Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Twins Should Rest Mauer, Morneau, Span, etc...

It's over. It's been over for awhile now - and as of today it looks like Detroit might run away with the division. I suppose that's ok, seems like every 3 years or so they ride Justin Verlander/Miguel Cabrera to a division crown. The Twins can't win the division every year, right? Now that everyone's on the same page about "it" being over, the Twins should be shifting their attention to the off-season and, ultimately, to next season. There isn't much they can do right now to change up their personnel besides throwing people on waivers and hoping that someone bites. That said, they can take steps right now to make next year's team better and I think that starts with giving banged up guys like Mauer, Morneau and Co. some major rest during the last painful month of the regular season.

After spending 2 months on the DL to start the season, Joe Mauer hasn't looked his old self this season and coming into tonight, Mauer has a .287/.347/.349 hitting line through 285 PAs with only 14 of his 74 total hits going for extra bases (13 doubles, 1HR). One possible reason for his poor hitting could be that he has been playing a couple of different field positions than he's used to - but that's unlikely to account for much of it - especially for a guy who came into this year with a career .888 OPS. The more likely culprit for Mauer's poor season at the plate is that he isn't fully healed yet and though Mauer has made a valiant effort up until now to "grind it out" (his words), there isn't much point to it now so why not give the guy an extra month to heal up.

As for Justin Morneau, call it rust if you must but he's looked pretty terrible as well since coming back from the DL on August 12th. In the 9 games since then, he has only 5 hits in 37 PAs and he's walked 2 times against 7 strikeouts. Morneau has been belabored by injuries for well over a year now, why make the guy grind it out during a lost season when you can give him ample time off down the stretch and have him back next year closer to 100%.

It hardly stops with Mauer and Morneau. Just having both of those guys back near 100% would make a huge difference next year, no doubt about it. If I'm the Twins front office, I think about shutting down Denard Span and Scott Baker (and Blackburn) for the rest of the season as well. There is simply no point in trying to get these guys back because at this point, it is more beneficial for this team to lose games than it is for them to win games...

I'm not suggesting that this team purposely tank games, but why rush your star players back just so you can win a couple more games than you otherwise would have? I'm suggesting that the Twins should rest their ailing stars, maybe this team loses a bunch of games, but hey, they get a better draft pick next season. If that player ends up being important to this ballclub down the line, wouldn't it have been worth it? It's a convoluted way of looking at things I know, but it's a reality the Twins might as well embrace. At this point, there is no benefit to having Mauer, Morneau, D-Span, or Bake out on the field. Obviously the Twins aren't going to come out and say, "hey, we're gonna give the M&M boys 2-3 days off per week in September", but if they just did it, I would understand and even be in support of it. I want this team to be a contender in 2012 and I don't think I'm alone there and I think resting these semi-injured players gives them the best shot at that.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Concert Review: Incubus

I have racked my brain trying to come up with something to talk about regarding the Twins and every single one of my ideas is either negative, or it's been talked about a billion times around the Twins blogosphere. So rather than rehash an old issue or needlessly bleat about one of the myriad of problems this team has had this year, I'm going to do something I've never done in the space before and review a concert. If you don't like Incubus, that's ok, there are a bunch of other good pieces about the Twins out there and I promise I'll have another Twins-related post up here soon.

On Sunday night had the the true pleasure of attending the Incubus concert at the Charter Pavillion at Northerly Island here in downtown Chicago. I've been a fan of Incubus for many years - I honestly don't know most of the lyrics to their songs, I'm just in love with their chord progressions and melodies...and Brandon Boyd's voice. My wife and I are celebrating our 3rd anniversary this coming week and she actually surprised me with these tickets (great gift) and one thought I had on the way there was, "will they sound as good in-person as they do on their CDs?" I think that's a legit question of any band these days, especially in an age where even a crappy singer can be made to sound good with studio magic. No need to fear with Incubus, Boyd's voice is just dynamic and pitch-perfect in-person which really made the whole concert for me.

As you can see, we were sitting a little off to the left side of the stage, but that's one of the great things about the Charter Pavillion - no matter where you're sitting/standing, you're not that far away and you have a good view of the stage. The opener for Incubus was 'The Nightwatchman' which is Tom Morello's (RATM fame) "political folk alter ego" band. Let me say this: Morello is known for his electric guitar talents and not his voice and there's a reason for that; his voice is not good. In fact, he doesn't really have a voice, he just talks the lyrics to his songs loudly into the microphone. Morello still worked in a number of bombastic guitar solos into his songs, but whenever he was "singing", it wasn't that enjoyable. That said, they did a good job of firing up the crowd and I guess that's all that's expected of an opener...and it was cool to see Morello play even if we did have to listen to the singing as well.

It took awhile to switch sets, but it was worth the wait. Incubus opened up with 'Pardon Me' and overall, the concert was a good mix of old and new. My personal favorites were "The Warmth", "Anna Molly", and "If Not Now, When?", "In the Company of Wolves" and "Megalomaniac". "The Warmth", in particular, was fantastic...that song was an introduction of sorts between Incubus and I and I love the message of the song, "don't let the world bring you down."

As for Incubus' new stuff, I've read a number of reviews (mostly negative) and I'd like to add my own 'two cents'. A number of reviews I read said that they feel as though Incubus has lost their way with their new album "If Not Now, When?" I have to disagree. Firstly, Incubus took their longest career hiatus after their last album "Light Grenades" in 2006. Their stated reason for taking that break was essentially to re-charge their creative energy after years of constant touring and music-making. As lead-singer Brandon Boyd put it, "I think that we, collectively, were feeling like if we didn't step away from this monster that we created then it would begin to consume us. [...] We had to plant some roots, lest we start to write songs about living on a tour bus. So we had to fall in love, we had to fall out of love, we had to make homes." My point is, an extended hiatus is going to change the music a bit because the people have changed. Secondly, Incubus has been around now for nearly 20 years and while some bands essentially maintain one kind of sound throughout their lifetimes, some bands evolve and change their simply have to learn to appreciate their different styles.

Another review I read said, "Instead of tremendous riffs and melodies, this album comes off as the Brandon Boyd show, volume II. Sure, his vocals and lyrics continue to prove amicable, but the rest of the band is almost non-existent." Um, hello, Incubus is Brandon Boyd...more precisely, Incubus is Boyd's vocal - so what if it's the "Brandon Boyd" show...that's who I want to hear! I get it, if you like the grunge-rock sound of their early albums or the up-tempo melodies of their early-to-mid 2000's album, then this album would be kinda disappointing. But hey, you've got 6 other albums to listen to that will fulfill your desires. I think it's interesting to hear another side of them, and I like the more soft-rock feel of this album. I think some of the lyrics are pretty juvenile at times, but that's par for the course with Incubus, Boyd has always been a somewhat sub-par lyricist.

The bottom-line is that I had a great time at this show and it was well worth the money. Incubus has just started their tour so if you like their music and you're interested in seeing them, I highly recommend it. The only song that they didn't play that I wished they would have was "Dig" from their "Light Grenades" album - my wife and I both love that song. It was a great night, beautiful weather, a great venue and two days later I still have the "concert buzz".

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Contest Winners

Thank you to all of those who participated in the contest for the World Series DVD Collector's Set. Here are the winners...

To the winners: please send me your address at - thank you and congratulations!!

Grand Prize Winner (Collector's Edition DVD Set):
Maija Varda

Winner of the "Magic in Minnesota" DVD:
Commenter "A Little Bit Urban"

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Thome Hits 600!

I'll be the first to admit I've done a really terrible job of contributing to this blog. There hasn't been a whole lot of posting around here lately on my part; it's been a crazy summer (as it is for many people) but as Adam has mentioned here previously, we're expecting our first child in January, so I'm in the process of figuring out what it's going to mean to be a future dad (to a future Twins fan, obviously) while taking the best care I can of my beautiful wife. Add to that the fact that the Twins season is essentially over for all intensive purposes and the motivation for blogging falls lower on the priority list.

But tonight, there's a big reason for Twins Territory to rejoice, and that reason is Jim Thome. The night was momentarily derailed by Delmon Young hitting a home run for the Tigers in his first Comerica at-bat (seriously?) but it soon got back on track with three runs in the third followed by Mr. Thome giving the Twins the lead for good with home run number 599 in the sixth. The Tigers added two more in the bottom of that inning, but Thome put the game out of reach in the seventh with a blast to the opposite field that brought him into an elite baseball fraternity.

Like the man whose number 3 adorns the sleeves of Twins jerseys for the rest of this season, Thome has always been regarding as one of the nicest guys in baseball off the field. And I don't think there could have been any doubt before, but he most definitely punched his ticket to Cooperstown tonight. Unlike other members of the 600 home run club, there's never really been a question with him of improper aids to his prodigious power. I'm not going to touch the steroids debate with a ten-foot pole here, and if I'm totally honest I'm probably more in line with the view that it's going to be very hard to keep the so-called "juicers" out, but I can't imagine there's a single baseball writer in this country that's going to keep Thome out on his first ballot.

It's unfortunate that he couldn't have reached the milestone at Target Field, but kudos to the Detroit fans for showing Big Jim the recognition he deserves. Before he joined the Twins, I'll admit that my blind hatred of anything related to the White Sox may have prejudiced me against Thome. I didn't really care about his nice-guy reputation, I only cared that he played his home games at US Cellular Field (which is, frankly, a pretty awful place to watch a game as a Twins fan, but I digress). In my younger years, had Thome done that in a White Sox jersey against the Twins in Minnesota, especially to extend a lead in the late innings, every fiber of my being probably would have fought a standing ovation. But Detroit fans were mostly gracious to their credit, including the kid waving a "Thome is my Homie" sign behind the dugout. I'd like to think that I've come far enough in my older age that I'm willing to recognize the game's historical accomplishments wherever and to whomever they occur (although cheering A-Rod would certainly test that assumption).

In the midst of this, there's plenty of other things to be worried about as a Twins fan. Did they just sell low on a once-promising talent that never really seemed to pan out in Minnesota but might benefit from a change of scenery? Do they have enough payroll flexibility to afford the bullpen and middle-infield help they so desperately need? Will the injuries that have and seem to continue to plague this team become a recurring theme that haunts us for seasons to come? Are the Twins stuck in the dreaded Twilight Zone of not being good enough to really justify taking big steps to bolster the roster but not being bad enough to gut the team and start over? I think these are all probably valid questions, and we'll do our best to address them in the coming days and months. But for tonight, all that really matters to me is that one of the game's great ambassadors has taken his place alongside Ruth, Mays, Aaron, and yes, Bonds. Congratulations Jim Thome, and if this is your last season in a Twins (or any) uniform, it's certainly been a memorable one.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Ugh. What a poor showing for the hometown club over the weekend. I think if you're an avid reader of Twins-related blogs, you already know the sentiment that has been flying around today...the Twins are done, stick a fork in 'em, DONE. I thought rather than rehashing some disappointing aspect of the team this year, I would shine the spotlight on some fellow bloggers who have done some outstanding work covering the Twins this year. Here are a few of the more insightful posts of the past week or so.

Seth Stohs is a titan amongst Twins bloggers and though I can't link directly to this post about Kyle Gibson and possible Tommy John Surgery, I can recommend that you check him out and make him a daily stop. When I have a question about the Twins' minor league system, I go to his blog to find answers.

This is a little self-serving since I'm a writer over there as well, but there some other good writers over there as well and I enjoy reading their stuff. Nate Gilmore had an interesting piece earlier last week about how the Twins seem to have better luck in even years. Even if it is coincidental, it does make you think...

Nick Nelson is one of my favorite Twins bloggers and I think that's because he and I seem to be similarly realistic about this team. Some blogs tend to be overly positive, which is fine, but sometimes things aren't positive and I appreciate people who can tell it like it is. Last Monday Nick wrote a good post about the value of Cuddyer and Kubel and what the Twins might try to do in the off-season and then today he wrote about Liriano's struggles this season and how they are linked to his inability to get the ball over the plate.

Parker Hageman is another blogger who I read regularly and one thing he does that few other bloggers do is provide illustrations to back up the point he is trying to make. He did that today in talking about Nishioka's poor defense. Great read, check it out.

Ben Collin is one of my favorite follows on Twitter (@bennyc50) and he has a blog as well. Just this year he's pretty much invented such things as "Target Field Trail" and "Return of the Swing". His blog is more comedy oriented, but definitely worth a read...especially when the Twins suck as hard as they have this year.

TCHuddle had a sobering piece about Minnesota sports mediocrity and how the Twins have simply added to the pile this year.

Aaron Gleeman published a solid summary of Twins news from the past week including an interesting tidbit about an out-of-shape Chuck Knoblauch...

Fanatic Jack provided a nice summary of Terry Ryan's trades compared to Bill Smith's trades. After reading through the two lists, I can't say I disagree with Jack's conclusion...Smith has got to go.

John Bonnes took a shot at estimating the Twins 2012 payroll. That couples nicely with my post over at Puckett's Pond from last week talking about who the Twins might target in free-agency this off-season.

We're going to be having a GIVEAWAY of sorts here at TBS. You may have seen this around a few of the other blogs but we're getting in on the action too. A&E Home Entertainment recently released a 1991 Minnesota Twins World Series Collector's Edition 7-DVD set featuring every game of the '91 series in it's entirety and we've been given a copy to give away to our readers. Here is some more information on the set itself, don't forget you can buy Twins tickets and merchandise at - including fan apparel, Twins jerseys, memorabilia and more.




Here's how we're gonna do this....I don't think we have enough regular readers to make a contest all that interesting. I'm going to giveaway the 1991 World Series Collector's Set and the Magic in Minnesota DVD separately. To enter the contest, simply drop a comment on this post (no anonymous posts obvs), or email me at The contest will run until Thursday at 12:00pm CDT, at that point I will put all entries received into a hat and draw two names (winners). If you have any questions, please email me at the gmail address above or send me a tweet @thebatshatters.Link

Friday, August 12, 2011

Oh What a Difference an Infield Can Make

With the hometown team having fallen on hard times (again) of late, we need something else to look at and today I'm here to provide that. There's been some talk around the Twins blogosphere lately about J.J. Hardy and how he's having a monster season for the Orioles...basically revisiting what a mistake it was for the Twins to trade him away for practically nothing. I am, of course, in wholehearted agreement with these sentiments, but I want to look at things from a slightly different angle. It's been no secret that for the majority of the season the Twins starting rotation (and bullpen) have struggled and though the rotation is pretty much composed of the exact same pieces, the results have been vastly different. I want to try and see what role infield defense has played in that difference and see if we can draw any conclusions.

First, some numbers.

Here are the ERAs, FIPs and xFIPs for the starting 5 from last year. I've also included their groundball-to-flyball ratio and their HR/FB%. For those not familiar with these metrics, FIP and xFIP attempt to remove variables from the equation that the pitcher cannot control with the goal of giving you an ERA-type number than more accurately states how a given pitcher performed. For example, though Francisco Liriano had a 3.62 ERA last year, his FIP was 2.66 and his xFIP was 2.95, good for 3rd and 2nd in all of baseball respectively. In other words, Liriano's pitching performance as a whole last year was much better than his ERA suggested. For more on FIP and xFIP, click the links.

2010 Pitching Numbers for Twins Starters: (ERA/FIP/xFIP), GB/FB ratio, HR/FB%, BABIP

Francisco Liriano (3.62/2.66/2.95), 1.96 GB/FB, 6.3%, .331
Carl Pavano (3.75/4.02/3.86), 1.66 GB/FB, 10.6%, .281
Scott Baker (4.49/3.96/3.82), 0.85 GB/FB,10.2%, .323
Kevin Slowey (4.45/3.98/4.24), 0.56 GB/FB, 8.2%, .307
Nick Blackburn (5.42/5.07/4.46), 1.57 GB/FB, 13.5%, .305

Numbers for the Twins starting staff in 2010: (4.17/3.91/3.84), 1.28 GB/FB, 9.9%, .299, 3.91 SIERA

2011 Pitching Numbers for Twins Starters: (ERA/FIP/xFIP), GB/FB ratio, HR/FB%, BABIP

Francisco Liriano (5.00/4.53/4.41), 1.45 GB/FB, 10.2%, .286
Carl Pavano (4.71/4.08/4.30), 1.48 GB/FB, 7.8%, .302
Scott Baker (3.21/3.49/3.55) 0.77 GB/FB, 8.9%, .299
Brian Duensing (4.56/4.05/4.00), 1.16 GB/FB, 9.6%, .317
Nick Blackburn (4.36/4.76/4.17), 1.98 GB/FB, 14.3%, .310

Numbers for the Twins starting staff in 2011: (4.30/4.18/4.10), 1.30 GB/FB, 9.7%, .296, 4.14 SIERA

Quick Discussion:
The first thing that jumps out at me with these numbers is just how poorly the starting rotation has pitched in 2011 when compared to the 2010 numbers. Even though the HR/FB% is down this year and the GB/FB ratio is up slightly, all three pitching metrics (ERA, FIP, xFIP) are worse for the staff this year. The second thing that pops out to me is that the staff BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is actually better this year than last. This is probably due to the fact that 4 of the Twins starters this year are ground-ball-heavy pitchers compared to only 3 of the 5 in 2010. More ground-balls equals more outs. The main culprits for these year's poor pitching results are Liriano and Pavano, that much is fairly obvious. Both are having terrible seasons compared to 2010 while the bottom 3/5ths of the rotation is actually performing a little better than last year's 3, 4 and 5 starters.

Now, the fielding numbers.

Quick caveat here, I obviously don't have a complete season's worth of number for this year. As a work around to that I calculated how much of this season has been played so far (72.2%) and for the counting stats, I just made the statistical assumption that the Twins will continue at the pace they've been on.

The Whole Team 2010:
78 errors
.987 Fielding%
+54 DRS (Defensive Runs Saved)
30.7 UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating)
3.2 URZ/150

Middle Infield 2010:
34 errors
.979 Fielding%
+27 DRS
11.1/9.9 UZR/UZR150 for 2B
14.0/13.2 UZR/UZR150 for SS

The Whole Team 2011:
116 errors
.981 Fielding%
-19 DRS
3.1 UZR
-0.4 UZR/150

Middle Infield 2011:
40 errors
.975 Fielding%
-18 DRS
-0.8/-0.5 UZR/UZR150 for 2B so far in 2011
-9.4/-12.0 UZR/UZR150 for SS so far in 2011

The numbers really do speak for themselves. Of particular note is the "Defensive Runs Saved" stat. This stat is like WAR (Wins Above Replacement) for defenders. 0 is "average", anything above is good and a getting better, anything below is bad and getting worse. Last year's middle infield for the Twins had a +27 DRS mark which was Top 5 in MLB, this year's team is pretty much the complete opposite story, not only playing to a negative DRS number, but also playing to negative UZR numbers as well. For a team with so many ground-ball-heavy starting pitchers (4 of 5 starters have a GB/FB ratio north of 1.00)...a strong defensive middle-infield is a must and sadly, we've gotten to see first hand how much of a difference it can make.

To my original premise, as I've gone through this I've come to realize how difficult it would be to isolate the effect of poor middle-infield defense on pitching results. It's easy to see that this year's middle infield has been much worse than last year's, but how that ends up affecting the pitching?...well, that's hard to say. I feel confident in saying the two are correlated, of that I have no doubt, especially when the starting staff is as adept at inducing the ground-ball as this one has been. This is my plea to Bill Smith and the Twins...PLEASE get some middle-infield help this off-season...if you're going to keep the same pitchers, improving the middle-infield defense on this team should be, far and away, priority #1 this off-season.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Hospitals Suck

A couple of weeks back, I was in the car for a longer trip and got to thinking about how quickly life can change from being great, to being in turmoil. It was kind of a random thought path, but it stuck with me for a little bit...and then life decided to give me a real-life example. Last Sunday, my wife was feeling fine, we were enjoying some time with her brother and sister-in-law in Wrigleyville, walked around Wrigley Field during the Paul McCartney concert (a cool experience in and of itself), and returned home, went to bed, everything was good. On Monday morning she started feeling pain in her back and it got worse and worse, spreading to her shoulders and chest as well. Leslie has a pretty high pain tolerance and she was reduced to tears on Monday night by this mysterious pain. Monday night was a sleepless night for her and on Tuesday morning, we decided it was time to head to Urgent Care.

You would think that Urgent Care would be open 24 hours...this one was not, so while we got there at 7:20am, they didn't open 'till 8:00am and so we waited. They checked her out, ran some tests and came to the conclusion that they could not make a diagnosis there and sent us off to the ER. Upon arrival we were quickly situated (amazing for the ER) and more tests were done, plus a few hours of waiting in between. Then the heart doctor came in,...then the internal medicine doctor...more questions, more tests, more questions. After 4 hours in the ER (plus an hour an a half at Urgent Care), the heart doc finally felt that he had a lead on the cause of all this pain...pericarditis. Pericarditis is caused by a virus or bacteria that inflames the sac that contains the heart itself (the pericardium). Anyway, longish story shorter, my wife ended up spending two nights in the hospital for observation which wasn't pleasant in the least. Besides the circumstances of needing a hospital stay, being in the hospital sucks. For Leslie, she had Dilaudid and a comfortable-ish place to lay down. For family it is impossible to relax because a) you're freaked out about the person who's in the hospital and b) they don't provide many comfortable options for sitting/laying down in the room.

Needless to say I haven't had much interest in the Twins lately and upon seeing how they've played the last few days, I haven't missed much. I had half of a piece written on what kinds of moves the Twins might make in the off-season, but that remains unfinished. It's not very pleasant, but I like it when life adjusts your perspective and shows you what's important. It's been really easy to get frustrated with the Twins this season, but having gone through these past few days, it's doesn't matter to me as much. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm not as down about it. I'm still disappointed. I'm still fearful that Bill Smith will cripple this team somehow. But, I'm more willing to look for a silver lining, look toward the future, etc. Anyway, Leslie is back home now, there is still some pain, but she's doing better, which is a relief to me. My thanks to the Good Lord.