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.
As July comes to a close, the inevitable discussion (at least in Twins Territory) turns to what assets the team could/should part with. This season, as the team slowly but surely heads to a fourth straight 90-loss campaign, names like Kurt Suzuki, Kendrys Morales, Josh Willingham, Kevin Correia and even Brian Dozier have surfaced. But there's another player -- a guy that not as many are discussing, but who has more value, perhaps, than most of these guys combined: Glen Perkins.
Guest post from Twins Daily writer Twins Fan From Afar
Let's get a couple things out of the way. First, I'm a big Glen Perkins fan. He's roughly my age and he's from Stillwater, a short, short drive from my hometown of White Bear Lake. Except for the part where we didn't know each other, we could have been best friends. There's literally nothing to dislike about this guy. Even though I disagreed with him on Twitter a few weeks ago (and he actually responded to me directly, like a man), he's my favorite Twin. Second, he's an elite relief pitcher. I tend to think closers (by definition and pay) are overrated, but by any stretch, he's one of the best in the game.
As such a valuable player and elite reliever, Perkins is likely the Twins' most valuable (meaning most value on the trade market) player. Is there any reason why Perkins should be "untouchable?" No.
Some more detail on Perkins. He recently signed a relatively team-friendly (if unnecessary) extension. Here's how that plays out: Perkins will make $4.025 million this season, $4.65 million in 2015, $6.3 million in 2016, $6.5 million in 2017. And there is a team option for 2018 at $6.5 million. Perkins can select 3 teams each season in what is essentially a very limited no-trade clause. By comparison, they paid Joe Nathan $11.25 each year from 2009-2011 (yes, the 2009 and 2010 teams were much better, but you get the point).
With Perkins' deal expiring in 2017 (or 2018 should the team exercise the option), it's fair at this point to question whether Perkins will ever have the opportunity to save an important game for the Twins. What's "an important game?" For this purpose, it's a game in August or September when the Twins are winning and within striking distance of the postseason.
It won't happen in 2015. Sorry. Essentially lost seasons for Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano have pushed back the clock on when the Twins will next be competitive. I used to think the team would be fighting for a playoff spot by the 2016 season, but I don't feel that way any longer. For that to happen, one or both of Buxton/Sano would have had to be in a Twins uniform about now-ish.
Here's my best guess: Glen Perkins won't be the closer for the next Twins playoff game. Why? Either his contract will have expired, or he will have aged to the point where there are better/cheaper options. Unless you think the Twins (and the front office) have what it takes to quickly go from 90 losses to 90 wins, it's not going to happen the next couple years. We're in the midst of a long and mostly painful journey.
As it stands, the Twins are a 90-loss team. A 90-loss team does not need a proven, established closer -- especially a budget-conscious team like the Twins. The Twins have, or will have, other qualified relievers to do that job at a fraction of the price. For instance, Nick Burdi. He's still a young prospect, and yes, he might never get out of Low-A. But, by 2016 or 2017, Burdi could be a dominating back-end reliever closing games for the Twins. And, he could do it for 10% the price of Perkins. Burdi could be 90% as good as Perkins for 10% of the price. Even if you don't care about the Twins' payroll, the Twins do.
This organization has a tough time parting with home-grown talent. And I get it. They couldn't get rid of Michael Cuddyer or Joe Nathan (not homegrown technically, but still) when there would have been at least some return. But look what happened when they bit the bullet: Ben Revere (great guy, but marginal talent) netted Trevor May, who is in the midst of a very solid season and is on the verge of joining the Twins' rotation. Denard Span netted Alex Meyer (having a not fantastic season, but is the best chance this team has had for a true "ace" in a decade). Prospects are no sure thing, but if Revere and Span can net such solid prospects (not at the trade deadline when GM's are under the gun), I have to imagine that Perkins -- a better player at his position than Span or Revere, and a "proven closer" -- could net a very good return. Remember when some team traded for Matt Capps and gave up a very good catching prospect??
Will a trade happen? Almost certainly not. Despite the fact that, as I write this, there are 14 teams within 3 games of their division lead, not to mention the additional teams within striking distance of the wild card, there seems to be no discussion about moving Perkins. Honestly, part of that blame lies with fans. We always clamor for the organization to do something, but when I brought this subject up on Twitter last night, there was some resistance.
We as fans can't say, in the general sense, "I wish they (the Twins) would make big moves, but that's not their M.O.", and then say in the next breath, "but not Perkins. Gotta hang onto him." How about, instead: "Now is the time to break the mold that has helped contribute to what will be 4 straight 90-loss seasons from a once-proud franchise. Even though it's tough to part with good guys, I can see that this move helps with the future." It won't happen. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't.
You can join the lively discussion about trading Perkins at TwinsDaily.com. You can also learn more about the upcoming Twins Daily Pub Crawl. And if you want to get deep inside, Seth has a great profile on the Twins minor league batting who could be destined for a major league coaching staff.
Aaron and John talk about the All-Star experience, the Twins making it clear they should be sellers at the trade deadline, what to do with Kurt Suzuki, Aaron's illnesses, John's dancing, paying to get rid of Ricky Nolasco, details on the August pub crawl, why Danny Santana is rushed but young pitchers aren't, ex-girlfriends in the wild, Josh Willingham falling apart, and dwindling television ratings. You can listen by downloading us from iTunes, Stitcheror find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com. Or just click below.
Also, lots more at TwinsDaily.com, including minor league reports and All-Star Weekend reflections.
As I write this, I'm feeling pretty giddy. I just got done watching Glen Perkins pitch to Kurt Suzuki in the ninth inning of the All-Star Game, closing out a victory for the American League in Derek Jeter's final hurrah.
Admittedly I don't usually get too worked up about the pageantry of the so-called Midsummer Classic, but with my lifelong city being showcased -- and with our site holding an event downtown -- I couldn't help but get drawn in this year.
Boy, was I impressed.
With the exception of some sourpusses who actually forced MLB to publicly apologize for having the gall to set off fireworks during an event that takes place here once every three decades, the city of Minneapolis had a good showing under the national spotlight.
And so too, did the Minnesota Twins.
The organization doesn't get credit for much these days -- the nature of three straight losing seasons and counting -- but these last few days have been a reminder that they've got some good people in place. Running a baseball club is about a lot more than trades and free agents, and the Twins excel in many of those less-publicized areas. Their world class ballpark, which was universally acclaimed by out-of-towners during the All-Star activities, is a shining example of that.
There have been some pretty incendiary and harsh things written about the Twins in recent weeks -- what with the team in last place, Joe Mauer on the shelf during a miserable season and Ricky Nolasco thus far shaping up as an epic free agent bust.
It reached a point here where a moderator at Twins Daily had to preemptively warn people not to launch into negative tirades in the comments section of last week's post entitled "Happy Notes."
Believe it or not, people in the front office do pay attention and notice this stuff. It's not lost on them that people are frustrated. They are frustrated too, trust me.
I'm no evangelist for the group that's currently in place -- in fact, according to Twin Cities Business Magazine's Adam Platt, I'm "one of the team's sharper critics in the blogosphere" (really?) -- yet they've still been pretty nice to me, along with my colleagues at TD.
The Twins are ahead of the national curve in terms of granting access to and accommodating independent digital media, recognizing the dedicated and adamant readership. Jack Goin, a prominent member of the baseball operations team and a guy with a voice in Terry Ryan's ear, has shown up at Twins Daily and engaged with readers on multiple occasions, most recently last week.
They know that the readers there, and at other fan sites, are invested in the product. They do care what you think. I believe that's commendable.
I'm all about accountability. I have no problem criticizing the team; I've done so plenty this year and you can believe it'll continue if things don't head in a positive direction in these final months.
But I'm also about balance, and with all the vitriol that sometimes fills the comments section here and elsewhere, it seemed appropriate to dole out some healthy praise for the organization after doing a bang-up job hosting baseball's signature summer event.
From the strong showings of three top Twins prospects in the Futures Game, to the majestic rainbow that made for an unbelievable view during Monday night's Home Run Derby, to Perkins and Suzuki closing out one of the chillier All-Star Games in memory (of course), the three-day gala could have hardly gone better if it were scripted.
And although the game on Tuesday night was almost meaningless, it was pretty cool to see Target Field packed with riveted fans as Perk pulled off the flawless finish. When talking to FOX's Ken Rosenthal after the game, he compared it to a playoff atmosphere.
Unfortunately, since his rise has coincided almost exactly with the team's fall, Perkins hasn't had a chance to pitch in a playoff game at Target Field. But with the team showing unprecedented aggressiveness on the market, and with the heralded wave of prospects finally reaching the high levels of the minors, perhaps that day isn't too far off.
I just hope that, when Perkins slams the door shut on his first postseason game, folks around downtown don't complain about the celebratory fireworks.
Aaron has the sniffles, so John, Parker Hageman & Kate Butler discuss the Kurt Suzki dilemna, the Twins buy/stand-pat decision, how to rework the home run derby and then play the much-rumored-but-rarely-heard "Beauty and the Beast" version of the Gleeman and the Geek theme song. For the second half, John goes to the Futures Game where he joins Jeremy Nygard and Seth Stohs in reviewing the progress and decline of the top prospects in the Twins systems at the traditional midway point while John tries not to dance to Panic At The Disco.You can listen by downloading us from iTunes, Stitcheror find it at GleemanAndTheGeek.com.
Also at TwinsDaily.com, you'll find out:
On Tuesday night it was announced that Minnesota Twins’ second baseman, Brian Dozier, would be participating in the Home Run Derby.
Without question, it will be an honor for him to smack dingers at his home stadium, with his home crowd, and even his own brother pitching to him, no less. The event, where the game's most prolific home run hitters get to sit on the grass, some with their families, and admire the powerful swings while listening to ESPN’s Chris Berman say "back" five hundred and sixty-five million times is a unique experience.
(Quick aside: A little word of advice that I'm fairly certain his brother Clay is aware of, the Twins’ second baseman likes to hit his home runs up in the zone:
So throw the ball there Clay, and try not to think about the fact that you will be GIF'd into eternity so everyone can laugh if you accidentally throw a pitch like 50 Cent.)
No doubt, being added to the Home Run Derby is a wonderful thing to brag about on his Linkedin page but as a fixture on at the top of the order, Dozier is expected to be a table-setter, not a home run hitter. Unfortunately for the sputtering Twins offense, he has been more of the former and less of the latter recently.
Dozier’s 65 runs scored still tops the American League but he has been plated 14 times over his last 29 games -- admittedly a product of those hitting behind him and not by his own inability to get on-base (.311 on-base percentage in that time). While he has been a solid on-base catalyst, he has not been able to carry the team like he did in the beginning of the year when he was jacking the jobs that landed him in the Home Run Derby. The power surge that helped him to 11 home runs by the end of May -- the 11th most in the AL at that time -- has slowed. What is going on?
The biggest change is his results against fastballs. Dozier, who once feasted on fastballs, is now struggling to make contact and turn them into hits, let alone home runs. From April to June 5 he hit .331/.424/.622 and 9 HRs in 152 plate appearances versus fastballs. Since then he has batted just .115/.227/.250 with two home runs in 65 plate appearances.
According to ESPN/trumedia's In-Play Heat Maps, Dozier has not performed as well against fastballs up in the zone (where he once thrived) since June 6:
Reviewing the batted ball performance, Dozier, who had once elevated fastballs thrown his direction (58% fly ball rate from April 1 to June 5), is now driving those same pitches into the ground (48% ground ball rate since June 5).
There are no real significant changes in approach by the pitchers, either. He still sees a hefty amount of fastballs, plenty still left up in the zone. His mechanics are essentially the same -- there is no loss of the Tom Brunansky-inspired timing mechanism -- but there is an uptick in the number of times he has pulled the ball, a plausible explanation for why he is having issues on putting the ball in play on the inner-half while cheating and pulling pitches on the outer-half where pitchers are targeting him.
Dozier understands the importance of success against the fastball at the major league level.
"You don't succeed at this level by hitting breaking balls," Dozier told Sports On Earth’s Howard Megdal last month. "You succeed by not missing fastballs. And that's what I had to really come to terms with. Instead of trying to hit the hanger, you stick to your plan. Those guys are good on the mound, but they're not superhuman. They make mistakes."
For the sake of the Twins’ offense, Dozier needs to start capitalizing on those mistakes again.
More at TwinsDaily.com:
John Bonnes has a rundown on this weekend's All-Star activities.
Seth Stohs looks at Twins prospect Adam Walker's power potential.
If you are free on Monday, come down to Mason's prior to the Home Run Derby and hang out with Twins Daily and Fangraphs. It could be worth a free beer to you. Speaking of events, mark August 23 down on you calendar.
You can still grab a BULL DOZIER t-shirt at MinnCentric.com.
As the season progresses and the availability of real live center fielders decreases, Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire has been lowering standards for center field qualifications -- such as "he smells like a center fielder" and "he reminds me of a young John Fogerty". Chris Parmelee has been the latest infielder to play the most defensively significant outfield role.
There is no question that Parmelee is swinging a burning hot bat right now -- having gone 16-for-35 over the last 10 games -- which calls for his inclusion somewhere in the lineup. After his performance in Texas, Gardenhire admitted that there may be more lineup cards submitted with Parmelee’s name next to CF. “He reads balls good and gets good jumps on them,” Gardenhire told reporters afterwards.
Now with Joe Mauer suffering the dreaded oblique injury during Tuesday night's game, the Twins’ manager could find a new infielder to use in center, however, Chris Colabello was recalled from Rochester -- a likely substitute for Mauer at first -- leaving Parmelee free to roam the outfield.
Is Parmelee’s bat really worth the head- and heart-ache of playing center field?
Parmelee has proven to be a streaky hitter in his tenure with the Twins. No sooner did I hit "publish" on a post that highlighted the mechanical changes he implemented that were going to increase his power levels three times over, he went into a slump of epic proportions. After going 8-for-25 with two home runs over his first six games back with Minnesota, he went 7-for-48 over the next 19 games (but, hey, two more home runs!).
In many ways, Parmelee is the inverse of Brian Dozier. Dozier has been creaming pitches left up in the zone. Parmelee, just the opposite. The heat map below provided by ESPN/trumedia shows the location of the hitters' extra base hits:
Polar opposites, right?
Parmelee’s swing is also very susceptible to being pitched up and out over the plate where he swings and misses the most regularly (and where Brian Dozier would deposit the pitch into the left field bleachers):
Parmelee showed a tendency to swing (but not necessarily chase anything above the zone) at pitches left up in the zone during his cold spell. Teams attacked those spots to great success.
Last night’s first plate appearance demonstrated well Parmelee’s success on pitches down in the zone. Here he takes a James Shields’ off-speed pitch located down in the zone, keeps his weight back and drives the ball into the left-center field gap for a double:
Part of the reason why he does so well on low balls is that his swing path follows a golf-swing pattern which allows him to hit that zone better. While certainly not textbook, his back shoulder drops (as seen in the example below) and his bat head tilts in his swing which makes it more difficult for contact at pitches up in the zone.
It is because of this swing that Parmelee has the sixth highest fly ball rate (52%) which is well above his career norm (43%).
Teams are not stupid; they see the same data and video on Chris Parmelee. Pitchers will continue to attack at Parmelee’s weaknesses and avoid his strengths. Parmelee, to avoid falling into another valley, needs to focus on his strength -- drive the pitch down in the zone when it is there -- and try to lay off those pitches up in the zone.
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