Author Archive

Five Biggest MLB MVP Snubs of All Time

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

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


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

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

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

After being allowed to leave as a free agent after 11 seasons in Montreal, the 32-year old Dawson struggled to find a new home thanks in part to his old knees and baseball’s rampant collusion problem.

Dawson ended up parading around the reluctant Cubs’ Spring Training Facility and offered Chicago a blank contract. The Cubs scribbled “$500,000” in the blank.

Dawson enjoyed one of his best seasons in 1987, hitting .287/.328/.568 with a league-leading 49 home runs (His 137 runs batted in no doubt impressed voters, who obviously overlooked his 444 RBI opportunities).

Although I give the BBWAA credit for ignoring that their MVP selection came from a last-place team, Dawson was not the most valuable player in the National League in 1987.

Tony Gwynn was.

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

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


4. Steve Garvey (5.1) over Mike Schmidt (10.5), 1974

Garvey: .312/.342/.469, 21 HR, 66 SO/31 BB, .364 wOBA

Schmidt: .282/.395/.546, 36 HR, 138 SO/106 BB, .418 wOBA


This is a classic example of baseball award voters ignoring three aspects of the game that need to be looked at when evaluating players: fielding, positional adjustment, and the irrelevance of that players’ team’s success.

Garvey was a well above-average hitter for Los Angeles and helped lead his Dodgers to the World Series. As a first baseman, though, above-average offensive production was required. One-fourth of the longest-lasting infield in baseball history, Garvey was a popular player and his .312/.342/.469 triple-slash line earned him 13 of the 22 first-place votes.

Mike Schmidt finished sixth in MVP voting that year, despite being superior to Garvey in just about every offensive category. Hitting .282/.395/.546 with 36 home runs, Schmidt can attribute his low position in the vote to a poor Phillies’ team.

Schmidt, then just 24, played phenomenal defense at third base, and though he struck out a league-leading 138 times, he was third in the league in wOBA. Garvey was 32nd.


3. Yogi Berra (3.8) over Mickey Mantle (9.5), 1955

Berra: .272/.349/.470, 27 HR, 20 SO/60 BB, .364 wOBA
Mantle: .306/.431/.611, 37 HR, 97 SO/113 BB, .455 wOBA

These were the glory years for the New York Yankees. Winning eight of the 12 World Series titles from 1947-1958, the Yankees were at the height of their glory. Excellent players and coaches were gracing Yankee Stadium with their presence, and it was certainly a great time to be a fan of the most successful sporting team on earth.

In fact, the Yankees were so successful that they had six players finish in the top-15 of the 1955 MVP vote.

The always-popular Yogi Berra won the award that year despite sporting numbers that were merely great for the first time in six years. Berra’s ’55 line of .272/.349/.470 would make most major leaguers drool with envy, but for Berra they were actually worse than he usually posted.

Mantle, meanwhile, had started what would be a decade of incredible performances with the Yankees.

As a 23-year old in 1955, Mantle hit .306/.431/.611 with 37 home runs and 113 walks (save for batting average, Mantle led the league in every category I just mentioned). His fielding in the outfield was very good, and even accounting for positional adjustment Mantle blows away the rest of the competition.

Strictly speaking, few can get worked up over this award. The two eventually became Hall of Famers and are among baseball’s elite tier of legends. Should Mantle have received the ’55 MVP Award, he would have launched one of the best careers in baseball history with three consecutive MVP Awards. In reality, though, Berra received the third MVP Award of his career in 1955.

Mantle wasn’t nearly as dominant as he was the next two seasons, but he was the most deserving recipient of the award in 1955. A far inferior player was handed the hardware instead, solidifying Mantle’s position among baseball’s snubbed.


2. Mickey Cochrane (4.3) over Lou Gehrig (10.7), 1934

Cochrane: .320/.428/.412, 2 HR, 26 SO/78 BB, .396 wOBA
Gehrig: .363/.465/.706, 49 HR, 31 SO/109 BB, .509 wOBA

Like the previous one, this snubbing also involves two future Hall of Famers and would hardly change the course of baseball history if the results were reversed.

Cochrane, a catcher, relied upon his ability to hit for average and get on base at an astounding clip for his offensive success. Gehrig was also able to hit for average and get on base, but also boasted one of the most powerful bats in baseball history.

Gehrig, a first baseman, had a career slugging percentage of .632 and averaged 37 home runs per 162 games. In 1934, Gehrig hit 49 moon shots, which lead the league. He was also tops in the American League in all three rate stats and total bases. His .539 secondary average was 260 points higher than Cochrane’s. For a 31-year old, this was very impressive.

The 1934 Detroit Tigers qualified for the World Series before falling to Dizzy Dean’s St. Louis Cardinals in seven games. This postseason fame gave Cochrane and teammates Charlie Gehringer, Schoolboy Rowe, Hank Greenberg, and Marv Owen five of first nine finishes in that year’s MVP race. New York’s Lefty Gomez can attribute his third-place finish to his 26 wins, and Gehrig finished fifth.

Gehrig hardly needs another MVP Award placed next to his other two, but he was the best player in 1934 and deserved to be recognized, even if it meant slowing Cochrane’s Hall of Fame induction by a few more years.


1. Juan Gonzalez (2.8) over Ken Griffey, Jr. (9.7), 1996

Gonzalez: .314/.368/.643, 47 HR, 82 SO/45 BB, .418 wOBA
Griffey, Jr.: .303/.392/.628, 49 HR, 104 SO/74 BB, .427 wOBA

In terms of difference in wins-above-replacement, the BBWAA made a mighty mistake in 1996. In fact, Gonzalez was the least deserving of the 21 players to receive MVP votes 1996, according to

The year 1996 was chock-full of home runs (and steroid usage), leading to no shortage of impressive OPS figures and RBI totals. Gonzalez was near the top of both lists, was a crucial member of an emerging Texas Rangers squad, and was recognized as the best player in baseball.

Unfortunately for others, that was far from the case. Although the story of both Gonzalez and the Rangers growing up together and ultimately reaching their first postseason in franchise history is appealing, Junior posted the highest WAR that season, according to B-Ref. Griffey finished fourth in the voting after receiving just four first-place votes.

Like Gonzalez, Griffey had also spent many years with his organization and was one of the primary reasons his team reached the postseason for the first time.

Griffey had the best season of his career in 1996, even accumulating 139 RBI thanks to his 20.79 RBI percentage (third highest in the league). Griffey had the stats baseball writers look for when choosing an MVP (HR, RBI, a team with a winning record), but struggled with the mask of anonymity that Seattle gave him.

While Griffey was a phenomenal defender in the Mariner’s outfield, Gonzalez was atrocious. Griffey was one of the few true five-tool players in baseball history, but his best season was over-shadowed by a far-inferior Gonzalez.

Gonzalez will be eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame next year. Steroid allegations will always haunt Gonzo, but many will point to his 1996 MVP campaign as reason for his election. Griffey will always be a legend, but how much more would one additional MVP award have solidified his place in baseball lore?

Thanks to the mistakes of the Baseball Writers Association of America, we’ll never know.


Honorable mentions: Marion over Musial, 1944; Eckersly over Clemens, 1992; Hernandez over Ripken, 1984; Baylor over Brett, 1979; Vaughn over Valentin, 1995; Bell over Boggs, 1987; McGee over Gooden, 1985; Mattingly over Henderson, 1985; Munson over Fidrych, 1976; Fingers over Henderson, 1981


Read more MLB news on

MLB Trade Rumors: Twins Trade For Matt Capps, Improve Bullpen


During a year in which pitchers are being sold for remarkably low prices, the Minnesota Twins announced last night that they had traded Wilson Ramos to the Washington Nationals for closer Matt Capps. On the face of things, it seems a very high price to pay for a closer.

Ramos, 22, was one of the most-blocked prospects in baseball. Being a catcher in Minnesota’s organization doesn’t exactly qualify you for much playing time, and Ramos was a virtual lock to be traded eventually.

That he was only able to bring Matt Capps as a return, though, is disappointing. Many thought Ramos was worth much more than an expensive relief pitcher, but a lot of that can probably be attributed to a fan base overvaluing a prospect’s worth.

The fact is, Ramos hasn’t helped the Twins out much this year. By hitting a paltry .241/.280/.345 in Triple-A Rochester this season, Ramos’ value has either dropped significantly, or Minnesota’s front office panicked and sold Ramos for less than he was worth.

Capps is owed around $1.3 million for the rest of this season, and is set for another raise for the 2011 campaign. With Joe Nathan expected to attempt a comeback next year, though, Capps may not even be tendered a contract. If Nathan can make a full recovery, Capps would be a very expensive set-up man, to say the least.

While it would be nice to have a Capps-Nathan combo in the 2011 bullpen, the duo would combine to make entirely too much money for the impact they could make on the team as a whole. But while it wouldn’t be cost-effective to keep both a functional Nathan and Capps next year, the 26-year old reliever from Washington will be available should Nathan not recover from Tommy John surgery.

Expensive though he is, Capps makes the Twins a better team than they were yesterday. Being inserted directly into the ninth inning role, Capps will force the entire bullpen chain down a notch, which should help other Minnesota relievers improve, or, in some cases, take high-leverage innings away from relievers who have no business pitching in them.

Capps has induced quite a few ground balls this year, and has seen a healthy drop in his fly ball rate. The transition from Nationals Park to Target Field will be negligible, so the Twins are hoping Capps can keep batted balls on the ground. Minnesota’s infield is much more prepared to handle an increased work-load than the outfield.*

* Minnesota’s currently outfield deserves a post of its own. The primary culprit for Baker, Slowey, and Blackburn’s poor seasons this year, the outfield could use an infusion of range. As Beth Sickella opined last night on Twitter, the Twins should consider giving Cuddyer a few games at third (once Morneau is healthy again, of course) during starts from Slowey and Baker. This will hurt the infield defense, but allow both Repko and Span to play in the outfield. An interesting idea, to say the least.

By bringing in Capps, the Twins will increase their final win total of the regular season by a fraction of a win, at best. Still, in the very tight American League Central, a division that has required a couple Game 163’s, even a fraction of a win could make a huge difference.

Read more MLB news on

Anatomy of an Offensive Outburst: The Minnesota Twins

Something wasn’t quite right with Zack Greinke.


The 26-year-old defending Cy Young Award winner had a 3.59 ERA on the season; quite good, but certainly not great. Even though his walk rate was down from his glorious 2009 campaign, Greinke wasn’t receiving the attention that he used as fuel.


With a merely above-average strikeout rate this year, Greinke was slipping from national acclaim back to the anonymous ace he was in 2007 and 2008.


Greinke can attribute his slip to many things, but pitching for one of the worst teams in baseball is on the top of the list. It’s extremely difficult to maintain an aura of winning and success on a team that is 15 games below the .500-mark. Just ask Felix Hernandez.


But while the environment may not be ideal, Greinke has also seen his fastball lose its zip and his breaking balls go flat. His struggles against the Twins on July 26 were hardly indicative of his season, but Greinke did suffer through the same things that have been haunting him all season.


Greinke’s struggles Monday night allowed Danny Valencia to hit his first major-league home run, which happened to be a grand slam and the most devastating swing in Minnesota’s 19-1 rout of the Royals.


I won’t claim to know what went on in Kansas City’s bullpen before the 7:10 p.m. matchup between the two division rivals, but I’d wager that Greinke struggled to make his breaking balls work for him. His slider wasn’t dropping in the strikezone like he wanted, and his curveball had very little curve.


If Greinke’s warm-up pitches had been televised, more people could have predicted the quick Minnesota runs. Without being able to utilize his breaking balls, Greinke would be forced to rely on a fastball/changeup duo. Facing Minnesota’s deep lineup, Greinke most likely knew it was going to be a long time.


Facing Jason Repko to start the game, Greinke threw a 92-mph fastball that landed in the upper half of the plate. Repko was likely ordered to take that first pitch, which he probably regretted. For the next pitch Repko sat on Greinke’s fastball, which was again offered in essentially the same position. Repko belted Greinke’s pitch to left field for a two-base hit.


If Greinke would have had his slider working that night, he would have painted the lower corner of the plate to take the count to 0-2 and possibly make the eventual outcome of the game a little less ugly. But Greinke was hesitant in throwing his usually-deadly breaking balls in the first at-bat of the game, which likely excited the entire Twins’ dugout.


Over the next seven pitches, Greinke threw six fastballs and gave up a triple, a single, and a double. With two runs already on the board and two Minnesota runners in scoring position with the heart of the Twins’ lineup due up, Greinke received a visit from his coaching staff.


Greinke managed to strike out an over-zealous Thome on a slider in the dirt, and rung up Cuddyer by painting the strikezone and throwing a rising fastball that Cuddyer couldn’t pass up.


Greinke fell behind a much more patient Kubel, though, barely missing the strikezone with three consecutive fastballs. Even the obligatory 3-0 count strike barely caught the outer corner of the plate. With two outs, Kubel was walked to load the bases for rookie Danny Valencia.


Valencia, with a career triple-slash line of .298/.353/.469 in five minor league seasons, certainly knows how to take advantage of a struggling starting pitcher. He had undoubtedly been watching Greinke’s pitch selection up until that point, and knew the former Cy Young winner was throwing almost exclusively fastballs and was failing to find the strikezone.


With that knowledge, Valencia worked out his game plan for this crucial bases-loaded plate appearance: Work the count, force Greinke to throw a strike, and sit on his fastball. The plan worked to perfection.


Greinke tried his slider once more against Valencia, hoping to get ahead early, but missed high and outside. Knowing he would be forced to rely primarily on his fastball, Greinke upped the velocity a few miles per hour and started painting the corners. Missing twice low, though, Greinke was in danger of walking in a run, a cardinal sin for anyone and especially for a pitcher of Greinke’s caliber. After taking another fastball down the middle of the plate to make the count 3-1, Valencia sat on Greinke’s fastball.


In the fifth pitch of the at-bat and his 28th offering of the inning, Greinke threw a fastball up in the heart of the strikezone. Valencia knew it was coming and launched it to left field for a grand slam to push the score to 6-0 and set the tone for the remainder of the game.


For Greinke, the home run represents one of the worst starts of his career and the latest in a series of struggles this season. He’s certainly not a liability to the Royals, but he’s gone a long way in the wrong direction since last year.


For Valencia, the home runs represents the emergence of his status as a power threat. Having reached double-digit home runs most seasons through his minor league career, Valencia was thought to have sufficient pop to be an above-average third baseman in the big leagues. He’s doing all he can to prove it to us.


For the Twins, this home run and 19-1 slaughtering of the Royals represents their return to threats in the American League Central. The seasonal outlook among fans before this road trip was remarkably dim; most expected the team to stand pat at the deadline and fall to the White Sox.


After showing off their muscle against Kansas City, Minnesota’s chances this season look better, even to the most pessimistic of people.

Read more MLB news on

Minnesota Twins: What Would You Do?

With inconsistency taking a death-grip over Minnesota’s starting rotation this year, the Twins are rumored to have been interested in just about every pitcher on the market. Unquestionably, Dan Haren and Roy Oswalt are the two most coveted trade targets this season, and the Twins would no doubt love to bring in some pitching help.

Rumors are one thing; feasibility is a whole different animal.

Adding a player like Oswalt or Haren would almost certainly tack a few extra wins onto Minnesota’s record, which would significantly increase the Twins’ playoff chances. But could Minnesota commit to a large contract without crippling the team for the next five years?


Pardon the ambiguity, but there is a way to take on an expensive contract without going bankrupt. But first, here are a few points that need to be understood:


  • Roy Oswalt is not a realistic option for Minnesota. Not only does the 32-year-old Mississippi native seem to be positioning himself for a trade to St. Louis, but his salary is significantly higher and more unreasonable than Haren’s. The Twins wouldn’t be able to afford one year of Oswalt, even if Houston contributed a few million.
  • If Minnesota were to acquire Haren, they could trade him again if they found themselves unable to keep up with the right-hander’s increasing salary. The prospects they receive in return may not equal the ones they give to Arizona, but the added wins would mostly offset the small hit in both the farm system and payroll.
The Twins’ payroll is already well beyond what many thought possible. I don’t have any idea how well Target Field is performing from a revenue-generating standpoint, but even if you assume that Minnesota will increase their payroll from this season you still need to account for some often-overlooked expenses, most notably Joe Mauer’s $10.5 million raise next year.
Mauer, Morneau, Cuddyer, Kubel, Nathan, and Punto are due to receive a combined $70 million in 2011. Young and Liriano will both demand large arbitration increases, and both Baker and Blackburn are slated to receive multiple millions. Add it all up and you find yourself fiscally stretched.
I won’t pretend to know if the Twins are prepared or willing to throw an extra $8-10 million into the player payroll department next season. As a fan of the team, I can’t expect a significant increase. From a fan’s perspective, the Pohlads would ideally take on a large contract, push for the playoffs, and solve financial problems later. As much as I’d like to think the Pohlad family values a World Series run as much as I do, the Minnesota Twins are a money-making entity. The bottom line is considered in all decisions.
If you were tasked with making expensive decisions, would you pay $10 million for a 10 percent increase in playoff probability and a chance to display loyalty to your fan base?


Read more MLB news on

Three Steps To a Successful Second Half for the Minnesota Twins

After starting the season with most everything clicking, the Minnesota Twins have experienced a rough couple of months. Injuries, rotten luck, and even simple incompetence has contributed to the Twins’ drop to third in the AL Central, and the future doesn’t look any better.

Of course, as does every blogger, I know exactly how to fix the team. Here are three steps Minnesota needs to take in order to have a successful second half of the season.


1. Send Kevin Slowey, Aaron Hicks, Carlos Gutierrez, and Yangervis Solarte to Arizona for Dan Haren

There were two major consequences of the Cliff Lee trade, and both aren’t beneficial to the Twins: Lee will not be in a Minnesota uniform in 2010, and his trade significantly raised the current going rate for starting pitchers.

Texas essentially gave up a switch-hitting Justin Morneau for two or three months of Lee, which is far more than the Twins would have been willing to surrender. Now that a precedent has been set, Arizona will demand much more for Dan Haren.

The Diamondbacks need tons of help, especially in the pitching department. Slowey has proven to be an adequate middle-to-end of the rotation starter in the American League, and could be a solid No. 3 option on the Senior Circuit. Gutierrez has plenty of upside and will be a great relief option in a year or two. And Hicks’ incredible amount of unproven upside will be very appealing to Arizona’s depleted minor league system.

Minnesota gives up plenty, but will receive at least two and a half seasons of an above-average starting pitcher. (Possibly three and a half; Haren has a $15.5 million club option for the 2013 season.) Haren’s switch from the National League to the American League should cause some concerns, but the 29-year-old has three years of AL experience under his belt.

Haren spent the 2005-2007 seasons with the Oakland Athletics and posted a combined ERA of 3.64. He struck out an average of 7.2 per nine innings, and walked just 2.1 per nine. Stats such as HR/FB, BABIP, and LOB percentage show that Haren wasn’t benefiting from many lucky breaks, either.

Despite his slow start to the 2010 season, Haren would be a good top-of-the-rotation starter with the Twins and could help Minnesota re-take the division.


2. Move Delmon Young up to fifth in the batting order

Delmon Young has played in all but seven of the Twins’ games so far this season. In 83 percent of the games he has played in, though, Young has batted in the sixth-seventh-eighth positions. Now, Young is no superstar and is certainly not worthy of usurping Morneau from the clean-up role, but there is no reason why the 24-year-old isn’t batting fifth.

In five of the six most common lineups this season, the Twins have batted Young seventh, behind both Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer. Young (.842 OPS) has been a better player than both Kubel (.787) and Cuddyer (.766) this season, and should be moved up to the fifth spot in the batting order in order to give him more RBI opportunities.


3. Sit back and wait for the magic of regression to take effect.

I’m not excusing poor performances when I say that the Twins have suffered from a great deal of bad luck so far this season.

It’s a fact that the Tigers and White Sox have benefiting from outstanding and very unsustainable performances from Paul Konerko, Alex Rios, Austin Jackson, Brennan Boesch, and Miguel Cabrera. These players’ performances will almost certainly decrease to something more along the lines of what they have put up over the course of their careers.

The Twins, meanwhile, have dealt with poor performances due to bad luck (see: Mauer, Joe) and poor performances due to injury (see: Hardy, J.J.; Hudson, Orlando).

There are still a lot of games left in the season, and there is a good chance things will eventually even out. Minnesota is still the most talented team in the division.

But adding a front-line starting pitcher would make things a whole lot easier.

Read more MLB news on

Minnesota Twins: The One Where An Eternal Optimist Gets a Reality Check


Compared to most fans in Twins Territory, I can be considered an optimist. When things on the field start looking bad, I can usually find a silver lining.

Who am I kidding? I’m the kind of guy who would be whistling Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy ” during a nuclear holocaust.

We haven’t quite reached that point yet, but things are looking dismal for the Minnesota Twins. Joe Mauer’s batting average has dropped below .300, Justin Morneau suffered a concussion and has missed three straight games, at least four members of the starting rotation have proven themselves to be unreliable, at best.

Here is a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don’t worry be happy

While the Twins have struggled, the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox have soared to take the division lead. Minnesota is sitting in the middle of the AL Central, despite having the most talent in the division.

In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy……

Cliff Lee, a symbol of hope to Minnesotans for the past few weeks and months, recently signed with the Texas Rangers for a king’s ransom of young talent. The Twins had no chance of matching Texas’ offer.

Ain’t got no place to lay your head
Somebody came and took your bed
Don’t worry, be happy

In this space, after spending time detailing the Twins’ struggles, I would usually provide a sentence or two or reassurance. This time, I’ve got nothing. Minnesota is drastically under-achieving.

Let’s hope they right the ship before too long.

Read more MLB news on

Minnesota Twins: How Much is Too Much?

Another series of rumors took the Internet by storm last night. According to a Detroit radio station’s Twitter account, the Twins and Mariners agreed to a deal that would send Cliff Lee to the Minnesota in exchange for Wilson Ramos and Aaron Hicks.

Eventually, various beat writers and reporters shot down the rumors but did confirm that the two teams were in serious discussions. At this point, I think it’s time we draw some conclusions, in order of confidence:

  1. The Twins are interested in trading for Lee.

  2. The Twins will not be able to re-sign Lee after the 2010 season.

  3. Ramos will be included in any package coming from Minnesota.

  4. An outfield prospect will be included in any package coming from Minnesota.

  5. The Twins will not include both Ramos and Hicks in a deal for Lee.

I certainly wish I could move that fourth bullet point higher on the list. Giving up both Ramos and Hicks would be a costly mistake, even though it would bring two (hopefully three) months of Lee’s pitching to Minnesota’s rotation.

According to ERA, the Twins have a slightly below-average starting rotation. According to the stat xFIP, Minnesota’s combination of starting pitchers are the third best group in MLB. The Twins have a high BABIP (batting average on balls in play), which should help decrease the team’s ERA over the second half of the season.

Despite the great sabermetric reviews, the Twins remain without an ace. In a short series, few teams would want to face Lee, Francisco Liriano, and Carl Pavano on consecutive days. I don’t blame them.

Before Minnesota can even get to the postseason though, they will have to win the AL Central, which remains as competitive as ever. The Twins are in the thick of the race and should be willing to pay top dollar for every extra win they can log. Minnesota will pay a lot more for Lee than, for example the Houston Astros, simply because every added win greatly contributes to their postseason chances.

While the Twins would be willing to pay more for Lee than most teams—is a Ramos/Hicks package too much?

As much as I would love to see Mauer, Morneau, and Ramos combine to form one of the best C/1B/DH trios in the league. It’s clear that Ramos is expendable. In fact, Ramos is perhaps the most blocked and tradable prospects in baseball. As for Hicks, he is the most talented of the several athletic outfield prospects the Twins have in their farm system. There will be a log jam of outfielders in the future if the Twins don’t deal some away, though Hicks is the 9th-best prospect in the minor leagues, according to ESPN’s Keith Law.

I’d be more than willing to deal Ramos and Hicks together in a deal for Roy Oswalt or Dan Haren, both of whom are under contract for more than just a few months. But for a rental, I’d have to think Ramos and Hicks would be too much.

To play devil’s advocate, here’s a tweet from @chrisandersonis :

“Don’t understand why people would be up in arms about Hicks & Ramos for Lee. #Twins have farmed players for 19 years w/ 0 titles.”

This is true. At some point, giving up young talent in order to win now is the best course of action. But the line between going for broke and reckless spending is often times a tricky one to maneuver.

What do you think? Should the Twins deal Ramos and Hicks for Lee, or hold out for a better deal?

Read more MLB news on

Delmon Young Double Gets Minnesota Twins Back To Winning Ways

In a pitchers duel, it doesn’t take much to shift the balance of the game. For the Minnesota Twins Friday night against the Tampa Bay Rays, two key base hits provided a lead that they would refuse to relinquish.

Minnesota’s Scott Baker managed to scatter several hits from the potent Ray’s offense with minimal damage on the scoreboard. Working an effective slider and a fastball with plenty of bite, Baker managed to keep the Rays at bay, with the exception of a run scored on a ground-rule double in the first inning.

Hits were much tougher to come by against David Price. The former first-overall selection had his deadly fastball/curveball combination working like a gem, and the Twins only managed four hits the entire game. Half of those hits came in the bottom half of the seventh inning for Minnesota, which game them a 2-1 lead.

Delmon Young, the oft-maligned Twins outfielder who could be the most over-qualified 7th batter in the league, followed up a Jason Kubel single with a game-tying double to left-center field. He was knocked home with a base hit to center field off the bat of rookie Danny Valencia.

The Twins relied upon Brian Duensing and Jesse Crain to get them through the 8th inning before putting the ball in the hands of impromptu closer Jon Rauch.

Rauch, 6”11′ and 290 lbs, was given the 9th-inning role when it was discovered that Joe Nathan needed season-ending surgery. Although Twins fans lack confidence in the towering 31-year old, his sub-3.00 ERA and 18 saves speak volumes to Rauch’s ability. That being said, Rauch’s success also shows how over-rated the closer position is; if Rauch can thrive in the high-leverage 9th inning, so can most relievers.

With the win, Minnesota evens the four-game series with Tampa at one apiece. Tomorrow, the Twins’ top-performing starting pitcher will take the mound in Target Field. Francisco Liriano has solidified his place in Minnesota’s rotation this season via several excellent starts and a 3.47 ERA.

Liriano’s opponent will be Wade Davis, who has struggled this season despite a low BABIP, low line-drive percentage, and high strand rate. Although it appears that Davis is a prime candidate to give up a 10-spot to the Twins this afternoon, the 24-year old righty has an ERA of 2.65 in his last three starts and appears to be settling down.

If Minnesota can notch another victory, they will guarantee themselves a series split against one of the tougher teams in the league. The Twins are coming off a rough month of June and a series split would be a fine way to get back on track. Winning three of four from the Rays, though, would be an even better way for the Twins to shake off the rust and get back to their winning ways.


Read more MLB news on

Minnesota Twins/Tampa Bay Rays Series Preview: 7/1-7/4

Originally published at .

After a satisfying series victory over the divisional rival Detroit Tigers, the Twins will end their homestand with a four-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Tampa Bay started the season off on an excellent note, perching themselves atop the American League East while the Yankees and Red Sox tried to re-group. Now, though, the Rays have struggled to maintain their pitching prowess, and have slipped in the standings.

Still one of the best teams in baseball, though, the Rays will be trying to accomplish the same thing as the Twins during this series: closing the door on a rotten June in an attempt to get back on track in July.

Game One – Jeff Niemann (6-2, 2.72) vs. Carl Pavano (9-6, 3.33)

Niemann, 27, was a major factor into Tampa Bay’s incredible start to the season, posting a 2.38 ERA through the month of May. Like his team, though, Niemann took a step back in June. This step back has been minimal, but could be the start of a major regression.

Despite coming off two successful starts against National League squads, Niemann is a classic example of a pitcher with artificially impressive stats. With an extremely low BABIP, a low line drive percentage, and a very high strand rate, it’s not a question of whether or not Niemann will regress; it’s a question of when.

While he’s certainly not as good of a pitcher as his stats suggest, Niemann may not return to earth for quite a while. The longer he keeps up this façade, though, the harder his fall will be.

Pavano’s success, meanwhile, appears to be more a result of ability. Although he has the benefit of a low BABIP and high strand rate, Pavano hasn’t given up any fewer line drives than is usual for the 34-year-old. His overall talent level is probably worse than his current 3.33 ERA, but to expect a 4.00 ERA on the season would be fair.

Though not the case for most Twins, the month of June has been extremely friendly to Pavano. Coming off two consecutive complete games, Pavano has an ERA of 2.25 through 40 June innings. Pavano (and teammate Francisco Liriano) have been paramount to Minnesota’s ability to avoid a free-fall this month.

Both BJ Upton and Carl Crawford have dealt with minor bumps and bruises these past few days, and they may miss a game or two during this series.

Game Two – David Price (11-3, 2.44) vs. Scott Baker (4-7, 4.97)

A few weeks ago, David Price was in the same boat as Niemann: a lucky pitcher who would likely plummet back to a more realistic realm. Instead of regressing, though, Price seems to be finally tapping into his incredible potential.

Price, 24, had marginal success last year with basically two pitches: a four-seam fastball and a slider. This season Price has introduced two new pitches: a curveball and a two-seam fastball. With the ability to better deceive opposing batters, Price has had great success in 2010. His ERA won’t stay below 2.50 for too long, and he won’t be able to strand nearly as many runners as he is now, but Price, the first overall pick in the 2007 draft, has started to realize his potential, which should frighten batters across the American League.

Baker has been one of the most disappointing players for Minnesota this season. A career 4.36 ERA pitcher, Baker’s near-5.00 ERA this season has angered many fans. Looking at the stats, though, shows that Baker has BABIP slightly higher than is usual for the right-hander, and that more fly balls than usual are ending up as home runs. Both of these will likely regress eventually, though, Minnesota fans could be treated to a start along the lines of Baker’s most recent .

Game Three – Wade Davis (5-9, 4.68) vs. Francisco Liriano (6-6, 3.47)

When looking at opposing pitchers in these series previews, I usually make sure to mention whether or not that pitcher has had “luck” on their side. In Davis’ case, though, his poor stats are simply because he hasn’t pitched very well.

Whether his issues are mental or mechanical isn’t necessarily known, but he has garnered far fewer swinging strikes than in the past. This lack of deception has greatly hurt his stats, and Price could be replaced by top prospect Jeremy Hellickson very soon.

Liriano has been one of the best pitchers in the American League this season, and “luck” hasn’t played too big a factor in his success. He will give up more home runs per fly ball than he is now, but all signs point back to the biggest reason for Liriano’s success: his improved slider.

Game Four – James Shields (6-8, 4.76) vs. Nick Blackburn (7-5, 6.02)

On the face of things, it appears that Shields has been unimpressive this season. When trying to root out the reason for this mediocrity, though, I can’t find any glaring abnormalities. Most of his batted-ball and plate discipline stats have remained the same from years past, as Shields is still inducing plenty of ground balls and getting ahead in the count at a very impressive clip.

So why is the ground-ball pitcher struggling? For one, his BABIP is slightly higher, but something intangible is also a likely culprit. In any case, Shields hasn’t been very effective this season, and there is no reason to believe that his mediocrity will end against the Twins.

Blackburn has also struggled to get batters out this year, but we can pinpoint exactly what is ailing the 28-year old righty: He just isn’t very good. He is dead-last in the league in strikeouts per nine innings, and when he throws a pitch in the strike zone, opposing batters make contact an astounding 96.6 percent of the time, which is also tops in the league.

Marginally successful for the past few years, Blackburn relied upon his extremely accurate arm to paint the corners of the plate and walk very few opposing batters. This year, however, it appears the league knows that most of Blackburn’s pitches are hittable.

Read more MLB news on

Denard Span’s Trio of Triples Leads Way To Convincing Twins’ Win

Earlier today, I mentioned the Twins’ struggles in both the run scoring and run prevention departments. If this June slump continues for the rest of the season, Minnesota may struggle to eclipse the 75-win plateau. In order to get back on track, something needs to start working.

Going four-for-four with three triples last night against Detroit, Denard Span apparently got the memo.

Becoming just the third player in the past 30 years to hit three triples in a game, Span may have kicked off the long-awaited improvement that we’ve been banking on for weeks.

Before last night’s game, Span was hitting .275/.347/.367. The walk rate and on-base percentage are fine, but Span hasn’t been hitting the ball consistently or with nearly as much power as most would like.

Although Span’s ten total bases stole the national spotlight, starting pitcher Nick Blackburn’s strong outing deserves to be mentioned as well.

Typically an atrocious pitcher in the month of June, Blackburn has held true to form so far this season. Before last night’s start, Blackburn had an ERA over 12 in his June starts. After throwing seven strong innings while giving up four runs, that June ERA plummeted.

I’m still not convinced that Blackburn is capable of throwing league-average innings, but a few more starts like this would greatly ease my mind. Even with significant improvement, though, Blackburn is still the rotation’s worst starter and would be the odd man out if the Twins were to pursue a starting pitcher before the trade deadline.

Today’s rubber match against the Tigers will have a large influence on the Twins’ mood and momentum heading into the month of July. A series victory over the Tigers will give Minnesota some breathing room (albeit little) atop the AL Central, while a loss would do nothing to help remove this atmosphere of losing from the Twins’ dugout.

With Kevin Slowey (7-5, 4.79) on the mound while the Twins trot out a day-game lineup, though, I’m anything but confident.


Read more MLB news on

Copyright © 1996-2010 Kuzul. All rights reserved.
iDream theme by Templates Next | Powered by WordPress