The Big Acq

Well, the Twins have gone and done it. With Highly Obvious Needs in the starting rotation, the Twins went into the off season hunting for a #1 starter, a guy who can dominate and take us to the top. And now they have done it, they have gone out and spent some serious cash on a High Price, High Impact, High Risk Free Agent: Josh Donaldson.

Third baseman.

The Big Acq.

Well.

Donaldson can put the ball in the seats, which is something that the Twins have largely lacked over the last few years, although last year they did happen to set an all-time major league record for home runs.

So the big thing they probably got him for was his fielding. He’s excellent at 3rd, and this will enable Sano to move to first, where he belongs, and where he will replace the departed CJ Cron, who will be playing for the Detroit Twins next season. (Gardenhire, Schoop, Cron.)

Having secured the all-important third base position, the Twins can call this off-season a win. A lot of people were fooled by the Twins saying they were looking for starting pitching. Then, out of no-where: WHAK! Third base! Caught you looking!

Donaldson had a good season last year with the Atlanta club.

(Side note: what would the Atlanta club be called if they ditched their name, (which seems to be offensive to many)? The Atlanta Crackers? That may also be offensive, though there was a minor league Crackers club for quite some time, and they did pretty well. Actually, the Crackers has kind of a nice sound to it, such as in “the Crack of the Bat,” which may be one of the reasons they used it. What else is Atlanta known for? The Atlanta Peaches? The Atlanta Golden Domes? The Atlanta Firemen? The Atlanta Airports? The Georgia Peanuts?)

.259, 37hr, 94rbi, and 4 stolen bases. (The Twins were not busy on the basepaths last season, and Donaldson’s speed will add another dimension to the club.) He should be able to fill Cron’s shoes in the offense department, and he’ll probably be an improvement over Sano at third. Sano, though, moves to first, where he will be a drop from Cron’s fielding acumen. So maybe the fielding all evens out. And is fielding important? Perhaps not as important as planting the ball in the upper deck, but it is pretty fun to watch, and fun to make a nice catch too. Everybody loves a dramatic catch.

Probably, on the scale of What’s Enjoyable About Baseball, an amazing catch beats a home run. Even if it’s an upper deck shot. I’d rather see an amazing catch. A home run is just a long base hit. An amazing catch is super-human.

imho

Anyway. Pencil-in Donaldson at third, Sano at first.

Also pencil-in the Twin Surprises, Homer Bailey and Rich Hill (Homer & Hill) into the tail-end of the starting rotation. There was not a lot of talk about Homer & Hill in the off-season, which made them a perfect target for the Twins Front Office, which enjoys the undervalued and relatively quiet pitching acquisitions.

Which reminds me of Yu Darvish. The highly-coveted-in-the-2017-off-season Yu Darvish, who then was injured most of 2018, and went 6-8 with a 3.98 ERA with the Cubs in 2019. Free agents are a gamble, and free agent pitchers even more so.

Now a third baseman, on the other-hand. A third baseman you can take to the bank. He’s not going to hurt his arm while playing Guitar Hero. Third basemen are rock solid.

I see that Eddie Rosario is still with the club. Good. Let’s not go out and trade him for starting pitching. I know we have a lot of young bats in the minors, Larnach and Raley and the legendary Kiriloff. Are they ready to play in the show? No, not quite. We’ll know when they are ready. They will be pounding at the door. But right now, I don’t hear them knocking. Not yet.

Jackie and Pee Wee, and the Latest One-year Free-agent Haul

Reading an article about Chadwick Boseman in the New York Times, I followed a link to this article on the NBC Sports website, The Embrace, by Joe Posnanski. Nice article. Did it happen? Sounds like yes to me. 

Meanwhile, back in the 21st century, the Twins have added their annual batch of budget free agent gambles:

  • Jonathan Schoop, 2b, age 27: Hit .293 – 32 – 105 with Baltimore in 2017. Then, last year, .233 – 21 – 61 with Baltimore/Milwaukee. 2019: ??? One year deal.
  • C.J. Cron, 1b, age 28: Hit .253 – 30 – 74 with Tampa Bay last year, which was a pretty big jump up for him. One year deal.
  • Nelson Cruz, DH, age 38: .256 – 37 – 97 last season with Seattle, which are low water marks for him over the past five seasons. One year deal.

After the Logan Morrison signing of last off-season, (along with the rest of that season’s crop) well, we have our doubts. As you undoubtedly recall, LogMor hit .246 – 38 – 85 with Tampa in 2017. With the Twins in 2018 (one year deal) he went .186 – 15 – 39. What happened there? Well he had hip surgery late in the season. Perhaps that was a problem all year long? It’s a mystery. Good luck in the free agent market this year, LogMor.

Also last off-season brought the free agent signings of Fernando Rodney, Lance Lynn, and Zach Duke. All traded during the course of the season.

And so forgive me if I look skeptically at this latest crop of one-year deals. I hope these guys are still around in September, when the games count, but it will not be too surprising if they are dangling trade bait at that time.

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!

the deep dark dead of winter…

January 2018. It’s been a typical Minneapolis January: dark, periodically below zero, periodically snowing. The days are short and filled with work. The roads are scummy with snow and salt and ice. We had a dumping of snow last week, about a foot, which mocked our puny human efforts to do business as usual. Furnaces always always on. Dry dry dry. Pipes freezing up. Too cold for the dog to do more than run outside and run back in. Sky the same bleak color as the dismal gray snow. Crows, taunting. Cars caked in frosty dirt.

Yes, the dark dead days of winter. The furnace ticking like a bomb in the basement. The tea kettle screeching on the stove. Perfect setting for the HSL.

Local baseball opinion seems very positive about the Twins. After all, they’ve already signed Zach “Tommy John Surgery in 2016” Duke and Fernando “41 year-old” Rodney. (Those are not their actual nicknames, by the way.) Thusly, the bullpen is reinforced for the coming campaign, and the Brain Trust can focus on other needs.

Speaking of which, they are still apparently in the running in the 2018 Yu Darvish marathon. Latest word is that Darvish will sign with someone in early-to-mid 2019. The Cubs — those sly devils — have recently signed former Twins windpaddist Chris Gimenez – of whom Darvish has reportedly said something to the effect of “He’s my all-time favorite catcher.” Clever move, Cubbies. Well played. We’ll just see if that tips the scale towards Cubsland. The Twins, meanwhile, are stocking supplies of Rummy Grapefruit Soda, rumored to be Darvish’s favorite soft drink. (It’s like a chess game…)

The Carl Sandburg mystery continues. Surely a poetic Chicago boy who grew up on the sandlots had a love for one of those-home town clubs? And probably the Cubs?

I thought perhaps something might appear in his published book of letters, but no, not a clue. A few baseball references, but nothing that pointed to the Cubs or the Pale Hose. Letter after letter full of poesy and politics. Disappointing.

I emailed the vaunted Chicago Public Library, and heard back just a day or two later. They reported that they could find nothing in their vast historical archives, their myriad electronic resources — and suggested I look perhaps at Sandburg’s volume of published letters.

Hmmmm.

I have not yet picked up the Sandburg biography, which will probably solve this puzzle on page 8 or so, “... Sandburg, being a Yankee fan, …

For who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FYI, January 31st is the birthday of a few pretty good ball players, and a lot of others as well. Today we celebrate the births of Rasty Wright and Jot Goar, Goat Cochran (Thanks, mom and dad, for that…), and Steamboat Williams. Stuffy Stewart, Pinky Hargrave, Webb Schultz and Honey Barnes. The great Emil Planeta, Mr. Mel Mazzera, Jackie Robinson, Ernie Banks, and Nolan Ryan.

Not a bad day at all for baseball.

it is good to be in first

Let’s enjoy. Blogging at the start of the season last year was like a death march. Let’s make some hay while the sun is shining. We’re Three and Oh!

I little quick research tells me that the Twins’ best start ever, since coming to Minnesota, was 6-0, back in 1968. I think I got that right, scanning through the years. That year they beat the Yankees in game 3 (we used to beat the Yankees occasionally,) 6-0. Batting order?

Tovar, 3b
Carew, 2b
Oliva, rf
Killebrew, 1b
Allison, lf
Roseboro, c
Uhlander, cf
Hernandez, ss
J. Perry, p

Who hit the home run? Jim Perry, of course, off Stan Bahnson.

Hey, Bulldog!

Mickey Mantle played first, went 0-3, Joe Pepitone was in centerfield(!) and got a hit. The bulldog, Jim Bouton, got into the game for two innings. Not good. Five hits, a walk, three runs. But at least he didn’t get taken over the wall by the fat kid.

Those were good days for the Twins. And so was yesterday, as the boys scored two in the bottom of the seventh to win the game, 5-3. Polanco played short, got a couple of hits, and drove in two. Sano got a couple of hits. Gibson looked good, went five innings. The Twins are trying to make us forget about last year.

Hey, it won’t take much. We’re easy. A pushover. Let’s play some ball.

My previous post mentioned the old Atlantics playing baseball on skates, which reminded me today about that Twins commercial from a few years ago. It’s a classic: