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Twins Target - A Minnesota Twins blog | Page 13

Written by Andrew Kneeland | 31 August 2010

Few seem to think much of Manny Ramirez these days.

Known to have one of the most egocentric personalities in sports, Ramirez's “Manny Being Manny” moniker hasn't been making many headlines since his move to Los Angeles. Despite the lack of press, though, Ramirez still possesses one of baseball's best bats.

Once Ramirez was dealt to the Chicago White Sox this past week, the national coverage returned. Forgive me if I'm a little surprised to see one of baseball's most powerful outfielders suddenly described as a useless player whose prime is long past. Last I checked, this “old-timer” was hitting .311/.405/.510 with a very good walk rate. Is the reason for Manny's dismissal because of his low home run and RBI figures?

I thought we were smarter than that.

Yes, Ramirez has suffered through a series of three costly injuries this season, the most recent of which sidelined him for 35 days according to Corey Dawkin's Baseball Injury Tool. Over the next month, Ramirez could very easily re-aggravate his calf or hamstring and be sent right back to the disabled list. But if he stays healthy he makes the White Sox a much better team.

None of Ramirez's numbers this season indicate any serious regression on the horizon. His BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is right around his career average, and none of his batted ball ratios are very far from what is usually expected of the slugger. Yes, the 38-year old has lost any foot speed he once had, and is miserable defensively, but there is no reason to expect anything less than “very good” from Ramirez for the remainder of the 2010 season.

Ramirez will certainly make Chicago a better team, especially considering whose playing time he will be assuming. Currently manning the designated hitter role in the Windy City is Mark Kotsay, whose .239/.310/.388 triple-slash line is laughably poor, especially considering his position.

By replacing Kotsay's at-bats with Ramirez' for the remaining 31 games of the regular season improves the White Sox by roughly one win. Especially in the AL Central, where a Game 163 has been required the last two years, one win makes a huge difference.

Ramirez certainly doesn't give the White Sox a better chance of winning the division than the Twins, but it evens the race up by a considerable margin. Don't start the “woe is me” chants yet, though, the Twins are a better team with plenty of opportunities to further cushion their divisional lead.

Besides, even if Ramirez goes on an offensive rampage and makes the two AL Central teams more evenly matched, Minnesota has a four-game head start.

But let's be honest: Minnesota is a better offensive team than Chicago, even factoring in Ramirez's impact over the next month. The Twins also have a better rotation, and a much better bullpen. If the two teams were to play 31 head-to-head contests, Minnesota would certainly come out on top.

Let's just hope that any lucky breaks Chicago receives isn't enough to overcome the Twins' superiority.

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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 27 August 2010

Per Ken Rosenthal, and La Velle confirms.

Minnesota will give up a player to be named later. Fuentes is owed about $1.89 million for the rest of this season, and has a vesting option of $9 million for next season if the left-hander finishes 55 games in 2010. Currently at 33, the Twins likely nabbed him from the Angels because they knew it was unlikely he would reach that expensive plateau.

Brian Fuentes, 34, has been an elite reliever for quite a few years. While he is now living on past reputation and accumulated saves, he is still a viable relief option for a contending team.

The Twins hope Fuentes continues to annihilate left-handed pitching for the remainder of this season. Through just under 40 innings, Fuentes has a 2.24 xFIP against southpaws, and has held lefties to a triple-slash line of just .132/.209/.158. Fuentes is also one of the best strikeout pitchers in the game, averaging 9.2 third-strike-calls per nine innings.

The veteran spent 15 days on the disabled list earlier this season with a mid back strain. His back has been a troublesome spot for the lefty in the past, so complete health this month and next is not a guarantee. Fuentes has remained healthy and effective since his April injury, though, and will join the Minnesota bullpen soon.

Hours after the White Sox were rumored to have won the waiver claim on Manny Ramirez, the Twins responded with this acquisition. Ramirez certainly helps Chicago and gives them a better chance at taking down the Twins, so Minnesota GM Bill Smith may have felt the need to respond.

An aging reliever won't have anywhere near the impact Ramirez will have on the White Sox, but even a marginal upgrade is significant in this AL Central race. Fuentes will join Matt Capps and Jon Rauch to form a relief corps filled with three potential closers. Bullpen depth is never a bad thing, especially if it doesn't come at a great expense.

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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 23 August 2010

The Twins are playing very good baseball. Having lost just one series since the All-Star Break, Minnesota has taken advantage of an easy schedule, winning 25 of their last 34 games.

A great deal of this success can be attributed to Minnesota's offense.

Far and away the best offense over the last 30 games, the Twins have seen key surges from Joe Mauer (.443/.532/.659 over last 30 games), Danny Valencia (.340/.372/.500), and Jason Kubel (.263/.333/.535). Delmon Young has managed to drastically cut his strikeout rate -- though his walk rate remains abysmally low -- and is emerging from a lengthy slump with no permanent damage.

Minnesota's pitching staff has also been impressive during this recent stretch of dominance, at least on the surface. When digging a little deeper, it's clear that the Twins still struggle with a high fly ball percentage. The team's FIP of 3.63 over the last 30 games ranks seventh in the league, though their xFIP is significantly higher because of the team's low HR/FB percentage (which is mostly a result of the spacious Target Field).

For people like me who don't have a TI-84 glued to their wrist and need further explanation, xFIP essentially counts every fly ball as 10.6 percent of a home run. In Target Field, where fly balls go to die, this statistic usually charges pitchers with more home runs than they allow. Whether or not Target Field will wind up being a pitcher-friendly park has yet to be seen – park factors are renowned for their fluctuation from year to year – but the Twins' fly ball tendencies this season are often over looked.

And because the xFIP statistic kills the Twins corporately, it also wreaks havoc individually. Over the season, just one Minnesota hurler has an xFIP under 3.00: Francisco Liriano, with 2.99. Carl Pavano (3.91), Brian Duensing (3.98), and Scott Baker (3.99) are all about a run higher.

It's clear that Minnesota's starting staff is very fly ball prone. Seeing as how the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington is among the more hitter-friendly in baseball, this could pose a problem.

Don't expect too much from Minnesota's starting rotation during this crucial four-game series with the Texas Rangers. Texas will likely score about five runs per game during this contest, just like they've done all season, and it will be up to the Twins' big bats to keep pace. But that's hardly anything new.

The Twins are also averaging about 4.9 runs per game this season. In Arlington, there's no telling how potent they will be. Tonight, let's hope the run support doesn't stop anytime soon, for Nick Blackburn's sake.

This series will reveal a lot about Minnesota's playoff chances. Sure, life has been great this past month while playing the Orioles, Royals, and Indians, but how will the Twins fare against top-notch competition?

There's only one way to find out.

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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 19 August 2010

Brought on to solidify a somewhat-shaky bullpen, Matt Capps hasn't exactly received a hero's welcome in the Twin Cities.

In fact, Twins fans seem to think the 26-year old closer is a liability when pitching in high-leverage situations. Capps has been suffering through a poor stretch lately, though these last five games hardly give enough reason to worry.

Opponents are batting an incredible .409/.435/.636 against Capps in his last five relief appearances – each in the ninth inning. Minnesota has managed to win each of these games, but it is clear that Capps is struggling to get batters out.

My guess: Capps has struggled recently to release pitches with his usual “zip,” which has made his offerings infinitely more hittable. Give him some time to recover and settle down, and Capps will be every bit as good as he ever was.

And yes, Capps is a good closer. Don't let these snap-judgements from Twitter have too much influence on you:




Capps suffered through sky-high BABIP and home runs per fly ball marks last season, which had a dramatic impact on his ERA. This year Capps' BABIP and HR/FB are both regressing to give us a real-life application to what sabermetricians preach. As a result, his ERA (though an awful stat compared to alternatives) has dropped significantly.

With an increased ground ball percentage, and a significantly lowered fly ball and walk rate, Capps will make Minnesota a better baseball team. And there's no denying that, despite what some will tell you.



As I was watching the game last night with my TweetDeck screen open, I realized how far Twitter had advanced in the cynicism department. I'm all for microblogging, and, for the most part, love how Twitter has impacted the Internet.

But I can only take so many knee-jerk reactions. I'm obviously biased, as the majority of people I “follow” are Twins fans, but I haven't found a fan base with the despondency of Minnesota's. I could screen-grab tweets of rampant pessimism all day, but here's one @FanaticJack sent a few days ago:


This is utterly baffling to me. There isn't a shred of truth in this tweet. Minnesota won that game, and have one of the best offenses in baseball by just about any measure. Not all fans are at (or have yet to reach) Jack's level, but I'm seeing more and more tweets like the one above from people who I think are reasonable people who understand the important of context.

I have no doubt that you, faithful readers, realize that a single strikeout with runners on second and third doesn't erase all past performance and transform you into an awful player. (Right?)

Twitter has become a medium for instant reactions, for better or worse. I love using Twitter to read and react to various things, and there are certainly smart and funny people worth following on the social media giant, but keeping my Twitter stream open during a game has almost become a painful activity.

I realize people have always thrown remotes and yelled at umpires, but there's no reason I should be forced to watch these explosions in the form of badly-constructed sentences.

Twitter during the game is no longer an acceptable combination in my house.

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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 18 August 2010

Don't you just love baseball?

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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 10 August 2010

A few notes to get you prepared for tonight's show-down between the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins:

  • Just three Twins have been able to hit home runs against Freddy Garcia in US Cellular Field: Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau, and Jason Kubel. Both Hunter and Morneau won't be taking the field for Minnesota this evening, so the odds are good that Gardenhire will have Kubel (a 1.767 OPS in 12 career PA against Garcia) somewhere in the lineup.

  • Scott Baker has given up six home runs in US Cellular Field over his career, though just eight runs have been scored via the long ball. The Twins hope that Baker will continue his tendency to limit dingers to solo shots, as the White Sox score 25 percent of their runs off home runs.

  • If ever there were a time for Baker to improve his low ground-ball percentage (35.9, 10th-worst in league), it would be tonight. When the White Sox have an opportunity to ground into a double play, they do 14 percent of the time. (The same percentage as Minnesota.)

  • US Cellular is one of the most homer-friendly parks in the league, which will benefit a powerful Chicago lineup but also allow Minnesota to sneak some offense-first bats into their batting order without much defensive sacrifice.

  • Chicago's starting staff is good at throwing first-pitch strikes, getting ahead early in 60.6 percent of opposing plate appearances. Minnesota leads the league in this department, however, with an impressive 63.7 mark. Despite this pitching prowess, both teams' offenses have low walk and strikeout rates, which should mean quite a few balls in play.

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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 04 August 2010

With the Twins enjoying a hot streak and leaving little room for analysis, I think it's time for a change of pace. This post was also published over at Bill's The Daily Something.

The Baseball Writer's Association of America has long irked sporting fans from coast to coast. Basing their decisions on trivial aspects of the game (grittiness, hustle, and clutch being a few personal favorites) that really shouldn't factor in to MVP discussions.

But ever since 1931, this entity has been entrusted with selecting the “Most Valuable” player in each league after every year. Here are five of their biggest mistakes, based on difference in wins-above-replacement between the winner and league leader:

5. Andre Dawson (2.7 WAR) over Tony Gwynn (8.1 WAR), 1987

Dawson: .287/.328/.568, 49 HR, 103 SO/32 BB, .378 wOBA
Gwynn: .370/.447/.511, 7 HR, 35 SO/82 BB, .419 wOBA

The Chicago Cubs of the late 1980s were not the best of teams. Even though they boasted Ryne Sandberg, Leon Durham, Jerry Mumphrey, and Rick Sutcliffe, (and a 24-year old Jamie Moyer, believe it or not), the Cubs rarely found themselves at the top of the National League East.

After being allowed to leave as a free agent after 11 seasons in Montreal, the 32-year old Dawson struggled to find a new home thanks in part to his old knees and baseball's rampant collusion problem. Dawson ended up parading around the reluctant Cubs' Spring Training Facility and offered Chicago a blank contract. The Cubs scribbled “$500,000” in the blank.

Dawson enjoyed one of his best seasons in 1987, hitting .287/.328/.568 with a league-leading 49 home runs. (His 137 runs batted in no doubt impressed voters, who obviously over-looked his 444 RBI opportunities.) Although I give the BBWAA credit for ignoring that their MVP selection came from a last-place team, Dawson was not the most valuable player in the National League in 1987.

Tony Gwynn was.

Gwynn finished 8th in MVP voting that year even though his 8.1 wins-above-replacement was the best in the league. Hitting .370/.447/.511, Mr. Padre combined speed and power better than anyone in the league. The 27-year old stole 56 bases that year, and was one of the few bright spots on a poor San Diego team, along with this guy.

Dawson simply wasn't the best hitter in 1987 (his .378 wOBA was 27th in the league), and, when considering his below-average defense and harsh positional adjustment, was far from being the most valuable player. Gwynn's resume hardly requires any tampering, but the Hall of Famer is bereft an MVP Award. He should have won in 1987.

To read the rest, please click here!

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