Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hanging It Up

Four and a half years ago, I had this crazy idea. 

The idea was to start a sports blog and put my thoughts out there on whatever I felt like talking about. And as time went on, I only cared enough to talk about one thing and one thing only: Twins Baseball. And then late in 2010, I made the decision to change the blog to a Twins only blog called "Giles Talks Twins".

That name lasted for one season. After that, I joined forces with my friend for the past 18 years and the blog changed its name to Twin Minds. There was much to be excited about.

Also during the 2011 season, I followed another passion of mine and launched a hockey blog devoted to the Minnesota Wild. The goal was to be able to do the two blogs equally.

Boy, I was wrong.

Once the 2011 season ended, the blog went into a dry spell. Posts on here became more and more difficult to do. And if you haven't noticed, this is the first post on this blog in the calendar year of 2013.

With all of this in mind, I have decided to retire from the Twins blogosphere. It will be something that I will miss, but its the right decision at this point.

Ill keep the site up for a while, in case I change my mind and decide to come back, but the likelihood of that happening is slim.

This does not mean I have given up on the Twins. I still have my season tickets (This is the 7th season of having them), and will continue to have them until I am six feet under. I'll still tweet Twins things, as usual. I'll still be taking road trips with the club (The last few years Territory Train has covered this, and the word fun is an understatement to describe those trips), as I try to achieve a life goal of going to every park in Major League Baseball. And, you can certainly find me at those Twins Daily events (I went to the Twins Fest event, and it was so very much a great experience). 

I'll try and be a bit more active on the Twins Daily forums, now that I have finally closed the book on this blog.

Thank you to all of you who have read my stuff on here. I appreciate your support during these few years. I've tried to be as objective and positive as possible while talking about my favorite squad. 

My love for Twins baseball has not wavered in the past few years. But my ability to blog about them has. And it is time to move on.

Again thank you, to all of you. 



Monday, December 3, 2012

Hold The Fort!

Today, we saw the annual MLB Winter Meetings kick off. And unlike last year, there was a miniscule amount of rumors going around today.

As Terry Ryan arrived in Nashville, his priority has become quite clear: Acquire starting pitching.

We saw that last week, when he dealt Denard Span to Washington for pitcher Alex Meyer. But Meyer, is coming off a season spent in A-Ball. So Meyer won't exactly be around for a while (Unless he makes a Matt Garza hike through the Minor Leagues in 2013).

Rumors floated about today, that the Twins are targeting free agent pitchers Brett Myers, John Lannan, Joe Blanton, Kevin Correia, and Francisco Liriano (Yep, you read that right). The only one on this who had a decent 2012, was Myers, and he spent most of 2012 coming out of the bullpen for Houston. Myers has spent most of his career as starter, but was moved to the bullpen in Houston (Not exactly a place brewing with great starting pitching).

One thing all these pitchers have in common, except for Liriano, is the fact they all can eat innings, but love to put the ball in play. So basically, the Twins are targeting your typical Twins pitcher. Throws early 90s fastball, pitches to contact, few strikeouts. Not exactly a welcome sign, considering that strategy has dearly backfired the last 2 years.

As one sits here and looks over all the information on these starting pitchers, one thing has become quite clear: If these rumors are indeed true, the Twins really are trying to find some pitchers to hold the fort for 2013 and 2014, while their young talent works their way up the minors in time for 2015 and beyond where Meyer, Kyle Gibson, and possibly Liam Hendriks and Alex Wimmers will be waiting to lead the Twins pitching staff.

The Twins won't come out and say this, but they are more just trying to hold the fort and rebuild for the future. Because if they were trying to actually contend, they would be linked to higher profile starting pitchers with that $30 million or so they have to spend...

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pitching and Second Chances: Giles 2012-13 Offseason Blueprint

First of all, congratulations to the San Francisco Giants on winning the World Series. The weren't my first choice, but after the Division Series, they were my only choice.

But, we have said adieu to the 2012 baseball season, and now it is time to start looking ahead and preparing for 2013.

For those who have not yet purchased their copy of the Twins Daily 2013 offseason handbook, please do so now. It is 72 pages of pure gold, giving you everything you need to know about the upcoming Twins offseason.

At the end of the book, the guys give their blueprints for how they would like the offseason to go. And in the past two years, I have taken part in that on this blog, and I will continue that here.

This year, my focus is pitching, and giving some guys second chances to prove they can play with the big club. Pitching has been the theme in just about anyone's offseason blueprint, but im relying on the hope that some of these young guys getting second chances can iron their stuff out and be the player the Twins need them to be. So here is my offseason blueprint:

(The salary figures are based on the Twins Daily staff's projections, which can be found in the handbook)

1. Offer salary arbitration to Alex Burnett ($800,000), Brian Duensing ($1,750,000), and Jared Burton ($2,000,000). This move really solidifies the backend of the bullpen. The latter two are kind of no brainers. Burton was a pleasant surprise for the Twins out of the bullpen (2.18 ERA, 0.919 WHIP, 55K, in 64 IP), and became the 8th inning setup man to closer Glen Perkins. Duensing posted decent numbers for the Twins as a reliever (3.47 ERA, 1.14 WHIP in 57 IP), but saw his overall numbers get skewed when he was thrown into the rotation for 11 starts in 2012. Burnett was one that I had to think about, but, after taking a closer look at his numbers (3.53 ERA, 1.35 ERA, in 71.2 IP), I am inclined to keep him on for 2013. I am not a believer in Burnett yet, but another season like that, and I may have to change my mind.

2. Release Alexi Casilla, Drew Butera, Scott Baker, and Matt Capps. Matt Capps was let go a few days ago by the Twins, so no surprise there. Scott Baker has a $9.25 million team option, and I am choosing to decline this and just let him go. If he returns from TJ surgery and has great success, then Ill be happy for him. But its time to just move on. Drew Butera's run as the defensive specialist has to come to an end sometime, and I am choosing to do so now by not offering him salary arbitration. I also am not offering arbitration to Alexi Casilla as well, ending one of the more disappointing Twins tenures in recent memory. 'Lexi gave us some great moments, but his overall play was terribly inconsistent.

3. Keep SS Brian Dozier, 1B/OF Chris Parmelee, C Chris Herrmann, SS Pedro Florimon, OF Darin Mastroianni, SP Liam Hendriks, RP Anthony Swarzak, and RP Casey Fien on the 25 man roster. This is where most of the second chances are being handed out. Having Brian Dozier be the opening day shortstop will not be a welcome sight for most Twins fans, but the kid deserves a second chance. Not everyone can come up to the big leagues and produce instantly. The message should be clear to Dozier entering spring though, that if he does not get it going, he will not have a roster spot for long. Parmelee is another deserving guy of another shot at being in the lineup everyday. Last year, he opened up as the starting first baseman, but Justin Morneau moved back into that spot and Parmelee's poor play and Ryan Doumit's great play earned Chris a trip to the bench, and eventually a trip back to AAA. A move later on will give Parmelee a chance to play everyday again to start 2013. The same things can be equally said for Liam Hendriks and Pedro Florimon as well. Hendriks will have a spot in the rotation, and Florimon will begin the year on the bench, but could share time with Dozier at short, if Dozier can't make the plays.

4. Re-sign Carl Pavano to a 1 year, $3.5 million contract. The Twins need starters who can eat up innings. Before 2011, Pavano notched back to back seasons of 220 innings pitched. A shoulder injury sidelined Pavano for most of 2011, but he should be back in full form for 2013. So why not bring him back for less than half his 2012 salary ($8.5 million), and if it pays out, you have a pitcher who will give you and ERA around 4.25 and 200+ innings. Those were things the Twins sorely missed in 2012.

5. Trade Denard Span and Oswaldo Arcia to Tampa Bay for SP James Shields. It seems inevitable that the Twins are going to trade Denard Span this winter. Its a thought I do not like to entertain, but I have to get over it. Span will bring the Twins something the really need. And in this case, Span and top prospect Oswaldo Arcia will bring Tampa hurler James Shields to the Twin Cities (Nick Nelson also had a Span-Shields trade going down in his offseason handbook). I am a huge fan of James Shields. If not for Tampa having David Price, Shields would be considered the team's ace. In the past two seasons, Shields has recorded 31 wins with a ERA of 3.15 and 448 strikeouts. He has done a tremendous job of keeping teams off the bases posting a WHIP in the past two seasons have been 1.043 and 1.168. Span is a native of Tampa, and has a very team friendly contract (Under contract for the next two seasons making $4.75M and $6.5M respectively, with a $9M team option for 2015). With the departure of incumbent CF BJ Upton, the move makes all the sense in the world for both teams to make. Shields has a $9M team option for 2013 and a $12 team option for 2014, which doesn't fit into the Rays budget very well, but fits perfectly for the Twins. (BTW, Joe Christensen mentioned on twitter a few days ago it would take a player like Arcia with Span to get Shields from Tampa Bay)

6. Sign SP Edwin Jackson to a 3 year, $33 million contract. With Shields, Jackson makes for a good 1-2 punch at the top of the Twins rotation. Then throw in the fact the pitchers behind them will be Diamond, Pavano, and Hendriks, and the Twins rotation looks very promising. Last year with Washington, Jackson posted a 4.03 ERA with a 10-11 record, with 168 strikeouts and a WHIP of 1.22. Jackson has been a good innings eater in his career, going at least 183 innings (Including 2 200+ inning seasons) in the past five years. Jackson also has previous experience pitching in the AL Central, as he has pitched for the White Sox and Tigers. Jackson is kind of a gamble, for the money being given to him (A career 4.40 ERA), but, its a gamble that needs to be taken.

7. Sign RP J.P. Howell to a 1 year, $2 million contract. Now that the starting rotation has been addressed, its time to look at the bullpen. The back end of the bullpen appears to be a lock with the combination of Jared Burton and Glen Perkins holding it down in the 8th and 9th innings. But, its those 6th and 7th innings that need some solid arms to get the ball to Burton and Perkins. Alex Burnett and Brian Duensing appear to be the top choices for those innings. But, Duensing would be the only lefty arm available before Perkins in the 9th. Enter JP Howell. Howell had a rough 2011 (6.16 ERA), but rebounded quite nicely in 2012 posting a 3.04 ERA in 50.1 innings pitched with 42 strikeouts. Howell doesn't give you much for velocity (Fastball will be in the 85-88 range), so he needs to rely on command of his three pitches (fastball, curveball, and changeup) to get him through innings. Problem is, he has a career 1.38 WHIP, 8.3 H/9, and 4.2 BB/9. Runners will get on, but in 2012 he showed great poise of getting out of jams (He notched 25.2 consecutive scoreless innings at one point). Howell will make for another good lefty option out of the pen for Ron Gardenhire, and should be worth the $2 million contract.

8. Sign 3B Eric Chavez to a 1 year, $1 million contract. This moves gives the Twins a pinch hitting option late in games. Also, it gives a competition for the 3rd base job, so the hope is that Trevor Plouffe takes the hint and steps up his play at the hot corner. Chavez is coming off a rebound season with the Yankees in which he hit .281 with 16 HR and 37 RBI, in a similar bench role. Chavez spent time at 1st, 3rd, and DH, so he can be used in different roles on a daily basis, should the situation call for it. Also look for Chavez to be a veteran presence to the younger infielders on the team, as he has 13 years of big league experience behind him. A pretty decent investment for $1 million.

So after all of this, here is how the opening day 25 man roster will look with their salaries in parenthesis.

C: Mauer ($23M)
1B: Morneau ($14M)
2B: Carroll ($3.75M)
3B: Plouffe ($500K)
SS: Dozier ($500K)
LF: Willingham ($7M)
CF: Revere ($500K)
RF: Parmelee ($500K)
DH: Doumit ($3.5M)

BN: C-Herrmann ($500K)
BN: SS-Florimon ($500K)
BN: 3B-Chavez ($1M)
BN: OF-Mastroianni ($500K)

SP: Shields ($9M)
SP: Jackson ($9M)
SP: Diamond ($500K)
SP: Pavano ($3.5M)
SP: Hendriks ($500K)

RP: Swarzak ($500K)
RP: Fien ($500K)
RP: Burnett ($800K)
RP: Howell ($2M)
RP: Duensing ($1.75M)
RP: Burton ($2M)
CL: Perkins ($2.5M)

Other contracts: Nick Blackburn ($5.5M)

Total 2013 Payroll: $90.80M

And after all these moves, the payroll adds up to $90.80 million, just above that mark of $90 million that we expect the payroll to be around. You'd figure the payroll would be at $85.30M, but that eye sore contract to Nick Blackburn is still out there at $5.5 million for the 2013 season.

Its not the greatest team. But, it is a vast improvement from the 2012 squad with a big focus on pitchers who can eat innings, and giving some young players second chances at a big league job. As my previous offseason blueprints have been nowhere close to what happens, I have no doubt the same will happen with this one. So lets hope that Terry Ryan and Co. can get the job done greatly. 

154 days until the Twins 2013 opener. 

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

Friday, October 5, 2012

Handing Out Hardware

This afternoon, we kick off the new playoff format, featuring the 2 Wild Card play in games. But, before we do that. We are going to hand out some hardware for the regular season. We will cover Twins awards and MLB awards.

Twins Awards

Twins MVP-Josh Willingham: This came down to Hammer and Mauer. But ultimately, we gave the nod to Willingham. Willingham was signed last offseason over the incumbent OF and team leader, Michael Cuddyer, and he did not disappoint Twins fans in 2012. He hit .260 and lead the team with 35 home runs and 110 RBI. Not since the likes of Harmon Killebrew have we seen some hit for so much power. He was a much needed addition to the lineup, and was a very worthy choice of MVP.

Twins Cy Young-Scott Diamond: You may remember Diamond was taken in the rule 5 draft by the Twins in the offseason prior to 2011. The Twins ended up keeping him, but they worked out a trade with Atlanta so they could send him down to AAA, where he pitched horribly. So heading into 2012, Diamond was slotted to spend most of the year at AAA. But, Diamond pitched very well, earned a call up in May, and never saw Rochester again. He won his first 3 starts and posted an ERA of 1.40 during that time. Diamond ended up with a 12-9 record with a 3.54 ERA, both lead the team's pitching staff. He also threw 173 innings, which was 64 more than the second place finisher on the team (Duensing). No pitcher was more valuable to the Twins than Scott Diamond in 2012, and we hope he can build on his success in 2013.

Twins Rookie of the Year-Scott Diamond: You just read about him.

Twins Defensive Player of the Year-Ben Revere: Seriously folks, Ben Revere has a ridiculous highlight reel this year. No one covers more ground than Ben Revere does in the outfield. And in addition to his highlight catches, Revere improved his arm in the offseason (Still not great, but definitely better). He is making himself one of the best outfielders in the game. In fact, Revere should be in the conversation for a Gold Glove award, he has done so well. If you wish to watch the Revere highlight reel, here is a link to those videos.

MLB Awards

AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera (DET)
NL MVP: Ryan Braun (MIL)
AL Cy Young: David Price (TB)
NL Cy Young: R.A. Dickey (NYM)
AL ROY: Mike Trout (LAA)
NL ROY: Bryce Harper (WSH)
AL Manager of the Year: Buck Showalter (BAL)
NL Manager of the Year: Davey Johnson (WSH)

Enjoy the Wild Card games tonight!

Friday, September 28, 2012

This One Means More To Mauer

Entering today, Joe Mauer (.323) trails Detroit's Miguel Cabrera (.326) by three points in the race for the American League batting title. Cabrera is also in the hunt for the AL's triple crown award (42 HR-2nd to Hamilton with 43, and 133 RBI-1st in AL), which has not been won since Carl Yaztremski did it in 1967. Adding fuel to this fight is the fact the Twins and Tigers open up a three game series at Target Field tonight, before beginning their teams respective final series of the season on Monday.

If Mauer were to overtake Cabrera and win the batting title, it would be the fourth time in his career he finishes leading the AL in batting (A ridiculous number for any catcher). But yet, he still takes heavy scrutiny from an angry fan base (Probably due in larger part to consecutive 90+ loss seasons). And that is why, this batting title, would mean much more to Mauer, than his previous three.

Looking at each of his titles respectively, there are several cases to make for each of them as why they are the best. In 2006, Mauer hit .347, giving him his first title, helping lead the Twins on a miraculous 4 month surge to a 96 win season and the Central division championship. 2008, he hit .328 and was a part of a resurgent Twins team, that was expected to finish last, that went to a game 163 against Chicago. Then came his finest season as a pro, in 2009. Mauer missed all of April with an injury, then came back and lead the AL in average (.365), OBP (.444), slugging percentage (.587), and OPS (1.031), while hitting a career high 28 home runs and 96 RBI. Mauer received 27 out of 28 first place votes in the MVP voting, giving him the award easily.

After a decent 2010, Mauer saw injuries destroy his 2011 season (just 82 games played, only hit .287). 2011 was also the first year of his new 8 year, $184 million contract, and most fans came down hard on Mauer. He was viewed as soft, and some believed he wasn't really hurt at all and that he just wanted to sit on the bench. Even when he tried playing late in 2011, he received jeers from the home crowd whenever he would get out, instead of getting on base. Not exactly how a fan base should be treating the face of the franchise.

Then came 2012. Mauer set out to stay in the lineup as constantly as possible, and hit what he should be hitting. But early on in the year, Mauer still received the same jeers he was getting in 2011, when he would ground into a double play, or would have an 0 for 4 night. But as the year went on, he silence those jeers by playing everyday and staying near the top of the AL batting charts. And now, he finds himself in a position to set a career high in games played (146-2008, he has played in 141 games in 2012 with 6 games left), and win his 4th batting title.

And should Mauer win the title this year, it would mean more to him, than his previous three. He will have silenced his critics once again. He will prove to the fans he is worth what the Twins are paying him, while setting himself as one of the best players in team history. And, he will prove his status as one of the best hitting catchers in baseball history.

Win this one for yourself, Joe. You've earned it. And, you most definitely deserve it.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Podcast Time

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of being on the Talk To Contact Podcast with Eric (Knuckleballs blog), and Paul (Puckett's Pond blog). We talked about how good Joe Mauer has been this year and the Twins ranking in ESPN's ultimate standings.

(You may find my segment beginning at the 30:00 minute mark, but I encourage you to listen to the entire podcast)

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Twins Rank 83rd In Ultimate Standings

Yesterday, ESPN released its annual ultimate standings for 2012. The "Ultimate Standings", are an in depth ranking of all 122 professional sports teams between the four major sports (MLB, NBA, NFL, and NHL).

The rankings take into account the following factors: Bang for the Buck, Fan Relations, Ownership, Affordability, Stadium Experience, Players, Coaching, and Title Track.

The Twins came in 83rd (2nd out of the 4 Minnesota professional sports teams. Timberwolves-71st, Wild-87th, and Vikings-100th) out of the 122 teams. In the 2011 rankings, the Twins ranked 39th out of all 122 teams. And unless the on field product can get better, they may be here for another year or two.

The team factors were rated as follows (They too are ranked out of all 122 teams):
Bang for the Buck: 106
Fan Relations: 69
Ownership: 82
Affordability: 69
Stadium Experience: 13
Players: 94
Coaching: 76
Title Track: 56

On, you can view each team individually, and it gives you their rankings, and a explanation about their ranking. Ross Marrinson of ESPN offered the following on the Twins ranking: "After a dreadful 63-99 season in 2011 that saw local media stations cheering on the Minnesota Twins' "Hunt for a Hundred" (losses), our poll told the same tale: an average drop of 193 percent across the nine categories, including six drops of 30 spots or more. Watching a Triple-A lineup of Delmon Young, Alexi Casilla, Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Drew Butera only fueled fans' frustration with Justin Morneau, who was still suffering the lingering effects of his July 2010 concussion, and Joe Mauer, who, after signing his eight-year, $184 million deal, was sidelined with what the organization famously called "bi-lateral leg weakness." After a ranking of 15th overall in 2011, the Twins' players category fell 79 spots to 94th, ranking 26th in baseball. With an average ticket price of $33.04 -- more than 20 percent higher than MLB's mean -- the Twins' bang for the buck, already poor in 2011 (91), fell to 106th. Target Field is gorgeous, and fans seem to enjoy the game experience -- the Twins' stadium rating is 13th overall -- but it's a case of putting lipstick on a pig."

I do agree with the rankings and his explanation. The Twins do have some very cheap ticket options, but if you wish to have good seats at Target Field, you have to pay a rather steep price. I was surprised that they ranked the Twins title track at 56. It would seem that 2013 would be tabbed as a rebuilding year, in the hopes that the ship can be righted in 2014. But that is a big IF because not many key players are under contract through 2014 (Joe Mauer, Josh Willingham, Denard Span, and Glen Perkins are the only players locked in for the 2014 season).

The Twins are pretty well summed up here in these rankings. What does the rest of Twins Territory think?