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12/3/14

The signing of Torii Hunter might close a big hole for the Twins

On paper the Minnesota Twins' reunion with 39 year old Torii Hunter last night, seems a bit puzzling.  Rational thinking and looking at records and results of games, would suggest that a team coming back from seasons of 99, 96, 96 and 92 losses and hurting primarily in pitching and defense, would need an aging 39 year old outfielder with diminishing defensive skills being the marquee transaction of the season, as much as a painful communicable disease.  Not to mention that the particular outfield added injury (signing with a team withing the Twins division) two seasons ago, to the 2007 insult of leaving the Twins as a free agent for more money elsewhere.  But that is rational thinking. 

Any person who has followed the Twins should know that this is business as usual for Terry Ryan's front office.  There is no need to rationalize Hunter's signing.  It makes perfect sense, if you realize, that this is how Terry Ryan builds a team.  Here is the complete Terry Ryan transaction record from 
the 1995-2006 seasons and 2012.  I posted that before the last two off-seasons.  The Torii Hunter signing fits Ryan's modus operenti like a glove:  Ryan re-signed a 41 year old Paul Molitor in 1998, reunited the Twins with a 35 year old Mike Trombley in 2002 and washed out Matt LeCroy (the player who chose over David Ortiz after 2002) in 2007, re-signed Capps in 2012 and Carl Willing in 2005 (to release them later,) in addition to the last year's washed out trio of Bartlett, Kubel and Guerrier.  This is the same General Manager who brought old and washed out Tony Batista, Tim Raines, Rueben Sierra, Bob Tewksbury, Otis Nixon, Mike Morgan, Michael Jackson and Sidney Ponson (among others) as "solutions".  Old and washed out is Terry Ryan's specialty.  Nothing new here, nothing to rationalized.  Business. As. Usual. 

Back to non-rational thinking.  One of the biggest problems with the Twins the past 4 seasons (and beyond, as far as the post-season goes) is that they seemed to be ok with losing and they seemed not to give 100% all the time.  Last Spring Training, it became painfully obvious to me, and indicated that I just cannot see this team win, no matter what the improvements on paper (and there were a lot.)  Getting Gardenhire and most of his friends who, if not bred, they were at least ok with this attitude, is a step to the right direction, hoping that Molitor and his staff will install a winning attitude among the players.   Torii Hunter, punching short utility teammates while targeting rookie stars notwithstanding, has had the reputation of playing hard and giving it all.  And keep working.  And then work some more.  Hopefully, he will bring the right attitude to the team of so many young players with so much potential.  Hopefully he will be an example for hard work and never giving up.  And never stop working.  Not that I like that signing, rationally, but when it pours lemons...   On the other hand, Torii Hunter was a core member of the Gardenhire teams that went belly up in the post-season or when they were facing winning opponents.  I hope that 2015 is different.







11/7/14

List of former Twins players who are minor league free agents

I don't think that a reunion is imminent with any, but it is interesting to see how many of those have played with the Twins (in bold,) especially in the recent low times...

Joe Benson (OF, Marlins, AA)
Matt Capps (RHP, Indians, AAA)
Matt Carson (OF, Indians, AAA)
Ray Chang (IF, Reds, AA)
Scott Diamond (LHP, Reds, AAA)
Terry Doyle (RHP, Braves, AAA)
Phil Humber (RHP, Athletics, AAA)
Erik Komatsu (OF, Brewers, AA)
Dustin Martin (OF, Diamondbacks AA)
Corky Miller (C, Reds, AAA)
Ray Olmedo (IF, Rays, AAA)
Brock Peterson (1B/OF, Dodgers, AAA)
Tyler Robertson (LHP, Nationals, AAA)
Josh Roenicke (RHP, Rockies, AAA)
Sergio Santos (RHP, Blue Jays, AA)
Anthony Slama (RHP, Dodgers, AA)
J.R. Towles (C, Rangers, AAA) 


Complete list of Twins' minor league free agents

Today, the following Twins have become minor league free agents.  They can re-sign with the Twins or they can sign with any other team:

James Beresford (IF, AAA)
Eric Farris (UT, AAA)
Jim Fuller (LHP, AA)
Deolis Guerra (RHP, AAA)
B.J. Hermsen (RHP, AA)
Edgar Ibarra (LHP, AAA) 
Yohan Pino (RHP, AAA)
Chris Rahl (OF, AAA)
Wilkin Ramirez (OF, AAA)
Dan Rohlfing (C/OF AAA)
Deibinson Romero (3B, AAA)
Dan Turpen (RHP, AA)
Virgil Vasquez (RHP, AAA)
Brandon Waring (IF, AA)
Corey Wimberly (UT, AA)


The ones in italics were on the Twins' 40-man roster at some point and the ones in bold, played for the Twins.

11/1/14

Paul Molitor is the Twins manager

It seems that the Minnesota Twins, will continue the tradition of hiring within and will offer their manager's job to Paul Molitor.  It will become official next week.  From the three finalists, Molitor was my third choice, Torey Lovullo was the first, mainly because I value outside modern thinking and winning ways.  Lovullo is fresh off a World Championship (2013) with the Red Sox, Doug Mientkiewicz, the other candidate is fresh off leading the Fort Myers Miracle to a championship, and has a ring with Red Sox World Champion team that broke the curse of the Bambino.  Paul Molitor?  He is  a Hall of Famer, he is local, and people like him.   I hope that he surrounds himself with good coaches who understand the nuances of the game in the 21st century, and, other than Brunansky maybe, goes outside the organization.   The key will be the pitching coach.   

I wish Paul Molitor all the luck in the world and hope he leads the Twins to multiple World Series Titles.


10/27/14

Is a Nolasco for Buehrle trade imminent for the Twins?

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe indicated that the Toronto Blue Jays, are shopping Mark Buehrle.  Knowing the infatuation of the Twins' General Manager, Terry Ryan for the former White Sox' slow tossing, fast working Lefty, I suspect that he might be interested.   Could the Twins also show buyer's remorse and trade disgruntled and ineffective Rick Nolasco, who after the season was over, indicated that he wish he were in LA, even further away from there, for Mark Buehrle?  I am not sure that this will be a win for the Twins, other than saving some money and getting a potential headache out of the clubhouse.

Time will show, but it might be an interesting off-season.

10/5/14

Catchers at the Outfield? The 2014 Twins and respectability

If anyone thinks that playing shortstops, first basemen, catchers and DHs at the outfield did not hurt the Twins, here is a pretty astonishing set of numbers allowed to us by the new technology that tracks hit balls.   I am just showing the significant departures from league averages:

Up the Middle RHB:

Twins: PA against: 1339 Slash line: .336/.330/.498 (.826 OPS)
AL: PA against:  19461 Slash line:  .308/.303/.439 (.742 OPS)

Opposite field RHB (i.e hit at the Twins RF):
Twins: PA against: 404 Slash line: .332/.326/.532 (.858 OPS)
AL: PA against: 6191 Slash line: .279/.274/.408 (.682 OPS)

That is a huge difference (from average and not from league best too).  I hope that someone at the Twins looks at that and adjusts accordingly.  If you are a defensive stats minded person, here are plus/minuses (which is actually appropriate for the sample size; devised by Bill James and indicates runs saved from average) and UZR/150 (which is not appropriate for numerical calculation, but the direction gives a sense of what is going on.) 

Santana (CF) plus/minus: -2, UZR/150: -12.2
Mastroianni (OF) plus/minus: -3, UZR/150: -9.2
Hicks (OF)  plus/minus: -6, UZR/150: -8.2
Schafer (OF) plus/minus: -3, UZR/150: 1.2
Herrmann (OF)  plus/minus: -4, UZR/150: -21.9
Kubel (RF)  plus/minus: -7, UZR/150: -29.1
Parmelee (OF)  plus/minus: -7, UZR/150: -7.4
Colabello (RF)  plus/minus: -6, UZR/150: -73.8
Bartlett (OF)  plus/minus: -2, UZR/150: -293.1
Arcia (OF)  plus/minus: -12, UZR/150: -6.9
Willingham (LF)  plus/minus: -5, UZR/150: -6.6
and
Escobar (OF) plus/minus: -1, UZR/150: -27.2
Nunez  (OF) plus/minus: -1, UZR/150: 19.9

Adding those plus/minuses is 57.  Which means that the Twins' outfield gave up 57 more runs than an average outfield.  In 2014 the Twins scored 715 runs and gave up 777 for a 62 run differential.  If they had an average outfield, that differential projects at -5, which projects to an 80-82 record, which, albeit not competitive, is respectable.

The 2014 outfield defense was not the reason the Twins did not compete, but it was the reason the Twins were not respectable. 

I really cannot believe that anyone should use the adjective "solid" to describe any of the above players - maybe with the exception of Schafer - as outfielders.  Some of them are young enough and they can learn and improve, but "solid" they are not.   Nope.  Mr Parmelee is not a solid outfield.  . Mr Herrmann is not a solid outfield.  Mr Santana is not a solid centerfielder.  Mr Hicks is not a solid centerfielder.

Yes, starting pitching beyond Hughes and Gibson (and maybe Pino, his FIP and WHIP are close to Gibson's) was a problem, but it was not the only problem in opponent scoring.   The Twins need to address outfield defense in 2015 as a top priority.


9/29/14

The ball is on Terry Ryan's court: The aftermath of the firing of Ron Gardenhire by the Twins.

Today Terry Ryan held a press conference, in absentia Jim Pohlad & Dave St. Peter, who apparently had better things to do, to announce that Ron Gardenhire will not be returning as the Twins manager in 2015.   The news were so unusual that might be the reason that former Twins manager Tom Kelly suffered a minor stroke today (best wishes Tom.)  Ron Gardenhire's dismissal was long overdue.  It should had happened after the 2006 post-season.  And, as I indicated previously,  I felt that it was done deal at least a month ago.

There are a few strange things about this and I don't think that they are coincidental:
  • The Twins' owner and president were not around in the press conference
  • Gardenhire was and allegedly was offered a position within the organization (rumors that it is for the roving grouch instructor are not substantiated.)
  • There was no word about his coaches, however their contacts are all expired and no renewals were announced and it looks like they are all gone, pending new manager's whim.
  • When asked, Ryan said that he knows what type of manager he wants (and went to a great detail describing characteristics) but admitted that he has no list of candidates.
  • The kicker is that Terry Ryan was adamant and on the record as late as 8/22 saying that Gardenhire will be back
This does not seem like a General Manager who a. wanted to do this and was ready to do it,  b. has the support of his bosses (who did not even bother attending) and c. is facing a serious health issue.  If Gardenhire's firing was demanded and imposed by Ryan's bosses recently, several things could be explained (especially his unpreparedness for a replacement.)  However,  no matter what, Ryan looks like a liar right now.  I would not be surprised if Terry Ryan resigns shortly, before he names a manager and this will probably be better for both him and the Twins. 

9/27/14

Rick Anderson is about to get fired Sunday night...

... and it will be the tip of the iceberg of the changes.  As I indicated before, Ron Gardenhire is as good as gone, and Terry Ryan with his inability to be around every day because of health issues, will likely resign.

Here is the sphinx-like words that TR uttered about Anderson.  But what the Twins really need is a baseball man on top.  It is not a coincidence that the Twins have been anchored to the basement starting the season that Jerry Bell retired and David St. Paul, who is more aware and interested in concert acts and food and beverage selections, was promoted on the top of the organization.

Changes are needed, does Jim Pohlad have the fortitude to make them?

We will find out in 3 days.

9/15/14

Chris Tillman Has Turned Into The Ace Baltimore Needs

Guest post by Matt Jenkins
----

With the 2014 MLB playoffs just around the corner, the Baltimore Orioles are pretty much a lock to represent the American League East. Not a lot of people expected them to be at the top of the division at the start of the year, but here they are with a sizable lead. They have quite a few players to thank for their outstanding season so far, but one big surprise has been Chris Tillman on the mound.

The American League Cy Young Award has pretty much been wrapped up by Felix Hernandez. However, if it was not for Hernandez having such a special season on the mound, there is a very good chance that Tillman would come away with the award. He has been able to the very solid on the mound, and he has also been very consistent. His numbers and fantasy baseball illustrate just how valuable he has been for Baltimore.

Among playoff teams, Baltimore certainly looks like a franchise that does not have the same type of top-tier talent on the mound. Most people agree that in order to win a World Series, pitching needs to be the key for any franchise. Tillman is hoping that he can carry over his regular season success to the postseason. He might not have a huge track record, but nothing seems to be holding him back at this time.

Tillman was pretty good at the beginning of the year, but he has been very solid since the beginning of June. In fact, he has not allowed more than 3 earned runs in any of his starts since June 5, and that has put Baltimore in contention every single time he takes the mound. He might only have 12 wins on the year and a slightly bloated 3.36 ERA, but Baltimore will be counting on him quite a bit during the most important part of the year. If he can take his game to another level, Baltimore has a fighting chance to go all the way.

8/14/14

666 The number of the beast, and higher than the OPS of about half of the Twins' hitters

In addition to the Iron Maiden song, .666 is the lifetime OPS of Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.  Rumors that he sold his soul to someone to get to the Hall of Fame have not been substantiated.  Interestingly enough, in his case that .666 OPS translated to an 87 OPS+.  Right now for the Twins, Jordan Schafer is just missing the list with a .668 OPS and he has an 88 OPS+.  The more things change...

Here are the (non-pitcher) Twins' hitters whose bats are not quite as hot as Hell (I guess that might be a good assumption) :

Chris Colabello  .662
Eric Fryer .635
Eduardo Nunez  .632
Jason Kubel .607
Aaron Hicks .600
Kendrys Morales .584
Chris Herrmann .343
Pedro Florimon .310
Jason Bartlett  .250
Darin Mastroianni  .083

It is worth mentioning that only two of these guys are with the club right now (Nunez & Fryer) and a few more (Colabello, Hicks, Hermann, Florimon) are still with the organization.  If I were to pick, I'd think that only the 2 previously high ranked prospects with a history of success (Hicks & Herrmann) will see some playing time in the majors next season.



8/10/14

The Twins Trade Kevin Correia to the Dodgers and get...

...exactly the same when they traded Jim Thome (who was traded the next season for not one but 2 minor leaguers, one of whom looks like a decent reliever) within the division to the Cleveland Indians:

...exactly the same when traded Jamey Carroll within the division to the Kansas City Royals last season:

Absolutely nothing. Nada. Zilch. 

At least he is not taking a spot on the rotation blocking younger pitchers any longer, he was not trading within the division (even though on Correia's case that might had been a good thing) and this move has suggested that Rob Antony does not always say the truth.  (Hopefully Willinghman is next.)

The Twins (who are on pace for about 90 losses in 2014) will recall LHP Tommy Milone (of Sam Fuld trade fame) to take Correia's spot on the 25-man roster and the rotation.


8/8/14

Where is Twins' General Manager Terry Ryan?

The 2014 non-waiver trading deadline passed and went.  There was minimal activity, namely the trade of Sam Fuld, and the only media statements were issued by the latest Twins' titular head, Rob Antony.    And those statements around the deadline were to offer (lame) excuses on why veterans have not moved in a rebuilding team.  Recently, Antony's statements have been of more substance, discussing Kennys Vargas' food and dietary situation, among other things.   Really high priority for a team that is on the way to a fourth season in a row on the bottom of the stands.

Where is this teams' General Manager?  And who is going to answer about the Twins' inactivity at the deadline?  Terry Ryan's last statement was on July 27th (that is 12 days ago), and that was to support Twins' manager Ron Gardenhire and say what a great job he has done (to lead his team to the last place again.)

I hope that there is nothing serious health-wise about Ryan, but his absence from the public eye in trying periods for his team is akin to that of certain late Soviet leaders.

Sounds like business as usual in the Twins' land, since there seem to be about 5 people or so who really care about the Twins and the shape they are in, any more, but something is really wrong and questions need to be asked...  

8/6/14

Ron Gardenhire is out as the Twins' manager, now what?

The writing is pretty much on the wall.  From this to this, and everything in between, the biggest question in the Twins' Territory is not if this will be Ron Gardenhire's last season as the Twins' manager, it is when will he be replaced.   Enumerating reasons about Gardenhire's replacement right now will be pointless (it was not after the miserable 2006 post-season, when this place was one of the few week voices suggesting that this team will not go anywhere with Gardenhire and Ryan at its helm.   It took the four most miserable consecutive seasons in franchise history, since the move to Minnesota, to actually have some sort of a majority thinking that this might be the case.)  It did not had to take for Ron Gardenhire to accumulate 1000 losses and be one of only seven managers in baseball history to achieve this feat, for this to happen.

As far as the "when" goes, it looks like it will happen sooner than later.  It might happen as soon as this series is over or it might happen after this season.   I suspect that Gardenhire will be allowed to leave on his own terms and retire riding into the sunset like Clayton Moore, instead of being forced out.  This franchise does things this way (and it is fine.)   For the record, my bet is that Gardenhire does not finish the season and for practical reasons (like not enough bodies to sit in the dugout) they will wait until minor league play is over to do it.  It has a bit more oomph if it is done during the season and that's what I think they will do.  I have never seen so many main press sources either re-iterating how sick and tired Gardenhire is lately, or how sad and "remote" Ryan seems lately.  Something is about to happen, folks, in the land of ten thousand lakes, and it does not involve soaking cod in lye in a bathtub.

The "what" is more important:  What will happen after Gardy is gone?  Potentially, this would be another case of rearranging coaching chairs (c. 2012, when they blamed the lost season on Jerry and Stelly and did a round robin with the rest.)  If Tonto is still around when Kemo Sabe is gone (utterly love the sarcasm of the advertizing copy placement on that shot in so many levels, btw), it will be another failure.   It will also be a failure is Scotty and Vavry and Steiny and Bruno were kept.  They are part of the problem as well.  They need to go.  The jury is still out on Paul Molitor, who has instituted some improvements already, like the defensive shifts, and Bobby Cuellar, who I think has not given an opportunity to do what he can do with this staff in the shade of Anderson.

Fresh thoughts and ideas are needed in this Franchise.  And, of course, this starts in the front office.  I think that Terry Ryan will also retire after this season, and health issues will be sited.  He does have a bigger battle than the Twins' to fight at this point and wishing him the best.  If I were the Pohlads, I would offer someone like Joe Maddon a position similar to what Nolan Ryan had with the Rangers or Tony LaRussa has with the Diamondbacks and give him carte blanche to fix the team (and if he still likes to manage, let him manage as well.)

But this is another long story, better saved for later...


7/27/14

Ron Gardenhire is out as the Twins' manager, now what?

The writing is pretty much on the wall.  From this to this, and everything in between, the biggest question in the Twins' Territory is not if this will be Ron Gardenhire's last season as the Twins' manager, it is when will he be replaced.   Enumerating reasons about Gardenhire's replacement right now will be pointless (it was not after the miserable 2006 post-season, when this place was one of the few week voices suggesting that this team will not go anywhere with Gardenhire and Ryan at its helm.   It took the four most miserable consecutive seasons in franchise history, since the move to Minnesota, to actually have some sort of a majority thinking that this might be the case.)  It did not had to take for Ron Gardenhire to accumulate 1000 losses and be one of only seven managers in baseball history to achieve this feat, for this to happen.

As far as the "when" goes, it looks like it will happen sooner than later.  It might happen as soon as this series is over or it might happen after this season.   I suspect that Gardenhire will be allowed to leave on his own terms and retire riding into the sunset like Clayton Moore, instead of being forced out.  This franchise does things this way (and it is fine.)   For the record, my bet is that Gardenhire does not finish the season and for practical reasons (like not enough bodies to sit in the dugout) they will wait until minor league play is over to do it.  It has a bit more oomph if it is done during the season and that's what I think they will do.  I have never seen so many main press sources either re-iterating how sick and tired Gardenhire is lately, or how sad and "remote" Ryan seems lately.  Something is about to happen, folks, in the land of ten thousand lakes, and it does not involve soaking cod in lye in a bathtub.

The "what" is more important:  What will happen after Gardy is gone?  Potentially, this would be another case of rearranging coaching chairs (c. 2012, when they blamed the lost season on Jerry and Stelly and did a round robin with the rest.)  If Tonto is still around when Kemo Sabe is gone (utterly love the sarcasm of the advertizing copy placement on that shot in so many levels, btw), it will be another failure.   It will also be a failure is Scotty and Vavry and Steiny and Bruno were kept.  They are part of the problem as well.  They need to go.  The jury is still out on Paul Molitor, who has instituted some improvements already, like the defensive shifts, and Bobby Cuellar, who I think has not given an opportunity to do what he can do with this staff in the shade of Anderson.

Fresh thoughts and ideas are needed in this Franchise.  And, of course, this starts in the front office.  I think that Terry Ryan will also retire after this season, and health issues will be sited.  He does have a bigger battle than the Twins' to fight at this point and wishing him the best.  If I were the Pohlads, I would offer someone like Joe Maddon a position similar to what Nolan Ryan had with the Rangers or Tony LaRussa has with the Diamondbacks and give him carte blanche to fix the team (and if he still likes to manage, let him manage as well.)

But this is another long story, better saved for later...





7/25/14

Twins' weekly organizational transactions: 7/19-7/25/2014

Here are this week's Twins' organization transactions.  All these weekly transaction lists are here.  When transactions involve a Twins top 40 prospect from my most current prospect list (here), that will be indicated next to the player's name by his ranking (see Max Kepler below for example).

The transactions from 7/19 to now were:


 07/25/2014 LHP Jason Wheeler assigned to AAA Rochester Red Wings from AA New Britain Rock Cats.
07/25/2014 A+ Fort Myers Miracle placed RHP D.J. Baxendale (Twins prospect ranking: 37) on the 7-day disabled list.
07/25/2014 A Cedar Rapids Kernels placed RHP Kohl Stewart (Twins prospect ranking: 7) on the 7-day disabled list.
07/25/2014 LHP Josue Montanez assigned to A Cedar Rapids Kernels from Rk+ Elizabethton Twins.
07/25/2014 LHP Stephen Gonsalves (Twins prospect ranking: 20) assigned to A Cedar Rapids Kernels from Rk+ Elizabethton Twins.
07/24/2014 MLB Minnesota Twins designated RHP Matt Guerrier for assignment.
07/24/2014 MLB  Minnesota Twins traded 1B Kendrys Morales to Seattle Mariners for RHP Stephen Pryor.
07/24/2014 MLB Minnesota Twins recalled SS Jorge Polanco (Twins prospect ranking: 6) from Fort Myers Miracle.
07/24/2014 1B/OF Reynaldo Rodriguez assigned to AAA Rochester Red Wings from AA New Britain Rock Cats.
07/24/2014 MLB Minnesota Twins optioned RHP Stephen Pryor to AAA Rochester Red Wings.
07/24/2014 MLB Minnesota Twins recalled RHP Ryan Pressly from AAA Rochester Red Wings.
07/24/2014 A+ Fort Myers Miracle activated 2B Levi Michael (Twins prospect ranking: 38) from the 7-day disabled list.
07/24/2014 Rk GCL Twins placed LHP Reyson Zoquiel on the 7-day disabled list.
07/24/2014 Rk GCL Twins placed LHP Onas Farfan on the 7-day disabled list.
07/24/2014 Rk GCL Twins placed RHP Miguel Gonzalez on the 7-day disabled list.
07/23/2014    AA New Britain Rock Cats placed LHP Taylor Rogers on the 7-day disabled list.
07/23/2014    2B Rafael P Valera assigned to A+ Fort Myers Miracle from Rk GCL Twins.
07/23/2014    A+ Fort Myers Miracle placed CF Max Kepler (Twins prospect ranking: 12) on the 7-day disabled list.
07/22/2014    MLB Minnesota Twins recalled Yohan Pino from AAA Rochester Red Wings.
07/22/2014    MLB Minnesota Twins optioned Kris Johnson to AAA Rochester Red Wings.
07/22/2014    AAA Rochester Red Wings placed RF/C Chris Herrmann on the 7-day disabled list with Right thumb contusion.
07/22/2014    RHP Alex Wimmers assigned to AA New Britain Rock Cats from A+ Fort Myers Miracle.
07/22/2014    RHP Alex Muren assigned to A+ Fort Myers Miracle from A Cedar Rapids Kernels.
07/18/2014    MLB Minnesota Twins optioned Chris Herrmann to AAA Rochester Red Wings.