Archive for December, 2011

An Attempt At Understanding “Pitch To Contact”

December 23, 2011

There is one of our despised phrases, and one of the Twins’ favorites and it’s “pitching to contact.” The Twins use this to justify their affinity of pitchers that don’t walk anyone, but unfortunately also fail to strike out many hitters. We’re seeing that phrase quite a bit this offseason, as the Twins have just signed RHP Jason Marquis to fill out the rotation, and he’s essentially a Carl Pavano or Nick Blackburn clone. Those three pitchers are going to go the chuck-‘n’-duck route, whereas the other two starters, Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker, will actually be able to strike out some hitters.

Last season, there was some controversy when the Twins expressed they wanted Francisco Liriano to “pitch to contact” more. Here we had a starter whose main weapon was getting hitters to swing-and-miss, and yet the Twins wanted him to stray from that strategy. It was a comment that most of us (including myself) didn’t take to very well. However, beneath the surface, the Twins were trying to say that they wanted Liriano to reduce his number of pitches in an outing by getting quicker outs. In fact, here’s a quote from Ron Gardenhire in a Phil Mackey column from last season:

“Use that two-seamer, and use that slider down and in every once in a while, and that changeup, but pitch to contact early,” Gardenhire said. “That’ll get him deep into games. Because his stuff is so good. There’s times when you need to go for the strikeout.

“That’s when you save your Mr. Nasty, as they say. You throw the nasty pitches then. But those other times you need to pitch to contact to get you deeper into games. When you want that big strikeout, maybe with a man on second, and you’ve got an open base, take your shot with your stuff.”

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The Breakup of a Band

December 20, 2011

I’m bored today, and that can lead to many things. After doing such unthinkable things such as playing Bubble Spinner and Spite Cannon at the same time, driving all the way to St. Olaf to pick up my sister (okay, that’s actually in the realm of reasonableness), and doing research for a future blog post in an attempt to understand why the Twins love their “innings eaters”, I settled on something that I should have tackled earlier last week.

With the departure of Michael Cuddyer, our favorite Twins satire band, Cuddy and the Lawn Mauers, is no more.

What is a band without a frontman? Well, nothing. No one is going to want to watch or listen to just The Lawn Mauers. They have no leadership or excitement. All they do is shrug their shoulders and ground out to second base. Michael Cuddyer is what made such hits as “Bandbox Hero” and my personal favorite of any baseballing satire musical act, “Outdoor Subsidy,” as awesome as they were. Why? Because he had the “it” factor. Without Cuddy, “Outdoor Subsidy” becomes just a boring old “Bohemian Rhapsody” as the Lawn Mauers look at their drumsticks, their electric guitars, and think, “Maybe I should have just called in sick today.”

Who can take over? Who will lead the Lawn Mauers into the new year? There are some newcomers in Josh Willingham, Jamey Carroll, and Ryan Doumit. They could take the easy route and promote one of the Lawn Mauers, Justin Morneau, to lead singer. Hell, he’s even got a Cuddy-like nickname with “Morny.” Morny and the Lawn Mauers. It sort of works. But is there a name with a better ring to it? Perhaps the Lawn Mauers should be scrapped altogether? Yes, they could be scrapped. If there’s one thing the Lawn Mauers are, it’s scrappy.

Or maybe they should just move on without having a new member. After all, it has been over a year since they came out with “Bandbox Hero.” Maybe it’s just time to make a new song.

Yes, that sounds best. All of it. What’s that? You have no idea what’s going on?

That’s okay. This past season, no one knew what the hell was going on.

Twins Sign Josh Willingham

December 16, 2011

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed that I did not make an offseason blueprint this year for the Twins. This was not because I didn’t have any clues as to what I wanted, but rather that I just didn’t have the time. Regardless, I was in favor of the Twins signing Josh Willingham over re-signing Michael Cuddyer, a fact that I had made known a couple times here and countless times elsewhere.

In doing so, the Twins ended up getting a comparable player to Cuddyer while saving roughly $10 million in the process, if Cuddyer’s 3 year, $31.5 million contract with the Colorado Rockies is true. Some people may argue that Cuddyer’s versatility is what makes him worth more, but honestly, he was a bad fielder no matter where he played. His “versatility” was just a byproduct of his unselfishness and Ron Gardenhire’s willingness to move him around the field. You want to call someone versatile? Nick Punto is versatile. Cuddyer is not. (On a related note, neither is Ryan Doumit, even though he can play catcher, 1st base, and right field).

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I Have An Announcement To Make

December 10, 2011

I didn’t mention this to many, so I won’t leave out any details. The MLB Network is planning on having a trivia game show (at least from what has been described to me) involving members of all 30 MLB teams. By “members” I mean staff, and not just those that are in the front office. I mean every single person that is employed by these teams are eligible to compete in this game show.

Maybe I should be more specific. Each team gets a single representative that is sent to the MLB Network studios to compete in this show. Being a Twins usher, yes, I was given a chance. There was a trivia test held over this past week, and I was one of the people in attendance. I didn’t think I had a serious chance of winning, but I don’t typically say no to a “What the hell, what’s the worst that could happen?” moment. Besides, it gave me another chance to hang out at Target Field, and now I can say that I’ve been in the press conference room.

No, I was not the victor. I was humbled by questions such as “Who scored the winning run when Mookie Wilson’s grounder went through Bill Buckner’s legs in the World Series?” and “Who was the only person to ever get three hits in an inning?” However, the winner was just announced, and I’m pleased to wish my best to a good friend of mine, a fellow Gustavus alum and the guy that helped me get this job in the first place. One of the few that was crazy enough to actually study for a test like this (Studying with Sporcle baseball quizzes was a genius idea). A former intern at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Congratulations, Craig Nordquist!

I have only one piece of advice for you. Just don’t forget that Brady Anderson hit 50 homers in a season again.

Twins Trade Kevin Slowey to Colorado

December 6, 2011

Looks like the Twins finally got their wish in exiling Kevin Slowey for good.

After the whole debacle with Slowey over this past season, it seems rather certain that he would be non-tendered or traded this offseason. The fact that he was “banished” to Colorado doesn’t bode well for Slowey, though. As an extreme flyball pitcher, Coors Field has got to be the last place he should call home. But hey, the Rockies wanted him, and maybe they’ve got some plans for him.

The Twins receive a player-to-be-named-later, and I’ve seen rumors that it is corner outfielder Seth Smith. If it is Smith, the Twins would be receiving a player that I called “Jason Kubel Version 2.cheaper” on Facebook. He is a lefthanded batter that definitely has some power, but is a poor hitter against lefthanded pitchers, as he’s hit .290.364/.518 against RHP in his career, versus .202/.269/.319 against LHP. Sounds exactly like Kubel, no? It does look like he’s arbitration-eligible starting this season, but he would still be cheaper than Kubel.

However, a PTBNL is typically someone that is not on a team’s 40-man roster. With the upcoming Rule 5 draft, the Twins and Rockies may have decided on a PTBNL because otherwise, the Twins would be forced to add the new player to their 40-man roster immediately or risk losing him in the Rule 5 draft to another team. By waiting until after the Rule 5 draft, the Twins do run the risk of losing this player in the Rule 5 draft before he even becomes a Twin, but they also wouldn’t be forced to add him to their own 40-man roster if they didn’t want to in the first place. Confused? I still am a bit myself, but I think this is an understandable and overall wise move.

I just hope that the Twins don’t find another mediocre reliever in return for Slowey, a la Jim Hoey and Lester Oliveros. I’m sick of those low upside pitchers.

Twins Re-Sign Matt Capps

December 5, 2011

Seems like the Twins just never learn.

Despite me suggesting that the Twins should go find a cheap alternative as a closer, the Twins have decided that they just needed to have a proven closer as they re-signed Matt Capps to a 1-year, $4.5 million contract with a $6 million option for 2013 ($250,000 buyout).

My first thought is that the Twins have a habit of sticking to familiar players, and this is starting to drive me crazy. Supposedly Capps had a sore arm for most of the season and that was the cause of his poor year, and if that is the case, then maybe this signing won’t look so bad. Capps has been a bit hit-or-miss for the past 3 years, but he’s certainly had more hits than misses in his career. If he can get his strikeouts back in the 6-7 K/9 range, he could be just fine.

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