Thursday, October 28, 2010

Examining Kubel's Value

I was spurred to write this piece by two things, one was an article over at Fangraphs and the other was a subsequent conversation I had with SR about that article. I've seen a few things written about Kubes in the last few days including a good piece over at Nick's Twins Blog. I thought I would throw in my two cents.

Jason Kubel was drafted by the Twins in the 12th round of the 2000 amateur draft and spent 4 full seasons in the minors before getting his first chance with the Major League team in 2004. His injury problems are well documented but for the past 3 seasons, he has played fairly regularly with at least 140 games in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Two seasons ago he had his "break out" year hitting .300/.369/.539 with 28HRs, 35 doubles and 103RBIs. At that point everyone thought he had finally turned the corner at the age 25 and the expectations entering this past season were high. Kubel didn't deliver. Sure the RBI numbers were there (93), but the average (.249), on-base% (.323), and slugging% (.427) were all career lows (for seasons in which he played more than 100 games). Not only that, his defense left a lot to be desired, a fact magnified due to Kubel's everyday left-fielder role. Kubel had a .972 fielding% which was much worse than the league-wide average of .986 for outfielders last season. His UZR score of -10.7 was 9th worst among Major League outfielders with at least 800 innings of work.

Kubel has gotten a lot of attention so far this off-season because the Twins are now at a crossroads with Kubel, having the option to either bring him back for another season at $5.25M or buy him out and let him walk. In my conversation with SR, his argument was basically that the Twins should let Kubel walk which would essentially give Jim Thome a full-time (or at least very regular) DH spot which would ultimately benefit the Twins because Thome is a much better hitter. I'm of the opinion that the Twins should pick up the option on Kubes and let Thome walk because a) Kubel has value (albeit negative) as a fielder and b) we cannot expect Thome to replicate his 2010 campaign in 2011.

Kubel is coming off his worst season in the Majors so far. For as "lucky" as he was in 2009, he was just as unlucky in 2010. In 2009 his BABIP was a career best .327 and this past year it was a career-worst .280 (min. 100 games). Kubel's 2010 walk percentage of 9.6 was right there with his 2009 number (9.7) but his K% continued to rise for the 4th straight season, a career-worst 22.4%, an 8% increase from 2009. Kubel remained productive at the plate in 2010 driving in 93 and scoring 68, but that is mostly attributable to those who hit in front of him getting on base. Looking at the power numbers, Kubel's ISO of .178 was the lowest it's been since 2007. I could go on and on, but suffice to say, Kubel had a bad year.

So what can be expected to Kubel going forward? He has now played in 654 Major League games amassing 2,445 plate appearances which is more than enough for a healthy sample-size. Baseball-Reference has a handy line under the stats which averages out a players stats over a full 162-game season. Here's what we get:

Unfortunately, looking at that stat line, it looks like this past season's results more closely resembled "normal" than last year. An .800OPS is not bad, but if you're projecting Kubel as a DH, the Twins may indeed be better off trying to re-up with Thome instead of picking up the option on Kubel. Here's how Thome's last few seasons compare:

As you can see, Thome's 2010 season was the best one he's had in a few years depending on which numbers you look at. His batting average was the highest it's been since 2006, his OBP was the best it's been since 2006 and his slugging% was his best mark in 8 seasons...and this all despite a BABIP (.310) that was below his career average (.321).

What the Twins ultimately decide to do with Kubel will depend on two things and neither of them is money-related because Kubel and Thome will likely cost about the same amount to bring back:

1.) How do they value the flexibility they have with Kubel considering he can play a position is necessary? If you go with Thome and an outfielder is injured, then you are forced to start a less offensively talented player than Kubel and the lineup would suffer as a result.

2.) To what degree do they think Jim Thome can replicate his 2010 numbers? If you think Thome's body can handle a full-time DH role for an entire season, it might be worth it...especially if you can sign him to a deal similar to what he signed this year, laden with playing time and performance incentives. You'd maybe save a couple million dollars upfront which could then be used to resign a bullpen arm.

2a.) Do the Twins think Kubel's potential is more accurately reflected by his 2009 season or his 2010 season?

Thome's WAR (wins above replacement) last season was 3.6. Kubel, if you take out his fielding stats, had a 2.8 WAR, with fielding he had a 0.3. That suggests that most of Kubel's value is zapped if you put him in the field. BUT, for comparison purposes, Kubel and Thome stack up pretty similarly at the plate. So the question becomes, is ~350 at-bats from Thome (he had 340 last season) worth the same amount of money as Kubel with 450-500 at-bats? Will Thome have a similar season in 2011? Can Kubel have a bounce back year? What do you think?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Why Bringing Back JJ Hardy Should be Priority #1

If you read the Twins blogs, which you must if you found this one, you know the whirlwind of speculation and opinion that is going on regarding what the Twins should do with their free-agents and arbitration-eligibles this off-season. The Twins should re-sign Pavano, no they should let him go, they should non-tender Matt Capps, they need to bring back Jesse Crain, and on and on and on. I'm here to make a case that bringing back JJ Hardy is THE MOST IMPORTANT move the Twins can make this off-season, specifically because of the domino effect that will happen if they do not.

JJ Hardy didn't have a great season, that is well documented. But when you look at his season, both offensively and defensively, in terms of other short-stops in the Majors, a different picture emerges. For instance, if you extrapolated the numbers Hardy put together to a full-season (qualified) of work, his OPS (.714) makes him a top 10 short-stop in terms of offense and his Fielding% (.976) makes him a top 7 short-stop defensively. His UZR score of 8.1 is good for 5th among short-stops with 800+ innings, and his UZR150 of 12.8 would be 1st among short-stops with 800+ innings. I know there are some sample size issues here, but what I'm trying to point out is that even though Hardy didn't have an eye-popping season offensively, his value in terms trying to replace him is very high.

I mentioned earlier "the domino effect" that would occur if the Twins let him go. First off, Alexi Casilla, who would like become an everyday 2nd basemen if Hardy stays, would likely move to Short, leaving a hole a 2nd. Now, Gardenhire could probably push his weight around and get his pet-project Nick Punto re-signed, but the Twins would pay $5M to do that and the Twins lineup would suffer as a result. Hardy is in line to get about $6.5M via arbitration, so why not let Punto walk, pay an extra $1.5M or so and have less problems? Ok, getting back on now you have a hole at 2nd, what are your options on the free-agent market? There are a number of 2nd basemen out there, but in order to make this cost-effective (i.e. less than the cost of picking up Punto's option) the price has to be less than $5M and you would want someone relatively young. So, here is a list of free-agent 2nd basemen that fit those criteria:

Willie Bloomquist (33) - made $1.7M last year
Anderson Hernandez (28) - not a good option, but an option nonetheless
Omar Infante (29) - has a $2.5M club option and the Braves would be stupid not to pick it up
Akinori Iwamura (32) - made $4.85M last year, had a few good season with Tampa, but was terrible last year
Felipe Lopez (31) - Type B free-agent and actually not a bad option, made $1M last year, .960 career Fielding% at short-stop, could be had for cheap
Juan Uribe (31) - Uribe is one of the better options out there as far as 2nd basemen go and thus likely to command attention, he had a good season offensively and has been a star in the post-season, signing him probably wouldn't be very cost-effective for the Twins

And that's about it. You can see how bare the 2nd basemen market is and how difficult to fill a hole at 2nd would be.

Some people out there might say, "what about Trevor Plouffe?" (Triple-A short-stop for the Twins) To that I say, "see here." That link takes you to Plouffe's minor league stat page and though offensively it looks decent for a short-stop, defensively I am left wanting (.947 fielding%). One of the strengths of the Twins this season was infield defense and though it wasn't quite as good as expected, that defense saved runs which led to wins, blah, blah, blah. If the Twins have Casilla at 2nd and Hardy at SS, that defense continues to look good, if they get rid of Hardy and replace him with Plouffe (moving Casilla to 2nd) that defense takes a hit....domino effect.

Letting Hardy go and finding a way to cheaply fill the hole left behind would free up some more money to re-sign some of the bullpen, but as Rauch proved this past season, bullpen pieces are pretty easy to find and the Twins have some arms in the minors that could be tapped to replace the likes of Fuentes, Rauch, etc. Keep in mind too that unlike the 2nd basemen and SS market, the relief pitching market is chock-full of talent and because of that, prices will probably be driven lower.

Yes, re-upping with Hardy eats up a large portion of the off-season money the Twins have to spend, but as I've tried to lay out here, Hardy is the most important one to re-sign given his positional significance coupled with the potential difficulties of replacing him.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Filling the Void: Starting Pitching

There's a lot of talk out there right now, various people speculating on what the Twins will do in the off-season and what the Twins should do in the off-season. In my last piece, I went through each Twins' free-agent and tried to guess at what the Twins might do. One thing seems fairly clear; the Twins will not be bringing back Carl Pavano. To do so would not only be expensive, but would also hamper their ability to re-sign some of the valuable bullpen pieces they stand to lose. So assuming Pavano leaves, that leaves you with a rotation consisting of Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Brian Duensing and Blackburn (?). To me this seems weak. If Liriano duplicated his efforts from this season and Baker and Slowey were able to remain healthy and effective for an entire season, it doesn't look that bad, but I want to argue that the Twins could make their rotation more impressive if they made a trade for a starting pitcher. Here's a list of the more enticing free-agent and non free-agent options out there:

Kevin Correia - SP - San Diego Padres
"Rough" would be a good way to describe this right-handers 2010 season. He ended the year with a 10-10 record to go along with a 5.40 ERA and 1.49 WHIP. The encouraging thing about Correia's 2010 numbers are the 4.71FIP and 4.19 xFIP. Am I arguing he's a lights-out pitcher? No. I do think, however, that pitching in Target field would benefit him AND he's a better pitcher than he showed this season. Not only that,  he only made $3.6M this past year and would fit nicely into the back-end of the rotation. He's only 30 years old so he's got some left in the tank and who knows, a little work with Rick Anderson might turn this guy right around. He's an out-and-out free-agent so the Twins wouldn't have to work a trade for this guy allowing them to keep their current core of pitchers intact.

Hiroki Kuroda - SP - Los Angeles Dodgers
I would love to land Kuroda, but much like re-signing Pavano, signing Kuroda would likely mean losing most of the current bullpen (unless the Twins front-office decides they can go with a payroll around $120M). In 3 seasons with the Dodgers, Kuroda compiled almost 500 innings, a 3.60ERA and 1.16WHIP. His career FIP sits at 3.57 which means this guy is legit. He's 35 which is getting up there and he made north of $15M last season, but he probably has 2-3 good years left in him and would make a nice right-handed compliment to Liriano. He's not a high strikeout guy (career 6.6 K/9) but he has impeccable control (career 2.1 BB/9) and induces ground-balls at a high rate (career 55.3%).

Cliff Lee - SP - Texas Rangers
Oh how one can dream right? I can't help but wonder how things might have turned out if the Twins had landed Lee instead of Capps. I would put the Twins odds of landing Lee this off-season at about 0.5% so it's probably not worth talking about. Lee will probably command upwards of $20M per year in a new contract which is solidly out of range for the Twins.

Erik Bedard - SP - Seattle Mariners
This lefty hasn't played a full season since 2007, but presents a low-cost, high potential for the Twins, much like Thome last off-season. Bedard has a mutual option with the Mariners for next season (no word on the price of that option) but considering he didn't throw a pitch in 2010, I doubt the Mariners would pick it up...who knows. If he declines the option, the Twins could take a flyer on this guy, sign him to a 1-year, $2M deal and see what happens. Much like Brandon Webb, Bedard has been sidelined for over a year by a shoulder injury, a torn labrum and inflamed bursa-sac in his case. When Bedard has been on the mound, he's been great posting a career 3.71ERA and career 8.8 K/9. He's a risk to sign for sure, but if he can get healthy, he could be very valuable.

Fausto Carmona - SP - Cleveland Indians (Free-Agent, 2015)
This was a guy I lobbied for earlier this season around the trading deadline. Carmona had solid numbers in 2010, was selected to the all-star and best of all, he has dominated other AL central teams during his career. Camona is set to make $6.288M next season and has club options in his contract for 2012, 13 and 14 so he would be worth trading for given the fact he wouldn't just be a one-year rental. Carmona doesn't exactly fit the Twins' mold for starting pitchers, he is prone to walks, but he is a severe ground-ball pitcher which works in any ballpark. I should also mention that Carmona is entering his prime, turning 27 years old in December. I think the Twins would be wise to make a move for this guy, especially since it appears the Indians will be in rebuilding mode for at least another year or two.

Wandy Rodriquez - SP - Houston Astros (Free-Agent, 2012)
This lefty present another relatively low-cost option for the Twins, though a trade would have to take place in order to get him. Rodriguez has pitched right around 200 innings the past two season with pretty good results. He's not a strikeout artist, but over the last three seasons he has K'ed batters at a rate of higher than 8 per 9. Most importantly, he made $5M last year and is in his last year of arbitration eligibility with the Astros. If you figure around $7M through arbitration, that's a pretty fair price for a guy likely to give you ~32 starts and an ERA around 3.50. You could trade away a prospect or you could trade the salary of one of our starting pitchers (Baker, Blackburn?) to make this deal happen. Rodriguez is 31 years old, he's a ground-ball pitcher, he a lefty, and would make a good fit with the Twins.

Zack Greinke - SP - Kansas City Royals (Free-Agent, 2013)
Personally, I don't think Greinke is worth it. If you look at his stat sheet, he had one good year (2009) and most of the other years have been decent, but nothing special. If the Twins did trade for him, they would likely lose valuable major-league talent and would be on the hook for $13.5M to Greinke in 2011 and 2012. Grienke would make a nice addition to the rotation, I do not doubt this, but I would argue you could get equal production from a guy like Wandy Rodriguez at half the price (in money AND talent). Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune likes the prospect of Greinke in the rotation, but MLBTradeRumors isn't buying his proposal.

Those are the obvious starting pitching targets. There are, of course, a number of free-agents out there but most of them are probably not an upgrade from what the Twins have. I think Carmona and Rodriguez present the most enticing options in terms of cost vs. benefit, though I can see the case for landing true top talent as well. I think if the Twins do choose to let Pavano walk, they should make an effort to being in someone else because the results from our starting pitchers not named Liriano this past season were shaky at best.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Examining Twins' Free Agency

Now that we've taken several days to let the fresh wounds scar over and taken some time away from baseball, it's time to start thinking about the upcoming off-season that will start in about 2 weeks or so. The number one concern the Twins will have is what to do with a bevy of free agents and arbitration-eligible players, namely: Carl Pavano, Orlando Hudson, JJ Hardy, Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch, Jesse Crain, Brian Fuentes, Matt Capps and Jim Thome. With around $90M already committed for next year's team and keeping in mind that a realistic ceiling for next season's payroll is around $100M, the Twins will simply not be keeping all of the aforementioned players. Let's go through each one.

Carl Pavano - SP - Restricted Free Agent (Type A)
Deciding what to do with Pavano will probably be the Twins most difficult choice this off-season, particularly because he has pitched so well here for the past season and a half. Last off-season, Pavano avoided arbitration with the Twins, opting to sign a 1-year, $7M deal. He backed that up with a solid campaign that saw him win 17 games for the Twins while sporting a very respectable 3.75 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 32 starts. What concerns me about Pavano heading into next season is a) his second half and b) the September he had this year. Pre All-Star break, Pavano had a 3.58 ERA, post All-Star break he had a somewhat mediocre 3.97 mark. In Sept/Oct, he had a putrid 5.06 ERA and even worse FIP at 5.86. I'm not saying one month of mediocrity is a bad omen for Pavano, but he was definitely less valuable down the stretch (in a few admittedly meaningless games) and seemed to lose a bit of what he had earlier in the year. Pavano fits the Twins starting pitcher mold perfectly, and I'd personally like to see him back, but ultimately I think the cost will be too high (likely $9M+).

Orlando Hudson - 2B - Restricted Free Agent (Type B)
O-Dogg pretty much gave the Twins what should have been expected this season...good defense, an average bat, and a good attitude. The only problem I have with Hudson is that he was terrible down the stretch. He had one of three decent offensive showings in the playoffs, but the overall body of work (offensively) probably isn't worth a penny more than the $5M they paid him this year. As Gleeman pointed out in his column yesterday, Hudson is not likely to be brought back precisely because, "the Twins may feel they can get 90 percent of the production for 10 percent of the cost in Alexi Casilla." If Hudson's season had been more productive offensively, it might be a no-brainer to re-sign him, but the fact is that he's only marginally better than Casilla and I don't think the Twins will be hurt that much if they let him go. Plus, they have more pressing need for the extra cash to address bullpen free-agents. For more on O-Dogg and his impending free-agency, check out John Bonnes' piece over at Twins Geek.

JJ Hardy - SS - Arbitration Eligible (free agent)
Similar to Hudson, JJ Hardy had an unimpressive season that was interrupted a few times by injury. Unlike Hudson, however, the Twins do not have a replacement player on their roster that is as valuable as Hardy. The Twins could have Punto (who has a club option for next season at $4.5M that I do not expect them to pick up) play shortstop, but he's nowhere near Hardy's potential at the plate and defensively, they're about equal. This past season, Hardy made a tidy sum of $5.1M and depending on what the market for shortstops is this winter, he could probably be re-signed for another season for about $5.5-$7M. I hope the Twins go after Hardy, I think he's a solid player at a position the Twins would struggle to fill otherwise. There's a blurb here on Baseball Prospectus regarding Hardy's free-agency that I disagree with, but anyway, here's the link.

Matt Guerrier - RP - Restricted Free Agent (Type A)
This is where it starts to get tricky. Between Guerrier, Crain and Rauch, half of the Twins bullpen are free agents. As for Matt Guerrier, he had a very up and down year. He was good in April, May and June and then sucked it up for July and August before returning to form for September. This past season Guerrier made $3.15M which was easily his best season money-wise so far. Again, it's hard to put a finger on what type of market to expect for a guy like Guerrier, but I imagine, given his consistency over the past 6 seasons in both durability and performance, that there would be a fairly good market for him. Personally I think it's worth locking him up for a few years, he has been one of the stalwarts of the Twins bullpen during the run of success over the past 8 years and he's only 31 years old. He's pitched over 70 innings in each of the last 6 years and though he leaves something to be desired as far as strikeouts go, he's reliable and effective. For the sake of argument, let's say the Twins offer him a 3-year deal at $4M per...moving on.

Jesse Crain - RP - Restricted Free Agent (Type B)
This is the guy I think the Twins have to resign. Yes he gave up a homer to Tex in the playoffs, but the guy was by far the best bullpen option for most of the season. Crain made only $2M this past season and will likely command a decent raise, which he deserves. He proved this year that his stuff is dominating and he will be much less expensive to re-sign than Brian Fuentes or Matt Capps. Assuming (and that is a hopeful assumption) that Joe Nathan returns next spring, Crain would make a great set-up man if he could repeat his performance from this season.

Jon Rauch - RP - Restricted Free Agent (Type B)
The Twins picked up Rauch's club option last year, but this year he's a free man. He didn't have a particularly great year, but might get some interest as a closer from some teams because he proved himself shaky-yet-competent in the early goings for the Twins this past season. I'd like to see the Twins re-sign him because he'll be a cheaper, yet equally competent, option than Fuentes or Capps, but who knows. What's going against Rauch is a mediocre 2nd half and the fact that the Twins probably have someone down in Triple-A who can do his job. Rauch made $2.9M this past season and will probably be looking at something similar to that on the free agent market, which wouldn't be out of the Twins price-range and hey, sometimes the devil you know is better than the one you don't.

Brian Fuentes/Matt Capps - RP - Restricted Free Agents (Both Type B)
I think these guys fall into the same boat and both are guys unlikely to be re-signed by the Twins. They were brought in for a pennant (and World Series) run that fell short. The only scenario in which I see Fuentes staying here is one in which he's willing to take a lot less money than he was making. He would be a valuable lefty specialist to be sure, but with an optimistic price tag likely in the $5M-$7M range (he made $9M last year). As for Capps, he falls into the category of "replaceable player" as he's not particularly dominant and isn't something the Twins don't pretty much already have. If the Twins didn't think that Nathan was going to be ready for the start of next year, I could see them making a run at Capps, but otherwise, I don't see him with the team come next season.

Jim Thome - DH - Unrestricted Free Agent
I saved the best for last. Thome has been a fan favorite at every stop of his Major-League career and here in Minnesota, it's been no different. Thome helped his own case by having a great year including a walk-off home run for the ages against the White Sox and a memorable mammoth-shot against the Royals. Thome was an absolute steal for what the Twins paid him, a mere $1.5M plus incentives, producing 25HRs and a 1.039OPS from the DH slot, a vast improvement on what has been one of the weaknesses of this team over the past several years. That said, unless the Twins can work a similarly cheap deal with Thome for next season, I hope they don't bring him back. I fear it would be like Favre's season last year vs. his season this can't catch lightening in a bottle twice. The history of 40+ year old power hitters is not very good (except Ted Williams). Hammerin' Hank Aaron hit 40HRs at 39 and then proceeded to hit 20, 12, and 10 in his next three seasons before retiring. Barry Bonds (*) hit 45HRs as a 39-year-old and then hit 5, 26, and 28 before pretty much being forced into retirement. Hell, most power hitters don't even manage to stay on the field till their 40's (Mantle, Griffey Jr., Frank Thomas, etc) so Thome's already in rare company there. Anyway, all that to say, I love Thome and I think he's a great locker room presence and really, I wouldn't be disappointed if the Twins did bring him back for one more year, but as far as expectations go, I don't think he will be as productive next season and therefore not worth a higher price to bring back.

So to recap, if the Twins go with my proposal, Pavano, Hudson, Fuentes, Capps and Thome would be gone and they would re-sign Crain, Guerrier, Rauch and Hardy. The total cost for those players would be in the $12M - $17M range putting the Twins overall payroll at ~$102M - $107M, a modest bump up from this past season's $97M total. With my scenario, the Twins would keep their bullpen intact, continue to have solid middle-infield defense (with Casilla taking Hudson's place) and make a spot for Duensing or a trade that would bring in another front-line starter. As an aside, see here for a good description of Type A vs. Type B free agents and see here for a list of all 2011 free agents (players whom are free agents this coming off-season).

**Thanks to Cot's Contracts for all the salary numbers

Monday, October 11, 2010

Post-Season Duds...

Well, that was pathetic. Some of you who have followed this blog for awhile may remember former writer, "SR" who now writes for the YankeeU. He's a good friend of mine and as I watched the Yankees close out another postseason sweep of the Twins I sent him a text that read, "a painful hats off to you sir..." This time around, I didn't find the Twins' quick playoff exit as painful as in previous years. When they lost Game 1 I started to prepare myself and when they lost Game 2, I knew it was all but over. But, it still hurts. Those who follow the Twins on a daily basis, especially us bloggers, suffer the most I think. From Spring Training on I've been analyzing this team, lamenting tough losses, celebrating hot streaks and trying to glean the future from a screen filled with statistics. For 2 straight seasons now I've done this and both of past two have ended in exceedingly disappointing and short-lived playoff appearances. Here's pathetic:

Joe Mauer
Regular Season: .327/.402/.469 - 88Rs - 75RBIs
Post-Season: .250/.308/.250 - 0Rs - 0RBIs

Denard Span
Regular Season: .261/.331/.348 - 85Rs - 58RBIs
Post-Season: .308/.308/.308 - 0Rs - 0RBIs

Jason Kubel
Regular Season: .249/.323/.427 - 68Rs - 92RBIs
Post-Season: .000/.273/.000 - 0Rs - 0RBIs

JJ Hardy
Regular Season: .268/.320/.394 - 44Rs - 38RBIs
Post-Season: .100/.100/.200 - 0Rs - 0RBIs

Jim Thome
Regular Season: .283/.412/.627 - 48Rs - 59RBIs
Post-Season: .100/.308/.100 - 2Rs - 0RBIs

Danny Valencia
Regular Season: .311/.351/.448 - 30Rs - 40RBIs
Post-Season: .222/.273/.333 - 1R - 2RBIs

Everyone knows these numbers and really, they don't come as much of a surprise considering how anemic the offense was in the three games vs. New York. What has me baffled is how these players, particularly Mauer and Thome, can be such consistent performers in the regular season and be absolutely shut-down come the playoffs. I mean yeah, New York threw two lefties in the first two games of the series and we should have expected less output from those two guys, but in reality the Twins got zero production from those two guys and without it, the offense sputtered, to put it mildly.

Us Twins fans can lament all we want, but the simple fact is that 6 out of the 9 guys in the lineup pretty much didn't show up for this series. Your "stars" were Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer and Orlando Hudson. That's not going to get it done and against the Yankees, Twins pitching can't be expected to hold leads when the offense only scores 4, 2 and 1 runs.

So, where's the hope for next year? The Twins team next season will look very similar to this year's team aside from (hopefully) the return of both Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan. Notable free-agents include Jim Thome, Carl Pavano and Orlando Hudson, but aside from that, the Twins aren't slated to lose any of their key players. I would expect the Twins to at least make an effort to re-sign Hudson and Pavano and I wouldn't be surprised if they let Thome go, the track record of 40-year-old hitters isn't that spectacular.

Plain and simple, the Twins need another shut-down pitcher in the rotation. Pavano started the season nicely, but gave up way to many hits down the stretch. Liriano will be even better next season I think, this year he seemed to wear out as the season went on, more than likely because he'd never been used quite as much to this point in his young career. Baker and Slowey also broke down in the last month or two of the season; hopefully the Twins staff can figure out how to keep them healthy for next year. Duensing was once again impressive over the last month of the year and I expect to see him in the rotation to start next year. All that said, aside from Liriano, none of the other starters are that dominant which is why I think the front-office needs to focus on landing another front-line starter in order for this team to really compete in the post-season.

The lineup will be fine next year, I would like to see the Twins re-sign Hudson because of his good attitude and his excellent defense. If the Twins do that and do not re-sign Thome, you could make Kubel a DH again and your outfield would look much better with Delmon in left, D-Span in center and Cuddyer in right.

I suppose it's a bit too early to start talking about next year and speculating what the Twins will do in the off-season, but well, I need something to hold on to. Thanks, Twins, for a great regular season and those many satisfying victories over the White Sox, I was hoping for a little better showing in the playoffs, but I guess I'll have to wait for a post-season that doesn't feature a first-round matchup with the Yankees.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Behind Enemy Lines: The Bat Shatters on The Yankee U

In preparation for tonight's playoff matchup, our good friend and former TBS contributor Stephen was gracious enough to give us some space to defend the Twins on The Yankee U, a very well-done blog that covers everything Yankees related. Regardless of how you feel about the Yanks, these guys do a nice job and we're grateful for the opportunity. Check it out here and go Twins!