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Brandon Warne 

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January 14, 2011 2:43 am

B-Warned: J.J. Hardy

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Brandon Warne

Examining the former All-Star shortstop and what to expect from him with the Orioles.

When the Twins dealt J.J. Hardy to the Baltimore Orioles on December 9, it signaled a complete turnover from the middle infield employed by the club in 2010 season. Along with Hardy, gone are starting second baseman Orlando Hudson (who signed with San Diego) and the utility player who often spelled both of them, Nick Punto (who remains unsigned). For a club whose starting rotation is primarily made up of pitchers who pitch to contact, it’s a bit puzzling that the club would move on from both of the middle infielders who were instrumental in the success of its starting staff. Today’s B-Warned will focus on one, Hardy, and what his future may hold on the East Coast.

Hardy was a second-round draft pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2001 MLB draft. However, it wasn’t always his play at shortstop that garnered all of the attention. “If there are 30 teams out there,” Hardy noted in a recent phone conversation with TwinsTarget.com’s Andrew Kneeland, “probably 25 of them wanted me as a pitcher. I prefer to play every day, and if it didn't work out I'd like to try pitching, but I felt like that as long as I've got a shot playing shortstop, if that didn't work I could pitch. I felt that if I got drafted as a pitcher there's no way it would work out that I could go back and play shortstop." The decision paid off for Hardy, as he shot through the Brewers' farm system and was named to Baseball America’s top 100 prospects lists in both 2004 and 2005. Hardy made his big-league debut in 2005 at age 22, and by 2007 was a National League All-Star, drilling 26 home runs while compiling a .273/.323/.463 slash line.

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December 16, 2010 10:55 am

B-Warned: Matt Garza

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Brandon Warne

Examining the future of the sought after trade candidate from Tampa Bay.

With the free-agent market starting to resemble Halloween candy displays the day after the holiday, it isn’t surprising to note that some general managers have started to look to the trade market to bolster their starting rotations. Among the names that have been bandied about publicly include Carlos Zambrano, Zack Greinke, and today’s subject of B-Warned, Matt Garza.

Garza’s meteoric rise to the major leagues started as a 2005 first-round draft pick by the Minnesota Twins out of Cal State Fresno. Garza signed two weeks later, and made his major-league debut just shy of 14 months later while becoming the first Twins pitcher to pitch at four levels in one season. Yet, as with even some of the most collegiately polished starting pitchers, Garza took his lumps at the big-league level that first season, posting a 5.76 ERA with an unsightly 1.70 WHIP. He was sent to Triple-A to begin the following season, and wouldn’t resurface until early July, but made 16 appearances (15 starts) while improving his ERA to 3.69 and his WHIP to a more palpable but still troubling 1.54.

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December 2, 2010 4:33 am

B-Warned: Adam Dunn

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Brandon Warne

Examining the free agent prospects of the Big Donkey, and why he should dump the first baseman's mitt to improve his value.

With at least four teams showing strong interest, Adam Dunn is quickly becoming a desirable commodity on the free-agent market. While Dunn isn’t as dynamic an all-around player as Carl Crawford, nor as distinguishable as former World Series champion and Edge look-alike Jayson Werth, Dunn is by far the best power hitter available in this free-agent market, as well as any in recent memory.

Let’s not even suggest that Dunn isn’t as accomplished as Werth or Crawford; he could very well be a fringe Hall of Famer if he can continue to draw walks and punish mistakes as he has the past 10 seasons. Yet, Dunn found minimal interest in his first free agency experience two years ago, when he posted similar numbers to last season before settling on a two-year pact with the Nationals just a week before pitchers and catchers reported in 2009. Furthermore, as suggested in the “Underappreciated Slugger” article on Jim Thome from this past season, Dunn was dealt from his long-time home in Cincinnati on August 11, 2008 to the Diamondbacks for Dallas Buck, Wilkin Castillo, and Micah Owings, who combined for 109 major-league plate appearances and 48 games pitched to the tune of a 5.35 ERA with the Reds. To say the return on Dunn was underwhelming would be an understatement, even when granting that it was a mid-August waiver trade.

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November 24, 2010 3:00 am

B-Warned: Carl Crawford

12

Brandon Warne

Examining the speed of the free agent and what it means for his future prospects.

Carl Crawford is the most desired free agent hitter on the market. No disrespect to Jayson Werth, Victor Martinez, and the rest who filed for free agency, but Crawford’s speed, athleticism, and overall skill set are exceeded only by Ichiro. Given that Ichiro has never really hit the free agent market other than prior to coming from Japan to the Mariners prior to his historic 2001 rookie campaign, there’s little question why The Perfect Storm is as coveted as he is.

Some of the numbers on Crawford are pretty impressive. He’s stolen 409 bases in parts of nine seasons at a clip of just under 82 percent, which is well above the established break-even point of 75 percent. He reeled in his first Gold Glove in 2010, and if it hadn’t been for the Torii Hunter show running later than an afternoon Black Friday shopper, he may have snagged a couple more in the process, even if less than 4 percent of his career innings have been played in center field, a position Gold Glove voters tend to favor. His .279 career TAv is also nothing to scoff at, nor is his 35.5 career WARP.

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November 18, 2010 2:55 am

B-Warned: Carl Pavano

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Brandon Warne

Examining the career of the free-agent right-hander and and what to expect from him in the future.

Carl Pavano is hitting free agency for the third time in his career this offseason, and he’s hoping this can be the first time it doesn’t hit back. Neither of Pavano’s first two stops (Yankees and Indians) were too kind, but the Luigi look-alike is hoping that the third time is the charm.

Pavano’s first foray into free agency came on the heels of a 2004 season in which he posted a record of 18-8 with a 3.00 ERA. Times were much simpler then; flip-phones were still cool, I was fresh out of high school, and Jesse Behr was still a cub. More importantly, sabermetrics were still gaining momentum, which left Pavano’s sub-.500 career record (not of utmost importance, but perhaps still notable), sub 6.0 K/9, and 102 ERA+ largely unnoticed as he signed a four-year pact with the Yankees for just under $40 million.

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Amidst doubt that the club could play well with outdoor home games, the Twins have managed to continue their dominance in Minneapolis.

In its almost 30-year history, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome has been known by many names, including most recently Mall of America Field. Among those which are printable include Homerdome, Humptydome, Thunderdome, and Rollerdome. Typically, every nickname bestowed upon the Metrodome typified how opposing teams felt about it: absolute disdain. This is not to suggest that home players enjoyed playing in the Metrodome either; Torii Hunter complained of the soreness that came from playing on the FieldTurf and Luis Castillo hobbled about like a man of twice his age, but it was widely perceived that this bunch of ragtag ruffians drew a great deal of benefit from knowing the intricacies and quirks that came with playing 81 games per season there.

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Some reasons why Jim Thome is not a household name despite approaching 600 career home runs.

Jim Thome hit three home runs over the holiday weekend to move into sole possession of the ninth spot on the all-time home run list with 585. The last of those blasts, Thome’s 21st of the season, provided the final margin of victory as the Twins defeated the Royals 5-4 to move a season-high 24 games over .500. Thome’s home run Tuesday night tied him with Frank Robinson for seventh on the all-time list.

Thome has been a godsend for the Twins this season, compiling a stunning .275/.399/.621 line while mirroring the production of the man whose lineup spot he is occupying, early AL MVP favorite Justin Morneau. In fact, since Morneau suffered a concussion July 7 in Toronto, Thome has battered opposing pitchers to the tune of a 1.090 OPS with extra-base hits coming at a rate of about one every six at-bats. Thome’s .343 TAv this season is runner up to his monstrous 2002 campaign (.304/.445/.677) and his 3.6 WARP is also very good considering he’s only pushing 300 plate appearances for the season. Moreover, his 1020 OPS is also historically good for a 39-year old, as it has been eclipsed by only Barry Bonds, Ted Williams (twice), and Hank Aaron. Elite company, indeed.

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