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Teflon

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  1. Like
    Teflon reacted to LastOnePicked for a blog entry, Why Winning Matters   
    There’s a great scene in the first season of Ted Lasso. Coach Lasso is sitting and mulling over end of season strategy with his assistant, Coach Beard. Lasso realizes that his approach with his players might not give the team the best shot at winning, but smiles and reassures Coach Beard that “winning ain’t how we measure success.”
    Coach Beard turns red. He slams his fist on the table and hollers, “DAMN IT, IT IS!”
    Winning matters. Which brings us, ironically enough, back to the Minnesota Twins. In the last 18 years of baseball, only two MLB teams have failed to win a postseason game. One of those teams, the Seattle Mariners, are a virtual lock to win a Wild Card spot. That may soon leave the Twins alone at the bottom of the postseason winning heap for this stretch. Last in success, out of all 30 major league teams.
    “C’mon,” you’ll argue. “Stop blowing this out of proportion. Just look at those division pennants waving atop Target Field. One of them is even as recent as 2020. That’s success.” Sure, I know they’re there. I just can’t shake the feeling that they just don’t matter all that much. Sure, the Twins have had some success in a weak division - the children’s table of baseball - building up midseason leads and slipping ahead of marginal competition. But when the heat is on, when the top teams are in town, when the playoff bunting flies, the Twins aren’t much of a ballclub. They don’t win when it really counts, when it would generate excitement, when it would really bring the state together. They are a professional organization run and staffed by what seem to be genuinely decent and otherwise competent people. 
    But they don’t win … and that matters.
    In 1986, I fell head over heels for the Minnesota Twins. They were a bad ballclub, but I loved the game and I loved the team and I loved the Metrodome (yeah, I know). My dad took me to ten games or so that year, taking time from a very busy work schedule to indulge me. He even took me to Fan Appreciation Night, where Bert Blyleven apologized to the crowd for a disappointing season, adding that he saw the core of a talented club that could bring a World Series to Minnesota in 1987.
    My father audibly groaned. “It’ll never happen,” he said. 
    “What if it does,” I asked.
    “Look, if the Twins go to the World Series next year, I’ll buy us both tickets. But it won’t happen, kid.”
    You know the rest. Like magic, it did happen. And we were there. And my father, a serious man, hooted and cheered and waved like a kid. He loved the Twins more than I had realized, and he’d waited his life for this. When they won Game 7, he paraded me through the streets of Minneapolis on his shoulders. We hugged and high-fived strangers and police officers. We celebrated the success of our local team, a scrappy small market underdog. 
    “Enjoy it” he told me. “Because it’ll never happen again.”
    We did not buy tickets to the 1991 series. We watched all the drama from the comfort of home. But I grew up with an embarrassment of baseball riches. More than that, I have memories of my father - the stoic US Navy veteran and successful man of business - that are priceless. I got to see my father become a kid, just like me, bursting with joy over the game of baseball.
    The years are wearing on him now, and it's hard to know how much time we have left together. We don’t talk Twins much anymore, my father and me. He never watches games and rarely reads the box scores. I tried to sit him down to watch the 2019 Twins take on the Marlins on TV. I hyped him up for the “Bomba Squad” and chose an opponent I was sure the Twins could beat. I wanted him back on the bandwagon with me. I thought a special season was coming together again.
    Newly acquired Sam Dyson blew the lead. Buxton injured his shoulder. The Twins lost 5-4 in extras. But my dad didn’t see it end - he had gone to the garage to tinker with the lawn mower engine. Somehow, he knew that team wasn’t anything special. “Wake me up when they look like a winner again,” he told me.
    So here we are, three years removed from the 2019 season which ended in another postseason whimper. The consolation at the time was that the Twins appeared on the cusp of a breakout - a potential string of AL Central dominance that might lead them deep into the playoffs. Instead, we’ve just witnessed an absolutely epic late-season collapse that will leave them in third place and likely below .500 for the second straight year. Worst to third in the AL Central, particularly after signing the #1 free agent in baseball in the offseason, hardly inspires much hope.
    It’s not that these things don’t happen in baseball, or in all professional sports. It would be foolish to expect the Twins - a mid-market team - to win back-to-back championships every decade, or to be angered by occasional rough seasons or disappointing endings. It’s not so much that the Twins lose, but how they lose - and that they lose when it matters most and even when they seemingly have what they need to succeed - that is so hard to stomach. It’s a culture of losing that has essentially destroyed fan morale and widespread interest in the game here in Minnesota. 
    Here’s what I’m trying to say: It’s not just that the Twins lose, it’s how losing no longer seems to be a problem for the organization. 
    No one who represents the Twins really seems disappointed or upset by what's happened this season. There’s no visible sense of urgency or frustration. The club’s director of communication admonishes critics for any negativity and tells fans to “ride with us,” without acknowledging that the club’s trainwreck bullpen failures made getting back in the fandom car seem like a death wish. “We played our game, we played hard,” is Baldelli’s general mantra after bitter losses, as though professionals being paid hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars shouldn’t be expected to “play hard” as a basic condition of their employment. Instead of playoff wins, we’ve gotten endless strings of excuses: injuries, payroll limitations, called strikes that only seem to pinch our batters, and platitudes about being “almost there” and busy “reloading.”
    What’s that old saying? Sound and fury, signifying nothing. Though scratch that - what I wouldn’t give for even a little well-placed fury from this club. They endlessly preach process, but seem to have no real interest in results.
    Meanwhile, there is an entire generation of young people who have never once seen a Twins playoff victory. They’ve never seen their friends or family members turn giddy at the prospect of coming out on top, of beating the big boys of baseball in late autumn.They’ve never seen the way a playoff run can pull people together and shake up the routine of life. Winning inspires chatter and energy. It changes dull small talk about the weather into tales of late-inning heroics. The perfect throw to the plate to preserve a close lead. The seeing-eye single that brought in the tying run. The walk-off home run that electrifies a city.
    Minnesota is a beautiful state. The Twin Cities represent two vibrant metropolitan centers within a short cross-river drive. Greater Minnesota features majestic beauty and kind-hearted communities. At times, we become two very different kinds of people living in the same state. We sometimes lose a common worldview and a common cause. On top of that, we’ve weathered a pandemic, civil unrest, extreme political division and economic instability. Any of the top professional teams in this state that actually commits to winning - and actually does win when it counts - will find that, beyond their own satisfaction, they’ve added a stitch or two to a sense of unity and pride in the state. 
    Winning gives people relief and hope - even in small ways - and it gives them moments and stories with those they love. Yes, baseball is only a sport and maybe even a dying one, but winning is symbolic. Winning inspires.
    I know I’m cranky. There will soon be any number of articles coming from people who are less cranky about how the Twins had some positive developments this year, and that the FO gave their trades and signings their best shot, and that some prospects took major steps forward, and that winning at the professional level isn’t the only thing that matters. I’m going to shake my head when I read those stories. I may even pound my fist on the table.
    Because damn it, it is.
    Winning is how you measure success in MLB. Winning is the only thing that matters at this level (and please don’t counter with “playing the game fairly is more important,” because that, too, is a basic professional expectation that should go without saying). And the Twins don’t win when it counts. And that matters. And anyone who does not make this the top priority for this team should no longer be involved with this organization. Find out why injuries keep derailing promising prospects. Find out why high-leverage situations at the plate and on the mound keep resulting in failure. Find out why the team looks like roadkill when the Yankees come to town. Find out why the team lacks fundamental skills on the bases and in the field. Focus less on mundane processes and more on getting situational results. Put the team through high-stress drills. Get the players ready for battle, rather than stocked with excuses when they fail.
    Because Coach Beard is right. Winning matters. And it’s been far, far, far too long since the Twins have won anything when it counts.
     
  2. Like
    Teflon got a reaction from IndianaTwin for a blog entry, Who Owned Whom? Notable Opposing Players Versus Twins Greats   
    Over a 7-year career ending in 1979, Twins DH Craig Kusick came to the plate 1461 times, compiling an unremarkable slash line of .235/.342/.392. Kusick may have had a briefer stay in the bigs, however,  if it was not for his uncanny ability to hit Frank Tanana of the California Angels  who was the most intimidating strikeout pitcher in the American League not named Nolan Ryan or Vida Blue. 
    Kusick ended up facing Tanana more than any other pitcher over his career – 59 times - which was about 4% of all his plate appearances. In those at-bats, Kusick went  16 for 42 (.381) drawing a Bonds-like 16 walks for a .542 on-base percentage. He also took Tanana deep 4 times in those 42 at-bats and drove in 11 runs.  Three of those home runs came in consecutive games against Tanana in 1976, after which Tanana walked Kusick 7 times in the next 5 times they met – twice intentionally.
    While Kusick was certainly not a Twins great, his inextricable linking to Tanana suggests an interesting related topic. Thanks to the Batter-vs-Pitcher data on Baseball Reference we can now ask and answer who were the opposing players Twins greats faced the most and who owned whom?
    * * * * * * * * * 
    For the first "Who Owned Whom?" we look at a recent Twins great, Joe Mauer.
    Over his 15-year career, Mauer played in 1858 games and had 7960 plate appearances. He batted .306, had an on-base average of .388, slugged .439 with 143 home runs, scored 1018 runs and drove in 939. His most frequent opposing pitcher over his career was none other than Detroit’s Justin Verlander who faced off against Joe in 97 plate appearances. Verlander, who has a career .228 batting average-against and OPS-against of .652, was definitely "owned" by Mauer as Joe finished with a slash line of .317/.423/.537 on 26 for 82 hitting with 15 walks. The 26 hits are the most by Mauer against any pitcher and the first one came in his first at-bat against Verlander in the second game of a Saturday double header versus Detroit on July 23rd, 2005 as Joe hit an 0-2 pitch deep to left field in Detroit for an RBI double.
    The other pitchers Joe faced frequently were Rick Porcello –who fared better than his Tigers teammate - (75 plate appearances, .243/.293/.329) and the unfortunate John Danks of the White Sox.  (71 plate appearances, .381/.451/.476) Coincidentally (or not), Danks is the only pitcher to have beaned Mauer more than once. CC Sabathia is the pitcher that struck Joe out the most   -17 Ks in 52 plate appearances - and, along with another lefty, Mark Buehrle,  most “owned” Joe.  Joe only managed  .196/.269/.239 against Sabathia and .197/209/.303 against Buehrle.
    Sabathia was also the first pitcher Mauer faced in the big leagues in his debut versus Cleveland in the Season Opener at the Metrodome on April 5th, 2004. Mauer, batting 8th, walked on 4 pitches against Sabathia in the 3rd and struck out swinging on a full count in the 5th. Sabathia pitched through the 7th and left with a 4-0 lead. The Twins rallied to tie the game, 4-4, in the 8th inning and Mauer's first big league hit would come on a single to center off Rafael Betancourt leading off the 9th. The game went to extra innings and Mauer got his second hit on a one-out, one-on single to right in the 11th off Chad Durbin, moving Nick Punto (running for Matt LeCroy who had walked) to third. After a Christian Guzman strikeout, Shannon Stewart lifted a Durbin fly ball deep to LF for a game-winning 3-run homer, bringing in Mauer and Punto and blowing 49,584 Metrodome fans from the exits hoarse and happy. What a memorable game to start a career!
    Watch for another installment of "Who Owned Whom" coming soon.
  3. Like
    Teflon got a reaction from wsnydes for a blog entry, Who Owned Whom? Notable Opposing Players Versus Twins Greats   
    Over a 7-year career ending in 1979, Twins DH Craig Kusick came to the plate 1461 times, compiling an unremarkable slash line of .235/.342/.392. Kusick may have had a briefer stay in the bigs, however,  if it was not for his uncanny ability to hit Frank Tanana of the California Angels  who was the most intimidating strikeout pitcher in the American League not named Nolan Ryan or Vida Blue. 
    Kusick ended up facing Tanana more than any other pitcher over his career – 59 times - which was about 4% of all his plate appearances. In those at-bats, Kusick went  16 for 42 (.381) drawing a Bonds-like 16 walks for a .542 on-base percentage. He also took Tanana deep 4 times in those 42 at-bats and drove in 11 runs.  Three of those home runs came in consecutive games against Tanana in 1976, after which Tanana walked Kusick 7 times in the next 5 times they met – twice intentionally.
    While Kusick was certainly not a Twins great, his inextricable linking to Tanana suggests an interesting related topic. Thanks to the Batter-vs-Pitcher data on Baseball Reference we can now ask and answer who were the opposing players Twins greats faced the most and who owned whom?
    * * * * * * * * * 
    For the first "Who Owned Whom?" we look at a recent Twins great, Joe Mauer.
    Over his 15-year career, Mauer played in 1858 games and had 7960 plate appearances. He batted .306, had an on-base average of .388, slugged .439 with 143 home runs, scored 1018 runs and drove in 939. His most frequent opposing pitcher over his career was none other than Detroit’s Justin Verlander who faced off against Joe in 97 plate appearances. Verlander, who has a career .228 batting average-against and OPS-against of .652, was definitely "owned" by Mauer as Joe finished with a slash line of .317/.423/.537 on 26 for 82 hitting with 15 walks. The 26 hits are the most by Mauer against any pitcher and the first one came in his first at-bat against Verlander in the second game of a Saturday double header versus Detroit on July 23rd, 2005 as Joe hit an 0-2 pitch deep to left field in Detroit for an RBI double.
    The other pitchers Joe faced frequently were Rick Porcello –who fared better than his Tigers teammate - (75 plate appearances, .243/.293/.329) and the unfortunate John Danks of the White Sox.  (71 plate appearances, .381/.451/.476) Coincidentally (or not), Danks is the only pitcher to have beaned Mauer more than once. CC Sabathia is the pitcher that struck Joe out the most   -17 Ks in 52 plate appearances - and, along with another lefty, Mark Buehrle,  most “owned” Joe.  Joe only managed  .196/.269/.239 against Sabathia and .197/209/.303 against Buehrle.
    Sabathia was also the first pitcher Mauer faced in the big leagues in his debut versus Cleveland in the Season Opener at the Metrodome on April 5th, 2004. Mauer, batting 8th, walked on 4 pitches against Sabathia in the 3rd and struck out swinging on a full count in the 5th. Sabathia pitched through the 7th and left with a 4-0 lead. The Twins rallied to tie the game, 4-4, in the 8th inning and Mauer's first big league hit would come on a single to center off Rafael Betancourt leading off the 9th. The game went to extra innings and Mauer got his second hit on a one-out, one-on single to right in the 11th off Chad Durbin, moving Nick Punto (running for Matt LeCroy who had walked) to third. After a Christian Guzman strikeout, Shannon Stewart lifted a Durbin fly ball deep to LF for a game-winning 3-run homer, bringing in Mauer and Punto and blowing 49,584 Metrodome fans from the exits hoarse and happy. What a memorable game to start a career!
    Watch for another installment of "Who Owned Whom" coming soon.
  4. Like
    Teflon got a reaction from Squirrel for a blog entry, Who Owned Whom? Notable Opposing Players Versus Twins Greats   
    Over a 7-year career ending in 1979, Twins DH Craig Kusick came to the plate 1461 times, compiling an unremarkable slash line of .235/.342/.392. Kusick may have had a briefer stay in the bigs, however,  if it was not for his uncanny ability to hit Frank Tanana of the California Angels  who was the most intimidating strikeout pitcher in the American League not named Nolan Ryan or Vida Blue. 
    Kusick ended up facing Tanana more than any other pitcher over his career – 59 times - which was about 4% of all his plate appearances. In those at-bats, Kusick went  16 for 42 (.381) drawing a Bonds-like 16 walks for a .542 on-base percentage. He also took Tanana deep 4 times in those 42 at-bats and drove in 11 runs.  Three of those home runs came in consecutive games against Tanana in 1976, after which Tanana walked Kusick 7 times in the next 5 times they met – twice intentionally.
    While Kusick was certainly not a Twins great, his inextricable linking to Tanana suggests an interesting related topic. Thanks to the Batter-vs-Pitcher data on Baseball Reference we can now ask and answer who were the opposing players Twins greats faced the most and who owned whom?
    * * * * * * * * * 
    For the first "Who Owned Whom?" we look at a recent Twins great, Joe Mauer.
    Over his 15-year career, Mauer played in 1858 games and had 7960 plate appearances. He batted .306, had an on-base average of .388, slugged .439 with 143 home runs, scored 1018 runs and drove in 939. His most frequent opposing pitcher over his career was none other than Detroit’s Justin Verlander who faced off against Joe in 97 plate appearances. Verlander, who has a career .228 batting average-against and OPS-against of .652, was definitely "owned" by Mauer as Joe finished with a slash line of .317/.423/.537 on 26 for 82 hitting with 15 walks. The 26 hits are the most by Mauer against any pitcher and the first one came in his first at-bat against Verlander in the second game of a Saturday double header versus Detroit on July 23rd, 2005 as Joe hit an 0-2 pitch deep to left field in Detroit for an RBI double.
    The other pitchers Joe faced frequently were Rick Porcello –who fared better than his Tigers teammate - (75 plate appearances, .243/.293/.329) and the unfortunate John Danks of the White Sox.  (71 plate appearances, .381/.451/.476) Coincidentally (or not), Danks is the only pitcher to have beaned Mauer more than once. CC Sabathia is the pitcher that struck Joe out the most   -17 Ks in 52 plate appearances - and, along with another lefty, Mark Buehrle,  most “owned” Joe.  Joe only managed  .196/.269/.239 against Sabathia and .197/209/.303 against Buehrle.
    Sabathia was also the first pitcher Mauer faced in the big leagues in his debut versus Cleveland in the Season Opener at the Metrodome on April 5th, 2004. Mauer, batting 8th, walked on 4 pitches against Sabathia in the 3rd and struck out swinging on a full count in the 5th. Sabathia pitched through the 7th and left with a 4-0 lead. The Twins rallied to tie the game, 4-4, in the 8th inning and Mauer's first big league hit would come on a single to center off Rafael Betancourt leading off the 9th. The game went to extra innings and Mauer got his second hit on a one-out, one-on single to right in the 11th off Chad Durbin, moving Nick Punto (running for Matt LeCroy who had walked) to third. After a Christian Guzman strikeout, Shannon Stewart lifted a Durbin fly ball deep to LF for a game-winning 3-run homer, bringing in Mauer and Punto and blowing 49,584 Metrodome fans from the exits hoarse and happy. What a memorable game to start a career!
    Watch for another installment of "Who Owned Whom" coming soon.
  5. Like
    Teflon reacted to TwerkTwonkTwins for a blog entry, Falvine's Waiver Claim Game   
    Critique of a front office is easy to make in the midst of a deeply disappointing season. While many fans are languishing over the incoming July trade deadline, I've heard a lot of complaints about the lack of waiver claims made this season by the Minnesota Twins.
    Why are the Twins continuing to trot out the likes of Colomé, Happ, and (formerly) Shoemaker, when the front office can claim replacement-level players from other teams for essentially nothing? 
    The outright waiver transaction process is a deeply complicated one. Whenever a team wants to remove a player that is already on the 40-man roster, that player must first be offered to each of the other 29 major league teams. If another team claims that player, the player goes on that new team's 40-man roster. The full definition from MLB can be found here. 
    Because I'm insane, and this season is awful, I decided to compile a list of every player that the Falvey/Levine front office has claimed from other organizations, in addition to players they've lost via waiver claims.
    How have they fared in the waiver claim game?  Should they pick up the pace, now that they have nothing to lose? Do these claims actually amount to anything?
    These questions are important... but so is the trip down memory lane, once you read some of these names. 
    Players Acquired Via Waiver Claim
     
    Date of Claim Player Claimed Position Team Claimed From fWAR in Minnesota 2/6/2017 Ehire Adrianza UTL IF San Francisco Giants 2.1 5/10/2017 Adam Wilk LHP New York Mets -0.2 6/7/2017 Chris Heston RHP Los Angeles Dodgers 0.0 3/24/2018 Kenny Vargas 1B Cincinatti Reds - 4/26/2018 David Hale RHP New York Yankees -0.2 5/28/2018 Taylor Motter UTL Seattle Mariners -0.3 8/3/2018 Johnny Field RF Cleveland Indians 0.1 8/3/2018 Oliver Drake RHP Cleveland Indians 0.2 10/31/2018 Michael Reed CF Atlanta Braves - 11/26/2018 C.J. Cron 1B Tampa Bay Rays 0.3 10/29/2019 Matt Wisler RHP Seattle Mariners 0.6 10/30/2020 Ian Gibault RHP Texas Rangers - 10/30/2020 Brandon Waddell  LHP Pittsburgh Pirates -0.3 2/5/2021 Ian Hamilton RHP Philadelphia Phillies - 2/11/2021 Kyle Garlick RF Atlanta Braves 0.3 6/22/2021 Beau Burrows RHP Detroit Tigers -           Total fWAR 2.6 The Twins have claimed a total of 16 players from opposing organizations since Falvey/Levine took over after the 2016 World Series. Of these 16 claims, their most consequential claim was their very first one. Ehire Adrianza was never a star, but a very productive role player for a number of contending Twins teams. 

    After that, the list isn't so impressive. Matt Wisler was great at slinging sliders in the bullpen during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, but the Twins cut him last offseason in a puzzling move. C.J. Cron and the currently-injured Kyle Garlick have been the largest "successes" outside of Adrianza and Wisler, each account for 0.3 fWAR as right-handed hitters that were acquired to mash left-handed pitching. 
    Most of these players did not remain on the 40-man roster for a long time. Quite a few were lost to waivers shortly after the Twins acquired them, which include Kenny Vargas, Johnny Field, Oliver Drake, and Brandon Waddell. Such is the life on the waiver wire for many MLB players. 
    Players Lost Via Waiver Claim
     
    Date of Claim Player Position Team Claimed By fWAR after Minnesota 11/18/2016 Adam Brett Walker LF Milwaukee Brewers - 8/26/2017 Tim Melville RHP San Diego Padres -0.2 9/14/2017 Engelb Vielma SS San Francisco Giants -0.1 11/3/2017 Randy Rosario LHP Chicago Cubs -0.3 11/3/2017 Daniel Palka OF Chicago White Sox -0.7 11/6/2017 Nik Turley LHP Pittsburgh Pirates 0.2 1/22/2018 Buddy Boshers LHP Houston Astros 0.1 2/23/2018 JT Chargois RHP Los Angeles Dodgers 0.5 3/22/2018 Kenny Vargas 1B Cincinatti Reds - 7/9/2018 Ryan LaMarre CF Chicago White Sox 0.4 10/10/2018 Juan Graterol C Cincinatti Reds -0.2 11/1/2018 Johnny Field RF Chicago Cubs - 11/1/2018 Oliver Drake RHP Tampa Bay Rays 0.4 1/11/2019 Aaron Slegers RHP Pittsburgh Pirates 0.4 5/26/2019 Austin Adams RHP Detroit Tigers -0.1 7/20/2019 Adalberto Mejia LHP Los Angeles Angels 0.0 8/14/2019 Ryan Eades RHP Baltimore Orioles -0.2 9/16/2019 Marcos Diplan RHP Detroit Tigers - 11/4/2019 Stephen Gonsalves LHP New York Mets - 9/5/2020 Ildemaro Vargas 2B Chicago Cubs -0.5 10/1/2020 Sean Poppen RHP Pittsburgh Pirates -0.1 5/8/2021 Brandon Waddell LHP Baltimore Orioles 0 5/14/2021 Travis Blankenhorn 2B Los Angeles Dodgers -0.1 6/5/2021 Dakota Chalmers RHP Chicago Cubs - 6/18/2021 Shaun Anderson RHP Texas Rangers -           Total fWAR -0.5 You'll immediately notice this list of players lost via waivers during the Falvyey/Levine regime is a lot longer than the list of players they've acquired via waivers. All together, they have lost 25 players, which is 9 more players than they've claimed from other teams. 
    The good news for the organization, is that this cumulative list has not come back to bite them. 10 of the 25 claimed players provided negative value for their new teams, after departing Minnesota. Daniel Palka's 2017 season really sunk this group, as he posted a -1.4 fWAR in only 93 plate appearances for the White Sox (after he provided 0.7 fWAR and a 109 wRC+ in 2018). 
    The largest losses from this group have definitely been in the relief category, highlighted by JT Chargois, Oliver Drake, and Aaron Slegers. However, most of these players have had inconsistent careers, injuries, or both, in their time after playing for Minnesota. 
    Even when factoring in some bullpen pieces this organization might regret losing, the total fWAR from these players after departing the Twins is -0.5 fWAR. The current front office has been right far more than wrong, when deciding how to churn the 40-man roster. 
    Yearly Trends And Overall Takeaway
    Year Players Claimed From Other Teams Players Claimed By Other Teams 2016/2017 3 6 2018 7 7 2019 1 6 2020 2 2 2021 3 4 Total Players 16 25       Total fWAR 2.6 -0.5 fWAR Difference   3.1 Overall, the Twins have gained 3.1 fWAR from their decisions to gain and lose players from the waiver wire. That's a pretty decent result for a type of front office transaction that is often overlooked. It averages out to about 0.69 fWAR per season, factoring in the 4.5 seasons of the Falvey/Levine regime. 
    Most of that waiver activity came in 2017 and 2018, when the front office was still adjusting to their inherited players from the previous front office. Successful teams don't always gamble roster spots on players exposed to outright waivers, which is evident in the 2019 team. 
    One major caveat to point out across the yearly trend is that teams were probably hesitant to claim players from other organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic, so 2020 and early 2021 should be viewed through that lens.
    However, that didn't stop the Twins from claiming 3 bullpen arms (Ian Gibault, Brandon Waddell, and Ian Hamilton), and Kyle Garlick this offseason. The jury is still out on these claims, but Waddell did not go well. 
    The most interesting thing about 2021 is that the Twins lost 4 players during their early season free-fall (Brandon Waddell, Travis Blankenhorn, Dakota Chalmers, and Shaun Anderson), before claiming Beau Burrows a few weeks ago from the Detroit Tigers.
    Is former first-round draft pick Beau Burrows the tip of the iceberg? Now that 2021 is officially kaput, will the front office be more aggressive? 
    I sure hope so. Moves will be made in the next few weeks, and this 40-man roster will be significantly different as we approach the trade deadline. The 40-man roster will likely be smaller, and the Twins will be in front of the line when contenders have to cut players to account for their deadline additions. 
    Waiver claims are rarely sexy transactions, but sometimes you stumble into a Ehire Adrianza or a Matt Wisler. The Twins have proven to be more successful than not when it comes to their waiver claim game. It's time to play, because there's simply nothing to lose. 
  6. Like
    Teflon reacted to mikelink45 for a blog entry, Developing players   
    A lot of us were shocked by the Buxton treatment this year, from playing him with an injury to denying him his September call up. We were almost equally shocked to see Sano sent to A ball and when he returned people talked about him looking a little thinner, but then the season played on and before ending with another injury he resorted to the same 200 hitting occasional Home Run hitter.
     
     
    September call ups included Matt Belisle and a trade for Gimenez, more time for Johnny Field and not much excitement outside the young pitchers and that wonderful Opener experiment. Gonsalves, our top pitching prospect has stunk, Littell who has been called up a couple of times continues to stink (I know that they want to make that trade look good for the FO). Stewart has improved as we continue to pitch him against the mighty Tigers and Busenitz has demonstrated that AAAA is his best hope (when will they open that league?).
     
    Of course there is one rookie who looked really good early in the Season, but he could not even be called up to toss a couple BP sessions - Romero.
     
     
    Among hitters only Astudillo has appeared and that is because we have our original starter out for the season, our next starter out with a concussion, our first reserve traded for last years reserve and only Astudillo available for actually crouching behind the plate.
     
     
    No look at Rooker or Gordon or any other potential hitters. So how good is our player development? I just read the Athletics Matthew Kory in the season ending power ranking and his comments really jumped out at me.
     
     
    "One of the things that good teams do is draft talented players, develop them in the minors, and turn them into stars when they get to the big leagues. The Red Sox have done that with Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts. The Indians have done that with José Ramírez and Francisco Lindor. The Astros have done that with Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman (and George Springer) (and José Altuve). The Twins should have done that with Miguel Sanó and Byron Buxton… but they haven’t. Despite loads of talent, Sanó is barely playable and Buxton supposedly isn’t even ready for a September call-up. If you’re looking for the difference between Minnesota and every playoff team in baseball, that’s it in a nutshell."
  7. Like
    Teflon reacted to Miles Death for a blog entry, Game Length Isn't the Reason for the Decline in Attendance   
    There’s growing concern within the baseball community about the health of the MLB as an organization, and the game overall. Since the mid-2000s, attendance and television ratings have been dropping consistently. According to Baseball Reference, in the past 20 years attendance per game across the entire MLB peaked in 2007 at 32,696 per game. In the ten years since, there has been a steady decline in attendance per game all the way down to 29,908 per game in 2017. That is a decrease of just about 8.5 percent. I’m not including 2018 numbers in this analysis as we are still in season and the spring typically draws a smaller crowd. The commissioner’s office often talks about game length as being a driving factor in this decline, but I believe that is an oversimplification of the trend, and there are bigger factors in play.
     
    Game Length and Attendance Trend Lines
     
    In 1998, the MLB expanded to include the all current 30 teams. In this analysis, I’m using data from 1998 onward because it most fully represents the league we see now, and expansion often alters attendance for a wide variety of factors that I won’t be addressing in this discussion. Look at Figure 1 below:
     
     


     
     
    Figure one, which compares attendance and game length, raises some questions about the validity of the League’s primary argument that game length is affecting financial success of the league. As you can see, these two lines don’t seem to be correlated at all besides a very faint trend. It’s also interesting to note that the total range in game lengths in this 20-year span is only 19 minutes, with the average length per 9 innings being 2 hours and 53 minutes. 13 of the 20 years fall within 5 minutes of the average game length. In other words, we are not seeing egregious volatility in game length in the MLB. At the very least, it’s a stretch to assume game length is the sole cause of the downward trend in attendance.
     
    Reducing Game Length
     
    I want to be clear in this post: I am not against making minor changes in baseball to speed up the game. I think in 2017 we were at a point in game length that was not sustainable over the long term (3 hours and 5 minutes/9 innings). The corresponding rule changes made for 2018 seem to have had a slight effect. So far in 2018, the game length per 9 innings is down to 2:59.
    Something that does drives game time up considerably is pitches per plate appearance, as you can see below in Figure 2.
     


     
    I heard suggestions such as lowering the mound once again to reduce the pitcher’s advantage, thus creating less strikeouts and reducing pitcher per plate appearance. In theory, this could work. When the MLB lowered the mound in 1969, run production increased for two years. However, in 1971 & 1972, it suddenly declined, leading to the implementation of the DH in the American League in 1973. If you went to lowering the mound in 2019, you may have a shorter game due to less strikeouts, but run production could spike so much that you would have to make another adjustment, or worse, the games actually got longer due to more runs. Not to mention changing the record books. So, what actions can the MLB take to help raise attendance levels?
     
    The Real Reason Attendance is Down
     
    The reason people aren’t attending games is because it’s too damn expensive. Since 2006, the average MLB ticket price has gone from $22.21 to $32.44, per Statista.com. That is an increase of 46% over just 12 years. This is an extreme burden on families, and this increase is seriously outpacing inflation or any significant change in the economic environment. ValuePenguin.com had a great article that was written in 2016 about the true cost of attending a Major League Baseball game. They found that when you consider the median household incomes in MLB cities, and account for all associated costs with attending a game (tickets, food, drinks, transportation), on average a fan must work 4.3 hours to offset the cost of a game. You won’t attend many games if you’re being hit with that every time.
     
    Conclusion
     
    What bothers me about this conversation is that it’s largely led by the commissioner’s office. The commissioner wants financial success for the owners and teams. I don’t consider myself a baseball purist, but I don’t want to see major changes happen to the game in hopes of shortening game length, when a simple solution of lowering ticket prices could increase attendance just the same. All the changes being suggested will have a marginal effect on the time it takes to play a baseball game. As we saw in Figure 1, in the past 20 years, the average game length has only varied by 19 minutes. If you want something drastic to return to the 2:30 games of the mid-20th century, you would have to reduce the count to 2 strikes and 3 balls, or something even more drastic. So, let’s start a conversation on the affordability of the games, get more people (especially kids and families) into parks around the country, and get baseball back on track. Long term, it’s in the owners’ and the League’s best interest.
     
    -Miles
  8. Like
    Teflon reacted to Sarah for a blog entry, Life at the College World Series   
    Will this be the year the Gophers make it to the College World Series? Currently ranked #11 in the country, they will start regionals next week. Last summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Omaha for the first time to attend the College World Series. I know I’m getting close to college baseball’s epicenter when I tune in AM 1620 The Zone and hear the broadcasters talking about how the strike zone is a little tighter during the tournament than it is in the regular season. I am here at the beginning of this nearly two week June event and get to see three games featuring Louisiana State, Florida (the eventual national champion), Texas Christian, Texas A&M, Oregon State and Louisville.
     
    There is a 26 page preview section in the Omaha World Herald including a full page advertisement for TCU that declares “Horned Frogs know how to swing for the fences.” (I will learn TCU’s signature move after they score is fans and players alike who raise both hands and cup their fingers into a curved motion, a gesture somewhat similar to the University of Texas’s “Hook ‘Em Horns.” Must be a Texas thing.)
     
    The College World Series is currently played at TD Ameritrade Park and, with a capacity of approximately 24,000, it is a sizable stadium located in downtown Omaha across the street from their convention center. The convention center housed a Baseball Hall of Fame traveling exhibit which I didn’t visit because, having been to Cooperstown, I wanted to put a higher priority on watching games. This new ballpark opened in 2011 and I heard from locals who waxed nostalgic about beloved Rosenblatt Stadium as opposed to the new facility’s larger, corporate feel.
     
    As it is a very humid summer day in Nebraska, I appreciate that the new ballpark features drink rails, allowing me to eat my turkey burger out of the sun. (Not surprisingly during the afternoon game, the seats in the sun are only sparsely populated but the seats in the shade are nearly full.) After seeing me diligently filling out my scorecard, a man in a LSU t-shirt asks me what team I’m here for. Just a baseball fan from Minnesota enjoying the atmosphere, I answer. “Oh, you’re from Minnesota,” he replies in a lush, southern drawl. “So let me ask you this – whatever happened to Joe Mauer? Seemed like he was on a path to become a Hall of Fame catcher for awhile, right?” Wherever I have traveled to watch baseball, I am always amazed at how easy it is to talk about the game with perfect strangers.
     
    You can either pay more and get a reserved seat (which guarantees you admission) or buy a $15 general admission ticket (which can be used for any game but does not guarantee admission). The game I bought a general admission ticket for I didn’t have any trouble getting in but was told that for the more popular games the line stretches down 10th Street and some wait for hours in the hot sun.
     
    Fans wander leisurely through the ballpark if their team isn’t playing, which can be a problem for those concentrating on the game. When someone got up as the ball was being put into play I heard a guy behind me grumble, “Well, that was a hell of a play – I could almost see it.” A lot of school spirit resonates through the innings, from chants of “Let’s Go Aggies” to playing the school fight song after each team scores. But mostly it’s just an enjoyable place to be for those who love the game – the crowd groans as a baserunner is thrown out at third after trying to tag up from second on a short fly ball to right field. (I remember that play because the out was recorded 9-6-5. Yes, the runner got such a bad jump that the shortstop had time to cut the ball off and spin and throw to the third baseman to get the runner easily. There was an interesting conversation in the dugout after that miscue.)
     
    I stopped at the visitor center by the Old Market and they told me where I could park for free – I had to get there early but that left time for a leisurely stroll along the riverfront. When I’m walking to the ballpark, I see Blue Jays everywhere and have to remind myself that it means Creighton, not Toronto. Boys Town, which is located west of downtown, featured an exhibit on the history of baseball at the orphanage, including visits by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
     
    Across the street from TD Ameritrade Park is the Omaha Baseball Village, essentially a large parking lot scattered with big tents for private parties and a plethora of vendors selling more t-shirts than I have ever seen in my life. (Well, there are eight teams, I reasoned…and as teams got eliminated their merchandise was marked down 50%.) I stop to take a picture of the sign with all of the cities listed and their distances from Omaha and am momentarily startled when I turn around to see a giant beaver sticking off the next table. (Clearly an Oregon State supporter.) The banner hanging near the main entrance sports the current tagline of the College World Series (“The greatest show on dirt”) and I remember the one from when I was younger (“Where the stars of tomorrow play today”).
     
    The results of the games I attended are lost in my memory but I do remember seeing some top draft picks including Brendan McKay and Dalton Guthrie (son of former Twin Mark Guthrie). To take a break from TD Ameritrade Park, I made the one-hour drive to Lincoln to see a Saltdogs game, although unfortunately they were not playing the St. Paul Saints that night. On my way out of town, I stopped at Hy Vee to get a salad for lunch and noticed a middle aged woman shopping in a LSU cheerleading outfit, complete with LSU hairbows and an LSU ankle bracelet. What a fun atmosphere for baseball.
  9. Like
    Teflon reacted to MauerState7 for a blog entry, The Politics of the New Minnesota Twins   
    I have some cousins that live in a house with a large unfinished basement. They moved to this house from one that was considerably larger, not so much in an effort to downsize, but more to find a residence that was more affordable. The problem with this was my Aunt is a longtime suffer of “I might still need that syndrome.” She will fully deny it, but it is a debilitating illness that has hampered the functionality of said basement, and more obscurely, her lifestyle in general. She attaches fond memories with items that were once a mainstay in her life, and because of those memories, has an intense affinity with holding on to them. I fear that my Aunt and the Pohlads suffer from the same affliction.
     
    When Terry Ryan was fired last season many of us hoped for the “clean house” take when rebuilding the front office. We hoped that names like Rob Antony, Deron Johnson, and (maybe this one is just me) Jack Goin would be sending resumes to other organizations or maybe jumping into a different line of work all together. We hoped that with the hiring of Derek Falvey and Thad Lavine would come a new era of analytics in Twins baseball that would return us to glory days of being hated by the White Sox for our piranha-esk qualities and our “right way” idealistic of how a baseball team should be run. Many of us were disappointed.
     
    But what I failed to see at the time is that the Pohlads have this pack-rat nature that was not quite blatantly obvious. Like my aunt, they have fond memories associated with some of these people and hold to the ideas that what we once found so useful could be just as useful once again. With a younger and more Beane-like view on baseball, I find this shortsighted.
     
    Personally, I am not a pack-rat. I throw things away hoping that they will never be needed again, sometimes to my down fall. I risk that chance because I am a firm believer that the future holds greater value than the past, and to fully harness that value, we need to embrace it. Enter, the duo that some of us affectionately call, Falvine.
    Falvine is like showing your aunt a Property Brothers-esk rendering of what her basement could be like. They are the people that will hopefully update this franchise to its full potential, restoring it to the glory days that the Pohlads are so desperately holding on to. But the two different factions disagree with how to do that.
     
    The most effective way to clean out my begrudgingly stubborn aunt’s basement is to send her on a week’s vacation and make executive decisions on what to keep and what to sentence to the landfill (or send her away for two weeks and find out how to properly recycle everything…). Falvine does not have this option available to them.
    The other way to clean the basement is to introduce new things, to slowly change the functionality, until my aunt realizes that her old items are no longer useful and the pipedream of them once again becoming mainstays in her life is unrealistic. This is what Falvine is doing.
     
    Many of us were disheartened by the roster that the Twins appear to be headed north with. Danny Santana on the bench, Mauer (love the guy to death by the way and will always be my favorite player) appearing to be slated for 162 starts. Hughes and Santiago in the rotation. 13 pitchers because of the mortal fear that the aforementioned starters will have a hard time completing more than 3 1/3 innings. I believe that these are all carefully calculated decisions that Falvine has made to show the Pohlads that the way the Twins of a decade ago were so successful is no longer sustainable. It is their way to slowly normalize to the Pohlads that Falvine’s way of doing things is the way of the future.
     
    None of us realistically expected this team to compete for a championship, a pennant, a division title or heck, even a winning record, this season. To me that makes this way of doing things justified. Because in a few short years, many of us hope to be talking about who will be the pinch runner when we get a man on first in a tied game 3 of the ALCS. And when we have that conversation, I want Carl Pohlad’s opinion as far from the realm of consideration as possible.
  10. Like
    Teflon reacted to Secondary User for a blog entry, The Path To A Competent Rotation: A Shorter Trip Than You May Think   
    It's no secret that the biggest position of need for the Twins is the pitching staff. Sadly, this is a very weak free agent pitching class, and with arms like Santana, Hughes and Gibson still around and reports out that the Twins won't be adding payroll this offseason there doesn't look to be much in the way of room for additions anyway. Looks to be a bleak 2017 led by another dismal performance by the pitching staff. Or is it? What if the first step on the journey to fixing the pitching is a step backwards, as in behind the plate?
     
    Let's start by looking at what Twins catchers from 2015 have done in their careers:
     
    http://i.imgur.com/emwUkcB.png
     
    It's pretty clear that Twins catchers have done their pitchers no favors. Both Centeno and Suzuki continued their career trends of being sub par, if not awful pitch framers. It might seem like a trait that would have minimal impact, but some quick research into the effectiveness of hitters based on count quickly shows the drastic effect stealing a strike or giving one away can have.
     
    http://i.imgur.com/oEkxOXv.png
     
    There's a lot of numbers there, but take particular note of the BA and SLG as the count progresses and you can see the value framing can bring. For instance, After a 1-0 count, hitters hit .271/.382/.457 last year, while after an 0-1 count, hitters hit .223/.266/.352. That's roughly a 20% increase in production based on whether the first pitch gets called a ball or a strike. That's where the value of pitch framing comes from. Putting your pitchers in more favorable counts by stealing strikes and not hurting them by giving them away. When you figure that Suzuki and Centeno were two of the worst pitch framers in the majors this year, and certainly haven't been good throughout their careers, you start to wonder just how much of an effect this may have had on the Twins results.
     
     
    The Twins got their offseason started by signing catcher Jason Castro. Castro's 3yr/$24mil contract is directly tied to his ability as a pitch framer.
     
    http://i.imgur.com/gNEYE4A.png
     
    Over the past three seasons, Baseball Prospectus has rated him as a plus pitch framer. Since 2014, he's been one of the best framers in the league, and when you take the abysmal framing the Twins were getting from Suzuki/Centeno and bring in a genuine plus behind the plate, the potential for some significant improvements without even touching the pitching staff suddenly becomes plausible.
     
    The Catch:
     
    Castro's problem though is pretty offensive splits. Against RHP, Castro hits a respectable .247/.328/.424. But against LHP, that plummets to a .190/.249/.287. So any value Castro brings defensively will be largely offset when the opposing pitcher is a southpaw. So ideally, you'd want to platoon Castro with a catcher who can hit LHP, and also brings good defensive value.
     
     
    ***DISCLAIMER***
     
    I'm about to say something that may have you questioning my qualifications to write even a personal blog comment on this, so for the sake of objectivity, I'm going to remove names.
     
    ***DISCLAIMER***
     
    Player A actually fits the mold quite well. As the graph below shows, Player A has graded out as a superb pitch framer in the minors, and in limited time in the majors, has been a plus framer.
     
    http://i.imgur.com/rfrSKie.png
     
    He has hit LHP to the tune of .253/.301/.390. Nothing to write home about, but for the lesser half of a L/R catching platoon, certainly serviceable. So who is this masked man? John Ryan Murphy. I know, I know, I know. 2015 was awful and just made you question how he ever made it to the major leagues. But looking past a small sample, we see the yin to Castro's yang. The right handed bat that can hold his own against LHP and not cost your pitcher strikes.
     
    Can it be enough to make a meaningful difference? That's what we'll see. The Twins rotation had the worst ERA in the AL by over half a run. The rotation won't be fixed in one move. Jason Castro is not a silver bullet. But this signing embodies a departure from a way of thinking that was often times behind the times.
  11. Like
    Teflon reacted to Matt Johnson for a blog entry, 1987 Gladden Trade   
    http://i1074.photobucket.com/albums/w413/mjohnso9/20160131_102737_zps4yadfqeb.jpg
     
    A week before the start of their 1987 championship season, the Twins released fan-favorite, Mickey Hatcher, and traded for the much more dynamic, Dan Gladden.
     
    In exchange for the Dazzle Man and a player to be named later, the Twins sent two minor league relievers and a player to be named to the San Francisco Giants. The player to be named that Minnesota would send to San Francisco wound up being Bemidji-native, former Golden Gopher pitcher and Twins ‘86 draft pick, Bryan Hickerson.
     
    One of the appeals of Gladden was his game-changing speed. One newspaper headline the morning after the deal read “Popularity Sacrificed for Steals,” a motivation confirmed by Twins executive vice president, Andy MacPhail, who said that “the reason we got him is he gives us speed. He can steal bases, he’s a good turf player.” Hatcher, who had been with the Twins since 1981 and had peaked in ‘84, was a pretty one dimensional player. Though he possessed a career .281 average, he offered very little of the speed and versatility that the Twins sought with the addition of Gladden. “He just didn’t fit in,” manager Tom Kelly said of Hatcher. “There’s no place for him to play on this team. We have better athletes. We didn’t need him as a designated hitter or a pinch hitter, either.” It was a bold decision for the Twins to pull the trigger on the Gladden-for-Hatcher switch. Hatcher was owed $650,000 for the ‘87 season, and a $100,000 buyout for ‘88. It was the most expensive contract that the Twins would eat to that point in team history.
     
    The decision would, obviously, pay dividends. Though Gladden wasn’t as good in ‘87 as he had been in ‘86 — or would be in ‘88, for that matter — he was a key component in the Twins winning their first World Series in franchise history. And the trademark grit and hustle he displayed on a broken bat Astroturf double in the bottom of the 10th of Game 7 put the Twins solidly in position to win the 1991 World Series. “Tonight,” Jack Buck said of that Game 7, “it’s so apparent that this is one of the most remarkable baseball games ever played.”
     
    After being released by Minnesota, Mickey Hatcher returned to the Los Angeles Dodgers, where he had played the first two seasons of his career. After playing sparingly in the 1988 regular season, he replaced the injured Kirk Gibson in the World Series, batting .368 with 2 HRs and 5 RBI as the Dodgers upset the heavily favored Oakland A’s in five games. Hatcher retired after the 1990 season. He began coaching in 1993 with the Rangers, and served as Angels hitting coach from 2000 to 2012 under Dodger teammate, Mike Scioscia. The Angels won the World Series in 2002.
     
    Bryan Hickerson, the final piece in the Gladden trade, graduated from Bemidji High School in 1982. He went on to the University of Minnesota, where he won the Gophers’ “Dave Winfield Pitcher of the Year” award in ‘85 and ‘86. The Twins selected Hickerson in the 7th round of the June ‘86 amateur draft. He made his Major League debut for the San Francisco Giants on July 25th, 1991, entering the game in the top of the 9th with the Giants leading the Mets 8-1. Hickerson struck out the first two big league batters he faced, Kevin McReynolds and Howard Johnson, and induced a groundout from pinch-hitter, Vince Coleman. He pitched primarily in relief, but did start 29 games for the Giants between ‘93 and ‘94. After being released by the Giants, Hickerson pitched for the Cubs and Rockies in 1995 before retiring with a career 21-21 record and 4.72 ERA in 209 Major League games.
     
    For stories about the Major Leaguers who grew up in Minnesota, like Major Minnesotans on Facebook and follow @MajorMinnesota on Twitter.
     
    For the history of Minnesota Twins baseball, told one day at a time, follow @TwinsAlmanac on Twitter.
  12. Like
    Teflon got a reaction from Willihammer for a blog entry, Great Seasons You May Have Forgotten – Luis Tiant, 1968   
    http://www.clevescene.com/images/blogimages/2009/04/29/1241034084-tiant.jpg
     
    1968 was a pinnacle of pitching in the Major Leagues. Denny McLain won 31 games for the Tigers and Bob Gibson compiled a legendary 1.12 ERA for the Cardinals while throwing 13 shutouts. Easy to miss when browsing through the performances from that year was a Cleveland pitcher who went 21-9 with a 1.60 ERA, 264 strikeouts and only 152 hits allowed in 258 innings. When seen today, those numbers could easily be mistaken for something from the back of a Sandy Koufax baseball card - but those impressive pitching results didn’t belong to a Brooklyn-born lefty but a Cuban born right-hander named Luis Tiant.
     
    When Castro took control of Cuba, Luis was a 19-year old playing in the Mexican League. Being outside the country when the island was seized meant he could continue his career in baseball but also meant that he would not be able to return to his homeland or see his family again for many years.
     
    Tiant was signed by the Indians organization and pitched in the minors until 1964 when his 15-1 record for the Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League made it clear that the 23-year-old Tiant was ready for the big leagues. (Tommy John and Sudden Sam McDowell were also on that Portland pitching staff and would join Tiant with the Indians that year) Luis pitched in 19 games for Cleveland in the second half of the 1964 season making 16 starts and going 10-4.
     
    Over the next three seasons with Cleveland, Tiant was only 35-31 but led the American League in shutouts in 1966 and in strikeouts per 9 in 1967. In 1968, it all came together for Tiant. After a slow start to the season (1-2) Tiant shut out the next four opponents in succession, including a three-hitter against the Twins on May 19th. By the end of June, he was 12-5.
     
    The first start for Luis in July would be at home against Jim Merritt and the Twins. Merrit would be tough that day, limiting the Tribe to no runs and only 4 hits over 9 innings. Tiant, however, was masterful that day. He kept the Twins off the scoreboard for 9 innings as well, striking out 16.
     
    In the 10th, Rich Reese led off with a double to right for the Twins and Frank Quilici sacrificed him to third, reaching first base safely on a fielder’s choice. Tiant struck out the next batter, catcher Johnny Roseboro. Twins manager Cal Ermer sent in Rich Rollins to pinch hit for shortstop Jackie Hernandez. Tiant struck out Rollins. Jim Merritt, the pitcher, was due up next and Ermer chose not to pinch hit. Merritt had been impossible to solve for Cleveland that day and Ermer wanted to have him for the 10th. Tiant struck out Merritt. Tiant had come up with three strikeouts in the tenth to keep a shutout in order after having a runner at third with no outs.
     
    Merrit took the mound for the bottom of the 10th. Indians left fielder Lou Johnson led off with a single and took second on shortstop Cesar Tovar’s miscue on the play. (Tovar had played at third base all day and had just moved to short after Ermer pinch hit Rollins for Hernandez.) The next batter for Cleveland was catcher Joe Azcue who singled in Johnson to win the game. Tiant had a 10-inning shutout with 19 strikeouts.
     
    Luis continued to pitch great through July, improving his record to 17-6. August was a different story, Tiant struggled. He lost three starts and pitched in three no-decisions. After pitching a complete game on August 10th, he made 5 consecutive early exits, the last three all being less than 6-inning efforts.
     
    On September 9th, Luis Tiant took the mound at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington looking for his 20th win. He would once again match up against Jim Merritt. Minnesota got on the scoreboard early as thirdbaseman Graig Nettles homered in the bottom of the first. That would be all the scoring for the Twins, however, as Tiant only surrendered four more hits and struck out 16. Cleveland had no problems with Merritt this time around and won handily, 6-1.
     
    After picking up his 20th win, Tiant was shelved by the Indians for 12 days before making a two-inning relief appearance against the Angels. Following that, Tiant made one last start on September 25th. It was a gem – a 3-0 blanking of the Yankees in the Bronx although barely 5,000 were on hand to see it. Tiant held the Yankees to a single hit that afternoon (Mickey Mantle) and struck out 11.
     
    In looking back on Luis Tiant’s 1968 season, he led the American League in ERA, shutouts, and fewest hits per 9 innings. He was third in strikeouts behind his Portland/Cleveland teammate Sam McDowell and the Tigers’ Denny McLain. (Denny McLain took home both the Cy Young and MVP awards.) When applying newer metrics, Tiant was clearly the best starting pitcher his league, however, leading the AL in Adjusted Pitching Wins, Base-Out Runs Saved, Win Probability Added, and Fielding Independent Pitching.
  13. Like
    Teflon got a reaction from Platoon for a blog entry, The MLB's Youth Movement   
    In 1971, the average age of MLB non-DH starting position players was 28.9. This began rising steadily year-by-year to a peak of 30.1 years of age in 1996. One could assume this was due largely to players’ careers being extended artificially by PEDs – or one could possibly assume teams were selecting older players in the amateur draft or perhaps being more deliberate with their prospects. Based on how the trend changes following a senate hearing, a BALCO bust and a couple of Jose Canseco tell-all books, however, I mostly assume the former.
     
    And here’s how the trend changed. The average age of starting MLB position players has dropped by 3 years! (To 26.9.) This reverting-to-youth trend is observed at every position.
     


     
    Pitchers -who have been hovering around the same average age of 29 for the last 35 years - were younger in comparison to hitters through the 70s, 80s, and 90s but are now older in comparison – even though their trend has been moving slightly downward since 2004. (Dotted black line - based on the top-10 innings-pitched pitchers on each team each season)
     
     


     
    A three-year shift in the age of hitters means teams are increasingly built around the earlier contracts of players. A larger number of players at low-end salaries means even more money thrown into the fewer top-end salaries - meaning the pay gap gets bigger and bigger and the already-dwindling MLB middle class gets even smaller. (Basically one Donald Trump on the payroll and 24 fast-food drive-through employees)
     
    To me, these changes represent a major philosophical shift in the way baseball teams now make decisions but no one seems to be talking about it. A three-year shift in the average age of players is huge.
  14. Like
    Teflon got a reaction from Michael (ClassicMNTwins) for a blog entry, Great Seasons You May Have Forgotten – 19 year-old Wally Bunker   
    http://www.vintagecardprices.com/pics/1830/166907.jpg
     
    After making his debut as an 18 year-old for the Baltimore Orioles in the final game of 1963, right-handed pitcher Wally Bunker earned a spot in the Orioles starting rotation in May of 1964 and pitched a 1-hitter in his first start of the season. The teenager from San Bruno, California surrendered no earned runs in his next start and a single run in the next (all complete games) eventually extending his winning streak to six consecutive starts before losing to Camilo Pasqual and the Twins on June 7th.
     
    Blessed with outstanding run support on the season, (The O’s scored 5.11 per game in Bunker’s starts, 3.99 in all others), Bunker’s tidy 2.69 ERA translated to 19 wins and only 6 losses in 29 starts, pacing the American League in win percentage. While not an overpowering thrower, (4.0 K’s per 9) Bunker still limited opponents to only 161 hits over 214 innings in 1964, translating to a .207 batting average against.
     
    Unfortunately for Bunker, the Twins' Tony Oliva was also a rookie in 1964 and Wally finished a distant second in Rookie of the Year voting to Oliva, the American League batting champion that year.
     
    Bunker also received votes in the MVP balloting, finishing 12th behind teammate Brooks Robinson. Bunker became (and remains) the youngest player to ever receive MVP votes.
  15. Like
    Teflon reacted to Sarah for a blog entry, Connect With Baseball History Through SABR   
    While the dark, cold days of winter can be an ideal time to dive into research on baseball history, as a lifelong baseball fan I have to ask...is there ever a bad time to talk about baseball history? I serve as co-chair of the research committee for the local chapter of the Society for American Baseball Research and invite other Twins Daily readers to get involved with our group.
     
    One of our projects is called the Origins of Baseball in Minnesota Project, where you can select a city to research. Because my parents have a cabin on Lake Vermilion I am up in the Iron Range area frequently so I chose Chisholm. (Yes, insert obligatory Moonlight Graham reference here...) I visited the Minnesota Historical Society, Iron Range Research Center, St. Louis County Historical Society and contacted many other organizations I haven't had a chance to visit in person. I turned my findings into an article for Lake Superior Magazine and a presentation for the fall regional chapter meeting held recently in Minneapolis.
     
    http://www.lakesuperior.com/lifestyle/recreation/361-chisholms-love-for-the-all-american-game/
     
    Is there a game or player you remember and want to highlight to contribute to the ongoing annals of baseball lore? For some reason, this random regular season game two decades ago has always stayed in my mind so it was fun to revisit it through writing an article for the SABR Games Project:
     
    http://sabr.org/gamesproj/game/july-8-1994-tewksbury-goes-distance
     
    You can also contribute individual articles through the Bio Project and other areas of interest depending on your time- a plethora of opportunities to get involved exist without a huge commitment.
     
    The 2015 SABR Convention is going to be held next summer in Chicago, another American League Central city. I was lucky enough to attend this annual event a couple of years ago when it was in Minneapolis- read my Twins Daily blog recap for an idea of what to expect:
     
    http://twinsdaily.com/articles.html/_/minnesota-twins-news/confessions-of-a-sabr-newbie-r591
     
    As I am neither a math or economics major spending my days crunching stats (I tend more toward the liberal arts of writing and research), I still remember being pleasantly surprised by this other wing of SABR more in line with my background.
     
    The Minnesota chapter, appropriately named the Halsey Hall Chapter, has many activities locally and throughout the Upper Midwest including a book club and trips to minor league parks around the area. Visit our website to learn more about how you can join us soon or check out the SABR website for endless possibilities on getting involved with baseball history!
  16. Like
    Teflon got a reaction from Paul Pleiss for a blog entry, Steinbach in '96. How Do You Explain It?   
    I was watching the excellent ESPN 30-for-30 feature on the Earthquake Series of 1989 and in recalling various players on that Oakland A’s team, was again struck by how far off the charts Terry Steinbach’s 1996 was from any other season in his career at the advanced-for-baseball age of 34. Steinbach slugged 35 homeruns that season after never hitting more than 16 before or after. His 34 homeruns as a catcher (the other was as a pinch hitter) was the highest total for a catcher at that time in the American League. It was surpassed by Ivan Rodriguez (35) in 1999 which is the current record.
     
    In all of baseball history, only two other players over age 30 put up career high homeruns exceeding 30 in a season which more than doubled any other season homerun total in their careers.
     
    Brady Anderson – hit 50 homeruns in 1996 at age 32. The next highest HR total for Brady in a season was 24.
     
    George Crowe – hit 31 homeruns in 1957 at age 36. The next highest HR total for George in a season was 15.
     
    Crowe hit his 31 homeruns in the only season he ever topped 400 at-bats so is easily explainable. Brady Anderson and Steinbach, not so. While steroid rumors have always surrounded Anderson’s aberrant 1996, Steinbach’s similarly aberrant 1996 has remained unquestioned as far as I can tell from Google searches despite the Oakland clubhouse of 1996 also being the home to McGwire, Canseco and Giambi.
     
    So how exactly does a 34 year-old catcher who never hit more than 16 homeruns before or since become the all-time single season league leader in homeruns at his position? In looking for explanations, I thought of the following:
     
    Renovation to the Oakland Coliseum
     
    In 1995-1996 the Oakland Coliseum was renovated to enclose the previously open outfield with a massive steep double-decked grandstand for Raiders football. (”Mt. Davis”) Prior to that, the stadium had a symmetrical curved outfield fence with dimension of 330 down the lines, 375 to the alleys, and 400 to center field. With the construction, the configuration of the outfield changed to a peaked diamond shape that kept the same foul line and center field dimensions but was constrained to shorter dimensions in the alleys.
     
    A’s fans have also written that there was previously a breeze that cooled the ballpark on hot day games that disappeared once Mount Davis was erected. This suggests that batters no longer had to deal with wind blowing in. Shorter power alleys and more favorable wind conditions could have helped Steinbach’s power numbers, right?
     
    Steinbach hit a home run every 38 at-bats at home in 1994, every 21 at-bats in 1995, and every 16 at-bats in 1996, while the rest of the A’s hit homers every 36 at-bats in 1994, every 30 at-bats in 1995, and every 24 at-bats in 1996 – so the park (or the team) was trending upward. Unfortunately for the ballpark theory Steinbach’s rates on the road were a homer every 36 at-bats in 1994, every 36 in 1995, and every 13 at-bats in 1996, meaning his homerun rate increased 32% at home in '96 but increased 164% on the road! Not the ballpark.
     
    The Strike of 1994-1995
     
    Steinbach lost at-bats that would have affected his overall homerun totals in 1994 and 1995. The 1994 season was wiped out after 117 games and the 1995 season started late and was limited to 145 games. Perhaps his aberrant 1996 power wouldn’t be as glaring in comparison if his two previous seasons had been completed. Projecting his production in those seasons to 1996 at-bat levels produces only 14 homeruns in 1994 (compared to 11 actual) and 19 instead of 15 in 1995. (For some reason the jump from 19 to 35 seems less staggering even though it’s still semi-staggering – especially given Steinbach’s age. Joe Mauer had his aberrant HR season at age 26, by the way.)
    Sold his Soul?
     
    With the lack of a better explanation, it’s possible Steinbach negotiated some kind of deal with Lucifer in exchange for his 1996 season. How else could you explain how following the greatest season of his career and one of the top seasons ever for an American League catcher, he inexplicably took two-thirds of his previous salary to join a moribund team Twins team that lost 90 games every season for the rest of his career.
  17. Like
    Teflon got a reaction from chamoman for a blog entry, Steinbach in '96. How Do You Explain It?   
    I was watching the excellent ESPN 30-for-30 feature on the Earthquake Series of 1989 and in recalling various players on that Oakland A’s team, was again struck by how far off the charts Terry Steinbach’s 1996 was from any other season in his career at the advanced-for-baseball age of 34. Steinbach slugged 35 homeruns that season after never hitting more than 16 before or after. His 34 homeruns as a catcher (the other was as a pinch hitter) was the highest total for a catcher at that time in the American League. It was surpassed by Ivan Rodriguez (35) in 1999 which is the current record.
     
    In all of baseball history, only two other players over age 30 put up career high homeruns exceeding 30 in a season which more than doubled any other season homerun total in their careers.
     
    Brady Anderson – hit 50 homeruns in 1996 at age 32. The next highest HR total for Brady in a season was 24.
     
    George Crowe – hit 31 homeruns in 1957 at age 36. The next highest HR total for George in a season was 15.
     
    Crowe hit his 31 homeruns in the only season he ever topped 400 at-bats so is easily explainable. Brady Anderson and Steinbach, not so. While steroid rumors have always surrounded Anderson’s aberrant 1996, Steinbach’s similarly aberrant 1996 has remained unquestioned as far as I can tell from Google searches despite the Oakland clubhouse of 1996 also being the home to McGwire, Canseco and Giambi.
     
    So how exactly does a 34 year-old catcher who never hit more than 16 homeruns before or since become the all-time single season league leader in homeruns at his position? In looking for explanations, I thought of the following:
     
    Renovation to the Oakland Coliseum
     
    In 1995-1996 the Oakland Coliseum was renovated to enclose the previously open outfield with a massive steep double-decked grandstand for Raiders football. (”Mt. Davis”) Prior to that, the stadium had a symmetrical curved outfield fence with dimension of 330 down the lines, 375 to the alleys, and 400 to center field. With the construction, the configuration of the outfield changed to a peaked diamond shape that kept the same foul line and center field dimensions but was constrained to shorter dimensions in the alleys.
     
    A’s fans have also written that there was previously a breeze that cooled the ballpark on hot day games that disappeared once Mount Davis was erected. This suggests that batters no longer had to deal with wind blowing in. Shorter power alleys and more favorable wind conditions could have helped Steinbach’s power numbers, right?
     
    Steinbach hit a home run every 38 at-bats at home in 1994, every 21 at-bats in 1995, and every 16 at-bats in 1996, while the rest of the A’s hit homers every 36 at-bats in 1994, every 30 at-bats in 1995, and every 24 at-bats in 1996 – so the park (or the team) was trending upward. Unfortunately for the ballpark theory Steinbach’s rates on the road were a homer every 36 at-bats in 1994, every 36 in 1995, and every 13 at-bats in 1996, meaning his homerun rate increased 32% at home in '96 but increased 164% on the road! Not the ballpark.
     
    The Strike of 1994-1995
     
    Steinbach lost at-bats that would have affected his overall homerun totals in 1994 and 1995. The 1994 season was wiped out after 117 games and the 1995 season started late and was limited to 145 games. Perhaps his aberrant 1996 power wouldn’t be as glaring in comparison if his two previous seasons had been completed. Projecting his production in those seasons to 1996 at-bat levels produces only 14 homeruns in 1994 (compared to 11 actual) and 19 instead of 15 in 1995. (For some reason the jump from 19 to 35 seems less staggering even though it’s still semi-staggering – especially given Steinbach’s age. Joe Mauer had his aberrant HR season at age 26, by the way.)
    Sold his Soul?
     
    With the lack of a better explanation, it’s possible Steinbach negotiated some kind of deal with Lucifer in exchange for his 1996 season. How else could you explain how following the greatest season of his career and one of the top seasons ever for an American League catcher, he inexplicably took two-thirds of his previous salary to join a moribund team Twins team that lost 90 games every season for the rest of his career.
  18. Like
    Teflon got a reaction from Willihammer for a blog entry, Steinbach in '96. How Do You Explain It?   
    I was watching the excellent ESPN 30-for-30 feature on the Earthquake Series of 1989 and in recalling various players on that Oakland A’s team, was again struck by how far off the charts Terry Steinbach’s 1996 was from any other season in his career at the advanced-for-baseball age of 34. Steinbach slugged 35 homeruns that season after never hitting more than 16 before or after. His 34 homeruns as a catcher (the other was as a pinch hitter) was the highest total for a catcher at that time in the American League. It was surpassed by Ivan Rodriguez (35) in 1999 which is the current record.
     
    In all of baseball history, only two other players over age 30 put up career high homeruns exceeding 30 in a season which more than doubled any other season homerun total in their careers.
     
    Brady Anderson – hit 50 homeruns in 1996 at age 32. The next highest HR total for Brady in a season was 24.
     
    George Crowe – hit 31 homeruns in 1957 at age 36. The next highest HR total for George in a season was 15.
     
    Crowe hit his 31 homeruns in the only season he ever topped 400 at-bats so is easily explainable. Brady Anderson and Steinbach, not so. While steroid rumors have always surrounded Anderson’s aberrant 1996, Steinbach’s similarly aberrant 1996 has remained unquestioned as far as I can tell from Google searches despite the Oakland clubhouse of 1996 also being the home to McGwire, Canseco and Giambi.
     
    So how exactly does a 34 year-old catcher who never hit more than 16 homeruns before or since become the all-time single season league leader in homeruns at his position? In looking for explanations, I thought of the following:
     
    Renovation to the Oakland Coliseum
     
    In 1995-1996 the Oakland Coliseum was renovated to enclose the previously open outfield with a massive steep double-decked grandstand for Raiders football. (”Mt. Davis”) Prior to that, the stadium had a symmetrical curved outfield fence with dimension of 330 down the lines, 375 to the alleys, and 400 to center field. With the construction, the configuration of the outfield changed to a peaked diamond shape that kept the same foul line and center field dimensions but was constrained to shorter dimensions in the alleys.
     
    A’s fans have also written that there was previously a breeze that cooled the ballpark on hot day games that disappeared once Mount Davis was erected. This suggests that batters no longer had to deal with wind blowing in. Shorter power alleys and more favorable wind conditions could have helped Steinbach’s power numbers, right?
     
    Steinbach hit a home run every 38 at-bats at home in 1994, every 21 at-bats in 1995, and every 16 at-bats in 1996, while the rest of the A’s hit homers every 36 at-bats in 1994, every 30 at-bats in 1995, and every 24 at-bats in 1996 – so the park (or the team) was trending upward. Unfortunately for the ballpark theory Steinbach’s rates on the road were a homer every 36 at-bats in 1994, every 36 in 1995, and every 13 at-bats in 1996, meaning his homerun rate increased 32% at home in '96 but increased 164% on the road! Not the ballpark.
     
    The Strike of 1994-1995
     
    Steinbach lost at-bats that would have affected his overall homerun totals in 1994 and 1995. The 1994 season was wiped out after 117 games and the 1995 season started late and was limited to 145 games. Perhaps his aberrant 1996 power wouldn’t be as glaring in comparison if his two previous seasons had been completed. Projecting his production in those seasons to 1996 at-bat levels produces only 14 homeruns in 1994 (compared to 11 actual) and 19 instead of 15 in 1995. (For some reason the jump from 19 to 35 seems less staggering even though it’s still semi-staggering – especially given Steinbach’s age. Joe Mauer had his aberrant HR season at age 26, by the way.)
    Sold his Soul?
     
    With the lack of a better explanation, it’s possible Steinbach negotiated some kind of deal with Lucifer in exchange for his 1996 season. How else could you explain how following the greatest season of his career and one of the top seasons ever for an American League catcher, he inexplicably took two-thirds of his previous salary to join a moribund team Twins team that lost 90 games every season for the rest of his career.
  19. Like
    Teflon got a reaction from Willihammer for a blog entry, Silver and Gold Together   
    It’s an honor when an MLB player is recognized as the best offensive or defensive player at his position by his league but it’s an even greater honor when he’s recognized as both. Greater, but not all that rare, it seems. Since the Silver Slugger award originated in 1980, the two awards have been given simultaneously to players a total of 172 times or about 5 times per season out of the 17 possible occurrences.
     
    The first players to be awarded the combo platter* were Keith Hernandez, Willie Wilson, Mike Schmidt, Andre Dawson and Cecil Cooper in 1980. The first Twins player to earn the pair of awards together was Kirby Puckett in 1986. (Kirby went on to do it four more times.) The last Twin was Joe Mauer in 2010, the last of three consecutive seasons he did so. Only one other Twins player won a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove in the same season - Chuck Knoblauch in 1997.
    Ken Griffey Jr., Barry Bonds, and Ivan Rodriguez each won the pair of awards seven times– the highest totals in the 33 years that both have been awarded.
     
    Mike Hampton in 2003 is the only pitcher to win the pair together. Hampton actually has FIVE Silver Slugger awards, the same as Mauer, if you’re counting. (Mark Portugal even has a Silver Slugger award, Joe!)
     
    Inexplicably, there have been 16 occurrences of players being recognized as both their league’s outstanding offensive and defensive player at their position in a season in which they failed to reach the All-Star game. This actually happened to Matt Williams twice – in 1993 and 1997 – and most recently to Chase Headley and Adam LaRoche in 2012. This has never happened to a Yankee, however.
    * - No, I did not have a combo platter for lunch today. Egg salad, avocado, some sprouts and pepperoncini on a croissant. A little watermelon on the side.
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