Michael Rand started RandBall with hopes that he could keep lies from conquering the minds of the weak. So far, he's only succeeded in using the word "redacted" a lot. He welcomes suggestions, news tips, links of pure genius, and pictures of pets in Halloween costumes here, though he already knows he will regret that last part.
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The Hunt Down
The impetus, we presume, was all of the Yankees injuries -- and the fact that the Bronx Bombers now have $100 million tied up in players who are on the DL right now (yes, that's more than the payroll of the Twins and the majority of MLB teams). Yes, nearly half the Yankees' payroll is being spent on injured players right now.
Of local note, though, is how relatively fortunate, at least in terms of dollars and cents, the Twins have been with injuries this year. In 2011, for example, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau were hurt for substantial portions, eating up vast amounts for nothing.
This year? The Twins have just $1.7 million tied up in players on the DL, third-fewest in baseball. (One caveat: This likely only counts players on the 25-man roster, thus the injured Nick Blackburn and his $5.5 million are not counted. But even if Blackburn was added and the Twins jumped to $7.2 million, they would still be the seventh-lowest in MLB.
The Twins' payroll is roughly $14 million less than a year ago, and it was less in 2012 than in 2011. The margin for error is smaller. So keeping players healthy -- and getting huge performances from low-money guys like Aaron Hicks, who had an unbelievable stretch last night -- makes a ton of difference.
Take it from someone who was 5-foot-1 as a high school sophomore and 5-foot-9 as a senior. Sometimes it feels good to be average.
Can the Twins keep going? Will we be 6-foot-5 someday? Maybe ... and no.
Here's a quick look at what has helped the Twins return to decency:
1) They are currently 15th in MLB in runs scored. That's squarely in the middle of the pack. Last year they were 16th. Two years ago, they were 25th. So as we know, the offense was OK last year. The pitching was horrendous. And this year, the offense has still been decent -- particularly in key spots, where the Twins are 10th in BA and 14th in slugging with RISP (as opposed to 14th and 23rd overall).
2) How much better is the pitching? Well, the Twins are still 24th in team ERA, but with a not-so-terrible 4.25 mark. It was 4.77 at the finish a year ago. Half an earned run per game means a ton. The troubling thing is Minnesota's starters are still very near the bottom of baseball with a 5.18 ERA after being next-to-last a year ago at 5.40. Much of that has to do with two-thirds of the revamped rotation (Vance Worley and Mike Pelfrey) having bloated ERAs. History suggests they will be better than they have been. History also suggests a comedown for Kevin Correia, but overall the Twins' starters should inch more toward the middle of the pack (or at least the low 20s) as the year goes on.
3) Thanks primarily to timely hits, Justin Morneau is on pace for 114 RBI. That figures to change since his power numbers aren't that great, but production from Morneau is huge. Ryan Doumit and Aaron Hicks figure to produce more than they have; Morneau and Oswaldo Arcia will likely dip. Nobody else is absurdly above or below a reasonable pace. Translation: the offense should be able to sustain middle-of-the-pack standards.
So if the offense is middle of the pack and the pitching starts moving closer to the middle of the pack -- with starters faring better and eating up more innings to spare an already taxed bullpen -- we're left with defense. The Twins have made 18 errors, sixth-fewest in the AL. They were a bottom-half team a year ago in terms of this simple metric, and at least that quick glance suggests the fielding is more like average than bad.
Decent offense, decent pitching, decent defense. It adds up to a decent record -- which, again, feels a lot better when you've been down than when you've been up.
But it is a little startling to see that Mauer has 29 strikeouts in 31 Twins games this year -- a pace to whiff 151 times this season.
It's startling because Mauer has been such a good contact hitter in his career and is praised for his plate discipline/batting eye. He struck out 88 times last season, a career-high. Before that, he'd never K'd more than 64 times in a season.
He's been particularly strikeout-happy lately, going down on strikes 13 times in his last eight games. But like we said, Mauer has hit safely in all eight, batting .364 with a 1.007 OPS in that span.
During five hitless games before that, an 0-for-19 stretch, he struck out just twice.
These numbers make little sense, yet here they are. So don't be surprised if you're at Target Field this weekend and you see a Mauer strikeout -- and a couple of hits.
Unlimited space means the chance to get lost within words, and we're of the mind that the Ortiz piece might have been twice as good at half the length. Maybe that's just a guy with print roots talking. Maybe not.
In any event, there are some moments of interest and clarity, particularly if you are a Twins fan and/or an Ortiz fan.
First, a description of the small-ball Twins during the late 1990s/2000s, when Ortiz was trying to break into the league and subsequently thriving in Boston:
Ortiz began his professional career in the Mariners organization, but he had the misfortune to be dealt to the Twins after his first season in A-ball. The Twins have long had an odd way of doing things; I don't think it's unfair to say that they have spent a good chunk of the present millennium avoiding power hitters and, since they heyday of Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano ended, strikeout pitchers. The policy seems foolish to the point of perversity, but you can't say that the Twins weren't successful with it until recently: from 2002 through 2010 they won the AL Central six times.
Still, they presently rank 14th in the American League in isolated power (slugging percentage - on-base percentage), a position they have held five other times since 2000 -- their highest ranking this century has been sixth; they have never been more than .005 above the league average. As such, they didn't quite know what to make of Ortiz, a dead-pull power hitter.
Avoiding power hitters might be a bit much, and the description of Ortiz as a dead-pull power hitter is also a bit off. But the phrase "didn't quite know what to make of Ortiz" is an apt way to describe the Ortiz era here.
Later, we get to Ortiz defending himself in the wake of Shaughnessy's column:
"Yesterday, the guy came to see me and asked some questions about steroids, and when you see the writing, it basically focuses on the fact that I'm Dominican and that many Dominicans have been caught using steroids. And what about the Americans?" Ortiz said.
"If you're from the Middle East, because there are some people there who put bombs and terrorize civilians, I have to see you like that, as well? If you are a white American, I have to call you a racist because white Americans were in the Ku Klux Klan?"
Whether you believe Ortiz or not, the logical fallacy he exposes -- and which Goldman notes -- is notable. A player like him is operating in a no-win situation in 2013. If he fails. he's off the juice. If he's on a hot streak, he must be juicing again. After years of PED saturation, we are in guilty-until-proven-innocent mode.
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