Some TwinsTakes on Twins vs White Sox – May 22nd, 2015

Twins vs White Sox - May 22nd, 2015

Minnsota Twins lose 3-2 in Chicago. White Sox come back after early 2-run deficit.

Is Joe Mauer back?
Joe worked an at-bat to a full count and drove a pitch to left center field for a double. Some would call that a “Patented Joe Mauer Double!” That was another hit with Runners In Scoring Position (RISP) that scored Hunter from 1st base in the first inning. Mauer then steals 3rd base because Jeff Samardzija never looked at him before throwing the pitch. That’s just good awareness from a baserunner and I’m sure is something Molitor has pointed out to his players. It shows the Twins are ever aware of areas they can take advantage of offensively.
Joe ended up striking out his next 2 at-bats and swinging at the 1st pitch in the 9th against closer David Robertson to ground out to 1st base. Swinging at the first pitch is very rare for Joe. 10 times out of 170 plate appearances this season according to baseball-reference. I doubt that includes first pitches he swung at and missed.
So “back” is probably not a good word to describe Joe Mauer yet? That, of course, could depend on what you think is “back” to. I think of “back” as getting back to the hitter we’ve all seen Mauer be. Is that still possible?
Defense Changes Games
In the first inning, Adam Eaton doesn’t get a good read of a ball hit by Torii Hunter and it ends up falling for a hit. The next Twins batter, Mauer, hits a double to the gap that scores Hunter. Then Mauer, at 2nd base, takes advantage of the pitcher by stealing 3rd base. The next batter, Plouffe, hit a sac fly to right center that brings Mauer in from 3rd base. The next batter flew out to right field to end the inning. Two runs score because of two bad defensive plays.
On the other hand, the Twins or, at least, one Twin, stopped 2 runs from scoring with one defensive play. Aaron Hicks’ spectacular diving catch stops at least one run from scoring and probably two if that ball gets past Hicks.
Aaron Hicks with the glove

Aaron Hicks makes one of the greatest catches you will ever see!

In the 4th inning, J.B. Shuck hits a soft dribbler that just goes under Hughes’ glove for a single. If that play is made, the inning is over but it isn’t made and the next batter, Geovany Soto hits a double down the line that ties the game at 2.
Pitching Can Change Games Even More
Jeff Samardzija gave up 2 runs on 2 hits and had to throw 28 pitching in the first inning. After that 1st inning, he went the next 7 innings giving up only 1 hit on 90 pitches striking out 9 and walking 1 batter. David Robertson followed that with a smooth 9th to close out a 3-2 comeback win.
Phil Hughes was taken out after the 7th with 89 pitches because two left-handed hitters were coming up to face him so Paul Molitor brought in Aaron Thompson, lefty vs lefty matchup. Thompson got LaRoche but Gordan Beckham pinch-hit for Conor Gillaspie and he was walked in 4 pitches. He came around to be the winning run. Would you rather Phil Hughes face the left-handed hitters instead of Thompson? I’m not saying it was the wrong move, just asking what you would do. I thought for sure Hughes was coming out for the 8th.
The bullpen couldn’t hold the game and give the Twins offense a chance to win.
Those are my ‘Takes from the game. What do you think? After all, it is….

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TwinsTakes – Balking at controversy? Talk the Balk!

Balk the Balk? Talk the Balk!

Click the pic to see video of the play! Balking the controversy! Talk the Balk!

Stealing Home – can you balk the balk?

Last night during the Minnesota Twins game against the Kansas City Royals, there was a controversial play in the top of the 2nd inning. With the Twins up 3-0, the bases loaded and 2 outs, Kennys Vargas was at the plate, Torii Hunter was on 3rd, Joe Mauer was on 2nd and Brian Dozier was on 1st. The count was 0 and 1 after Vargas fouled off the 1st pitch of the at-bat.

 

As Royals starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie started his wind up for the pitch, Torii broke for home to try to steal a run. Guthrie sped up his delivery, throwing a perfectly placed ball to get Hunter a few feet before he slides into home.

 

Minnesota Twins manager Paul Molitor came out to get an explanation on the call as you can’t argue or review a balk. The umpires huddled together for a minute or so and explained the call, Hunter was out. End of the top of the 2nd inning.

 

The balk rule seems to always cause controversy and in this case, it involves a few things that are out of the ordinary for a pitcher’s motion to home plate. Guthrie starts his windup and isn’t paying attention to Torii at 3rd base. He’s actually looking down as he starts his windup. As soon as he notices Torii breaking for home, he speeds up his delivery and actually throws the ball before his front foot touches the ground.

 

This, of course, sparks a discussion about the balk rule and how to interpret it. Feel free to go to TwinsDaily.com‘s article “Was this a Balk?” to get in on the conversation. I commented quite a bit for a balk as the “alteration” of Jeremy Guthrie’s delivery is the reason the play was made. So, I’m either interpreting the rule wrong, just plain wrong or they need a better explanation of some of the rule. There’s plenty of players, managers and umpires in baseball that disagree with what a balk is so I’m not discouraged that I have yet to figure it out.

 

What about the actual play?

We can argue until we run out of oxygen about how to interpret the balk rule but we may be missing the bigger picture of the play that was attempted. Torii Hunter, with the bases loaded, 2 outs and powerful Kennys Vargas at the plate, ended the inning by getting caught stealing. That’s pretty much always frowned upon and a bad play. I know I reacted negatively about it think what was he thinking?

 

After the game, Paul Molitor did say he gave a nod to Torii so it wasn’t just Torii trying to steal home by himself. After having some time to think about it and hearing Paul Molitor’s thoughts on the play, I changed my thinking about it. Bear with me!

 

Obviously, it’s a negative play because we don’t know how Kennys Vargas’ at-bat ends up. He could get a hit that should score two runs. A double probably clears the bases and, of course, a Grand Slam would be the ultimate result. There could be a wild pitch, a walk a balk (sorry!) or a hit by a pitch as well. Of course, those are the positives that result in some type of score happening but it could go negative too. He could strikeout, ground out, fly out or pop out too.

 

Kennys Vargas was 3-for-27 hitting from the left side against right-handed pitchers before that at-bat and the 3rd hit happened in the 1st inning. So, Paul Molitor knows the situation with his hitter struggling against righties and has the awareness of the situation to look for the opportunity to steal home there. More importantly, he has put that awareness in his player’s minds too. No, it didn’t turn out the way they wanted but it’d good to know the Twins are looking for the opportunities to score in any way possible.

 

That makes two nights in a row that Paul Molitor has made a managerial decision that means this will be a different kind of season for the Minnesota Twins. Last night, he brought in closer Glen Perkins in the 8th inning of a tie game to try to get the Twins out of the inning. That means he used his best pitcher in a tough situation.

 

That’s my Take on the Twins for today. Let us know what your ‘Takes are in the comments, on Twitter, Facebook and/or Google+! After all out slogan is….


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2015 Minnesota Twins – Done Deal For Brian Dozier

Dozier Dollars 2

It’s a Done Deal for the Minnesota Twins and 2nd Baseman Brian Dozier.

Minnesota Twins fans who are up on major league baseball’s rules on team and player control probably wonder why this deal was ever negotiated. As a player with only 3 years of major league service, Brian Dozier was under team control through 2018 anyways so why give him more money when it wasn’t necessary?

Drafted in 2009 after his senior season at the University of Southern Mississippi, Mr. Dozier would start his professional career in the Rookie Gulf Coast League and, being from college, he’d old for that level and every level he’d play in until he reached AA New Britain in 2011. As an older player, he would advance quickly and be called up by the Twins in May of 2012 only to be sent back to AAA in the middle of August after struggling offensively and defensively while playing shortstop.

The Twins may have been desperate calling Brian Dozier up so early but Pedro Florimon consistently showed he wasn’t going to hit so it’s hard to blame them for giving Dozier a look. It was disappointing he struggled as he was thought of as a player that could be a quality starting middle infielder for the Minnesota Twins and hold on to one of those spots for awhile, something they have lacked for a long time.

Calling up and throwing a prospect into the fire too early can sometimes ruin them. It looked like that may have been the case with Brian Dozier because he continued to struggle at AAA Rochester and wasn’t even part of the call-ups in September when the rosters increase to 40.

It can take time for any player to adapt to a new league, especially if it’s the Major Leagues but failure can be a good thing because it can humble a person and you then get to see what kind of makeup they have. Are they going to pout and wonder why they aren’t doing well or are they going to get to work with the people that can help them improve so when they get a second chance, they’re ready for it. This is what kind of player the Twins have:

“…the experience stung Dozier enough that he went right to work when the season ended. He played winter ball in Venezuela to get experience at second base, spent time with left fielder Josh Willingham at his ranch in Alabama and worked with Paul Molitor on second-base fundamentals at the University of Minnesota.”

He would end up beating out an aging Jamey Carroll in Spring Training to earn the starting second base job in 2013 and even though he wasn’t putting up great numbers for a leadoff hitter, he was starting to show the reason why he moved up the system quickly, getting on base more, playing good defense and showing more power than he showed in the minors, becoming the Twins franchise leader in Home Runs in a single season by a second baseman.

Then Mr. Dozier took that up another notch in 2014 raising his OBP (on-base percentage), scoring the 2nd most runs in the league* and becoming a better base stealer.
*The one and only Mike Trout lead the league in runs scored in 2014.

Brian Dozier has solidified himself as the Minnesota Twins 2nd Baseman with solid play for two seasons and room for more improvement. Doesn’t that deserve a raise?

The Twins could’ve saved money by just paying Dozier the most he could get as a player under team control before being an arbitration eligible player or they could do what they did and reward a player for a great season who is peaking at the right time in his career.

Of course, even if they tried to just keep paying Brian Dozier the league minimum for a player under team control, eventually he would be eligible for arbitration and then you never know how much a player could receive if it goes to a hearing.

Now, they’ve signed him to a 4-year deal worth $20 million total, $2 million in 2015, $3 million in 2016, $6 million in 2017 and $9 million in 2018. Fangraphs.com has a great feature on their site that shows the value of a player’s season and they show Brian Dozier’s 2014 season having a value of $26.2 million. So you could look at it like the Twins just paid him for what he did last season and the next four are just a bonus.

Another thing about this contract is that it doesn’t buy out any of Brian Dozier’s free agent years. He’ll be 31 years old at the time the contract ends and that’s right about where a player’s career starts to trend downward. It’s four years too. By the time 2018 comes around, who knows who the Twins will have to put at second base. It’ll be interesting but it’s good to know the Twins have a player at second base that they should be able to count on for awhile.

THANKS for reading my Takes on the Twins! I’d love to hear your TwinsTakes on this or any other Twins or baseball related story because that’s what this site is all about:

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Paul Molitor Hired as new Manager of the Minnesota Twins

Can “The Ignitor” light a fire under this franchise and turn it into a winner?

Paul Molitor was named the new Manager of the Minnesota Twins yesterday. He signed a 3-year deal and will be introduced at a press conference today at 10am that will air live on MLB.com and TwinsBaseball.com.

It took Terry Ryan and the front office about a month to hire the man thought to be the top candidate for the job even before Ron Gardenhire was fired. The Twins did their due diligence in looking inside and outside the organization for candidates to fill the job making sure there wasn’t a better man for the job. In the end, Paul Molitor was the man they wanted to take control of this team for the next three seasons.

The naysayers will ask many questions about this hiring. Is Paul Molitor the best person for the job? Should they have hired someone from outside the organization? Should he have some prior managerial experience? Is being a part of the so-called “Twins Way” a bad thing? Can he change Twins baseball back to a winning culture?

Is Paul Molitor the best/right person for the job?
Paul Molitor is a Hall of Famer who played for 21 seasons and has been around baseball for more than 40 years so I can’t imagine anything will come up that he won’t have already seen or dealt with. He’s already been an instructor with a lot of the players in the Twins system and on the current roster yet he will still be a new voice in the locker room. As a HOFer, he will have instant respect from every player that is currently in and/or comes into the Twins system and to the major league roster.

Should the Twins have hired someone from outside the organization, with prior managerial experience who isn’t part of “the Twins Way?”
Some think it’s wrong for the Twins to keep hiring from inside the organization. They interviewed many candidates from outside the organization and in the end, felt like Paul Molitor was the right person for the job. It’s about finding the right person not finding the right person from outside the organization.

On prior managerial experience, I give you this from an article posted yesterday on TwinsBaseball.com:

Molitor will join the Cardinals’ Mike Matheny, the Dodgers’ Don Mattingly, the White Sox Robin Ventura, the Rockies’ Walt Weiss and John Farrell — with the Blue Jays before winning the World Series as Red Sox skipper — as recent MLB hires with no prior managerial experience.

Matheny, Mattingly and Farrell have taken their teams to the postseason and Farrell won the 2013 World Series with the Red Sox. Weiss and Ventura haven’t done as well as they didn’t come into as good of a situation as the other three but it does show that prior managerial experience isn’t a prerequisite to being a major league manager.

“The Twins Way” takes on different meanings to different people. To me, the Twins Way means drafting well and developing those draft picks into major league players while now, because of Target Field, being able to supplement the roster with free agents when needed. I believe they got away from that for awhile and that’s a big part of the reason the Twins have struggled the last 4 seasons. They had no talent to bring up in those seasons and because they were losing, free agents decided to go somewhere else.

Can Paul Molitor change Twins baseball back to a winning culture?
Paul Molitor is a natural leader who may be a perfect fit for the Twins. He played every position as a major league player other than catcher and pitcher and his awareness and instincts are a big part of what made him a great player who got better as he got older. He will instill that awareness into his players and turn this team into a contender.

Even though the Twins just had their 4th consecutive season of 92 or more losses, there are a lot of positives in Dozier, Santana, Hughes, Gibson, prospects coming, etc…. They aren’t that far away from being a .500 ball club that could be on the cusp of contending for the division, playing in the postseason and, ultimately, winning a World Championship.

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Ron Gardenhire Fired as Manager of the Minnesota Twins

Twins Fire Gardenhire

Ron Gardenhire managed the Minnesota Twins for 13 seasons, winning 6 Division Titles and Manager of the Year in 2010.

On Monday afternoon, the Minnesota Twins decided to part ways with their manager for the past 13 seasons, Ron Gardenhire. Gardy won 6 Division Titles in those 13 seasons and won Manager of the Year in 2010 but the last 4 seasons of over 90 losses did him in. He knows that and now the Minnesota Twins will work to find the next man to manage this team that should be back on the way to contending for division championships, playoffs and more World Championships.

There’s going to be people who agree and disagree with this firing. Some people say he, and his whole staff, should’ve been fired 2 seasons ago. Some will ask how he was supposed to win with the players he had to work with. A manager usually takes too much blame for a team losing and gets too much credit for a team winning. At what point is the manager the reason a team is losing games?

The manager makes decisions on who’s in the lineup, the order of the lineup, when to put plays on like hit and runs, sacrifices and stealing, when to give a player the green light at the plate and when to make pitching changes. They don’t acquire players, draft players or sign free agents. They may have some say in the roster but probably not much. Hopefully a general manager works with the manager on the roster but ultimately, it’s up to the general manager to put together the 40-man roster.

Ron Gardenhire is known for being a player’s coach. He’ll stick up for his players and his players play hard for him (or Battle Their Tails Off like Little Nicky Punto.) It is a big part of a manager’s job to get the players to play the right way or, at least, the way the manager wants them to play and to put them in a position to succeed. Rarely is the manager the reason a team wins or loses though.

The front office decisions affect wins and losses a lot more than the manager does and the Twins front office had a pretty bad run for a long time that put the Twins in this situation. Bad trades, bad drafting and not being able to sign better free agents are three of the main reasons the Twins had to make Ron Gardenhire the scapegoat for the last 4 seasons.

Consider that between 1994 and 2008, the only two worthy starting pitchers the Twins drafted are Scott Baker and Matt Garza. Scott Baker was a decent pitcher and pitched for the Twins for a long time but left via free agency after missing the majority of his last season with the Twins due to Tommy John surgery. Matt Garza looked like a nice piece but he was traded with Jason Bartlett for Delmon Young. That’s a long time to get no pitching from the draft and what has been the Twins biggest problem the last 4 seasons…..that’s right, pitching.

In closing, I understand this move by the Twins but it was not Ron Gardenhire’s fault the Twins lost over 360 games combined in the last 4 seasons.

Hey, I still have my Gardy Gnome if I want to see Gardy in a Twins uniform…

Gardy Gnome 2

Other articles on the Twins firing Ron Gardenhire:

An old article from 2010 on Ron Gardenhire:

I would love to know your takes on the Twins firing of Ron Gardenhire. Do you like the move? Who will be the next manager?

THANKS for reading!

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