Friday, April 03, 2009

A Close Look At Twins: Part 1

Frequent commenter The Black Freighter is a Twins Geek.  Most of the folks on this blog are, aside from freaks like Barnyard (who likes the Brewers, because they are named after beer).  But The Black Freighter (TBF) is special--he can tell you which outfielder in Double A has a shot at the bigs.  He's a little scary.  We invited him to preview the Twins season.  This is part one, and it is mostly a look back.

Without further ado, TBF speaks:

A Recap of 2008:

The Minnesota Twins were a pleasant surprise in 2008, being that the year was slated as a rebuilding season. The Twins let Torii Hunter and Carlos Silva walk as free agents and traded Johan Santana, arguably the best pitcher in franchise history, to the New York Mets.

Rookie GM Bill Smith decided to toe the company line by signing over-priced, mediocre veterans to play alongside a relatively young ballclub.
Big Blue Monkey favorite Livan Hernandez, outfielder Craig Monroe, shortstop Adam Everett and third baseman Mike Lamb provided a collective -2.71 adjusted Win Probability Added (adjWPA) for a little over $15 million.

But wait… what’s this crazy stat you speak of? Adjusted Win Probability Added provides a hypothetical measurement of each play within a game and its impact on a team's chances of winning. The computed number, adjusted for the MLB average at each position, is then awarded to the individual player who either kicked some major butt or sucked incredibly hard at key points within the game.

As you can see, the aforementioned foursome cornered the market on sucking incredibly hard… nearly the exact polar opposite of Justin Morneau’s +2.69, despite all four playing in a limited number of games.

Not to go unmentioned are Bill Smith’s two other prized off-season acquisitions, Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez. Their poor play (-4.53) was the polar opposite equivalent of Joe Nathan and Denard Span (+4.46).

Regardless of the questionable off-season, the Twins were able to rebound with help from their minor leagues as Denard Span, Kevin Slowey, Alexi Casilla, Brian Buscher, Nick Blackburn and Jose Mijares all played key roles in guiding the Twins to a near play-off birth.

Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan were all-stars, Scott Baker anchored the rotation and Jason Kubel finally showed the talent that made him an MLB top prospect just 3 years ago.

Even though jackass A.J. Pierzynski and his band of Bitch Sox ultimately defeated our beloved Twins in a bonus game battle royale, the 2008 season showed that there is a lot to like about a near-identical team heading into the final year of watching baseball under the Nazi-inspired roof of the Metrodome.

Final Record: 88-75, 2nd place in AL Central Division  

The 2009 Offseason
Offseason Losses:
RP Dennys Reyes, RP Eddie Guardado, SS Adam Everett and DH Randy Ruiz

Offseason Additions:
3B Joe Crede, RP Luis Ayala and SP Jason Jones.  Signed Nick Punto, Jason Kubel and Scott Baker to multi-year contracts. 

If you are a fan of the Hot Stove season, this was about as boring as it can get.  After an incredibly active 2008, the Twins decided to basically give their ’08 squad a second chance at capturing the Central division crown by coasting through the winter months.  That certainly isn’t a bad thing, as the team really didn’t have too many holes to fill… depth on the left-side of the infield and remodeling the bullpen were the only spots that Bill Smith and company needed to examine.  Reyes, Guardado, Everett and Ruiz were all expendable parts.  Reyes was offered arbitration, but elected to sign with a different team.  The Twins receive an early-round compensatory pick for losing him. 

Depending on what rumors you believe, the Twins kicked the tires on several players that could have filled the aforementioned positions.  Casey Blake, Garrett Atkins, Adrian Beltre, Orlando Cabrera, JJ Hardy, Yunel Escobar, Juan Cruz, Mike Lincoln, Eric Gagne and Brandon Lyon were all names that surfaced in the blogosphere linked to the Twins.  In the end, the Twins settled on one-year deals for all-star third baseman Joe Crede ($2.5 million with an additional $4.5 million in incentives) and right-handed reliever Luis Ayala ($1.3 million).  Both deals were low-risk and the Twins are hoping that the 31-year olds can work past their injury histories to play key roles on the team.  The Twins also selected Jason Jones in the Rule 5 draft.  Since he would not make the opening day roster, the Twins decided they liked Jones enough to offer talented relief prospect Nick Nolte to the Yankees in return for his services.  Jones will start at AAA. 

Probably the biggest news for the Twins were the new contracts for three of their core players.  The Twins re-signed the “hustling” belly-flopper Nick Punto to a 2-year, $8.5 million dollar deal with a 2011 option.  Designated hitter Jason Kubel avoided arbitration by signing a 2-year, $7.2 million dollar contract with a $5.1 million dollar option in 2011.  Pitcher Scott Baker was locked up for 4 seasons on a $15.25 million dollar deal, with a 2013 option for $9.25 million. 

As long as he stays healthy, Baker’s contract is a great move.  The pitcher is the staff ace and has a legitimate shot at being fairly dominant for years to come.  Signing Kubel was also a solid move as he has become the teams 3rd best hitter after the M&M boys.  Punto’s contract is a bit iffy, considering that another defensive wiz, Orlando Hudson, signed a 1-year deal for $3.4 million plus incentives.  Hudson is a far better hitter, a great clubhouse presence and slotting him at 2nd base could have moved Alexi Casilla over to his natural shortstop position.  The deal isn’t a complete bust, as long as Punto is able to maintain a batting line similar to ‘06 and ‘08.  Punto’s 2007 season is already being discussed as one of the worst ever for a regular starter.  

Up Next:  The Twins Offense

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow TBF, you really are a Twins geek but provide some fantastic insight into our beloved Twinkies for the 2009 season.