Episode 95: May Day and a New Commish

We made a new podcast just for your ears. I know, you’re excited too. Thanks for stopping by. You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here.
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The podcast returns, a day late, but a dollar better, and with a full suite of podcast hosts. We discuss Trevor May‘s debut, the departure of Josh Willingham and Kevin Correia and what those moves mean for the organization and the youth movement happening in Minnesota.

We’re joined by Brad Swanson (@Bridman77) from the Twins blog Kevin Slowey was Framed (http://smartpitcher.blogspot.com/) to talk about Eduardo Escobar and Twins players heads photo-shopped onto animal bodies (WHAT?! YES!).

We finally get around to answering the expansion draft question submitted last week by former listener of the week, John. Which 15 players would you protect? Send us your list to talktocontact@gmail.com.

We wrap things up by going around the league to talk about the 1st place Royals, everyone being injured, and what the 1994 season might have given us had it not been for the strike.

Enjoy the show.

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, and you can find Eric on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read his writing at Knuckleballs, and you can find Jay Corn on twitter @Jay__Corn! If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review us on iTunes. Ratings and reviews are pretty cool, you guys.

Episode 94: The Future of the Twins?!

You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here, and if you want to add the show to your non-iTunes podcast player, this is the RSS Feed.

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After a week off, we’re back and making podcast magic!  This week we discuss the roster moves that happened surrounding the trade deadline, and talk about how the Twins are going to put a roster together when Joe Mauer returns.  We muse ont he future of Ron Gardenhire and who is going to manage the Twins in the future.  We talk about some of the young taelnt coming through the organization and how everything could fit together.  Plus we do the regular – beer, baseball, and the news.

90 minutes to make your ears bleed.

 

I hope you enjoy this special episode.You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) you can find Eric on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read his writing at Knuckleballs, and you can find Mr. Jay Corn on Twitter (@Jay__Corn)!

If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review our show on iTunes.  iTunes ratings and reviews are the main way we judge our self-worth.

Episode 92: Reviewing the First Half

You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here, and if you want to add the show to your non-iTunes podcast player, this is the RSS Feed.

"Peace to my All Star homies in West Fargo." - Cody Christie, probably

“Peace to my All Star homies in West Fargo.” – Cody Christie, probably

This week we talk all about the first half, the Twins best players and worst players before the All Star break, and what we think might happen in the second half. Jay Corn rags on Joe Mauer, Cody Christie praises Brian Dozier, and Eric Pleiss raves about his boyfriend Phil Hughes.

Join us for the Twins talk, stay for the beers and baseball chatter.

 

I hope you enjoy this special episode.You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan, you can find Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) you can find Eric on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read his writing at Knuckleballs, and you can find Mr. Jay Corn on Twitter (@Jay__Corn)!
If you enjoy our podcast, please take a couple extra minutes and rate and review our show on iTunes.  iTunes ratings and reviews is how to government funds unemployment.

Eating Crow with the Minnesota Twins

crow eatAlmost a week ago, with the Twins in the middle of being swept by the Oakland Athletics, I wrote (over at BaseballTwins.com) that the Twins had no chance of being above .500 for the entire season, and then went so far as to loudly proclaim the same stance on the most recent Talk to Contact podcast.  After a weekend of hot baseball, from the offense and pitching staff, the Twins are now back to .500, at 6-6, and with an off day today to prep for a three game series at home with the Blue Jays, I find myself on the verge of eating crow.

How did this happen?

The Twins pitching turned in their three best performances of the year, the Twins’ bats woke up in a big way, and some timely defensive miscues allowed the Twins to steal a victory on Sunday.

On Friday night, Kyle Gibson put in another strong start, going 6.1 innings and giving up just one run.  Like his first start of the year, Gibson once again walked four batters, and recorded just three strike outs, so it wasn’t a perfect start, but he got the outs he needed and avoided any real damage (and the run he gave up in the first inning was directly related to Pedro Florimon booting a tailor-made double-play ball).

Not to be outdone, on Saturday afternoon, Ricky Nolasco pitched eight strong innings of one run ball, controlling the ball well, recording four strike outs and surrendering only a single walk.

While Nolasco and Gibson put up strong performances, the Twins hitters did their jobs too, scoring 17 runs in those first two games, with a balanced lineup that saw key hits from Dozier, Suzuki, Pinto, Mauer, Kubel, Colabello and Plouffe.  Everyone was hitting except Florimon and Mastroianni, who managed to be 0-8 (but did chip in two walks) while the rest of the team recorded a .346 on base percentage.

On Sunday, Kevin Correia worked seven scoreless innings, but let the first three batters of the inning reach base, and Brian Duensing came in with two one and one in already.  He couldn’t stop the bleeding and the Twins were down 3-2 going into the home half of the eighth.  IN the bottom of the inning the Twins loaded the bases and Chris Herrmann grounded to the pitcher Wade Davis who tried to start a home-to-first double play, but instead threw the ball away allowing two runs to score.

While the Twins might creep over .500 before this home stand ends, I still think that the Twins next four series after that, against the Royals, Rays, Tigers and Dodgers will put the Twins firmly below .500 without much chance of a return.

For now though, the Twins are interesting, and I look forward to eating crow.

GameChat – Royals @ Twins #3, 1:05

The Twins have a shot at an early season series sweep today against Kansas City.They’ve proven the last two games what their capable of if they get a bit of hitting AND some quality starting pitching in the same game.

Kyle Gibson and Ricky Nolasco both stepped up their games the past two games and today, it’s Kevin Correia’s turn to show what he’s capable of. The Royals send lefty Jason Vargas to the mound. Vargas is off to a hot start for KC, giving up just two earned runs in 15 innings over the course of his first two starts. Correia’s start has been somewhat less impressive.

FSN’s Tyler Mason pointed out that Twins sit at or near the top of three AL offensive stat categories two weeks in to the season. Brian Dozier is tied for the HR lead with four, Chris Colabello is tied for the RBI lead with 14 and Jason Kubel sits second in the AL in batting average with .405. Yeah, we all expected to see that, right?

Manager Ron Gardenhire is back with the club today.  How much you wanna bet that if the Twins trail early, we’ll see “send Gardy away again” tweets before the 7th inning stretch?

ROYALS

@

TWINS
Aoki, RF Dozier, 2B
Infante, 2B Mauer, 1B
Hosmer, 1B Plouffe, 3B
Butler, B, DH Colabello, RF
Gordon, A, LF Kubel, LF
Perez, S, C Pinto, DH
Moustakas, 3B Suzuki, K, C
Cain, L, CF Hicks, CF
Escobar, A, SS Florimon, SS
_Vargas, P   _Correia, P
A "Royal" blue sweep

A “Royal” blue sweep

It wasn’t the prettiest game, but what matters is that the Twins had more runs than the Royals when it was over. That means our guys are back up to .500 on the year AND it means a SWEEP of the Royals!

The Twins managed just five hits on the day and Joe Mauer was the only hitter with a pair of them. That might put him in contention for BOD honors, but we just can’t quite go there, given his strikeout in a clutch late-game situation.

Josmil Pinto’s two-run HR to open the scoring in the home half of the 7th certainly earns him consideration.

But, once again, if there’s one thing that stands out when you think about how the Twins managed to win all three games against the Landed Gentry of KC, it’s the starting pitching. Today it was Kevin Correia’s turn to step up his game. He was eventually tagged with all three Royals runs, but he put up seven innings of goose eggs before those runs came across in the 8th and let’s just say the Royals had a little help getting those runs across from a couple of Correia’s team mates.

We want to encourage this kind of work from our rotation and to that end, we are awarding our third straight BOD to the starting pitcher.

Kevin Correia (photo David Goldman/AP)

Kevin Correia (photo David Goldman/AP)

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Episode 77: A real live baseball player from the Major Leagues, Hot Dog!

The highlight of this week’s episode is an interview with Twins’ relief pitcher Casey Fien. We discuss the path his career took as he made his way from a 20th round draft pick to an Opening Day roster and what his strategy is when he’s out there on the mound. You can follow Casey on Twitter, @CaseyFien.
Look at this guy, so happy to be on the podcast!

Look at this guy, so happy to be on the podcast!

You can download the new Talk to Contact (@TalkToContact) episode via iTunes or by clicking here.
Besides talking to notable relief pitchers, we also spend some time “Down on the Pond” looking at the Opening Day starters for each of the Twins full-season minor league affiliates, and a hitter from each squad as well as they prepare for Minor League Opening Day on Thursday, April 3.
To find out who took home the first regular season honors for Twins hitter and pitcher of the week you’ll have to give us a listen, and there were actually a surprising number of candidates who’ve gotten the lumber out early this season despite what we’ve been saying during Spring Training.
Oh, and the trees are coming back to Target Field. Heck yeah!

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 keep our beers cold.

GameChat – Twins @ White Sox #4, 1:10 pm

There may not be much to play for the rest of the season, but taking a series from the BitchSox at the (Prison) Cell in Chicago would still be nice. Yes, I realize that there isn’t a lot of optimism when Kevin Correia is on the hill, but one can hope, right?

The Twins are an even 3-3 on this road trip, so they also could record their second straight winning road trip with a W today.

TWINS

@

WHITE SOX
Dozier, 2B De Aza, LF
Carroll, 3B Beckham, G, 2B
Mauer, C Ramirez, Al, SS
Morneau, 1B Dunn, A, 1B
Willingham, DH Konerko, DH
Arcia, LF Garcia, A, RF
Colabello, RF Gillaspie, 3B
Thomas, C, CF Flowers, C
Bernier, SS Tekotte, CF
  _Correia, P   _Quintana, P
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Minnesota 0 0 0 0 5 0 0 0 0 5 9 1
Chi White Sox 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 7 0

It’s easy to tell this game was played at the bandbox of a ballpark they have in Chicago and not Target Field. Brian Dozier got the Twins on the board first with a three-run home run and two hitters later Joe Mauer added a two-run dinger. Casey Fien gave up a couple of solo home runs in the Sox’ ninth inning. No way all those home runs happen if this game is in Minneapolis.

Despite the one inning of heroics by a couple of Twins hitters, the BOD award goes to Kevin Correia, who went seven shutout innings while giving up just five hits and 1 walk. He even struck out seven Sox hitters. I’m not sure where Correia found this performance, but I hope he remembers how he did it!

Kevin Correia (photo David Goldman/AP)

Kevin Correia (photo David Goldman/AP)

GameChat – White Sox @ Twins #2, 7:10pm

Ok this week is CRAZY about deadlines for me – honestly, more than I can actually meet so something is going to have to give somewhere, I just don’t know when or where..

So while I’m working tonight and my brain is frying, I’m hoping that the Twins will at least give me a good distraction AND a good mood lift. Last night’s win didn’t hurt!

Seeing Mauer take on Chris Sale could make for good baseball theater! I just hope Correia is up to the task.. let’s go boys!

Chi White Sox

@

Minnesota
De Aza, CF Dozier, 2B
Ramirez, Al, SS Mauer, C
Rios, RF Doumit, RF
Dunn, A, DH Willingham, DH
Konerko, 1B Morneau, 1B
Gillaspie, 3B Plouffe, 3B
Viciedo, LF Arcia, LF
Beckham, G, 2B Thomas, C, CF
Flowers, C Florimon, SS
  Sale, P   Correia, P

 

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Chi White Sox 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 0 4 9 2
Minnesota 0 3 1 0 0 3 0 0 x 7 10 0

It really is fun beating the White Sox, isn’t it? I mean… just watching the circus that their defense can turn in to at times is just enjoyable.

One thing about being the only person left in the Chat when the game ends is that it falls to me to choose the BOD. There were all sorts of guys up and down the line up that had good games. Brian Dozier with an early, critical home run. Justin Morneau breaking his HR slump. Josh Willingham, Ryan Doumit… the list goes on.

But Kevin Correia gave the Twins a very good outing on the mound, giving up just five hits in 6.2 innings and striking out 6 Sox without surrendering a single walk. That’s the kind of starting pitching that deserves to be rewarded and that’s what we’re going to do!

Kevin Correia (photo David Goldman/AP)

Kevin Correia (photo David Goldman/AP)

Free Agent Pitching: 20/20 Hindsight

By the end of the coming weekend, the Twins will have reached the one-quarter mark of the season with 40+ games under their belts. It’s as good a time as any to reflect upon how some of the decisions made by General Manager Terry Ryan in building the team’s roster have turned out.

As a team, the Twins have been hovering over the .500 mark most of the season and, after Monday night’s win over the White Sox, they are one game over the break-even point. Over the weekend, Ryan told 1500ESPN that .500 wasn’t what he was looking for out of this team, that he wanted them to be contenders. It’s great, of course, for your team’s GM to say that kind of thing, but I think most fans would have been pretty satisfied with the prospects of a .500 year out of this Twins team.

Terry Ryan

Terry Ryan

You also have to consider that those words were coming out of the same mouth that, last November, told TwinsDaily’s John Bonnes that the Twins would be pursuing one of the “pretty darn good” pitchers on the free agent market last season and then went out and made Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfrey the cornerstones of the team’s free agent class.

In that same interview, Ryan also told Bonnes that he felt the free agent pitching market was, “thin,” when most of us felt there was a pretty solid group of middle-to-upper-half of the rotation arms available.

Now, looking back over the first six weeks of the season, is it possible Terry Ryan was right?

Back on November 20, I posted an article here at Knuckleballs in which I shared my wish list of free agent pitchers for Ryan and the Twins to pursue. Other fans and writers were naturally sharing their own advice for the Twins GM about the same time. Let’s see how our suggestions have been panning out compared to the guys Ryan actually signed for the Twins.

Not many of us were suggesting the Twins should (or even could) sign Zack Greinke, who eventually signed a six-year deal for $159 million with the Dodgers. Greinke was actually off to a decent start until he broke his collarbone (or rather, Carlos Quentin broke Greinke’s collarbone). Maybe Greinke will bounce back and pay dividends on his deal with the Dodgers, but I’m not sorry the Twins didn’t try to outbid the Dodgers for his services.

I argued in my post that the Twins should go ahead and pursue not one, but two of the other big dogs among the free agent pitching class, Anibal Sanchez and Edwin Jackson.

Sanchez is one guy who is putting up the kind of numbers you would hope for, so far, as his 2.05 ERA , 1.082 WHIP and 66 strikeouts in 52.2 innings would attest. However, he eventually re-signed with the Tigers (5 years/$88 million), so there’s certainly doubt as to whether he and his agent would ever have even considered a move to Target Field.

Jackson, on the other hand, is not exactly earning his 4 year/$52 million contract with the Cubs. Yes, he’s striking out almost one batter per inning pitched, but otherwise, his 6.02 ERA and 1.569 WHIP are pretty close to what the Twins are getting out of Mike Pelfrey (6.03/1.689)… and Ryan is on the hook for about $48 million less than Theo Epstein owes Jackson.

The third pitcher on my wish list was Joe Saunders. I felt the Twins needed another lefty in the rotation and while he wasn’t likely to be a headliner, Saunders looked to me like a good bet to be a solid middle of the rotation pitcher for the next couple of years. When he eventually signed with the Mariners for just one year and $6.5 million, I was pretty certain the Twins would regret not outbidding the M’s for Saunders’ services (though I recall there was some talk about Saunders not being interested in pitching for the Twins, regardless).

Saunders has pieced together a 3-4 record despite a 5.51 ERA and a 1.521 WHIP. He’s struck out exactly as many hitters (20) as Correia has for the Twins, but has walked more than twice as many batters. Correia’s ERA (3.09) and WHIP (1.200) are certainly looking better than Saunders’.

So maybe my ideas, outside of Sanchez, weren’t as good as I thought they were (and apparently not as good as the ideas Ryan and his staff were having at the time).

But what about the other pitchers on the market last off season? With all of the talent we thought was out there, surely there must have been several pitchers that have turned out to make the GMs who signed them look smart.

Many of the best options, like Sanchez, were re-signed by their 2012 clubs or, in some cases, had options picked up by their teams. But there were still a number of pitchers generating buzz among the Twins faithful.

There was some chatter about Dan Haren, who ended up with the Nationals on a one-year deal for $13 million. He’s put up a 5.17 ERA and a 1.487 WHIP while striking out 27 batters in 38.1 innings over seven starts. That’s not real impressive to me, but hey, he does have a 4-3 record if that’s what you’re in to.

Brandon McCarthy was also a hot commodity in the blogging world. He got a two-year deal from the D’Backs totaling $18 million. For that, he’s accumulated a 5.63 ERA, a 1.542 WHIP, and has gone winless. I’ve read that McCarthy has been “unlucky,” as reflected in a higher than average batting average on balls in play (BABIP). That’s fine. But if you buy that, you need to also give a couple of the Twins (such as Pelfrey and, to an even greater degree, Vance Worley) pitchers the benefit of the same doubt for their “bad luck.”

Ryan Dempster got beat up a bit by the Blue Jays on Sunday, but I don’t think the Red Sox are doubting their two-year/$26.5 million investment too much, so far. He’s got a 3.75 ERA, even after giving up six earned runs to the Jays in five innings of work. His 1.146 WHIP is certainly competitive, but it’s his 61 strike outs in 48 innings that’s perhaps more impressive. Again, I don’t think there was ever any chance Dempster would sign with the Twins since he likely had more than enough suitors from among contending teams.

Shawn Marcum, though, was certainly a guy that a number of Twins fans thought might be obtainable by the club. Marcum signed a one-year deal with the Mets for just $4 million. It turns out the Mets may have overpaid. Marcum has put up a nasty looking 8.59 ERA to go with a 2.045 WHIP. He’s thrown only 14.2 innings covering three starts and one relief appearance.

Were you one of the fans touting Joe Blanton as a possible Twins rotation addition? If so, you might want to keep it to yourself. Blanton signed with the Angels for $15 million over two years and has repaid them with a 0-7 record covering eight starts. His 6.46 ERA and 1.870 WHIP would indicate his record is not terribly misleading.

It’s starting to look like Terry Ryan’s assessment of the pitching market as “thin” might have actually been pretty accurate, isn’t it?

But certainly there must be some success stories, right? Of course there are.

If, while the rest of us were laughing at the absurdity of the Royals signing Jeremy Guthrie to a 3 year/$25 million contract, you were actually going on the record saying it was a shrewd move certain to pay dividends, give yourself a pat on the back.

Guthrie is 5-0 with the Royals and while he’s not striking a ton of hitters out (30 Ks in 47.1 innings), he’s put up a 2.28 ERA and a 1.183 WHIP in his seven starts for the Royals. He’s gone at least six innings in every start and has one complete game shutout of the White Sox to his credit. Oh yeah, and the Royals are three games above .500 going in to Tuesday night’s games, 1 ½ games behind Division leading Detroit.

Of course, Guthrie isn’t the only free agent pitcher making his GM look wise.

Carlos Villanueva and Scott Feldman were among the pitchers Epstein added to the Cubs and it’s pretty clear that neither of them are primarily responsible for the Cubs being six games under .500. Villanueva sports a 3.02 ERA and a 1.007 WHIP, but has only one win in seven starts to show for his efforts. Feldman’s ERA is even lower, at 2.53 and his WHIP is a very respectable 1.148. He’s actually gotten enough support to put up a 3-3 record.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I just don’t recall a lot of wailing about Terry Ryan allowing Villanueva and Feldman to slip through his fingers. And before you credit Theo Epstein for being so much more brilliant than Terry Ryan, take a look at what Epstein and the Cubs are getting in return for outbidding Ryan for the services of Scott Baker this season. Baker’s next pitch in a Cubs uniform (if he ever makes one) will be his first.

There are probably a few more pitchers worth checking in on that are escaping me at the moment. But from the looks of things, I’m starting to think Correia and Pelfrey weren’t such bad ideas after all. I’m not convinced Correia will continue to perform at the levels of his first few starts, but I do think that as Pelfrey continues to work out the post-TJ-surgery kinks, he may actually improve as the year goes on.

Even with the benefit of perfect hindsight, I’m not 100% sure I’d jump for joy at those free agent signings, but I certainly like the way they’ve turned out so far a whole lot better than most of the other options.

– JC

Minnesota Twins Podcast – Talk to Contact – Episode 36

Episode 36 of the Twins baseball podcast,  Talk To Contact (@TalkToContact), is now available for download via iTunes or by clicking here.

Cody Christie (2nd from left) enjoys a recent tour of the Talk to Contact office space with a few of his close, personal friends.

Cody Christie (2nd from left) enjoys a recent tour of the Talk to Contact office space with a few of his close, personal friends.

Talk to Contact is proud to bring you another episode packed full of Twins talk.  This week Cody and Eric discuss the magic of Kevin Correia, Ron Gardenhire‘s mismanagement of the pitching staff, Gardy’s tenure with the Twins, when and why it might be time to cut ties with Mike Pelfrey, and generally blather on about all things Minnesota.

We’re joined this week by the Rochester Red Wings play-by-play man, Josh Whetzel, whose broadcasts are streamed online at Sports 1280 WHTK, www.whtk.com.  He gives us a quick run down of who’s hot and who’s not in Triple-A, and identifies some names to watch for in the not-to-distant future.

More or less shennegians this week when we go Down on the Pond, take some questions from the internet, and name Brad Swanson (@bridman77) the Listener of the Week.

Tune in for almost 100 minutes of Twins radio gold.

 

 

You can follow Cody on Twitter (@NoDakTwinsFan) or read his writing at NoDakTwinsFan.  You can follow Paul on Twitter (@BaseballPirate) or read his writing at  Puckett’s Pond.  And of course, you can find me on Twitter (@ERolfPleiss) and read my writing here at Knuckleballs!

– ERolfPleiss