A TwinsTakes Preview of the 2014 Minnesota Twins – Back to Won, Twins Way

Minnesota Twins Season Preview from TwinsTakes.com

The Minnesota Twins come into 2014 off a third straight season of over 90 losses. The last time the Twins went through a rough stretch like this was at the end of the 90’s when they had 4 straight seasons of over 90 losses and that was actually part of 8 consecutive seasons of finishing under .500 from 1993 to 2000 for our Minnesota Twins.

When a franchise goes through bad stretches like that, they better have good scouting to take advantage of picking higher in the draft. From those drafts the Twins drafted players like Todd Walker (1st round in ‘94), A.J. Pierzynski (3rd round in ‘94), Corey Koskie (26th round in ‘94), Doug Mientkiewicz (5th round in ‘95), Jacque Jones (2nd round in ‘96),  Michael Cuddyer (1st round in ‘97) Justin Morneau (3rd round in ‘99), Jason Kubel (12th round pick in 2000) and Joe Mauer (1st overall pick in 2001).

Those players played key roles in getting the Twins back to winning after those 8 consecutive losing seasons. Six of the next ten American League Central Division titles were won by Minnesota from 2001 to 2010. But, as you see from above, there was a severe lack of pitching from the drafts from 1994 to 2000 which has been a big reason why the Twins are now struggling to win games. Score as many runs as you want, you’ll never win consistently if you can’t keep the other team from scoring runs and the Twins aren’t scoring that many runs either.

Pitching Rotation

Knowing they need some starting pitching, they went out and spent some of that salary cap room to improve in that area. Right-handed pitcher Ricky Nolasco was signed to the biggest free agent contract in Minnesota Twins history for 4 years/$49 million on December 3rd followed by RHP Phil Hughes signing 2 days later on December 5th for 3 years/$24 million. Then they re-signed RHP Mike Pelfrey for 2 years/$11 million around Christmas time* and with Kevin Correia, the Twins had 4 starters penciled in for the 2014 starting rotation.

*Merry Christmas!!! So when relatives see your salary, do their Xmas lists get longer or do they just have better gifts listed? “Hmmm…I could really use a nicer car and Mikey just got a raise!”

In 2013, the Minnesota Twins used 11 different starting pitchers throughout the season. Only 3 pitchers made over 20 starts, Kevin Correia (31), Mike Pelfrey (29) and Scott Diamond (24), and Samuel Deduno made 18 starts before going on the disabled list at the end of August with a shoulder injury. The other 60 starts went to Vance Worley, Andrew Albers, Pedro Hernandez, Kyle Gibson, PJ Walters, Liam Hendricks and Cole De Vries.

The 891.2 innings pitched by starters added up to a single season WAR* (Wins Above Replacement) of negative 3.0 and a record of 39 wins & 74 losses. OUCH! Correia (1.6), Pelfrey (-0.3), Diamond (-1.0) and Deduno (1.5) combined had a WAR of 1.8 while the rest of the starts combined for a WAR of -4.8.

*Wins Above Replacement is a stat that basically shows how much better a player is than a replacement player that would be considered a AAA or “AAAA” player. So the American League Cy Young winner, Max Scherzer’s WAR for last season was 6.7 & the National League winner, Clayton Kershaw’s was 7.8, meaning they were worth approximately 7 & 8 wins, respectively, for their teams in the 2013 season. Also, there’s two different WAR stats, one from Baseball-Reference.com (bWAR) and one from Fangraphs.com (fWAR). I’m using bWAR unless otherwise noted.

Improve the starting rotation by taking out the replacement level pitching, right? What do the Twins get when they do that?

  • Ricky Nolasco has six consecutive seasons winning over 10 games, averaging just under 13 wins & a WAR of 1.8.
  • Phil Hughes, before struggling last season with a record of 4-14, averaged about 12 wins & a WAR of 1.6 from 2010 to 2012 when he was a full-time starter for the Yankees .
  • Kevin Correia had 16 quality starts out of his 31 starts and 3 of his bad outings changed his ERA from 3.50 to 4.18. With more run support, those 9 wins could easily become double digits. We’ll get to that later.
  • Mike Pelfrey had a rough year coming back from Tommy John surgery maybe a little sooner than he should have but he did pitch pretty well in the summer months. We should get a better Pelf this season now that he’s 1-year removed from that surgery and he seems to alternate good years and bad years.
  • Kyle Gibson*, who won the 5th spot in the rotation, has pitched very well in the minors, and has been a highly rated prospect for the Twins since they drafted him back in 2009. He did struggle in 2011 at one point but that was mostly due to the elbow problems that brought on his Tommy John surgery. He struggled a little in his first taste of the Majors last season but he pitched very well in AAA. The Twins showed faith in him by waiving Vance Worley and Scott Diamond and moving Deduno to the bullpen. It’s his spot to lose now.
    • *Did you know that Kyle Gibson was born on October 23rd, 1987? That means on his first two full days as a baby, the Twins won Game 6 & Game 7 to win their 1st World Series in 1987! That’s a pretty cool fact and almost makes it sound like destiny that he would play for the Minnesota Twins.

The Bullpen

Speaking of the bullpen, there’s not that much to say. The Minnesota Twins had one of the best bullpens in the league last season and they were overused because of the poor starting pitching. In 582.2 innings, the bullpen combined for a 4.4 WAR. The mainstays of Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, Casey Fien, Anthony Swarzak and Brian Duensing are still there. They also added Deduno to the bullpen mix, who might thrive there with his stuff, should get a full season from Caleb Thielbar and Ryan Pressly could improve from a solid first season.

So the Minnesota Twins improved the starting pitching and have a good bullpen that could get better but it won’t matter how good your pitching is if you can’t hit the ball or catch the ball. How’d they improve at the plate and in the field? Will they score more runs than they did in 2013?

The Bats & The Gloves

The Minnesota Twins traded Justin Morneau at the trade deadline last season and traded Ryan Doumit in December after signing former Twin Jason Kubel a week earlier. Roughly a month before that the Twins signed another former Twin in Jason Bartlett. Then, on the same day the Twins signed Mike Pelfrey, they signed catcher Kurt Suzuki to a 1 year, $2.75 million contract to add depth to the catching position. Is that enough to make up for what they lost in Morneau and Doumit? We’ll find out.

The Twins are counting on young guys stepping up and other guys coming back from down seasons a year ago but they signed some veterans for depth to have just in case of injury or unproductive play. They are staying with Pedro Florimon, Trevor Plouffe and Brian Dozier. Those guys deserve time to be full time players after solid seasons last year. They are also showing confidence in younger players Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Arcia.

The Catcher in the…Sigh…

At least they have the catcher position set for a long time in Joe Mauer, right? Oops, that’s right. Joe Mauer is no longer putting on the “tools of ignorance” because of the concussion that stopped his season short in 2013. I know what you’re thinking. Another injury with Joe Mauer? Well…this might help Joe and the Twins in the long run. Not the concussion but the fact that Joe decided to never play catcher again. It’s not necessarily a bad thing for the “Baby Jesus” to get out from behind the plate and out into the field.

People have been talking about Joe moving out from behind the plate for quite a while now. The catcher position wears on a player’s knees making it difficult to stay in the lineup. The Twins have slowly been trimming down how many games Joe was behind the plate trying to get him into more games to keep his bat in the lineup and eventually move him to another position permanently, or so it seems. Unfortunately, a concussion, which, of course, is never a good thing, has accelerated that permanent move from behind the plate. At least we know that Joe is a great enough athlete to learn the 1st base position quickly and he may even win a gold glove there eventually. We’ve seen plenty of great plays from Joe at first that make him look like a natural over there. Who knows what kind of production he’ll have when playing in the field won’t be so hard on his knees? Will he hit for more power because of it?

Who’s On First?

Kind of crazy that long tenured 1st baseman Justin Morneau was traded to Pittsburgh (then signed with Colorado to play with his buddy Cuddy) and Ryan Doumit was traded to Atlanta in the offseason because the Twins didn’t have many options for who to put over at position number 3. Some, not many, but some. They have Chris Parmelee (who was sent to the minors) and…uhh…well, there’s Chris Colabello. He’s played 623 games at 1st base in his minor league career including 124 in 2012 for New Britain and 67 last season for Rochester before being called up to the Twins and playing 26 games at 1st base for them.

So, like I said, kind of crazy that the Minnesota Twins have a player like Joe Mauer to move to first and Chris Colabello ready in case they need him to play over there for an extended amount of time. He ripped up the International League last season with the bat, winning MVP & Rookie Of The Year while playing for the Rochester Red Wings, and hit .352/.427/.639 with 25 doubles, 24 HRs, 74 RBIs, 89 strikeouts and 43 walks in 89 games. If he can produce those kinds of numbers with the Twins, he’ll be in the lineup one way or another.

2nd Thoughts?

A couple of years ago, the Twins were wondering who would be their 2nd baseman of the now and of the future. They thought Brian Dozier was that guy but he didn’t exactly inspire much confidence when he came up in 2012, hitting .234 with an on-base % of .271 and slugging .332 in 84 games before being sent back down to Rochester and not faring much better there. Those games were all at shortstop where he struggled in the field as well. Amazing how a move to 2nd base seemed to make Brian Dozier comfortable with the bat and with the glove. He probably put in a lot of work in the offseason too so he may be fine at shortstop as well. He solidified that spot for the time being, especially from a defensive point of view. He showed the range and defensive ability in the field and actually did respectable in the leadoff spot. At 27 years old, he should be able to hold that 2nd base position for a while now and make it so the Twins don’t have to rush any prospects.

Short StopGap?

Pedro Florimon showed he will make the routine plays and some amazing plays from the shortstop position last season. He still needs some work on the offensive side of the ball but he was a force with the glove finishing 6th in all of the American League with a 2.1 Defensive WAR. Also, he led the American League in Putouts by a ShortStop (245), finished 3rd in assists (401) and 2nd in Double Plays turned (101).

The Hot Seat at the Hot Corner

Trevor Plouffe as the Twins starting 3rd baseman might be a disappointment to some fans since top prospect Miguel Sano appeared very close to being ready to make the jump to the majors but he ended up needing Tommy John surgery and will miss the 2014 season. Trevor Plouffe is still a capable player that can be a strength with the bat in his hands and average in the field at 3rd. Throwing him out there everyday and keeping his bat in the lineup isn’t a bad thing. He needs to cut down the strikeouts though.

Outfield – Ready to Play, Today?

As of now, the Twins outfield is Josh “The Hammer” Willingham in left, Aaron Hicks in center and Oswaldo Arcia in right. The only other player who’s played in the outfield on some regular basis is Jason Kubel. Chris Colabello that has played in the outfield and, rumor has it, the Twins could use Jason Bartlett as some sort of super utility player and put him out there if they get in a bind. He’s never played in the outfield in his major league career. This doesn’t look like the best of plans but things could change before or during the season if problems arise.

Josh Willingham, or The ‘Ham as I refer to him, had a career year in 2012 when the Twins signed him to a franchise record 3-year, $21 million deal hitting .260 with 30 doubles, 5 HRs, 110 RBIs with 141 strikeouts and 76 walks and winning a Silver Slugger Award. A knee injury messed with his 2013 season however and he only played 111 games and struggled to a .208 average with 20 doubles, 14 HRs and 48 RBIs with 128 strikeouts and 66 walks. Expect a rebound year as The ‘Ham enters the last year of his contract. I’m sure he’ll start to get a lot more at-bats at Designated Hitter as his defense hasn’t always been a positive.

After winning the center field job with a great spring training in 2013 (.370/.407./.644 (AVG/OBP/SLG)), Aaron Hicks struggled out of the gate in his 1st season in the majors, hitting .113 in the 1st month of the season (starting 2-for-49) and a below the Mendoza Line .192 overall. The Twins had Hicks open the season as the leadoff hitter and he only lasted the first 11 games before being moved down to the 8th spot for the majority of the rest of the season. He never looked comfortable at the plate. Well, he had a another great spring training and won the center field job for the second year in a row and his competition, Alex Presley, was actually waived on March 27th and claimed by the Houston Astros. If you look at Aaron Hicks minor league stats, you’ll see that if he struggled one season, he learned from it and progressed the following season. The Twins need that from him this season if they hope to  have some success this season. They definitely need him to get back to better plate discipline, working the count and getting on base. If he does that, he may even return to that leadoff role.

Oswaldo Arcia signed with the Twins as a 16-year old back in 2007 and he’s been hitting the ball and hitting the ball with power ever since. Once Oswaldo began playing in the full season leagues in 2011, he advanced 2 levels a season until he made his major league debut last season on April 15th, Tax Day. We file taxes. Oswaldo gets his Hacks in! (Haxes? Stretch on that one? Eh, they can’t all be gems!) When Oswaldo sees a pitch he likes, he swings and he swings hard. He might destroy baseballs in his spare time just for fun. Oswaldo struggled some in his first season in the majors. He was sent down and recalled 4 times during the 2013 season, most of them due to injury but this season he’s being given a chance to be the everyday right fielder or mostly everyday right fielder. Let’s hope he can get back to destroying baseballs, a lot of baseballs, this season.

Back to Won, Twins Way

If you didn’t know, Target Field is located on 1 Twins Way in downtown Minneapolis. That’s a clever way of referring to how the Minnesota Twins find, draft and develop players. That is how they won games and championships in the past. That “One Twins Way” got away from them for a while when Target Field changed how much payroll the Twins had available to them and is part of the reason they have three consecutive seasons of over 90 losses.

Because of those seasons, the Twins have gotten back to “the Way” they did things in the past but they also have the option of going out and getting free agents if they need to. I believe we will start to see the Twins break out of the over 90 loss season streak and get back to being a contender for the division and, ultimately, back to the playoffs and chances at winning it all. We should start to see some of those high-ranking prospects get to the Twins this season and for sure next season. Obviously by saying we will see the beginning of it this season, that means I think the Minnesota Twins will probably be right around .500 this season.

That is why I called this preview,

Back to Won, Twins Way!

Thanks for reading!

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Bottom of the 33rd – Baseball’s Longest Game – Book Review

Pawtucket, RI's McCoy Stadium Logo

Creative Commons License Yzukerman via Compfight

Bottom of the 33rd is a book about Baseball’s Longest Game. The full title of the book is Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption and Baseball’s Longest Game by author Dan Barry. It is obviously a book about baseball but it’s so much more than that.

Bottom of the 33rd is a book about life, life in baseball, life around baseball and how life is for everyone involved in the game of baseball from the owners, general managers and players of the teams to the employees who make the games happen all the way down to the fans that come to the games and cheer their teams on. All of these people have lives outside the game and reasons for being around the game.

I was told about the book by a fellow Twins fan at a game so I read the book not knowing the teams involved or even the year the game was held. All of that would be revealed as I read the book and that may be the best way to read it anyways. You find out who the teams are, who the players are and what got them to this point in their careers and what will become of them in the rest of their careers as you read the book.

Do they become Hall of Famers or do they only get a cup-of-coffee in the major leagues? Do they play for your favorite team? What do they do after their careers are finished? You may see a name that reminds you of another player and wonder if they are related or if they were teammates with one of your favorite players. You will be reminded of why you love the game of baseball.

We all love reminiscing about the past especially when it comes to sports. We love to remember stories of when we were kids and baseball was fun no matter what the outcome of the game. We were able to go and experience a professional game in person and I always thought I might see something special whenever I went to a game. It could be a no-hitter, someone could hit for the cycle or hit three home runs or make the greatest defensive play you’ve ever seen OR it could be the longest game in professional baseball and you were there and you stayed for the whole game.

We hear “It’s just a game!” all the time when it comes to sports. Author Dan Barry does an excellent job showing the reader that baseball is more than a game. Baseball is life to these players, coaches and umpires. For the majority of the fans, it’s just a game and doesn’t affect their lives too much. The players, coaches and umpires sacrifice so much time it can affect every relationship in their life. It’s their livelihood so it means everything to them. Winning and losing or success and failure can literally change those lives!

I highly recommend Bottom of the 33rd: Hope, Redemption and Baseball’s Longest Game.* It’s like being there and might be even better because of the history revealed about the lives surrounding the game.

*This is an affiliate link. That means I make money off of any sale that comes from that link. That’s not why I’m reviewing this book though. I put this review on my site because I want everyone who comes to my blog to get something good out of it and if you buy this book, I think you will thank me for turning you on to it.

That’s my take, what’s yours?

Robb

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Three Top Fantasy Baseball Hitters From The Twins

Joe Mauer

Creative Commons License Keith Allison via Compfight

It is just two weeks into the season, but there are already a few Minnesota Twins players putting up solid numbers in fantasy baseball. Although the team as a whole might not be a true playoff contender just yet, owners around the world could make their own playoffs with their services. Here is a look at the three best from a fantasy perspective.

Joe Mauer

The face of the franchise is still the best option the Twins have as far as fantasy baseball is concerned, and the strong start at the plate proves that. His defense behind the plate might be deteriorating, but fantasy owners don’t care much about that.

As long as Mauer is healthy, he is going to be able to hit. Moving away from behind the dish might actually make him a more valuable hitter, as his body will be able to play on a more consistent basis. He has only been listed as a designated hitter or catcher at this point in the season, but he could play some first base as well.

Josh Willingham

Willingham’s entire career seems to be underrated. He has always been a dependable hitter, but since he has mostly played on bad teams, he goes unnoticed. Many fantasy baseball owners know all about him though, and his Silver Slugger season in 2012 definitely opens up some eyes.

Now that he is 34 years old, a repeat of his season a year ago seems like a stretch. However, he is still a top 75 fantasy baseball player. He can be counted on to provide solid stats at the dish.

Trevor Plouffe

Justin Morneau might be the safer pick, but his health is troublesome. Instead, taking a chance on Trevor Plouffe might be worthwhile later in drafts (or off waivers).

Outside of Minnesota, many probably do not know a ton about Plouffe. He plays a position with not a lot of depth (third base), so that helps right away. He is coming off a solid season last year, belting 24 home runs in just 119 games. With the opportunity to play even more this season, he could provide valuable power despite going rather late.

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Twins Take of the Week 6 – TWinning! Jason Marquis? PLOUFFE! Drew Butera! LEWWW!

Jason Marquis

Matt Stratmoen via Compfight

The Twins won 4-in-a-row, won 2 series & are over .500 in their last 10 games!

TWinning!
The Twins started playing some decent baseball in the past week or so but that was halted on Sunday when they were beaten 16-4 in the final game of a 3-game series with the BrewMakers that marked the last game of Jason Marquis’ Minnesota Twins career and maybe his career altogether.

In the last 10 games, the Minnesota Twins have gone 6 and 4 with a series sweep of the defending American League Central Division champion Detroit Tigers and a series win over the Brewers of Mil-wauk-kay! Both of these series victories came on the road! There was a 4-game winning streak in there as well. This forced fans to question reality and their butts are probably still in pain from all the pinching! (“Is this really happening?”)

The big question is if the winning will continue and can this team put together a good stretch of 20-25 games playing .500 or better baseball?


That would mean the Minnesota Twins would have to hit well and score runs consistently, pitch well and keep the opponent from scoring runs consistently and defend well so the opponent doesn’t get any “free” runs. That’s a lot that needs to go right for this team to keep winning more than half of their games. Is it possible?

Joe Mauer is starting to hit again, Morneau is back mostly healthy and Ben Revere is on fire right now! He’s playing great defense, getting some extra-base hits and being a spark plug on the base paths. In his 23-game stint at triple-A, he had one extra-base hit. Since his call-up, he has hit 4 XBHs in 4 games. Don’t forget about The ‘HAM! The HAMMER is Willing to hit the ball!

The pitching has been giving the Twins a chance to win in the last week or two. It still has to get better and with the Twins having to rely on young arms like Scott Diamond and P.J. Walters, you don’t really know what to expect. The pitching, at least the starting pitching has been the problem all season long and it’s hard to see how it can be fixed with these young guys. I’m not saying they can’t keep pitching well but with young players, you have to expect mistakes and live with them. That’s how they are going to learn! Hopefully they learn quickly and can stay with the Minnesota Twins and help them win some games.

Defensively the Twins have been alright. They’ve had some blunders but for the most part they’ve caught the ball and haven’t caused Gardy to lose the hair he still has! They rank 6th in all of baseball with a .987 fielding percentage.

The next 24 games are (all 3 game series – at CWS, vs DET, vs OAK, at CLE, at KC, vs CHC, vs PHI & vs MIL) so there’s some teams in there that should be beatable but “beatable” might not mean anything for this team.

Jason Marquis – is he done?
Jason Marquis gave up 8 runs in 1.2 innings pitched in his last start on Sunday against the Brewers and that turned out to be the last straw as the Minnesota Twins designated the 33-year old pitcher for assignment. His ERA went to 8.47 and in Sunday’s game he never got a swinging strike meaning if they swung at it, they hit it! They might not have hit all of those fair but they hit it and they hit it hard! I call that batting practice and that’s what it looked like. OUCH!

I honestly feel bad for the guy. He had a rough couple months when his daughter was fighting for her life and I can’t imagine baseball was that important at the time and I don’t blame him for that. I’m not saying that affected his pitching but I can see how it would. We’ll see what happens in the next 10 days but he’s probably done as a Minnesota Twin.

Terry Ryan is trying to trade him because it wasn’t working out here. Sometimes players and teams don’t match-up well. He was great last year in Washington but when he was traded to Arizona, he didn’t pitch well and ended up breaking his leg on a comebacker to the mound.

Jason Marquis did win a World Series in 2006 with the St. Louis Cardinals and he got to watch Albert Pujols from a pretty good seat for 3 seasons! Ironically, 2006 might’ve been his worst season statistically! He was 14-16 (W-L) which was the most losses among National League starting pitchers. He also had the most earned runs in the National League with 130 and gave up the most Home Runs in the National League with 35 and for all that, he got a World Series Championship ring and will be able to celebrate that again and again with the people of St. Louis. Jason Marquis was an All-Star in 2009 for the Colorado Rockies and he even won a Silver Slugger award in 2005 when he hit .310/.326/.786 (AVG/OBP/OPS) with 1 home run and 10 RBIs in 91 plate appearances.

Good luck to Jason Marquis!

One out, one coming up!
With failure comes a chance for someone else to step up and this time it’s Minnesota’s own and former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher Cole DeVries. Cole is a 27-year old right-hander who’s been pitching well in triple-A Rochester. He only has a record of 1-4 in 8 starts but he has a 4.24 ERA, a WHIP of 1.157 and he’s given up 47 hits, 22 earned runs and 6 home runs with 37 strikeouts and only 7 walks in 46.2 innings pitched.

Is that a Plouffe? PLOOF!
Trevor Plouffe has not had a great season by any stretch of the imagination. It’d be a stretch to call it not bad. Even with the recent streak of success, he’s still hitting only .152/.272/.601 (AVG/OBP/OPS) but he’s hit 3 home runs in his last 5 games including a game-winner in Milwaukee on Saturday. Oooh, 3 home runs in 5 games, right? Well, in those 5 games he’s 4-for-19 for a whopping .211 batting average with zero walks and 7 strikeouts. Home runs are nice but he’s going to have to do more to keep getting at-bats. His defense is still iffy no matter where they put him.

I’m not sure how long the Twins can stick with Mr. Plouffe. He needs to be playing every day and they aren’t doing that. If he isn’t playing every day, then he should be sent down but he’s out of options so he would have to clear waivers to be sent to triple-A. The Twins probably don’t want to risk losing him and right now it’s either him or Ben Revere in the outfield, him or Ryan Doumit as the DH or him or Jamey Carroll at third base. He doesn’t have enough defense to play a utility role.

We could go from PLOOF, there goes the ball over the fence to PLOOF, there goes Trevor off the team.

Pitch AND Catch! Drew Butera Pitching?
Well maybe it should be Catch and Pitch! Minnesota Twins backup catcher Drew Butera made his debut as a pitcher in Sunday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers. With the Twins losing 16 to 2 in the bottom of the 8th, manager Ron Gardenhire decided to give Drew Butera a shot at pitching!*

*Last season, a now Colorado Rockie pitched an inning in a game against the Texas Rangers that the Twins lost 20 to 6! Michael Cuddyer gave up 2 hits, a 2B to Mike Napoli & a 1B to Mitch Moreland, & a walk in a scoreless 8th inning.

Drew Butera has never pitched before or at least that I could find so it was a little strange seeing him take the mound on Sunday. Obviously, catchers usually have pretty good arms so its not crazy to see a catcher pitch. Michael Cuddyer pitched in high school and supposedly pitched a perfect game striking out all 27 batters!

Drew got the first hitter out on one pitch! He struck out former teammate Carlos Gomez for the 2nd out! When he got his first career strikeout, they took the ball out of the game, Drew threw it to the dugout and it bounced off the infield and into the crowd so they had to retrieve it and trade a different baseball for Drew’s strikeout ball! He then walked the third hitter and broke the bat of T-Plush on a inside pitch that was grounded to the 2nd baseman! I bet that was fun! It was fun to watch!

LEWWW!!!
Former Minnesota Twins outfielder Lew Ford is back in baseball! Lew was signed by the Baltimore Orioles and sent to the triple-A Norfolk Tides of the International League. Since becoming a free agent after the 2007 season, Lew has played for 6 teams in 5 years! He played in Japan, spent some time with the Cincinnati Reds triple-A club, spent a season in Mexico and a season plus in Long Island playing in the Atlantic League for the Long Island Ducks before getting signed by Baltimore on May 18th.

Say what you want about Lew Ford but he’s now 35-years old and he’s still working on getting back to the Majors and I think that’s awesome! He’s definitely racking up the travel miles! The Minnesota Twins have a 4-game series against the Baltimore Orioles from July 16th though July 19th. What are the chances we might see a Lew Ford appearance at Target Field? LEWWW! That would be pretty cool for Lew and the fans he made when he was here.

Those are my TwinsTakes! What are your TwinsTakes? Will the Twins keep winning? Is the starting pitching going to be a problem all season? Can the young arms keep pitching as well as they have been? How much more time will the Twins give Plouffe? Should Drew Butera pitch again?

Tell us what you think in the comments!

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GO TWINS!!!

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Twins Take of the Week for Week 5 – Transactions – Danny Valencia or ValenSeeYa?

Danny Valencia

Creative Commons LicenseKeith Allison via Compfight

Danny Valencia was the victim of change due to losing games! or was he? It’s hard to call Danny a victim when he has a .190 batting average (AVG), a .204 on-base percentage (OBP) and a slugging percentage of .290 (SLG), even if Drew Butera thinks those numbers are pretty good.*  Those are numbers that are screaming THIS ISN’T WORKING so the Minnesota Twins optioned Danny Valencia down to Triple-A Rochester on Thursday, May 10th. He needs to go down there, get to work and get some confidence back into his game.

*Haha, sorry Drew! My first thought was to go with Junior Ortiz for that, then Tim Laudner but I decided to go with a current Twin so everyone would know who it was. How ’bout Brendan Harris or Matt Tolbert or maybe Alexi Casilla so I can match up the ValenSeeYa with the CaSeeYa? ValenSeeYa is supposed to be a good thing like when Danny hits a home run or gets a clutch hit not when he’s sent down to the minors! 

Danny has gone through some struggles on his way to the Major Leagues but I doubt he’s gone through anything like this where he’s struggled for so long. He had a tremendous 2010 season for the Minnesota Twins to the point where it’s hard to find an area he didn’t do well in, at least with the bat.  He only had half a season in the majors but he seemed to adapt to the major leagues quickly. Did his success make him relax in the off-seasons or was it teams learning how to pitch him?

In 2011, Danny Valencia was hitting basically the same way he was in 2010 but getting different results and less hits. He started to struggle against right-handed pitchers. That will tend to happen after teams get some film on young players. That’s probably not close to the whole reason Danny struggled in 2011. I’m far from an expert in analyzing swings. I’ll leave that to the scouting types.*

*I do find it fascinating how a batter’s swing can be divided into so many parts and then adjusted or fixed to speed up or slow down a swing for various situations. Think of what that takes to do and do it in a timely manner to fix your swing from day to day or even week to week. The discipline to first admit there’s something wrong, even if you can see it on video, then know what to do (or try) to fix it and, most of all, to change a part of your swing and get to the point where it becomes natural to you again. I’m not sure most fans realize how much this happens. Another thing that’s amazing is that these players obviously had success before they changed a part of their swing so it was working and it just shows that baseball is a game with adjustments going on all the time and that’s why I love the game!

So Danny’s hitting struggles go back to 2011 and have not really ended and have actually gotten worse. At least in 2011 he was still getting some walks where as in 2012, he has 2 walks and 23 strikeouts in 27 games and 100 at-bats. That tells me that he’s trying to swing his way out of his slump which usually means swinging at more bad pitches. The opposing teams and pitchers know he’s struggling so they’ll try to take advantage of that by not giving him much to hit and seeing if he’ll bite on the breaking balls and off-speed stuff and throwing more outside pitches as well.

The trouble with being in a slump is most players try to swing their way out of it, swinging at more pitches and at more pitches out of the strike zone but contacting on less of those pitches. Look at Danny’s plate discipline stats and it’s easy to see what I’m talking about. His swing percentage on pitches out of the strike zone has gone from 24.9 % in 2010 to 30.9% in 2011 and a whopping 40.1% so far this season while his swing percentage on pitches in the strike zone has gone down (60.3 to 57.8 to 50.5.) Not surprisingly, his contact percentage has gone down as well (82.9 to 79.8 to 74.6.) He’s getting down in the count early which is getting him into pitcher’s counts and he’s swinging at the junk they are throwing out of the zone which, of course, is harder to hit. Danny is 0-for-May and he’s struggling big time. The Minnesota Twins could’ve tried sitting him down for a couple games but they obviously didn’t want to go in that direction. Hopefully Danny is able to correct this in the minors because we’ve seen that he’s capable of being a pretty good hitter.

Defensively, Danny has kind of been on the questionable side so when he performed so well in his initial call-up, it took most people by surprise. His defense went from above average to really bad. Was it playing more games and the small sample size fooling us? Ron Gardenhire started to show frustration with Danny’s approach at the hot corner and hinted that the team’s future at 3rd base might be in question. Danny worked on his defense in the off-season and has looked a lot better but he still has his deficiencies.

The bad thing about sending Danny Valencia to the minors is the Minnesota Twins don’t really have another 3rd baseman on the roster. They have some guys they can put over there, like Jamey Carroll, Trevor Plouffe, or Alexi Casilla, but they have never really played 3rd base full-time. This should allow the Twins to get Trevor Plouffe more playing time to see if he is worth keeping or if they eventually have to make a move with him as well.* This points to the problems of the Twins depth in the minors at 3rd base and infielders as a whole.

*Plouffe is hitting a whopping .145/.280/.585 although in the last two games he is 2-9 with 2 home runs, 3 RBIs and 4 strikeouts so we may have witnessed a slump…BUSTED! Trevor is out of options so he would have to clear waivers to be sent to triple-A. I would prefer they keep Plouffe in the outfield as he’s shown that he might not have the skills to play infield in the Majors. He seems to be on a Michael Cuddyer path where the Twins are trying to find a place for him and it might end up being right field because his glove isn’t good enough in the infield. He could probably fill in at 1st base here and there but that’s about it.

The bottom line is if players aren’t performing and they still have options left to be sent down to the minors, at some point they need to play better or someone else needs to be given a chance in The Show! That’s what has to happen when you have a losing team.

Other Minnesota Twinsactions
5/7 – 1B Justin Morneau placed on 15-Day disabled list (retroactive to May 1, 2012) with sore right wrist
5/7 – SS Brian Dozier recalled from AAA Rochester Red Wings
5/7 – RHP Liam Hendricks optioned to AAA Rochester Red Wings
5/7 – LHP Scott Diamond recalled from AAA Rochester Red Wings
5/9 – signed free agent DH Shawn Roof
5/10 – LHP Matt Maloney designated for assignment
5/10 – RHP P.J. Walters recalled from AAA Rochester Red Wings
5/10 – 3B Danny Valencia optioned to AAA Rochester Red Wings
5/10 – LF Darin Mastroianni recalled from AAA Rochester Red Wings

  • SS Brian Dozier is the big name on this list. He’s moved through the organization quickly and made a bid to make the team out of spring training. Don’t expect him to be the savior or anything like that but it’s always exciting to see how a prospect does in his debut. It’s fun to see the firsts of a player’s major league career (hit, rbi, home run, etc…). He should be pretty good defensively and alright with the bat.
  • LHP Scott Diamond was up with the Twins at the end of last season for 7 starts (a spot start in July and a regular rotation spot in late August) going 1-5 (W-L). He got his 1st Major League win in a 7-6 win in Chicago against the White Sox. He ended up with a 5.08 ERA & 1.744 WHIP (Walks + Hits per Innings Pitched) with 17 walks and 19 strikeouts in 39 innings. Not great but he got a taste of what it’s like in The Show and had a couple good starts.
    • He’s been great so far this season no matter where he’s pitched. In triple-A Rochester, he was 4-1 with a 2.60 ERA, 1.212 WHIP with only 7 walks and 26 strikeouts in 34.2 innings. He’s been spectacular with the Twins. In his 2 starts, he’s 2-0, has yet to give up a run (0.00 ERA), has a WHIP of 0.714 and has only 1 walk and 10 strikeouts in 14 innings. Can he keep this going?
  • RHP P.J. Walters was signed as a free agent in December. He was part of the Colby Rasmus trade from St. Louis to Toronto for Edwin Jackson. He’s been up and down between AAA and the majors since 2009 getting some starts and some time in the bullpen.
  • LF Darin Mastroianni was claimed off waivers from Toronto in the off-season. He’s got a lot of speed, good plate discipline, a decent bat although very little power and he’s good defensively in the outfield. He can play 2B as well although I doubt he’d be put there much for Twins but nice to have that option if you need it.

 

Alright, those are my TwinsTakes. What are your TwinsTakes? Are the Minnesota Twins doing the right things with their roster? When will we see Danny Valencia back up with the Twins?

Tell us what you think in the comments!

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Posted in Baseball News and Happenings, Minnesota Twins, Minor League Affilliates, My Twins Takes, Transactions | Leave a comment