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What Could Have Been?

19 Dec

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

A short pop up to shallow right field can often be an adventure. Put a questionable defender in right field and a questionable defender at second base, and it can become scary. The second baseman sprints out as fast as he can while looking over his shoulder to find the trajectory of the ball. The right fielder sprints in as fast as he can, figuring out if he can get to the ball. At some point, when the right fielder realizes he can’t catch the ball, or when he sees how close the second baseman is to him, the instinct is to come to an abrupt stop. The knee buckles, and so often we see the right fielder hop over the sliding/diving second baseman. It looks bad, but most often, both come up unscathed and appear in blooper videos.

In 2004 in the Arizona Fall League, Jason Kubel was the right fielder and Tigers’ prospect Ryan Raburn was playing second base. The above scenario played out. Kubel’s knee locked. Raburn slid underneath him, but Kubel’s cleat stayed in the outfield grass. The result was three torn ligaments in his left knee. Immediately it was known that his knee would need to be essentially rebuilt and he would miss the entire 2005 season.

I can’t help but ask, “What could have been?”

I guess I’ll sit back and reminisce while listening to Tiffany belt out (from Could been so Beautiful), “but what coulda been, is better than, what could never be at all.”

The Twins drafted Kubel out of high school in California in 2000. He spent two seasons with the GCL Twins before jumping to the Midwest League. In 2002 in Quad Cities, he hit .321/.380/.521 with 26 doubles and 17 home runs. In 2003, he hit .298/.361/.400 with 20 doubles and five home runs. Although he was a good prospect at that point, his 2004 season is the most impressive minor league season I have seen in the Twins system in a decade. He began the season by playing 37 games in Double-A New Britain. He hit .377/.453/.667 with 14 doubles, four triples and six home runs. He was promoted to Triple-A Rochester where he hit .343/.398/.560 with 28 doubles and 16 home runs in the final 90 games. He did so while walking nearly as often as he struck out. Although he was never a speed guy, he did steal 16 bases in that 2004 season.

The season ended with a September call-up to the Twins. In 23 games, he hit .300/.358/.433 with two doubles and two home runs. At a game I was at, he caught a ball at the warning track in left field at the Metrodome and threw out a runner trying to tag up from third and score. (I probably shouldn’t mention that said runner was Calvin Pickering, I suppose, but still…)

Yes, there was that infamous strikeout against Mariano Rivera in the 2004 playoffs, but that was a minor blip on the prospect radar.

At that time, Kubel was described as a guy who could ‘hit for average’ like Mauer while hitting for power like Morneau. He was a guy who was viewed as a possible .320/.380/.550, 30+ homer power guy. And it wasn’t just Twins fans wanting to believe. Baseball America ranked him as the #17 overall prospect in baseball before the 2005 season even after the knee injury.  In my eight or nine years of following the Twins minor leagues and its prospects, Kubel is probably the one hitter that I’ve been most excited about (Justin Morneau was right there too).

The knee injury cost him all of the 2005 season, but worse for the Twins, he would be on the big league Disabled List accumulating service time. When he came back in 2006, he really struggled, especially early in the season and wound up hitting .241/.279/.386 in 73 games. Again, he accumulated another year of big league service time. Although he never met the huge potential that many predicted, from 2007 through 2009, he averaged 138 games and hit . 282/.347/.490 with 29 doubles, 20 home runs and 82 RBI. That 2009 season, he played a career-high 146 games and hit .300/.369/.539 with 35 doubles, 28 home runs and 103 RBI. If ever the Twins have had a player built for Target Field, it was Jason Kubel and his swing.

If there was a player most hurt by the Twins transition to Target Field, it was Jason Kubel. Although he hit 23 doubles and 21 home runs in 2010, his batting average dropped to just .249. Normally a gap to gap, with power hitter, Kubel lost a lot of home runs to the right-center field gap at Target Field. He found himself changing his swing and approach at home games, needing to pull the ball more to yank home runs.

He was better in 2012. When he went on the Disabled List with his foot injury Memorial Day weekend, he was the easy choice for who the Twins would be represented by at the All Star game. He was hitting .310/.355/.465 with 14 doubles, five home runs and 30 RBI. Seemingly every time he came up with runners in scoring position, he came through. Unfortunately, he never fully recovered from the foot problems and hit just .229 in the second half of the season.

Yesterday, it came out that Kubel would be signing a two-year, $15 million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. If he gets 500 plate appearances in 2012, I can see him hitting 30 home runs. It will be very interesting to see how he is used, although that kind of contract commitment says he will be playing most every day. And in the outfield. Since Kubel was a Type B free agent, the Twins will add another supplemental first-round draft pick for him.

Kubel will not appear on too many Twins top 20 statistical lists. His 104 home runs is currently 17th in the organization’s history. He did so in 753 games with the Twins which is 100 less than anyone who ranks ahead of him. He couldn’t hit left-handers. The speed was lost. He wasn’t a great outfielder. There were and are faults with Kubel, but at the end of the day, I believe that he can hit. For average and for power. As solid as he was with the Twins during his tenure, I think I’ll always ask that same question.

What could have been?

Feel free to comment

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Guess Who’s Back? Twins Notes

19 Dec

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

It started out with all good intentions. I had been extremely busy with work for a couple of weeks. We had been putting together nightly Twins podcasts during the Winter Meetings. I took a day off of work and had a fun weekend in the Cities with my daughter and my sister. On Friday night, I enjoyed being a guest on the Gleeman and the Geek podcast. That was a ton of fun! Then on Saturday we went to the Como Zoo which was a blast as always. After some time at the mall, it was a lot of fun to hang out with Parker Hageman, Nick Nelson, Aaron Gleeman, Cody Christie, Howard Sinker, Darren “Doogie” Wolfson, Rhett Bollinger, Judd Zulgad, and Phil Mackey on Saturday night. I got to enjoy the role of DD yet again! It was a great weekend. The only concern was how tired I would be making the drive back up to Warroad, a good seven hour drive.

However, that’s where all the positivity ended for the past week. Around 3:30 Sunday morning, I woke up not quite feeling right. But about 6:30, I had figured out what my problem was. It was a problem I had twice previously, five and six years ago. I had a kidney stone. You don’t want all the details. This is probably more than enough, but a trip to the doctor on Monday was followed by a ‘passed stone’ on Wednesday morning. I thought that was it. Nope! Increased pain Wednesday night meant a trip to the hospital which turned into a trip to Fargo and a Saturday surgery that frankly didn’t rid the remaining stone. However, enough was done to alleviate the pain until I can have another surgery next week sometime to finish.

I apologize for being away from my computer completely for over a week. I read some of the comments on my phone that talked about how I ‘used to’ blog all the time about the Twins. OK, not going to apologize. I literally could not look at my computer screen for more than a minute at a time without getting nauseous.

But, I do need to thank my parents who were great, helpful all week and were there the whole time. My siblings were constantly asking questions. And there are a ton of you who sent messages and notes and well wishes. I just needed to say thank you to everyone and there’s no easy way to do that. So, here I’ll just blog it. Thank you!

Unfortunately, in the one week where I literally had to stay away from the computer, the Twins were quite busy. So, without going into too much detail, I thought I’d post my thoughts on several of the topics in an attempt to catch up.

CUDDYER FOR WILLINGHAM

OK, it wasn’t a trade, of course, but in essence, the Twins ‘traded’ Michael Cuddyer for Josh Willingham. As you know by now, Cuddyer inked a three year, $31.5 million deal with the Colorado Rockies. I hate to see Cuddyer leave. He had been with the Twins and in the organization since he was drafted in the first round of the 1997 draft. Although he certainly had his ups and downs, he was a very popular, major contributor to the Twins success for nearly a decade. And yes, part of that is his good-guy attitude, his willingness to talk to the media all the time, his work in the community, and to some demographics, there were the dimples.

Willingham is the same age as Cuddyer and has been equal, if not a little better, offensive player. The Twins got a very similar player for the same three year tenure but for $10.5 million less. The Twins also will get two draft picks for losing Cuddyer. I’ve liked Willingham for a long time. I named him as a Top 20 Rookie Hitters for 2006 because of his power and Isolated Discipline. That is what makes him. He won’t hit for a high average, and like Cuddyer, he won’t play great defense, but he can be a force in the Twins lineup.  

So, although I will miss Cuddyer and his presence on the roster and in the city, at the end of the day, the Twins got the same player for less money and added two draft picks.  As I’ve written previously, Michael Cuddyer will always be a Minnesota Twin. I am curious where he would rank among the all-time best Twins players. Off the top of my head, he has to easily be in the Top 20.    

INTERESTED IN KUBEL?

I keep hearing and reading that the Twins are now targeting Jason Kubel, even after bringing in Willingham. Like Cuddyer, Kubel has been in the Twins organization since being drafted in the previous millennium. I think Kubel is an impact free agent who will really help whatever team that he signs with. Its’ pretty clear that he doesn’t want to return to Target Field. And with Ben Revere, Denard Span, Trevor Plouffe, Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit on the roster and the likes of Rene Tosoni and Joe Benson on the horizon, I just don’t think that the Twins really need to spend $5-7 million for a year or two on Kubel. That is especially the case if the Twins have a lower payroll. They need to add another pitcher. I would love to see Edwin Jackson in a Twins uniform, but if I had to put money on which free agent pitcher the Twins will sign, I’d have to say Paul Maholm. I know that the Twins have been linked more to Jeff Francis and Joel Pineiro, but I can’t get past Maholm as the right option.

HOEY AND FLORIMON DESIGNATED

The Twins designated two players off of their 40 man roster. RHP Jim Hoey was claimed by the Toronto Blue Jays. The hard-thrower just could not get his straight fastball by big league (or often AAA) hitters because he never did find a secondary pitch. The Twins have added several players who throw hard and struggle with their control.

SS Pedro Floriman, who the Twins claimed a week earlier, as also DFAd, but he was able to clear waivers and will remain in the Twins organization. He still has an option remaining, so this is great news for the Twins.

TWINS NON-TENDER MIJARES

In a somewhat surprising move, the Twins did not tender a contract for 2012 to LHP Jose Mijares. It isn’t that he has pitched well the last couple of years (He Hasn’t), but he is still young and does have really good stuff when he’s on. Because of how he has pitched the last couple of years, he would likely have made around $750,000, just over $250,000 over the league minimum. That said, it also is a clear indication that the Twins will be moving Brian Duensing to the bullpen where he’ll join Glen Perkins. Not a huge loss, although I will not be at all surprised when Mijares resurfaces elsewhere and becomes a dominant reliever again.

INTERNATIONAL DRAFT

Imagine if there was an international draft in place today? The Twins would have the second overall pick. Even though that probably means that Yu Darvish would not have made himself available, the Twins could have been left with either Yoenis Cespedes or Jorge Soler, both incredibly talented outfielders from Cuba.

TWINS SIGN MORE MINOR LEAGUE FREE AGENTS

I thought the Twins had already signed a bunch of minor league free agents, but they signed a few more pretty impressive names.

  • Sean Burroughs – the former Little League World Series hero hasn’t done much in the big leagues, but is a very solid AAA player who did some pinch hitting in 2011 with the Diamondbacks. With a big league invitation, is it at all possible the team could be signing him as competition for Danny Valencia?
  • Rene Rivera – We saw what the catcher could do in 2011. Decent behind the plate. Horrifying offensively.
  • PJ Walters – The RHP is 26 years old and pitched in five big league games in 2011 between the Cardinals and the Blue Jays. In 24 AAA starts, he went 8-7 with a 5.17 ERA between Memphis and Las Vegas (AAA). He went 7-4 with a 4.27 ERA in 17 starts in the International League before heading to the PCL where he posted a 8+ ERA. Looks like a solid AAA starter.
  • JR Towles – The former Astros backstop used to be a pretty good prospect, the guy in line to take over for Brad Ausmus years ago. In parts of four years in the big leagues, he has hit .187.
  • Steve Pearce – In 2007, Pearce hit a combined .333/.394/.622 with 40 doubles and 31 home runs between High-A, AA and AAA. He became a Top 100 prospect, and although he has continued to hit well in the minor leagues since, it hasn’t transferred to the big leagues. In parts of five big league seasons, he has hit .232/.302/.366 with 29 doubles and nine homers in 521 plate appearances. No surprise that the Twins drafted Pearce out of high school in the 45th round.
  • Daryl Thompson – He made one appearance with the Reds in 2011 and in three innings, he gave up five runs on six hits and five walks. Not so good. Last year, between AA and AAA, the 25-year-old went 4-8 with a 4.26 ERA. In 137.1 innings, he walked 40 and struck out 123.

 BILL SMITH RETURNS TO TWINS FRONT OFFICE

It is no surprise to hear that Bill Smith will be back with the Twins as a special assistant to the president and GM. Hey, the guy did a ton of great things for the organization for the 25 years prior to him becoming the Twins GM, back when no one knew his name. So, I think it’s great news that Smith will return to the organization in his new role.

So, did I miss anything? Am I all caught up? Feel free to comment.

Monday Morning Links

21 Nov

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Good morning and welcome to a new week. Fortunately, from a work perspective, it will be a shortened week, so that’s always a good thing.

I spent too much time this weekend working on my Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook. I really want to get it out earlier this year. I definitely want to see copies of it at Twins Fest! The meat and potatoes of the book, as always, will be the Prospect Profiles. There will again be over 150 profiles of Twins minor leaguers, and over the weekend, I wrote profiles for all Twins prospect between Logan Darnell and Matt Hauser, alphabetically. If you’re counting, that’s 28 profiles, a busy weekend.

Friday was the big day for Twins news, and of course, you were able to see my thoughts here that day. First, we heard that the Twins were the team that signed Ryan Doumit. Of course, that is not yet true, unless you add the words “pending a physical” to the description. I would assume he will be in Minneapolis in the next couple of days for the physical and to actually sign a contract. As I said on Friday, I love the signing of Doumit. Although he’s not a great catcher, he can catch a little, but he is a right-handed bat who fairly consistently posts an OPS around .800. He can play some 1B, some OF and DH and pinch hit. There is a lot of value in that.

Also on Friday, the Twins and the other big league teams had to add players to their 40 man rosters. The Twins added Oswaldo Arcia, Carlos Gutierrez and Tyler Robertson. They also removed David Bromberg from the 40 man roster in a move that disappointed me. However, the fact that Bromberg cleared waivers says that the Twins most likely made the right decision especially since he has not been around long enough to become a free agent. Most likely, he will return to pitch in the upper levels of the Twins minor league system in 2012.

Over the weekend, more and more details of the about-to-be-signed Collective Bargaining Agreement between the players’ union and the owners. The most important thing is that baseball will not have any work stoppage. If only the NBA would learn from that. But anyway, it appears that there will not be Type B draft pick compensation starting this year. Personally, I think that they should wait until next offseason for those changes to go into effect. For instance, Jason Kubel is a Type B free agent. Under the current system, the Twins would receive a supplemental 1st round pick for Kubel if they offered him arbitration and he declined it. I can completely understand why the Twins chose not to trade players off at the July trade deadline, but by the time the August deadline came, the Twins were definitely a Seller. They traded Jim Thome for $20K. Jason Kubel was also claimed, reported by Cleveland, but the two teams were unable to work out a trade. Why? Well, in part likely because the Twins had to decide whether their compensation for Kubel would be close to what they could draft with the supplemental pick they would get for him. With the changes, the Twins will now get nothing if they lose Kubel. Had they known they would get no compensation for Kubel, they may have traded him in an attempt to get something for him rather than nothing.

On Sunday, the Rockies traded Ty Wigginton to the Phillies. Wigginton can play 1B until Ryan Howard comes back. He can also play some 3B, maybe a little bit at 2B, and play some in the corner outfield spots. He also could be a pinch hitter and a bench option. Seemingly, the trade would take the Phillies out of the running for Michael Cuddyer, at least to some degree. Does it possibly open up some salary room for the Rockies to go after Cuddyer more strongly? They have been reportedly interested in Cuddyer all along. If I’m just guessing, the longer that it takes for Cuddyer to sign with a team, the more likely he returns to the Twins. It means that he isn’t getting the overwhelming offers that he may have hoped for, and if money is less of a factor, then the Twins can swoop in. I would think that the Jamey Carroll and Ryan Doumit signings would indicate to Cuddyer that they still hope to win in 2012.

 

Monday morning came with the horrible news that Mariners 24-year-old outfielder Greg Halman was stabbed to death in the Netherlands yesterday. His brother has been arrested. Halman played for the Dutch national team in the WBC in 2009 along with Twins prospect Tom Stuifbergen. Stuifbergen tweeted, “Gregory Halman… Our dream to face each other in the MLB… Gone… with such a sad day! #nlhonkbal @MLB” Thoughts go out to those who knew him!

 

 

Around the Twins Blogosphere:

Lots on Ryan Doumit. What will Terry Ryan’s next move be? Feel free to comment.

Monday Morning Notebook

24 Oct

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook, now is the time. It is available for $5.99 now. When the World Series is complete, you will receive your copy in your e-mail. If you wait to order until after the World Series, it will be a still-very-reasonable $9.99 for over 130 pages of Twins content. Click here to pre-order your copy today!

  • Michael Cuddyer will certainly be targeted by several teams this offseason, including the Twins. The Giants were interested at the trade deadline, so we can assume they will remain interested. Is it possible that the Yankees don’t pick up Nick Swisher’s 2012 option and turn their attention to Cuddyer? The Rockies are known to be interested, maybe the Reds? The Orioles and the Red Sox are options. In other words, Cuddyer is going to have plenty of options this offseason. After Carlos Beltran, Cuddyer is probably the top outfield free agent. Being a Type A free agent probably wouldn’t hurt him. However, the assumption that he would want to stay with the Twins and maybe even take a little less money to stay could be a factor, as it was last year with Carl Pavano.
  • While most talk about Cuddyer, Jason Kubel is another very interesting free agent. He has shown in the big leagues that he can hit over .290, can hit 25 homers and drive in runs. Yes, I fully believe that his best defensive position is Designated Hitter. My bold prediction is that the Red Sox will let David Ortiz go even though he had a huge 2011 season again. If they do, then Jason Kubel can take over as the Red Sox DH and do just as Ortiz did. He can tattoo the Green Monster, and he can take advantage of the short porch near Pesky’s Pole down the right field line. If he did, he would become baseball’s best DH.
  • Dave Deland from the St. Cloud Times took the World Series as an opportunity to do what seems to make Minnesotans happy, bashing Joe Mauer. It ridiculously has become sport of its own. In this article, he talks in far-too-much-depth about Nick Punto being in the World Series while Joe Mauer isn’t.
  • Justin Morneau is mentioned in this article talking about concussions, how things have changed in just the last couple of years and when the rewards of coming back just aren’t worth it. Very interesting article.
  • Yahoo Sports named the Five Most Disappointing Teams in baseball this year. How is it even possible that the Twins weren’t #1… aside from an East Coast bias, of course?
  • Bill Mahoney from ProSportsBlogging.com is seemingly offended that Jeff Mathis and Drew Butera are the catchers representing MLB in their trip to Taiwan next week. Of all things to be offended by, who gets to go to that is not really it. They aren’t going to Taiwan to dominate and crush these teams. They’re going there to spread the MLB story, to represent the US and baseball. There are some All-Stars that go each year, and some aren’t All-Stars. Not a big deal. Danny Valencia is also representing the Twins in Taiwan.
  • Bleacher Report wrote an article about Jewish players, owners and GMs. One of the Twins players made the list.
  • Happy Birthday to Ron Gardenhire, who is 54 today. Kyle Gibson turned 23 years old over the weekend.
  • Where does the 1991 World Series rank among the best postseason series of all time? Hardball Times discusses.
  • See where Seedlings To Stars ranks Brian Dozier on its Top 100 list.
  • Nick Nelson asked the question, “Is Denard Span Trade Bait?”
  • There are many reason to Follow Me On Twitter, but I often post things there and not here, things like the Diamondbacks adding former Twins prospect David Winfree to their 40 man roster. I met David at Twins Fest in 2006 after he was named the Twins minor league hitter of the year in 2005. He’s had an interesting minor league career, but this is great news for him!
  • The Baseball Outsider wrote about the Twins’ Cuddyer Conundrum.
  • Do the Twins or members of the Twins rank in Yahoo Sports Top 5 Worst Teams to win the World Series?
  • Puckett’s Pond claims that the Twins Farm System is Getting Better.
  • Puckett’s Pond also ran down the Twins Top 5 One-Hit Wonders in their 50+ years in Minnesota.  
  • Aaron Gleeman posted some more Twins Notes, discussing more players removed from the 40 man roster,
  • A Huge Congratulations to “Babs” from Knuckleballs on her wedding over the weekend!!
  • North Dakota Twins Fan discusses the idea of Jack Morris becoming a pitching coach for the GCL Twins. (regarding Sid Hartmann’s STrib article saying he worked with the Twins Instructional League team and might consider coaching.)
  • As  I mentioned last week, I headed down to the cities on Friday night. On Saturday morning, I spent some time at Wings of Watertown which was a great time. My brother and I then went to the Gophers/Nebraska game, and there was definitely more Red in the stadium than maroon and gold. We had a great time tailgating before and after the game, and being lifelong Nebraska fans, we didn’t mind the outcome. On Sunday, I was in downtown Minneapolis for a couple of hours before the Vikings game, but I left about two, an hour before the game started. I truly enjoyed listening to Paul Allen call the game. It was a good game, as evidenced by the score. But there definitely appeared to be an excitement surrounding the first start of Christian Ponder. His mobility and his ability to convert some third downs stood out to me. Those that follow me on Twitter saw me tweet later last night, “Tim Tebow 13-27, 2 TD, Christian Ponder 13-32, 2 TD.” I got bashed. So, I figured I’d take this time to explain myself. All I was saying was that as exciting as Ponder was, and as much of an improvement he probably was over Donovan McNabb, calling his performance “great” isn’t quite accurate. Yes, I realize that Tebow put up his numbers in a win against the Dolphins, arguably the worst team in the NFL, whereas Ponder put up his numbers against the Packers, arguably the best team in the NFL. That said, the Packers defense isn’t exactly in the same class as teams like the Ravens. The intent was not so much to compare Ponder to Tebow. It was just to say that calling Ponder’s performance ‘great’ isn’t exactly accurate either. Some said that Ponder needs to be given time. I completely agree, and I am very excited to see the progression of Ponder, I think he’ll be terrific. Some said I can’t compare Ponder to Tebow because it was Ponder’s first career start, and it was Tebow’s fourth. Yes, Tebow is a grizzled veteran! Listen, like I said, I enjoyed the game yesterday. Allen did a great job of making me feel like I was actually watching the game, seeing what was happening, and it was a great game. Ponder made a good first impression, and let’s leave it at that. He’s going to have a lot of performances over his career that we will actually be able to categorize as ‘great!’     

If you have any questions or comments or other links, please feel free to leave them here.

Kube Cred

12 May

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

People ask me all the time why I keep watching the Twins, and why I remain positive. My only response right now is, “What else am I going to do?”  I mean, I’m a Twins fan. I’m going to watch the games. I’ve seen the Twins come back from deficits in the division so many times in recent years that it’s impossible for me to completely write the team off on May 12. My hope is simply in that at some point, Joe Mauer, Delmon Young, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, Jim Thome, and Jason Repko will come back and at some point they will hit. I hold hope that Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan can return to form because I see bad mechanics as opposed to fear and confusion. My hope is that Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano can’t be this bad.

Frankly, it’s hard for me to remember watching a worse baseball team. Since 2001, the Twins have been a very good team. What we are watching right now is a very bad baseball team. They are 12-23. However, even when things are at their worst, and I can’t believe it gets worse than this, for me it’s fun to watch because even within bad baseball, there is generally some positive. For me, the positives have been Scott Baker, Brian Duensing, and Nick Blackburn who all have ERAs below four. Glen Perkins has been tremendous, posting a 0.51 ERA.

When it comes to hitting on this historically bad offense, there is one name that stands head and shoulders above everyone else! Jason Kubel has been incredible throughout the season. Look at yesterday’s game alone. Early in the game, he had a terrific at bat that led to a two-out RBI single. In the 7th inning, the Twins were down by two runs with two outs. The Tigers brought in a left-handed reliever to face Kubel with runners on 2nd and 3rd. With the open base and a struggling Justin Morneau on deck, the Tigers chose to pitch to Kubel. Kubel responded, as he has all spring, with a huge hit. This time, it was a 460 foot blast over the right centerfield wall that gave the Twins what proved to be only a temporary lead. Kubel has been clutch in many two-out situations.

Here is where he ranks among Twins hitters in several categories:

  • Games Played – 35 –  Kubel and Danny Valencia are the two players who have played in all 35 games.
  • At Bats – 124 – Tied for 3rd with Michael Cuddyer, behind Valencia and Denard Span.
  • Runs Scored – 14 – 2nd, Span has 18.
  • Hits – 44 – 1st, Span is next with 40.
  • Doubles – 10 – 1st, Morneau is next with 8.
  • Home Runs – 4 – 1st, Valencia and Cuddyer have 3.
  • RBI – 20 – 1st, Valencia has 18.
  • Total Bases – 66 – Span is second with 49.
  • Walks – 13 – 2nd – Span has 15. Valencia also has 13.
  • Batting Average – .355 – 1st,  Span is second at .285.
  • On-Base Percentage – .414 – 1st,  Span is second at .357.
  • Slugging Percentage – .532 – 1st,  Thome is at .375, Span is at .357.
  • OPS – .947 – 1st, Span is at .710 (in other words, Kubel has been 33% better – by OPS – than any other player on the team)

Here is where Kubel ranks in the American League in a few statistical categories:

  • Batting Average – .355 ,2nd to Matt Joyce (Rays, .358)
  • On-Base Percentage – 414, 3rd behind Jose Batista and Miguel Cabrera
  • OPS – .947 – 7th, behind Jose Batista, Curtis Granderson, Miguel Cabrera, Matt Joyce, Victor Martinez and Mark Teixeira

Can Jason Kubel maintain this pace? That’s a tough question. I don’t think he can maintain a .355 batting average. Right now his BABIP is at .404, so it is likely that his batting average will drop some. Can he maintain a .947 OPS? I think so because he has just four home runs and ten doubles. He can actually hit more extra base hits as he goes forward.

We saw it in 2009 when he hit .300 with 28 homers and 103 RBI. When he rose through the Twins minor league system, he was described as being a guy who could hit for average like Mauer and hit for power like Morneau. Twins fans like myself are left with a bit of “What-If” with Jason Kubel. What if he would not have played in the Arizona Fall League after the 2004 season and had his knee torn to pieces by the Tigers Ryan Raburn. The knee surgeries cost him the entire 2005 season, and as we saw, it look him a couple of years to get back to what he was.

One thing that has hurt Kubel in his career has been his inability to hit left-handed pitching. This year, he has come up with some really big hits against lefties. Yesterday, it was the three-run homer off of Dan Schlereth. Earlier in the year, it was a big double off the wall against Rafael Perez. Even with some of those big hits, he OPS versus lefties this year is still below .700. (Update, check out this Twinkie Town article which shows that Kubel’s OPS vs LHP was .681 before yesterday’s game, and is now .820 after yesterday’s game! Ah, the beauty of small samples!) Meanwhile, he is again crushing right-handed pitching, hitting .381/.430/.571 with ten of his 14 extra base hits.

Against the AL Central so far this year, he it 18-38 (.474) with two home runs and 13 RBI. After yesterday, he is now 15-31 with runners in scoring position. Obviously that is not maintainable.

There are some additional numbers and trends that are certainly encouraging, at least is they continue as we go forward this year:

  2008 2009 2010 2011
BB% 9.1% 9.7% 9.6% 9.3%
K% 19.7% 20.6% 22.4% 18.5%
Line Drive % 19.5% 19.6% 19.2% 21.4%
Fly Ball % 40.6% 41.6% 43.2% 49.5%
Ground Ball % 39.8% 38.7% 37.6% 29.1%

 Of course, we are still talking about a 35 game sample in a 162 game season, so these numbers could all return to the norm. For a team that is so offensive-adverse, just imagine where they would be without the incredible and consistent performance of Jason Kubel! Scary!

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.

Wednesday Game Notes: Twins Sweep White Sox

5 May

Before we start, I will be on KFAN, The Fan Radio Network and KFAN.com at about 10:20 on the Paul Allen show.

The Twins may be struggling during the early part of this season, and it’s not hard to come up with several reasons why. There are the injuries to several key players. There is a lack of defense. There is a lack of offense. There is a lack of basics. There is the fact that as of now, nine players who started the year in Rochester have had to play for the Twins, ready or not. There are logical reasons to understanding the Twins early struggles. Speaking to the offense, when we see a lineup that includes Casilla, Repko, Butera, Holm, Tolbert, etc., we shouldn’t expect these guys to be hitting higher than they are.

The White Sox struggles likewise are surprising. Their bullpen, assumed to be one of their biggest strengths coming into the season, has been a mess. Their offense is horrible, almost as bad as the Twins. The difference is that the White Sox haven’t had the injuries. The offensive struggles have been from the guys that are their core. In other words, they don’t have guys on the Disabled List that they can look forward to coming back. Their lineup is their lineup.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Twins topped the White Sox 3-2 to complete a two-game sweep. Nick Blackburn gave up just one run on four hits in 6.2 innings. He walked four batters for the second straight game and struck out just one. Jose Mijares got the final out of the seventh inning. Glen Perkins came in for the 8th inning and gave up an unearned run on a walk and a hit. He got just one out before Ron Gardenhire went to his closer, Matt Capps. Capps got out of the 8th, and although he put a couple of guys on in the 9th, he got the save.

The Twins offense did not exactly return to juggernaut-mode in the series. They scored just four runs in the two-game sweep. Jason Kubel drove in three of the four runs. He hit the home run that gave the Twins a 1-0 lead in Francisco Liriano’s no-hitter on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, he drove in the first run of the game with a single in the first inning. He added a sacrifice fly later in the game. Rene Tosoni drove in the third run of the game that proved to be needed in the 3-2 win.

With another day off today, the Twins (11-18) will head to Boston for a four-game series against the Red Sox who are now 14-16. Amazingly, they are just four games out in the AL East.

As you know, Trevor Plouffe and Ben Revere were on the bench for the Twins on Wednesday. They were added to the roster when Jim Thome and Jason Repko were put on the Disabled List. I would expect that when the Twins play on Friday night, Plouffe will be starting at shortstop and Revere will be manning the Green Monster.

Following the game on Wednesday afternoon, the Twins announced that backup catcher Steve Holm was being sent down to Rochester. No subsequent move was announced which, of course, made the Twitter world start thinking. The easy answer is that the Twins will promote either Danny Lehmann or Rene Rivera to the big league club. Either would need to be added to the 40 man roster. Because the Red Wings did not play on Wednesday and the Twins don’t play on Thursday. Holm could be playing for the Red Wings on Thursday night, and if he can, there is no reason that the player called up to wait until Friday to go to Boston. That’s the kind of stuff that makes me wonder if there isn’t something else going on. Could the Twins be looking to sign a free agent catcher? Could the Twins be working on finalizing a trade? If so, they would wait until the trade is officially finalized to announce the Holm move. So, again, I assume that it will be either Rene Rivera is 27 years old and hitting .200/250/.333 for the Red Wings. Danny Lehmann impressed in big league camp this spring. He has been the organization’s top minor league catcher the last two years. After going 6-13 (.462) in New Britain, he moved up to Rochester where he has gone 7-25 (.280) with a double and a home run. Of course, I prefer the Twins go with Lehmann, in part, because I prefer when the Twins promote from within. He was the Twins 8th round pick in 2007 out of Rice. He is the defensive equivalent to Drew Butera with a slightly better bat. I believe that Butera is a guy who can hit .180-210 in the big leagues (despite his current .111 batting average). I think that the 25-year-old Lehmann could hit .200-.240 in the big leagues.

As I mentioned on my podcast the other night, this is the time of year when transactions start happening in the minor leagues, and we saw some of that yesterday. Early in the day, the Twins:

  •  promoted C/OF Chris Herrmann from Ft. Myers to New Britain.
  • Josmil Pinto moves from Beloit to Ft. Myers to take his place.
  • Ray Chang was promoted to Rochester on Tuesday night (after the Plouffe promotion), and
  • last night, Steve Singleton got the call that he was also headed to the Red Wings.

Just as a reminder, I post all of this information, and much more, on Twitter immediately after I learn of it. So, if you want this kind of information sooner, be sure to follow me on Twitter.

Ft. Myers beat Palm Beach last night 6-2. Kane Holbrooks picked up his first win. The right-hander gave up two unearned runs on six hits. In six innings, he walked one and struck out three. Blake Martin recorded the three-inning save. He didn’t give up any runs, hits or walks and struck out just one. Danny Rams went 3-4. Anderson Hidalgo went 2-4 with his fourth double. Aaron Hicks was 1-2 with two walks and a double.

Beloit beat Wisconsin 4-1. Adrian Salcedo went seven innings and gave up just one run on five hits. He did not walk a batter and struck out eight. Clint Dempster struck out five in two one-hit innings to record the save. Daniel Ortiz went 2-4 with his ninth and tenth doubles.

Since the Twins don’t play today, you can follow the Twins minor league teams throughout most of the day. Here are the times (all central) and starters:

  • Rochester hosts Gwinnett at 6:05. Anthony Swarzak will pitch against Braves prospect Mike Minor.
  • New Britain hosts a double-header against Richmond starting at 9:35 this morning. Steve Hirschfeld, my choice for Twins minor league pitcher of the month, will start the first game. Liam Hendriks will start Game 2.
  • Ft. Myers will host Palm Beach in their “Cinco de Miracle” game. Andrew Albers threw 4.2 scoreless innings in relief in his last appearance, and now he will get a start.
  • Beloit will host Wisconsin again today, starting at 11:00. Andrei Lobanov will start for the Snappers.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.

2011 Twins Predictions

1 Apr

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net

Thursday was officially Opening Day, and I have to admit, it was a strange day for me. First, it was on a Thursday for the first time. I had enough troubles with ESPN getting a Sunday night season opener, after Opening Day had always just been a Monday thing. MLB decided to start the season three or four days earlier in an attempt to keep the World Series out of November. Second, the Twins didn’t play on Opening Day. Only 12 teams did. So, I guess all I can say is:

Happy Minnesota Twins Opening Day to you!

Predictions are always fun because at the end of the year, I can pick and choose which ones I will remind you that I made. Or, if they’re that far off, I can forget to remind you about my picks and hopefully you won’t remind me too often. Below are some predictions, some more bold than others, for the 2011 Minnesota Twins season with some other predictions randomly thrown in.

2011 MINNESOTA TWINS PROJECTIONS

  • Matt Capps will record twice as many saves as Joe Nathan.
  • Joe Mauer will hit less than .320, but he will hit more than 40 doubles and more than 16 home runs. He will win his fourth straight, and fifth total, Silver Slugger Award.
  • Justin Morneau will post an OPS of just over .880.
  • Delmon Young will:
    • Hit over .300.
    • Hit more than 28 home runs
    • Drive in more than 120 runs
    • Post an OPS of less than .900.
  • Tsuyoshi Nishioka will post an OPS of over .720 and steal more than 25 bases. He will also deserve to win the AL Gold Glove, but he won’t because Robinson Cano is a really good hitter.
  • Alexi Casilla’s OPS will be within .030 of JJ Hardy’s. He will also be within 2.0 UZR of the former Twins shortstop.
  • The date that I will stop watching the Twins on FSN with the volume on will be April 6th.
  • Denard Span will post an OBP over .370. He will steal more than 30 bases.
  • Michael Cuddyer will lead the Twins with more than 40 doubles. He will also top 20 home runs.
  • Danny Valencia will post an OPS greater than .820 with more than 32 doubles and more than 15 home runs.
  • Jim Thome will NOT post an OPS of over 1.000 again in 2011. In fact, he won’t post a .900 OPS. He will hit less than 15 home runs but more than the 11 home runs he needs to reach career home runs number 600.
    • Let’s go on a limb and say that he will his Home Run #600 on August 24th at Target Field in the 2nd inning off of Jake Arrieta.
  • Carl Pavano will throw 200 innings, but his ERA will be over 4.40.
  • Francisco Liriano will throw less than 190 innings with an ERA over 3.50 and a K-rate less than 8.5 per nine innings.
  • Brian Duensing will throw 175+ innings with an ERA of under 4.25.
  • Nick Blackburn will throw more than 210 innings with an ERA just under 4.00.
  • Scott Baker will throw 190+ innings with an ERA under 4.20.
  • Kevin Slowey will not make a start for the Twins in 2011, and he will average more than a strikeout per inning
  • I will be wrong about one of the five starters pitching well, Kyle Gibson will make his Twins debut on June 18 at Target Field against the Padres.
  • Joe Mauer and Delmon Young will represent the Twins at the All-Star game.
  • The Twins will open their 2011 home schedule with a 3-4 record, including a split against the Yankees at Yankees Stadium.
  • Ron Gardenhire will be ejected eight times in 2011.
  • No Twins hitter will top 30 home runs, however, Justin Morneau and Delmon Young will come close, while Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel will hit over 22 each.

AL CENTRAL STANDINGS (Projected)

Minnesota Twins        93-69

Chicago White Sox      91-71

Detroit Tigers              80-82

Cleveland Indians        72-90

Kansas City Royals     63-99

AMERICAN LEAGUE PLAYOFF TEAMS

AL Central – Minnesota Twins (2)

AL East – Boston Red Sox (1)

AL West – Oakland A’s (3)

Wild Card – Chicago White Sox (4)

ALDS: Boston over Chicago in 4 games, Oakland over Minnesota (in 5 games, the A’s rotation contains lefties Gio Gonzalez, Brett Anderson and Dallas Braden, and the bullpen has Brian Fuentes, Craig Breslow and Bobby Cramer. The Twins have not addressed their need for a right-handed bat. Unless they do, it could be another one and done.)

ALCS – Boston over Oakland in 5 games.

NATIONAL LEAGUE PLAYOFF TEAMS

NL Central – Milwaukee Brewers (3)

NL East – Atlanta Braves (2)

NL West – Los Angeles Dodgers (1)

NL East – Philadelphia Phillies

NLDS: Braves over Brewers in 4 games. Phillies over Dodgers in 4 games.

NLCS: Braves over Phillies in 7 games.

WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS

                Braves over Red Sox in 6 games.

 What are your predictions for the 2011 season, for the Twins or the league. If you have any thoughts or questions, please feel free to comment or ask.

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  • TWINS MINOR LEAGUE WEEKLY PODCAST LAST NIGHTNIGHT – If you are interested in the Twins minor league system, check out Twins Minor League Weekly podcast from last night. Travis Aune and I will host the 10:00 p.m. podcast each Thursday throughout the season. Last night, we discussed the projected rosters and picks to click for the Rochester Red Wings and New Britain Rockcats. We started talking about the Ft. Myers Miracle when the 45 minute podcast abruptly came to an end. Next Thursday, we’ll discuss minor league opening night and continue to look at the Miracle and Snappers rosters.