8.17.2015

How to Win Every Byron Buxton Debate

For the last week a great many Twins fans have been fiercely debating the fate of top prospect Byron Buxton. As the most prominent local minor leaguer since Joe Mauer, Buxton has been tremendously appealing to fans from Apple Valley to Zumbrota, particularly as the Twins scramble to hold on to one of the AL Wild Cards.

Yet Twins Territory has been torn between demanding Buxton's arrival and ascendancy to greatness, and hedging in the name of cautious player development. 

It may seem that these two camps are irreconcilable, but I think they're just focused on two different questions, like each camp picked a different essay question on the Twins fan final exam.

So, as we get ready to start the school year in Minnesota, here's a quick refresher on how to answer all the questions about Byron Buxton.
It's all about him...
Who/What/When/Where/How is Byron Buxton?

Identification questions--these are the things you can Google and answers are clearly right and wrong: (ex. A's A baseball player; a human being; the present era; Rochester, New York; pretty good, thanks for asking?)

Could/Can Buxton play Centerfield in the majors?

Hypothetical Evaluation questions--should be simple, with yes/no/maybe all viable based on specific known evidence: (ex. A's Yes, he can, because has all his appendages; No, he can't, two weeks of below average play shows he stinks; Maybe he can, because the world is a complex and unknowable place)

Ideal help for every essay test you
have as a grown adult
Might the Twins be making a mistake, by not playing Buxton?

Speculative Evaluation question--like a hypothetical question there's the yes/no/maybe answer but your evidence can be what you predict will happen than what you know from the past. (Ex A's. Yes, they will never succeed without  Buxton; no, a season is more than one player; maybe, assuming the apocalypse doesn't happen first).

4 Why isn't Byron Buxton playing/starting with the Twins?

Basic Analytical question--the answers are infinite, you only need some evidence to cite and arguments to support: (ex. A's The Twins aren't playing him because they are dum-dums who ignore minor league production; ...because they are evil geniuses who have a memo titled "Destroying Buxton"; ...because they are a cautious team who promote players slowly.)
Should Byron Buxton be starting in the Twins outfield?

Basic Argumentative question--Pretty direct, another one that can be answered with yes/no/maybe, but unlike the analytical question this depends more on your opinion rather than provable facts. (Ex. A's--yes, he is awesome; no, he has flaws that need more time at AAA; maybe, I'm too confused by Donald Trump's immigration plan to concentrate)
6  If the Twins call Buxton up, will/would he start/improve individually/help the team win?

Advanced Analytical question--you still need to analyze the Twins, their system and methods, but it's based on more limited conditions, so your evidence needs to be based on a specific situation and your answers are more likely to fit the yes/no/maybe camp. (Ex. A's yes, they respect performance and Buxton will perform well; no, they respect historical performance, so they may push him to a fourth or even fifth outfielder role; maybe, they don't normally push prospects, but Sano's success may have changed them)

Should the Twins call up Buxton, if they think he won't be starting/improving/helping?
Your other debate option
Advanced Argumentative question--Here's the core question, but too often the second half (which limits your evidence to a specific condition, even if you disagree) is ignored. You can answer yes/no/maybe again but you need to keep your argument clear. (Ex A's. Yes, every major league experience will help; no, the limited time will slow down his progress and hurt our relationship with Rochester; maybe, every player is different and you won't know until you try)

There you go. As the debates continue use these guides to answer questions, or tear the suggestions up and shout at the top of your lungs...that seems to work elsewhere.

8.11.2015

Adventures in Baseball Cards: 2015

That New Pack Smell
Every year, I treat myself to one pack of baseball cards. I've always enjoyed recapturing the glee, the confusion and the memories of stale bubble gum.

This year, with the Twins careening below .500, it seems that plenty of fans would appreciate a diversion like this, but, as a curious soul, I wondered. Would the Twins be any better, if I replaced players on the team with those individuals in my particular deck of cards? Or, put another way, is the Twins Front Office any better at assembling talent than a random machine at the Topps factory?

The results, both of my nostalgia and my exercise in Random GMing are as follows.

***
PART THE FIRST: RANDOM MUSINGS
***

Really? Parker?
I always trick myself into thinking the top card will be someone of magic and wonder, someone to trick you into saying: YES! BEST PACK EVER!!...This year's magic man...Jarrod Parker...a good pitcher coming back from elbow surgery...oh boy...this might be more trying than one of Mike Pelfry's starts.

Jose Lobaton (Catcher of the Washington Nationals) follows...Lobaton is fun to say, but I might prefer Loba-tron: Android Catcher of the Future.

It's funny because he's a Tiger.
Cody Ross of the Diamondbacks might be the most stereotypical Millenial suburban baseball boy name ever...but he was actually born in 1980 so he squeaks into the avant garde of Gen X suburban baseball names and the pack's determined outfield partner would be Rajai Davis, who is shown missing a catch...c'mon Topps, that's just mean!

Oh boy, it's the middle of the pack time, hitting the role players, fringe prospects and journeymen part of the deck: Wily Peralta from the Brewers, Robbie Grossman from the Astros, and Robinson Chirinos of the Texas Rangers. These are all guys I could sit next to on a flight to New Delhi and never know they were major league baseball players (assuming they would A: fly to New Delhi and B: Fly coach)

Ahh, memories of Mike Piazza
Oh! We've got a throwback card! (Also known as fan service for the aging buyers of baseball cards) It's Mike Piazza from his Mets days. Side note: I was a big Piazza buff during my teenage years when the Mets were easier to see on Montanan TV than the Twins. I look forward to his induction in the Hall of Fame, even though I never actually did see him play live.

Woah, it's time for some quality here at the end of the deck: Stephen Vogt (A's Catcher, and three pitchers who had strong seasons recently: Stephen Strasburg, Jhoulys Chacin, and Hisashi Iwakuma). Clearly my assumptions about the top of the pack being magical need to be re-evaluated. That might actually be the cleverer marketing ploy: save the best for last and convince the kids to go buy more...I'm on to you Topps, you and your diabolical machinations!!

***
PART THE SECOND: "ANALYSIS"
HERE BE HEARSAY AND CONJECTURE, BE YE WARNED
***

So The Topps Pack of 12 contains 0 Infielders, 3 catchers (not counting Piazza), 3 Outfielders and 5 pitchers (all starters). So how would that do at replacing Twins players?

In an unscientific study using baseball-reference's WAR so far this season (and a selection of Twins players who have logged most of the time in the line up, here's where the Twins players* (see note 1) stand.
Starters: Suzuki/Mauer/Dozier/Plouffe/Santana/Rosario/Hicks/Sano
Bench: Nunez/Escobar/Hermann/Robinson
Line up Total (6.9)
Starting Pitchers: Hughes/Gibson/Pelfry/Milone/Santana
Relievers:Thompson/Duensing/Graham/Fein/Boyer/May/Perkins
Pitching Staff Total (11.2)
Twins Total: 18.1 WAR

After that I hunted down the year for those players in this pack to see how they compare. Obviously I couldn't I didn't just want to replace bad players with someone better (any team is better if they choose better players), rather I wanted to see how the Twins could be expected to do if they brought in all 12 of these guys to replace others at similar positions (i.e. Starters, Catchers, and outfielders)

So how would the Twins have done if they'd grabbed this pack of cards and plugged them into the rotation? Here's the results:
SP1-Phil Hughes (1.8) Stephen Strasburg (-0.3)
SP2-Kyle Gibson (2.4) Hisashi Iwakuma (0.6)--Only 10 starts
SP3-Mike Pelfrey (1.7) Jhoulys Chacin (0.0)--Injured all year, hopefully maybe this would be May
SP4-Tommy Milone (1.4) Willy Peralta (0.5)
SP5-Ervin Santana (0.0) Jarrod Parker (0.0)--Injured all year, so it's a wash
Regular Twins Staff: 7.3; Trading Card Staff: 0.8
Net Change (-6.5 WAR)

The key take away, other than that my initial reaction to pitchers is based much more on name recognition than performance this year, has to be that despite even the worst outings of late for Twins pitchers, over the season, it's WAY better to have the devil we know than the devil we don't
Maybe my initial pleasure with these pitchers was ill founded... 

If we acknowledge that Terry Ryan can build a rotation better than a completely random player generator, how about the line up?

Here are the lineup replacements# (see note 2):
C-Kurt Suzuki (-0.3) Stephen Vogt (2.5)
LF-Eddie Rosario (1.0) Robbie Grossman (-0.4) Most games are in Left
CF-Aaron Hicks (1.4) Rajai Davis (0.9) Most games in center.
Utility IF- Eduardo Nunez (0.4) Jose Lobaton (-0.1)
2nd C-Chris Hermann (0.0) Robinson Chorinos (1.6)
4th OF-Shane Robinson (0.2) Cody Ross (-0.9) He only played 9 games (so I kept him here)
Regular Twins Line up: 6.9; Trading Card Line up: 7.9
Net Change: (+1 WAR)

Clearly the outfield is hurt by that set of swaps, but shockingly (or unshockingly I suppose) any combination of these three random catchers would all outperform the Suzuki/Hermann Tandem with room left over for a third catcher and a couple of days of Vogt spelling Mauer at first base...heck Chorinos even has starts at 3rd on his resume. 

All told, if the Twins let a random pack of trading cards determine half their line up, they would be significantly worse than they are: 18.1 Team WAR to 12.6 Team WAR.

I won't use this as some asinine proof that the Twins are secret geniuses, but at the very least, I won't tweet out some claim that monkeys at typewriters could bang out a better roster than the front office.

...At least...until I open a better pack....


*Note 1: A case could be made that I should have used some different players who either played better (i.e. drop Santana and include Vargas instead) or worse (i.e. Drop Santana for Nolasco), but like my warning says, it's hearsay and conjecture, stick with me guys.

#Note 2: I suppose you could quibble and say that I should have removed Hunter for Davis and kept Hicks,  or dropped Santana instead of Nunez for the third catcher, but whatever way you do it, the gain of 1-3 Wins above Replacement isn't enough to offset for the dismal pitching changes. And besides that: HEARSAY! CONJECTURE! Smarter writers will have better reasons, I'm just a shmuck who opens trading cards and writes about it.

7.31.2015

Cliff Lee Twins Legend: An Alternate Trade Deadline History

For the first time in 5 years the Twins are buyers at the deadline, and with the Mariners in town and the Twitter fanbase on fire, I thought it would be fun to to look back at the last big Twins trade that never happened and imagine what it would be like if the Twins had acquired Cliff Lee from the Mariners 5 years ago.

Note: this is a work of fiction, not a genuine attempt at analyzing impacts...I'm not that smart, I'm just a weird guy who likes Alternate History 

7/9/2010
When the Rangers refuse to part with Justin Smoak, the Twins acquire Cliff Lee for Wilson Ramos, Aaron Hicks, Kyle Gibson and Anthony Slama. Minnesota fans rejoice so much that no one notices that Justin Morneau remains sidelined after a collision in Toronto

7/31/2010
Without any more trade chips, the Twins go without a proven closer, despite tempting overtures about emerging Nats closer Matt Capps, trusting John Rauch to save the day, or failing that...Cliff Lee on his off days

9/21/2010
The Twins clinch the AL Central with 12 games to spare, allowing manager Ron Gardenhire to set up his rotation for a matchup with either the Yankees or Rays in the first round. "Cliffy has done real good up here...so he might just be our game 1 starter" says Gardy. "Doi!!!" say Twins fans.

10/12/2010
The Twins finally break their Yankee he'd after Cliff Lee wins Game 5 at Target Field with a 1 run shutout. Says Lee, "it was a bit rough (with the bullpen nearly blowing Liriano's game 2 lead) but we got there in the end, good thing Glen (Perkins) came in in the 8th, you know...he could make a good set up man."

10/20/2010
Backed by the home run power of  Jim Thome, Delmon Young and Danny Valencia, the Twins need only 5 games to beat the Rangers in Arlington and advance to the World Series against the Giants. Asked if he's worried about Cliff Lee's workload, manager Rob Gardenhire replies, "work what now?"

11/1/2010
Twins lose the World Series to the Giants in 5 games, but remain upbeat. "Obviously we would rather have the trophy, but we'll back and loaded next year, that's for sure" pledges Lee.
Still stings, doesn't it Twins fans?
12/14/10
Cliff Lee jilts Minnesota to re-sign with the Philadelphia Phillies. "I never wanted to leave in the first place," says Lee, "obviously it was nice to help Minnesota, but Philadelphia is where my heart lies." Undeterred, General Manager Bill Smith seeks to lock down the squad that brought Minnesota their first AL Pennant in nearly 20 years giving extensions to JJ Hardy (through 2014), Delmon Young (through 2015), and Francisco Liriano (through 2014) and re-signs Jim Thome. 

2/15/11
Spring training for the AL champs starts with high hopes as Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan return as do new Twins Carl Pavano (who had a fine second half with the Texas Rangers) and intriguing Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka who Bill Smith hopes could push Alexi Casilla at second base ("he might even be able to spell JJ at short stop" gushes Smith who is eager to offset the loss of fan favorite Nick Punto )


4/7/11
Shame we lost Hardy on this take out slide
Disaster strikes as Nick Swisher slides into second base breaking JJ Hardy's fibula. Manager Ron Gardenhire quickly installs Tsuyoshi Nishioka as the new starting shortstop. A quick RBI triple and lunging grab to his left causes the fan base to erupt with joy as the Twins take a series in Yankee stadium. One fan goes so far as to get a "Nishioka Forever" tattoo.

8/15/11
The Twins have the highlight of their year when Jim Thome hits his 500th Home Run. It's Thome's last before he returns to Cleveland for one final playoff run with his first team. Meanwhile the double play combination of Hardy and Nishioka (or Thunder and Lightning as fans have taken to calling them) offer a ray of hope to compensate for the regression of Danny Valencia and Delmon Young (despite peripheral stats that suggest Nishioka isn't quite as good as his rookie year attests). The team finishes with a 69-93 record, which will give them the fourth pick in the 2012 draft, their highest in a decade.

12/14/11
With a lot of money tied up in other extensions the Twins face a difficult decision between keeping beloved reliever Joe Nathan, former top prospect Jason Kubel, or right fielder Michael Cuddyer who had paced the offense while Morneau and Mauer worked to make a come back. Citing the need for a "proven closer" the Twins resign Nathan (for 3 years), and Kubel (for 2 years). "This year was an anomaly," says Smith who was given a full vote of confidence by ownership, "I don't expect us to have a year like that again, and I'm sure the players don't either."

It wasn't his finest hour, 
4/16/12
Hours after a drunken Delmon Young's anti-semitic tirade in New York and subsequent suspension ("We won't tolerate that" says Jim Pohlad), call-up Ben Revere stuns the crowd with a great leaping catch in left field. Fans who hope a return to the Bronx will remind a struggling Nishioka of his strong April are disappointed when he airmails two throws into the Yankees dugout. Rochester infielder Brian Dozier packs his bags.


8/5/12
With the #4 Pick in the MLB Draft the Twins select
Mike Zunino thereby solving all catching problems
ever...
The Twins end their connection with ALCS hero Danny Valencia by trading him through waivers to the Red Sox. "It's part of the game," explained Manager Ron Gardenhire, "Danny gave us a lot over two years ago, I'm sure he'll give his best in Boston." Some fans, frustrated with the inconsistency of Francisco Liriano, had hoped that the former ace in the making and the big third baseman could bring in significant pitching prospects are left wanting. But many have now turned their attention to the Twins top draft choice: Florida Catcher Mike Zunino ("hey, look at what happened the last time they took a catcher in the top 5...maybe this one won't even get bilateral leg weakness!")


10/1/2012
The Twins finish their season of struggle sliding to 67-95

11/29/2012
Citing their "complete confidence" in Ben Revere the Twins trade Denard Span to the Nationals for Vance Worley and Trevor May. Revere's diving catches and ear-to-ear smile become the face of the Twins.

12/6/2012
The Twins shockingly trade their second outfielder in a week, when the Tigers offer the Twins a random relief prospect to take Delmon Young off our hands, who they think is just the veteran bat they need to finally win the World Series. "THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU" shout Twins fans. A small group of fans chant the same words at Tsyuoshi Nishioka's Air Japan flight back home at the completion of his contract.

2/1/2013
GM Bill Smith gushes about the team's newly revamped pitching staff: "We know that Perkins, Burton and Nathan can do what we need at the end of the game, but we needed pitchers who could get the leads there. I think we have a very deep rotation, Scott [Diamond] took a big step forward, we know what Francisco [Liriano] is capable of, and now with veteran arms like Kevin Correia and Mike Pelfry we have what we need to compete."

Still hurts to see a Twins legend
in rival colors.
7/31/2013
For the first time in over a decade the Twins are never close to contention, due in large part to complete implosions in the starting rotation. The team decides to sell off many of their veteran assets at the trade deadline: Morneau and Liriano head to the Pirates, JJ Hardy goes to the Diamondbacks, Jason Kubel goes to the Cleveland Indians on a short rental. "I guess we're really rebuilding," writes one Twins Daily blogger, "good thing Mauer's locked in at Catcher."



8/19/13 
Joe Mauer sustains a concussion during a make up game against the New York Mets that spells the end of his catching career, and top prospect Mike Zunino struggles a bit when called up to split time with Drew Butera as his replacement. The only shocking silver linings in another disappointing season (66 - 96) are the sudden burst of power from second baseman Brian Dozier, says team closer Joe Nathan, "he's the real deal."

11/11/13
Bill Smith steps down as General Manager admitting, "yeah...I can't believe I lasted this long either," the Twins take the unusual step of inviting back former GM Terry Ryan to replace him. "It's time to turn the page and build from within," says Ryan before looking at a farm system that boasts Miguel Sano, Mike Zunino, Second Baseman Eddie Rosario, and not much else. "Well, crap..." says Ryan afterwards.

12/6/13
The Twins welcome new starting pitchers, Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes at a press conference. On the emerging slew of podcasts, one Twins follower says: "Obviously we'd like to have our own pitchers come up through the minors, but besides [Trevor] May at Double A, our best options are the kid we got for not resigning Cuddyer [Berrios], and Kohl Stewart. So they're all a ways away."


3/22/14
With uncertainty around the aging familiar stars and the unknown new signings, The Twins turn to young talent to highlight their ad campaign, "Bringing Smiles back to Twins Territory". The ads mostly consist of Ben Revere and Brian Dozier smiling brightly at the camera saying, "please come back...please...? You're a very attractive person...I'd like to see you at the ballpark...Please?"

7/15/14
While some stat heads argue that Twins Closer Joe Nathan had been outperformed by set up man Glen Perkins, Nathan is the one player chosen to represent the Twins at their home town all star game. Though he loads the bases, he does deliver a final strike out to lone Rangers representative Kurt Suzuki. "God, he'd be better than Butera and Zunino" carps one Twins fan.

9/25/14
The Twins near the end of their 4th straight 90 loss season despite an all-time record Strike out to walk ratio for new starter Phil Hughes. In their final home game the team stages a moving tribute to Joe Nathan, who, after giving up the closer spot in September to Glen Perkins, gets one last 9th inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks. After the game Nathan says "wait...why didn't I get the Mariano Rivera farewell tour?...screw it! I'm coming back next year!"

12/3/14
Torii Hunter joins the Twins for one final season despite the offer to complete a new soul patrol in Seattle with Aaron Hicks and top prospect Byron Buxton. 

4/3/15
New signee Ervin Santana is suspended for 80 games for testing positive for a performance enhancing drug. Rookie Trevor May is added to the rotation behind Mike Pelfry. "Would have been nice to see a little competition for that spot," says Terry Ryan, "but we like the guys we have."

The Newest Twin...
7/31/15
At the trade deadline the surprisingly contending Twins seem in desperate need of a shortstop (as no one has compared to Hardy and Nishioka), catcher (to replace Butera as the struggling Zunino goes back to AAA) and in the bullpen. Terry Ryan delivers only Tampa Bay Reliever Kevin Jepsen to complement Glen Perkins setting up for Joe Nathan, at the cost of starter prospect Chih Wei Hui. Fans demand a more meaningful move, like the one that got them Cliff Lee 5 years ago.

7.28.2015

Adopt a Prospect 3.4: Why I Like JT Chargois More than A-Rod

More interesting that Target Field
It has not been an easy last two weeks for our Adopted Prospect: Mr. Jon Tiberius Chargois (okay it's Jon Thomas...but give me some nerd slack). He had his worst outing of the year giving up 6 earned runs on three walks and three hits, and the breezy dominance that made Chargois a Florida State League All-Star seems like a distant memory compared to his current form.


And yet, this weekend, as the Twins got snake bitten (again) by the Yankees and their complicated, record-book busting (again) DH Alex Rodriguez, I found myself eagerly turning away from the superlative performances of A-Rod at Target Field, to the minor league box scores for word of Chargois.


It may seem like a silly comparison: Alex Rodriguez, love him or hate him, will go down in the annals of baseball history; JT Chargois will be in this odd little corner of cyber space...but probably, not much else. And while the part of me that loves athletic excellence is inclined to see the very best players do their very best work, a much larger part of me wants to cheer for Chargois much MUCH more than A-Rod.

The reasons I care more about a AA reliever than the fourth most prestigious home run hitter in baseball doesn't depend on the history of a rivalry, or the fact that one is paid by Minnesota billionaires and the other is paid by New York billionaires. It comes back to the fact that Sports is the rare entertainment that demands honesty.

Other entertainments live on the other side of truth. Movies and books are fictional. Music and even visual arts (painting and sculpture) are as much about what people (and record companies) know will sell, rather than purely what people have lived or feel.

But sports demands honesty. Do your best, play fair, and may the best team win. Do that, and we'll root, root, root for the rest of our lives.

Therein lies the problem. A-Rod is fundamentally dishonest: he didn't trust his best to be good enough, he didn't play fairly with those who stayed clean, and he tried to rig the game so his team would be better than the best.

No question, A-Rod is entertaining, powerful and impressive (even more so on PEDs). But that was a fiction. He insisted he was legitimate twice, once while using and once after getting caught in two more moments of dishonesty. If he was a pro-wrestler, or doing some crazy in-depth performance art it could be strangely intriguing, but instead it's just fake, false and infuriating to watch.

That's why I like a middling AA prospect and can't stand one of the best power-hitters in over a century of baseball. Because JT Chargois is not perfect and makes no pretenses about it. His scuffles at AA are part of the game, an honest failure, just as his run of scoreless innings from April to June was an honest success.

I don't like Alex Rodriguez. I don't wish him ill. I don't hope he suffers. I just wish he were more like JT Chargois.

7.17.2015

Cliff Notes for the 2015 Twins: Chapter 3

Again, I've been derelict in my duty--though I was out of the country and away from reliable internets for a while there. Still were back with another nerdy English-Class style recap of the last month (plus) in Twins Territory


Chapter 3: June to the All-Star Break
Plot Summary:
So great was the joy among fans after a shockingly strong June, that the Twins could, to many eyes, have appeared better than they actually were. So it was only slightly surprising that the team stumbled badly in June.


The slide began by dropping two out of three to the Brewers (who had not been terribly impressive) at Target Field. Then the rival Royals ended the Twins' time atop the Central with a sweep (culminating in Torii Hunter's freak out) and the doldrums continued as they dropped two out of three to the Rangers, but in an effort either to stop the slide or to hold on to their quavering place in the attention of local fans the Twins called up the first of their dynamic prospects: Byron Buxton.

Buxton's arrival accompanied the only Twins win in Texas, and despite two losses in St. Louis, his thrilling play and daring speed were on fine display as the team returned to the Twin Cities in excellent form evening the score against the Cardinals, several close games against the Cubs and a crushing of the White Sox. Sadly, a slide against the White Sox also crushed a bone in Buxton's thumb, and he was removed from the lineup as suddenly as he appeared.

Efforts to repeat the magic on a return trip to Milwaukee by calling up another touted prospect in Alex Meyer were unsuccessful. The National League again thwarted the Twins' momentum as the Brewers and Reds squeezed the home town 9 to a paltry 4-8 record against the bottom 3 teams in the NL Central. Meyer was duly demoted and again things looked grim.

The Twins went to the prospect well a third time and called up Miguel Sano for their visit to Kansas City. As a pure hitter, Sano trumped even the heralded Buxton, and his 11 game hit-streak coincided with the Twins sudden offensive rejuvenation as they finished the first half of the season on a 8-3 run, good enough to put them in 2nd place in the division and 2nd place in the entire American League.

Main Character Development:
The true climax of this chapter was the All-Star Game and the two Twins players who went, recognized as being among the best of the best (the 90th percentile of players in the major leagues). First and foremost, the acknowledged top closer in the league: Glen Perkins. Perkins broader acclaim was all the more note worthy for where he had come from: failed starter, unhappy demoted pitcher, after thought set-up reliever, and, as of now, owner of the best Save streak in Twins history (28 in a row). Most impressively, in this chapter of the season he faced 45 batters and allowed only 6 of them to reach base (a .133 OBP against).

Perkins was joined in Cincinatti by second baseman Brian Dozier who was initially left off of the roster. That snub may have been the best thing for him. It begat a voting campaign (No Bull, Vote Dozier); it got his name mentioned consistently in the national press and on cable tv, and it aligned perfectly with an outburst of timely hitting including two walk-off home runs and another in the All-Star Game itself that captured a great many eyeballs across the country and began a genuine grumbling campaign that he might be the league MVP (assuming he both kept it up and found some way of getting Mike Trout to fall into a temporal vortex). What was once a cute photoshop on this blog is now a common talking point (so much so that at a wedding I attended last weekend, both the bride and my grandmother could be found discussing him).

As Perkins and Dozier rise as protagonists, it will be interesting to see what obstacles and conflicts are thrown in their way to create dramatic tension for the rest of the season.

Key Quote/Stat Explained:
Pythagorean Winning Percentage: .528

As any fan can tell you, occasionally the better team loses. Unlucky bounces, dumb umpire calls, a slight stumble on a soggy infield, all of it can turn the game when you least expect it. So there's the Pythagorean Winning percentage, in which the square of the hypotenuse of a right tri...wait, no...that's Pythagorus' Triangle Theorem...when he was brought forward to the present by Doctors Bill S. Prescott and Theodore Logan to watch baseball and party on dude, he (and Bill James) developed an equation to measure how many games a team should win based on both their runs scored and their runs allowed.

To wit:
                      (Runs Scored)^1.83
---------------------------------------------------------
(Runs Scored)^1.83 + (Runs Allowed)^1.83
via baseball Reference

Basically dividing the (approximate) square of a team's runs scored, by the (approximate) square of their runs scored PLUS the (approximate) square of their runs allowed should yield an average result.

So while many Twins fans are dancing joyously at the fact that the Twins have the second best record in the American League, our Pythagorean Winning Percentage can show whether we are really lucky, a little lucky, or even unlucky to be where we are.

The Twins Pythagorean Winning Percentage is .528 (or 52.8%); their real world winning percentage is .551 (or 55.1%), so they've only been about 2.3% luckier than their run total would suggest. So they are actually a solid team with the chance to get better (unlike the White Sox who are below 500 and still 8% luckier than they ought to be).

The one down side is the Twins have a lower Pythagorean Winning Percentage than 8 other teams, including three currently outside of the playoff hunt: the Orioles (7% unlucky), the Blue Jays (8% unlucky) and the Athletics (9.8% unlucky). If those teams see their records normalize a bit, and the Twins drop even a percent in their luck, people dreaming of the playoffs can put a pin in it.

Literary Term to Impress English Majors:
Writers throughout history have relied on a simple belief: everything's better in threes. Hence "The Rule of Three". Things are funnier, easier to remember, generally more meaningful if you combine things in threes: three volume novels; three act plays; three little pigs; three bears; I came, I saw, I conquered; stop, drop, and roll; a priest, a minister, and a rabbi

It doesn't just take three things to fit the rule of three, they should be thematically connected and structured in such a way as to make meaning. So take the Twins June/July call ups: Buxton/Meyer/Sano.
From L-R: Meyer, Berrios, Sano, Buxton
(Good news, Jose: you don't have to worry about this rule)

  1. Buxton comes first, and excites the fan base, we need him and he looks pretty good but it's over early due to the thumb injury. 
  2. Meyer comes second, the fan base is a little less excited, but there's enough mention of his pedigree, status and dominance as a reliever in AAA to make him enticing, and it's over very quickly when he gets hammered by big league bats. 
  3. Sano comes last, and while he's long been one of the two big names in the Twins' system, the structure is set up to make at least a few fans regard another call-up skeptically. So his offensive outburst with power and patience seems like a pleasant surprise, even though he has always looked capable of this.
Obviously, I don't think the Twins intended Buxton and Meyer to have such unpleasant endings to their Major League debuts, but if there was some sort of magical script-writing in all of this, it would be a pretty great use of the Rule of Three.

6.26.2015

Terry Ryan learns the Magic Word

As we tip toe to July, we know that inevitably Twins fans will start to imagine all manner of favorable scenarios, dream sequences and wishful thinking that leads the GM Terry Ryan to make all the right moves and deliver a winner to Target Field.

We Peanuts from Heaven are nothing if not imaginative, but rather than prognosticate any remotely feasible trade scenarios, allow us to write another in our on-going series of creative scenes played against a backdrop of the Twins 2015 season (apologies if you find these scenes tedious...it's what you get from a blogger who's a wannabe playwright/novelist).

[Interior: Terry Ryan's office, as the sun sets on a fine June day with Target Field sprinklers running in the background]

Secretary: Mr. Ryan? Flip Saunders is here to see you.

Terry: Thank you. [Flip Saunders enters, Terry's joy bubbles in his voice, like an impressed grandfather] Flip! Old buddy, ol' pal, how are you!

Flip: Uhh...I'm fine Terry, fine...How are you?

Terry: Pretty good, pretty good! I saw you had a great night during the draft!

Flip: Yeah, we're pretty happy about it.


Terry: Wooowhee! Karl Anthony-Towns and Tyus Jones! Well, I tell you, every one here's just as pleased as punch. Very excited, very excited indeed.

Flip: Thank you Terry.

Terry: Yes, siree-Bob, you're a smart man Flip. And you sure seem to have a way with those fellows from Cleveland. Yup, it's almost like magic...

Flip: Uhh...well, you know how it is Terry, you hang around this business long enough, you build certain relationshi--

Terry: [Cutting Saunders off, Terry now sounds terse and demanding, a hard nosed boss at last] Can the bull Flippy-boy! What do you have on Cleveland? How do you get them to make these asinine trades?

Flip: What?

Terry: Don't play dumb. I've been in this business since before you first sniffed a speed dial. You've got some sort of pull on Cleveland, and I want to know what it is!

Flip: Terry, I assure you, I--

Terry: "Assure me", what an "Ass-U-Are" Flip! I want details and I want them now.

Flip: [Sighs, defeated] Alright, alright, I'll tell you. The magic word is Cumquat.

Terry: Cumquat?


Flip: Yeah, Cumquat. See, at the last GM meetings, I took David Griffin to see this hypnotist, The Great Gaspini. Anyway, I slipped the guy a fiver and he gave Griffin a private session. Anyway, in between making him cluck like a chicken and memorize the entire dance to Single Ladies, he implanted the idea that any time he heard the word "Minnesota" followed by "Cumquat" he would agree with whatever someone was saying.

Terry: So that's how you got Wiggins, Bennett and Jones for 1 Season of crappy Kevin Love and a pair of second rounders?

Flip: To be fair...yes...yes it was...I guess I am a genius.

Terry: Brilliant, brilliant! So I just need to get this Gaspini-guy to do the same thing for me with Shapiro and Antonetti!

Flip: Actually...well...what with this whole West Loop partnership thing we've got going on these days, Glen Taylor, Bill McGuire and the Pohlad boys paid for Gaspini to pull the same thing over on the Indians and AFC Cleveland.

Terry: Not the Browns?


Flip: Pssh...c'mon Terry, they're the Browns, they'll screw themselves anyway. Plus, this is a West Loop deal, so Ziggy can lump it for all I care.

Terry: Hehe, yeah, West Loop Pride. [Calls into the hallway] Dorothy! Get me Chris Antonetti on the line! [Pause] They've got soccer in Cleveland?

Flip: I'm as surprised as you are.

Secretary: Antonetti on line one!

Terry: Just say Minnesota first and then Cumquat? [Flip nods, Terry picks up the phone] Chris, my-boy! How are you?! Terry Ryan here in...Minnesota! Listen, we've got a bit of a pitching log jam here, so I'm thinking it might be time to make a trade: how about you guys take Ricky Nolasco and his contract and we take that short stop of yours, Francisco Lindor?[Pause] Oh, don't be so quick to count me out Chris, after all, Nolasco's no...cumquat!...[Pause] Yeah, I thought you might reconsider. Tell you what, I'm feeling generous today, so if you toss in Trevor Bauer, I'll send you Mike Pelfry and Shane Robinson, how about that....?

[Scene]

6.23.2015

The Cure for the Twins Offense

Though the Twins' offense has struggled to generate many runs in the month of June, their tremendous success in May and the method of their outburst against the White Sox yesterday reminds us all of what has worked for the team all year: Hit Clusters.

Now, the Twins, along with local business partners in the breakfast cereal industry are out to share the secret of their winning ways with the populace at large in this new advertisement for a special Twins Centric Cereal!

[Our first shot is of Twins clubhouse where a dejected looking Kennys Vargas and Byron Buxton sit at the team breakfast table]

Kennys: It isn't easy to be a big leaguer...

Byron: Yeah, and you'd think they'd be able to afford something better than simple toast for us too...

[Brian Dozier enters, with a big smile and, if possible, animated unicorns and ninjas]

Brian: Are you guys tired of your boring breakfasts and wishing you could score more runs?!?

Kennys: That is literally what we were just saying.

Brian: Try HIT CLUSTER CEREAL! A joint venture of the Minnesota Twins, General Mills, and Malt o Meal! The official Cluster-Based Cereal of the Minnesota Twins!!

Byron: Do we have an Official Non-Cluster-Based Cereal?

Brian: Don't change the subject Rookie!! HIT CLUSTER CEREAL contains all the valuable nutrients you need to connect hits together for a big inning!!

[A series of other smiling Twins players appear with the cereal]

Torii Hunter: It's got Single Almonds!

Trevor Plouffe: It's got Double Granola Granules!!

Eddie Rosario: It's got Triple Fiber Flakes!!!

Brian Dozier: Not to mention Home Run Flavor!!!!

Joe Mauer: Sometimes, when I really want to cut loose, I even have some with vitamin rich Milk.

Torii: For the last time Joe, don't flaunt your decadent party life style in front of the kids!

Joe: Sorry...

Brian: C'mon Guys! Try a bite!!

Kennys: Wow! That taste sure comes through in the clutch!

[All the Twins Laugh heartily before the final Voice Over]

VOICE OVER: Hit Cluster Cereal is available for a limited time only, and is part of a balanced breakfast with other great Official Minnesota Twins foodstuffs like "Base on Balls Bread" and "Orange (You Glad We're Facing White Sox Pitchers) Juice"