Episode 60 of the Twins baseball podcast, Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.
60 is a number worn my several Twins throughout the years, including current “closer” Glen Perkins from 2006-2007, and most recently by Pedro Hernandez (2013) and Jeff Gray (2012), but most notably by Jon Rauch and his terrible neck tattoo in back to back seasons (2009-2010). This week on the podcast we discuss a plethora of minor league happenings, including the pending 50-game suspension of Eddie Rosario and recent 40-man roster moves. The debate wages on over which starting pitchers make sense for the Twins to sign, as Eric, Cody and Jay each make their cases of Ricky Nolasco, Bronson Arroyo and Matt Garza. Who would you take? There’s a considerably lengthy discussion about the true value of the Metrodome baggie and who the real winner is in the Prince FielderIan Kinsler trade. Also, if you are a Leinenkugel Beer affectionado, you may want to stick around for the “Beers from Around the World” segment. This episode also features an interview with noted sabermatrician, FanGraphswriter/editor and BBWAA member, Carson Cistulli (@cistulli). This is a long episode, almost 2 hours, but it’s pure gold from beginning to end.
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 helps the Twins pitching prospects break the 93 MPH barrier.
Coming off of back-to-back 90+ loss seasons, the Twins, predictably have a lot of holes in their roster. Most noticeably, the Twins went into this winter with as many as four holes in their starting rotation, then traded away two center fielders, creating another hole, and there is still no real answer in the middle infield. With all those other needs to address, the bullpen has become something of an afterthought, but even with a breakout year from Jared Burton and another strong year from Glen Perkins, the Twins still ranked just 9th in the American League in bullpen ERA (3.77). Of the five teams with worse bullpen ERAs than the Twins in 2012, only the Tigers earned a postseason birth.
So with a below average bullpen in 2012, what will be relieving corps look like in 2013? Glen Perkins will remain the closer and Jared Burton will be the primary 8th inning set-up guy. Beyond those two, Brian Duensing is really the only other player with a firm spot in the pen, serving as the team’s primary left-handed specialist. The Twins commonly work with a seven man bullpen, so that leaves four spots left to fill. Ryan Pressly was the Twins’ Rule 5 draft pick earlier this winter, so he’ll need to be on the 25-man roster, but I do not think he’s a realistic candidate to stick, so he’ll either need to be returned to the Red Sox or the Twins will need to work out a trade to keep him. Casey Fien put together a nice season a year ago in 35 innings of relief, so he’s likely to have a leg up on the competition for one of the four remaining spots. Tyler Robertson is a guy that I really like, and if he can become a little more consistent strike thrower, he could slot in as the Twins’ second left-handed specialist. That’d give the Twins three left-handers in the bullpen, but with Perkins serving as the closer, I think the Twins would be willing to go that route. Alex Burnett, while he does not have great peripherals (and outside of 2012 has been a 5+ERA type reliever), probably did enough last year to earn a spot in the bullpen to start the year, but if he struggles, expect him to be one of the first players to go.
That really just leaves the Twins with one additional opening, long relief. Over the past couple of seasons that role has been filled by Anthony Swarzak. He’s performed adequately in this position, eating up innings, mopping up blow-outs, and has the arm strength to give the Twins an occasional spot start. Swarzak is 27 years-old and owns a career 5.03 ERA in more than 200 major league innings, so he is not likely to make any major improvements in 2013, and with the Twins building for the future, they may want to look elsewhere. Josh Roenicke, Tim Wood, Michael Tonkin and Caleb Thielbar are all other options on the 40-man roster that the Twins may look at during Spring Training. Roenicke started last year for the Rockies, but because the Rockies limited their starters to about 75 pitches per start, he pitched just over 88 innings last season, and could be a guy the Twins want to have on-hand as a long reliever who can be relied upon to make a spot start, especailly early in the season as Kyle Gibson and Mike Pelfrey are both coming of Tommy John surgery and may not be with the MLB club to start the year. Tim Wood pitched in AAA last season, and had good numbers for the Pirates’ affiliate, so could have a shot here as well and Terry Ryan recently said on a Rochester radio program that Tim Wood will not pitch in Rochester, so he will either be with the Twins or, as he is out of options, waived. Michael Tonkin hasn’t pitched above A-ball, and the Twins are not likely to jump him all he way to Minneapolis, so while he has a spot on the 40-man roster, Twins fans shouldn’t expect to see him any time soon. Caleb Thielbar could be an interesting option here, especially if the Twins want to see what Thielbar can do with the Twins. He split time last season between AA-New Britain and AAA-Rochester, so the Twins have a pretty good idea of what he can do against high-level talent. I’d still give the edge to Swarzak or Roenicke in this long-relief roll, but if the Twins open the year with a 4-man pitching rotation and an extra bullpen arm, Thielbar could very well be the beneficiary of that extra spot.
Not a lot to be excited about in the bullpen, but there may be some addition by subtraction as the Twins jettisoned Jeff Gray, Matt Capps and Jeff Manship from the bullpen. There should be a couple of fun battles left for Spring Training and I expect the bullpen to be better as a unit. But if the starters don’t give the bullpen a little more rest in 2013, the relievers will be over used, worn out, and ineffective before the All-Star game.
Last night, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout were awarded the Rookie of the Year awards, in the National and American League, respectively. Harper and Trout did amazing things as rookies, and in the case of Mike Trout, had the best season a rookie has ever had. Harper helped the Washington Nationals win their division, and Trout did his part to keep the Los Angeles Angels relevant until the final week of the season. Minnesota Twins, on the other hand, had plenty of rookies suit up for them in 2012, but outside of Scott Diamond, none of them did much of anything to help the Twins win games (in fairness, the rest of the team was not exactly doing a lot to help the Twins win games either).
As a group, those 16 rookies accounted for a grand total of 4.1 Wins Above Replacement. They were led by Scott Diamond with 2.2 WAR, and at the other end was Liam Hendriks, -1.2 WAR. In between the Twins saw surprisingly positive performances from waiver claim Darin Mastroianni(.8 WAR) and defensive specialist Pedro Florimon (.8 WAR). The Twins were also disappointed by break-out candidate Chris Parmelee (-.6 WAR) and would-be lefty-specialist Tyler Robertson.
Here, alphabetically, is a closer look at each of the Twins’ 2012 rookies, including their status heading into 2013, as several players will still retain their rookie eligibility.
Matt Carson – 31, OF, .227/.246/.242 (BA/OBP/SLG) – Carson exhausted his rookie eligibility in 2012, which is pretty impressive for a guy that is 31 years old and had played in parts of two previous seasons. The Twins called Matt Carson up late in the season when they were a little short on outfielders and Ron Gardenhire really seemed to enjoy having him around. He’s unlikely to return to Minneapolis in 2013, as he is off of the 40 man roster, and the Twins have plenty of young outfielders just waiting to break onto the Major League roster.
Cole De Vries – 27, RHP, 87.2/4.11/58/18 (IP/ERA/SO/BB) – Cole De Vries was the right guy in the right place at the right time in 2012. After signing as an undrafted free-agent in 2006 out of the University of Minnesota, De Vries spent the better part of the last six years quietly working his way through the Minnesota’s farm system. De Vries struggled in 2010 (after being converted to a bullpen guy) between AA New Britain and AAA Rochester, but in 2011 he turned things around and despite starting the year back in Double-A, he finished the year in Rochester with a combined 3.40 ERA. De Vries started 2012 in Rochester (once again as a starting pitcher) and when the arms were falling off of every Twins starting pitcher with a hear beat, he was called up to the big leagues and performed better than many had expected. De Vries has lost his rookie eligibility heading into 2013, but he remains on the 40-man roster and has an outside chance of being the Twins’ 5th starter this spring.
Samuel Deduno – 29, RHP, 79.0/4.44/57/53 – Deduno was having himself a very surprising 2012 campaign until a string of bad starts toward the tail end of the season ballooned his ERA over 4. Deduno is a guy that has great movement on his pitches, but unfortunately not even he knows where the ball is likely to end up and as a result, Deduno finished the year with almost as many walks as strike outs. Deduno seemed to get a handle on his wildness about half way through his season, and will need to show increased control this spring but could battle De Vries for that 5th spot in the rotation. Deduno is on the 40-man roster and has exhausted his rookie eligibility.
Scott Diamond – 26, LHP, 173.0/3.54/90/31 – He turned out to be the Twins’ most effective starting pitcher in 2012, leading the team in innings, and providing the Twins with a reliable performance every fifth day. Without Diamond the Twins’ best starter would have been Samuel Deduno, certainly not anyone’s idea of a staff ace. Diamond is the only starting pitcher from the 2012 staff that has been guaranteed a spot in the 2013 rotation, and if the Twins can do enough in free agency, Diamond slots in as a solid number 3. Like Deduno, Diamond remains on the 40-man roster and is no longer eligible as a rookie.
Well that was pretty disappointing. The Twins had just six hits, one of them a two-run bomb from Josh Willingham (his 33rd of the season), but a disastrous 6th inning from Brian Duensing and Casey Fien led to four runs and that was enough for the Mariners to secure the win.
The Minnesota Twins have not won a game since Monday, August 20, and the closest they’ve come was the following day in a 4-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics. Since then the Twins have lost by 4, 4, 8 and 6 runs, bringing their season-long run differential to -111, only the Cleveland Indians (-134) have a worse run differential in the American League.
A win today does nothing to help Minnesota in the standings, but it will go a long way toward bringing up morale in the clubhouse of a team that’s been clobbered for the better part of a week. Cole De Vries has a 10.64 ERA over his last 3 starts, he will need to turn things around this afternoon or the Twins will be in another big hole against a high powered Rangers offense.
Here is something that happened earlier today: The Minnesota Twins, previously referred to as a professional baseball team, won a contest of baseballing against an actual real-life baseball club. A club, known as none-other than the Texas Rangers. It was pretty fun.
Ben Revere had his 6th career 4 hit game and was on base 5 times, despite only hitting the ball out of the infield once. For his performance this afternoon the fans in the Knuckleballs blog GameChat (BaseballPirate and myself, though BaseballPirate was inactive, so really I just picked whoever I wanted), decided to give Ben Revere a nice warm German style beer. Enjoy that beer, Ben.
Jeff Gray pitched a third of an inning and gave up 3 runs, which was pretty impressive for a guy who has no business being on a Major League Baseball team. Anyways, his run-surrendering performance woke up the bullpen and then Casey Fien, Jared Burton and Glen Perkins closed out the game against the high-powered Rangers offense without surrendering another run. For his wake-up performance, Jeff Gray is the BOD. Hopefully he woke up Terry Ryan and Ryan outrights Gray and assigns him to some lesser level of baseball, perhaps Triple-A baseball.
Obligatory statement about the weather: it’s not as hot here as they said it was going to be – by that I mean it didn’t make it to 100 – just more of the same we’ve had for the last week.
That being said, it’s a lot cooler in Detroit! That’s because it’s RAINING. There is a thunderstorm in progress in Detroit according to weather.com although I haven’t seen anything in the pregame stuff about the weather yet but the thunderstorms aren’t supposed to quit until 7 pm central or so. That’s definitely early enough to get the game in but I haven’t seen any sign that they are talking about delaying the game so maybe things are already easing. *shrug* maybe one of our local Twins weather people will speak up and advise us at some point soon..
[EDIT] according to Ben Collin (TTBB) @bennyc50
Personally I think #MNTwins and #Tigers will have a 1 hr delay at least considering the storms still heading in from the north.
As for the game itself, things look pretty normal lineup-wise. It could be painful to be facing this Detroit lineup if Blackburn is having a bad day. I’m really hoping he has a good day.
Remember how everyone brought up the fact that the Twins didn’t hit anything but singles on Monday night? Well, they made up for it tonight. Their 10 hits tonight included two doubles and three home runs. Of course, we need to express our gratitude to Tigers shortstop Ramon Santiago for sucking on defense, but then pretty much the whole world (at least those not named Leyland) knew the Tigers would suck on defense this season from the moment they showed up to Spring Training.
Anyway, our guys get another win and that’s always a good thing. Nick Blackburn struggled, giving up six earned runs in four innings of work, but once again the Twins bullpen was outstanding. That’s become almost routine lately.
Speaking of things being almost routine, both Josh Willingham and Trevor Plouffe hit home runs again! But on the not-so-routine side of the ledger, so did Joe Mauer!
The Boyfriend of the Day voting was close and while I think it’s great when there are so many worthy options, I was personally dismayed that I cast the lone vote for Mauer, who went 3-5 with a 2B and a HR, scoring 3 runs. Then again, Willingham also had a 2B and a HR and nobody voted for him! Trevor Plouffe had some support after not only launching a HR, but also flashing some impressive leather (there’s something we don’t have near enough opportunities to say, right?).
But Jeff Gray pitched two shutout innings, while Kyle Waldrop, Tyler Robertson and Glen Perkins each added one shutout inning of their own. Not only that, but thanks to Plouffe’s outstanding snag of a line drive that turned in to a double play and Mauer’s perfect throw to nail Brennan Boesch trying to steal, the four relievers all actually faced the minimum number of batters possible in their collective five innings of work. Their efforts allowed the Twins hitters to pull out a win AND earned them a collective “group” BOD award! – JC
I spent the past weekend visiting friends in Chicago. The drive to and from Chicago gave me an opportunity to indulge in one of my favorite guilty pleasures: Chicago Sports Talk Radio. Neither the Cubs or the White Sox are performing well in 2012, an the hot heads calling into their favorite local radio station had plenty of extra fodder as the White Sox were on the north side for the first three game set of the Crosstown Classic. One caller after the next called in to complain, what Alfonso Soriano is doing wrong, how Robin Ventura is mismanaging Chris Sale, and on and on, about one wrong after another heaped down upon the ever faithful fans of Chicago baseball. That lasted for two hours before the game, and after a brief interruption for a baseball game and a hat tip to Kerry Wood, the fans were back at it for another hour, blasting the Cubs in a loss, and the White Sox even in a win. I suppose it could have went on longer, but the show had to end eventually. If you know anything about sports talk radio in Chicago, you know that the next show picked up right where the last one left off, fans battling for a spot on the air to let listeners know what they would do if they were running the team.
The Twins are off today, but are already in Chicago, enjoying a day away from baseball before a three game series begins Tuesday night. The Twins are scheduled to pitch P.J. Walters, Scott Diamond, and whoever is called up to replace Jason Marquis (assuming his shoulder inflammation is now behind him). Never mind that when the Twins head back home to face Detroit on Thursdy that they’ll have to figure out how to deal with Jason Marquis‘ lack of performance (UPDATE: Designated for Assignment) and a hole in the rotation left from Nick Blackburn‘s current DL stint. Leave the starting pitching alone, it has been terrible, and without Diamond and Walters, it has been even worse than that. Let’s look instead at the bullpen. Below are 8 Chicago-Style thoughts on the current Minnesota Twins bullpen staff:
Alex Burnett – At age 24 Alex Burnett still has plenty of upside, and thought his first 18 appearances of 2012 seems to be finally finding his stride, posting a 2.66 ERA, and a WHIP of just 1.3, both career marks. But the reality is that while Burnett has cut down his walk rate to a career low, his strike out rate is almost HALF of what it was in 2010 (7.0 SO/9) at 3.8, and more than two strike outs per nine innings down from what it was even a year ago at 5.9. Fangraphs FIP is a decent predictor of the pitcher Burnett actually is at 4.36, which is slightly lower than his career average. Burnett is due for a regression, and despite his early success the Twins have remained hesitant to put him into high leverage situations (should the Twins actually have any).
Jared Burton – Jared Burton seems like a guy who should be successful. His BB/9 rate is 1.1 and his SO/9 rate is 9.2, his WHIP is a minuscule .702, and yet he’s sporting a 4.60 ERA, thanks in large part to 3 HRs in just 15.2 IP. Burton is due for some regression to his career numbers as well, and he might even be a better pitcher than he is now, but if he continues to serve up the long ball he will not have a roster spot for long.
Matt Capps – On Saturday I was listening to the Milwaukee Brewers radio broadcast and they announced that Capps had yet to blow a save. I didn’t believe them at the time, but after the game was over, and Capps had picked up another save, I had the chance to look up his stats, and sure enough, despite having an 0-2 W/L record, Capps is a perfect 9/9 in save opportunities. It turns out Capps has not really been that bad, sure giving up 1 run in the top of the 9th in tie games to the Red Sox and the Indians stick out in the minds of fans, but since starting the season with a couple poor performances, Capps has been pretty solid for the Twins, cutting his ERA down from 6.00 to 3.38 while quietly racking up saves in 9 of the Twins’ 14 victories. But here’s the rub, Capps biggest strength in 2012 has been his ability to limit walks, giving up just 1 free pass so far this season. That number is sure to go up, and when it does, Capps will be the same heart-attack inducing 9th inning guy that my brother so astutely refers to as “Cardiac Capps”. Not exactly ideal for a closer, but the Twins do not have a ton of options.
Brian Duensing – Duensing, along with Capps and Burnett is one of the few Twins relievers enjoying a successful start to the 2012 campaign. Duesnsing owns an 0-2 record as a reliever this season, but he’s given up just 4 runs in 21 IP. Duensing could be next in line for an opportunity in the starting rotation, depending on the team’s plans for Marquis and Swarzak, but Duensing has been most successful out of the bullpen over the course of his career, and the Twins need more than their share of bullpen arms capable of pitching 2+ innings to help bail out the starting rotation. Duensing is really excelling at limiting base hits, giving up just 5.6 hits per 9 innings, the lowest rate of his career. Fangraphs’ FIP back’s up Duensing’s performance at 2.59, so he should remain effective going forward, it will just be up to the Twins and Ron Gardenhire to figure out how to get one of their best relievers into games when it matters.
Jeff Gray – Jeff Grey has 3 victories in 2012, two of them coming from just 3 pitches, and he has yet to be charged with a loss, but he certainly has not been a solid performer for the Twins. His 4.50 ERA is the highest of the Twins’ most use relievers (Capps, Perkins, Gray, Duensing, Burnett) and his WHIP, Hits/9, and BB/9 are all the worst on the team among ANY relief pitcher. Gray has 18 appearances already in 2012, and Gardenhire continues to send him out to the mound almost every other day! Part of that has been the failure of the starting pitching staff which routinely forces the bullpen into extended action, but to give Gray the 3rd most appearances on the team is just plain ridiculous! Jeff Gray should not have a spot on this team for much longer.
Francisco Liriano in just 3.2 innings as a reliever Liriano has yet to give up a run, but he has as many strike outs as walks (4), and has been used just three times since being demoted, about every 3rd day. He’s going to have to pitch a lot better, and limit his walks if he is going to become a valuable member of the Twins’ bullpen, and he’ll have to learn to adjust to hitters and his own nerves is he is going to end up back in the starting rotation. At this point the Twins need to find a way to boost his value and flip him for anything they can get before the trade deadline. Liriano is a lost cause in Minnesota and the sooner he realizes that and starts showing value to other teams, the better.
Glen Perkins – Perkins signed a contact extension in Spring Training that makes him a Twin through at least the 2015 season, with a 4.5 million dollar team option for 2016. While Perkins has continued to strike more than one hitter out per inning, his walk rate is crept up to its highest level since 2007, and his ERA is almost 2 runs higher than it was a year ago when Perkins was the most dominant reliever on the team. This year Duensing, Capps, and Burnett all have lower ERAs than Perkins. Despite his elevated ERA, Perkins should regress towards his career numbers, and with a FIP almost a full point lower than his current ERA Perkins can be the dominant reliever the Twins saw in the first half of 2011.
Anthony Swarzak – Swarzak has started 3 games and made 9 relief appearances already this season. His ERA currently sits at 4.73, and could be much worse if it wasn’t for an uncharacteristically low BABIP of just .253 (almost 40 points below his career average, and 30 points below the MLB average for 2012). Swarzak does a great job handling mop-up duty when the Twins starters are blown out of a game, and that’s a fine roll for him as long as they don’t start trying to plug him in for more than the occasional spot start, because Swarzak has shown, in 2009 and 2011 (and most of his Minor League career), that he just is not cut out to be much more than the mop up guy he is now.
And those are the guys the Twins have AFTER the starting staff has made a mess of the game.
10-24: The Twins record through their first 34 games, roughly 20% of their season. Going in to 2012 I thought the Twins would be slightly better than a .500 ballclub, optimistically projecting them to win 83 games. Yet here they are, 14 games under .500 with little reason to expect the Twins will be much better in the 128 games left on the schedule. With that in mind, here is a list (of arbitrary length and order) of fun Twins Things from 2012.
Josh Willingham – Willingham is leading the Twins in just about every offensive category you can think of, batting average, RBIs, on-base percentage, home runs, etc. He’s come to Minnesota and established himself as a fan favorite. Plus he looks like he’d be right at home chopping down trees in the forest with another Twins newcomer, Ryan Doumit. Offense and tree chopping, two of my favorite things.
Scott Diamond – Not exactly a success story in 2011, in his two starts since being called up in 2012 he has been perfect. He’s pitched 14 innings without giving up a run and now has as many Wins in just two starts as any other Twins pitcher. Also, Dick and Bert think that he looks like Cliff Lee, so take that for what it’s worth.
Jamey Carroll – Before Sunday’s game FSN showed clips of some Twins players wishing their mothers (and sometimes their wives, too) a happy Mother’s Day. During his segment Jamey Carroll referred to his mom as “the Bomb dot com.” That was one of the best moments of 2012. He’s also playing pretty great defense and was even rocking some variant of the Fu Manchu for a couple weeks. Great stuff.
The Joel Zumaya Saga – It is unfortunate that Zumaya couldn’t stay healthy and wound up heading back to the operating table before Spring Training was even in full swing because Zumaya had an opportunity to be the flame throwing reliever the Twins desperately need in their bullpen. While the signing ultimately did not work out, there was plenty of fan excitement over the winter, speculating on the health and possible impact of a guy like Zumaya playing for the Twins. Plus I liked saying, “Zoom-zoom”.
Trevor Plouffe‘s hair – Love it or hate it, Plouffe’s curly locks have provided more humorous commentary in the Knuckleballs GameChat’s than just about any other Twins topic in 2012, follicle related or otherwise.
Brian Dozier – For a while there when Dozier was hitting .400+ in AAA and it seemed like just about everyday some Twins blogger would be pining for the Twins to bring Dozier up to replace Carroll or Casilla. Carroll and Casilla, in the meantime, managed to play pretty solid defense, but ultimately their lack of success in the batter’s box (and pretty much ever other Twins hitter as well) forced the Twins’ hand and they called up Dozier to be the everyday shortstop and he has not disappointed. He’s been fun to watch defensively, getting to balls deep in the hole and showing off some pretty decent arm strength. And he hit a home run yesterday! Dozier is having fun playing baseball, and he’s even more fun to watch.
One Day without Ron Gardenhire, one win. Do with that what you will.
Per La Velle E. Neal, Justin Morneau, who is still struggling with wrist, soreness has finally landed on the Disabled List. When Morneau left the game last Monday against the Angels it seemed like a trip to the DL was inevitable. Now, after playing almost an entire week with 13 pitchers and almost no bench players, the Twins finally make the call. The Twins probably still get no-hit last Wednesday even if someone was called up, but you never know.
Even Without Gardenhire, Scott Ullger continues the Twins tradition of putting a new player into the lineup, giving Erik Komatsu the start in right field. Hard to blame Ullger for taking a look at Komatsu as it pushes Ryan Doumit back behind the plate and relegates Drew Butera to the bench.
Jason Marquis pitched six innings giving up just 2 earned runs, scattering 6 walks and recording only one strike out. In the 7th Anthony Swarzak, Matt Maloney, and Jeff Gray combined to give up 5 earned runs and the game was suddenly out of hand.
Regardless of what the pitching staff did, the real story of the night was Felix Hernandez. He pitched 8 strong innings, struck out 9 Twins and gave up just a single Twins hit. The Twins were held scoreless again tonight and were just one Denard Span single away from being no-hit a 2nd time in a week.
Big changes to the Twins lineup are in the pipeline as Brian Dozier and Scott Diamond should be with the Twins on Monday. Morneau will officially be moved to the DL and Liam Hendriks will most likely be option to Rochester to make room.
Twins have a chance to win the series tomorrow afternoon at 3pm, but it will take more than just one hit.