the 2018 season: so long, it’s been fun…

I hope you don’t think that I’ve lost interest. Not. At. All.

It’s just that life is pretty full right now.

But I have to take a moment to wish Paul Molitor well. The Twins Brain Trust fired him today, which is the eventual fate of all managers, practically. From Manager of the Year and a brand new three-year contract in October 2017, to former Twins Manager in October 2018.

That’s the way baseball go.

There’s some talk about him staying with the team in some capacity. I’d be surprised if that would happen.

Molitor didn’t have much of a chance for success this year, when you consider the Twins season. Did Ervin Santana ever pitch? Sano and Buxton were largely MIA with assorted injuries. Shortstop Polanco: suspended for half a season. Their pitch-framing catcher: out most of the year. Their free agent off-season pickups were largely disappointing. This is not a recipe for success. This is a recipe for “So long, see you later, thanks for everything.” The Twins finished the season a lackluster 78-84, second place in the Hapless American League Central Division, behind the Spiders of Cleveland.

It was a annoying and dull season. The Front Office threw in the towel and became a retail operation in July, selling players for whatever the market would bear. Goodbye Mr. Dozier, thanks for everything. So long, Mr. Escobar. You were a pleasant surprise and we wish you well. Joe Mauer donned the tools of ignorance for one last at-bat, last game of the season, and everyone expects it to be his last. So long, Joe. Thanks for all the great baseball. Wish we could have taken you to the World Series. But that’s the way baseball go.

I am squarely on the fence regarding the Twins brain trust, Levine and Falvey Inc. Their moves so far have not inspired a great deal of confidence. But – to be fair – I’m willing to give them a few years for their efforts to come to fruition. I’m not about to show them their walking papers after one disappointing and injury-plagued season. Nope. I believe in giving a guy a fair chance to succeed.

And now they’ve got a chance to pick a manager. Here’s a Golden Opportunity to show me something.

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Spring Fever!

Well here it is, Spring Training, 2018 edition.

Ain’t it grand?

The Twins of Minnesota are 4-4 so far, not that that matters at all, unless, of course, you are 0-8, in which case it would plant a nagging seed of doubt. 

The Twins continue their quest for Quality Pitching by signing free agent Logan Morrison, a hard throwing… uh… designated hitter/first baseman.

This helps our pitching by ensuring that our pitchers don’t have to face him this season, as he might very well have found a spot with some other American League team.

Additionally, this helps fill that troublesome hole at DH, where the twins only had Vargas and Mauer and Grossman and Sano and whoever to plug in there. Seriously, though, last year’s DHs only hit about .237 with a .711 OPS, (reliable sources tell me) so there was considerable room for an upgrade. And so Welcome Logan Morrison. And I refuse to call him LoMo.

In other spring news, the Twins best player, Brian Dozier, says that he’ll be a free agent after this season. Kind of a surprise, since he is their best player, and you might think that they might try to keep their best player.

But no, that’s not how the game works. It’s much more complex than that. I’m missing out on the intangibles, I guess, and the metrics, and the inner game. I am an old fashioned fan from a bygone era. That’s not the way things work in century 21.  I guess there’s a lot of angles on this that I am just not paying attention to. No, all I see is a guy who leads by example, a guy who works his butt off 162 games a year, is a great fielder and has a lot of pop in his bat and has contributed a TON to the success of the club and been a bargain on the bottom line.

Oh well. I’d best appreciate him while he is here.

The Twins have added some pitching in this off season. I’ve made mention of other acquisitions in previous post, but since then they’ve traded young prospect Jermaine Palacios for the wiley veteran Jake Odorizzi.

Odorizzi has a 40-38 3.83 lifetime mark, he’s 27 years of age, and went 10-8 with a 4.14 ERA last season with the 80-82 Tampa club. The trade has been greeted with some skepticism by Twins loyalists. Probably the fact that it came soon after the Twins failed to sign Yu Darvish added to the sour grape flavor of the trade. However, Twins fans are a resilient and hopeful lot, and so there is some talk that the Twins Brain-trust notices some statistical data that seems to indicate that better days are ahead for Mr. Odorizzi.

Not that this matters, as — in this case — Odorizzi is a Junior Circuit veteran, and I’m sure someone has studied this, and I’ll have to look for the answer, but, as the pitchers in the National League get to pitch against pitchers, rather than against designated hitters, I wonder, on average, how that rewards their ERA and other stats?

Answer: Well in 2007 there was an article in the NY Times (Alan Schwarz, 7 January 2007) that looked at this. There probably have been more since, and by more Sabermetric publications, but for me I think the NY Times is sufficient. Looking at 29 pitchers that moved from the National League to the American League, and 28 pitchers that moved from the American League to the National League, he found that National League pitchers that moved to the American League had their ERA increase by .70. (Pitchers that moved from the American League to the National League decreased their ERA by .85. Probably got an extra bit of boost from sheer exuberance.)

Which perhaps helps to partly explain why Mr. Darvish decided to go with a National League club, rather than the Twins.

[Again, [[editorial comment]] it would be nice if the Ameican League gave up on this “Designated Hitter” experiment, and went back to letting the pitchers bat. But I digress.]

Speaking of Darvish, I notice:
a.) he’s 6’5″ tall. I had no idea. 220 pounds. In pictures he somehow doesn’t look so big.
b.) he’s sick. Hasn’t pitched yet for the Cubbies. “No worries” he says. Still. Is that any way to start the season? Hope he feels better soon.

Literary Corner

I finished reading The Player: Christy Mathewson, Baseball, and the American Century, by Philip Seib, months ago. So long ago I can’t remember what I was going to say about it. Oddly, the book has Tampa Bay Times News Library stamped on it. How it got to Half Price Books in Maplewood is anybody’s guess. And why would it ever wind up in a newspapers “News Library” anyway? Maybe Christy Mathewson is still newsworthy down there, or perhaps it’s just a review copy. Anyway, this was a good book.

“At one point he was offered a chance at some easy money by lending his name to a Broadway bar. All he had to do was let it be called “Christy Mathewson’s” and show up for 10 minutes once or twice a week. He was told he could make thousands of dollars a year from the venture. He turned it down, later telling his mother, “If I had to make money that way, I wouldn’t want any.”

Well, I guess the times have changed a bit.

The book presents a pretty well-rounded view of Mathewson, who does seem to have been quite a likable guy, besides being one of the best pitchers in the history of Organized Ball. One funny thing is that he got along famously with his manager, John McGraw, who was no choir boy. In fact the two lived together for quite awhile.

Christy Mathewson2.gif

Seib does a nice job of setting Mathewson and baseball within the context of the time, which adds emphasis to Mathewson’s role in popularizing the game. The book is an easy enjoyable read, and full of enjoyable anecdotes and baseball history. This was a great book to pick up in the cold darkness of the dead of winter. Thanks, Mr. Seib!

Mathewson would definetly get a spot in my starting four:

1. Walter Johnson, with that big side-arm heat of his.
2. Christy Mathewson
3. Bob Gibson
4. Three-finger Brown or Sandy Koufax
5. Lefty Grove (Kind of crazy having him be number 6, but really, how can you pick?)

Also in the running:

Grover Cleveland Alexander, Ed Walsh, Nolan Ryan, Warren Spahn, Dizzy Dean, Bob Feller, and Jim Bouton. (Hey, pitching isn’t everything.)

 

playoffs!

Okay, I’d be a terrible baseball blogger indeed if I failed to note that the Twins are in the playoffs. The first team in MLB history to go from a 100 loss season to the playoffs in one season. Quite an accomplishment. And perhaps this says something about the aberrant nature of last season’s death march.

But last season was last season, ancient history. This is the season that counts, and the Twins are in the playoffs. Wooo-hooo!

There’s even a little extra joy in getting to the playoffs in that the Front Office dumped all-star closer Brandon Kintzler at the trading deadline. (Not to mention Jaime Garcia who was both acquired and then de-acquired just before the deadline.) The Front Office was seeming to say that these guys are toast. Wait till next year. But these guys, it turns out, were not made of toast. No indeed.

I, personally, am glad that we play the Yankees. They’ve had our number for years now, and I’d like a little pay-back time.

Congratulations to them Twins. We knew you could do it. Let’s take all the marbles.

CHS Field-trip!

Well, I always like to let the hoopla die down a little bit before I jump in.

So, even though the St. Paul Saints opened their new downtown ball park last summer, I thought best to wait till late this summer (31 August – the last home game of the season) to see them play in their still relatively brand new park.

It’s a great place to see a game! The seats are comfortable, and there’s a concourse so that you can walk all around the ballpark and get some exercise and see the game at all angles. Plus there’s a nice view of St. Paul from out in left field. I wonder what their thinking was, in having the park face away from downtown, rather than towards it, so that you’d see the skyline of St. Paul over the outfield. Just curious.

The game was not so bad. The home town boys took it on the chin, dropping the game to the Winnipeg Goldeyes, (apparently some sort of fish,) 5-0, but it was an okay game. Perhaps because it was a perfect night for a ballgame.

The Saints play in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball. They’ve played just about .500 ball this year, and it doesn’t look like they’ll make the playoffs. Unfortunate, as I had such a nice time I’d like to get back there soon.

Wait till next year, I guess.

maketh hay whilst the sun doth shineth

In other words, hey, those Twins have won six in a row.

Nice.

Just when you count them out, wait, don’t count them out yet. Hey, Falvey! Levine! Don’t count these guys out yet!

A few days back, the brain trust put their thinking caps on and thought, “hey, you know? Maybe we can win something here.” They bolstered their starting pitching with Jaime Garcia from the Braves, and then the Twins promptly lost about five in a row.

And the brain trust suddenly thought, “hey, you know? We’re not going to win anything here,” and, after making one start as a Twin, Garcia was dealt away “to a contender” (the Yankees.) And then closer Brandon Kintzler (2.78, 28 saves) was gone too, to the Nationals. Whereupon, soon after, the boys put together this here little win streak, which finds them within striking distance of winning something again.

Which makes me wonder if Garcia might be available again?

And which just shows that you never know in baseball.

After they traded Garcia away (for a couple of prospects, not so bad) I think it was Molitor who said, no worries, we got this far with what we got, we can go with the horses we have. I paraphrase. But, good point, Molly. We’re not so bad. Not so bad at all.

We just might win something here anyway.

Tonight, Twins 9, Tigers 4.

Obviously, a lot of nice hitting by the Twins. Kepler, Rosario, and Mauer each get three hits, Dozier gets a couple, one of them being a beautiful triple down the right field line. Rosario and Kepler homer. Mr. Kepler has a very nice swing.

Mr. Buxton made a very nice catch in center. And the Twins keep rolling.

Three and a half games out of first.

 

Still no word on which Chicago team Carl Sandburg rooted for.

Mid-summer ball

Well, will you look at that.

Here we are, past the all-star break, and those plucky Twins are hanging in there.

Who would have thunk it?

It seemed widely assumed that the Twins were as terrible as their 2016 campaign indicated. Also widely assumed that the Twins would be selling off bits of the club to contenders after the all-star break.

Well, that may still happen. The Brain Trust is a bit surprised that the Twins are still in contention, but they are not forsaking their long-term plans for short-term glory. Which seems like a good plan to me. I’m always in favor of long-term plans over short-term glory. (Hence the lack of short-term glory.) I’m also a guy who likes to stand pat. You got this far with these guys, see how far they will go.

Twins are taking it on the chin tonight, 6-3 against the Tigers, with the game about over. Not good to lose when Santana is the starter, but those things happen. We’ll be back at them tomorrow.

Here’s a few interesting statistics:

Record this season: 48-46
Record last season: 35-59

OPS this season: .737
OPS last season: .738

ERA this season: 4.80
ERA last season: 5.08

FIP this Season: 5.02
FIP last Season: 4.57

Rank in fielding percentage and double plays this season: 2 in both (out of 15)
Rank in fielding percentage and double plays last season: 15 in both (out of 15)

interesting.

Update

Another nice win for the Twins yesterday. Here’s Dozier getting ‘er done:

Twins 3, Giants 2, Berrios gets his 5th win.

Local press seem to think that this can’t last. I disagree. (Yeah, I’m the guy that thought they’d be in the series last year. Maybe I was just a year off? An 0-9 start can throw you off for awhile.)

Probably too early still to be thinking about magic numbers.

Nice story on the Twins website about tomorrow’s starter for the Twins, Nik Turley. Nik’s spent 10 years in the minors, including a spell in an independent league, after being drafted in the 50th round by the Yankees in the 2008 draft. He was released in 2014 by the Yankees “after experiencing arm-tightness” (Those Yankees!) and spent most of 2016 with the independent Somerset Patriots. He did pretty well there, and the Twins picked him up. And now he’s done pretty well in the minors: 45 strikeouts in 24.3 innings at Chattanooga, with a 0.37 ERA. 39 strikeouts in 28.3 innings in Rochester, with a 3.49 ERA.

That’s not a lot of innings to go on. They may be rushing Nik a bit, but Santiago has gone on the DL and the Twins need a pitcher, so what the heck. Let’s go Nik!

Turley reminds me of Chris Colabello. He’s with Cleveland’s AAA club right now, Columbus, hitting .229 with five HR. I wonder what happened with him? In 2015 he hit .321 with Toronto, with 15 HR and 54 rbi. In 2016: .069 batting average, 2 hits in 29 at bats. And then he hit .180 in AAA at Buffalo. Very very odd.

Well a little research turns this up: PED, and an 80 game suspension. Damn.

Very very unfortunate.

Here’s a nice shot of Colabello I took a few years ago. One of my favorites:

Here’s hoping that Chris can get back on track.