This Ain’t Gonna Work

I have been mulling a move from MLBlogs for some time, but have been reluctant to actually do it.  Well, yesterday I finally got the push I needed.  This comment was left on my F*ck! post:

“Can you not use profanity in your tags or posts. I don’t want it on my
blog as a link to a recommended article. I like keeping my blog family
friendly.”

I have no idea who wrote it, since they didn’t leave a link to their blog.  Heaven forbid whoever it was should give me a chance to defend myself or to explain my point of view.  Don’t get me wrong: I respect whoever that was and their desire to keep their blog clean.  Who knows?  Their kids probably read it and don’t need a**holes like me corrupting their impressionable young minds. And it’s not like they were really nasty about it either, though they could’ve been a little more polite.  But that’s the problem with the new format of MLBlogs:  they post links to other blogs on your site whether you want them to or not.  So I can understand why whoever left that comment was so ticked off.  And since I have no intention of ever changing, I have decided to move to blogger, where what I write whatever I want and I can tell people to f*ck off if they don’t like it.  You can read my new blog here, and if you happen to have a link to my blog in your sidebar, please update it accordingly.

I am not abandoning MLBlogs completely.  If you are in my sidebar, it’s for a very good reason and I will continue to read and post comments on your blog.  Oh, and I have Twitter now, which makes me more followable or something.  I’m just not going to be posting anything new here, at least not for the time being.

Revisiting the Santana Trade

johan-santana-4.jpgWith the recent call-up of right-hander Kevin Mulvey, now seems
like a really good time to re-examine the Santana trade.  Here is a
look at what the Twins got:

Carlos Gomez:

2008:  .258/.296/.360/.657 OPS   2.3 WAR
2009:  .253/.291/.358/.649 OPS   0.1 WAR

Gomez’s
horrible numbers at the plate are sort of neutralized by his defense. 
With a career 23.5 UZR in center, he is one of the top defensive CFs in
the league.  If he could just learn to hit, he would be one of the better
all-around players in the league, much like Grady Sizemore.  One of
the things Go-Go really needed to work on was plate discipline, and he
has indeed improved in this respect.  Last season, he swung at 36.8 %
of pitches outside the strike zone, while this season he has only
chased 27.6%.  Thus, his BB/K ratio has subsequently improved from 0.18
to 0.36.  So far, he has little to show for his improved plate
discipline, but he hasn’t seen much playing time this season with the
crowded outfield situation, either.  It’s doubtful that Go-Go will ever
develop much power, but given his age and a continued improvement in
plate discipline, it’s not unreasonable to expect league-average production from him eventually.

Philip Humber:

2008: 

Twins:     4.36 ERA   1.371 WHIP   1.20 K/BB    4.6 K/9   3.9 BB/9   11.2 IP
Rochester:  4.56 ERA   1.423 WHIP   2.16 K/BB   7.0 K/9   3.2 BB/9  136.1 IP

2009: 

Twins:     12.45 ERA   3.231 WHIP   1.33 K/BB   8.3 K/9   6.2 BB/9    4.2 IP
Rochester:   5.86 ERA   1.575
WHIP   1.97 K/BB   7.2 K/9   3.7 BB/9    73.2IP

Humber
was once the Mets’ top pitching-prospect, until he was sidelined with
Tommy-John surgery in 2005.  He’s been a mediocre starter for the Red
Wings, and at this point (he’s 26) doesn’t project to be more than a
long-reliever in the major leagues.  Not only have walks been an issue
for Humber at the major-league level, he’s also had trouble keeping the
ball in the park (his HR/FB% is 18.2).  The fact that nobody claimed
him when the Twins put him on waivers earlier this season (and that
they were willing to risk losing him this way), probably says a lot
about his value.

Kevin Mulvey:

2008:  3.77 ERA   1.351 WHIP   2.52 K/BB   7.4 K/9   2.9 BB/9   148.0 IP
2009: 
3.93 ERA   1.427 WHIP   2.13 K/BB   7.1 K/9  3.3
BB/9   103.0 IP

Mulvey
has spent the past two seasons as a starter in Rochester, and though
he’s been pretty successful, he’s struggled to pitch effectively on a
consistent basis.  Still, his K/9 rate is good enough to suggest that
he might make it as a fifth starter or middle reliever in the major
leagues.  If anything, a good performance with the big club would
probably increase his trade value should the team dangle him in an
effort to upgrade the bullpen or middle infield.

Deolis Guerra:

2008 (Ft. Myers): 
5.47 ERA   1.608 WHIP   1.00 K/BB   4.9 K/9  4.9 BB/9   130.0 IP

2009:

Ft. Myers:   4.69
ERA   1.390 WHIP   2.28 K/BB   5.9 K/9   2.6 BB/9   86.1 IP
New Britain:   5.59
ERA  1.655 WHIP   2.67 K/BB   7.4 K/9   2.8 BB/9   9.2 IP

Guerra
is the youngest and most intriguing of the three pitching prospects the
Twins got in the deal. The fact that he’s spent four years in A-ball
isn’t particularly inspiring, but he’s still only 20 years old and is
quite young even for that level.  Guerra was recently promoted to AA,
despite his poor numbers, in the hopes that a change in scenery will do
him some good.  It’s unlikely that he will ever develop into an ace,
and it’s questionable whether he will ever even reach the major
leagues, but it’s also too soon to give up on him just yet.

And here’s what the Mets got:

Johan Santana:   2.53 ERA   3.83 xFIP   1.15 WHIP   3.27 K/BB   4.8 WAR

Note
that I am only including his 2008 numbers.  I did this because, let’s
face it, his leaving was a foregone conclusion.  There is no way the
Twins were going to re-sign Johan, they would undoubtedly have been
outbid for his services by one of the larger-market teams.  This is
also why it’s not really accurate to say the Mets fleeced the Twins in
this deal:  the Twins were going to lose Santana anyway, and the Mets
gave up a ton of prospects as well as a ton of money to acquire him. 
Obviously, the Mets have come out on top so far, but dealing a
superstar near free agency is always an iffy proposition and teams
rarely get an adequate haul in return.  It’s not like the Delmon Young
trade, in which the Twins gave up two very talented young players who
were under their control for the next several years and got three
barely replacement-level players in return (and the centerpiece of that
deal is considerably below replacement-level).  That is highway robbery.

Now,
one can certainly make the case that the Twins didn’t have to trade
Santana, even though losing him was inevitable.  It’s true that the
Twins might have been better off with the additional draft picks they
would have gotten from whatever team he eventually signed with.  The
team almost certainly would’ve made the playoffs with Johan anchoring
the rotation last year, though I doubt very much they actually would
have won the World Series (having an unusually-high BA with RISP only
gets you so far).  But from all accounts, Bill Smith was left with
little choice but to deal the superstar, since Santana wanted his
contract situation resolved before the start of the season.  He didn’t
want to have to endure the media circus and speculation that dogged
Torii Hunter during his final season with the team, which is perfectly
understandable.  He also made it clear that he had no intention of
being a rent-a-player (like C.C. Sabathia last year) and since he had a
full no-trade clause in his contract, waiting for a better deal to come along at the trade deadline would have been out of the question. 

Smith was in his first season as GM
after Terry Ryan abruptly resigned, and was stuck with the unenviable task of trading the staff ace.  As far as whether or not they
would have gotten a better package from the Yankees or the Red Sox,
it’s possible.  However, we don’t really know what offers were on the
table, and if either team were really serious about trading for him. 
It sounds to me like Boston and New York were willing to wait for
Santana to enter free agency, rather than lose their top prospects in
a trade.  If both teams were serious about dealing for Santana, though,
and players like Ellsbury, Lester, Hughes and Cabrera really were on
the table, then Smith likely made a huge mistake in not pulling the
trigger. 

Mulvey Up, Morales Down, a Trade in the Works?

mulvey.jpg

As reported in the Star Tribune,
Kevin Mulvey has been recalled from Rochester to pitch out of the
bullpen.  Mulvey came over as part of the Santana trade, and this will
be his first call-up with the Twins since coming over from the Mets.  The Twins were trying to get
by with only 11 pitchers, but a series of shortened starts at the Dome
(and the injury to Kevin Slowey, which sounds like it might be getting better)
have made that impossible.  Mulvey has posted a 3.93 ERA, 1.402 WHIP,
2.13 K/BB, 7.1 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in seventeen starts for the Red Wings
this season.  Meh, these numbers aren’t great, but apparently he’s
going to be used for mop-up duty and should handle that role
competently.  If anything, he will provide some much-needed depth in the bullpen.

Back-up catcher Jose Morales has been optioned
back to AAA to make room for the extra pitcher.  Morales was mostly
called up because Gardy likes to have an extra catcher on days Redmond
is starting and Mauer is the DH, so he wasn’t really getting much
playing time.  Obviously, Morales has been having a better season at
the plate than Redmond, but Red has incriminating pictures of Gardy more experience handling the
pitching staff and I doubt the Twins are willing to eat what little is left of his contract.  Besides, the lack of production from some of the
regulars
in the lineup is much more troublesome than that from a guy who only plays once a week.  The Twins also could probably have optioned
Brian Buscher instead, since he also rarely sees any playing time, but
he offers more versatility in the field than Morales and often fills in
at third when Joe Crede needs a break.

The Twins have been linked
to a number of different players in trade rumors, most notably Freddy
Sanchez, relief pitchers Matt Capps and John Grabow from the Pirates,
and have apparently contacted Toronto about the availability of some of
their relievers.  There doesn’t seem to be anything in the works
though, and I’m guessing that Bill Smith felt those organizations were
asking too much in return (or the Twins just don’t have the prospects
Pittsburgh and Toronto are looking for).  Obviously, all that can
change with one phone call, so we’ll just have to wait and see what
happens.  I don’t really like to get into what moves the organization
should make, who they should be targeting in a trade and all that
because, honestly, I’m not all that good at it.  I don’t pay enough
attention to the rest of the league to know who might be a big impact
player that could help the team down the stretch.  As critical as I can
be of Bill Smith and the front office sometimes, I really do like to
think that they act in the best interests of the team, and there is at
least some sound reasoning behind some of the moves they’ve made, even
if they didn’t exactly pan out.  And I’m really not a fan of
rent-a-player deals, like the ones for Sabathia and Teixeira
last year.  Such trades seldom ever help the team make a deep run in
the playoffs, and more often than not, the player ends up signing
elsewhere during the off-season, leaving the organization scrambling to
fill the same holes they had before.  Only now the farm system is a bit
thinner on top of it, which is not at all a good thing for an
organization that relies as heavily on its farm system as the Twins.

  • Justin Morneau was miffed about the canned Canadian anthem

morny_angry.jpg

Morneau was reportedly annoyed that the American national anthem got
the celebrity treatment at the All-Star Game, while fans were treated
to a pre-recorded version of “O, Canada”.  Here’s what he told Joe Christensen:

“I wasn’t very impressed with that to tell you the truth. You figure they could find somebody to come and sing the song.
They have a hockey team here, the Canadian teams play here.

“It’s something that didn’t really go over too well. I think if it
happened the other way around, if they were playing in Toronto and they
did that, it would have been a lot bigger deal. But nothing you can do
about it.”

Obviously,
he wasn’t too worked up about the whole thing, but Morny really does
have a point.  It would be different if MLB were like football, in
which all of the teams are American-based and there is no need to
represent more than one country, but it isn’t. It’s more like the NHL,
which has both American and Canadian-based teams.  Prior to the start
of every hockey game, someone always sings both national anthems
whether the game is being played in the U. S. or Canada.  Besides, Toronto sent two representatives to the All-Star Game, one of which
was the starting pitcher!  Obviously, there are fewer Canadian baseball
teams than hockey teams, and there are fewer Canadian-born baseball
players than hockey players, but the canned treatment of the Canadian
anthem was a bit disrespectful to our neighbors to the north.  It’s not
really that big of a deal, but if MLB is going to take the time to
honor its Canadian representatives, then at least they should do it right.

Well, That Was Mildly Interesting (and Brief)

  • American League continues to own the National League

Photo

Unlike last year’s 150-inning, 72-hour snoozefest, this game was over in a little over two and a half hours.  Which was great, because there’s only so much Joe Buck and Tim McCarver that one person can stand before suffering some sort of catastrophic brain bleed.  Or throwing something at the tv.  The pre-game ceremony probably took a lot longer than the actual game itself, since it takes about an hour just to get through all the player introductions.  And for Sheryl Crow to butcher the national anthem.

Really, though, this game was probably about the best one in a long time.  After a few first-inning jitters, everyone seemed to settle down and play the sort of baseball you would expect from well, the best players in baseball.  The later innings had some of the best moments I’ve seen all year:  Carl Crawford robbing Brad Hawpe of a home run (and basically saving Jonathan Papelbon’s a** in the process, now that’s something you don’t see every day), Joe Nathan striking out Ryan Howard on a nasty slider in the dirt (and getting himself out of a jam), and Curtis Granderson legging out a triple and coming around to score on an Adam Jones sac fly.  Crawford’s catch was pretty much the difference maker in this game, and he was quite rightly named the MVP.  Papelbon got the win, and Mariano Rivera notched a record fourth ASG save. 

Our boys did a pretty good job representing Minnesota in the All-Star Game.  Joe Mauer caught for six innings, scored a run, and drove in the tying run on a double.  Joe Nathan managed to preserve the lead in the eighth, though he did make things a little more interesting than they really needed to be.  Hey, he hasn’t worked in almost a week just enjoys toying with his opponents.  That’s right, he just likes to let you think you’re staging a rally against him, then he breaks your heart with a slider in the dirt.  That’s not very nice, Joe.  Justin Morneau went 0-for-2, though he was robbed of a (probable) double by Jason Werth.  

And BOOOO!!!! to FOX for mentioning football about a million times during the broadcast. And showing commercials involving football about every three seconds.  Apparently this “baseball” thing is merely to hold us over until football season begins.

The Home Run Derby Does Not, in Fact, Screw Up a Guy’s Swing

340x

It’s inevitable.  One of the participants in this year’s contest will
go into a slump.  And the first thing people will blame is the Home Run
Derby, thinking that somehow his mechanics have been thrown off by what
amounts to taking extra batting practice.  Fangraphs’ R.J. Anderson recently did
a pretty thorough debunking
of this popular myth.  He selected the five participants in recent
history who have seen the most significant decline in power numbers in
the second half, and concluded that most of them were simply playing
above their heads and were bound to come back down to earth
eventually.  And that makes sense.  The event organizers for the Home
Run Derby invite players who, naturally, are hitting a lot of home
runs.  These players are often having a really great first half of the
season and are putting up numbers that just aren’t sustainable.  Bobby
Abreu is probably a perfect example.  He was having a pretty good first
half of the season, hitting .307/.428/.556/.955 with 18 home runs and
putting up career numbers in nearly every offensive category.  Then he
started to cool off after the All-Star break, hitting only six more
homers through August and September.  Obviously, people (including
Abreu himself I believe, but I’ll get to that in a minute) blamed the
Home Run Derby for his perceived slump.  However, Abreu finished the
season batting .286/.404/.474/.879, which is essentially right in line
with his career numbers.  What we were seeing wasn’t really a slump so
much as regression: that is, his production starting was to fall right
back in line with his career averages (or, if you prefer, he was who we
thought he was).  I think it’s also worth noting that Abreu was 34
years old at the time, and those numbers are about what you would
expect from a player his age.

If you’re not into fancy statistical analysis, then perhaps Joe Morgan (of all people) says it best:

“All players get tired in the second half. That is why very few players hit more HRs in the second half.”

Which leads me to Joe Mauer.  Mauer was red-hot in his first month
since coming off the DL, batting .414/.500/.838/1.338.  He’s hit 15
homers already this season, two more than his career mark set in 2006. 
These numbers aren’t sustainable for anyone, especially not a catcher,
and he’s just bound to cool off eventually.  In fact, he already has,
batting *only* .325/.404/.425/.829 in the month of July.  He’ll
probably finish the season batting .326/.414/.487/.901, which is much
closer to his career average and might still be enough to earn him his
third batting title.  SO I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ONE GODDAM THING ABOUT
THE HOME RUN DERBY MESSING UP HIS SWING.

And yet, the idea that participating in the Home Run Derby causes
hitters to slump persists.  Players are always quick to use it as an
excuse, probably because it sounds a lot better than: “Sorry guys, I’m
just tired.”, or “I guess my power numbers are simply regressing to the
mean.”  Both of those are probably much closer to the truth, but nobody
really wants to hear it.

So, um, How’s That Arm?

“I hate that guy. Rad would get
you 0-for-4 and you’d go home wondering, ‘How did he do it?’ That’s the
type of guy he was. He was one of the best pitchers they had in a long
time.”  -Ozzie Guillen

  • Twins induct Brad Radke into franchise Hall of Fame

MpQKIWEV

Radke was honored
in a pregame ceremony before Saturday’s loss to the White Sox, and that
turned out to be the only thing worth watching in that game (well,
maybe Joe Crede’s two homers).  I’ve written a piece about Radke here, and I think this is the perfect time to post this commercial he did for SEGA “World Series Baseball” way back in the day:

Radke has always been a fan favorite, and it’s really no wonder
why.  Besides being a consummate professional and (as far as we know)
decent human being, he gave us something to cheer for during the lean
years when there wasn’t much to look forward to.  To be honest, he was
really the only decent starter on the staff for about half of his
career, and though his career numbers certainly aren’t good enough to get him into Cooperstown, they sure look good compared to Frankie Rodriguez

Fans probably love Radke the most, though, because he turned down
more lucrative offers from other teams to remain in Minnesota.  He had
never been particularly overpowering, and he certainly wasn’t a
dominant pitcher by any stretch of the imagination, but his ability to
rack up strikeouts and eat innings was valuable enough that he could
have gotten a better deal elsewhere.  The era of free agency was just
hitting its peak, and pretty much everyone was eager to cash in.  Not
Radke, though.  He opted to re-sign with the Twins simply because he
liked it here.  He liked the organization, his family loved the area,
but he also wanted to see the team through its rebuilding process. 
After years and years of being one of the worst teams in baseball, the
Twins had finally started to put together a decent team, culminating in
a string of four playoff appearances from 2002-2006.  Unfortunately,
his arm started to give out during the 2006 season, and he decided to
retire rather than have surgery and try to keep his career (and chances
of winning a World Series) alive. 

  • The late George Brophy was inducted, as well

Brophy is often overlooked by fans, since his job as the director of
scouting and minor-league operations was mostly behind-the-scenes, but
he did play an important part in building the 1987 World Series-winning
team.  Patrick Reusse wrote a very good article (as well as this one
from 1998) about former farm director last week, detailing the conflict
within the organization at the time and his thankless task of trying to
build a championship-caliber team on a shoestring budget (seriously,
then-owner Calvin Griffith made the Pohlads look like the
Steinbrenners).  Obviously he played a key role in drafting and
developing players like Kent Hrbek and Kirby Puckett, but he made a
number of other moves that would help shape the 1987 team.  He was the
one who insisted that the Yankees throw in Greg Gagne as part of the
Roy Smalley trade, and demanded the Angels throw in Tom Brunansky as
part of the Rob Wilfong-Doug Corbett deal.  He also found guys like Larry Hisle, Bobby Darwin, and Doug Corbett (who, like I said, was instrumental in bringing Brunansky to the Twins).  Brophy
was one of the original members of the Twins’ front office when he was
hired in 1961.  He was later fired by then-team president Howard Fox in
1985 (the two never did get along), and he served as a scouting
assistant for the Astros before his ill health forced him to retire in
1996.  Sadly, he passed away in 1998.

F*ck!

  • Slowey suffers setback in rehab

520x

Well, there goes the season 
Ugh, I hope it’s just a slight one.  The Slow Man was supposed to throw
a bullpen session today, but his wrist injury flared up again and was unable to do so
He’s supposed to try throwing again on Wednesday, and the Twins are
holding off on any further decisions regarding treatment until then. 
So I’m going to hold off on any further panicking until then.  What is
certain, however, is that he won’t be making his next scheduled
start on July 21 at Oakland.  Anthony Swarzak will get the nod instead. 

  • Casilla up, Tolbert down, Harris back to the bench?

122280_Mariners_Twins_Baseball

As LEN3 reported,
Alexi Casilla has been recalled from Rochester, while Matt Tolbert has
been sent back down.  It’s essentially Casilla’s last chance to prove
he can stick in the major leagues, or the Twins will probably be moving
him in the off-season.  Casilla struggled mightily at the plate earlier
this season, batting a mere .180/.242/.225, and all of the defensive
miscues certainly didn’t help his case.  But he’s been on fire since
his demotion to Rochester, batting .340/.379/.449/.827 OPS for the Red Wings.  Still, as Jason
Bartlett can attest, it’s very difficult to get out of Gardy’s doghouse
once you have been banished there.  Casilla will probably have to magically
turn into Chase Utley overnight to keep his job, and even that wouldn’t
be enough.

With Casilla getting the start at second, this begs
the question as to who will be the everyday shortstop.  Gardy says he
will try to find playing time for both Punto and Harris, but this is
highly unlikely.  Punto will most certainly be the starting SS, and
Harris will almost certainly be back to the bench. The Twins are paying
Punto $4 million this year, so he and his .201/.319/.223 line won’t be
playing the utility role.  Gardy has already said as much
And really, when you look at the numbers, neither one is exactly running away
with the starting job.  Punto is terrible at the plate, but he’s a
career 21.0 UZR at the position, so his defense is good enough to make
him at least replacement-level.  Harris isn’t very good on defense (he’s a
career -11.9 UZR) but his .275/.318/.392 line makes him just a little
better than replacement-level, but not enough to just hand him the job,
either.  Now, if only there was a way to combine Harris’ bat with Punto’s glove

  • Gomez goes 3-for-4 with a home run and 5 RBI in series finale against White Sox

That goofball is bound and determined to make me love him. 

Carlos-gomez-kisses-bat

Actually, I pretty much already decided that the first time I saw him sniff his bat.