TwinsCentric was formed by Twins super-bloggers Seth Stohs, Nick Nelson, Parker Hageman and John Bonnes. Together they publish at TwinsDaily.com and have authored books, e-books and magazines that provide independent and in-depth coverage of the Minnesota Twins from a fan's perspective. You can contact them at TwinsCentric@gmail.com.

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Posts about On the road

What Pavano could bring to the Twins in 2011

Posted by: Parker Hageman Updated: January 7, 2011 - 11:25 AM
Tweeted by Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman, up until this point, the Twins had been extending a one-year contract to the Pavano camp but have recently added a second year in their offer. Unless another club swoops in and sweetens the deal with that mythical third year which Pavano has been requesting, the likelihood he returns to pitch in Minnesota in 2011 appears imminent.
From the Twins perspective, Pavano addresses several of their needs.
For starters, with a questionable assortment of bullpen arms, the starting rotation is going to be pressed to work deeper into games next season. Outside of three other starters in the league, no one averaged as many innings as Pavano did per start in 2010. This was an exhaustive problem last year as Scott Baker (5.8 innings per start) and Kevin Slowey (5.5 innings per start) frequently taxed the bullpen. Pavano, meanwhile, averaged 6.9 innings of work, allowing the ‘pen to take some much needed nights off.
Secondly, there is the fact that he is a quintessential Twins-type of pitcher. Not only does he have a miniscule walk rate, a low 1.6 walks per nine innings of work since 2009, but he rarely engages in any semblance of flirtation with the base-on-ball. Last year just 12% of his total match-ups resulted in a three-ball count bested only by some guy named Cliff Lee. For an organization that places a great deal of emphasis on restricting free passes, Pavano is an ideologue. 
What makes him so stingy in the walks department is his tenacious introduction to each hitter. In his tenure in a Twins uniform, Pavano attacked the strike zone with gumption, getting ahead of hitters with a first-pitch strike 67.8% of the time, the best in baseball since ‘09. What’s more is that of his first two pitches, Pavano has located one or the other for a strike over 90% of the time in the past two seasons, also one of the highest in the game.
Although Pavano’s early count zone dominance does not come without some blowback, not only does this aggressive approach keeps him from walking hitters, it also affords him the luxury of turning to his harder to handle off-speed offerings. Using a change-slider combination the veteran right-hander likes to work on the fringe of the strike zone, attempting to inspire opponents to chase after these less than perfect pitches. In fact, his 34.1% out of zone swing percentage was the highest among starters since 2009:

Highest Out-of-Zone Swing% 2009-2010
Carl Pavano
34.1%
Shaun Marcum
32.9%
Roy Halladay
32.5%
Dan Haren
32.1%
Francisco Liriano
32.1%
(via Fangraphs.com)

Unlike some of the other names on that list, Pavano rarely induces the same amount of missed bats, instead relying on generating weaker contact then putting himself at the whim of the defense behind him.
It is this tactic which makes some analysts question where his output will be in 2011.
In 2010, Pavano posted his lowest career batting average on balls in play (BABIP). As a pitcher that allows a high amount of contact and has an unusually suppressed BABIP not typical of his recent track record, the laws of regression suggest that he will see his BABIP return towards the league-average or his career-norm in the ensuing year. If you adhere to this reasoning, it would imply that Pavano is likely headed to a season filled with more hits than his last.
Then again, because he was a prolific ground ball pitcher last year, Pavano’s BABIP (and ultimately his success) will likely be tied to the performance of his infielders. Even though the Twins have dismantled perhaps one of the league’s best defensive middle infields, the replacements in Alexi Casilla and Tsuyoshi Nishioka are projected to be a faster combination than their predecessor, leading one to speculate that they might be able to cut down more ground balls for Pavano than last year.
Similarly, the configuration of the home stadium also provides him some insulation. Although Pavano surrendered more hits at home versus on the road in 2010, he gave up fewer detrimental hits. When Target Field played big in 2010, pitchers could throw to contact could and get away with hitting a sizable portion of the plate middle-away without too much backlash as fly balls would simply die in the power alleys. Specifically for Pavano he allowed far fewer homers at Target Field (0.74 HR/9) than he did on the road (1.16 HR/9).
While most of the aforementioned indicators are favorable, there are also some signs that Pavano may have hit the wall in late 2010 or worse, have the makings of a potential injury.
In early August, Joe Christensen reported that the coaching staff said Pavano had a tired arm. Not long after that, Pavano, who has had a reoccurring sore neck throughout his career, had it flare up but decided to pitch through it. According to LaVelle Neal, this soreness originated in his neck on the right side and extended towards his shoulder area of his throwing arm.
Despite downplaying the significance of this discomfort, his results from August on were brutal. After allowing 131 hits in his first 148.2 innings, he finished the year allowing 96 hits in 72.1 innings including seven home runs post-August. In addition to that, Pavano’s strikeout rate fell off the table:
While it is likely that these results were purely the effects of high mileage on his arm, and an off-season of rest should rejuvenate him, it is still possible that his discomfort in his neck problem leads to something more substantial.
It is easy to go back-and-forth on whether signing Pavano makes sense for the Twins. On one hand, he's 35 years old, ripe for regression and assuming a significant chunk of the payroll. On the other hand, he’s the proverbial “gamer” who works deep into games and racks up innings, alleviating the bullpen’s workload.
When you add it up, for the most part, signing Pavano is a sensible transaction for the Twins. Financially, a two-year contract is reasonable and the $8-to-$10 million per season contract moderate but not outrageous. The biggest downside is whether or not adding Pavano restricts the Twins for making subsequent moves, such as re-signing Jim Thome or adding another quality bench option, or perhaps inspiring them to trade the arbitration-eligible Kevin Slowey to reduce overhead.  
Based on his last two seasons of work, he’s clearly capable of chewing through a large quantity of innings and can work deep into the ballgame. Regression is certainly a probability but given his ability to limit walks, work ahead in the count, get opponents to chase out-of-zone pitches and hit plenty of ground balls, his totals in 2011 should not be too far off from his 2010 season.

  • Nick Nelson also examines bringing Pavano back.
  • With TwinsFest coming up at the end of the month, consider purchasing one of DiamondCentric's t-shirts, perfect for autographs, including "The Pavano".

Taking Advantage of Target Field

Posted by: Parker Hageman Updated: December 31, 2010 - 1:14 PM
Perhaps the biggest Twins event of 2010 was the opening of the new downtown ballpark. With much fanfare and hype, Minnesota baseball returned to the natural environments.
However, after the first full season not everyone had rave reviews about the newly constructed baseball cathedral. The field drew criticisms from members of the offense that the park was unfair and deflating their power totals. In November, Justin Morneau even implored via email to the Star Tribune beat writers that the Twins should consider altering the confines:
"Right-center to left-center is ridiculous. It's] almost impossible for a righthanded hitter to [homer to the] opposite field and very difficult for lefties. It affects the hitters a lot, and you start to develop bad habits as a hitter when you feel like you can only pull the ball to hit it over the fence. You take those habits on the road."
Because of the wall height, distance, temperature and wind patterns, the field in its first season deterred plenty of would-be home runs back on to the field. Nowhere was this more prevalent than in the area Morneau noted. Michael Cuddyer, who had hit nine home runs to center and right-center at the Metrodome in 2009, was able to reach those seats just once in 2010. Likewise, Jason Kubel hit 10 home runs in center and right-center at the Metrodome in ’09 but just two this past season.
In the recently released Hardball Times Annual 2011, Greg Rybarczyk, operator of the seminal site HitTrackerOnline.com which tracks “true” distances of the league’s home runs, published what he considered the “Ultimate Home Run Park Factors”.
For those unfamiliar with the metric, Park Factors measures the influence of a ballpark’s configuration that may increase or decrease the possibility of offense in comparison to other parks across baseball. By ESPN.com’s account, Target Field finished dead last when it came to home runs. Although ESPN.com has been carrying this number for years on their website unlike Rybarczyk’s totals, the World Wide Sports Leader’s website does not include wind patterns and temperature into their equation.
Rybarczyk’s research revealed that, thanks to the extremely inviting Crawford Boxes down the left field line, the Houston Astros’ home ballpark, Minute Maid Park, was the easiest field to hit a home run at (especially if you were a right-handed pull hitter) with an overall Home Run Park Factor of 119. Conversely, based on the distance and size of the walls (16 feet high around), Citi Field in Queens was considered the most difficult venue to book a round-trip vacation at with an overall Home Run Park Factor of 70.
Probably to the surprise of Morneau and company, Rybarczyk’s findings showed that Target Field’s overall Home Run Park Factor was 96, ranking 16th out of 32 possible major league stadiums. This is an astonishingly neutral result:
“True” Home Run Park Factors
LF
LCF
CF
RCF
RF
Total
Target Field
96
104
98
103
84
96
Average
97
97
97
97
97
97
(via Hardball Times Annual 2011)
What we find, based on Rybarczyk’s conclusions, is that Target Field isn’t all that daunting after all. Certainly from the alley-to-alley the field is a bit home run resistant, but in general, the corners are favorable (right field is a particularly alluring spot for left-handed sluggers who pull the ball) and the ballpark rated out as a field that slightly favors hitters. In short, hitters like Cuddyer, Kubel and Morneau may struggle at times to vacate the field in center and right-center, but they will also be rewarded if they pull the ball a bit more.
While Morneau stated his concern that the home configurations would ultimately affect how players hit on the road, Delmon Young was one player who recognized that this wasn’t a bad thing. After posting a .576 slugging percentage with 7 home runs while pulling the ball in ’09, Young demonstrated much better pop by knocking out 17 home runs to left while slugging a much more robust .846 when pulling the ball. Without much alteration to their approach, Cuddyer and Kubel might be able to mirror Young’s success.
If you are in charge of the team-building for the Twins, what this means is that your ideal free agent acquisition is either a (1) dead-pull hitter to either field or (2) a line drive hitter to center/alleys (fly balls will likely just die in the wind). If you are targeting a free agent who has a majority of their home runs to the alleys or center field, that player is probably going to witness a significant drop in power. This means that someone like Derrek Lee, who has hit nine of his 19 home runs to center, right-center and right, would likely not replicate that total in a Twins uniform. Meanwhile, someone like Vladimir Guerrero, who pulled 23 of his 29 home runs in ’10, would likely have a better chance of having his power numbers remain static.
To be sure, despite the neutral results in ’10, Rybarczyk also acknowledges that Target Field may wind up playing more towards the pitcher in the future but, at the same time, the field should not finish dead last like ESPN.com’s Park Factors suggests:
“Target Field is a fair park if you consider only the field dimensions, but the cool temperatures will shave some distance off most homers hit in the Twins’ new park. I suspect that after an adjustment period, home runs will settle in at Target Field at a level around 90 overall, based on the fence layout and the early and late-season temperatures.”
In the end, the Twins will simply have to learn how to cope with their surroundings. In terms of offense, either hitters need to attempt to pull the ball more if they want the extravagant home run totals or look to capitalize on the spacious alleyways if they can settle for the home run’s less sexy cousin, the double. Delmon Young made some adjustments and it served him well, leading to a team-high 25 doubles at home. Similarly, Danny Valenica, a line drive machine to center field, hit .386 at Target Field by shooting gaps. These success stories can be emulated.
By focusing on playing to the field’s strengths in 2011, the Twins will be able to produce a distinct home field advantage.  

 
From all of us at TwinsCentric, thank you for visiting our little corner of the StarTribune.com this year. We are grateful for all of your comments, opinions and support. We would also like to thank the folks at the Star Tribune for providing us with this platform in which to share our thoughts and ideas with the world.
Again, be well and have a Happy New Year!
Sincerely,
John, Nick, Parker and Seth
TwinsCentric

Signing Koji Uehara makes a lot of sense for the Twins

Posted by: Parker Hageman Updated: December 7, 2010 - 9:59 AM
When the Twins outlined their strategy for the offseason, they focused on two items: solidifying the middle infield and repair the bullpen. Now on the verge of landing Tsuyoshi Nishioka, the former task appears to be completed. Addressing the latter issue, however, may also tie in with the acquisition of Nishioka.
Reports emerged from the winter meetings recently that the Twins have been linked to the Orioles’ free agent closer, 36-year-old Koji Uehara. Uehara, in addition to giving the team a wonderful bullpen arm, would also provide Nishioka a cultural compatriot in the clubhouse that could help ease the transition from Japan to America.
According to 1500ESPN.com’s Phil Mackey, Twins general manager Bill Smith told reporters that neither Nishioka nor his wife speaks any English. While baseball is a universal language between the chalk lines, there can be a substantial barrier on the bench, in the clubhouse and on the road. Without question, this could have an adverse affect on his performance and, ultimately, his career.
Take Hideki Okajima’s story, for example. Okajima, a four-year veteran of the Red Sox, admitted to ESPNBoston.com’s Gordon Edes that he experienced what he described as significant loneliness and isolation. After being one of key pitchers that reliably protected the game in front of closer Jonathon Papelbon for three consecutive years, Okajima suddenly began to struggle this past season. At one point, he allowed 27 hits in 15.2 innings of work. Perhaps his downtrodden 2010 season compounded the problem but through his interpreter, Okajima told Edes that the time spent in the bullpen, without the interpreter in the area due to team regulations, made him feel distant and unconnected. Portrayed as a malcontent by the Boston media, Okajima was non-tendered by the Red Sox this winter.
But acquiring Uehara goes beyond just providing Nishioka a partner to reminisce with about the old country or grab post-game sushi at Orgami. Because of the potential of losing three right-handed middle relievers in Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier and Jon Rauch, a right-handed replacement that is tough on same-sided opponents would be an ideal solution.
And that’s just what Uehara is. Last season, Uehara was absolutely cold-blooded against right-handers, holding them to a .196 batting average against while posting a 26-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. As good as the Twins trio was none of them had that kind of success against righties.
Despite college-level velocity (his fastball barely gets into the upper 80s), Uehara hits his spots and mixes in a curve, changeup and a nasty split-finger. With underwhelming stuff that bores radar gun enthusiasts, you might think he would be a high-contact pitcher. You would be wrong. According to Fangraphs.com’s contract data, Uehara’s contact rate of 74.1 percent was the fifth-lowest in the American League. Using a deceptive delivery – or what Orioles skipper Buck Showalter called “his presentation” - along with his assortment of pitches that he throws with pin-point accuracy, Uehara misses a ton of bats and rarely gives his opponents a free base.  In fact, in 44 innings, he struck out 55 and walked just 5. That 11.25 K/BB ratio was the second-best in the AL (behind Chicago’s Matt Thornton). 
When opponents do make contact, the majority of the results end up as fly balls. Actually, his fly ball rate of 58.2 percent was the second-highest in baseball, trailing only Brian Fuentes in this statistic. For a Twins pitcher to have that much elevation, it is a double-edged sword. On one hand, Target Field has one of the most home run-resistant confines in baseball, ensuring that most aerial endeavors remain on the field of play. On the other hand, the Twins also have two of the slowest corner outfielders in the game. If those flies are aimed towards the gaps, there is a strong chance that those can drop in for extra bases.
Because of his injury history, missing most of 2009 and the beginning of 2010 with a forearm strain, the Orioles decided not to offer Uehara arbitration, which would have been a raise above his $5 million salary. Instead, the Orioles have expected to re-sign him at a lower price than what he would receive through the arbitration process. There is some sentiment that the feeling is mutual as Uehara has enjoyed the closer’s job, a position he wouldn’t likely be guaranteed outside of Maryland, and had just recently purchased a home in the Baltimore area. At the same time, he has made it known that he is seeking a two-year deal, which many teams may hesitant to commit to because of the aforementioned injury history.
The Twins essentially have two very good reasons to obtain Uehara, besides being both affordable and effective. First of which is that he would be a solid replacement arm for the bullpen’s departed, possessing a strike-throwing skill set that is highly coveted by management. Secondly, they need someone to act as an ambassador to the organization’s newest investment. If they neglect the opportunity to bring him in, it would seem to be a disappointing miss for the hometown club.

Target Field: Should the fences come in or should players adapt?

Posted by: Parker Hageman Updated: November 12, 2010 - 8:24 AM

The Twins recently announced several adjustments to Target Field for 2011 but apparently they missed an opportunity to appease one of their biggest sluggers. According to Joe Christensen and LaVelle E Neal, Justin Morneau told them that he had lobbied to team officials to move the fences in from right-center to left-center field.

"Right-center to left-center is ridiculous. [It's] almost impossible for a righthanded hitter to [homer to the] opposite field and very difficult for lefties. It affects the hitters a lot, and you start to develop bad habits as a hitter when you feel like you can only pull the ball to hit it over the fence. You take those habits on the road."
Of course, I’m certain if you asked the pitching staff, they would have the exact opposite opinion.
This request echoes that of then-Detroit Tiger Juan Gonzalez’s demand to have the newly opened Comerica Park’s fences brought in. At the time, the Tigers’ home field had a power alley in left field 398 feet from home plate with a distance of 365 down the line. Gonzalez had one of the worst seasons of his career and left for Cleveland the following year as a free agent. The Tigers have since moved in the configurations, shorting the distance in the power alley to 370 and moving the left field corner in to 345.
The Mets, who play at the power-detracting Citi Field, have also toyed with the idea of moving their fences in (by moving home plate closer). Also noted, plenty of other teams over baseball’s history have made alterations to their home fields, including the launching pad of USCellular Park in Chicago, who moved their fences up in 2001.
Morneau wasn’t the only left-handed hitter to notice the need to adjust to hit a home run in Minneapolis. Jason Kubel had moved up on the plate during a home series against Milwaukee in hopes of achieving more power. After hitting three home runs and not much else, Kubel went back to his old style. Right-handed hitting Delmon Young admitted he stopped trying to hit the ball to the opposite field at home. After their series in May, the Yankees Nick Swisher told Pat Borzi this:
“You’ve got to be a grown man to hit it out of there. I’ve got to go down the lines, you know?”
To be sure, Morneau’s assessment has been correct. That is one cavernous area of land out there which is further amplified by the wind effect that has been pushing balls back towards the playing surface. Using spray charts supplied at HitTrackerOnline.com, we can see that just five of the 116 home runs hit at Target Field escaped the clutches of the field in that direction all season:  
There is an element of hitters learning to adapt to the playing surface that you call home. In a recent article in Baseball America by columnist Tracy Ringolsby, Atlanta’s Chipper Jones had made comments regarding the advantage Rockies players have at Coors Field. This incited Ringolsby to rehash a 1984 story of George Brett. Brett’s Royals had been playing the Detroit Tigers in the Championship Series and Brett was asked if he liked Tiger Field’s layout with the short right field porch.
Brett replied:
“I’d probably have had a Darrell Evans type of career, hitting 40, 45 home runs a year with a .260 average. The reason I became the type of hitter I am is because of Royals Stadium. As a hitter, you adjust to your home park to take advantage of what it has to offer. Remember, you play 81 games a year, half your schedule in that park.”
Morneau went on to note that the team had been built for power and offense, which the home park stymied in someways. Of course, gap hitters like Denard Span flourished in the spacious field. After witnessing the park’s home run-thwarting abilities, rather than change the physical surroundings, the team may consider swapping some of the personnel. This fact may validate the need to find speed over power as Bill Smith alluded to earlier in the off-season.
In the end, Morneau’s comments are warranted. Of course, it doesn’t mean his (and other teammates’) demands should or will be met. Nor does it appear that the Twins sound willing to accommodate in the near future.
If that isn’t good enough for the Canadian slugger, I guess there is always the new clock in right field to count the minutes remaining on his current contract.

ALDS Game 1 Preview: Yankees @ Twins

Posted by: Nick Nelson Updated: October 5, 2010 - 11:12 PM

Tonight, the Twins and Yankees will commence yet another ALDS face-off. It will mark the fourth time in eight years the two have matched up in the opening round of the playoffs -- same old story, right?

 

Except, this really isn't the same old story. Each of the past three postseason meetings between these two clubs has resulted in the same outcome -- a relatively comfortable series victory for the Yankees and a disappointing end to the Twins' season. Yet, none of those outcomes should have been particularly surprising, because in each case the Yankees were heavy favorites and clearly the superior team.

 

Never have the Twins been more disadvantaged than they were last year. They crept into the playoffs after an exciting but exhausting run in the final weeks of the regular-season, capped by a 12-inning marathon victory in Game 163. Emotionally and physically drained, the 88-win Twins traveled to Yankee Stadium to face the well-rested No. 1 seed in the American League.

 

In my preview of that series, I was appropriately pessimistic, listing the Twins' numerous shortcomings and concluding: "It's tough to imagine the Twins taking this series. In fact, it's pretty tough to imagine them even taking a game." Sure enough, they did not, but that should have come as no surprise and by no means should it have been viewed as some colossal failure on the part of Ron Gardenhire's club.

 

Similar circumstances have faced Gardy's Twins in each of their past ALDS match-ups with New York. As I mentioned earlier this week, on every occasion the Twins entered the playoffs with the worst record of any playoff qualifier in the American League, while the Yankees have been the league's No. 1 seed with over 100 regular-season wins. This year, for the first time, the Twins hold home field advantage and -- thanks largely to a substantial boost in payroll -- they actually match up pretty evenly with the Bronx Bombers.

 

Now, that's not to say that this series should be viewed as a cakewalk. The Yankees are a very good team that won 95 games in baseball's toughest division. They led the AL in runs scored, ranked second in OPS and third in homers. They have the game's best closer. Their Game 1 (and probable Game 4) starter is a top Cy Young candidate. As much as the Twins can claim to match up better than ever with the Yankees on paper, they still went 2-4 against them in the regular season after going 0-10 overall last year.

 

These Twins have much to prove. And winning Game 1 tonight is absolutely vital. Not only does it put Minnesota in the driver's seat -- costing the Yankees one of their two CC Sabathia starts and forcing them to win three of the final four games to move on -- but it helps address a stigma that has followed this team from the Metrodome to Target Field.

 

I don't doubt that the Twins believe they can beat the Yankees in a series, but let's be honest... they haven't done it in a long time.

 

Now, to break down tonight's pitching match-up and highlight one key player for each side:

 

CC Sabathia | 237.2 IP, 21-1, 3.18 ERA, 197/74 K/BB, 1.19 WHIP

 

Because he won 21 games this season while being backed by the league's best offense, there's a pretty good chance that Sabathia will capture the AL Cy Young Award for a second time in six years. That honor would be undeserved -- for reasons I detailed a few weeks ago -- but he certainly deserves to be in the conversation as one of the league's finest pitchers.

 

Sabathia excels in just about every aspect of the game. He's almost equally tough on lefties and righties. He boasts a solid strikeout rate and limits walks, hits and home runs. He's a big-framed workhorse who threw 110 or more pitches in 19 starts this season (his opponent in tonight's game surpassed the 110-pitch mark twice).  He seemingly faltered a bit late in the year, posting a 4.11 ERA over his final five starts, but mixed into that stretch were dominant road outings against the Rays and Blue Jays.

 

If the way Sabathia pitched all season, or the way he pitched for the Yankees in the postseason last year, are any indication, the Twins are not going to be scoring much against the hefty lefty this evening. And since Sabathia routinely completes seven or more innings, the Twins won't be able to rely on mounting their attack against the Yankees bullpen. In order to win, the Twins will need to try and scrape a few runs across against Sabathia and hope for a strong outing from their own guy...

 

Francisco Liriano | 191.2 IP, 14-10, 3.62 ERA, 201/58 K/BB, 1.26 WHIP

 

Liriano's stats looked a whole lot better halfway through September, when he was 14-7 with a 3.28 ERA, but he took a loss in each of his final three starts while allowing 12 runs on 17 hits -- five homers -- in 13 1/3 innings.

 

In spite of the uninspiring finish, Liriano was still one of the most dominating pitchers in the league this year. He was one of only five AL hurlers to notch over 200 strikeouts, posted an elite 53.6 percent ground ball rate and was better at keeping the ball in the park than any other starting pitcher in the majors. Those traits should play well against a Yankee offense that was heavy on homers and hit just .263/.343/.394 against ground ball pitchers. Basically, if Liriano is on top of his game, he can neutralize the strengths of this New York lineup.

 

The question, of course, is whether or not Liriano will be on top of his game. As mentioned before, he's not pitched well in any of his past three starts, and the fact that his historically fragile arm has now logged over 250 innings this year between the regular season, spring training and winter ball is somewhat worrisome. He also has little experience performing on this type of stage and some believe he gets overly jacked up when pitching in big spots.

 

Regardless of those factors, Liriano is the guy the Twins want on the mound tonight at Target Field, where he was a significantly better pitcher than on the road this season. If he can come through with a strong performance, he can help dispel two lingering myths -- that he shrivels in the spotlight, and that the Twins can't beat the Yankees.

 

KEY PLAYER -- YANKEES: Mark Teixeira, 1B

 

Liriano didn't allow a lot of home runs this year, but when he did, it usually didn't end well. In Liriano's seven starts that resulted in a loss, he allowed seven home runs. In his 21 starts that resulted in a win or no-decision, he allowed two. For a second straight year, Teixeira was New York's top home run hitter, going deep 33 times. As I mentioned in yesterday's Scouting the Enemy piece, the switch-hitting first baseman was also much more dangerous when swinging from the right side, and Liriano gave up all nine of his homers this year to right-handed batters.

 

KEY PLAYER -- TWINS: Delmon Young, LF

 

When the Twins have lost in the playoffs, it's been because they haven't scored. They'll have a tough time bucking that trend against Sabathia tonight, but one player who could play a big role is Young, their best hitter from the right side. Young had a breakout campaign, launching 20 homers and driving in 112 runs, and he'll be batting from the clean-up spot tonight. If he can keep his bat hot like it was in the final weeks of the regular season, he could be the difference-maker in the Twins lineup.

Twins Awards 2010

Posted by: Seth Stohs Updated: September 28, 2010 - 8:25 AM

The Twins regular season is nearing its completion, so it is time to start handing out some awards for the season. E-ballots were sent to many Twins bloggers and media types and they were asked to vote for Twins MVP, Twins Pitcher of the Year, and Twins Rookie of the Year. 24 responses were received. A huge Thank You to those who contributed to this:

·         Paul Allen is likely best known for his role as the Voice of the Vikings for KFAN, but he does terrific work on his nine to noon radio show at KFAN and KFAN.com. He also is the track announcer at Canterbury Downs.
·         Darren “Doogie” Wolfson works for KSTP-TV in the Twin Cities as well as co-hosts Twins Wrap on 1500espn. He also writes a Your Voices blog for StarTribune.com.
·         Phil Mackey is on-air from 12-2 each weekday with Patrick Reusse and writes extensively on the Twins at 1500espn.com.
·         Howard Sinker was a Twins beat writer for the Star Tribune, and now he does a great job with startribune.com and blogs A Fans View from Section 219.
·         Phil Miller was the Twins beat writer for the Pioneer Press for a couple of years. He did help the Startribune.com Twins coverage some this season, worked for FSNorth.com, Baseball America and now covers Gophers football for the Star Tribune.
·         Dan Hammer is the host of The Dan Hammer Show on am740 in Fargo, an affiliate of KFAN.
·         Judd Spicer writes about sports for the City Pages.
·         The TwinsCentric Guys:
o    Seth Stohs – SethSpeaks.net
o    Nick Nelson – Nick’s Twins Blog
o    Parker Hageman – OverTheBaggy
o    John Bonnes – TwinsGeek.com.
·         Twins Bloggers:
o    Andrew Bryz-Gornia – Off the Mark
o    Topper Anton – Curve for a Strike
o    Betsy Bissen – For the Love of the Game
o    John Meyer – Twins MVB
o    Andrew Kneeland – Twins Target
o    Shawn Berg – On the Road with Shawn…
o    Kirsten Brown – K-Bro Baseball Blog
o    Cody Christie – North Dakota Twins Fan
o    Josh Johnson – Josh’s Thoughts
o    Eric Johnson – Undomed
o    Dan Wade – Baseball Daily Digest, among others.
 
Let's work through the awards, starting with the MVP: 
 
This year’s Twins Bloggers/Writers/Media Types Minnesota Twins Most Valuable Player is:
 
 JOE MAUER.
 
In an honor that I’m sure will mean as much to him as his 2009 American League MVP from the BBWA, Mauer racked up 14 of the 24 first-place votes among our panel. The smooth-swinging left-handed catcher is having another very solid campaign in 2010. In 133 games so far, he is hitting .331/.407/.473 with a career-high 42 doubles. His home run total has dropped from 28 in 2009 to just nine in 2010, but it appears much of that can be blamed on the move to Target Field as little has changed in Mauer’s approach at the plate. Much of Mauer’s value comes from his defense as well, where he has won two Gold Glove Awards in the last two years.
 
Delmon Young broke out in 2010 and showed more of the potential that fans have been waiting for since the Twins acquired him before the 2008 season. He finished second in the vote and with four first-place votes. Young was terrific from May through July when he kept the team a float. Defense is obviously a question mark in his game, but he is sitting at .298 with 19 home runs and 107 RBI including many big two-out, clutch hits.
 
Jim Thome came to the Twins on a one year, $1.5 million contract with the understanding that the Twins would limit his playing time in an effort to help him through the season. The Twins limited his playing time appropriately and the now-40 year old Thome has provided far more than anyone could have hoped for, on the field and off. In 105 games, he has hit .280/.412/.631. In 335 at bats, he has 16 doubles, an incredible (for him) two triples and a remarkable 25 home runs. His 1.043 OPS would be his best since 2002. He’s been everything the Twins hoped for, and more. He received two first-place votes.
 
Pitching is the name of the game, and in the fourth and fifth spots are the Twins co-aces. Francisco Liriano received three first place votes and put together numbers that resembled what he had shown in his ill-fated 2006 season. Carl Pavano provided an incredible consistency for the pitching staff. Through much of the season, he could be counted on for innings and quality starts. He led the pitching staff in innings and complete games, and had a pretty cool mustache.
 
Despite not playing since that fateful July 7th game, Justin Morneau finished sixth in the voting. He was a leading contender for AL MVP at the time of his concussion. The manager’s choice, Michael Cuddyer finished seventh in our voting. His versatility and willingness to play anywhere when needed was vital to the team. Danny Valencia was promoted in June when Cuddyer was put on the bereavement list. He was expected to be sent back to Rochester three or four days later, but another injury provided him an extended opportunity, and he has been a huge spark plug for the Twins ever since, playing well both offensively and defensively.
 
Brian Duensing got the remaining first-place vote but still finished ninth. Duensing made the team as a second left-handed reliever, but did so well in that role that he started getting more crucial assignments and he came through. Then around the midway point in the season, the Twins needed an arm in the rotation, and Duensing responded by going 7-2 with a 2.79 ERA.
 
It was a tough year to crack the Top 10 in this Twins vote. Jesse Crain and his remarkable bullpen work finished out the top 10. Orlando Hudson filled a Twins need in the #2 spot in the batting order and at 2nd base. He played as expected (well) and finished 11th. Jason Kubel hit another 20 home runs and finished 12th.
 
TwinsCentric Votes:
  Total Points Seth Stohs John Bonnes Parker Hageman Nick Nelson
Joe Mauer 40 10 10 10 10
Francisco Liriano 25 5 6 6 8
Carl Pavano 23 6 8 4 5
Delmon Young 17 8 5   4
Jim Thome 15 3 1 5 6
Justin Morneau 15 2 2 8 3
Brian Duensing 8 4 4    
Jesse Crain 5   3   2
Michael Cuddyer 3 1   1 1
Orlando Hudson 3     3  
JJ Hardy 2     2  
 
The Ballots

Here are all of the ballots:
 
 
Total Points
Seth Stohs
John Bonnes
Parker Hageman
Nick Nelson
Doogie Wolfson
Phil Mackey
Howard Sinker
Phil Miller
Anthony Maggio
Dan Hammer
Shawn Berg
Kirsten Brown
Cody Christie
Dan Wade
Betsy Bissen
John Meyer
Judd Spicer
Eric Johnson
Josh Johnson
Andrew Bryz-Gornia
Paul Allen
Topper Anton
Andrew Kneeland
Eric Olson
Joe Mauer
211
10
10
10
10
10
10
10
10
10
10
10
10
10
10
8
8
6
8
5
8
6
8
8
6
Delmon Young
145
8
5
 
4
5
6
8
5
8
4
1
8
8
6
10
10
10
10
8
5
8
4
 
4
Jim Thome
124
3
1
5
6
2
8
5
8
6
1
8
4
6
8
 
6
8
6
10
10
3
5
5
 
Francisco Liriano
103
5
6
6
8
8
 
3
2
2
5
5
 
2
5
3
3
4
5
 
 
10
10
10
1
Carl Pavano
91
6
8
4
5
6
 
6
6
 
8
4
 
4
 
6
4
5
 
 
 
4
6
4
5
Justin Morneau
70
2
2
8
3
1
 
2
1
1
 
6
6
 
2
2
5
 
1
6
6
2
 
6
8
Michael Cuddyer
44
1
 
1
1
 
 
 
 
4
6
 
5
5
1
 
1
 
4
4
3
5
3
 
 
Danny Valencia
35
 
 
 
 
 
 
4
 
 
2
2
 
3
4
5
2
3
2
2
2
 
 
2
2
Brian Duensing
33
4
4
 
 
4
 
 
 
5
 
 
 
1
3
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
1
 
10
Jesse Crain
23
 
3
 
2
3
 
 
 
3
3
 
 
 
 
4
 
2
 
 
 
 
 
 
3
Orlando Hudson
15
 
 
3
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
3
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
3
 
 
2
3
 
Jason Kubel
12
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
4
 
 
 
3
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
4
 
 
 
 
Denard Span
6
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
3
 
 
 
2
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
Jon Rauch
5
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
3
 
 
 
 
 
 
JJ Hardy
3
 
 
2
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
 
 
 
Jason Repko
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This year’s Twins Bloggers/Writers/Media Types Minnesota Twins Pitcher of the Year is:
 
FRANCISCO LIRIANO.
 
 
Liriano, at times, reminded Twins fans of his amazing 2006 rookie season. At times, he dominated. He recorded over a strikeout per inning, issued few walks and a miniscule number of home runs. His numbers looked very good, while those advanced pitching statistics show he was as good as anyone in the league at things he could control. He received 17 of the 24 first-place votes among our panel.
 
Carl Pavano provided the veteran leadership that the Twins and their fans hoped for. He not only pitched very well, but he pitched well over 200 innings. He frequently saved the bullpen with complete games. He could be counted on nearly every start for seven or eight innings and three runs or less. He received six first place votes.
 
Brian Duensing finished in third place in our vote and received the final first place vote. Pitched incredibly out of the bullpen and then really helped the team as a starting pitcher in the second half.
 
In mid-May, most Twins fans, bloggers, media and others had given up on Jesse Crain. Since then, he has been the Twins best, most reliable relief pitcher. He earned a lot of fourth place votes, a lot of third place votes and even a second place vote. He has been vital to the Twins success.
 
Jon Rauch, Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey tied for fifth but were far behind the top four.
 
TwinsCentric Vote:
 
  Total Points Seth Stohs John Bonnes Parker Hageman Nick Nelson
Francisco Liriano 19 5 4 5 5
Carl Pavano 17 4 5 4 4
Brian Duensing 10 3 3 2 2
Jesse Crain 10 2 2 3 3
Kevin Slowey 2 1     1
Jon Rauch 1     1  
Nick Blackburn 1   1    
 
The Ballot:
 

 
Total Points
Seth Stohs
Parker Hageman
Nick Nelson
Phil Mackey
Andrew Bryz-Gornia
Topper Anton
Phil Miller
Dan Wade
Anthony Maggio
Paul Allen
Andrew Kneeland
Shawn Berg
Kirsten Brown
Josh Johnson
Eric Johnson
Eric Olson
John Bonnes
Dan Hammer
John Meyer
Cody Christie
Judd Spicer
Howard Sinker
Betsy Bitsen
Francisco Liriano
106
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
4
4
4
4
4
4
2
Carl Pavano
93
4
4
4
4
4
4
4
2
2
4
4
4
4
4
4
3
5
5
5
5
5
5
4
Brian Duensing
66
3
2
2
3
3
3
3
4
4
3
3
2
3
3
3
2
3
2
3
3
2
2
5
Jesse Crain
51
2
3
3
2
 
2
2
3
3
2
 
1
2
2
2
4
2
3
2
2
3
3
3
Scott Baker
7
 
 
 
 
1
 
 
 
 
 
2
3
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Jon Rauch
7
 
1
 
 
 
 
1
1
 
 
 
 
 
1
1
 
 
 
 
 
1
1
 
Kevin Slowey
7
1
 
1
 
2
1
 
 
1
 
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Matt Guerrier
4
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
1
1
1
 
 
 
Nick Blackburn
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
Matt Capps
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Brian Fuentes
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1

 
 
This year’s Twins Bloggers/Writers/Media Types Minnesota Twins Rookie of the Year is:
 
DANNY VALENCIA.
 
This was clearly the easiest vote of the group. Danny Valencia received all 24 first-place votes, and in fact, there was very little competition. That does not, in any way, minimize just how terrific Valencia's rookie campaign has been. He has hit for average, shown power of late, and despite recent struggles, his defense has been remarkable.
 
TwinsCentric Vote:
 
 
  Total Points Seth Stohs John Bonnes Parker Hageman Nick Nelson
Danny Valencia 20 5 5 5 5
Alex Burnett 7 1   3 3
Drew Butera 6 3 3    
Matt Fox 1       1
Jeff Manship 1   1    
Trevor Plouffe 1     1  
 
 
The Ballot:
 

 
Total Points
Seth Stohs
John Bonnes
Parker Hageman
Nick Nelson
Doogie Wolfson
Phil Mackey
Andrew Bryz-Gornia
Topper Anton
Dan Hammer
Anthony Maggio
Paul Allen
Betsy Bissen
John Meyer
Judd Spicer
Andrew Kneeland
Shawn Berg
Kirsten Brown
Cody Christie
Josh Johnson
Eric Johnson
Eric Olson
Howard Sinker
Phil Miller
Dan Wade
Danny Valencia
120
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5
Drew Butera
32
3
3
 
 
 
 
3
3
 
1
 
 
3
 
 
3
3
3
 
1
 
3
3
 
Alex Burnett
18
1
 
3
3
 
 
1
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
3
 
 
 
 
3
3
 
 
 
Matt Fox
14
 
 
 
1
 
3
 
 
 
3
 
3
 
 
 
1
 
1
1
 
 
 
 
1
Jeff Manship
6
 
1
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
3
 
 
 
 
 
Wilson Ramos
5
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
3
Luke Hughes
2
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
1
 
 
 
Trevor Plouffe
1
 
 
1
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
So now you have had the chance to review our 2010 Twins MVP, Pitcher of the Year and Rookie of the Year. What do you think of the results? How would you vote? What would your rankings be? Leave your comments year.

_______________________________________

  • At about 7:20 on Tuesday morning, John will be on The Power Trip morning show on KFAN.
  • Yesterday, the Twins announced the Kyle Gibson was named the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year, and Joe Benson was named the Twins Minor League Hitter of the Year. Both will be on tonight's SethSpeaks.net Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast at 10:00 central time.

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