Episode 71: Reviewing the Royals

The highlight of this week’s episode is an interview with Josh Duggan (@oldmanduggan) of Royals Review to talk about what’s been happening with our division rival’s over in Kansas City. We review their off-season and make predictions about the future of the division in 2014 and beyond. You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here.

gladden

At one point during the podcast Paul professes the strangest fantasy a man has ever had involving another man’s forearms, Jay Corn predicts the Twins to somehow win 83 games and Eric talks smack about his mother to his twin brother. Twins topics were also covered. Spring has sprung and the Twins are all down in Ft Myers for spring training and everyone is in the best shape of their lives. We discuss some notable signings from around the league take a look at Twins minor leaguer and 2013 draft pick Ryan Walker and course discuss what we’re drinking and recommend traveling to Alaska.

The boys have their potty mouths on this week, so if you’re listening near small children you may want to turn the volume down.

 

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, and you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) and read his writing at PuckettsPond.com!

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews will help Jason Bartlett make the 25-man roster.

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 23

Episode 23 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

This week the Pleiss brothers spend way too much time discussing obscure state capitols and bantering on about MySpace and hipsters.   In between those strange and obscure conversations you can find plenty of talk about the Minnesota Twins, including a discussion about the 25-man roster, Frank Viola, prospect Luke Bard and former Twins around the MLB. Also making his Talk to Contact podcast debut it Jason from The Inverted W podcast (www.invertedW.com) to continue the series looking around the AL Central, this time discussing the Kansas City Royals.

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes (ratings and reviews have magical iTunes powers, which help us become more like summer time on the shores of Cape Cod.)

You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at  Puckett’s Pond.

- ERolfPleiss

Looking at the American League Central Division

There are six teams in the American League with losing records, and three of those teams are in the American League Central.  In fact, the three teams with the worst records in the AL are all in the Central, the Indians 54-65, the Royals 52-66, and the Twins bringing up the rear at 50-68.  While none of the other AL division races are particularly close (Yankees lead the Rays and Orioles by 6 and 7 games respectively, and the Rangers lead the Athletics and Angels by 5 and 7 games respectively), the top two teams in the Central are separated by just a game and a half.  The White Sox are 65-53 while the Tigers 64-55 (and tied with the Orioles for the 2nd Wild Card spot).

Overall the standings in the AL Central look like this:

Chicago White Sox 65-53, 5-5 in their last 10, +72 run differential, 92% chance to make the postseason

The White Sox lead the Central on the strength of their pitchers.  They lead the Central in runs against per game at 4.12 (more than a full run per game ahead of the Twins 5.19) and are the only team in the division with an ERA under 4, despite playing half of their games in the homer-friendly environment at US Cellular Field.

Detroit Tigers 64-55, 1.5 GB, 5-5 in their last 10, +27 run differential, 64.5% chance to make the postseason

Despite having Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer (who are 1-2 in the AL in Strikeouts (180 and 178), the rest of the Tigers pitching staff, combined with a terrible defensive lineup are making it too easy for their opponents to put runs on the board.  Detroit is winning despite their pitching and defense thanks in large part to their offensive performances.  The Tigers lead the AL Central in batting average (.270), On Base Percentage (.338) and Slugging (.428).

Cleveland Indians, 54-65, 11.5 GB, 4-6 in their last 10, -113 run differential, 0.1% chance to make the postseason

The Tribe again started off the 2012 season playing good baseball (44-41 in the first half) as they had a year ago, but just like in 2011, the wheels have fallen off for the Indians are the All-Star Break (10-24).  Cleveland has given up as many runs per game as the Twins (5.19), and they’ve been pretty bad offensively as well, leading to a division and American League worst -113 run differential (in all of baseball, only the Rockies, -114, and the Astros, -154 are worse).

Kansas City Royals, 52-66, 13 GB, 7-3 in their last 10, -51 run differential, 0.1% chance to make the postseason

2012 was supposed to be the year the Royals starting putting everything together, right?  Most of the talent from their loaded farm system was going to making the transition to Major League Baseball and the team was a popular preseason pick to surprise.  Maybe the baby-Royals are still adjusting, they’re one of the worst fielding teams in the American League in terms of Fielding% and have committed to most errors in the Central.  The Royals have struggled to produce front of the rotation starters and once again Royals fans must endure another year of failure and hope for the best in 2013.

Minnesota Twins, 50-68, 15 GB, 3-7 in their last 10, -86 run differential, 0.1% chance to make the postseason

And then there are the Twins.  You know all about their struggles in 2012.  Poor starting pitching, streaky offense, mediocre defense, and the Twins’ 7-8-9 hitters are batting a combined .235.  September is coming, and with the turn of the calendar will come plenty of Minor League prospects hoping to impress down the stretch and captivate Twins fans while the season continues to spiral down the tubes.

The White Sox and the Tigers can realistically both make the playoffs and should still be playing meaningful baseball into the last week of the season.  For the rest of the division, it is time to start looking to the future.

-ERolfPleiss

Everyone Needs a Break

Considering the lack of any games of real importance going on in Major League Baseball at the moment, there sure seems to be a lot of “stuff” flying around the perimeter of the game, agitating the media which, in turn, agitates the masses (or is it the other way around? I’m honestly not sure).

I’ve tried to get fired up about some of it or at least interested enough to give a damn about any of it, but it’s just not happening. But I’ve been embarrassingly absent as a contributing member of this group of bloggers lately, so I’m determined to say SOMETHING about at least a few of the items that have passed for “news” in and around the Twins and the rest of MLB the past few days.

R.A. Dickey’s snub

Dickey deserved to be the starting pitcher for the National League in the All Star Game. He knows it. So does Tony LaRussa. So does Buster Posey, the catcher that the voters erroneously voted to start behind the plate for the NL.  He deserves to start more than Matt Cain does. Even Matt Cain knows it and apparently said so out loud. In fact Dickey deserves to start more than Posey does, but that’s immaterial, I guess.

He’s not starting for one reason and one reason only. He throws an 80 mph knuckleball. Posey has seen it as a hitter, I would imagine, and since he’s apparently never caught even a 60 mph amateur version of a knuckleball, he’s none too anxious to learn how to catch Dickey’s for the first time in front of 40,000 fans and at least a handful of people who tune in to watch the ASG on TV.

As a former knuckleballer myself (though I doubt mine ever even reached the 60 mph level), I should be outraged at the injustice of this discrimination against Dickey. But I’m just not. Hopefully, he got to spend some time yesterday working in the bullpen with one of the NL’s catchers so neither party gets embarrassed out there when Dickey inevitably enters the game.

I’m really happy for the guy because he’s a great story, but I just can’t get worked up about the fact that he’s not starting the game.

Reggie’s dis of Bert, Puck and other Hall Members

I really stopped caring what Reggie Jackson said about anything the day he became a Yankee, but if there was one of these items that did get under my skin a bit, it was Jackson spouting off about how certain recent Hall of Famers didn’t deserve the honor of being enshrined in Cooperstown. The first Tweets I saw indicated he specifically referred to Bert Blyleven and Kirby Puckett. The next Tweet I saw pointed out that Reggie’s results when facing Bert in their careers were… well let’s just say that Reggie didn’t get to Cooperstown based on how he hit against Blyleven.

Bert Blyleven

Eventually I saw that Bert himself Tweeted that Jackson had called to apologize, relying on the old, “my comments were taken out of context,” line of BS. But whatever, at least the guy apologized. He apparently did likewise to others that he lumped in to the “unworthy” category. Again, however, I just couldn’t get too worked up over this. After all, as much as I loved both Puckett and Blyleven as players, I have to admit that their on-field HOF credentials were both marginal, so while Jackson should probably keep that kind of opinion to himself, he’s entitled to it and it’s not an altogether unreasonable opinion. I don’t think the BBWAA gets it right all the time, either, and I’m actually a “big Hall” guy.

I did care enough, however, to seek out the actual SI article that the quotes came from. I came away thinking that it’s really too bad he said the stuff he said about the HOF, because the rest of the article is very good. Ironically, the underlying theme of the article is how Reggie has changed and no longer prone to making outlandish comments and feeding an oversized ego.  Then he has to go and say that he’s going to get up in front of the HOF dinner next year and tell the other members that they all need to do something about keeping guys like Puckett, Blyleven, and others, out of their club in the future. It’s a shame.

Now we read that he’s been invited to stay away from Yankee Stadium for daring to say that A-Rod’s accomplishments are tainted because he admitted to using PEDs. Again, should he have given that quote, considering he’s still collecting a “special assistant” check from the Yankees? No. But he’s not exactly alone on an island with that opinion.

Anyway, it all just seems like more drama than it really should be.

Royals fans dis Cano

Speaking of things that are made bigger than they should be, apparently thin skinned Yankee fans took a major exception to the way the Kansas City crowd treated Robinson Cano during the Home Run Derby Monday night. Fans booed Cano loudly when he was introduced, mostly because after originally publicly stating that putting Royal Billy Butler on the Derby team would be the right thing to do, he changed his mind and didn’t select him after all. Of course, I think just the fact that he’s a Yankee makes him worthy of a pretty loud boo, but maybe Kansas Citians need more than that.

Anyway, not only did they boo him beforehand, but lustily cheered every “out” Cano made when the defending Derby champ came to the plate for his cuts in the first round. They got lots of opportunities to cheer, too, because Cano got completely shut out. No home runs in 10 cuts. With his dad pitching to him.

Anyway, Yankee fans apparently lit up Twitter with comments bashing KC fans’ treatment of Cano. I guess it’s easy to see why they’d be upset, though. After all Yankee fans are generally so well known for how politely they treat players of other teams, right? I guess the rest of us are all just supposed to acknowledge that anyone associated with the F’ing Yankees is entitled to be shown due respect.

Yeah, this is another not-so-big deal to me. Get over it and move on.

Prince Fielder wins the HR Derby

Yeah, I enjoyed watching the Derby. Prince Fielder can hit a baseball a LONG way. I also love the remodel job done on the stadium in Kansas City and it remains very high up on my list of favorite ballparks, so I enjoyed seeing it host the event. But neither the Derby nor the winner matter to me at all.

Mauer the lone Twins representative at the ASG

I’ve covered this before. Mauer deserves to be at the ASG, in fact the voters screwed up voting Ranger Mike Napoli as the starting catcher. I’d have liked to see Josh Willingham go, but there are just a lot of All Star worthy outfielders and very few catchers. And when you’re on a team that appears headed to its second consecutive 90+ loss season, you probably will just get one representative. Joe was the correct choice and anyone who doesn’t think so, while entitled to their opinion, is simply wrong.

By the way, Napoli is one of THREE former Cedar Rapids Kernels on the AL All Star Game roster. Napoli joins two other former Kernels (both now with the parent Angels) Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout. Trumbo represented well in the Derby Monday night and Trout is… well… if you don’t know who Mike Trout is, then you clearly care less about Major League Baseball than I care about the Home Run Derby.

Home Field Advantage

It’s been a decade now since the infamous tie game that led Bud Selig to decide that the ASG should matter more and declared that the winning league’s representative in the World Series would have home field advantage.

Bud Selig

I swear I have heard this thing bashed on every sports talk show for a week. I feel like I should care, but I don’t. It’s not a perfect solution to the trend of these games becoming poorly played and poorly managed exhibitions, but after the sham of a Pro-Bowl the NFL put on a few months ago, MLB needs to make sure the game counts for something if they want players to give any kind of effort whatsoever… or even bother to show up.

And at least it gives me another excuse to post my favorite Bud Selig picture of all time.

That’s it… enjoy the All Star Game if you care to watch it. If not, hold on tight and we’ll begin the second “half” of this exciting Minnesota Twins season in a few days!

-          JC

Here Come the Landed Gentry

“Thank God that stretch of scheduling is over. Things are bound to turn around now that our guys get to play some ball against a team that can’t seem to get out of its own way.”

Here in Iowa, I seem to be hearing something akin to that comment in stereo… both from Twins fans to my north and Royals fans to the south.

Slugerrr

The Royals just recently managed to halt a 12-game losing streak and while the Twins didn’t let things get that consistently out of hand, it wasn’t for lack of trying on their part. They’ve played poorly enough that it COULD have happened. As a matter of fact, while the Twins were letting the Red Sox sweep them out of their own ballpark, the Royals have put together a small (extremely small) winning streak… having won their most recent pair of games over Cleveland.

But the Twins have home field advantage this weekend, right? Well… they’ll play the games at Target Field, but that may not be an advantage. The Royals have a 5-4 road record this season. That’s right, all five of their wins have come on the road. They’re 0-10 in front of their hometown fan(s).

Like the Twins, the Landed Gentry are having a few health issues with their rotation. Tonight’s starting pitcher, left-hander Everett Teaford, has been the team’s long reliever, but he’s standing in for fellow lefty Danny Duffy, who’s dealing with “minor elbow tightness.” Duffy should be damn glad he’s with the Royals and not the Twins. If the Twins’ crack medical staff came up with that as a preliminary diagnosis, it would probably turn out to be a malady that would eventually require amputation.

Pitching hasn’t really been the big problem for the Royals, however. In fact, most of their staff have stat lines that Gardy and pitching coach Rick Anderson can only drool over. No, so far, the Royals’ biggest problem has been that they’ve got a roster of position players who have a reputation for being, “promising, good young hitters,” but many of them have thus far only demonstrated that they are indeed young.

Alex Gordon, Mitch Maier and Eric Hosmer all wish they could start hitting the ball as well as Alexi Casilla does. Think about that.

Other Stuff

I’ve been traveling for work most of this week, so I’ve been a little out of touch, but there are a couple of other items I want to touch on this morning.

The Tigers have released Brandon Inge after handing his 3B position to Miguel Cabrera and the experiment of converting Inge to a second baseman made Cabrera look good as a third baseman, by comparison. Of course, Inge hasn’t helped his cause by hitting almost nothing.

The Twins are reportedly having discussions about whether they should look in to bringing him aboard. The Tigers are on the hook for everything above that portion of his salary equal to the pro-rated MLB minimum salary, so financially it wouldn’t be a hit. The theory seems to be that it would also send a message to Danny Valencia.

But what would that message be? “Wake up tomorrow in Rochester, Danny, because your position here isn’t guaranteed. We can find guys who can’t hit and can’t field pretty much anywhere and, unlike you, some of them have lots of tatoos.”? Look, I’ve never been the biggest Valencia fan, so I’m not averse to finding a replacement. I’d just kind of prefer that it be someone… hmmm, what’s the word I’m looking for here?… GOOD?

The Twins do need to do something and do it soon. I’m not generally one to call for action just for the sake of appearing to take action, but sometimes the local fan base does need to be assured that the front office has noticed that things suck on the field. And based on the number of empty seats in Target Field already this season, the Twins may fast be approaching that point. By the end of last season, fans demonstrated that they won’t pay a bunch of money to go to Target Field to watch bad baseball. They already seem to be making the same statement even before the end of the first month of the season this year.

Over at Twins Daily, in case you’ve missed it, they’ve begun an “Adopt a Prospect” program where members are encouraged to “adopt” one Twins minor league prospect and regularly post updates on that player’s activities and performance. It’s really a very cool way to recognize the hard work these young players put in, most of the time for very… very… little pay. They all have a Big League dream, but that road is long and hard and not terribly rewarding except for the lucky few who reach the top.

If you haven’t already adopted a prospect, there’s still time and a lot of hard working players still available. But even if that’s not something you feel inclined to do, you should still stop by the thread and read up on the 60+ players that have been adopted already.

Because I know you’re curious… I’ve adopted infielder James Beresford, currently with the AA New Britain Rock Cats. James is another player out of the Twins’ Australian pipeline.

Finally, if these troubling times make you yearn for memories from a better time in Twins history, it’s not yet too late to enter our “100,000th Visitor Contest,” with a chance to win a very nice framed Kirby Puckett memento. Just give us your guess as to when you think visitor number 100,000 to our site will be stopping by.

That’s enough for this morning… let’s hope the Twins get the ship righted a bit over the weekend and that May is much better for our guys than April has been.

- JC

AL Central Preview: Kansas City Royals

Here’s the final installment in this series of previews of the Twins’ AL Central Division rivals. Today, we talk about the Landed Gentry down yonder in Kansas City.

How many years now have we been hearing about how great the Kansas City Royals’ prospects are? Seems like forever.  Last season, we finally got to see some of that talent on the field at the Big League level. And what did we see? I guess you have to give the Royals credit for crawling out of the AL Central Division cellar, but that may have been due more to just how bad the Twins were than any improvement by the Royals.

Still, the Royals are getting better and you have to hope baseball fans in Kansas City recognize it and start showing up at the remodeled Kauffman Stadium in greater numbers. As it stands, at least there should be one guaranteed sell-out in KC this season, with the 2012 All-Star Game being hosted there. Kauffman has always been one of my favorite MLB stadiums so I’m glad they’re getting this opportunity to showcase the great job they did of fixing the place up.

And who knows, maybe this is the season a few of their young stars emerge to the point where the Royals get more than just token representation on the AL squad.

Last Year:

Record: 71-91

Standings: 4th place AL Central by 24 games behind Tigers

Playoffs: None. Their last playoff appearance was in 1985 (Ouch)

Players of Note Lost: OF Melky Cabrera

Players of Note Added: P Jonathan Sanchez, P Jonathan Broxton, SS Yuniesky Betancourt, P Jose Mijares

M*A*S*H unit: Unless you count the potential for Jose Mijares to eat one or two of his team mates, the Royals appear to be entering Spring Training in remarkably good shape health-wise. (Actually, if there’s one place where one probably should not poke fun at food-related injuries, it is almost certainly Kansas City… not after the close call their mascot Sluggerrr had with the justice system following a nasty hotdog incident last year.)

Outlook: If I were a Royals fan, I’d have really liked to see the club go out and get Roy Oswalt or Edwin Jackson. That would have been a great way for ownership to tell the fan base, “we’re not just BSing about this any more, we think we can be good!”

I guess they figured bringing in Jonathan Sanchez should be enough to convince fans that they’re serious. The other new Jonathan (Broxton) should prove helpful out of the bullpen, as well. On the other hand, they also added Jose Mijares. While I’m tempted to say Mijares will offset any improvement Broxton might bring, the truth is that Mijares probably could prove to be a major contributor as a LOOGY out of their pen.

At some point, all of these hitters that the “experts” have been raving about as they worked their way up through the Royals organization are going to start scoring more runs, right? Maybe, in a season that’s shaping up to be a pretty mediocre year for most of the other AL Central teams, this will be the year that Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Alex Gordon, and Alcides Escobar score runs in bunches. If so, and if they get some pitching, maybe those runs will translate in to wins.

That’s a lot of “maybe,” but I think it may just happen.

I’m obviously hoping the Twins’ fortunes turn this year and they mount a serious challenge to the Tigers. But if they don’t, I think the Royals may be the AL Central team most likely to do so. I’ll predict KC wins at least half their games this season and with a little luck, a few games more than that. Anything above .500 could be good enough for runner-up status in this Division.

- JC