Designated Everything

Most of the wise and trusted Twins blogs have noted that while the team's current offense, to put it politely, sucks harder than a Super Powered Hoover. Yet, they say, help is on the way from the prospect ranks--even if many of them are currently injured.

That's a big but...
However, all that hope for the future comes with a caveat as big as Kenny Vargas' backside. To wit: most of the good hitters are not terribly athletic and have serious questions about their defense. Sure we may have boppers, but what do you do with a team that has nine potential designated hitters?

The obvious answer is just to designate a bunch more positions and let a whole raft of back up people hit. Creating a roster (around 2016 that looks like this)

C-Kurt Suzuki
1B--Joe Mauer
2B--Brian Dozier
SS--Danny Santana
3B--Miguel Sano
LF--Eddie Rosario
CF--Byron Buxton
RF--Aaron Hicks
Pitcher--Anything with an arm...heck a slot machine will do.
Designated Hitter--Kenny Vargas
Designated Hitting Catcher--Josmil Pinto
Designated Hitting Left Fielder--Trevor Plouffe
Designated Hitting Right Fielder--Oswaldo Arcia

Now, critics will point out that this is...you know..."breaking the rules of the game"

BUT! Perhaps there's another way. After all, you don't really need a good outfield if your pitchers induce strike outs and ground balls. So, and prepare to suspend your disbelief fans, what if, in a crazy mixed up world of my own imagination, where up is down, left is right and the Twins hire a manager who decides to use platoons (I told you it would need a major suspension of disbelief), you try to use these players strategically?

Consider the 7 claimants to the "DH" role right now as well as the two most athletic "outfield prospects" who aren't totally at sea with a bat:
Joe Mauer, Kenny Vargas, Josmil Pinto, Oswaldo Arcia, Trevor Plouffe, Chris Parmelee, Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario, Aaron Hicks.
Where do you think you're going?

If you assume that we can count on two years of Suzuki at Catcher (which apparently is also expected to be a Josmil Pinto free zone), Dozier at Second, Santana at short and stop gaps replaced by Bionic Byron Buxton in Center, then we have five spots left to play with (in order of least defensive danger): DH, First Base, Left Field, Right Field and Third Base

Here's how those 9 players rank in terms of OPS in their Major League Careers or the last season of the minors (biased I know...but hey, if you expect quality analysis from me, you clearly didn't read my "Joe-Mauer-could-play-better-if-he-became-an-amateur-stand-up-comedian" post)
OPS Versus Righties
Sano (.975)
Mauer (.922)
Vargas (.844)
Pinto (.813)
Arcia (.799)
Rosario (.705)
Parmelee (.704)
Plouffe (.674)
Hicks (.543--though .746 all year at three levels)

OPS Versus Lefties
Sano (1.027)
Pinto (.892)
Vargas (.828)
Plouffe (.807)
Mauer (.748)
Hicks (.746 majors....854 all year at three levels)
Parmelee (.710)
Rosario (.630)
Arcia (.620)

So, like I said, that's not perfect, indeed it's a big fat set of assumptions...i.e. that hitting lefties in Triple A or Double A is equivalent to major leagues (Josmil Pinto's gap from the AAA Lefties to Big leaguers is a whopping 206 points to the worse at .686...though that still puts him ahead of Arcia)

Still, I think that if we assume A) he doesn't come back as a shell of his former self and B) he can still throw the ball, that Miguel Sano is going to be a full timer no matter what. Preferably at third base the hardest of our five positions defensively and the one he would play better than everyone else on the list

That leaves 8 guys for four spots, and here's where my idea comes into effect what if we had not one platoon, not two platoons, BUT FOUR PLATOONS!!! The platoons would be based on both the opposing pitcher, and whether or not we have a fly ball pitcher going ourselves. 

Take a break Joe...literally whenever
you want.
Here's how I could see it
Versus Lefties with a Fly Ball Twins Pitcher
LF-Mauer (or Plouffe if Mauer needs a rest day)

Versus Lefties with a Ground Ball Twins Pitcher
DH-Pinto/Vargas (whoever's hotter)
1B-Mauer (or Vargas if Mauer needs a rest)

Versus Righties with a Fly Ball Twins Pitcher
1B-Mauer (or Vargas if Mauer needs a rest)

Versus Righties with a Ground Ball Twins Pitcher

A couple of pros to this approach. 
Thanks for the memories, Chris
1--It clarifies value to the team pretty quickly: Parmelee doesn't care any of these sets of four so if someone is willing to give you a prospect with a pulse take it. Rosario only cracks one line up, and theoretically you should be able to find a solid defensive outfielder who can handle right handed pitching at a steady clip, so see if he has any value too.
2--It allows you to start thinking about defensive liberty. Vargas has some background at first, but I would bet that Josmil Pinto could figure things out there as well as Matthew Lecroy did and be a third catcher, and Mauer's still a bit of an athlete (we hope). If Mauer could do a little time in Left, all of a sudden, Trevor Plouffe is expendable.
3--You have a more structured schedule to keep Mauer healthy. Less time against lefties will be better, especially as Joe gets older. And, if/when bullpens are used and right handed relievers come in...who's that sitting on the bench with a bat in his hands? What's that...a former MVP and batting champion? How about that!

And, just to show I can acknowledge my own failings, I'll admit a few weaknesses too...
I stubbornly still have faith
in you Hicksy.
1--My data set is totally messed up: no debating that, but I think it's reasonable to say that after years of hearing that "help is on the way" from the minors and looking at prospect rankings, this is a reasonable assessment of potential at the majors
2--I assume that everyone will reach their potential: yup, I do. They won't, but I teach public school, I have to think about potential more than existing skill or I'd go nuts.
3--Mauer in Left? I mean....Mauer in Left??? Again, point taken, there's every chance that the Twins/Mauer would never consider such a deal with the risk of a wall, or another outfielder, or a beer bottle at risk of hitting his head and ending his career. However, I would say that Mauer is still a fine athlete, even with the wear and tear, and that historically left field is perhaps the least exposed position on the diamond...maybe Josmil Pinto could figure it out, maybe Adam Brett Walker will develop so fast that we have a whole other problem, but for now that makes the most sense to me.


Put your hands together for Joe Mauer!

Since returning from the disabled list, Joe Mauer has been quietly reassembling himself, like a hitting terminator emerging from the blazing hell fires of suckitude, back into the consistent--if robotic--man we all know and respect.

Mauer mid-rehab stint
While the hitting was something we all thought could return, we're glad to see that Mauer's defense has also been less terrible than in the past. We like to imagine that the reason for this is that Mauer has finally taken our advice and begun using his prime position at first base to develop his chops in a second career: stand-up comedian.

His time on the Disabled List was clearly beneficial to crafting a solid two minute set, and we at Peanuts from Heaven are proud to imagine the totally fake, and utterly made-up Joe Mauer comedy set, so everyone, please welcome to the Target Field first base bag....Joe Mother-Loving Mauer!

Mauer: Hello, it's a real pleasure to be here tonight. You seem like a, uhhhhhhhhh, very nice, you know, group of people. I'm going to say some things that I find comical, and I, uhhhh, hope you like them.

Okay. Start out with a classic here...
It'll be faster if I do both parts, so, uhhh, who's there?
...Joe Mauer...
....Joe Mauer who?...
...My name's Joe Mauer and, ummmmmm...I'll be your first base comedian tonight...
Have you ever noticed how much fun it is to play baseball?
I have.
Do you know what I like about playing first base?
When guys in the clubhouse talk about girls, I can say that I've just been to first base with a lot of people....
...and it's not a lie...
...because lying would be wrong....
That's uh....that's...that's pretty great, you know.
Thank you.
So I, uhh, I had some milk before the game today.
Do you like milk?
You should try some, it's really great. and uhh...helps you build strong bones.
I was uhhh, on the disabled list recently you know?
And the thing about the disabled list is that it's sort of like being on the naughty list with Santa.
Except instead of a lump of coal, you get a massive radiating pain in part of your body and a tidal wave of insults from fans who think you're an overpaid cry baby.
Okay, that's my time...Your next comedian is Brian "You might be middle-infielder" Dozier.


Counting Down to Year 2 of the Great Twins Scotch Bet

The Winner with her scotch
Alright, I'm about to go back to work which means I'm going to ignore all my actual responsibilities and focus instead on the joys of blogging about baseball--woo personally destroying the education system!

Okay, for the last two years my wife, father-in-law, and I have made a simple bet. How many games will the Twins win this season? The winner gets a glass of great scotch paid for by the losers. Last year my wife won by expecting the Twins to underperform and received a glass of 25 year old Talisker Single Malt Whiskey. A drink she described as "a delightful mouth punch from Jean-Luc Picard in a smoking jacket", with a finish I described as "an echoing hulk smash"

That's fancy English major talk for "really-really-good."

So this year we're doing the same thing again. And, true to form, my wife was pessimistic, my father-in-law was optimistic and I was realistic.

Our Bet Range
Stinky (my wife) Fewer than 70 wins
Smelly (me) 70-74 wins
Gouger (my father-in-law) More than 74 wins.

Why do I bring it up? Because, as of today the Twins have only 35 games left to go this season and have a record that stands at 57-70 which means the following

If the Twins win 12 games or less, Stinky wins (for the second straight year)
If the Twins win 13 to 17 games, I win
If the Twins win 18 or more games, Gouger Wins.

Why should you care? No earthly reason really--unless you like people making snooty comments about scotch. They're like people who make snooty comments about wine, except they have higher alcoholic volume drinks and so get much more poetic, much faster!

Also it helps to focus my writing each week to think about who the Twins face and how it may turn out:

What's the Twins current pace? 72 Wins-90 losses Right in my sweet spot...enough to start me dreaming about the Balvenie 21 Year Old-Port Wood...Dark enough to haunt my dreams, old enough to drink itself.
Who do we play the next 10 games? Detroit for 3, Kansas City for 3, Baltimore for 4
Who has the edge this week? Definitely Stinky. The Tigers and Royals are in a pitched battle for the Central crown while the Orioles are again defying expectations at the top of the AL East. Maybe the Twins can take a game in each set...but I'm pretty much banking on at least one sweep.

Who matters most this week? I had a whole thing written about our lackluster offense, and then they blew up for 20 runs last night. Still, with the Tigers scuffling and some inexperienced lefties on the schedule this week, it would be a great time for Kurt Suzuki, he of the .877 OPS versus Lefties, to return to his sweet swinging ways...at least it would for me.