Is there any hope that the Twins will be better than horrible this season?
First, let’s get this out of the way: The Minnesota Twins will probably be pretty bad, at best, this season. They lost a lot of games in 2011, and though many of the names and faces have changed, they’ll take the field in 2012 looking a lot like the same team. As a matter of sabermetric best practices, it’s probably a good idea to assume that they’ll lose a lot of games again. PECOTA and the depth charts currently see the Twins losing 91 games, in a two-way tie for the AL Central cellar and a three-way tie for last in the American League. That’s all very reasonable, and nothing you read here is going to dispute the notion that that’s exactly what’s most likely to happen.
What I’m wondering, though, is why it’s being treated as a foregone conclusion. Great analysts are dismissing the team without, well, analyzing. Our own departing-and-incoming managing editors—brilliant, insightful, and devastatingly handsome men, both—had things like this to say in their recent ALCentralpreview: “This team should trade any veterans not nailed down” … “they can’t compete” … “The Royals are about to leave the Twins in their dust” … “It’s going to stay bad before it gets better.” And they’re certainly not alone... they’re just the example I can find right now. On Twitter and elsewhere, the Twins have very quickly become a punch line. They’ve been written off completely.
Minnesota Twins pitchers tend to be a lot like Brad Radke.
Last week, the Twins signed Brad Thompson to a minor-league contract. Two weeks earlier, Jason Marquis signed a major-league contract with the Twins. Jason Marquis pitches to contact, gets ground balls, strikes out few. Brad Thompson pitches to contact, gets ground balls, strikes out few. Some people are stars long before they get famous, and some people are artists long before they pick up a brush, and some people are Twins long before they become Twins.
Generally speaking, we all know what a Minnesota Twins pitcher looks like. He’s got a strikeout rate a tick below six per nine innings. (Even the movie Twins has 5.9 stars on IMDB.) He survives this limitation either by walking nobody—no-body—or by keeping the ball on the ground, but either way he’s not looking to coax a strike three out of anybody, and he’s not all that concerned about allowing a home run as long as there is nobody on base. He’s a veteran, and if he’s not a veteran, he’s just a future veteran in early but advanced development. He might be a lefty, but you don’t really think of him as a lefty. He’s a No. 4 starter with aspirations of being a No. 2.5 starter. He’s draftable only in the geekiest fantasy leagues. He once threw a ball 91 mph, but it was at one of those county-fair game booths and nobody believes him, even though he has a certificate of achievement that the booth operator gave him. If everything breaks right, he’s Brad Radke. If a few things break right, he’s Rick Reed. If things just break, he’s Boof Bonser.
Can the Twins learn to love their power lefty, or will they finally get a good return in trade?
Earlier this month, the Twins made waves via a Minneapolis Star Tribune report stating that team officials are open to the possibility of trading Francisco Liriano. The 27-year-old lefty is coming off a strong 2010 season, and the Twins feel that his value may never be higher, that he's getting too expensive for their tastes, and that their rotation appears to be stocked well enough to withstand his departure. If those assumptions are true, it may be sensible to deal him, but a closer look at the situation suggests flaws in that reasoning.
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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.
PECOTA predicts how Thursday's slate of post-season games should turn out.
The postseason is now officially underway, and while PECOTA didn’t peg the exact results in the first three games, they were exciting nonetheless. Then again, I don’t think any projection or prediction lent credence to the idea that Roy Halladay would kick off his Doctober with a no-hitter—and one of those real no-hitters, not the cheap ones with five or more walks. Cliff Lee continued his playoff success by holding the Rays to just one run after a potentially scary first inning. And while the Yankees-Twins matchup wasn’t pretty from a pitching standpoint, it was certainly entertaining. But that was yesterday, and today we have three more matchups to discuss: the Rays and Rangers square off at 2:30 p.m. EST, the Twins host the Yankees at 6 p.m., and the Braves visit San Francisco for a 9:30 p.m. Two Game Twos. And Tim Lincecum’s post-season debut should make for quite the fun Thursday.
The Twins and Yankees meet yet again in the first round of the postseason but Minnesota has home field advantage this time.
As they did last year as well as 2003 and 2004, the Twins run squarely into the Yankee juggernaut in the first round. Unlike those other three meetings, they have home field advantage this time around, as they won the AL Central going away thanks to a league-best 48-26 second-half record. The defending world champion Yankees, who held the majors' best record for most of the season, were forced to settle for the wild card due to a sluggish 13-17 showing against a very tough schedule in September and October. Despite the relative temperatures of the two clubs, it's important to remember that late-season records aren't predictive of October success—or failure.
Surprises with arbitration, minor exchanges, and rumors from Indy.
It used to be that free agents never accepted their club's offers of salary arbitration over staying out on the open market. However, it also used to be that clubs would open the checkbook wide for even the most average free agents. Things changed last winter when multi-year contracts were the exception rather than the norm on the free-agent market. This year, almost all 30 major-league clubs are saying that their payrolls for 2010 are going to stay the same or go down, and many players and agents are apprehensive about what the market might bear this winter.
Optioned RHP Kam Mickolio to Norfolk (Triple-A); recalled LHP Brian Matusz from Bowie (Double-A). [8/4]
Traded C-S Gregg Zaun to the Rays for a PTBNL or a cash settlement TBDL; purchased the contract of C-RChad Moeller from Norfolk (Triple-A). [8/7]