Are the Twins Trying To Play Moneyball With Their Pitching Staff?

24 03 2011

The Minnesota Twins have had an odd offseason to say the least. First, they trade away J.J. Hardy for relievers Jim Hoey (34.1 Major League innings and a 5.15 FIP) and Brett Jacobson (no Major League innings).

Then they openly discuss trading Fransisco Liriano. For those of you who do not remember, advanced statistics had Liriano as the third best pitcher in the Majors. Right behind Josh Johnson and Cliff Lee. Fangraphs also had his slider as the best slider in baseball.

They then told Nick Blackburn he will be a starter. Nick Blackburn had a 3.8 K/9, and a FIP of 5.09. You could make a case that he was the worst starting pitcher in baseball. All he had working for him was a 50.8% groundball rate.

They picked up lefty Scott Diamond from the Atlanta Braves. Diamond is a reliever who has a career 7.3 K/9 in the minors with some control issues.

The Twins put Pat Neshek on waivers and he was taken by the Padres. Neshek had an option left. I understand that Pat Neshek had a bad year last year (so did Fransiso Liriano his first year after Tommy John surgery) and not a very good Spring, but it’s Spring Training.  He was still striking out a batter an inning and keeping the ball in the park.

And now, it comes out that the Twins are interested in trading Kevin Slowey for relief pitchers. I’m not going to go into why that itself is stupid (Fangraphs wrote a great article about that.)

They drafted Alex Wimmers. Who throws his fastball at 88 MPH.

What are the Twins doing with their pitching staff? Especially with the bullpen. Last season, the Twins had a bullpen that was worth 18.8 WAR. Good for 6th in the league. Who was better? The White Sox, Rockies, Giants, Braves, and Red Sox. Now, they have blown up the bullpen.

What about the rotation? 5th in the leauge in WAR at 15.8. Who’s in front of them? Rockies, Red Sox, White Sox, Cardinals. Now, they have discussed trading 2/5th of that rotation.

The move to the bullpen will keep Slowey's innings down, and presumably keep him off the disabled list.

Or have the Twins heard of the Rule of 17? And do they think that the Rule of 17 would be most beneficial to Kevin Slowey?

For those of you who don’t know, the Rule of 17 is the theory that when a starer transitions to the bullpen, his K/9 will increase, his BABIP will decrease, and his HR/9 will decrease. All  by about 17%. So, in the case of Kevin Slowey, his K/9 will rise to 8.1, his HR/9 will fall to 1.2, and his BABIP will fall to .290. Most ERAs fall by about a run.

The move to the bullpen will keep Slowey’s innings down, and presumably keep him off the disabled list. And with the limited free passes he’s issued, and the increased K/9 we can reasonably expect, Kevin Slowey will be one of the more dominant middle relievers in the American League.

Maybe the Twins know what they’re doing with their pitching staff. The trades for Matt Capps, Brian Fuentes, Ron Mahay, and Jon Rauch all worked out pretty well for Bill Smith and company, but it seems that they have been going after every middling Minor League reliever they can acquire, and drafting hordes of Brad Radke clones in the last few years. Every move they’ve made involving pitching has me worried. Except for Slowey to the pen. That is assuming that they don’t trade him for someone like Joba Chamberlain.





The New Orioles

12 02 2011

Posted by Brady

In 2010, the Baltimore Orioles had an infield that consisted of Ty Wiggington, Brian Roberts, Ceaser Izturis, Matt Weiters, and Miguel Tejada. And an outfield that consisted of Felix Pie, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis. Luke Scott was the DH. Save for Roberts and Weiters, that whole infield is gone. Derrek Lee will be at first, J.J. Hardy at short, and Mark Reynolds at third. Nick Markakis is still in right, and Adam Jones is still in center. Pie will go to the bench, to the minors, or be moved, because Luke Scott needs to play somewhere, since Vladimir Guerrero is now the new Orioles DH. Buck Showalter has an offense. A ridiculously good offense.

Last season, Baltimore finished in 5th place in the AL East, and they scored 650 runs. They were 27th in runs scored, 20th in total bases, 24th in OBP….they were terrible. Just awful. They didn’t rank in the top half in any offensive category. But what about in 2011? The answer is in the new guys. Hardy, Lee, Guerrero, and Reynolds.

J.J. Hardy is slightly under a league average hitter with an OPS+ of 95. And he seems to have completely lost his home run power stroke going from 24 home runs in 2008, and 17 in 2009 and 2010 combined. His ISO in 2008 was .195 and in 2009 and 2010 it was .128 and .126 respectively. But what value does Hardy bring? It’s mostly in his glove. He put up a UZR of 8.1. Ranking behind Brendan Ryan, Alexi Ramirez, Cliff Pennington, and Stephen Drew in that category. Baltimore’s SS last year? Cesar Izturis put up a UZR of 5.1 . So, how big of an upgrade is it really? Izturis had an OPS+ of 50.

When Reynolds does get a hold of one, it is going over the fence. Hopefully Buck Showalter's staff will help him put more of them in play.

Mark Reynolds is the new Orioles 3rd baseman. We all know the knocks on him. He’s struck out 767 times in 2285 plate appearances, over 563 games. Including 200 times in the last 3 years. To put that in perspective, Reggie Jackson, the all time leader in getting struck out, never struck out 200 times in a season. It wasn’t until Jackson’s 6th season that he had reached Reynold’s pace. But what can he do right? Well, he is the proud owner of a career .241 ISO, and his mark last year of .234 had him in the top 20 in all of Major League Baseball last season. When Reynolds does get a hold of one, it is going over the fence. Hopefully Buck Showalter’s staff will help him put more of them in play. He’ll also need help with the glove, seeing as how he has a career -19 UZR.

Derrek Lee is now manning first base for the O’s. What is there to say about Lee that isn’t awesome? He has a .282/.367/.498 career line with a career  7.3 UZR.

As was the case with Derrek Lee, the same basic thing applies with Vladimir Guerrero. .320/.383/.567  over a 16 year career.

This future Hall of Famer has never seen a pitch he didn't like.

I once saw him hit pitch that bounced in front of him against the wall for a double. He’s big, he’s strong, and he hits it where he wants to hit it. Some people say he was the best free agent signing of the 2010 off season (though I say Jim Thome was),  and he’ll certainly be able to help this new Orioles team maybe break .500.





Troy Tulowitzki vs. Hanley Ramirez

28 01 2011

Posted by Brady

Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of MLB Network. And for those of you who do not have MLB Network, they are currently running a 10 part series called “Top 1o Right Now”. They go through all nine positions on the baseball diamond, and manager, to determine who the best is right now. And while most of the positions should be pretty easy to figure out (Pujols, Mauer, Longoria, Cano, blah, blah, blah) I got to thinking about the shortstop position. And for my money, it comes down to two players. Troy Tulowitzki and Hanley Ramirez. The difficult thing about deciding who the better player is how much weight you put on different aspects of the game. Especially with players this similar.

There is a reason Troy Tulowitzki has a Gold Glove, and Hanley Ramirez doesn't. We might as well be comparing Derek Jeter to Ozzie Smith.

Both Tulowitzki and Ramirez are middle of the order hitting shortstops with power oozing out of them. For their careers their ISO is virtually the same. Tulowitzki at .205 and Ramirez at .207.  Not only do they have virtually the same amount of power, they strike out at similar rates. 18.1% for Ramirez. 19.1% for Tulowitzki.

One however could make a case that Ramirez is very lucky, having never posted a BABIP under .327. His career mark is a spit-take inducing .347. Tulowitzki’s .319 mark seems paltry by comparison.  Keeping in mind that Ramirez is doing this in Sun Life Stadium.

Park Factors have that at a 105 (above 100 favors hitters, under 100  favors pitchers) and Tulowitzki is putting on his clinic at Coors Field, which comes in at 115!

This seems to be one time where Coors Field  comes into play. When it comes to OPS+ (which adjusts for ballparks) Troy Tulowitzki comes in at 114. Though, over the last two years he’s put up an OPS+ of 134. Compared to Hanley Ramirez’s 135 career mark, and 136 over the last two years.

I just find it AMAZING that Hanley Ramirez is a short stop. His bat plays anywhere. Stick him at first, and leave him there. Forever.

Since these are both shortstops, we would be hapless to not mention defensive contributions. There is a reason Troy Tulowitzki has a Gold Glove, and Hanley Ramirez doesn’t. We might as well be comparing Derek Jeter to Ozzie Smith. Tulowitzki has given Colorado 20.4 UZR and Hanley Ramirez has given Florida -39.3 UZR. As a former middle infielder, that makes me cry. Ramirez has negative marks in every advanced defensive metric imaginable. Where as Tulowitzki has positive marks in them all, except RngR (Range Runs Above Average). He has a career mark of -3.2. Hanley Ramirez? -24.6. That means that he has to almost go to the left when the ball goes to his right. I just find it AMAZING that Hanley Ramirez is a short stop. His bat plays anywhere. Stick him at first, and leave him there. Forever.

Doing this research just cemented what I already believed. Troy Tulowitzki is the best short stop in baseball. He may hit less away, but who doesn’t?

If I am the head of an expansion team, I am doing everything I can to get Troy Tulowitzki at my short stop position. And leaving Hanley Ramirez in a galaxy far, far away.





Breaking Down The DH Market

8 01 2011

Posted by Brady

This season there are 3 super premium options for the designated hitter role. Two of which will definitely have a job somewhere if they want it, and one….might not. Naturally, I am talking about Jim Thome, Vladimir Guerrero, and Manny Ramirez.  These are three aging future Hall of Fame hitters with limited defensive skills, who can still hit the ball a mile. All three of them have their advantages and their disadvantages. Let’s break it down, shall we?

Jim Thome

Anyone who has read my work on Pine Tar and Pocket Protectors in the past knows that I have always been, and will always be a huge Jim Thome fan. He’s Jim Thome. Who doesn’t love him? In any season where he’s played in 100 games his career LOW in home runs is

His ISO was a ridiculous .282, and at age 39 he just had what you could call a career year.

23.  You know exactly what you’re getting from him every year. Just pencil him in for 25 bombs and let it go. But he does more than just launch baseballs. 1679 walks. That is good for ninth all time and first among active players. He owns a .278/.404/.559 hitting line, and an OPS+ of 147.  His ISO is a ridiculous .282, and at age 39 he just had what you could call a career year.

As far as any issues with Thome, it’s pretty clear. The only man who has been rung up more than Thome is Reggie Jackson. He can’t be nor does he want to be a full time player, and he’s a career .238 against left handed pitchers. He can’t even play an emergency 1B. He hasn’t touched a glove since 2007, and that was only for one game.

Manny Ramirez

His plus side is so ridiculously similar to his former Indian teammate that it’s barely worth talking about. 555 home runs, .998 career OPS, and a 155 OPS+. Everything that Thome can do, Manny Ramirez can do, just a little better. .312/.411/.586 career hitter. The only thing that Manny Ramirez can’t do with a bat better than Jim Thome is pure extra base power. Ramirez only has a .274 ISO. But

The only problem with Manny Ramirez is that he is Manny Ramirez.

over their careers, Manny and Thome have been virtually just as valuable. Thome brings a career 73.5 WAR to to Ramirez’s 72.2

The only problem with Manny Ramirez is that he is Manny Ramirez. Do I really need to recap this? How many problems did he have in Boston? How many problems did he have in Los Angeles? How many problems did he have in Cleveland? I can’t think of many in Cleveland….but that was 10 years ago. Cleveland is his ideal destination. It seems like he wants to finish where he started. Any team looking to sign him better be careful, as he hasn’t had 500 PAs since 2008. He is still a game changer. But only when he wants to be.

Vladimir Guerrrero

How can anybody not what Vladimir Guerrero on their team? Over the course of 162 games he averages 35 home runs.  And while Thome and Ramirez average 40 and 39 respectively, he has one thing that they don’t. An uncanny ability to not strike out. How does

How can anybody not want Vladimir Guerrero on their team?

he do it? He has an uncanny ability to make contact, and good contact, on any pitch in any count, in any situation against any pitcher. The man doesn’t strikeout, but the man doesn’t walk. He his, however a career .320/.383/.563 career hitter. Only Babe Ruth, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, and Jimmy Foxx have a .320 average and 400 or more home runs.  His ISO is lower than Thome and Ramirez, at .243 but his OPS+ is right in line at 143.  Throughout his 15 year career Guerrero has contributed 61.7 WAR to the Expos, the Angels, and the Rangers.

I’ll be honest, I tried to think of any cons to a team trying to sign Guerrero, other than being old, there isn’t a lot. He doesn’t have a significant injury history. He’s reached 600 PAs every year but one since becoming a full time player. And he is a suitable back up outfielder. Teams start a lot worse (Delmon Young) than Guerrero. In my personal opinion, he is the best option at DH this year.





The Winter Meetings. The Recap.

10 12 2010

Posted by Brady

The Winter Meetings are now over. And a grand total of 50 players switched teams and organizations. Not counting the Rule 5 Draft. Let’s recap!

Werth's $126 million deal started the barrage of moves at the winter meetings.

We all know about Jayson Werth’s mega deal. He’ll be getting $126 million over a 7 year span. He’ll be getting the big bucks from the Nationals until he’s 39 years old. It’s hard for me, personally to be upset about this move for either parties. Jayson Werth gets to be a part of a great young core that will consist of Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, Wilson Ramos, and Jordan Zimmerman. And the Nats get perennial 30 home run power, good defense, and good speed. It’s to big of a contract, but let’s be real. The Nats weren’t going to get anyone close to Werth’s skill, without paying big bucks.

The Red Sox also had a big week. They acquired Adrian Gonzalez, but had to give up top prospect, Casey Kelly to do it. This also involves a shady handshake deal. After Opening Day, Gonzalez will sign an extension. This way the Sox don’t have to pay the luxury tax. They also got Carl Crawford. 7 years, $142 million. This is a much better deal than Werth. Crawford is younger, better, and has been better for longer.

In a surprise move, the Blue Jays sent Shaun Marcum to the Brewers, and got Brett Lawrie. Good for both teams. Toronto needed a middle infielder, and the Brewers needed good pitching.

Seattle fixed their catching problem with Miguel Olivo, who was behind the plate when Greinke had his great 2009 season and when Jimenez had his dominant first half. It makes me wonder what Felix Hernandez will do next season. They also got middle of the road slugger, Jack Cust.

The Red Sox one-upped the Natonals' signing of Werth by signing Crawford to a $142 million deal.

The Padres got Jason Bartlett from the Rays, a long with Casey Kelly and power hitting first base prospect, Anthony Rizzo.

The Pirates continued their love affair with mediocre starting pitching, after signing Scott Olson. They also ended up with Matt Diaz, Kevin Correria, and Cesar Valdez.

The Phillies brought in Dennys Reyes and Brian Bass. Very much a pair of “meh” moves. But they don’t have a big laundry list of things to do this off season.

The Minnesota Twins got a pair of relievers for J.J. Hardy. Brett Jacobson and Jim Hoey. I don’t expect to see either of them in the majors this year.

The Brewers got Shaun Marcum, as we already covered, and Wil Nieves from the Nationals. Washington is feeling pretty good about their catching duo of Ivan Rodriguez, and Wilson Ramos.

The Dodgers have apparently grown weary of Matt Kemp’s defense in center. They have brought in leather specialist Tony Gwynn Jr. and Trent Oeltjen. They also signed Dioner Navaro to  replace Russell Martin behind the plate.

Remember This SI cover? Looks like Dayton Moore's one and only love is now in his hands.

In a very Dayton Mooreish move, Melky Cabrera and Jeff Francouer are both now members of the Kansas City Royals (both former Braves!). Apparently the Royals have given up on 2011 already in 2010. Either that, or they like doing the Tigers, the Twins and the White Sox favors.

The Houston Astros acquired the the Ryan Rowland-Smith. The Australian native seems to be lacking an identity, and has been bouncing back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen, and this last year, he may have been the worst pitcher in the game. Good luck to Houston and Rowland-Smith.

The Detroit Tigers picked up two pieces. Chris Oxspring from the Padres. Oxspring is a 28 year old reliever who made his debut this year. He’s always been a middle of the road pitcher, but he will strike you out. Then he’ll walk you. They also picked up Omir Santos. Santos is a catcher, who is a lot like most back up catchers. Good glove, bad bat. His bat is so bad, that he might as well be swinging a broomstick.

The Colorado Rockies signed super utility man, Ty Wiggington to a $8 MM contract for 2 years, and a club option for an third year. Wiggington can play every position other than catcher and pitcher. But, he cannot play them well. Good signing for the Rockies, as Wiggington’s bat plays very well as an off the bench utility option.

Cleveland acquired back up catcher and first baseman, Paul Phillips. Phillips has never played in more than 30 games since his career started in 2004.

With Crawford and Gonzalez, the Red Sox have one of the best lineups on paper in all of baseball.

The Chicago Cubs signed first baseman, Carlos Pena. It’s a one year deal, and it’s around $10 million. Pena is seeking to fix his reputation after posting a sub-Mendoza line 2010 season. He also gives the Cubs a monopoly on Carloses. Good luck with that, Cubbies.

The Baltimore Orioles robbed the Minnesota Twins by getting J.J. Hardy for a pair of relievers. They also got power hitting, strike out record setting slugger, Mark Reynolds. Also, Brendan Harris will be wearing orange and black. Maybe Buck Showalter can teach him how to do something.

The Atlanta Braves have a LOOGY in George Sherrill. Sherrill is coming off his worst season in 2010, but should be able to bounce back.

And finally, the D’Backs have a closer in J.J. Putz, a third baseman or first baseman in Melvin Mora, a reliever in Kameron Mickolio and a pitcher in need of a role in David Hernandez.

It was a very, very busy three days in Orlando, and some teams got better (Baltimore, Boston, Washington and Milwaukee) and some teams got worse (Minnesota, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh).

We are still waiting on decisions from Cliff Lee and Carl Pavano, but other than that, most of the drama from the off season is over. Only 72 days until pitchers and catchers report!





Who is Tsuyoshi Nishioka (西岡剛)?

26 11 2010

Posted by Brady

The Minnesota Twins recently won the bid for switch hitting middle infielder, Tsuyoshi Nishioka. And for many Twins fans, this is a welcome, albeit, unusual surprise. But there it is. All they have to do is sign him, which, should be fairly affordable, seeing as how the the high bid for him was right around 5 million dollars. Now what does this mean for Twins fans?

It means a variety of things. It means that the team has more money than initially thought, it means that the team is likely to keep JJ

The Twins recently won the bid for switch hitting middle infielder, Tsuyoshi Nishioka

Hardy, and it means that Orlando Hudson will not be coming back. The Twins are about to have the best defensive infield in baseball, if Nishioka’s glove is all it’s made out to be. And it is made out to be excellent. It also means that for fans that are clamoring for someone to replace Denard Span in the lead off spot may get what they want.

If Yoshi (which is what Twins fans have already decided to call him) has a downside, it is his injury history. He’s battled injuries to  his neck, wrist, knee, and hamstring. While those injuries are not necessarily Carl Pavano circa 2005-2008esque, they are concerning for a team that has a catcher with his own injury troubles.  But looking at the back of Nishioka’s baseball card, the injuries seem to be more annoying than dangerous. Over the last 6 seasons, Nishioka has played in a career low 115 games, which is 30 games missed. But just this last season, he played in 144 games, which is the whole NPB season. He did not miss an inning all season long. If last season is anything to look at, he seems to have gotten past the injuries and seems ready to play.

But what about Yoshi Nishioka as a player? Well, he is a lead off hitter, and he appears to be a very good one. He’s a career .293 hitter, who just won his first batting title with an average of .346. He posses the same swing as his countryman, Gold Medalist, and two time

Nishioka posses the same swing as his countryman, Gold Medalist, and two time teammate, Ichiro Suzuki.

teammate, Ichiro Suzuki. He also led his league with 206 hits, and 287 total bases. He’ll also steal bases. He has two stolen base crowns. 41 and 33 in 2005 and 2006, respectively. In 2010, he stole a 22. He got on base at a clip of .423, which would’ve been second in MLB, right behind NL MVP, Joey Votto.

It seems that the main concern with Nishioka, apart from the injuries is the potential and likely drop off. Which what they said about Ichiro Suzuki. And while I’m not saying that Nishioka is the next Ichiro, I think that Yoshi Nishioka could  very easily be the next best thing.





The Hall of Fame Isn’t Far for Roberto Alomar.

21 11 2010

Posted by Brady

Ten Gold Gloves (deservedly), two World Series rings, 474 stolen bases, and 12 All-Star games make up Roberto Alomar’s Hall of Fame resume. Alomar, along with Bert Blyleven, should easily make it baseball’s shrine on this ballot.

When people speak about Alomar, the phrase “greatest second baseman in history” is often times uttered. And rightfully so. According to baseball-reference.com, several of the most similar hitters to Alomar are Hall of

When people speak about Roberto Alomar, the phrase "greatest second baseman in history" is often times uttered.

Famers. Ryne Sandberg, Joe Morgan, Bill Mazeroski, Frankie Frisch, Charlie Gehringer, and Bobby Doerr are all Hall of Fame second basemen, keeping this Hall of Fame second baseman company.

Alomar spent most of his career with the Toronto Blue Jays (5 whole years) and won two World Series rings with Cito Gaston’s Blue Jays. And he was a stud in the Jays title drive. He hit .320 /.380/.471 during it. Alomar took home the ALCS MVP in 1992. In 1993, during the Jays second title drive, it was a similar story, but no MVP award.

After the 1995 season, Alomar signed with the Baltimore Orioles, and he did not miss a beat. He put up almost identical numbers, and proved to be one of the best top of the order hitters around. Though he didn’t run as much in Baltimore as he did in Toronto (his Baltimore high stolen base total was 17, which would have been his low in Toronto), he did find more power. He clouted an at the time career high 22 home runs and 43 doubles.  As productive as Alomar was in Baltimore, his first season there was not without its controversy. After arguing with an umpire over a third strike call, Alomar hurled his saliva in the face of umpire John Hirschbeck. Naturally he was thrown out of the game, and fined. But, luckily for Alomar and Ty Cobb, being a nice person is not a requirement for enshrinement, despite how much some voters try to tell you it is.

After Alomar was done with Baltimore in 1998, he went to Cleveland, to play with older brother Sandy Alomar. This was actually the second time the two would play on the same team. They both played on the 1988 and 1989 Padres team. He put up great numbers in every aspect of the game, and his first year in Cleveland, he hammered a new career high in home runs. 24.

Through his time with Toronto, Baltimore and Cleveland, Alomar was racking up the awards. 12 straight All-Star games, 10 Gold Gloves, and 4 Silver Sluggers.

He was as disiplined at the plate as they come. He never struck out more than 96 times, and he walked more than he struck out seven times.

It’s hard to keep Alomar out of the Hall of Fame. The only question is what insignia will he have on his cap? My guess is Toronto.