Twins Daily contributor Jamie Cameron sparked this discussion when he tweeted something that caught my eye last week. Baseball cards have expanded into a much larger industry than simply going into your local retail store and grabbing a wax pack. With someone genuinely curious and questions at hand, it seemed a great opportunity to dissect where the industry is as it stands today.
Timing for this piece couldn’t be better either. Starting Wednesday and running through Sunday, The National (The National Sports Collectors Convention) is taking place just outside of Chicago, Illinois. A yearly event each summer (that swaps between Chicago, Atlantic City, and Cleveland), The National is the epicenter of the collecting universe and offers an endless supply of cardboard dreams.
Setting the stage for Jamie’s questions, he denotes his background being born and raised in the United Kingdom. Having been in the Twin Cities for roughly 15 years now, baseball has always been a passion of his. He doesn’t have the childhood memories of card collecting however, and as stated earlier, the game has changed significantly since then. Here’s what he wanted to know.
How did you get into collecting? As a kid or an adult?
I found myself collecting cards as a kid, seeing it as an inexpensive way to connect with athletes I enjoyed. My parents would often be ok with a pack or two from the local retail store when we stopped in on occasion. By my teenage years I had a couple binders full of early late 90’s and early 2000’s sports cards that I no longer cared about. Eventually they were parted with at a garage sale I would imagine.
Getting back into the hobby in late 2016, I found myself stumbling into what is known as a “break room” (where groups of people buy into a product and split cards). Having always enjoyed decorating and displaying memorabilia in my basement, cards represented an avenue to capture moments and collect objects of a bit smaller physical footprint.
How do you purchase products? Packs from a store, direct from dealers, or something else?
The two main avenues are your retail stores such as Target or Walmart, and hobby shops. Hobby shops are designated by the term LCS (local card store). They aren’t nearly as plentiful as they may have been years ago, but many larger cities have one. Whether specializing in cards, comics, or some other collectible, they get what is known as hobby products. These boxes and packs may have different offerings in them to incentivize consumer from buying there.
Retail options include more cost-effective offerings. While hobby boxes at an LCS can run from $50 all the way into the $1,000’s, smaller blaster boxes, fat packs, hanger boxes, and single packs can all be had at a retail store for $20 or less. If there’s no LCS in sight retail becomes the lone option. It’s a great place to dip your feet in. Just be aware that the individually wrapped packs could be picked over like the best offerings in the produce aisle.
What are the best brands? What determines that?
There are really only three baseball card manufacturers, and only two of them are the major players. Topps is the lone company with an MLB license and that makes them the premium product. Panini is a football first company, and while they are licensed with the MLBPA, the lack of MLB license means there’s no logos or team names on any of their cards. Leaf is another offering while being unlicensed as well. Although Panini does make some very visually appealing cards, value is always at its highest with Topps.
How much time and money do people put into collecting?
As with any hobby this is going to have a ridiculously wide range. Collecting anything is obviously a personal adventure. Some people collect single players or teams, while others look at cards as an investment vehicle. Those investing typically trend towards prospects or vintage cards, and the time is a large component as you must study the market and make sure you’re targeting the players with the best present and future ROI. A player or team collector may simply want each card of whoever they’re after, and sites like eBay and Comc (Check Out My Cards) provide a very quick way to grab and go.
From a monetary standpoint, you can land all over the board. Topps alone puts out something like 25 different products each year. You can find a new release calendar at a site like Cardboard Connection in order to keep track. The bulk of those products cost $200 or less, while a small minority can get over $1,000. Each product has significant “hits” or desirable cards that, on the secondary market, can fetch hundreds to tens of thousands. The level of buy in is again up to the collector.
What’s your favorite card? Why?
Too difficult to chose just one, so I’ll go with two. I collect Minnesota Twins cards and have smaller collections of both Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. There are some really nice cards in my Twins PC (personal collection, which you can view here), but it’s two Trout cards that stick out for me. The first is a 2018 Topps Heritage Relic Autograph /25 that I pulled from a blaster box. Purchasing a $20 retail offering from Target and hitting something like this is like winning the lottery. I was stunned and it’s a card I’ll almost certainly never sell.
Having been back into collecting for roughly three years now, I have added some higher end cards of the players I really like. Mike Trout is trending towards the greatest player baseball has ever seen, and his rookie card market is reflective of that. A non-descript card few thought twice of seven or eight years ago, it’s now the must have subject of the modern era. PSA (Professional Sports Authenticator- a third party grading company) graded copies of the card in a Gem Mint 10 went for roughly $500 as recently as this winter. They are now worth near or over $1,000 and continue to rise. My wife surprised me with one for our five-year wedding anniversary in February.
What do you get from it? Overall, why is this a hobby for you?
Personally, I find it as a connection to differing passions. I have always been artistically inclined, and love looking at the photography and designs these companies continue to put out while tying in a sport I enjoy. The thrill of pulling an autograph or hit, as well as the fun in buying the next cool card to hang onto is something I’ve gotten behind. I’m not interested in the investment side of the hobby or looking to make money, so grabbing what I like is much easier without worrying what the return or loss may be.
I find myself continually going back to look through cards in my collection. Reminiscing on players or events that were depicted is fun, and not looking through them on a consistent basis lends to a thrill of excitement each time I peruse what I have. Displaying some of my collection has made for neat memorabilia showcases in my house, but a further connection to the game of baseball is really what it’s about for me.
This is obviously far from all encompassing, and there’s certainly more nuanced questions about the hobby, and collecting in general, to be asked. Do you have a collection to show off? Do you have questions to ask? Anything else you’d like to know? Feel free to share in the comments below.
- Aug 01 2019 05:13 PM
- by Ted Schwerzler
There is no denying that Miguel Sano hasn't been clicking on all cylinders.This season, Sano has approximately one portion of the zone in which his swing does damage. See if you can pick that out.
On balls that are thrown on the outer-third/middle-third section, Sano is hitting .579 with five home runs. It is absolutely crazy that teams still manage to pour a pitch or two in that area every couple of games -- just like the Royals did twice this past series -- but it happens because Sano’s largest swing holes happen to be a section above or a section below that spot.
Let's start by discussing his inefficiencies above that spot.
Sano’s swing path is highly susceptible to fastballs up in the zone. With the increasing emphasis on high spin fastballs, it is no surprise that teams have gone upstairs on him. In two-strike counts this year, Sano has swung-and-missed at 90 percent of fastballs. That’s helpless territory. So what can the big man do to fill this swing hole that can be seen from space?
The first is simply learn to lay off that pitch. To Sano’s credit, he has actually decreased the amount of swings at fastballs up in the zone over his previous years. Early in the count he spits on those pitches, swinging at only a quarter whereas in the past, there was a 50-50 chance that he would take a hack.
Contrary to what you might have heard on the local broadcasts, umpires are actually not calling more strikes on fastballs up in the zone. In 2011, if you took an elevated fastball, there was a 23 percent chance it would be called a strike. So far in 2019 those fastballs have been called a strike 17 percent of the time, which is the lowest rate dating back to 2009. So there isn’t a grand umpire conspiracy to call more elevated fastballs strikes. Laying off more of those pitches is not going to advance the count in a pitcher’s favor.
What’s more is that hitters in general have curbed their appetites for high fastballs as well, demonstrating a swing diet three percentage points lower this season than it was in 2017 when the Boston Red Sox pitching staff rode the elevated fastball to the American League’s second best ERA. Teams have started to use spin data to help hitters know when they should adjust their approach, swinging above the baseball when there’s a high spin hurler on the mound. They have also incorporated more high velocity pitching machines in batting practice that attempts to duplicate what they will face that night rather than facing a soft-tossing coach for on-field bee pee. So it is no surprise to see offenses starting to counter the attack.
That being said, when hitters do offer at high fastballs, they are missing at a greater rate than ever before and Miguel Sano is no exception. Although he is swinging less frequently than he has in his career, he is swinging through more. Compared to last year, Sano swung and missed at 34 percent of elevated four-seamers. This year that’s at a grotesque 50 percent clip (and you will recall the sheer futility in the aforementioned two-strike situations).
So far in 2019 Sano has opted for the path of least resistance -- not swinging at elevated fastballs, at least until it is imperative that he protect the zone. Given what he is currently working with, this is a decent option. Sano has what ill-informed broadcasters like to call a “launch angle swing” but, more accurately, Sano’s swing path is down-to-up trajectory that does a ton of damage on balls down in the zone. In his career, the big man holds a .698 slugging percentage against all fastball types in the lower third of the zone. At the top of the zone, pitchers have turned him into Drew Butera with a .287 slugging percentage. It is no surprise then to see that in a series versus Boston, frontrunners in the high fastball industry, Sano struck out 9 times in 15 plate appearances as the Red Sox pitchers threw 26 of their 41 fastballs in the upper third of the strike zone (he swung through 36 percent of those too).
So while we can point to Sano’s swing path as a reason why he has trouble catching high fastballs on the barrel that doesn’t answer the question as to why he swings over breaking balls that actually bounce in a neighboring zip code.
For anyone who follows PitchingNinja or Driveline coaches on Twitter knows, pitchers have some absolutely filthy stuff right now and, to make matters worse, they have also found ways to make it even more disgusting. The TrackMan data has helped pitchers tunnel pitches better. The high speed cameras and Rapsodo devices have helped add extra break. Hitters are completely outgunned. At the very least Major League Baseball has seemingly done the hitters a solid by tossing in a juiced ball to help even the playing field but pitchers have the development advantage. So there is an element of that behind Sano’s increased strikeout rate.
There is also an element of simply telling Miguel Sano to go up there and be Miguel Sano -- the man who can crush monster second deck tanks. Rip the governor off and open it up. Chuck three pointers and don’t worry about the missed shots. Strikeouts be damned.
But that’s not why Sano has trouble with his pitch selection.
One issue that appears to be hindering him his timing mechanism in his mechanics. It is a main reason why he keeps getting beat on fastballs up, regardless of velocity. And it’s one of the factors behind his inability to lay off those acid-soaked breaking balls.
Watch this clip of Sano next to teammate Nelson Cruz. Watch for where they get their hands to the launch point (where the bat starts firing forward).
If you are stumped, here it is:
What you will notice is that Cruz has his hands and bat in a position to fire forward before the 97-mile-per-hour fastball leaves Gerrit Cole’s fingers. It requires no extra travel from this point. This gives him additional time to read and react.
Sano, on the other hand, brings his hands back to a spot when Ryan Braiser’s 97-mile-per-hour cheese is quickly approaching the plate. This means he has to make his decision to swing earlier -- before getting the right read on the spin. This is part of the reason why you see Sano swinging over so many breaking balls: out of the hand they look destined for that juicy lower third of the zone before *fart noises* vanishing. Furthermore, Sano has a rolling launch point, almost continually moving his hands which means that he will get beat on fastballs up as well as inside if he starts them late.
As another example, consider Mike Trout. Admittedly, it is cheating to take the world’s greatest living hitter and say “do what he’s doing” but there are some existing components in Trout’s swing path that is similar to Sano’s. Both Trout and Sano share that down-to-up swing that decimates balls low in the zone. However, Trout has the ability to get to pitches up in the zone (although, like Sano, this year he’s spitting on more of them). Similar to Cruz, Trout gets his hands to the launch point early, giving him time to recognize the pitch and shut down his swing on things he doesn’t like.
[attachment=12751:Sano Cruz Trout.png]
It’s difficult to tell hitters change their approach drastically in midseason -- especially when every one out of eleven at bats results in a home run. Still, it is not about a total overhaul, it’s making the right tweaks to improve deficiencies.
This is something that just a few years ago, Jorge Polanco cleaned up and has since entered the land of ten thousand rakes. Prior to making that change, he had posted a .245/.296/.351 batting line in 147 games. Since taking the slack out of his drawback, Polanco has hit .308/.368/.502 over his last 204 games. Polanco had been blessed with world class bat-to-ball skills but this modification has allowed him to drive the ball.
Another successful Twins convert of the reduced slack swing was Eduardo Escobar. Escobar modified his swing in 2017 which gave him the ability to better differentiate fastballs and breaking balls. From 2014 through 2016, Escobar produced a .626 OPS versus breaking balls with a 30 percent strikeout rate. From 2017 on, he’s posted a .815 OPS against breaking balls and reduced his strikeout rate to 25 percent. And he still hammers fastballs.
Sano could be one of them. He could be like Polanco or Escobar. He could be a non-slacker.
While the movement may seem minor, it takes a lot of muscle memory to commit that to the body. There are plenty of hitters too, like Sano, who have similar big pre-swing movements (Josh Donaldson comes to mind) but those hitters get their hands to the launch point sooner as well. The solution may not be to swing like Cruz, Polanco or Trout, it maybe simply get your hands moving earlier in the process.
There is no question that Sano can hit a ton in his swing plane. His exit velocity on fastballs down in the zone is 98 miles per hour. But more teams are seeing the blueprints to getting him out -- avoid the lower portion of the zone. When or if the adjustments come, then maybe -- just maybe -- we can stop reading about Miguel Sano’s supposed failure as a player.
- Jun 23 2019 09:04 PM
- by Parker Hageman
Despite playing on the West Coast I find myself staying up many late nights to watch the tandem of Trout and Shohei Ohtani. Encompassing both the best and most exciting players in the game, the duo is must-watch television. Seeing Trout barreling towards yet another MVP award this year, I wondered if pulling his numbers out of the Twins lineup is at all possible. His current stats are lofty to say the least, so we may have to stretch some, but I think it’s doable.
.299 Batting Average- Mitch Garver (.301)
Trout’s .299 average comes in a 71-game sample size. Garver has split time with Jason Castro, and missed 16 games, but when he’s been in the lineup he’s produced. It was Ohtani who sent him to the IL with an ankle sprain, and in the 11 games since his return, he’s compiled just a .250 average. Still north of .300 on the season though, Mitch is having as good of an offensive season as any backstop not named Willson Contreras.
.462 On-Base Percentage- Joe Mauer 2009 (.444)
Admittedly this is cheating. The goal here was to construct a cumulative player from the current Minnesota roster. However, the nearly 50% clip that Trout is reaching base is truly absurd. Joe Mauer won and MVP in 2009 leading the league in AVG, OBP, and SLG yet his on-base numbers are still nearly 20 points shy of Trout. The Angels outfielder has struck out plenty throughout his career, and both 2014/15 were high water marks. Right now, though he leads the league in walks and is 10 above his strikeouts in that category. The best lineup in baseball doesn’t have a guy like this.
.651 Slugging Percentage- Mitch Garver (.642)
Back to the land of small sample sizes in looking for a challenger here. Garver has blasted 11 homers in just 123 at bats, and he’s added another eight extra-base hits. His 25.6% HR/FB rate is a career high, and so to is the 46.6% hard hit rate. Since returning from the injury the production has slowed a bit, but Garver’s bat has always played for power and he’s posted the best number there thus far for the Twins. Finishing in the .600’s would be remarkable, but a teammate such as Max Kepler or Nelson Cruz could tag in for him.
59 Runs Scored- Max Kepler (50)
Batting leadoff quite often for the Twins has its benefits this season. Kepler is also able to drive himself in with the longball, but his .359 OBP presents plenty of opportunity for the guys behind him. Leading the league in run differential, and leading the majors in runs scored, it’s been the German who’s crossed the plate most for Rocco Baldelli’s club.
17 Doubles- Jorge Polanco (21)
It was Byron Buxton who ran out to the major league lead early in the 2019 campaign. However, his doubles were largely a reflection of stretched singles or balls that weren’t carrying over the wall. The Twins centerfielder is always going to be able to leg out extra bases, but as the weather has warmed, distances have grown on the gap shots and they’ve left the park. Polanco is a gap to gap hitter, and while there’s plenty of power in his bat as well, the extra-base pop inside the outfield fence seems reflective of Trout’s efforts.
22 Home Runs- Eddie Rosario (19)
Across his nine-year career Trout has swatted more than 40 dingers just once. Already at 22 through 71 games, that changes in 2019. Although Rosario is an incredibly streaky hitter for the Twins, I think there’s an outside chance he reaches that mark for the first time in Minnesota since Brian Dozier did it. Rosario isn’t ever going to be a patient hitter, but he’s certainly a potent one. All the added thump around him helps to give him more hittable offerings and he’s certainly crushing them at a good clip.
56 Runs Batted In- Eddie Rosario (53)
Just ahead of teammate Max Kepler (50), Rosario benefits from hitting more towards the middle of the lineup. You can expect that he’ll hit plenty of long balls, and both Kepler and Polanco should provide plenty of baserunners to drive in the rest of the way. We’ve come to see RBI more as an outcome of opportunity rather than individual performance at this point but expecting Eddie to capitalize on what’s in front of him is a good bet.
Essentially what we’ve come up with here is a torrid start by Mitch Garver, career years for Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco, and a high level of performance from Eddie Rosario all combine to equal something close to what Mike Trout is by himself. Given how well the Minnesota Twins have played this season, and what the lineup looks like, it’s truly unfathomable to equate how valuable one single player is. Mike Trout is the type of guy we’ll go decades without seeing again. In watching the level of greatness Twins Territory has this season, it’s mind-boggling to note that one player can account for that same level of production on his own.
The Minnesota Twins are going to continue the crash course towards the postseason. They’ll lay waste to plenty of foes over the course of their next 90+ games. Big numbers should be expected when the dust settles and fall baseball will be plenty of fun. If the Los Angeles Angels don’t join them though, at least Baldelli’s club can attempt a combination effort to put Trout on the big stage.
- Jun 20 2019 01:32 PM
- by Ted Schwerzler
The Astros won the World Series two years ago and are coming off a franchise record 103 wins. Houston’s lineup and top starting pitchers are among the league’s best. This is just one of the many reasons the club will be at the top of the AL for the third consecutive year. It’s crazy to think how deep this lineup is with the likes of Carlos Correa, George Springer, Alex Bregman, and Jose Altuve.
Gone from the rotation are Charlie Morton (free agent) and Lance McCullers Jr. (Tommy John surgery). Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole are a strong one-two punch and the team added Wade Miley to be the club’s number three pitcher.
While the club might not get to 100 wins, it’s Houston’s division to lose.
The As won 97 games last season and no, that’s not a typo. Oakland rode a strong offense built around a lot of power to a surprising playoff berth. Matt Chapman, Khris Davis, Matt Olson and Stephen Piscotty are all capable of hitting 25+ home runs. Former top prospect Jurickson Profar is going to try and find himself by the Bay. Former Twin Robbie Grossman could also play a role in the outfield.
Last season, Oakland’s biggest weakness was their rotation. The club is scheduled to start the year with Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada, Brett Anderson, and Frankie Montas. That’s not exactly a murder’s row of a rotation. Can the bullpen bail them out for the second consecutive year?
Oakland will take a step back this season but could contend for the second Wild Card spot.
Los Angeles Angels
Mike Trout just got paid and he is well worth the price of admission. Unfortunately for Angels fans, there isn’t much else to get excited about in LA. Shohei Ohtani certainly brought some excitement last season but he had Tommy John surgery so his two-way playing will be limited to DH duties. Albert Pujols isn’t getting any younger, so Justin Bour was brought in for first base.
A few new acquisitions could help the club. Jonathan Lucroy could add something behind the plate, but he’s been trending in the wrong direction offensively. Cody Allen add some stability to the late-innings. Matt Harvey and Trevor Cahill could surprise at the back-end of the rotation.
New manager Brad Ausmus could guide LA to a wild card but don’t count on it.
The list of players departed from Seattle’s roster could form the core of a strong roster. Robinson Cano, James Paxton, Nelson Cruz, Edwin Diaz, Jean Segura, and Mike Zunino are all gone. Seattle is in rebuild mode and the team’s above them on this preview should be able to beat up on what’s left of the Mariners.
Edwin Encarnacion joins the club, but it was only to help trade away players like Carlos Santana and Jean Segura. Jay Bruce, Mitch Haniger, and Dee Gordon are still in the in the lineup. Kyle Seager will start the year on the DL. Felix Hernandez is only 32, but he has a lot of miles on his arm and has struggled recently.
Seattle won’t be focused on winning this year. Eyes are on the future.
There’s not much in Texas except a whole lot of rebuilding. Joey Gallo can clobber the ball. Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor form a decent middle infield. Their top prospects don’t figure to get much time in Arlington in 2019. This leaves players like Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Hunter Pence to fill-in until other younger players are ready to take over.
Former Twin Lance Lynn is scheduled to be the number two starter. Let that sink in for a minute. The good news is there should be plenty of long balls for fans to catch if they sit through the Texas heat. Also, the club should end up with a top draft pick next summer.
What do you think about the AL West? Can anyone catch Houston? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
- Mar 22 2019 08:45 AM
- by Cody Christie
The American League Finalists for MVP
Mookie Betts, Boston Red Sox
Betts was a key cog in Boston’s dominant regular season run in the American League. He led the American League in batting average with an outstanding .346 mark. He wasn’t just about the average though as he led the big leagues in slugging percentage (.640) and runs scored (129). He was a record-setter this year as well. He became the first batting champion to have 30 or more steals and home runs. Betts is also one of the best defenders in the league and this helped him to have the top WAR total according to both versions of WAR (FanGraphs and Baseball Reference)
Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians
Ramirez joined an elite club during the 2018 campaign. He became just the fifth third baseman to join the 30-30 club. He also compiled a lot of other statistics the voters like to see, with 100 runs scored and 100 RBIs. Only 25 players have been members of the 30-30 club while scoring over 100 runs and driving in over 100 runs. Ramirez and the Indians beat up on the AL Central and he played a large role in the club winning their third straight division title.
Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
Trout has been the game’s best player for most of the last decade. That being said, he has only been awarded two AL MVP awards during that time (2014, 2016). The Angels have struggled during his career and this has likely cost him the opportunity to win other MVP awards. Even with the Angels posting an under .500 record, Trout notched career highs in OPS (1.088) and on-base percentage (.460). It seems like the award will be handed to Betts and Trout will be the runner-up for the fourth time in the last seven seasons.
Cody’s American League MVP Ballot
10. Whit Merrifield, Royals
9. Gerrit Cole, Astros
8. J.D. Martinez, Red Sox
7. Justin Verlander, Astros
6. Matt Chapman, Athletics
5. Francisco Lindor, Indians
4. Alex Bregman, Astros
3. Jose Ramirez, Indians
2. Mike Trout, Angels
1. Mookie Betts, Red Sox
The National League Finalist for MVP
Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies
Arenado has been a rock for the Rockies over the course of his career and he is headed for his highest MVP finish. He’s arguably the best defensive third baseman in the National League. However, defense isn’t the only story with Arenado. He led the league in home runs and he had an OPS over .900. Colorado was a surprise team this season and Arenado is the face of the franchise. It seems likely that he will win an MVP at some point in his career, but this doesn’t seem like the year.
Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs
Baez logged over 20 games at three different defensive positions this season as Joe Maddon took advantage of his versatility. He seemed to fill up almost every part of the stat sheet. His 111 RBIs lead the National League and he finished second in extra-base hits. Overall, he finished with 40 doubles, over 30 home runs, and over 20 steals. He was a fantasy owner’s dream with all of those stats. Chicago ultimate fell short of their goal, but Baez helped them to stay neck and neck with Milwaukee.
Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers
Much like Betts in the American League, Yelich led the National League in both versions of WAR. Also, he won the batting title (.326) and finished first in OPS (1.000) and total bases (343). During the middle of the season, there was some talk about Jacob deGrom being the front-runner for this award. Yelich put most of those whispers to rest as he dominated in September and pushed the Brewers to the NL Central title. During that final month, he posted a 1.312 OPS, so he can probably start preparing his acceptance speech.
Cody’s National League MVP Ballot
10. Trevor Story, Rockies
9. Paul Goldschmidt, Diamondbacks
8. Lorenzo Cain, Brewers
7. Max Scherzer, Nationals
6. Freddie Freeman, Braves
5. Anthony Rendon, Nationals
4. Jacob deGrom, Mets
3. Javier Baez, Cubs
2. Nolan Arenado, Rockies
1. Christian Yelich, Brewers
Who would be on your ballot? Should deGrom have been a finalist for the MVP? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
- Nov 06 2018 09:26 PM
- by Cody Christie
I have no idea, but it needs to. When diehards like myself have a hard time getting through nine innings anymore, something might be wrong.
So many pitching changes. Shifting not only on every batter, but dependent on count. So many swings and misses. I know it is no longer cool to say it, but I miss the old game. The crisp pitching, batters not being so passive. There's a reason I tweet "Have I mentioned how much I love watching Eddie Rosario play baseball?
That said, I don't think they can or should eliminate shifts. I definitely don't think Jim Kaat's seven-inning game idea is a good idea. Analytics and over-thinking everything are now part of the game and that isn't going away. So I think we're just going to have to grin and bear it.
Strikeout. Walks. Home Runs. More bullpen usage. It's all here to stay, and there are some that like that, and it can be fun at times... But it will be hard to grow this game in the States with this pace of play situation as it is and getting worse.
My hope is that this great game will continue to evolve, as it has for 140-150 years to make itself better. No one wants to get rid of tradition, but something needs to happen.
In terms of the on-field product, a lot of what may happen will depend upon what happens to the actual baseball itself, in my opinion.
If MLB tries to "deaden" the ball, teams will start to value hitters who put the ball in play more often. Otherwise, things will keep escalating in the direction they're going and soon defense will become a relative afterthought due to the lack of balls put in play.
The MLB's current labor agreement with the umpires ends after next season. I think we'll see some of the framework for an automated strike zone in their next agreement. While "robo umps" would be a welcome sight, they'd also tie into the devaluation of defense. Catcher framing goes extinct if that ever happens.
What else? Expansion, probably. Universal DH, probably. Players continue to fight pace of play changes, resulting in games becoming even longer.
The 2028 NL Manager of the Year award goes to a 23-year-old rookie skipper who is a recent computer science grad from MIT. Bartolo Colon leads the league in innings that season.
The year is 2028…
Separated by two votes in the final tally, Royce Lewis narrowly takes home the American League MVP Award after beating out Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Mike Trout could have won his record setting eighth MVP but he finished a distant third. The Twins have been in three straight ALCS but the 2028 season saw the club finally break-through and win the club’s fourth AL Pennant. The World Series came back to Minnesota.
While this utopian idea of the year 2028 sounds great to Twins fans, things need to change with the game. Here are some of the things I foresee happening over the next decade.
- 20 second pitch clock
- Universal designated hitter
- Relievers must face multiple batters
- Shifts will continued to be allowed
- Replay will be quicker and used more frequently
I'll let the others dwell on MLB, though I do believe we will have 32 teams and a 154 game schedule. But since the question just said "baseball," I'm going to mention the changes I see coming for minor league ball.
The current agreement between MLB and MiLB expires in 2020 and therefore no affiliation agreements have been extended beyond that year. I believe there will be some significant changes, most notably a reduction in the number of affiliations, perhaps even elimination of 1-2 entire classes of minor league ball.
Baseball currently has 3 levels of short-season ball, though few teams field teams at all 3 levels. Add 4 full-season levels and that makes 7 minor league levels in the US (plus those in Latin America). I'll predict that one level of short-season will be eliminated and it's POSSIBLE that there will no longer be two levels of Class A ball.
MLB was threatening minor league teams with contraction to get them to shore up Congressional support during the debate over minor league pay. But now that they won that battle, there's no reason to think MLB wouldn't contract anyway. Bottom line is that I believe there will be fewer minor league teams and that means roster spots for fewer minor league players.
I suspect that means a worldwide draft and/or fewer rounds in the US draft.
Given the consistent cries for the pace of play to be addressed, baseball is going to need to change one way or another. I don’t believe the issues are dire, but Rob Manfred seems set on changing the game. I do believe we’ll see electronic strike zones sooner rather than later, and that’s a good thing.
Specialization has become a large portion of the game and I don’t foresee that going away. I’m not sure what other on-field changes are in store, but a decade from now it will be fun to see Mike Trout having overtaken the last few of Babe Ruth’s numbers.
What will happen and what I’d like to see happen are probably two different things.
On the latter side, I think there needs to be a shift in the type of game they try to promote, with the recent All-Star Game being a great example of the problem I see. A new record was set for both the number of home runs (10), and strikeouts (25) by both teams (as would have the 23 K’s in nine-innings). We’re seeing a historically low amount of balls-in-play as home runs and strikeouts have been on the rise. To keep future fans into the game, this trend needs to go in the other direction in my opinion. Nobody likes seeing as much “nothing” happening in a game as there is now. Dingers are sweet, but also alter the pacing of a game negatively.
As for the former, I think the juiced ball will get fixed. I also think rules relating to shifting are going to be implemented. I do love the strategy of it on defense, while also thinking hitters should just take the damn base when it’s given to them. But for the prior reasons mentioned above, this just isn’t the game promoted or taught anymore. While this won't increase balls-in-play, it would allow more action to occur during a game instead of groundouts into the outfield.
If you missed any of the most recent roundtable discussions, here are the links:
Second Half Star
Sell, Sell, Sell?
Fixing the Offense
Romero’s Rotation Spot
- Jul 25 2018 07:07 AM
- by Cody Christie
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox and the Yankees are setting up for quite the battle in the AL East. FanGraphs is projecting both teams to finish with more than 90 wins. Boston has claimed back-to-back AL East titles but this might be the year for them to fall a little short. David Price might be the team’s biggest question mark after his 2017 campaign was shrouded with elbow issues. Dustin Pedroia is coming off of off-season knee surgery and isn’t expected to be back until the end of May. JD Martinez could add some offensive pop to a lineup that includes young hitters like Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts, and Xander Bogaerts.
Los Angeles Angels
Mike Trout might be the best player of this generation and the Angels have only been to the playoffs one time during his career. The club’s last win in the playoffs was in 2009. Los Angeles added multiple pieces this off-season with the addition of Justin Upton, Ian Kinsler, Zack Cozart, and two-way Japanese star Shohoei Ohtani. Ohtani has struggled this spring but he wasn’t brought in to help the Angles to win pre-season games. Andrelton Simmons and Kinsler make-up the best defensive middle infield in the AL. Some computer models also think the Angels are set-up for failure this season. Houston should run away with the AL West so LA might be forced to fight for a Wild Card spot.
Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto should be in the playoff hunt but the division might be out of reach with the Yankees and the Red Sox fighting at the top. In 2017, the Blue Jays missed the playoffs for the first time since 2014. Toronto’s rotation will start the season without their ace, Marcus Stroman, sidelined with shoulder inflammation. Other pitchers like JA Happ, Marco Estrada and Aaron Sanchez help to complete a strong rotation but playing the rest of the AL East could hurt any starting staff. Offensively last season, the Blue Jays scored the fewest runs and Toronto’s lineup isn’t getting any younger.
Twins fans might think they’ve had it rough but the Mariners haven’t qualified for the playoffs since 2001. Felix Hernandez hasn’t been the King over the last couple of seasons as his fastball dropped to barely over 90 miles an hour. Only three current starters (CC Sabathia, Bartolo Colon, Justin Verlander) have more innings pitched than Hernandez. Adding Dee Gordon should help the top of the lineup but his shift to center field comes with some questions. Some of the key offensive pieces are getting older as well. Robinson Cano will be 35, Nelson Cruz will be 37, and Kyle Seager will be 30. With a top-heavy American League, it looks like the Mariners playoff drought might continue.
I was on 670 The Score out of Chicago this week to preview the AL Central. Take a listen here: https://670thescore....central-preview
Who is the biggest threat to Minnesota taking a Wild Card spot? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
- Mar 21 2018 05:26 PM
- by Cody Christie
As we did in the Dozier article, research was done to consider comparable deals. It can be more difficult to find guys who have signed long-term deals after just over two years of service time, and how many of them put up over four WAR in large part due to his defense? But we tried and we’ll use the information we find to try to project what it might take to sign Buxton to an extension.
For this analysis, let’s start out at the top of the spectrum. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper are at the top of the pay scales. One could argue that they are, especially considering their ages and ages at debut, the two more valuable players in the game today.
Byron Buxton is at 2.064 years of service. That means, he will be arbitration-eligible following the 2018 season.
Mike Trout signed for $1 million in 2014, his final pre-arbitration salary. Following another MVP caliber season, Trout signed a huge six year, $144.5 extension that bought out his three arbitration years and three years of free agency. His three arbitration-year salaries were $5.25 million, $15.25 million and $19.25 million. He then will get $33.25 million each of the next three years (those bought-out free agent years).
Bryce Harper was the #1 overall pick in the 2010 draft to a Major League contract. He came up quickly and following the 2014 season, he was already approaching arbitration. Instead, he and the Nationals ripped up the final year of his original deal, and he signed for $2.5 million in 2015 and $5.0 million in 2016. He made $13.625 million this season, and earlier in the year, he signed for $21.65 million in what would have been his fourth arbitration year.
*TBD will equal some really, really big numbers
Now, Byron Buxton isn’t going to command the same contracts as Trout or Harper if he signs now. Those guys had MVPs and All Star experiences under their belt. Buxton’ hasn’t yet, but his 3.5 bWAR based highly on his defense certainly point in the direction of him being at a level just below those top two guys.
So who are some others who signed this type of deal?
In the chart below, I’ve listed some players that I think would be pretty comparable to where Buxton is right now, guys who signed long-term extensions. I should note that Christian Yelich signed his deal one year earlier in the process.
Justin Upton was the most established at the point of his deal. He was also drafted at the top of his draft. Juan Lugares has won a Gold Glove. Odubel Herrera was an All Star. Christian Yelich was a high-ranking prospect of the Marlins and was part of Team USA this year. I also included Andrelton Simmons. Despite the fact that he’s an infielder, I think he is a good comp for Buxton. Early in Simmons’ career, he really struggled offensively, but his glove was elite. He won several Gold Gloves and was generally considered the best defensive player in baseball for several years. I think Buxton fits into that category, but at the same time, Buxton’s offensive potential is significantly higher.
So with that information as the background, he is an estimate of the parameters that might make sense for a Buxton extension.
That would equate to a seven year, $76.5 million.Obviously that is a huge investment, but Buxton still has a ton of potential beyond his golden glove and speed. He has power to go with it, and if he can reduce his strikeouts the way he did in 2017 again, he will be a multi-time All Star, and a potential MVP candidate.
There is risk for the Twins, but if the Twins choose to go year to year with Buxton, he could cost more per year and could be gone to free agency after the 2021 season. However, the risk for the Twins in not signing him this offseason is that he could take another step forward offensively and end up with 30-50% higher annual salaries if they did a deal in a year. Of course, with Buxton banging into walls with frequency, injury is a potential risk as well.
The risk for Buxton is just that. He could potentially make quite a bit more by going year to year and then become a free agent at age 28. At that time, he could look for an eight to ten year deal.
So what do you think? Should the Twins consider a multi-year extension for Buxton? At what point would you be less comfortable? How many years of risk would you be willing to take while at the same time being realistic? Discuss.
COMING SOON! A reminder, Nick Nelson is leading the way in the final steps of creating the Twins Daily Annual Offseason Handbook. More details, and the ability to pre-order, will be made available later this week. As we have in the past, we'll take a look at what options the Twins may have during the upcoming offseason. Trade Targets. Free Agents. Exclusive articles from the Twins Daily owners only available in the electronic book. Definitely something Twins fans will want at their fingertips.
- Oct 16 2017 07:31 AM
- by Seth Stohs
How does this strategy work when creating the starting line-ups? I'm glad you asked...
American League All-Star Starters
C: Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals
1B: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
2B: Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
3B: Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins
SS: Carlos Correa, Houston Astros
OF: George Springer, Houston Astros
OF: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
OF: Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
DH: Corey Dickerson, Tampa Bay Rays
SP: Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox
There aren't too many surprises on this starting line-up. Catching has become a wasteland across the baseball world but Perez provides some offensive punch and solid defensive skills. At first base, there isn't anyone that stood out to me from the first half so I picked Cabrera, the player likely on his way to Cooperstown. Houston is off to a tremendous start and their core trio of players all deserve starting nods. Trout is injured but he is still the best player in the game and he deserves to be recognized.
Miguel Sano is in a tight race with the Indians' Jose Ramirez for the starting job at third. My vote goes to Sano for his bat and what he has meant to the Twins in the first half. Judge had a first half for the ages and his numbers can't be ignored. Dickerson leads a designated hitter pack that doesn't have a lot of standout candidates.
Sale seems like the logical choice to be the American League's starting pitcher. Twins' fans saw first hand what he did to Minnesota's line-up when the club was in Boston. He's at the top of the AL in a variety of pitching categories and it makes sense to trot him out for the first couple of innings.
National League All-Star Starters
C: Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
1B: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
2B: Daniel Murphy, Washington Nationals
3B: Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs
SS: Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers
OF: Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
OF: Charlie Blackmon, Colorado Rockies
OF: Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers
SP: Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals
There were a couple of tough decisions on the National League side of the game. There are a handful of players with strong credentials at first base but I eventually settled on Goldschmidt for what he can do on both sides of the ball. Third base was another challenge. Bryant had an amazing 2016 and he has been doing well this season so he gets the starting nod (even though he was just hurt). I'm a big fan of Nolan Arenado so as a fan I would vote for him.
Harper and Blackmon stand out as strong candidates in the outfield. With Trout injured, Blackmon might be the best center fielder in the game. Bellinger has been a force since being called up so the only thing holding him back might be his late arrival. Posey, Murphy and Seager were easy choices at their position.
Like Sale in the American League, Scherzer is off to a tremendous start. As the reigning NL Cy Young winner, Scherzer looks poised to make another All-Star squad and be the first pitcher on the mound. Clayton Kershaw would be another candidate but Scherzer's numbers are too strong this season.
So there's my starters with a few picks that were tough to make. Who would part of your All-Star starting rosters? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
- Jun 29 2017 03:41 PM
- by Cody Christie
There are a couple of different scenarios. He's easily defined as a three-true -outcomes (the hits that aren't dependent on defense: strikeout, walk, or home run) player. Sano also is flirting with sustainability when it comes to BABIP (batting average on balls in play) from which home runs are excluded. So, when looking at those two scenarios, the question becomes how much should we believe in his current .319/.439/.638 slash line?
In answering that question, we can present the notion that it's both a mirage and sustainable at the same time. When the dust settles in 2017, I think it'd be foolish to expect Miguel Sano to hit above .300. He simply strikes out far too often for that to happen. However, he's not a traditional three-true-outcomes batter.
Let's look at what the numbers tell us. 34.5% of the time in 2017, Miguel Sano is striking out. That is the 5th worst percentage in the big leagues, and behind a group that includes Keon Broxton, Joey Gallo, Chris Davis, and Byron Buxton. On the flip side, Sano walks a ridiculous 17.5% of the time, good enough for third best in the big leagues. In generating free passes, he is able to sustain his on base percentage, even before looking at what happens when he makes contact.
That contact is where things get interesting. As of May 23, Sano has generated 82 batted ball events, or balls in play. 43 of those have been hit at 98 mph or more. His 98.2 mph average exit velocity leads the big leagues, and is nearly 4 mph above the second place finisher, Yankees Aaron Judge. Breaking down the 43 balls put in play above 98 mph, Sano has generated 32 hits and barreled 20 balls (5th most in MLB). To summarize, and as I wrote on May 1, Miguel Sano is crushing the ball.
So, is it a problem that Sano strikes out in nearly one third of his plate appearances? Sure, it's not ideal. Is it likely that the Twins third basemen is going to sustain a .439 BABIP and continue to bat above .300? No, probably not. What is worth noting however, is that the results are a by-product of an approach that has Sano swinging with all he has in virtually every plate appearance.
Production for Sano is a result of consistent hard contact. He has generated hard contact 52.4% of the time (first in MLB) while making soft contact just 3.7% of the time (lowest in MLB by nearly 5%). Those numbers suggest that while his BABIP will flatten out (and his average will follow suit) the decline will not nearly be as stark as it would be in a different scenario. Realistically, the decline for Sano will come more from a lack of swing power on his own accord, as opposed to the numbers normalizing from an inflated level.
Just two months into the season, it's hard to suggest that Miguel Sano is going to be consistently able to swing as hard in September as he is right now. His legs, torso and upper body will undoubtedly go through wear and tear as the season goes on and it'll be worth monitoring to see if his swing loses oomph because of it. Should things stay consistent though, Miguel Sano is going to consistently experience inflated BABIP numbers, and will remain a non-traditional three-true- outcomes player because of the quality of the balls being put in play.
Until Sano is consistently fooled on pitches, or can no longer catch up to heat, he's going to get the upper hand on opposing pitchers every time the ball hits his bat. The results are there to prove that, and while they'll level off some, we aren't watching Adam Dunn (even in his prime) here.
For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz
- May 25 2017 12:47 PM
- by Ted Schwerzler
American League MVP Race
For the second time in his young career, Mike Trout has surpassed 10 WAR according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs has Trout a tick under 10 with a 9.4 WAR. Both of these totals are a full win higher than his next closest competitor, Mookie Betts.
Betts versus Trout is going to be the hot-button topic in the MVP race. Trout led all of baseball in runs, walks, OBP, and OPS + while playing terrific defense in center field. The Angels PR Department tweeted out a list of Trout's accomplishments this seasonand it's pretty remarkable. Betts led all of baseball in at-bats and total bases while playing defense that might have been better than Trout's.
The Angels haven't been within five games of first place since the middle of May. Betts and the Red Sox have been near the top of the AL East for most of the season. Since September 7, Boston has lead the East. Over the last month of the season, while being in the middle of the pennant race, Betts has hit .310/.373/.389 with seven extra-base hits.
Should the voting members of the BBWAA pick a very good player on a 90-win team? Or should the best player in baseball over the last couple of years get his second MVP award? Betts might have the narrative that voters tend to favor but Trout has been better than Betts so my vote goes to him.
Who should win? Trout
Who will win? Betts
Complete Ballot: 1. Trout, 2. Betts, 3. Josh Donaldson, 4. Jose Altuve, 5. Manny Machado, 6. Robinson Cano, 7. Adrian Beltre, 8. Dozier, 9. Francisco Lindor, 10. Corey Kluber
National League MVP Race
While the AL race might be close, the National League race could be a unanimous choice. The Chicago Cubs were the best team in baseball for most of the season. They won over 100 games and cruised to a division title in what had been one of the toughest divisions in recent years. Kris Bryant has been the best player in the league and he should easily win his first MVP.
Bryant has been impressive during his second full-season. He led the NL in runs while raising all of his offensive numbers. In 2015, he led the league with 199 strikeouts but he cut that number back to 154 this year. He's also been used at multiple defensive positions including third base, first base, shortstop, and all three outfield positions.
Corey Seager and Daniel Murphy will have a good battle for the NL's runner-up spot. Both players had very good seasons on teams that easily won their divisions. Seager's impressive rookie campaign could be the sign of future MVP awards. Murphy might be the missing link for a Nationals club that has struggled with finding post-season success.
Who should win? Bryant
Who will win? Bryant
Complete Ballot: 1. Bryant, 2. Seager, 3. Murphy, 4. Anthony Rizzo, 5. Freddie Freeman, 6. Max Scherzer, 7. Nolan Arenado, 8. Brandon Crawford, 9. Justin Turner, 10. Noah Syndergaard
How would you ballot look for each league? Leave a COMMENT and start this discussion.
- Oct 03 2016 08:42 PM
- by Cody Christie
By The Numbers
Dozier's 39 home runs as a second baseman (two have come as DH) have him tied for the all-time AL record by a second baseman. He is only three home runs behind Davey Johnson and Rogers Hornsby for the MLB record. Baseball Reference ranks Dozier as the fifth best player in the AL this season while FanGraphs ranks him as the sixth best AL player. He has more home runs than everyone in front of him and he is closing in on the century mark with RBIs (98) and runs (99).
When Dozier scores his next run, he will join Chuck Knoblach as the only Twins to ever score 100-plus runs in three straight seasons. Since June 18, Dozier has 34 home runs, the most in baseball, while his closest competitors have only managed 22 apiece. During his current 22-game hitting streak, he's slashing .351/.425/.766 with 11 home runs in 94 at-bats.
Voters tend to look at the best players on winning teams when handing out the top AL hardware. However, there is a historical precedent for MVPs playing for losing teams. The 1991 Baltimore Orioles finished in sixth place in the AL East with a 67-95 record. Cal Ripken Jr. cranked 34 home runs and drove in 114 on his way to the AL MVP.
The 2003 Texas Rangers finished the year with 91 losses but Alex Rodriguez still came away with the AL's top honor. Rodriguez had a historic season for a shortstop, hitting 47 home runs and drove in 118 RBIs. He combined for a 8.4 WAR, the seventh best total of his career.
It takes the right atmosphere in the baseball world but it is not unprecedented for a player on a losing team to win the MVP.
Candidates Catching A Cold
For much of the first half of the season, it looked like Jose Altuve could run away with the AL MVP. The Astros were playing well and he was putting up tremendous numbers. He hit .341/.413/.542 with 14 home runs, 24 doubles and 23 stolen bases. As the Astros have fallen further behind in the standings, Altuve has struggled at the plate. So far in September, he is hitting .222/.279/.365 with five extra-base hits.
Josh Donaldson, the 2015 AL MVP, looked to join Miguel Cabrera as the only back-to-back MVP winner in the 2000's. Much like Altuve, he played very well in the first half by combining for a 1.017 OPS with 23 home runs and 20 doubles. A second half slide has seen his average dip to .253 with just 20 extra-base hits. Toronto is just four game out in the AL East so this could help Donaldson's candidacy.
Fishing For Trout
While other candidates might be falling by the wayside, Mike Trout might be emerging as a favorite. Like Dozier, Trout is on a bad team but his WAR total far outpaces the competition on both Baseball Reference and FanGraphs. He entered play on Monday leading the AL in walks and OBP. He's also on pace to lead the AL in offensive WAR for the sixth consecutive season.
If the voters looked solely at WAR, Trout would have more MVPs in his trophy case. His lone MVP award came in 2014 when the Angels won the AL West by 10 games. If Altuve and Donaldson continue their recent cold streaks, the voters might look to a familiar name even if he is on a bad Angels squad. By many accounts, he is the best player in the game and he has only one MVP award.
When push comes to shove, Dozier will likely get some top-10 and even top-5 votes for the AL MVP. He would need to continue his blistering pace over the last few weeks to make his numbers truly stand apart from the crowd.
Unfortunately, there haven't been many eyes on Minnesota baseball this season and that will only hurt his MVP chances. It's been an historic season for the Twins Brian Dozier but it has been a small ripple in a very big MLB pond.
Where would Dozier be on your AL MVP Ballot? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
- Sep 19 2016 09:40 PM
- by Cody Christie
Leading: Salvador Perez, Royals
My Pick: Salvador Perez, Royals
Catching is in a rough spot in the American League especially with Joe Mauer no longer being an option behind the plate. Salvador Perez, the reigning World Series MVP, leads the league in fWAR during the last 365 days. Blake Swihart and Matt Wieters are tied for a distant second place. Perez is hitting close to .300 and getting on-base 33% of the time. He hit a career high 21 home runs last season and he already has 12 long balls so far this season. He's never posted a slugging percentage over .475 in his career and he's sitting at a .520 OPS in 2016.
Leading: Eric Hosmer, Royals
My Pick: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
There are plenty of candidates for this spot but it has become a two-man battle. The voting block in Kansas City has Eric Hosmer out to a 550,000 vote lead at the last check-in but he doesn't get my vote. Sometimes it's about putting a player in who is one of the best players in the generation. Cabrera's average has dipped a little this year from his normal standards but he is still hitting .295/.368/.529 with 17 home runs after only hitting 18 home runs last season. I'd put Chris Davis ahead of Hosmer on my ballot as well so the player likely to start wouldn't be in my top 2 for voting purposes.
Leading: Jose Altuve, Astros
My Pick: Jose Altuve, Astros
There are some bigger names on the ballot like Robinson Cano and Dustin Pedroia but Jose Altuve is in the midst of a historic season. Altuve has a career OPS of just over .780 and this season he is closing in on a 1.000 OPS. By the way, he's leading the American League in batting too. If the Astros keep playing well, Altuve will be in the discussion for the AL MVP and this would be his fourth All-Star Game in the last five seasons. Cano and Pedroia might be the big names but everyone needs to get familiar with Altuve because he might be in this position for years to come.
Leading: Manny Machado, Orioles
My Pick: Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays
This two-man battle features the defending AL MVP in Josh Donaldson versus the up-and-coming Manny Machado. Both players have been very good over the last calendar year. In fact, each of these players has been one of the top five players in the game this season. Look at the chart below to see how close the battle is between them even with Machado sliding over to play shortstop in the absence of JJ Hardy.
Donaldson has been slightly better so I will give him the nod but they should both be playing in San Diego.
Leading: Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox
My Pick: Francisco Lindor, Indians
We might be living in the "Golden Age of Shortstops" in the American League. Francisco Lindor, Xander Bogaerts, and Carlos Correa are all young and dominating at one of the toughest defensive positions in the field. Lindor has dominated on both sides of the ball, being an offensive threat while playing some of the best defense in the game at shortstop. His 8.2 fWAR over the last calendar year is 1.5 points higher than Bogaerts and 3.6 points higher than Correa. Lindor plays in Cleveland where he isn't getting much attention but he is showing that he is one of the top overall players in the game.
Leading: Mike Trout, Angels; Jackie Bradley Jr., Red Sox; Mookie Betts, Red Sox
My Picks: Mike Trout, Angels; Lorenzo Cain, Royals, Mookie Betts, Red Sox
Mike Trout is another easy pick as he has helped the AL win the last two All-Star Games on his way to earning back-to-back All-Star Game MVPs. Even though he was just injured, Lorenzo Cain gets a big jump from his defensive numbers while holding his own on the offensive side of the ball. He also helped the Royals to their first World Series Championship since the 1980s. The last spot is a toss up between Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. so I gave my vote to Betts. I like his ability to steal bases and that can be a handy addition to the roster of an All-Star squad.
Leading: David Ortiz, Red Sox
My Pick: David Ortiz, Red Sox
Probably the easiest pick on the board. David Ortiz will retire at season's end and ride off into the sunset of what is likely a Hall-of-Fame career. It helps that Ortiz is also having a very strong season at the plate. This is nothing against Edwin Encarnacion and the season he is having, but Ortiz is a legend. The 2016 All-Star Game might turn into an honoring for Ortiz much like the 2014 All-Star Game in Minnesota honored Derek Jeter. Ortiz will bow out and let other players take his place in the years to come.
So there's my ballot with a few picks that were tough to make. Who would make your AL All-Star team? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
- Jun 29 2016 06:25 PM
- by Cody Christie
Major League Baseball's drafting process is a very different animal compared to other major sports leagues like the NFL and the NBA. In the other leagues, the players being drafted can be playing the very next season and making a major contribution. In the baseball world, this isn't the case as it can take years for talent from a specific draft pool to make their big league debuts.
Here are a few ground rules for this post:
- I was limited to taking players selected after the Twins drafted their player.
- This was assuming every pick before the Twins followed the same order.
- I start with the 2011 draft because most players from the 2012 draft, like Byron Buxton, are just beginning their MLB careers.
- In a true redraft, the players on this list would obviously be gone long before the Twins made their pick
Minnesota's Pick: Levi Michael, SS (30th overall)
Redraft Pick: Jackie Bradley, Boston Red Sox (40th overall)
The Twins hoped Michael's college success could translate to a strong professional career but he has developed into an organizational depth player. He might get a cup of coffee at the big league level but that would probably be the end of it. Bradley is developing into a core member of a young Red Sox squad that is trending upwards. Minnesota has other young prospects playing in the outfield like Max Kepler and Miguel Sano but Bradley would be another piece to add to the mix.
Minnesota's Pick: Alex Wimmers, RHP (21st overall)
Redraft Pick: Noah Syndergaard, Toronto Blue Jays (38th overall)
Minnesota missed out in this draft as the team took a college starter for the second straight year. Wimmers has never panned out in the minors and there were some other strong names left on the board. Christian Yelich was taken by the Marlins two picks after Wimmers. Taijuan Walker was selected at the end of the first round by the Mariners. However, the player the Twins missed out on was Noah Syndergaard as he dropped all the way to the Blue Jays with the 38th overall pick. Syndergaard looks more and more like he will develop into a very strong piece of the Mets rotation. Young pitching is valuable and Minnesota swung and missed, like most players do, on a Syndergaard fastball.
Minnesota's Pick: Kyle Gibson, RHP (22nd overall)
Redraft Pick: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels (25th overall)
Almost every MLB team wishes they had a shot to redraft this first round. Mike Trout, one of the top players in the game, fell to the Angels with the 25th pick. Stephen Strasburg was a solid number one pick but any team would give up a lot to have Trout in the line-up on a daily basis. Gibson fell to the Twins after an injury late in college scared some teams away. He was also on the fast track to the big leagues before Tommy John surgery put him on the sidelines. Gibson could end up being a middle of the rotation starter but he definitely wouldn't be worth a Trout trade.
Minnesota's Pick: Aaron Hicks, OF (14th overall)
Redraft Pick: Jake Odorizzi, Milwaukee Brewers (32nd overall)
At the time, Hicks was a strong pick with plenty of upside. However, his flaws as a player have come to the surface during his big league career. His defense can be amazing but it doesn't look like he will be a consistent hitter at baseball's highest level. Minnesota took three players (Hicks, Carlos Gutierrez, and Shooter Hunter) before Jake Odorizzi came off the board at pick number 32. Odorizzi has turned into a solid starter for the Rays and he would be a welcome addition in the Twins current rotation. Overall, the 2008 first round has been rough with Buster Posey being the lone star.
Minnesota's Pick: Ben Revere, OF (28th overall)
Redraft Pick: Josh Donaldson, Chicago Cubs (48th overall)
The Twins liked Revere's athleticism and speed so they took him one pick after the Tigers selected Rick Porcello. Todd Frazier was taken five picks after Revere but the biggest miss might have been passing on last year's American League MVP. Donaldson's career WAR only trails David Price, Madison Bumgarner, and Jason Heyward from the 2007 first round. There are plenty of other teams that passed on Donaldson but he could be a difference maker at third base for the Twins.
Here's how Minnesota's line-up could look with the moves made above:
1. Jackie Bradley Jr.- LF
2. Joe Mauer- 1B
3. Mike Trout- CF
4. Josh Donaldson- 3B
5. Miguel Sano- RF
6. Eduardo Nunez- SS
7. Brian Dozier- 2B
8. Byung Ho Park- DH
9. Kurt Suzuki- C
1. Noah Syndergaard
2. Jake Odorizzi
3. Ervin Santana
4. Tyler Duffey
5. Pat Dean
What are your thoughts? Who would you have taken? How could Byron Buxton fit into this crowded line-up? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
- Jun 10 2016 09:17 PM
- by Cody Christie
To understand why this could be necessary, it's important to understand the current state of affairs in Los Angeles. The Angels are hurting with mounting injuries and they have a historically bad minor league system. Having the best player in the world doesn't help if a team isn't able to provide supporting pieces to make a postseason run. Los Angeles hasn't been in the playoffs since 2014 and they haven't won a playoff series since 2009.
Minnesota's poor start to the season isn't exactly screaming that this club is ready to take a big step forward and make a playoff push. However, the Twins have one of the best farm systems in the game and this means they could put together quite the package to try to lure Los Angeles into at least considering a deal.
Any deal for Trout would likely need to include many of the Twins best prospects. Coming into the 2016 season, Minnesota's top position player prospects included Byron Buxton, Nick Gordon, Max Kepler, and Jorge Polanco. The team's best pitching prospects were Jose Berrios, Tyler Jay, Stephen Gonsalves, and Kohl Stewart.
For the Twins to make this kind of move, it would likely take five, six, or even seven of these players. The club has a lot already invested in each of these men as they get closer to becoming big league regulars. This core of young talent is supposed to change a losing culture back into this organization's winning ways.
Trout is a superstar player and he can make a huge difference on the field but he can't play all nine positions at once. He is under contract through 2020 when he will be 28-years old. The scary thing could be that he might still be getting better as he gets closer to his prime and this would only add more value to his current contract.
The Twins don't look like they are in a position to win this season. Trading away the organization's top prospects would be bargaining away the future with no guarantee that Trout would bring winning baseball back to Minnesota. In fact, Trout coming to Minnesota might be a worse situation for him than his current club unless the Twins were to overhaul their roster. That would be tough to do with a chunk of the farm system dealt for Trout.
At this point, a deal for Trout might be a pipe dream as the Angels' GM came out and said that Trout isn't going anywhere. "We have not intent or desire to consider moving Mike Trout -- he's not moving," said Billy Eppler told Fox Sports. "He's an impact player, a huge piece in a championship core."
If you are sitting in Terry Ryan's chair, what kind of offer would you put on the table? Would it be worth betting the future for the best player in the game? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
- May 12 2016 08:25 PM
- by Cody Christie
So, let’s start our prediction segment with my predictions for the AL Central:
American League Central
- Kansas City Royals
- Minnesota Twins
- Detroit Tigers
- Chicago White Sox
American League East
- Toronto Blue Jays
- Boston Red Sox
- New York Yankees
- Tampa Bay Rays
- Baltimore Orioles
American League West
- Houston Astros
- Texas Rangers
- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
- Seattle Mariners
- Oakland A’s
National League Central
- Chicago Cubs
- Pittsburgh Pirates
- St. Louis Cardinals
- Cincinnati Reds
- Milwaukee Brewers
National League East
- Washington Nationals
- New York Mets
- Miami Marlins
- Philadelphia Phillies
National League West
- San Francisco Giants
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Arizona Diamondbacks
- San Diego Padres
- Colorado Rockies
American League Wild Card - Minnesota over Texas
National League Wild Card - Pittsburgh over the Mets
ALDS - Toronto over Minnesota, and Houston over Kansas City
NLDS - Pittsburgh over Chicago, and San Francisco over the Mets
ALCS - Toronto over Houston, and San Fransciso over Pittsburgh.
World Series - San Francisco over Toronto
The Giants continue their every-other-year World Series championship run.
Next, let’s get to the individual awards for 2016. Others have made their predictions, but here are mine.
American League MVP
- Carlos Correa, Houston
- Mike Trout, Los Angeles
- Josh Donaldson, Toronto
- Miguel Sano, Minnesota
- Mookie Betts, Boston
- Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland
- Marcus Stroman, Toronto
- Chris Archer, Tampa Bay
- Byron Buxton, Minnesota
- Blake Snell, Tampa Bay
- Byung Ho Park, Minnesota
- Bryce Harper, Washington
- Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona
- Anthony Rizzo, Chicago
- Starling Marte, Pittsburgh
- Kris Bryant, Chicago
- Clayton Kershaw, Los Angeles
- Gerrit Cole, Pittsburgh
- Max Scherzer, Washington
- Trevor Story, Colorado
- Kenta Maeda, Arizona
- Corey Seager, Los Angeles
- Apr 05 2016 07:12 PM
- by Seth Stohs
Friday night, the Twins and Angels game was postponed due to rain. On Thursday night, Mike Trout launched two home runs and drove in five runs to help the Angels to a victory. Trout has become a rare, generational player. He debuted in 2011 as a 19-year-old. He was an All-Star, Rookie of the Year and runner up for the MVP the next year as a 20-year-old. He was the runner up for MVP in 2013. In 2014, he won his first MVP award. This year, he’s having an even better season. And he just turned 24 at the beginning of August. And, before the season he signed a six-year, $144.5 million contract that takes him through 2020, when he’ll become a free agent at age 29. Just imagine what that next contract might be!
We all know that his father, Jeff Trout, was the Twins fifth-round pick in 1983 out of the University of Delaware. That season, he played in the Midwest League, for Wisconsin Rapids. His manager that year was Charlie Manuel. In 1984, he jumped up to AA Orlando where he hit .285/.351/.378 (.729) with 17 doubles, seven triples and four home runs in 130 games. He returned to Orlando in 1985 and hit .279/.385/.398 (.783) with 20 doubles, three triples and three home runs in 95 games. He was 24 years old that season. He was back in Orlando in 1986 as well. He hit .321/.406/.451 (.857) with 22 doubles, four triples and seven home runs in 105 games. Certainly a solid season, but he never played pro ball again. In his pro career, he stole eight bases and was caught 15 times.
Safe to say that his son has outperformed him on the baseball field.
I remember the first time I decided to make the five hour trek from the Twin Cities to Beloit for some Midwest League action. Former Twins blogger Josh Johnson and I packed up and went to a Friday and Saturday game. We were excited to see Aaron Hicks, Danny Rams and Angel Morales among others. That Friday night game, Brian Dozier was the shortstop for the Beloit Snappers. After the game, he was promoted to Ft. Myers. Taking his spot on the Snappers roster and playing shortstop that second game was Danny Santana.
Ironically, the Snappers were playing the Cedar Rapids Kernels, then an affiliate of the Angels. The centerfielder for the Kernels was Mike Trout. Even then, as an 18-year-old, he stood out on the field. Obviously I’m not a scout, but I know the game of baseball, and you could just see his talent offensively and defensively.
I like to tell the story that I went in to the bathroom at Pohlman Stadium in Beloit in between innings, and I stood next to Trout at the urinals. Weird, maybe crude story, but true. I have strict rules about conversing in public facilities, but maybe I should have made an exception if only I had known how good he would become. Maybe even shake hands. Maybe not.
Trout was 18-years-old in the Midwest League and in 81 games he hit .362/.454/.526 (.979) with 19 doubles, seven triples and six home runs. He was the Kernels’ leadoff hitter. He also stole 45 bases in 54 attempts.
I couldn’t help but wonder how he did against Snappers/Twins pitchers during his time. Baseball-Reference doesn’t have the game logs for the minor leagues from 2010, so I went to milb.com and went through box scores. It was kind of a tedious activity, but for me, it was a fun walk down Twins prospect memory lane, reading names I hadn’t seen in quite some time.
The Snappers actually started their season in 2010 with a three game series in Cedar Rapids. Liam Hendriks was the Snappers Opening Day starter. He struck out Trout in their first inning matchup. In the third, Trout rolled back to Hendriks.
It was Tom Stuifbergen who faced Trout in the sixth inning. He struck him out looking. In the eighth inning, Steve Blevins gave up an infield single to Trout. In the bottom of the 10th, with Kane Holbrooks on the mound, Trout grounded out to Dozier at shortstop for a fielder’s choice to end the game.
In that three –game series, Trout had just the one infield single in 13 at-bats.
I won’t dig into each of the games, but here is how Trout fared against the Snappers pitchers he faced before his July promotion to High-A.
- Liam Hendriks – 0-2 with a strikeout and groundout.
- Tom Stuifbergen – 0-1 with a strikeout
- Steve Blevins – 1-1 with a single
- Kane Holbrooks – 0-3 with two strikeouts and a groundout.
- Dan Osterbrock – 0-3 with two groundouts and a fly out
- Dakota Watts – 0-3 with a walk and three strikeouts (pretty good)
- Miguel Munoz – 2-11 with a walk, a single, and a three-run triple. Also three strikeouts.
- Eliecer Cardenas – 1-3 with a single and strikeout
- Jhon Garcia – 0-1 with a walk and a strikeout
- Peter Kennelly – 0-2 with two walks
- Brad Stillings – 4-10 with three singles, a double and a strikeout
- Chris Armstrong – 1-2 with a double.
- Matt Tone – 0-0 with a walk
- BJ Hermsen – 0-3 with a walk
- Michael Tonkin – 2-3 with a walk, two hit by pitches, a single and a strikeout
In a mid-June appearance in Cedar Rapids, about an hour from his hometown, BJ Hermsen threw a complete game, one-hit shutout. He lost a perfect game bid when he walked Trout in the fourth inning. He lost a no-hitter in the eighth inning on a single.
Liam Hendriks made just six starts at the beginning of that 2010 season in Beloit. He was 2-1 with a 1.32 ERA. In 34 innings, he gave up just 16 hits, walked four and struck out 39. He debuted with the Twins as a 22-year-old a year later. Hendriks has faced Trout just once in the big leagues. He intentionally walked him. That’s probably never a bad strategy.
Michael Tonkin was a late-round draft pick of the Twins in 2008 and pitched in six games for the GCL Twins that season. He remained with the GCL Twins for 2009 as well. In 2010, Tonkin began the season with the Snappers as a starter. He made 12 starts (and one bullpen appearance) and went 3-6 with a 4.29 ERA. When the short-season began, he went to Elizabethton and posted a 1.08 ERA out of the bullpen. He made a full-time transition to the bullpen in 2011. He pitched in 48 games for the Snappers in 2011 and 22 more in 2012. It was important for him to get that small sample in 2012 because that’s when he really took off as a prospect. Tonkin has faced Trout four times in the big leagues. The All-Star is 1-2 with two walks against Tonkin.
Dakota Watts was a hard-throwing bullpen guy, though at times he struggled with his control. He was the Twins 16th round pick in 2009 out of college. As a 22-year-old in 2010, he pitched in 30 games for the Snappers followed by 17 games with the Miracle. He even pitched in two games for AA New Britain. In 2011, 2012 and 2013, he split the seasons between the Miracle and Rock Cats. In 2014 and 2015, he has pitched in the independent American Association. Late in the season, he was signed by the Texas Rangers and pitched for High Desert.
Trout moved quickly through the Angels minor league system. Those other Angels affiliates played in different leagues than the Twins affiliates, so there were no other Trout vs. Twins minor league numbers to report.
Several of the pitchers mentioned above never pitched above the Midwest League, but they still have a pretty cool story to tell their kids and grand kids. They once pitched against Mike Trout.
- Sep 19 2015 01:41 PM
- by Seth Stohs
Vegas set the over/under on season wins for Los Angeles at 86.5, which the Angels could break before they leave Target Field. I stupidly thought that was crazy high. After all, this was a team that imploded last year with only 78 wins after winning 89 games the year before. Their starting pitching ranked 22nd in the majors in ERA. There was talk of firing manager Mike Scioscia at the conclusion of the season, though he hung on. And after making big splash after big splash for the last several offseasons, their winter was deafeningly quiet. This felt like the beginning of a very long death rattle.
Nope. The pitching staff completely rebounded , moving up to 9th in the league in ERA. Pair that with an offense that is 4th in runs scored. While the rival A’s received praise for their aggressive trade deadline moves, the Angles not only have established a 4.5 game lead in the AL West, they overcame a 3.5 game deficit in early August to do so. That included a four-game sweep of the A’s last week.
The Best Player
Speaking of Vegas, Angels centerfielder Mike Trout is now a 1/8 favorite to win the AL MVP Award that has eluded him thus far. That means if you want to bet that Trout will win the AL MVP, you need to pony up $800 to win $100. If Vegas will still take those odds, you might want to mortgage the farm, because it’s a lock.
It’ll be interesting to see if the sabrmetric community rallies around him this year, like they did the last two years when he led the AL in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), only to finish second in the AL MVP voting. Because this year he doesn’t lead the league in WAR. That honor belong to Oakland’s Josh Donaldson who has a 6.9 WAR compared to a 6.6 WAR for Trout. Trout may win the award in what has been his worst full year in the majors.
There are two differences. First, his batting average has slipped considerably this year. He entered the season with a .314 batting average and is hitting “only” .285 this year. The 40 point decrease from the 2013 has led to a 60 point slump in on-base percentage and OPS, although his OPS is still third in the league.
In fact, he is still well-represented across the batting leader boards. Trout ranks 4th in slugging, second in runs scored, first in total bases, fourth in home runs and second in RBIs. He also ranks first overall in offensive WAR, which points us to the other area in which he has slipped…..
According to defensive metrics, Trout has taken a step backward in center field this year. In 2012, Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) ranked him as very good in center, and last year he was slightly above average. This year he is below average although Inside Edge Fielding doesn’t seem to agree. In fact, it shows him reaching more “Unlikely”, “Even” and “Likely” plays than he did lat year.
Still, it appears he deserves the trophy this year, regardless of whether you’re an old school or new school baseball fan. He certainly deserves the cost of a ticket. I’ll be taking advantage of one of the last good weekends this year to watch an MVP in action.
- Sep 04 2014 10:05 PM
- by John Bonnes