short and handle the rest of the infield if needed.

Gardy:  Well, Esco and Nunezy are battling, so we'll go with it.  Still need a backup for center.

Me:  I'm calling up Wilkin Ramirez.  Remember, you liked him last year.

Gardy:  Ramirezy is a great player, he lays it on the line, but he's hitting .248 at AAA.  He's not getting it done.  He's basically Cuddy right now.

Me:  He's not going to play much.  He can fill in during the late innings when you need him.  He can hit lefties if you need him.  He's a bench guy, he doesn't need to be great.

Gardy:  I'll make it work.  I can battle too.

Me:  Now, I need a 40-man spot to add Ramirez, so Jason Kubel's gone.

Gardy:  (tears welling up) I don't know about that, Chief, Kubel's a big part of this club.  He's a veteran.  He'll get dirty.  He's...(bursts into tears) he's my friennnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd.

Me:  Gardy, it's a business, I'm sorry.  He's not getting it done and we need the spot.  It was a nice run and he gave us a solid April, but it's nearly June and he's done here.

Gardy:  (sobbing) It's just so sudden.

Me:  These things aren't easy, I understand.  But hey, I'm bringing you Chris Herrmann.

Gardy:  (eyes light up slightly)  Herrmannzy?  (sniffles)  For serious?

Me:  For serious.  But, he's a bench guy too.  I'm calling him up because I want Josmil Pinto AND Kurt Suzuki in the lineup every day.  No starts for Herrmann, Parmelee's on the bench too, don't even think of starting Nunez or Ramirez at DH.  Pinto's in the lineup every day.

Gardy:  I don't know, he's pretty young.  He's never even seen Midnight Run.

Me:  Gardy, I've told you before that you can't make lineup decisions based on Charles Grodin.

Gardy:  Shucks.  Well, what happens if Pintozy and Zuky both get hurt in the same game?

Me:  We've talked about this, it's just one game, you'll use a pitcher for a few innings and we'll get you another catcher the very next day.  This is a very rare occurrence.  You have to get over this.

Gardy:  What if Dozierzy gets hurt?

Me:  Slide Escobar to second, bring Nunez off the bench to play short.

Gardy:  What if Plouffey goes down?

Me:  Use Nunez again.  Or slide Escobar to third and put Nunez at short.  Either way works.

Gardy:  What if Dozierzy, Esco, Plouffey, Waldo and Hicksy all collide on the same play?

Me:  Nunez to short, Herrmann to left, Ramirez to center, Mauer to third, Parmelee to first, prop Brian Dozier up at second and just see what happens.

Gardy:  Hmm, that's brilliant.  And, I get to keep my DH.  One more question - What if I want to talk with Kubel because I miss him?

Me:  I hope you got him to sign your yearbook.

Should we be worried about Ricky Nolasco?

The Twins made a big splash back in December, signing Ricky Nolasco to a 4 year, $49 million contract with a team option for a fifth year.  It was the largest contract the Twins had given during free agency and it marked a change in philosophy related to building a team.  The Twins were no longer going to simply rely on home-grown talent and smaller signings.  They wanted to sign a player who could lead their rotation for a couple of years while guys with more talent, but less experience ready themselves for the Majors. 

Two months into the season and Nolasco has a 6.12 ERA and 1.575 WHIP in ten starts.  He had a 3.70 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 33 starts in 2013.  What happened?

Some posit that Nolasco will heat up as the weather improves.  Of course, that is just a narrative.  It was pretty nice on Sunday and he got rocked.  Nolasco pitched a gem in his third start as a Twin, throwing eight innings of one-run baseball in 50-degree temperature.  If convenient narratives won't help us figure out if we should be worried, perhaps we could look to...stats?!? 

I know, stats are for nerds.  In some cases, using these nerdy stats, we can figure out if a player is as bad as they seem.  In the case of Nolasco, there are some interesting stats that point in many different directions.  I broke them into a few categories.

Split Stats

Before we get too deep into our analysis, let me just state that Nolasco has been better in May.  Take a look at this chart that compares April and May:


He hasn't been outstanding in May, but most of the important indicator stats have improved since a pretty awful April.  That said, there are still some individual stats that will give us a better understanding of how an effective pitcher in 2013 became a volcano of misery in 2014.  Ok, that's a bit dramatic.  How about a science fair volcano of misery?

Luck Stats

Home run-to-fly ball ratio (HR/FB%) measures how frequently a fly ball becomes a home run.  Research has shown that pitchers (and batters for that matter) tend to have their own rate at which fly balls become home runs.  When the figure deviates, there's some luck at play.  Nolasco has a career mark of 10.4%, just about average in the Majors.  When that rate is four points higher than usual, it means that an extra 4% of fly balls go over the fence instead of nestling softly in a glove.  In raw numbers, we're talking about one extra home run per month, but it still makes a difference.

BABIP is another luck-based stat where a player sets their own baseline.  Nolasco's BABIP is quite out of line with his career mark.  In April it was really high and in May it's been just quite high.  Those figures aren't doing him a lot of favors, and it was especially unforgiving in April because his strikeout rate was very low and thus more balls were being put in play.  Again, the raw numbers might only get us to four or five more hits that Nolasco gave up as a result of his high BABIP, but again, every little bit counts. 

Even if these stats only account for a small amount of Nolasco's bad performance, they do matter.  These two stats point toward some bad luck for Nolasco and thus, we shouldn't worry too much.  Of course, these aren't the only stats that matter.

Skill Stats

Can someone remind me, is a giant drop in strikeout rate good or bad for a pitcher?  Without my baseball encyclopedia handy, I'll just have to assume it's a bad thing.  That ten point drop in strikeout rate could be explained a lot of different ways:  not hitting spots, trying to involve infielders, Rick Anderson is Satan, etc.  Whatever the reasons behind the drop, the drop itself was very troubling.  While Nolasco hasn't been much better in May, the return of his strikeout rate is a good sign for the future.

His walk rate has been pretty stable.  However, Nolasco has always had great ability to limit walks but it didn't always (or even frequently) translate to a great ability to limit runs.  So, we can be pleased about his walk rate, but it hasn't been a great indicator of his success in the past either.  Bummer.

These skill-based stats explain a lot in April.  Nolasco's ability to strike out batters almost completely vanished in April.  It was almost as if he was being threatened by Kevin Correia or something.  When the rate returned in May, he was better, although the luck-based stats were still not in his favor.  Again, these things appear to be positive going forward.  Although, there are a few more stats to look at. 

Shoulder Shrug Stats

LOB% or left on-base percentage (I call it strand rate just for further confusion) is a stat that calculates the percentage of baserunners left on base by the pitcher.  This is another stat that has an individual baseline.  Nolasco's strand rate is lower than his career figure, but not by much.  The discrepancy may account for some of his struggles, but not much.  The shoulder shrug comes in when you look at his career figure compared to the typical league average, which usually comes in around 73-74%.  Why does Nolasco strand runners so poorly?  Who knows, but I doubt he figures it out at this stage of his career.    

Nolasco's ground ball rate is all over the place, so who knows what to think so far.  His season figure is in line with his career rate, but his career rate isn't all that great.  He had seen his ground ball rate rise to respectable territory from 2010-2012, but it has dropped back down in the past two seasons.  I don't think the Twins can rely on Nolasco to be a ground ball specialist at this point.  That said, with a decent defense behind him, a fly ball pitcher can have success.  Do the Twins have a decent outfield defense?  Well, come on, you know the answer to that.

xFIP or expected fielder-independent pitching is a great way to look at how a pitcher would have performed if we lived in a perfect world where ballparks and home runs were normalized and puppies and kitties flowed out of water faucets but we still had access to water in other ways.  Nolasco's xFIP looks great, as it always does, but that hasn't really helped Nolasco in the actual performance department.  If the Twins thought this would be different in Minnesota, I have a water faucet to sell them.  Shoulder shrug. 

Finally, there doesn't appear to be anything related to his repertoire that is hurting his performance.  His velocity is right in line with the past couple seasons and he's not throwing anything too much more or less than he threw it before.  His stuff is the same but his results have been poor.  I guess that, more than anything, is a reason to be optimistic. 


Of course, this all falls into the small sample size realm where we aren't allowed to draw any conclusions ever.  However, these stats all exist and while they don't really tell us anything going forward, they can explain why things happened the way they did.

His strikeout and walk rates are more in line with his career average, but his ground ball rate, home run-to-fly ball rate and BABIP are out of line.  This could explain some of the discrepancy between his April/May and career ERAs.  While no single stat explained a huge portion of his struggles, when you add up all the little bits, it kind of starts to make sense.  Think of it this way.  If someone gave me just one slice of pizza, it would barely fill me up.  If I had six slices of pizza, I'd be comatose on the couch with sauce on my face and my shirt off.  Ricky Nolasco is dealing with the equivalent of six slices of pizza.  Think about it.

I'm not sure Nolasco will ever be worth the contract he was given, but I feel pretty confident that he will perform better going forward than he has thus far.  But then, I live in a puppy/kitty faucet, shirtless, covered in pizza sauce kind of world.    

Monday, May 26, 2014

Monday Morning Madness: Memorial Day 2014

Weekend Recap

The best thing I can say about the Giants series is that the Twins did not lose more games than they played.  If they had done that, I would have been really upset/confused.  The Twins didn't put up much of a fight this weekend, but the Giants are one of the best teams in baseball.  Plus, San Francisco is windy.  Wind is nature's biggest bully.  I'm just glad the Twins escaped with their calculators.  

Does Kyle Gibson have the Radke Syndrome?

Everyone remembers the odd affinity that Brad Radke had for giving up first inning runs.  In fact, why weren't Brad Radke brand peanuts more popular?  Because if you got to the game after the first inning, they'd already be shelled.  Radke was an excellent pitcher, despite this odd quirk.  Kyle Gibson is a promising pitcher and I think he's going to be good, but his first inning troubles are starting to become a trend. 

Actually, he has troubles in all of the early innings.  Here's an ERA breakdown by inning in 2014:

1st inning99.077.0048407131881.00.325.438.450.88818
2nd inning99.066.003838611103.289.289.474.76318
3rd inning88.066.753733690441.00.273.351.394.74513
4th inning87.033.862928161133.
5th inning77.011.292824150420.50.208.321.250.5716
6th inning65.000.001715000221.
7th inning54.036.751918160133.00.333.368.389.7577
8th inning11.000.003301000.333.333.333.6671
Innings 1-3926.0196.581231111933212151.25.297.366.441.80749
Innings 4-6819.041.8974672111771.
Innings 7-955.035.402221170133.00.333.364.381.7458
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 5/25/2014.

Now, he also hits a wall around the 7th inning, but that is somewhat common.  More troubling, his first three innings are terrible and the middle innings are great.  Bert Blyleven posited that Gibson is too amped up when starting a game and it leads to the ball being up.  When he fatigues, his pitches drop and he gets more ground balls and more outs.  It makes sense, but then again, Blyleven got to about the 5th inning of Saturday's game before he stopped calling Pablo Sandoval "Sandsobal" so who really knows. 

Whatever the issue, Gibson and his coaches need to iron it out because he doesn't have Brad Radke's command and therefore, his ability to overcome a bad first inning. 

There should be a term for the last guy who joins the bandwagon.  Mr. Last Jerk or something.  Mrs. Last Jerk if it's a female.  Well, we can work on that nickname later.  If the Sam Deduno bandwagon is rolling along down the street, I'm running my little heart out alongside trying to decide if I should risk my health to jump aboard. 

Deduno appears to be a perfectly acceptable back-end starter.  I certainly prefer him to Mike Pelfrey or Kevin Correia.  He looked fine on Saturday, not great, but good enough to keep the Twins in the game.  I still worry about how many walks he issues, but he seems to have the ability to induce double plays because he induces so many ground balls.  As a reliever, his ground ball rate had declined, but since moving back into the rotation, that rate is starting to climb back to elite levels.  Plus, he's generating more strikeouts this season. 

I fully believe in jinxes and I fully believe that I am a massive jinx.  If I decide to run alongside the bandwagon for a few more months, there is a completely scientific reason why. 

I don't curse a lot.  I am a teacher.  I try to be mindful of the fact that my students may read this if they are extremely bored.  Therefore, I try to keep this part of the web clean.  That said, doggone it to heck, why is Josmil Pinto rotting on the bench?!?

Pinto had one hit last week.  One.  That would be a troubling number if he hadn't gotten only six at-bats and one start.  That one hit was Pinto's seventh home run, good for second on the team with ease.  Kurt Suzuki has continued to be great, but keeping Pinto on the bench 80% of the time in favor of Suzuki is just crazy.  Pinto is too young and too talented.  He should have been alternating starts with Suzuki on the road trip.  I worry that with Oswaldo Arcia and Josh Willingham coming back and Chris Herrmann sent back to AAA, Pinto will continue to sit more than he starts. 

If that happens, you can expect the darn cursing to increase.  Beans. 


Former Twin Update - Liam Hendriks

He's back!  Liam Hendriks was added to the Blue Jays' active roster when they outrighted Esmil Rogers (a player I advocated the Twins trading for, thank you very much) to AAA.  Hendriks made his 2014 debut on Friday and threw 5.2 innings, giving up just 3 hits, 3 walks, 1 earned run, all while striking out 3 (well, not while, he just struck out three guys, the other stuff happened around those strikeouts).  I liked Hendriks even though he was never good with the Twins.  It would be cool if he found some success in Toronto.  I just love people. 

Random Link - McCovey Chronicles

My beloved Grant Brisbee wrote about the Twins-Giants rivalry that doesn't exist.  He posted this prior to the weekend series and I read it on Friday, but it's still worth reading even though the Twins and Giants likely won't play each other again for a long time.  It's always fun to rehash the A.J. Pierzynski trade, but this time it's from the perspective of the losing fan base.  Here's the link. 

Random Top 17 List

Top 17 lists are so popular right now.  Joe Mauer happens to have the 17th worst isolated power among all qualified MLB players.  Isolated power basically measures a hitter's raw power.  Mauer's is currently 0.081, which rates just above "awful" on this chart.  Somehow, Mauer has an above-average OPS+, even with awful power.  I was shocked on Saturday when Mauer hit a double and the graphic stated that he had hit just his 5th double of the season.  I hope Mauer's extra-base power starts to come back because he's basically an average hitter without it. 

Here's the top 5 on this top 17 list that I never actually provided (through Saturday's games):
  1. Ben Revere - .034
  2. Derek Jeter - .043
  3. DJ LeMahieu - .047
  4. Martin Prado - .058
  5. Norichika Aoki - .059
#Eddie400 Update

This is by far my most successful half-hearted campaign.  Eduardo Escobar is still on fire.  When I proposed the Eddie 400 back in January, it was more a "why not" idea based on the idea that Pedro Florimon wasn't very good and Escobar was a couple years younger.  Escobar has made me famous beyond my wildest dreams (I have very depressing dreams).  He is still hitting like a champ and still getting regular plate appearances.  In fact, he is currently on pace for about 350 at-bats, but with his recent uptick in playing time, he should plow past the 400 ABs that I requested for him. 

I am so great.  I take full credit for all of his successes. 

Random Idea to Change Baseball

I love baseball, but I admit that it is not a perfect game.  Thus, from time to time, I have some craaaaaazy ideas to make the game better.  Here's one.  What if one baseball per game was made of like really hard cake.  This would take some engineering, but the weight and feel would have to be the same, so the pitcher doesn't realize the difference.  The ump just has that cake ball in his bag and eventually it comes into the game.  Once the ball is thrown, it would either explode with cake in the catcher's mitt, or better, off the batter's bat.  Cake balls are really big right now, so why not capitalize?

I'm not sure what the outcome would be, maybe it would just be a short comedy interlude, everyone cleans up and we just move on like it didn't happen.  If a player had a flour allergy, it would be particularly compelling every time he came to the plate.  It's just an idea, so obviously it needs some fine tuning.  Just imagine how much old school ball guys would hate that cake ball.

Song of the Week - Pearl Jam - Inside Job

I have nothing to plug this week.  I wrote some stuff last week, but it got proper attention.  Instead, I'll use this space to celebrate!  Pearl Jam, my all-time favorite band, is headlining in Minnesota for the first time since 2003.  Yes, Pearl Jam is still making music.  No, you probably wouldn't like it.  I do like it.  Regardless of how you feel about their music, they put on one of the best live shows I've ever seen.  I highly suggest getting tickets to see them, so long as I have my tickets first.  They love their fans and prove it every night.  Here's a live version of one of my faves:

Parting Thought

I am not an overly patriotic person, or an overly political person or really, an overly emotional person.  I have many family members who have served in the U.S. military and I am fortunate enough to have never lost a loved one during service.  As a social studies teacher, I felt an obligation to remind students why we had this long weekend in late May.  For some, they knew all too well and for others, it gave them something to think about as they enjoyed one of the final weekends before summer.  I don't feel that obligation as a Twins blogger or whatever, but I don't mind taking a few minutes away from the Twins to do as much as I can to reinforce the meaning of this holiday. 

To those who are remembering someone important on this very powerful holiday, my thoughts are with you. 

Have a great week, everyone!    

Friday, May 23, 2014

Forgotten Twins? Mark Funderburk

My memories of Mark Funderburk

Um, none.  I honestly do not remember this man at all.  I wanted to write about someone from the mid-80s because I'm more of a 90s guy and I wanted to expand my horizons.  So, I did a little search-a-rooni and settled on Big Mark.  Funderburk is a fantastic name too.  Anyway, I have no memories of this person/player.  I look forward to a lot of learning over the next few paragraphs.

Baseball Reference

Funderburk debuted before I was born, so I guess it's fair that I don't remember him.  He played eight games with the Twins in 1981 at age 24.  He didn't play another MLB game until 1985.  He played just 23 games with the Twins that season.  He hit .314/.351/.529 in those 23 games, which is more than solid.  But, he never played another MLB game after 1985. 

Of course, his journey wasn't just Minors to MN back to Minors back to MN.  The Twins released him in 1982, shortly after I was born.  Likely to celebrate.  The Royals scooped him up in 1983 but released him just a few months later.  He ended up in the Mexican Leagues after that.  He doesn't have any stats in 1984 but signed with the Twins after the 1984 season.  He crushed 34 home runs for AA Orlando in 1985 and got a promotion.  He obviously hit well in Minnesota, but the Twins hated him so they released him.  Or at least that's how a four-year-old might perceive it.  But I was three, so I couldn't think like that. 


Obviously, the Twins were ahead of the curve back in 1985 because they didn't buy into his .345 BABIP.  He did have a 132 wRC+, so that's nice!  He posted a 0.3 WAR in 23 games, so he'd have roughly posted a 2.4 WAR if he had played the whole season.  That's just solid mental math though and I'm just showing off right now.  He also had a -0.11 Clutch rating, but I have no idea what that means.  I just know it means he's #notclutch.


Mark Clifford Funderburk was born in Charlotte, North Carolina on May 16, 1957.  The only way to enhance a great last name like Funderburk is to slap a great middle name like Clifford in front of it.  In fact, I am making a vow right now.  If I have an 11th son, I will name him Mark Clifford Funderburk Dozier Swanson.  Book it!  Funderburk was in professional baseball for 12 years, which I imagine was a lot of fun.  That's not in his Wikipedia entry, it's just a guess. 


If you search for "Mark Thunderburk" you get results for "Mark Funderburk."  Unfortunately, it's not because that was his nickname.  It's pretty perfect though.  He's big, he's powerful, he brought the thunder.  He hit 214 Minor League home runs.  Why wasn't he Thunderburk?  Who missed that one?  I know Gardy would call him "Burky" or something, but weren't we more creative in the 80s? 

I did find an article about Funderburk that tells of his life in baseball and life after baseball.  It's from 1997, but it's pretty cool.  Take a look.

Switching to Google Images led me here.  If you go to Model Mayhem, you can read all about this Mark Funderburk.  He's also from North Carolina, but he's a little scrawny.  The Mark Funderburk had two MLB stints by 28, so point, Thunderburk.  


Only 20 results?  Here'sa listing for a game-used bat signed by Funderburk.  It's just 15 bucks.  I'm pretty sure that's cheaper than a new wood bat, so if you need something for BP, you could disgrace a former MLB player at the same time.  Here's 16Funderburk cards, with 3 different cards!  If you need 11 of the same Mark Funderburk card, this is the perfect lot for you. 

Ok, I don't get this one.  It's a 1986 Sportflics card and there are like eight players on it.  I remember these cards.  You moved them one way and you saw one player then you moved them the other way and saw someone else.  It was pretty stupid.  This one might be a magical card though.  Did we have the technology for quadruple sportflics in the 80s?  The eBay user who listed it is Red Voodoo Cafe.  Just sayin'. 

Ok, I think I have an idea for the 11 Funderburk cards.  11 cards would be roughly the size of a computer screen.  Find the person in your life who is least likely to know who Funderburk is and attach the cards to their screen.  That person will be confused.  They might ask who did it.  Never own up to it.  Never let on.  Then, 40 years later, you make the reveal.  It will be chilling, but a very real moment.

Or, don't by them.  That's much easier.  

Only 14 likes?  You should be ashamed of yourself. 


Thunderburk (I'm just going to call him that now) isn't on Twitter.  Or, if he is, he has a silly or obscure username.  I did find some tweets related to him:
Shout out to John Sickels, who provides great Minor League coverage at SBNation.  Also, this is a true fact that you learned earlier.
This is misleading.  It's actually a different Funderburk, not a Mark at all, no mention of whether or not he brings the thunder.  If you live in this district, please vote for Funderburk.  If you care about local government, please let me know because you'll be the first person I know who does. 
This is also not Thunderburk, but I do endorse buying a Nissan.  I've owned a 2006 Nissan Sentra for eight years and I've never had a major issue with it.  It has 125K miles on it and it runs great.  If you're looking for a great automobile, why not check out the good folks at Leith Nissan in Cary, North Carolina?  Tell them Thunderburk sent you and watch to see how confused they look. 

Side question - why do all the Funderburks live in North Carolina?  Someone do the research.


Mark Funderburk is not represented on YouTube.  What a disgrace.  First off, does everyone understand how much harder this is for me?  Honestly, has anyone thought of me for even a second?  If you have a Thunderburk video, put it up!

Anyway, there are three users named Mark Funderburk on YouTube.  One has 45 subscribers, more than Thunderburk has likes on Facebook.  It appears that he is a musician, and I watched his cover of Neil Young's "Old Man" and I have to say, I enjoyed it.  Since Thunderburk isn't on YouTube, this is a pretty decent consolation prize.

Random Person

My Dad got me into the Twins and he was a fan in the 80s, so this seems like a logical fit.  He claims that he remembers him, but he wasn't able to provide any details.  I think he probably just remembers his name but is too proud to admit that he doesn't remember the man.  That's ok, he helped give me life, so I forgive him. 

Verdict:  Not sufficiently remembered!

This man is not remembered.  He's barely present on the internet, although I didn't check the dark internet or whatever.  In a lot of ways, Funderburk is the original El Pupo Bernardo Brito.  Tons of power, lots of MiLB success and little opportunity in the Majors.  Both guys have great nicknames, even if I only made up one today.  Plus, both guys are not remembered as they should be.

Even though I didn't know Thunderburk a week ago, I am glad I found this card and looked him up:

Even if I do hate those cards. 

Brad Swanson is the author of the thing you just skimmed.  He has one dog.  You can meet Brad in person if you know where he lives and/or work or if you buy a brand new Nissan from Leith Nissan.  

If you're interested, I have a whole mess of Forgotten Twins in a sweet archive that you can find right here.