At 43-43 44-43, this team is exactly average. I’m certainly not the first person to notice this, nor am I the first to point out
that it’s mostly because all of the great talent on this team is
balanced by players who have no business on a major-league roster. The
awesomeness of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau is balanced by the
suckitude of well, the entire second half of the lineup. Nick
Blackburn is putting up the best numbers of his career, while Scott
Baker and Francisco Liriano are putting up the worst. The comparison
between the best and worst players on the team is stark:
Joe Mauer: .389/.461/.651/1.112 OPS 4.3 WAR
Justin Morneau: .313/.390/.582/.971 OPS 2.8 WAR
Jason Kubel: .306/.364/.540/.904 OPS 1.3 WAR
Denard Span: .288/.375/.377/.752 OPS 1.7 WAR
Matt Tolbert: .178/.272/.225/.497 OPS -0.9 WAR
Nick Punto: .211/.322/.234/.556 OPS -0.2 WAR
Carlos Gomez: .218/.277/.318/.595 OPS -0.3 WAR
Delmon Young: .270/.296/.349/.646 OPS -1.2 WAR
The pitching is a slightly different story:
Nick Blackburn: 2.94 ERA 4.94 xFIP 1.272 WHIP 1.82 K/BB 2.0 WAR
Kevin Slowey: 4.86 ERA 4.38 xFIP 1.412 WHIP 5.00 K/BB 1.4 WAR
Joe Nathan: 1.35 ERA 2.42 xFIP 0.750 WHIP 6.14 K/BB 1.4 WAR
Scott Baker: 5.31 ERA 4.24 xFIP 1.221 WHIP 3.90 K/BB 1.3 WAR
Francisco Liriano: 5.47 ERA 4.53 xFIP 1.490 WHIP 2.02 K/BB 1.3 WAR
guys like Luis Ayala (0.1 WAR), Sean Henn (-0.2 WAR), and Jesse Crain
(-0.2 WAR) haven’t been helping much, either. The good news is that
none of these guys are in the bullpen right now. The bad news is that
they were here long enough to cost the team wins.
are a couple of things worth noting here. First of which is that, as
much as both Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano have struggled this
season, both are still above replacement-level (that is, both are more
valuable than some scrub picked up off the waiver wire), and both
obviously have tremendous upside. So, unless the Twins are absolutely
blown away with an offer for either one, it would be wise to hang onto
them for now (and no, Jon Garland and his 5.28 xFIP is not that guy).
Secondly, despite his .270 batting average, Delmon Young is still one
of the worst hitters in the lineup. His .349 slugging percentage is
anemic, his 58/6 K/BB ratio is the worst on the team, besides providing
crappy defense in left (-9.1 UZR). No wonder the Rays were so eager to
get rid of him.
Of course, this is
pretty much the way the Twins have operated for the past decade, so
none of this comes as a surprise. The likes of Ramon Ortiz, Sidney Ponson, and Rick Reed have rounded out a rotation fronted by Johan Santana and Brad Radke. Dustan Mohr, Michael Restovich, and Michael Ryan have all patrolled the outfield alongside Torii Hunter. After Corey Koskie left, guys like Tony Batista and Mike Lamb were manning third base until Joe Crede came along. Jason Tyner, he of the one major league home run, was the DH for 31 games in three seasons with the Twins (when Rondell White and Ruben Sierra weren’t available, of course). Tyner, by the way, was featured on the “Best Persons in the World” awhile back when his current (former?) team traded him away for nothing. And then there was the Luis Rodriguez–Juan Castro–Luis Rivas infield, with Terry Tiffee on the bench. And these weren’t even the worst Twins teams.
there was a lot of talk about the Yankees’ payroll during the series at
the Dome, and it’s true that having a larger payroll gives a team more
flexibility. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a “Woe is us, how can we
ever keep up
with the Yankees and Red Sox?” post. Simply spending a lot of money
doesn’t necessarily guarantee that a team will even make the playoffs
let alone win a championship, and there is much more parity baseball
(especially the AL) than pretty much any other major professional sport
in this country. It’s just that a smaller payroll
gives a franchise a much smaller margin-for-error when making trades,
signing free agents, and even in the draft, since a bad move can
hamstring such an organization for decades.
The Nick Swisher trade is a very good
example. Now, the Yankees
acquired him from the White Sox for next to nothing, but even if he
doesn’t work out, the team isn’t completely sunk. The Yankees
technically have six outfielders since acquiring Eric Hinske from the
Pirates, so they don’t really need Swisher and could easily trade him if
he starts to decline.
Compare that to the Delmon Young trade (I know, I know, they’re not
really the same since the Young deal had a much higher risk, but bear
with me). The Twins gave up a lot to
acquire Young and he has yet to live up to his potential. To be fair,
Young isn’t the only terrible hitter on this team (and he hasn’t even
entered the prime of his career yet), but he needs to put up better
power numbers to make the trade worthwhile (and to justify giving him
so much playing time). At this point, though, it’s hard to argue that
the Twins wouldn’t be a better team
with Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett. Worse yet, his poor performance
and perceived attitude problems mean the Twins would have a tough time
getting anything of value for him should they consider themselves
buyers the trade deadline. Like it or not, they’re pretty much stuck
and simply have to hope that Young will eventually start to develop
By the way, I tend to consider the
Young trade karmic retribution for the A.J. Pierzynski trade.
Although, when you think about it, the Young trade is even worse.
Pierzynski was at least competent both at the plate and in the field,
and Giants fans only had to put up with him for one season. Delmon, on
the other hand, is the gift that keeps on giving.
Is Jesse Crain hurt? It’s a distinct possibility. He’s been pretty awful since coming off the DL with shoulder stiffness on May 15th, surrendering 11 earned runs in 11.2 innings while only striking out 7. He gave up the winning run on three straight hits in yesterday’s game against the Cubs. Of course, it’s also possible that Crain is just the new Juan Rincon. Update: Crain has been demoted to AAA Rochester. I think the only thing that surprised me about this move is that Crain actually had options left (I’m assuming he had options, the article said nothing about clearing waivers).
Stick and Ball Guy has an interesting assessment of Delmon Young and his approach at the plate. Not surprisingly, Young struggles against power pitchers, but hits finesse pitchers fairly well. Unless he improves his plate discipline and pitch recognition, he will always struggle against power pitchers and won’t develop any power. The question is whether or not the Twins will be patient and wait for him to develop an eye and patience at the plate. Since his trade value is almost non-existent at this point, they really don’t have much of a choice.
Current SI chosen one Bryce Harper has decided he’d rather skip his last two years of high school, get his GED, and enroll in community college until he’s eligible for the draft. Actually, I have no problem with this whatsoever. This kid doesn’t exactly sound like Fulbright material, so an education is probably wasted on him anyway. Since Harper does indeed have the talent and physical attributes to become a good baseball player, why not? And if the whole baseball thing doesn’t really work out, at least he’ll get a $20 million signing bonus out of it. I guess the only real problem is that the greedy parents of less-talented children are going to try the same thing, but fail miserably because their kid sucks.
I was watching the Cubs’ feed during the series in Chicago (sometimes I need a vacation from Dick and Bert), and I thought it was cute that their broadcasters couldn’t figure out why the Twins are under .500. Um, it’s probably because they play in the American League. Although, it isn’t as though there are a lot of powerhouse teams in the AL Central.
ing of which, during tonight’s Brewers-Indians
tickle fight home run derby on ESPN, Steve Phillips said that some thought the AL Central would be the best division in baseball this season. Wait, what? Who said that? Certainly not PECOTA.
Minneapolis Los Angeles Lakers won their bazillionth championship last night. Meh. I just find it really hard to care about basketball because, well, it isn’t really a team sport. I mean, nobody really cares about the supporting cast, it’s all about the marketable superstar. And by nobody, of course, I mean the mainstream media. Seriously, this series might as well have been between the LA Kobe Bryants and the Orlando Dwight Howards.
The Wild hired San Jose assistant coach (and Minnesota native) Todd Richards to replace longtime head coach Jacques Lemaire, who resigned right after the season was over. It’s like Christmas for the hockey fans in this town. We have an owner (Craig Leipold) who wants to win a championship, decided the front office wasn’t going to get the job done, and cleaned house. And after an extensive and exhaustive search, Leipold hired the best available candidates for the job. Obviously, this doesn’t mean the Wild will actually win a championship, and given the lack of talent both on the roster and in the system, it’s going to take a few years to build a Cup-contending team. Still, it makes wish the Pohlad family were more interested in winning a World Series than saving a few bucks.
In my previous post, I mentioned that the Twins’ had the tenth-ranked defense in the league (or a .700 Defensive Efficiency rating, the definition and formula for which can be found here) according to Baseball Prospectus and I guess I should elaborate on that. The Twins have committed the fewest errors in the AL, and have an AL-best .990 fielding percentage, but neither one of those stats really measures defensive efficiency. That is, they don’t measure how effectively a team converts balls in play into outs, at least not accurately. As I discussed in the Mauer post, in general I like to use Ultimate Zone Rating to evaluate player defense. However, because it essentially measures how many runs a particular player saves per game, the values sometimes fluctuate wildly from season to season, so it’s not the best metric for evaluating defense over the short-term. At least not on its own. To evaluate team defense during the season, I also like to use Defensive Efficiency and Park-Adjusted Defensive Efficiency
(which, like the name implies, adjusts for ballpark factors that might
effect the Defensive Efficiency Rating) to get a full picture of how well the Twins are converting balls in play into outs. And, at least this season, they haven’t been very good at it. The team UZR is a 19th-ranked -6.5, on top of the .700 Deff Eff and 12th-ranked 0.4 PADE, so it’s clear that Twins’ defense has been mediocre at best. Which wouldn’t matter so much if they had more strikeout pitchers on the staff, but with a rotation full of contact pitchers, the defense needs to be better than just average.
I guess there isn’t a better player than Delmon Young to illustrate my point. Young has only made two errors this season, and his fielding percentage is .967, so one would think that Young is a pretty good left-fielder. However, Young has a poor -6.7 UZR this season, and his career -23.1 UZR is about as bad as it gets. So while he might not make a lot of errors, he doesn’t have much range and isn’t very good at converting balls in play into outs. But you really don’t need any fancy metrics to come to that conclusion. Anyone who’s actually watched Delmon lumbering around in the outfield can tell that he isn’t very good. The numbers simply support that assessment.
- Frankie finally has another quality start
Well, technically last night’s game against the Mariners was a quality start: one earned run on three hits over six innings but Frankie didn’t exactly pitch as well as that looks. He struck out six batters, but walked four and had to pitch himself out of a self-imposed jam nearly every every inning. He’s still struggling with his command, but at least he managed to not melt down when he got himself in trouble. He still needs to throw his changeup a little more, and needs to work on command of his fastball, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Of course, he had a similar performance at Yankee Stadium and then failed to make it past the fourth inning in his next three starts, so he’s going to need to string a few quality starts together to keep his spot in the rotation.
Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron has an interesting solution to the Delmon Young problem. Young wasn’t off to a great start before his mom died, but he’s been awful since returning to the team and just seems lost at the plate. The Twins can’t just send him down, since he’s out of options and almost certainly wouldn’t clear waivers even as bad as he’s been. It might be best for both sides to go the D-Train route: Young would have a chance to get himself together without the pressure of fighting for a playoff spot and the Twins would get to compete for the division title with their best outfielders.
What’s wrong with the South Side? Paul Konerko does his best to explain why nobody seems to want to come play for the Fightin’ Ozzies.
Justin Morneau finally made good on his bet with Strib beat writer LaVelle E. Neal, III. I guess he didn’t do too badly on his first-ever blog post, even if it is a little short (not everyone needs to write 25,000 word essays like I do). But don’t quit your day job, Justin.