Archive for the ‘Minnesota Twins’ category

Wow! The Twins Are Really Good Again

June 2, 2019

After today’s win, the Minnesota Twins have the best record in baseball and they’re playing that well with the best run differential in baseball.  With a 10.5 game lead in the AL Central, the Twins already look like a lock to win the division although we aren’t quite at the 60 game mark.

I used to write about the Twins a lot back when they were a small-market can-do team.  It was a lot harder to find good things to write about the Twins when they weren’t winning and couldn’t seem to catch a break.

It was a long re-build but it’s working this year.  Jorge Polanco, Max Kepler, Eddie Rosario and Byron Buxton are all-home grown and only Rosario is as old as 27 this season.  The same for Jose Berrios, who looks like he’s going to be a great pitcher for however long his arm lasts.

Also, the bargain free agent signings have worked out better this year, with waiver-claimed C. J. Cron posting an .866 OPS, Martin Perez winning seven games, and Jonathan Schoop posting an .816 so far.  Relatively highly paid Marwin Gonzalez has been the only significant dud.

Jake Odorizzi is having a great year going into free agency.  The bullpen looks like the team’s best in some years.

What will slow the Twinkies’ down are the fact that’s highly unlike their catchers will keep hitting the way they have so far and their pitchers, in particular, could get hurt.

I’m glad to see that Ehire Adrianza is still a fine back-up middle infielder, and a little sad to see that Adalberto Mejia is hurt after pitching ineffectively.   Their both former Giants, and I root for them to do well in Minnesota.  I still like Williams Astudillo, but he’s got to start walking or getting hit by pitches enough to force pitchers to throw him a few more strikes, and he hits into a fearsome number of double-plays.

 

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What Will Cody Bellinger End Up Batting in 2019?

May 18, 2019

After today’s game in Cincinnati, Cody Bellinger is batting a lusty .404 46 games into the 2019 Dodgers’ season.  What might he end up hitting when the year is out?

I’ll go out on a limb and say that Bellinger won’t hit .380 this season, let alone .400.  The last player to hit .380 in a season was Tony Gwynn in 1994 when Gwynn batted .394, the closest any player has come to .400 since Ted Williams last did it in 1941.  Since 1941, only three other players have batted .380 in a season: Ted Williams batted .388 in 1957, Rod Carew batted .388 in 1977 and George Brett batted .390 in 1980.

By my calculation, Bellinger would have to bat .372 for the rest of the season (assuming that Bellinger stays healthy) in order to hit .380 for the season.  Seems unlikely.

The last player to bat .370 or better in a season was Ichiro when he hit .372 in 2004.  While a great season and a great hitter, Barry Bonds had hit .370 in 2002 and both Nomar Garciaparra and Todd Helton had batted .372 in 2000.

To hit .370 for the season, Bellinger would need to hit about .356 the rest of the way.  Certainly doable, but I’d think certainly less likely than not.

The last player to bat .360 or better in a season was Joe Mauer when he batted .365 in 2009.  As with Ichiro’s 2004, Mauer’s 2009 was not wildly better than other batting leaders of the previous few seasons:  Chipper Jones had batted .364 in 2008, and Magglio Ordonez had batted .363 in 2007.

To bat .360 on the season, Bellinger would need to hit .344 the rest of the way.  That certainly seems doable, given Bellinger’s talent level and the facts that he is a left-handed hitter who runs extremely well.

The last player to bat .350 in a season was Josh Hamilton, who batted .359 in 2010.  To hit .350 for the season, Bellinger would only need to hit .328 the rest of the way.  I’d be willing to bet even money on Bellinger hitting at least .350 this season if he can stay healthy.

Tim Lincecum’s and Jake Peavy’s Hall of Fame Chances

May 5, 2019

Jake Peavy officially retired today although he hadn’t actually pitched professionally since 2016.  Peavy and Tim Lincecum had very similar major league careers, and it got me thinking about their respective Hall of Fame chances.  After Lincecum’s failed comeback in the Rangers’ organization last year, it’s pretty clear Timmy’s professional career is over too.

I don’t think either has a good shot at making the Hall of Fame.  Both pitchers were the National League’s best for roughly four or five years, but were basically back-of-the-rotation starters for the second halves of their respective careers when injuries wore them down.  Peavy lasted long enough to finish with a career record of 152-126, while Lincecum finished a modest 110-89.

Lincecum won two Cy Young Awards to Peavy’s one, Lincecum pitched for three World Series winners to Peavy’s two, and Lincecum pitched two no-hitters while Peavy threw none.  But, as noted above, Peavy won 42 more games.

In my mind, pitchers with career highs of a Jake Peavy or Tim Lincecum still need to win at least 190 games in today’s MLB to be realistic Hall of Fame contenders.  Another similar, if even better short-time ace, Johan Santana (career 139-78 record), hasn’t received much love from Hall of Fame voters.  In his first and only year of HOF eligibility, Santana received so few votes (10 or 2.4%) that he was dropped from the HOF ballot the next year 2019.

Given where the game is going, I think that Santana will get more love from future Veterans’ Committees and could eventually make the HOF.  I don’t think either Lincecum or Peavy will, however.  At least both Lincecum and Peavy won a lot of awards, multiple World Series rings, and made a boatload of money.  They’ll never forget Lincecum in San Francisco or Peavy in San Diego, so it’s hard to feel too sorry for them.

Hot Pitchers

May 4, 2019

23 year old Zac Gallen is ready for his major league promotion.  He’s leading the AAA Pacific Coast League with an 0.81 ERA, his 38Ks is tied for 1st, and the Marlins suck.  Gallen could pitch in relief to start with or one of the Marlins’ currently not very effective young starters could be moved to the bullpen to make way for Gallen.

It’s worth noting, though, that New Orleans with its below sea level air appears to be one of the PCL’s best pitchers’ parks — three of the circuit’s top five ERA leaders play for the Baby Cakes.

Rico Garcia (1.82 ERA, 35 Ks in 24.2 IP) deserves a promotion to AAA.  Devin Smeltzer has already received a promotion to AAA Rochester after recording an 0.60 ERA and 33 Ks in 30 IP at AA Pensacola.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that top two-way prospect Brendan McKay is going to be mainly a pitcher at the major league level.  In 14 AA games, he has a .481 OPS as a hitter, but on the mound he currently has a 2.41 ERA with 33 Ks in 18.2 IP.  If he ever catches up with the bat, he’ll already be a major league starter that no one’s going to want to f@#$ around with.

Great namers MacKenzie Gore and Ljay Newsom are dominating the Class A+ California League.  Their respective 1.32 and 1.47 ERAs are the only ones under 2.00.  Gore has stuck out 38 batters in 26.1 IP, and Newsom has struck out 54 batters in 36.2 IP.  Each has allowed exactly four walks so far.  Gore is the better prospect, because at age 20, he’s two years younger.

22 year old Dominican Cristian Javier is impressing in the Class A+ Carolina League with an 0.73 ERA and 32 Ks in 24.2 IP.

Former No. 1 overall draft pick and recent no-hit throwing Case Mize is not the best pitcher in the pitcher-friendly Class A+ Florida State League.  While Mize has recorded an 0.35 ERA with 25 Ks in 26 IP, Bailey Ober has a perfect 0 ERA (and run average) with 26 Ks in 24 IP.  Meanwhile Damon Jones has an 0.77 ERA with 36 Ks in 23.1 IP.

Luis Robert, Robel Garcia and Other 2019 Hot Starts

May 4, 2019

I thought it would be fun to write a couple of pieces on minor leaguers off to particularly hot starts in 2019.  Here goes:

21 year old $26 million Cuban bonus baby Luis Robert got off to the hottest start anywhere in organized baseball.  In 19 games in the Class A+ Carolina League his 1.432 OPS was a whopping 437 basis points better than the league’s next best hitter.  Not surprisingly, he has already been promoted to the AA Southern League, where he is off to an 0-for-6 start after two games.

Robel Garcia‘s 1.050 OPS leads the AA Southern League by 100 basis points.  He’s already 26 years old and has only played 17 games this season, so it’s probably a fluke.

However, Garcia’s back-story is extremely interesting.  Before this season, baseball reference lists no professional statistics for him since 2013.  He washed out of the Indians’ organization all those years ago, but he apparently kept his baseball career going by playing on Italy’s National team, even though he’s a Dominican.

Garcia makes me wonder how many other players who can play never get the chance because they take too long to develop or don’t get the right breaks.  Some NPB teams have academies in the Dominican Republic that occasionally turn Dominican MLB system wash-outs into servicable NPB major league players.  Xavier Batista is a current example.

Yordan Alvarez is ready for the majors.  The soon-to-be 22 year old Cuban’s 1.421 OPS leads the admittedly hit-happy Pacific Coast League.  Alvarez is an LF/1B and the 35 year old also Cuban Yuli Gurriel isn’t hitting in Houston, so Alvarez may get his first major league shot right quick.

Brian O’Grady‘s 1.189 OPS leads the AAA International League by 58 basis points.  Alas, he turns 27 in two weeks and has yet to play in the majors.  Hopefully, he can get some major league action this season in order to put himself in a position for an Asian payday next year.

21 year old catcher Sam Huff is ready for a promotion.  His 1.189 OPS leads the Class A Sally League by 127 basis points, and he’s thrown out 10 baseball stealers in 16 attempts.

25 year old 1Bman Chris Gittens has a 1.264 OPS, which leads the AA Eastern League by 110 basis points.  He’s also ready for a promotion.

Trey Cabbage leads the Class A Midwest League with a 1.029 OPS.  I wonder if his teammates call him “Cole Slaw” or “Trey Cole”.

What is former NL home run champ Chris Carter doing in the Mexican League?  He’s leading this hot weather hitters’ league with a 1.397 OPS.

Is Willians Astudillo Baseball’s Best Pure Hitter?

April 28, 2019

I saw that Willians Astudillo was placed on the 10-Day Injured List today, and it made me sad.  Astudillo is one of MLB’s most interesting players.

Sometime last season I read a post on fangraphs.com about Astudillo‘s unique skill set: he almost never walks or strikes out.  He also apparently can hit .300 at the major league level.

Swing at everything — hit .300.  That sounds like baseball’s best pure hitter.

Sure, small sample size.  Sure, his defense isn’t great, and he runs like a truck with the grounded into double plays to follow, but fangraphs.com says he’s been worth $7.9 million in only 44 career games.

At age 27 and listed as 5’9″ and 225 lbs, Astudillo is still something of a dark horse, which makes him easier to root for.  Yogi Berra is a better, 1950’s version of Astudillo.  So maybe Astudillo could still develop the kind of power Yogi had and become a true, if brief, superstar.

Astudillo also reminds me of the Round Mound of Pound, like Berra a historically great bad-ball hitter.  If I were AL pitchers, I would not throw Astudillo more than one strike per at bat until he proves he will take a walk.

Maybe Astudillo will stop hitting when pitchers figure out his weaknesses and throw him fewer stikes, maybe he won’t.  He is an exceptional talent, and I’m sorry he he will be out for any period in a season where he still needs to prove he’s a major league player.

It’s apparently a ham-string injury, so Astudillo could miss well more than 10 games.  You need to do all of your stretching regularly when you are a 27 year old player trying to establish himself.

Early Season Asian Baseball Run-Down

April 28, 2019

The elite few who have read this blog with any regularity know that I follow Asian major league baseball quite closely.  Here’s a run-down on what’s happening in the Far East so far in 2019.

Japan’s NPB

So far, it feels like a fairly typical NPB season.  The high revenue Yomiuri Giants and SoftBank Hawks are leading their leagues respectively.  However, the small or mid-market Yakult Swallows, Chunichi Dragons, Hiroshima Carp and Rakuten Golden Eagles remain within close striking distance.  Of course, only 25 games into the NPB season, no one is yet truly out of it.

Most of the top NPB hitters are off to good starts, including Hayato Sakamoto, Tetsuto Yamada, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, Nori Aoki and Dayan ViciedoTomoyuki Sugano is off to a not so hot start after a recent rough outing and Takahiro Norimoto is still recovering from non-Tommy-John elbow surgery to clean out loose bodies and bone chips, but Kodai Senga is still showing MLB-level stuff.

I am convinced that Tetsuto Yamada is going to be an MLB player.  The most important stat for NPB hitters in terms of future MLB success is on-base percentage, and Yamada has that in spades.  He has a .513 OBP so far this season and an NPB career OBP of .404.  He plays 2B, he runs well (142 career NPB steals at an 82% success rate) ,and he plays for the small market Swallows.

Yamada should be posted this post-season, so he can join MLB in 2020 for his age 27 season.  The relatively new posting fee regime gives NPB teams the most money based on the greatest value of the player to an MLB team.  Yamada’s value to an MLB team will be highest this coming post-season if he doesn’t get hurt or slump.

South Korea’s KBO

The SK Wyverns and Doosan Bears are off to the best starts, with LG Twin, NC Dinos and Kiwoon Heroes leading the field for the KBO’s five playoff spots.  Foreign Aces Tyler Wilson and Josh Lindblom are off to great starts.  Lindblom is the KBO’s highest paid foreign player this year at somewhere between $1.7M and $1.9M, so if he can keep up this exemplary performance so far, he could challenge Dustin Nippert’s $2.2M single season record for foreign player compensation in 2020.

Former MLBers Jose Miguel Fernandez, Byung-ho Park, Jerry Sands and Darin Ruf are among the top six KBO hitters in terms of OPS so far.

Offense is down in the KBO so far this season, apparently due to less zing in the baseballs per fangraphs.com.

I’ve noticed the out-sized effect Cuban players have had in Asia in recent years.  Part of it is that Cuba produces a great deal of baseball talent, at least as much as the Dominican Republic or Venezuela, and only the Cuban players with a reasonable shot at playing in the MLB majors go through the very arduous process of defecting.  Needless to say, the Cuban defectors don’t all live the MLB major league dream, but many of those that haven’t have lived the dream in Asia.

I think that one of the things that help Cuban players is that, because they come to the MLB system later, they have to make a bigger adjustment than the Dominicans and Venezuelans who come to the MLB system between age 17 and 21.  If the Cuban players can succeed as AAA players in the MLB system, they’ve done something, and it’s relatively not as big a deal for them to adjust to playing and living in Asia.  That’s my theory anyway.

Taiwan’s CPBL

The big story in the CPBL this year is the performance of former KBO Ace and marginal MLB major leaguer Henry Sosa.  After six starts, his 1.26 ERA leads the league by nearly a run-and-a-half and his 48 Ks (in 43 IP) leads the league by an even dozen.

The CPBL got lucky in signing Sosa, who was one of the KBO’s top starters in 2018, when/where he finished third in ERA (3.52), sixth in run average (4.12), second in strikeouts (181) and third in innnings pitched (181.1).  Sosa didn’t return to the KBO for 2019 because of South Korean tax law changes which would have required him to pay most of his salary to the government, and at age 33 (he turns 34 in July), he was too old to interest any MLB team.

Sosa at 95-to-97 mph consistently throws harder than any other pitcher in the CPBL, and he’s learned from his time in the KBO that he throws hard enough at the KBO level to attack the strike zone.  Rob over at CPBL Stats opined before the season started that the signing of recent MLB major leaguer Austin Bibens-Dirkx would create a test for how good CPBL hitters currently are.  I think that Sosa is a better test — the extent to which CPBL hitters can eventually catch up to Sosa will show just how good or not they are.

The second best pitcher in the CPBL so far this year is another Dominican former KBO Ace Radhames Liz.  The 35 year old Liz has been recorded as throwing even bigger fast balls than Henry Sosa, but Liz can’t do it as often as Sosa.

In recent years, CPBL teams (there are currently only four of them) have focused mostly on North American pitchers as their foreign imports.  I think part of that is that even though the CPBL pays better, there is more longevity for Latino pitchers to pitch in the summer Mexican League and their home country’s winter league than to try to jump to the CPBL’s slightly higher salaries.  In Sosa’s case, I believe he is looking at jumping to Japan’s NPB if he can dominate in Taiwan.

Anyway, I think that Sosa and Liz will have CBPL teams looking at Latin pitchers more next off-season.