Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Award Winners

Before I dive in to this, I want to reflect on last night's events just a bit. Last night was truly one of those nights, where you can say you are proud to be a fan of baseball. The games somehow exceeded our expectations and delivered one of the best final day of games in the history of baseball. We have never seen a night like that, and we probably never will again. Man that was awesome. (BTW, my March World Series picks went in the toilet last night too!)

So here I am going to do some Twins awards and then dive into the MLB awards as well.

Twins Awards

MVP: Michael Cuddyer-Cuddy was the most consistent player on the Twins this year. He also was one of a rare few that didn't make a trip to the disabled list. Cuddy proved his worth this year by playing in 5 different positions (RF, 1B, 2B, DH, P) in the lineup. Cuddy posted his best batting average this year (.284), since 2006 (Also .284), and finally made his first all star appearance, as the Twins lone representative in Phoenix.

Cy Young: Glen Perkins-On April 1, we were trying to figure out why manager Ron Gardenhire gave a roster spot to Perkins, who seemingly couldn't get it together on the mound. But, instead of starting, the skipper had Perkins try his hand at relief pitching. And the Stillwater native did not disappoint. Perkins quickly became the most reliable reliever in the Twins bullpen, and earned the 8th inning role. His fastball was often seen in the 95-97 area, and he had effectively used his breaking ball to compliment that fastball. Perk finished the year with a 2.48 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 61.2 innings pitched.

Rookie of the Year: Ben Revere-The Twins used many rookies in 2011, but none did as well and had the impact that Ben Revere had. Ben hit .267, and lead the team with 34 stolen bases, while mostly hitting leadoff this year. Ben was also was a human highlight reel in the outfield this year, making insane catch after insane catch. As he goes on in his career, he should be able to hit .300, steal 50 bases, and be a valuable asset in the outfield with his speed. He will be pretty valuable, hitting behind Denard Span and in front of Joe Mauer in the years to come.

MLB Award Winners

AL MVP-Justin Verlander (DET)
NL MVP-Ryan Braun (MIL)
AL CY YOUNG-Justin Verlander (DET)
NL CY YOUNG-Clayton Kershaw (LAD)
AL ROY-Jeremy Hellickson (TB)
NL ROY-Craig Kimbrel (ATL)
AL MOY-Joe Maddon (TB)
NL MOY-Kirk Gibson (ARZ)

All of these guys should be locks to win their awards, with the exception of NL Cy Young. It will be a close one between Roy Halladay and Kershaw, but I give the vote to Kershaw and I hope the writers do too. Justin Verlander was so good this year, he should be a lock for MVP in addition to Cy Young. And there is no doubt that Joe Maddon and Kirk Gibson should win manager of the year. Look at what they've done. Enjoy the playoffs everyone!

Also, North Dakota Twins Fan took a look at the Twins awards today too. Check them out here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Final Goodbyes

Tonight, the Twins play their 162nd and final game of the 2011 regular season. And as some of us head out to the ballpark or just sit at home and watch the game tonight, we our going to say our goodbye to the Twins for the next 6 months. And we also maybe be saying goodbye to a few people, for good.

As the Twins take the field tonight, they do so with a few notable pending free agents. Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, and Matt Capps all will be heading into free agency. And out of the bunch, it will be most difficult to say goodbye to Cuddy. He is the longest tenured Twins, and his versatility and leadership has made him a great example of a Twins player brought up through their farm system. And this year, Cuddy has been one of the rare few to not make a trip to the disabled list. You would have to think that the Twins will make a hard push to bring back Cuddyer this offseason.

We may also be saying goodbye tonight to the franchise's all time leader in saves, Joe Nathan. Nathan carries a $12.5 million team option for next year, but it is likely the team will take the $2 million buyout and possibly try to bring him back for next year on a one year deal. Nathan, of course, is in his first season after having Tommy John Surgery on his right elbow in 2010. Nathan struggled early on this year, then spent about a month on the DL, before returning and looking much better in the second half.

And finally tonight, we are for sure saying goodbye to the voice of the Twins, John Gordon. He has been in the Twins broadcast booth for 25 seasons, and tonight will be his last behind the mic. John, known for his signature phrase "Touch 'Em All!", has been the lead play by play voice for the Twins since his longtime friend and partner Herb Carneal passed away prior to the 2007 season. In all my life, I have heard either Herb Carneal or John Gordon call a Twins game, and it will be very different to have someone else step in and take over. For some of John's more notable calls, click here.

As I end this post about saying goodbye to 2011, I had to make one final tribute to the late Harmon Killebrew, who lost his battle with esophageal cancer in May.

Monday, September 26, 2011

What Needs Fixing

Tonight, the Twins kick off their final series of the season, as the battle Kansas City at Target Field. And as the season comes to its end, we now get to look forward to the 2012 Twins, and how different that team should be looking. And here today, I am going to offer up my advice as to what positions of this team actually need to be fixed for the Twins to have success in 2012 (No, my answer will not be the whole team).

Starting Pitching
Quite frankly, this is what needs to have the top priority this offseason. Because in this league, you get places with good starting pitching. Lately, the Twins have had a good offense. One of the best in baseball. But, good offenses only get you so far. Really, since the departure of Johan Santana, the Twins have filled a rotation of 5 starters with pitchers who are no better than a second or third starter. And as good as that sounds, its not. The pitchers they have are contact pitchers, and only one has the capability to become staff ace (Baker). There is only one starter on the free agent market this offseason, that could be deemed an ace on most teams, CJ Wilson from Texas. But the likeliness of him leaving Texas is not good. So hopefully, look for the team to trade for some fresh starting pitching.

Relief Pitching
Going into 2011, we knew the bullpen was going to be bad. And it lived up to that statement. No one besides Glen Perkins was consistently good out of the bullpen this year. Matt Capps proved to be an awful disappointment and was eventually stripped of the closers role. Joe Nathan had early struggles, but did much better following a DL stint mid-season, but he saw limited time at the end of the year because the Twins simply did not have many save opportunities for him. This year the 6th and 7th inning roles were filled with players such as Alex Burnett, Jim Hoey, Dusty Hughes, Jose Mijares, and Lester Olliveros. And none of them can say they have ERAs under 4. In fact, Perkins and Phil Dumatrait were the only pitchers in the 'pen to have ERAs under 4. So look for the Twins to maybe hit the free agent market for a reliever or two to help bridge the gap to the ninth inning.

If the Twins hadn't traded a certain shortstop to Baltimore last offseason, we would be talking about this as the most solid position on the team. But, they did, and we were left with a bunch of players playing the 6 hole for the Twins in 2011. And no, this is by no means a shot at Tsuyoshi Nishioka. I beileve he will have a better year next second base! Hopefully the Twins can go out and acquire a solid SS to fill the spot. I thought Trevor Plouffe could of been that guy to fill the spot, but his vastly inconsistent play has left me frustrated more times than none. Its a tough position to fill, with few players who can actually play it well. So it will be interesting to see who is the Twins starting shortstop on opening day in 2012.

If the Twins can adequately fix these problems in 2012, and keep their players healthy, they should have a good bounceback year and be a force in the AL Central again.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Breath of Fresh Air

On September 5th, the Twins minor league season ended. The very next day, the Twins called up OF Joe Benson, 1B Chris Parmelee, and OF Brian Dinkelman. Benson and Parmelee, were being called up to the big leagues for the first time while Dinkelman had a brief stint with the team earlier in the season.

Since their arrival, the Twins haven't done much better in the win-loss column. And in the 5 months prior to their arrival, it was tough watching Minnesota Twins baseball. But, since their arrival, its been just a bit easier to turn on the Twins game.It's been ever so nice watching all three of these young players get solid playing time here in the final month. Especially when they have been able to contribute the way they have.

Dinkelman had a brief stint with the Twins back in June. In his time then, he hit .286 with 2 RBI. Since his return on September 6th, he is hitting .433 with 1 RBI. Meanwhile, his success appeared to have rubbed off on Parmelee and Benson, as they are hitting .368 and .243 respectively. Parmelee, has displayed some power while here, hitting 3 2B and 2 HR. Benson, flirted with the cycle last Friday going 4-4 with a double and two triples. Clearly, these guys are making their presence felt.

And with their continued success, it makes Bill Smith's job this offseason a little bit harder. For as long as their success goes, the more they prove they belong in the big leagues. So when looking at his team for 2012, Bill Smith will have to give these guys a look at being on the roster. It has long been the tradition of the Twins to fill roster spots by promoting from within. Its what they have lived by. And in the past decade, it has proven to be more successful than going outside the organization.

So next year, look for these guys to start out their season in AAA-Rochester. But if injuries become a factor again, I would hope that these guys would be the first to get called up and fill in. Because are making a statement that they can play here. And hopefully, the front office feels the same way too.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Benefit of Losing

Right now, the Twins are 59-88, which puts them in the AL Central cellar by three games behind the Royals, the team that shut them out yesterday 4-0. They are also tied for the worst record in the AL with Baltimore, which is also the second worst record in baseball behind the Houston Astros (51-97). Disastrous as this season has been, it will produce a positive out of all this mess. The Twins will undoubtedly be drafting in the top 3 in next years MLB Entry Draft.

Of course, that is all pending on how the Twins finish out. But at the rate they are playing, they should have no problem securing the #2 pick in the draft next year. And this is something they really needed. The last time the Twins drafted in the top 10 was in 2001, when they took, still to this day, a controversial catcher named Mauer over a hot shot pitcher named Prior. I will always believe the Twins made the right move there.

And in recent years, the Twins have been drafting in the 20s, and last year, the 30s. And the Twins farm system is really lacking big league talent at their top levels. But them drafting #2 won't solve that problem next year, but it will certainly be a step in the right direction for helping that issue.

But most importantly, should the Twins draft 2 or 3, they will be able to draft a high quality prospect. My hope is that they take a top line pitcher with this pick, and develop a staff ace that they really lack (Preferably, Lance McCullers or Mark Appel). In this league, pitching is what will take you places. Great hitting will only get you so far. For a good example of a team like that, see the 2010 Minnesota Twins.

So as the Twins continue to lose impressively every day. Don't think of it as a bad thing. Think of it as a good thing. They will be making themselves better for the future by losing more (If that makes sense to you). Because lets face it, the system needs it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Few Good Notes: Draft Picks, The Shelf, Call-Ups, and Play By Play

  • Tonight the Twins lost to the Chicago White Sox 3-0, in another futile offensive effort. The loss brings the team’s record to 58-84, which puts them just percentage points behind Kansas City for last place in the American League Central Division. Tonight's loss eliminated the Twins from postseason play for the first time since 2008. The Twins could only manage to score just one run in the past three games against the Sox. Honestly, at this point, I’m more content to see the team lose and get a higher draft pick in the 2012 MLB entry draft. It feels wrong saying that, but at this point, this will positively help the Twins going forward.
  • The Twins also said yesterday, that if Justin Morneau returns this season, he will mostly DH, and Joe Mauer will mostly play 1B for the remainder of 2011. I don’t understand why the team needs to keep these guys on the field at this point. They have no shot at the postseason. Please put these guys on the shelf so they can come to Spring Training next year at or close to 100%.
  • This last month, we are going to get a good look at some solid young prospects the Twins have. 1B Chris Parmelee, OF Brian Dinkelman, RP Kyle Waldrop, OF Joe Benson, and SP Liam Hendriks all have received their call up to the big leagues and should receive ample playing time. As Lavelle E Neal noted yesterday, these call ups could help the Twins prepare for life after Kubel and Cuddyer. Meaning if the two leave via free agency next year, they will have some players with big league experience ready to take over.
  • For those who are kind of losing interest in the Twins, I encourage you to at least listen to the team this last month on the radio. This is John Gordon’s last month behind the mic for the Twins, as he will be retiring at seasons end. So please take in as much of Gordo as you can. Haven’t heard too much as to who will be replacing Gordo in the booth next year, but you have to believe that one of the alternate play by play guys (Kris Atteberry, Bob Kurtz, Ted Robinson, and Dan Gladden) will be behind the mic full time next year. At one point this year, we have heard all of those guys do the play by play, due to Gordon’s limited schedule this season. Personally, I hope this job goes to Atteberry. He has done a great job in his time as the play by play this season, and hopefully, the powers that may be think so too.