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July 29, 2005

Prospectus Notebook

Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics

by Baseball Prospectus

Minnesota Twins: It's been a long time since we covered the Twins, so to the bullet points we go.

  • One of the hardest things for teams to figure out in the era of the Wild Card is whether they are buyers or sellers at the trade deadline. After a frustrating series of fruitless negotiations last year, San Francisco GM Brian Sabean called the whole process "asinine" for just that reason.

    Clay Davenport's fantastic Postseason Odds Report gives the Twins only a 4.58 percent chance of catching the White Sox this year and taking the AL Central. The division-leading White Sox have four wins in five bouts against the Twins this year, and hold an obscene .780 winning percentage against the other teams in their division. Unlike their peers, who have each already played the Pale Hose at least 11 times, the Twins have the vast majority of their games against the Sox (13) scheduled for the last seven weeks of the season.

    On the one hand, you could argue that the White Sox' obscene record in intra-divisional contests is a result of picking on the three weaker teams in the AL Central; far more likely, though, is the natural conclusion that those teams have such poor records, in part, because the White Sox have decimated them every time they've faced off. The Royals would still be the Royals without such a horrendous record against the White Sox, but the Twins might not have a 2.5 game lead on the Indians if they had played the White Sox eight more times in the first half.

    The miniscule chance that Davenport's system gives the Twins for taking the pennant is probably dead on.

  • What Twins fans are left with, then, are hopes for the Junior Circuit Wild Card. In this area, Davenport's Postseason Odds report is far more optimistic.
    
    Team          Wild Card Likelihood
    ----------------------------------
    Indians            16.4093%
    Twins              16.0347%
    Athletics          13.6623%
    Yankees            12.7497%
    Angels             10.1127%
    Red Sox             9.1393%
    Orioles             5.0318%
    ----------------------------------
    All other teams have less than 5%
    chance of winning Wild Card
    
    Here the Twins are only barely off the lead in the race, though it is important to note that there is enough parity on that list for any number of teams to take the Wild Card by reeling off a few good winning streaks.

  • Kyle Lohse and Joe Mays keep getting mentioned in trade rumors and the reasons are clear. The Twins offense is in a sorry state (11th in the AL in OPS, 13th in SLG, 12th in runs, 10th in HRs), and they have a number of good arms in the minor leagues who seem ready to step into the breech.

    
    Name                 Lg      ERA       IP     K     BB
    ------------------------------------------------------
    Scott Baker         MLB     2.77     13.0    10      3
                        AAA     3.01     95.2    81     23
    
    Francisco Liriano   AAA     2.15     46.0    50     14
                         AA     3.64     76.2    92     26
    
    Boof Bonser         AAA     4.08    121.1   118     40
    
    J.D. Durbin         AAA     4.43     81.1    69     43
    

    Scott Baker's starts came against Detroit and Anaheim, but his minor league numbers are too pretty not to appreciate. Francisco Liriano has been filthy since moving up to Triple-A, and it's not like he wasn't nasty in Double-A (10.8 K/9, 3.1 BB/9). Even Bonser, who was a disappointment for so many years in the San Francisco system, is looking more and more like he could handle himself in a Major League rotation. The Twins can afford to deal a piece from the back end of their rotation because their farm system is ready to fill any voids.

--Tom Gorman

New York Yankees: We interrupt our programming for a message from the Save the Jeter Foundation.

Have you ever seen a limousine pull up next to a McDonald's, and a tuxedo-wearing millionaire get out of the back seat to plunge his Armani-wearing arms into the trash bin, in hopes of pulling out half a cheeseburger, or maybe some French fries which aren't too far gone?

Of course you haven't. Usually they get their chauffeurs to dumpster dive for them. But you're seeing exactly that happen right now, not in some far off country, but right here in America, in America's pastime, in one of baseball's most historic stadiums.

In this land of plenty--after all, the Yankees are paying over $200MM this year in salaries alone--a team is starving. Starving for pitching.

Can you let this happen? Can you sleep soundly, knowing that as you rest in lap of luxury, the Yankees are signing Hideo Nomo, a guy that couldn't hack it for the Devil Rays? Can you sleep soundly knowing that Al Leiter is now the Yankees' #3 starter? Can you rest knowing that Darrell May or Tim Redding could possibly make another start in pinstripes? Can you just accept than in the land of opportunity, right now the Yankees are up to their elbows in that trash bin, hoping that Alan Embree makes it through waivers?

People, Derek Jeter hasn't missed the playoffs in nine seasons, and now he needs your help.

For a mere few thousand dollars a day--the cost of that new automobile you were thinking of buying, or an evening's stay in a cardiac intensive care unit--you can help get the Yankees a new starting pitcher.

Call now, our operators are standing by. Even a few hundred dollars could go a long way to keep Jeter playing into October. Remember, after all that Derek Jeter has done for you, don't forget him in his time of need.

Three reasons Derek Jeter needs your help, right now:

  1. Yankees' pitching acquisitions, before the season and during the season:
    
    December/January, 2004-5      June/July, 2005
    Player           ERA   VORP   Player          ERA   VORP
    
    Felix Rodriguez  3.43  10.3   Darrell May     5.46  -0.6
    Jaret Wright     3.28  40.3   Al Leiter       6.64  -10.3
    Carl Pavano      3.24  62.4   Tim Redding     9.10  -16.3
    Randy Johnson    2.60  69.3   Hideo Nomo      7.24  -16.7
    
    You can just see the quality drop-off right in front of your very eyes, as the team goes from picking up the pitchers with the third, fifth, and twenty-eighth best VORPs last year, to digging up guys who have the fifth, sixth, and twentieth worst VORPs this season.

  2. The pitching staff is being held together with pieces of twine and achy old arms.

    The Yankees ERA this month is 5.25, third-worst in the league. The ages of their best pitchers this month: 35 (Mariano Rivera 0.71 ERA), 37 (Tom Gordon, 1.69 ERA), already injured (Chien Ming Wang, 1.98), 36 (Mike Mussina, 3.45), 39 (Al Leiter, 4.15), and 41 (Randy Johnson, 4.23). Gordon and Johnson have both complained of injuries in the past month, and Mussina spent time on the DL last year.

  3. If he doesn't get some more World Series rings, and fast, he may never be able to challenge Johnny Depp for the title of "most fantasized-about male celebrity." You have to understand that this championship drought affects every facet of Jeter's life.
Wait! We have breaking news! Thanks to the generous donations of viewers like you, the Yankees have been able to make a deal for a pitcher who is not on irrevocable waivers! A guy who is above the replacement level! Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to you...Shawn Chacon?

Er, anyway, keep those phones ringing! Derek Jeter still needs your help.

--Derek Jacques

Oakland Athletics: Starting May 30, the A's have seen their season turn a corner so hellacious that it threatened to careen the team bus right into the Pacific:


Date       Record    RS    RA
4/4-5/29   17-32    186   258
5/30-7/27  38-14    296   181

Why the sudden shift? Look no further than Bobby Crosby, Daniel Johnson and Nick Swisher.

Crosby has quickly made up for the time he lost to injury earlier this season; he's already leading the team in VORP. His translated OPS is 123 points higher than it was in 2004. What's more, Crosby is flashing more leather this year. While there is still a lot of baseball to be played, Crosby's six FRAA, or Fielding Runs Above Average, is a revelation compared to 2004's -2 FRAA. Crosby isn't the only A's player picking it this year; the A's rank first overall in Defensive Efficiency.

Johnson is doing everything so well with the bat that the only complaint is that he has no triples, and that is a stretch. Johnson has more walks than strikeouts (24 to 19) and his untranslated line of .312/.402/.494 is just about as good as it gets for your first 48 games in The Show. That Johnson can now play a serviceable first base makes the outlook on his future that much rosier.

While Swisher has not been as effective as Bobby Kielty or even the ghost of Eric Byrnes, he at the very least allowed the A's to end the delightful game of fifth outfielder roulette that Jermaine Clark, Matt Watson, and Charles Thomas had been playing.

As Joe Sheehan noted last month, the support players in the lineup look much better when they have guys like Crosby and Johnson around to do the heavy lifting. Now the question is, what will Billy Beane do? Ask him yourself this afternoon, live!

--Paul Swydan

Related Content:  Derek Jeter,  The Who,  Year Of The Injury

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