Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Problem with The Yankees

     In 2010, the Twins were playing outside for the first time since 1982. They also had one of the best teams of the decade. Joe Mauer wasn't hitting for power like he had been the year before, but he still hit .327 from the catcher position. Delmon Young had enjoyed a breakout year, hitting  .298/.333/.493 with 21 homers. Also, 25 year old third baseman Danny Valencia came up in early June and raked, hitting .311/.351/.448 en route to finishing third in Rookie of the Year balloting. The rotation wasn't fantastic but was steady, anchored by Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano. They finished the year 94-68.
     They faced the Yankees in the ALDS. They were swept. The Yankees somehow managed to combine hopelessness and painfully destroying the Twins at the same time. This wasn't the first time the Yankees knocked the Twins out of the playoffs, in fact, the feeling was becoming all too familiar. Since 2003, the Twins were 2-12 against the Yankees in the playoffs. The regular season was and has been no better. Since '03, the Twins are 26-62 against the Evil Empire, good for a .333 winning percentage.
     The bizarre part about the Twins Big Apple adversity is that the Twins are a vastly different team than others that couldn't crack the Yankees. Nobody on the team currently was here in 2003, and Mauer and Duensing are the only ones who were on the 2010 squad.
     Much of the Twins struggles has been the inability to get A-Rod out. It's surreal how much he owns the Twins. In 143 regular season games against the Twins, he's logged 546 at-bats and hit .317 with 50 homers. He also has a 1.033 OPS, which would be the third highest of his career if it happened throughout a season.
     When he hit his grand slam last night, not only did it not surprise me, but I would have been surprised if hadn't gotten an extra base hit. I couldn't find splits against a specific team but I'm sure if I had I would have seen A-Rod is hitting approximately .853 in the seventh inning or later with runners in scoring position.
     They also were never able to hit Mariano Rivera. In 72.2 innings pitched against the Twins, the reliever struck out 69 while allowing 45 hits, including just two homers.
      Maybe it's as simple as the Twins can't play the Yankees. Really specific stats are hard to find unless you have an in with the Elias Sports Bureau, so this is completely anecdotal, when the Twins take the lead, regardless of inning, the Yankees get one right back, their next time at bat. That could be from anything, like nerves, knowing that they haven't taken a series from the Evil Empire since 2001, or the Steinbrenners have a grudge against the Pohlads and send A-Rod's cousin into their clubhouse before every game to spike the Gatorade or... pretty much anything. Sometimes I hate being a Twins fan.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Inevitable Twins Collapse

     In 2001, the Minnesota Twins were a team on the rise. After going 69-93 the previous year under Tom Kelly, they had improved vastly under new manager Ron Gardenhire and a young core of players including Torii Hunter, Jacque Jones, Christian Guzman, Brad Radke, Matt Lawton and a 22 year old relief pitcher named Johan Santana. They started out 56-33 before fading in the second half, ultimately winning 85 games and missing the playoffs. But it didn't matter that they didn't make it. They had set up a good foundation for the future. They went on to win the Central the next three years with much of the same group.
     I bring up that '01 team because the Twins probably aren't going to make the playoffs this year. And that's ok. They weren't supposed to be good this year, and just the fact that they're near .500 right now is a success. Going into the season 78 so-called experts at ESPN made their predictions. Zero had the Twins winning the central. Just about all had them finishing last.
     While it's frustrating that the Twins have seemingly forgotten how to pitch, hit or do anything remotely competently, that wasn't for this year. We're still in the developmental stages of this team.
     We'll get a closer look at Buxton later this month and Sano has already proven he can hit in the big leagues. As he gets more at-bats he'll cut down on the strikeouts but he already looks comfortable at the plate. He lays off breaking balls in the dirt which most 22 year olds swing through like Arcia, Vargas, and Buxton.
     Hicks has vastly improved. After two miserable seasons to begin his career he seems to have finally figured it out, batting .285/.342/.425 and covering more ground in center field than Charles Barkley at a buffet.
      Eddie Rosario has looked very comfortable as well. I could go on for awhile just about his sheer awesomeness but I'll keep it short. He looks more like a rookie than Sano, but his flashes of brilliance are better than anyone else's. His eight triples are one away from Tony Oliva's franchise record for a rookie. There are times where he looks lackadaisical in the outfield and overpowered at the plate, but there's enough there to be optimistic.
     Of course, it hasn't been all good. Phil Hughes has plunged back toward mediocrity. Kennys Vargas and Danny Santana both disappointed after promising rookie seasons and Oswaldo Arcia got Wally Pipped by Rosario. But the good far outweighs the bad.
     They also have a loaded farm system, headlined by Jose Berrios, Nick Gordon and Jorge Polanco. They could've cashed in any one of those assets, but as I've said before, this wasn't their year. It doesn't make sense to trade anyone when they might not even be a wild card. 
     With the Twins falling out of the race after Toronto, Houston and Kansas City loaded up at the deadline, it's easy to criticize Terry Ryan, but by waiting now, they have the chance to be one of the best teams in the league in just a year or two, which is a lot better than selling the farm for maybe a one game playoff.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Winners and Losers from the Trade Deadline

Winner: Blue Jays
We'll start with the obvious one. They acquired the best overall player on the trade market and still had enough assets to snag one of the top pitchers. Losing Daniel Norris will hurt, but losing him is worth gaining David Price, especially after going all in with Tulowitzki.
Loser: Padres
While A.J. Preller's offseason bombed, he did end up with some good assets so the Padres could set up for the future for the 800th time in Justin Upton, Joakin Benoit and Craig Kimbrel. The got rid of none of them. Now they'll be stuck in the middle of nowhere, with a big league roster not good enough to make the playoffs and a mediocre farm system.
Winner: Astros
Obviously getting Carlos Gomez was huge. He'll continue the 'Stros slow integration of speed and finesse into a lineup full of slow power hitters. Scott Kazmir was an underrated addition. He isn't punching guys out like he used to in Tampa Bay, but he's still been effective using his breaking pitches more often. Houston needed another arm to go with Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers and didn't have to pay too much for Kazmir.
Loser: Angels
I understand that the Halos needed an outfielder with Matt Joyce hitting under the Mendoza line, but Shane Victorino isn't someone who will be a difference maker. That move got even more confusing when they dealt for David Dejesus. In the last two years, Victorino's played 66 games in which he's hit .251/.306/.333 including a ghastly .231/.310/.279 line this year. He's merely an average fielder, so it's curious as to what value he brings to the table.
Winner: Mets
Yes, the Mets are doing well, on and off the field, no the apocalypse isn't any time soon. Snagging Yoenis Cespedes was a savvy move. I thought giving up Zack Wheeler was a little too much for Carlos Gomez, but they only gave up one top prospect for Cespedes, who will give them an imposing bat in the middle of the lineup.
Loser: Dodgers
The Dodgers were the most hyped team going into the deadline. They ended up with Mat Latos and Mike Morse among others, which is a fine haul, but they had the inside track on getting Hamels or Price and couldn't capitalize.
Winner: Yoenis Cespedes's real estate agent
Cespedes just went to his fourth city since last July. Whoever's getting him settled in these places is making a lot of money. Fast.