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 Rookies

My Stan Musial Award Ballot (AL MVP)

Posted by: Seth Stohs Updated: October 26, 2010 - 2:28 AM

The Baseball Bloggers Alliance has now named its first awards of the season, and just one is yet to be announced. First, the Connie Mack Awards for top manager went to Ron Washington and Bud Black. Then Neftali Feliz and Buster Posey won the Willie Mays Awards for each league’s top rookies. The Goose Gossage Awards for top relievers went to Rafael Soriano and Brian Wilson. Yesterday, the Walter Johnson Awards, given to each league’s top pitcher, were handed out to Felix Hernandez and Roy Halladay.

That leaves just one more award to give, the Stan Musial Award which is akin to the Most Valuable Player Awards. I have one of two Twins Blogger ballots for this award. The other was from “Fetch” at Twinkie Talk, which you can see here. And here is my vote:
 
STAN MUSIAL AWARD BALLOT
This was a really difficult vote. Before doing the research, I jotted down who I thought would be my Top 5, and to be honest, after doing the research, the top four were pretty easy choices, but it was difficult to determine what order they should be in. From four through ten, it was more difficult.
 
But first, my thoughts on the MVP award. It seems that everybody has a different definition of “value” and what an MVP should be. And that’s why it’s great, because it creates a ton of discussion. And that’s why it’s frustrating, because it can be difficult to determine the differences in value between two or more players. I do not believe that an MVP has to be from a playoff team. I do believe that an MVP should be from a team that was competitive through most of the season. In other words, that means that guys like Luke Scott, Billy Butler and Shin-Soo Choo tend to be overlooked despite some very strong seasons. I believe that a pitcher can get votes, but in order to finish in the top ten, a pitcher needs to be beyond dominant. I believe that no one statistic is the right measure for an MVP. I also believe that you need to look at a multitude of stats to really make a decision. I think those stats should be a combination of counting stats and rate stats along with some of the advanced metrics. I believe that there were a lot of very good players in 2010 in the American League, and just because a player does not finish in the Top 10 does not mean they didn’t have a good year or somehow was disappointing. I also believe that salary and expectations should play no factor in the vote.  I also believe there is room for intangibles in the vote and yet, that should be used in a tie-breaking type of situation. I mean, if someone like Derek Jeter and Milton Bradley put identical numbers up, I have no problem with giving the edge to the “leadership” of Jeter. But I can’t reiterate enough that ‘intangibles’ are not a big percentage at all in any MVP discussion.
 
So what numbers did I look at? As you know, some of the MVP candidates missed some time, and I do believe that has to be noted. So I looked at games played and plate appearances. I took a glance at extra base hits and home runs. I know RBI are a product of having runners on in front of them, but someone has to drive in runs. I looked at the triple slash numbers (BA/OBP/SLG) and OPS. I also looked at Runs Created, and RC27. I looked a wOBA. I wanted to look at positional variation, so I reviewed WAR (Wins Above Replacement) and VORP (Value Over Replacement Player). I looked at Win Probability Added to determine “clutchness” throughout the season. I also looked a little bit at defense by looking at UZR. Like I said, I don’t want any formula based on these things, but wanted to be able to compare and contrast.
 
Finally, I contacted a few bloggers from some of the teams of players that I had some questions about, and all of that put together helped me to come up with my Stan Musial Ballot. We were asked to vote for the top ten (which is the same thing that the Baseball Writers do when they vote for MVP). Here is my ballot:
 
#10 – Joe Mauer – Minnesota Twins - .327/.402/.469
Yes, the home run numbers dropped from his 2009 MVP season, but contrary to popular belief, Mauer had another very good 2010 season. His VORP was at 50.5 which is in the top eight in the league. He creates runs. He is clutch with a WPA of 2.45 which is top ten in the league. He also does a very good job behind the plate. Was it a down year from a remarkable 2009 season? Sure. Does that mean it was a bad year? Not at all.
 
#9 – Nick Swisher – New York Yankees - .288/.359/.511
People wondered what the personality of Swisher would do in New York. He struggled some in 2009, but in 2010, he put together his best season. It was also his most consistent season. That was important to the Yankees since Derek Jeter had a down year, and A-Rod and Mark Teixeira each had struggles and injuries throughout the season.
 
#8 – Evan Longoria – Tampa Bay Rays - .294/.372/.507
The Rays were the top team in the league and they were really carried by two players on offense. Longoria provided the power with 46 doubles and 22 home run. He created a lot of runs. He was clutch, and he played a terrific 3B defensively. Despite his youth, Longoria turned into a real leader on the 2010 Rays roster.
 
#7 – Adrian Beltre – Boston Red Sox - .321/.365/.553
Beltre was a free agent last offseason and signed a make-good deal with the Red Sox. Beltre made good, to be sure. First, he remained one of baseball’s best defensive 3B. However, he also led the league with 49 doubles while added 28 home runs.
 
#6 – Paul Konerko – Chicago White Sox - .312/.393/.584
I know, he plays for the White Sox, but he seems like a good guy. And he had a tremendous 2010 season, arguably the best of his career. Konerko hit 39 home runs and drove in 111 runs. He was in the top five in the league in WPA, and despite playing the hitter-friendly 1B, he had a VORP of 64.2. If he played another position, he would rank higher with these numbers. Of course, he’s not a great first baseman defensively, with a -13.4 UZR. But the end of the day, Konerko was again the best hitter and the leader of the White Sox.
 
#5 – Robinson Cano – New York Yankees - .319/.381/.534
Of course, the Yankees were only one game behind the Rays as the best team in the league, and Cano was clearly the best player on the Yankees roster. The second baseman hit 41 doubles, hit 29 home runs and drove in 109 runs. He was clutch, and he was consistent. His defense improved, although his UZR was still slightly below 0 (-0.6).
 
#4 – Jose Bautista – Toronto Blue Jays - .260/.378/.617
I think we were all assuming that Bautista’s dream season would eventually end with him waking up and reality setting in, but it never did. 35 doubles and 54 home runs later, he ended the season as the Blue Jays all-time single season home run leader. He was third in the league in OPS. He was second in the league in runs created. He was in the top three in Win Probability added. Now, his defense in right field and at 3B were both slightly sub-par, but when you’re providing this kind of offense, adequate defense is way more than adequate! The softball-swinging Jays may have finished fourth in the AL East, but they had a record above .500 and must of the credit for that is Bautista.
 
#3 – Carl Crawford – Tampa Bay Rays - .307/.356/.495
Crawford is just a solid all-around player, and he put together a great season for the Rays. He hit 30 doubles, 13 triples and 19 home runs. He drove in 90 runs. He stole 47 bases. He was very clutch. And defensively, his 18.5 UZR is far and away the best of anyone who could even be considered an MVP candidate. Since the Rays were the best team in the league, the “Best Player on the Best Team” argument would push us to Crawford.
 
#2 – Miguel Cabrera – Detroit Tigers - .328/.420/.622
If the Detroit Tigers had been in contention into September, Cabrera would probably be considered a front runner, but like our #1, Cabrera’s season ended a little early too. But Cabrera put together another incredible season of offensive numbers. He had 45 doubles, 38 homers and led the league with 126 RBI. He led the league in Runs Created at 133.3. His 6.93 WPA was second in the league as was his .429 wOBA and 79 VORP. After a disappointing end to his 2009 season, Cabrera came back with another great season, even if his 1B defense is pretty bad.
 
#1 – Josh Hamilton – Texas Rangers - .359/.411/.633
I thought missing much of September would hurt Hamilton’s case in my head, but a review of all of the things I mentioned told me that he was still, far-and-away the league’s top player and most valuable player. Despite the missed time, Hamilton’s 40 doubles, 32 home runs and 100 RBI were still among league leaders. He led the league in batting average (.359), slugging percentage (.633), OPS (1.044), RC27 (9.59), wOBA (.447), WAR (8.0), WPA (9.31) and VORP (80.5). And he plays a very good defense with a 7.9 UZR. The Rangers were a semi-surprise team in 2010 in that the Angels had really dominated the AL West in recent years. Hamilton led the Rangers to an easy win in the division.
 
Feel free to Discuss and Comment here.

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  • To learn more about the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook, be sure to click here!
  • John wrote about a surprise shortstop Trade Target today. Find out who.
  • QUICK AFL UPDATE
    ·         On Monday, the Peoria Saguaros won 5-4. Chris Parmelee went 2-4 with two doubles and four RBI. Ben Revere was 1-4 to drop his batting average to .395. Joe Benson was used as a pinch runner and scored a run. Kyle Waldrop gave up one run in 1.2 innings.

Trade Deadline Notes

Posted by: John Bonnes Updated: August 1, 2010 - 11:04 PM

The trade deadline passed on Saturday, and there were some developments for other teams that Twins fans might find interesting….

 
The Chicago White Sox
The Matt Capps-Wilson Ramos deal that the Twins made had an unintended positive impact: it looks like it helped thwart the White Sox attempts to trade for Washington Nationals’ slugger Adam Dunn. And it also looks like it made the White Sox offseason a little tougher.
 
The White Sox completed a trade, nabbing starting pitcher Edwin Jackson from the Diamondbacks. But it appears that they did so because Jackson was supposed to be flipped to the Nationals for Dunn. I’m hearing that the deal fell through because the Nationals raised their price after getting Ramos for Capps. They felt it was a seller’s market.
 
So Jackson is now a White Sox starting pitcher, which isn’t necessarily bad news for them this year. Yes, Jackson has an ERA of 5.16 this year, but he’s a streaky pitcher who posted a 3.62 ERA just last year with the Tigers. The Sox have an excellent pitching coach named Don Cooper, and Jackson could fast become dangerous again under his tutelage.
 
But there is also bad news. First, the Sox didn’t get the slugger they needed. Second, GM Kenny Williams gave up two top prospects for a starting pitcher his team only nominally needed. But the final news is that Jackson is under contract through 2011, and is guaranteed to make $8.35M next year. That puts a squeeze on the Sox payroll this upcoming offseason. 
 
For the last few years, the White Sox payroll has been about $100M. To the right is how things look for next year.
 
The White Sox are already at approximately $98 million, and that’s without a first baseman or a DH, or most of a bullpen or bench. The biggest name you might notice missing is that of Paul Konerko, who will be a free agent, and is carrying the Sox’ otherwise anemic offense.
 
It’s far from an unworkable situation (Step 1 – trade away Bobby Jenks) and owner Jerry Reinsdorf has allowed Williams to stretch payroll beyond limits before. But the acquisition of Jackson just used up most of the financial flexibility Williams had. 
 
If the Sox have a rough August and fall back, don’t be shocked if they trade away or just plain let go of a handful of players that other teams might be foolish enough to claim. That’s what Williams did the last couple of days in August last year when he concluded that the Sox weren’t going to catch up.
 
The Seattle Mariners
 Last year, Mariners first-year GM Jack Zduriencik was praised as one of the bright minds in the game, and had the results to show for it. The Mariners improved from a 61 win team in 2008 to an 85 win team in 2009. An improvement of 24 games in one season is remarkable.
 
But after Sunday’s loss to the Twins, the Mariners are now on pace for a 60 win season – a net of one extra loss after a season-and-a-half’s worth of leadership. And yet he is still almost universally still regarded as on of the best GMs in the game. 
 
Ah, the power of first impressions.
 
Remember that Cliff Lee trade he made just a couple of weeks ago? It was universally praised because he managed to pry away Justin Smoak ("the next Mark Teixeira") from the Rangers. But Jack and the rest of us might want to step away from the Smoak publicity machine for a bit and look at some actual results. 
 
Smoak was demoted on Saturday back to AAA, after hitting .159 with Seattle, including 23 strikeouts and just one walk. If you include his time with Texas, his average goes all the way up to .198. And the 23-year-old’s career batting in AAA is just .255.
 
It’s obvious that it’s way too early to write off Smoak, but sooner or later a man is evaluated on his long-term performance, and not just the early hype. That might be something Zduriencik should keep in mind, too.
 
The Detroit Tigers
 The Tigers acquired Jhonny Peralta last week to help plug some leaks. Looking at their lineup in Saturday’s game, I hope Peralta has a lot of thumbs, because this dike looks to be falling apart. Here’s the Tigers' lineup, along with the number of career at-bats each player has:
 
Austin Jackson, CF – 381
Will Rhymes, 2B – 29
Brennan Boesch, RF - 302
Miguel Cabrera, 1B - 4294
Peralta, 3B - 3442
Don Kelly, LF - 214
Jeff Frazier, DH - 7
Gerald Laird, C- 1837
Ramon Santiago, SS - 1477
 
That lineup contains one stud (Cabrera), one veteran who is struggleing (Peralta) and two rookies who are really exceeding expectations (Jackson and Boesch). It also contains two veterans whose primary value is their defense (Laird and Santiago). And then it has three guys who are - well, I’m not really sure what they are. I’m not really sure who they are. But I do know they aren’t anyone that the Tigers thought they would be relying on this year.
 
Since the All-star break, the Tigers are 4-13. They are also 7.5 games back of the division. Their next four games are against the division-leading White Sox, and that could essentially end their season, But if not, they then face the Angels, the Rays, the White Sox again, and the Yankees. That’s a brutal schedule for a team that is probably already too far back. Not to mention the leaks thing.
 

 
It looks like there was a pretty spirited discussion about the Capps-Ramos trade here on Friday.  If you're interested in more opinions on it, you can stop by TwinsGeek.com, where I listed eight things I hate about it. On the other hand, Nick liked it, but he's been traveling, so I don't see his entry up yet. Swing by his site and you'll be able to see the much sunnier side of the swap. 

Managing the (rumor) mill

Posted by: Seth Stohs Updated: July 6, 2010 - 1:36 AM

Baseball's trade deadline has become an event unto its own. Twenty years ago, the deadline was there, but it certainly was not followed the way it is today. Heck, it wasn't followed to this degree five years ago. Is that a good thing? You decide.

Blogs have certainly added to the rumor mill. John Bonnes (Twins Geek) started blogging about eight years ago and was the first Twins blogger. I started my blog (SethSpeaks.net) just over seven years ago. MLB Trade Rumors blog came into existence a few years later and has taken over the role as the place to go for any and all rumors around baseball. They get their rumors from the sites of teams' beat writers, national scribes and credible bloggers.

And in the past two years, Twitter has taken over as the site most followed for rumors and trade information. The immediacy of Twitter, and how quickly information, factual or not, can spread is absolutely amazing.

Yet another example of that happened last night when a 'tweet' from a Detroit radio station indicated that a deal between the Twins and Mariners involving Cliff Lee was about done. The rumor spread like wild fire for the next hour. Meanwhile, beat writers and national scribes had to call all of their contacts to verify the legitimacy of the rumor.

In the end, it turned out to be more talk that fact. In fact, late last night, the Star Tribune's LaVelle E. Neal tweeted, "Nothing close on Lee. Twins source tells me. Still guessing that talks are fluid. "

Soon after, a report came out that the Twins had offered Aaron Hicks and Wilson Ramos to the Mariners for Lee. Jeff Fletcher of AOL Fanhouse said an "MLB source" provided that information.

So, how do we muddle through all of these rumors? That is all they are at this point. The reality is that until there is a trade (And I do believe that there very well could be), we will not know for sure. We can guess and argue over who it would take for the Twins to land Lee. We can discuss the value he would bring to the Twins. We can ask if anything shy of a World Series championship would be satisfactory if the Twins acquire Lee. And we can ask the age old question, "would you rather win a World Series once every dozen years and be non-competitive in between, or would you rather have a team that is competitive year in and year out?"

I think that the trade deadline brings out the best and the worst in some fans, in some who use social networking, some beat writers and some bloggers. One thing is for certain, it shows the passion that so many fans have for their team, and how much they want their favorite teams to succeed.

With the Twins having spent more this past offseason and the increased revenues that Target Field provides, the fans expect the team to be active at the trade deadline. The biggest need this team has is to find a top-of-the-rotation starter. Roy Oswalt's name has been mentioned. Dan Haren could be dealt. I'm sure other names will arise as well.

So in your own mind, you need to consider who the Twins should target. You also need to think about which minor leaguers (or maybe major leaguers) you would be willing to trade. The we need to realize that the other team will not accept most players that teams are willing to trade. In other words, it would be great if the Mariners were willing to take Nick Blackburn and his contract in a deal for Cliff Lee. But believe me, the Mariners have zero interest in Blackburn. Realize that you are going to have to part with at least two very good prospects. Who is untouchable in your mind? For me, the names of Kyle Gibson, Miguel Sano and Joe Benson may be the only untouchables. Who would be yours?

If you are looking for a good source for trade deadline information, look no further than TwinsCentric. The group has worked with some of the best bloggers and independent writers to provide information on each team's needs, tradeable players, impact rookies and more, and put it into electronic book form. Later this week, you will be able to order your copy of the 150+ page e-book with all of the information you need to know. It is quote thorough and would be a great resource for any baseball fan wanting to know what's going on in July, and probably through August too. We'll let you know more here later in the week how to get your copy.

TwinsCentric will be hosting another Viewing Party at Park Tavern in St. Louis Park on Wednesday night. 1500 ESPN will be on hand to host their pregame show. Former Twins catcher and current FSN contributor Tim Laudner will also be at Park Tavern between 5 and 6, talking to Twins fans. It should be a fun night with prizes and an opportunity to enjoy a Twins game with many Twins fans.

Before then, here are some other TwinsCentric items to peruse and consider:

 

A Walk on a Road Trip

Posted by: John Bonnes Updated: June 17, 2010 - 10:01 AM

Pittsburgh sits 874 miles, two travel days and one waterpark overdose from the Minneapolis. It seems like a good place for a walk.

 
  • And any good walk in Pittsburgh starts with a bridge, because the city is practically chained down by them to the surrounding area. And, as you might expect, they are old, big, manly bridges, decorated by rivets. They are made of testosterone in the form of pure steel and concrete and nothing else, because what else would need?
 
This walk starts on Roberto Clemente’s bridge, the one that goes to PNC Park from downtown, spanning the Allegheny river. It is closed down completely a few hours before game time, creating an impropmptu plaza for under-attended Pirates games. It ends at the cornere of the ballpark, in front of the gate where Clemente’s statue stands. It provides one of the most unique pregame approaches to a ballpark in MLB. I’d rank it even above the tailgating that happened at old Milwaukee County Stadium
 
  • Does anyone else out ther feel the road calling to them as they make a big change in their life? I do. It seems to be th perfect way to embrace the change.
 
When I moved from Minneapolis to Philly to court this girl I had been dating long-distance, I moved my life in a Honda Prelude. When we married and moved back to Minneapolis, we abandoned our careers for 3 months to tour the U.S. When I left my job to start my own business, we road tripped to Cleveland for a wedding, just because we could
 
There is a shared spirituality about change and road trips. The rules are being rewritten, there is a sense of freedom and adventure in both. The Road Trip is a taste of a larger impending truth. It is a reminder to honor the Start of Things.
 
  • After going to PNC Park yesterday, The Voice of Reason and I ranked our favorite ballparks. By the end of this trip, we will have been to 19 active parks and probably another ten deceased parks, so we’re not rookies.
 
PNC ranks in my top 3, and it’s near there for TVOR, too. It’s top three attributes are the primary attribute for all great real estate - location, location, location. It is just over the river, from downtown, on the river, at the end of a prototypical Pittsburgh bridge. It has it’s own neighborhood, but is close to downtown, and along a beautiful riverwalk. You would sit in that ballpark for hours - picnic there - just for the view.
 
And to the Pirates credit, they didn’t screw up that built-in advantage. (The guy I went with states both proudly and lamentably that PNC is the only thing the Pirates have done right in the last fifteen years.) They refrained from adding seating in center field and kept it low in the entire outfield. The background to the ballgame is a river, a bridge, and a sparking downtown skyline.
It’s a place lovers would go to be alone with each other. And, unfortunately for the Pirates that’s reinforced by the sparse attendance on weeknights.) The fans come to spend some time with their team, enjoying each other’s company, and escaping the harsher day-to-day realities.
 
But I suspect it would be nice if they won, occasionally. We saw the Pirates drop their ninth in a row. 
 
  • Even after 17 years of futility, I think I would like to be a Pirates fan. It’s a team with a ton of great history, a fantastic ballpark, and a dedicated fan base that is passionate. That city reminds me of Cleveland in the early 90s - just waiting to have someone to cheer for. They could use a movie like Major League for that team.
 
It is easy to forget how similar the Pirates were to the Twins through the 90s and up until 2001. Hell, the Twins were likely ranked lower in most people’s minds - it wasn’t Pittsburgh that was scheduled for contraction. I see a team like this, and I wonder how the Twins did it. We like to focus on a struggling team’s mistakes, and they’re valid, but it also tends to go overboard in blaming the victim. The truth seems to be that it isn’t about avoiding mistakes as it is about filling the gaps and having an awful lot go right all at once. And I don’t’ know how that happens.
 
  • Because you asked, here are the list of top MLB ballparks. Load up the Honda Prelude with gas and get busy.
 
1. Wrigley - Because I feel like I’m back in time 70 years when I walk into that place. Get there 2 hours early for batting practice. Is it holy.
 
2 & 3. Camden Yards (BLT) and PNC Park - They’re both new, but they both feel older, and they both feel like ballparks and utilize their inherent location advantage. I rank Camden higher right now, but it’s been 10+ years since I’ve been there, so I might be wrong.
 
4. Fenway (BOS)
5. Dodger Stadium (LAD)
6. Kaufmann Stadium (KC)
 
I give Fenway the edge, both because of the sense of history and the neighborhood around it. Dodger Stadium is a beautiful place, and I love the 50s-60s Mad Men vibe about it. It might be the most underrated stadium in MLB. I can’t tell you what I love so much about Kaufmann, but it’s similar to Dodger - nice design, has heldup will to history and is valued by it’s team that doesn’t screw with it too much. I just wish the latter two weren’t in the middle of parking lots.
 
7-10.
Target Field falls into this group, along with Petco (SD). Coors (COL) might, just because of it’s neighborhood. Possibly Jacobs (CLE), too.
 
Most overrated.
Miller Park. I cannot be happier that Target Field stayed away from a retractable roof after seeing Miller. It feels like you’re watching baseball inside a mall.
 
Would be #2, but deceased.
Tiger stadium. A GREAT old ballpark. I haven’t seen Comerica yet, but I plan on hating it. This is a stadium that should have been saved, ala Kaufmann. 
 
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Tomorrow night we’ll be in Philly to watch the Twins and tailgating beforehand. We’ll try and be in the upper left hand corner up of K-lot as early between 4:30 and 5:00. We’ll try to park against the bushes right across the street from the stadium. There's a pedestrian gate right there at the corner of 11th and Pattison. If you can make it, stop by. We’ll try to have a hot dog for you. Also, if you want to contact us, direct message me on my Twitter account.

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