first win of 2018: check

Always nice to get that first one done. Always feels good. And somewhat a relief.

(That shadow lurking in the background is the memory of the 2016 season.)

 

Yesterday the Twins knocked the Orioles, 6-2. Sano hit his first of the season, a solo shot in the first. Six nothing till the ninth, and the boys were working on a no-hitter with two-outs in the 8th. Gibson tossed six hit-free innings, striking out 6 (while also walking 5.) Pressly worked the 7th and 8th, and gave up the hit. Gabriel Moya gave up a two run homer in the ninth. Moya was acquired from the Diamond Backs for catcher John Ryan Murphy and rocked double A ball last year, earning a late season call up.

Berrios pitches for the Twins today, and I rate our chances with him on the mound as good.

I wonder what happened to John Ryan Murphy? The Twins traded Aaron Hicks for him, after a season where he batted .277 in 155 at bats with the Yankees. He was a second round pick by the Yankees, made steady progress through their minors, hit .270 and  then .246 at AAA. Then .146 for the Twins, followed by .236 and .222 at triple A. Then to Arizona, and I see he’s up in the bigs to start the season. Curious.

 

2018 Forecast

I’ve taken a pensive scan through the 2018 edition of the Twins, and at last come up with my 2018 prediction.

The positives I see:

  • Starting pitching – reinforcements have arrived, and Odorizzi and Lynn are, I think,  upgrades. And perhaps Berrios will continue to improve: (+2)
  • Third base – where maybe young Sano can somehow stay healthy this season: (+2)
  • Center field – where we hope to see continued Buxton improvement (+1.5)
  • DH – Where Logan Morrison brings some consistency and a substantial upgrade from last year’s rotating cast: (+2)

This puts the Twins 7.5 games up from last season. Let’s call it eight. That puts them at 93-69 at year’s end.

On the downside:

  • I’m not convinced yet that the bullpen has been improved.
  • Is Mauer really back?
  • Who’s out there at short?

So there’s a few questions heading into the season, but I counterbalance these with

  • Brian Dozier seems to be headed to free agency: will he up his game?
  • Our pitch-framing catcher is back
  • Can Eddie Rosario take his game even higher?

All together, I see all these questions as a break-even proposition. And that still leaves as at 93-69 at year’s end.

But wait. There’s the Hubris penalty.

  • I rounded up from 7.5, I might just as well have rounded down. Philosophically, it’s always better to assume the worst. (-1)
  • And then there’s just my general historic and well-documented over-confidence about the Twins. (-1)

And so this puts the Twins at 6 games up from last season, and 91 – 71 at season’s end.

Sound reasonable?

Unfortunately, Baseball Prospectus’s PECOTA projections say today that the Twins will finish at 82 -80 this season, scoring 789 runs, and giving up 784. Last year the Twins scored 815, and gave up 788. I’m not sure how they figure this club is going to score less runs than last year, but I’m sure they’ve put in all the numbers, the pitchers, the health factors, wind direction, economic conditions, seismic activity, global warming, bird migration patterns, oil prices, and bat velocities, and so 789 is probably a pretty good guess. Perhaps they know some things I don’t.

Still, I’ll be surprised if this team doesn’t score more, and give up less. There may be other factors that they’ve overlooked and that I took into account. Time will tell who’s right about this.

The hometown StarTribune stable of baseball mavens are just slightly more optimistic than the Prospectus stat-machine:

  • Pat Reusse: 89-73
  • Jim Souhan: 89-73
  • Chip Scoggins: 87-75
  • La Velle E. Neal III: 86-76
  • Sid Hartman: 85-77
  • Phil Miller: 83-79

Again, they probably are blessed with a wealth of arcane “inside” knowledge, drawn from deep within the inner sanctum of the clubhouse, that mere mortals not able to access. But I still think that they are being overly cautious. Probably because they have professional reputations at stake, and, as baseball writers, well there’s always a lot to criticize and they are happy to do so. And that, my friends, leads to a warped perspective, and a life of unhappiness.

I wonder if they write articles at the end of the season, talking about their forecast and the final outcome? Well, we shall see, gentlemen. We shall see.

 

By the way, here it is, baseball season, game 3, and it’s 26 degrees here, and there’s icy snow on the sidewalks, and there’s more snow predicted in the next couple of days.

I Protest!

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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.

30 – 31 March 1904 – Spring Training

30 March 1904, Wednesday Evening

Minneapolis Millers logo - no date

“Manager Watkins says Champaign is the best training place he has found in his twenty-one years’ experience.” Manager Watkins seems to think in extremes. Champaign?

Anyway, yesterday the boys practiced batting, pitching, and fielding.

And I guess that about covers it. I suppose it will be more of the same tomorrow.

31 March, Thursday Evening

What do you do on a rainy spring day in Champaign?

Well, the boys spent the day in the gym, running around the jogging track and using the batting cage. Most of the players are there now, though Katoll is coming in later today, and Captain Fox not till Saturday. (Katoll’s arm is reportedly all right.) Captain Fox might try to set a better example, but I suppose he has a real job to attend to. No word on Joe Koukalik, or Frank Bonner either, for that matter. I guess we won’t be seeing him this season after all, which is too bad, as he is fast on the sacks, they say.

After a little moving around, the scribe reports, Watkins lectured the boys, and the university players, on “The Art of Batting.” Scheduled for the next bad-weather day is lecture two, on “The Art of Base Running”. Which I notice now they didn’t cover yesterday — perhaps difficult to do in the gym, really. Especially the sliding part.

Watkins expresses much gratification over the apparent excellent condition of his men. “Every man is looking fine,” he says, when asked about the condition of the men on hand.

If the weather tapers off this afternoon, there is some hope for a practice game, should the grounds be dry enough. I’m sure the boys would like to be out in the fresh spring air, especially after a refreshing rain.

26 March 1904; Discouraging Words are Heard, but There is Munch to be Grateful For

Six degrees above zero, this morning, crows the Saturday Evening Journal. It looks like Spring is finally here! Meanwhile, the DailyTyphoid Report, on page six, counts seven new cases of typhoid today, and one death.

In more important news…

excerpt - Minneapolis Journal - 26 March 1904 - Real Work Will Begin Next Week

The Millers Start Spring Practice Wednesday… and so we have yet another article in the Journal appraising the team’s talent. Perhaps, as there were a lot of player signings, and new management, and more off-season dealings in those days, perhaps there was more uncertainty among the baseball-fan-population as to who the players were going to be in any given year. Certainly there were a lot less media outlets in those days. It was either the scurrilous press or the talk bruited about in the streets.

Anyway, according to the Journal, it sez here, the infielders and outfielders will be the strongest parts of the club. However the pitching staff also “looms up in promising fashion.” Katoll’s arm seems fine. (Everyone, could you relax a little about Katoll’s Sling Wing? It’s fine. F. I. N. E.)

However, it does seem a little odd that, just after the writer talks in glowing terms about several of the pitchers, he says,

“Altho Watkins has more than half a dozen colts on his pitching staff, Munch is the only one upon whom he banks much.”

Hmmmm. This gives one pause. What about Katoll? Is his arm all right? What about Rusty Owens, and Case, who were top-notchers in the 3-I league last year? What about Frosty Thomas? And can’t Baily be counted on for some good work this year? Is Katoll’s arm not sound?

No. There is only Munch. Munch is Watkins mainstay and support. Everything depends upon Munch, it seems. And I’m not sure that we’ve ever even heard Mr. Munch’s first name. Something of a mystery? Who is this guy, this stalwart, this man Munch??

“Munch is a left-hander with lots of speed and unusually good control for a southpaw.”

 

(Subtle disparagement of southpaws noted.)

So. We will watch for more on Munch. Such as, perhaps, a first name. Did they have the single-named celebrity back then? Like Cher? Bono? Munch?

edvard the scream munch sm

Wait a minute, wait a minute, wait a minute. There’s also Converse, Lockersteen, and Koukalik. (LLC). Surely with that stable of slab artists there is one other twirler we may rely upon? What of all this talk about how this will be the best team Minneapolis has seen in a long long while?

“Watty will be satisfied, however, if he gets one good man out of the bunch.”

So, after all the Spring Hoopla, the truth will out. It seems that suddenly our pitching is suspect. All that off-season talk is just that, just talk.

On top of that, our catching is weak! Roach and O’Leary, as we’ve discussed before, leave something to be desired. Roach is reliable, the writer states, but not as good a man as Bob Wood of Milwaukee, for one, or Sullivan in St. Paul. O’Leary, in fact, will probably do the bulk of the work, as he is, at least, speedy. And then there’s Ludwig, of course. He’s a project. But O’Leary seems to be the one, as Watkins likes a speedy man, and at least O’Leary is speedy, or at least compared to Roach and Ludwig.

The infield and the outfield, well, we’ve talked about them before. They are the strength of the team, and I don’t see that we need to go over all that again. They are speedy. Lord knows, they are speedy. And we all know how important speed is.

“It is a well known fact that most championships have been won, not by the teams noted for their hitting ability, such as the old Phillies, or the Clevelands of last season, but by clubs which combined fair hitting ability with speed on the field and on the paths. In signing his men, Watkins has made good legs the first requisite, and the 1904 Millers will not throw away runs as the 1903 bunch was wont to do.”

The writer concludes his piece by looking briefly at the competition. He believes that Indianapolis and Louisville look to be the strongest. St. Paul will hardly be up to last year’s form, he says: Miller Huggins and Spike Shannon will be impossible to replace, and Kelly’s pitching staff “are largely experiments.” Minneapolis ranks up there with Indianapolis and Louisville, while Milwaukee, Columbus, and Kansas City are back in the pack that follows the leaders. The sad Toledo club brings up the rear. “The papers of that city are making a brave effort to keep up the spirits of the fans, but up to date Manager Long has given out only vague assurances that his team would be in the fight…”

 

On a side note, I’m afraid I’m falling a bit behind the current (1904) news. A full-time job certainly interferes with the more important things in life.