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Article: Mailbag: Available Pitchers, Buxton Hype, Baseball Time Machine

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#1 Cody Christie

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 09:30 PM

Snow continues to pile up. My snow blower was brand new this year and it’s already asking for an early retirement. Reports from Fort Myers say there is less snow near the Gulf of Mexico. Maybe all of Twins Territory can relocated to Florida for a couple weeks.

While we have all been stuck inside, there were some great questions sent my way. Follow me on Twitter so you can be part of the next Twins Daily mailbag.
Last year, the Twins signed players late into the spring as free agents were still available. Last week the club added Marwin Gonzalez, which might have seemed like a stretch at the beginning of the off-season. Instead, he was available and fell into the Twins laps. This is a phrase that has been thrown out multiple times by the front office. So… could a pitcher fall into the team’s lap?

Dallas Keuchel was the top free agent starter on the market, and he has yet to sign. As a 31-year old, he is coming off a year where he posted a 3.74 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP in 204.2 innings. It seems logical that plenty of teams would be interested in his services. My guess is he ends up back in Houston to solidify their rotation.

That being said, it sounds like he was good friends with Gonzales during their time in Houston. Maybe a reunion could be in the works. The Minneapolis Star Tribune doesn’t believe Keuchel will be coming to Minnesota. It seems most likely for the team to start the season with the current pitchers on the roster.


Gio Gonzalez does little to excite me as a free agent. Last year as a 32-year old, he posted a 4.21 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP in 171.0 innings. He could be a nice veteran presence at the back of the rotation, but I’d rather give those innings to a younger arm. Minnesota will start the year with Jose Berrios, Kyle Gibson, Michael Pineda, and Jake Odorizzi occupying the top four spots in the rotation. Innings that could be allotted to Gonzalez should go to the likes of Martin Perez, Adalberto Mejia, Kohl Stewart, and Stephen Gonsalves.


Even with the strong reports about Stephen Gonsalves, I doubt there is any way he makes the team out of spring training. The early weeks of the season are full of extra off-days and Minnesota will likely have some weather delays, sine the Home Opener is scheduled before the calendar turns to April. With that in mind, the club won’t need a fifth starter near the beginning of the year. This allows the team to carry an extra bullpen arm or an extra bat for the bench.

Without an injury to one of the top starters, there is almost no chance Gonsalves breaks camp with the club. He will start the year in Rochester and be only a phone call away.


I would love to buy into all of the Byron Buxton spring training hype. Unfortunately, spring training numbers mean little for the regular season. It’s great for his confidence to be finding consistent success, but fans haven’t seen him put it all together at the big-league level. Until he can do it consistently with the Twins, there will be a lot of fans that wonder if the Twins made the right choice with Buxton.

However, many fans were disappointed with Joe Mauer for the majority of his career and he could end up being a Hall of Fame player. Earlier this off-season, I identified Buxton’s emergence as one of the keys to 2019. I still believe that to be true. He could end up being an All-Star. He could end up struggling. It seems more likely that he falls somewhere in the middle of those two extremes.


This question took me the longest because of all of the options. Some of the options that popped into my head were Kirby Puckett’s eye injury, Justin Morneau’s concussions, and Joe Mauer’s concussions. All three of these injuries deprived Twins Territory of some tremendous years of Hall of Fame caliber baseball.

My answer might be a little off the beaten path, but I am going to say Francisco Liriano’s Tommy John surgery in 2006. I fully believe the Twins could have won the World Series that season had Liriano stayed healthy. No team was going to beat Liriano and Johan Santana multiple times in the same series. It might have been one of the most dominant one-two punches in playoff history.

I think Liriano’s arm injury deprived the Twins organization of their third World Series title.


I think the Twins have made it clear this off-season. They don’t want to be known as the club that battles their tails off. They want to hit home runs and they want to hit a lot of home runs. Minnesota’s 2019 roster is going to hit the ball over the fence and the club is going to strike out a lot. This might be good and it might be bad, but it’s a far cry from the Nick Punto days back in the Metrodome.

Thanks to all of those that submitted questions this week. Leave a COMMENT with your own answers to all of these questions.

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Cody Christie
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#2 Einheri

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 10:04 PM

It would have been fun to see the one-two combo punch of Liriano and Santana deep into the post season.  Instead, it was painful watching Liriano leave the field that day (all the time knowing that he was feeling so much worse mentally and physically than I).

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#3 mickeymental

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 01:10 AM

tony o.

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#4 theBOMisthebomb

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 05:42 AM

The Francisco Liriano answer is spot on. Other possibilities are John Castino and Jim Eisenreich. Lyman Bostock and his death were a tragedy. Although he was technically a member of the Angels at the time, it sure was a loss for the Twins and all MLB.
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#5 70charger

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 06:35 AM

tony o.


Great answer. Dude was unreal before he shredded his knees.
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#6 rdehring

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 07:49 AM

Hadn't thought of the Liriano question.But I think you are right, Cody.Frankie and Santana would have been almost unbeatable.Plus, wasn't Radke with the Twins that year...what a trio.

 

 


#7 Blackjack

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 07:58 AM

I really, really hope your prediction of Buxton becoming an all-star comes thru, that 6 months from now we're lamenting the front office not signing him to an extension. 

I'm tired of all the Buxton hype, I'm tired of his bone-headed self inflicted running into walls type injuries, I'd just like to hear talk about how his play is helping the Twins become a contender.   

 

Along those same lines, I hope Rocco keeps him at the bottom of the order for a few months, no matter how good he plans, don't let him think too much, let him gain some confidence.

 

 


#8 ashbury

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 08:00 AM

Let me toss Jason Kubel's name into the mix as well.

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It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into. -- Jonathan Swift


#9 spycake

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 08:01 AM

No team was going to beat Liriano and Johan Santana multiple times in the same series.


You know Oakland swept us in the 2006 ALDS, right? Johan lost game 1, then our bullpen gave up 3 runs and our offense only scored 2 in game 2 -- not sure how much help Liriano could have provided there. Then we scored 3 runs (in garbage time) in game 3. 7 runs total for 3 games.

I'm not sure that losing Liriano was the key factor preventing us from going all the way that year.
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#10 tarheeltwinsfan

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 08:05 AM

Tony Oliva. 

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#11 big dog

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 08:12 AM

Tony O's OPS+ for his first eight full years (including his first knee injury) was 141.He lost almost all of the next year, then played 3 full seasons with an OPS+ of just over 100, playing on one leg.Then he played a half-year.

 

Give the Twins, say, 5 more years of Tony with a normal decline and I think those early '70s teams go farther.

 

Liriano's a good choice, but I don't think his arm injury could be chalked up to bad luck.More like inevitability.

 

I would put Mauer's concussion second and Morneau's third, but both were pretty devastating to a team with some chances.Kirby's eye was tragic, but it wouldn't have mattered to the team's standings- that whole era was pretty tragic.I just wanted Kirby to have a shot at 3000 hits.

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#12 Doctor Wu

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 08:17 AM

 

Let me toss Jason Kubel's name into the mix as well.

Good pick. Kubel was on an upward path until that injury. He was really never the same afterwards.


#13 Aichiman

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 08:30 AM

Yeah, I'd pick Kubel or Castino.And if I can time travel into the future, I might pick Mr. Sano and his bum leg.


#14 ashbury

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 08:36 AM

Good pick. Kubel was on an upward path until that injury. He was really never the same afterwards.

And not just that. We're looking back at 2006? Imagine having Kubel in the batting order instead of Tyner/Nevin (our bizarro-world DHs). And his pre-injury wheels in the outfield instead of Rondell (slide him to DH where he belonged).

 

I don't think Kubel is the one guy whose absence stopped a WS march, any more than Liriano. But oh my, that makes two coulda-woulda-shouldas.

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It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into. -- Jonathan Swift


#15 Mr. Brooks

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 08:46 AM

Sorry, I loved watching Liriano dominate that year, but one pitcher is not the difference between getting swept by a bad team in the first round, and winning the WS. Perhaps if they'd lost that opening round in 5 games you'd have an argument.

This statement should breeze through Common's preposterous statement tournament.

#16 PDX Twin

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 09:21 AM

What makes me toward Oliva is that a strongly suspect (though I don't recall the exact nature of his injuries) that the medical knowledge of 2019 (or even of 1989) could have rebuilt his knee and allowed him to run again.

 

Does anyone with a medical inclination have more information about (1) exactly what he did to his knee and (2) how successfully these problems are treated now?

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It's great to get out of the cellar ... as long as you bring something with you.


#17 spycake

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 09:48 AM

 

And not just that. We're looking back at 2006? Imagine having Kubel in the batting order instead of Tyner/Nevin (our bizarro-world DHs). And his pre-injury wheels in the outfield instead of Rondell (slide him to DH where he belonged).

 

I don't think Kubel is the one guy whose absence stopped a WS march, any more than Liriano. But oh my, that makes two coulda-woulda-shouldas.

 

I wasn't expecting Kubel to come up in this discussion. I always got the impression that the injury delayed his development a year or two, but ultimately didn't really curtail his MLB performance level. Something about his swing seemed pretty exploitable by MLB pitchers, even before the injury.

 

I don't think he had that much speed or defense before the injury either -- he was a right fielder through his entire minor league career, and never was a threat on the bases except for that partial season at Rochester.


#18 AceWrigley

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 09:59 AM

Dave Boswell (and Luis Tiant) injuries sped the demise of the 1969-70 Twins powerhouse.

 

Boswell won 20 games at age 24 in 1969 (after being punched out by none other than our manager, Billy Martin). 2 years and only 4 wins later he was out of baseball after an arm injury pitching to Frank Robinson in the playoffs that year.

 

Tiant was acquired from Cleveland only to suffer from surgery and recovery related arm issues and was released. Who else but Boston enjoyed his recovery.

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#19 JLease

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 10:08 AM

ah, 2006. Man, those years between Corey Koskie and Trevor Plouffe at 3B were a little rough, huh? And why has this franchise had so many crappy DHs?!?

 

That team had the pitching to win a title if Liriano doesn't get hurt, but did they have enough offense? We were still relying on Rondell White (who somehow actually hit in the playoffs, just not in the season), Jason Tyner, the corpse of Phil Nevin...


#20 ashbury

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 10:18 AM

I wasn't expecting Kubel to come up in this discussion. I always got the impression that the injury delayed his development a year or two, but ultimately didn't really curtail his MLB performance level. Something about his swing seemed pretty exploitable by MLB pitchers, even before the injury.

 

I don't think he had that much speed or defense before the injury either -- he was a right fielder through his entire minor league career, and never was a threat on the bases except for that partial season at Rochester.

I thought he was considered to have pretty good wheels, but I don't happen to have a pre-ACL Baseball Prospectus on my bookshelf to re-check that. The 2005 Prospectus certainly is, ahem, measured in its description of his defense - "adequate" is often a left-handed compliment. :) He DH'ed half his games in his September 2004 callup, pre-injury, but that's not unheard of when breaking in a young prospect in September.

 

With his minor league progression, accounting for underperforming at Ft Myers and overperforming at New Britain, and the fact he didn't embarass himself when called up to the majors at age 22, and I don't think it's a stretch to imagine him as an offensive force two years later at age 24, and thereafter.

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It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into. -- Jonathan Swift