Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Most Exciting Twin

I've had a few of my friends, some of them Twins fans, ask me how I could watch continue watching the Twins with any regularity. My response is always the same, "there are some good young kids who I want to watch". At times I barely believe the words coming out of my mouth, for example, when those young kids are a struggling Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Arcia or Kyle Gibson.

But for the past two months, I've been able to say it with conviction because of Danny Santana. He's young, he hits and boy can he run. 61 games into his major league career he's hitting .331/.369/.483 and as that line suggests it's not an empty, Ben Revere-esque batting average - Santana has been hitting the ball hard. Despite playing in roughly half the team's games, Santana has hit 15 doubles, 3 triples and 5 home runs - good for 5th on the team in extra base hits (1 more than both Arcia or Mauer despite fewer plate appearances).

It's plenty exciting to watch a 23 year old switch hitter have success hitting in the majors even if that's all he's doing. But the most exciting part of watching Danny play is what happens after he hits the ball. Singles stretch to doubles and doubles stretch to triples. Pitchers spend time worrying about him on basepaths and then he steals anyway. He's bringing a kind of excitement to the field Twins' fans haven't seen since Christian Guzman.

Speaking of Guzman, I think he is an excellent model of what we should hope to expect out of Danny Santana in his career as a Twin. Over his career, Guzman hit .271/.307/.383 and averaged 27 doubles, 10 triples, 7 home runs and 14 stolen bases per 162 games. Some years were better and some years were worse, obviously, so don't get me wrong and say that's anyone's absolute maximum production. Further, Guzman provided average to slightly above average defense at shortstop - something today's Twins sorely lack. I think we should all be very satisfied if he can mimic Guzman and make two all-star games in his career.

Right now we're seeing Danny Santana play completely out of position at center field but he will have to move back to shortstop eventually. He is a horrendous outfielder, rarely making good reads on flyouts and misses cut-off men regularly. However, all reports are that he's a very good shortstop with a cannon arm. If he can provide that strong defense along with his flashy production on offense, Santana should be an important part of Minnesota's future plans and a great reason for us to keep watching.

Friday, May 9, 2014

2014 Japan All-Star Series

Today MLB announced that as earlier as this November, they will send a team of All-Stars to Japan to resume the Japan All-Star Series.  The series was last played in 2006 and has not been scheduled due to the World Baseball Classic.  I love making rosters for these types of exhibition games and this is the team I would send across seas.  Past rosters have included 27 players made up of 12 pitchers and 14 position players.  Enjoy!

Pitching Staff

Rotation
Justin Verlander - DET
Jose Fernandez - MIA
Clayton Kershaw -LAD
Max Scherzer - DET

Bullpen
Fransisco Rodriguez - MIL
Sergio Romo - SF
Craig Kimbrel - ATL
Glen Perkins -MIN
Koji Uehara - BOS (he could play for team Japan as Japanese players have done in the past)
Aroldis Chapman - CIN
Brad Ziegler - ARI
Will Smith - MIL
Kenley Jansen - LAD

Position Players

C Yadier Molina - STL
C Buster Posey - SF
C Jonathan Lucroy - MIL
1B Paul Goldschmidt - ARI
1B Miguel Cabrera - DET
2B Robinson Cano - SEA
SS Troy Tulowitzki - COL
3B Matt Carpenter - STL
UTL Ben Zobrist - TB
OF Giancarlo Stanton - MIA
OF Carlos Gomez - MIL
OF Mike Trout - LAA

OF Jose Bautista - TOR

Monday, April 28, 2014

An Old Memory: The Bob Feller Museum

When I traveled to Evansville, Indiana this past weekend, the Evansville Courier brought back a memory that I hadn't thought about in a long time.  The article, Feller museum struggling to survive by Luke Meredith, brought me back to the spring of 2009 when I was making a trip down to the University of Iowa and we made a stop in the small town of Van Meter.

This town is so small if I blinked, we would've been out of the city limits.  But I had to make a stop at the Bob Feller Museum.  It was fascinating.

I learned that Feller was offered a $1 signing bonus from the Cleveland Indians and he never even received that money.  I also learned he is the only pitcher to throw a no-hitter on Opening Day.

Meredith's article though was about how the museum is struggling to stay open.  Obviously, being in such a small town, it does not get many people through its doors which makes it hard to turn any sort of profit.

This saddens me because I think this is what baseball is all about.  The history and the great players of the past who have made the game so enjoyable for me and millions of other people around the world.

This isn't the typical Pitcher's Duel post but just a friendly reminder that if you ever have the chance to honor the great history of baseball by visiting Cooperstown, reading a biography on a former player or by stopping in Van Meter, take the time to soak it all in.  Life is short and it should be everybody's goal to learn something new and honor America's Pastime.

Here is a link to Meredith's article: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/iowa-baseball-museum-struggles-when-namesake-dies

Monday, April 14, 2014

Some Early Trends in Twins Territory

-Trevor Plouffe has shown great plate discipline to the tune of a .326/.446/.413 batting line. He's walking (16.1% of PAs) at a rate almost double of his career rate and cut his strikeout rate from 21% to 14%. It appears the change in approach has traded off on-base skills for power as he only has 4 extra base hits on the young season.

It's difficult to say if this trend will continue, but at the very least it's a bright spot for the future of third base with top prospect Miguel Sano sidelined by injury for 2014. If Plouffe can continue to shrink his strikeouts and take walks, he could be an excellent role player for the Twins.

-Dozier's Pop: He's not turning into Robinson Cano, but it looks like Dozier has legit home run power. A lot of people believed that last year's 18 home runs were a fluke and a number in the low teens would be more realistic in the coming seasons.

That said, he will likely see more of his home runs turn to doubles in the coming months. I would tack him as a good bet to repeat a home run count in the high teens with a chance to top 20 bombs.

-Josmil Pinto. It's clear he can hit based on what we've seen so far this season. I still expect him to hit a rough patch in the middle of the season as he's forced to adjust to pitchers who know will have a book on him, but I still love what I see. Additionally, Kurt Suzuki is doing very little to keep Pinto on the bench and we should see Pinto getting more and more time behind the dish.

-I still do not believe in Jason Kubel at all.

-Kyle Gibson has put up a shiny 2-0 record and 1.59 ERA but I'd be shocked if he kept it up. I've been a big Gibson fan in the past, but not right now. He's stranding 87.5% of runners on base and surrendering hits on just 23.5% of balls hitters put in play. I'd expect him to be good at both of these aspects of the game because he is a groundball pitcher, but nowhere near these rates. For now, Gibson is just a back-end guy with the pitching repertoire to be a mid-rotation guy in the future.

-I still really like what I've seen from both Phil Hughes and Ricky Nolasco. Neither will be aces and both have been frustrating in the past, but they both have really impressive pitching ability.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Opening Day is So Close

We're so close you guys! Like three or four days depending on your team of choice.

Pitcher's Duel will remain active this year. It's kind of sad that I even have to post that but we've been producing nil content over the winter so I feel like it needs to be said.

While you're here... So how about that winter? Those trades and free agent happenings and all the injuries! Right?

See you all very soon. Hopefully.

Regards,
Nils

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Scouting Archie Bradley



I haven’t had the opportunity to see Archie Bradley in person yet so I’m relying a lot on YouTube clips and word of mouth.  Here is one clip that the Google machine brought up that shows his mechanics very well.


As an avid Diamondbacks fan, I’m excited to see what Bradley could bring to the table as soon as this spring.  The Diamondbacks rotation, which could change in the coming days with the Winter Meetings tomorrow, looks like it will be Patrick Corbin, Brandon McCarthy, Wade Miley, Trevor Cahill as the shoe-ins and there will be a battle between Tyler Skaggs (assuming he isn’t traded), Randall Delgado and Bradley.  

When I look at this rotation, I see a lot of mediocrity and middle-of-the-rotation arms rather than a first-division player who could lead a pitching staff.  With what scouts have said about Bradley, he could be the type of arm to do just that.  

Now, onto the actual scouting of Bradley.  I’ll start from the bottom and make my way to the top.  His high leg kick is what sticks out first when you see him pitch.  His lead knee comes up to his chest level (I’d say the typical pitcher raises his knee to his belly button) and his toe is pointed toward the sky when most pitchers are taught to let the foot relax at the top of balance.  

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Replacing the Replacements

It's a busy time for Andy and I, with finals and all, so please excuse the lack of actually posts. It also doesn't help that our favorite has been a train wreck and made baseball as a whole much more dreary. Never the mind, Terry Ryan has spelled our malaise for at least a few weeks by handing out moderate free agent contracts (or by Twins' standards, humongous big contracts) to Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes.

By this time, if you care enough to come to this site, you've probably read a bit about how Nolasco and Hughes will hopefully be average to a touch above that this season. Nothing special, but not awful.

In a vacuum, that's a fine assessment; one I'd expect from the national media. But it's not that easy to remove the signings from their context. That context being the Twins rotation. Nolasco and Hughes will be replacing the two worst starters on by far the worst rotation in baseball. Their bar to hurdle is set so incredibly far in the basement they won't even have to worry about tripping over it.

Twins starters allowed 546 runs in 871 innings, so 0.627 runs per inning.

Nolasco is projected to pitch 198 innings and allow 95 runs by the Oliver projection system: 0.480 runs per inning.

Hughes is projected to pitch 174 innings and allow 94 runs (Oliver): 0.540 runs per inning.

So if we expected the Twins rotation to stand pat and fill those 372 innings with Andrew Alber, Sam Deduno etc. they could be expected to allow 233 runs. Replacing them with Nolasco and Hughes could be expected to allow 189 runs. That's 44 runs saved over the course of the season.

This is a pretty simple analysis, as the average Twins pitcher isn't replaced, it's the worst two pitchers being replaced. For that reason and that Oliver isn't quite as bullish on Hughes as others, this estimate is fairly conservative and I'm inclined to bump my personal estimate up to the 50-55 run range.

So basically those are my thoughts on the signing. Nolasco and Hughes aren't fantastic, but given the no-production hurlers they're replacing, it's a massive upgrade. That's probably why the Twins paid more than any other team for the pair, Nolasco and Hughes offered more value to this team than any other in the league.