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Twins Target - A Minnesota Twins blog | Page 32
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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 30 September 2009

Michael Cuddyer

Ron Gardenhire is generally regarded as a good manager. He is a likable man and a likable manager, but that doesn't mean he isn't second-guessed.

Yesterday, in both games of a crucial doubleheader, Gardy made some questionable decisions. From an ill-advised suicide squeeze to not bringing in Jose Mijares to face a lefty, Twins' fans are split on Gardy. Most like the man, some can't stand his managerial tactics.

It's accepted wisdom in baseball that left-handed pitchers perform better against left-handed hitters than right-handed hitters, and vice versa. There are obviously exceptions, however, and a manager's judgement is usually best, so I'll let this one slide.

But some claim the so-called "small-ball spirit" Minnesota supposedly possesses accomplishes as much as the War of 1812 and should be stopped.

Should the Twins "progress/regress" into more of a station-to-station team; being patient at the plate and waiting for the pitcher to hang a pitch that you could belt over the outfield wall?

While there are plenty of home-run hitting guys on this Minnesota team, patience is another matter entirely. The Twins average 3.87 pitches per plate appearance, with Joe Mauer and Nick Punto (!) leading the way with over 4.16 and Carlos Gomez and Delmon Young bringing up the rear with around 3.53. The league average is actually just 3.84, but the Twins would need more patience if they wanted to completely eliminate the bunting and sacrificing from their "playbook."

If you haven't read the classic book, "Weaver on Strategy," I highly suggest you do so. Originally written in 1984, the short book describes how Earl Weaver, who sports a career .583 winning percentage and 13 seasons where his Baltimore Orioles finished either first or second in their division, manages a baseball game. His biggest weapon? The three-run homerun.

Of course, in order for that three-run homerun to be your greatest offensive threat, you'll need quite a few baserunners in front of your power hitters. Not surprisingly, "only one Weaver team failed to receive more bases on balls than its opponents," according to the book.

Theoretically, how would implementation of this strategy work for the Twins? Would the lineup be order similar to, or very different from, what is generally regarded as a "solid" lineup?

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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 29 September 2009

"I got this."
- Joe Mauer, when asked if he was available to catch the second game of the double-header on Tuesday.

Does it get any cooler than that?

Minnesota struck first in the Battle for the AL Central this morning, but are still just two losses away from elimination. They clinched a winning season with the victory earlier, but can guarantee their continued involvment in this divisional race with a victory tonight. To review, let's go over all the possibilities:

Scenario A: Twins sweep series, take two game lead into final three games.

Scenario B: Twins win three of four, division tied with three games remaining.

Scenario C: Series split, Twins two games back with three games remaining.

Scenario D: Tigers win three of four, clinch division with four game lead and three games remaining.

With the first game under wraps, the Twins are well on their way.

 

According to various sources, the Twins have signed Miguel Angel Sano, considered by many the top international prospect in quite some time. There were questions about his age, which has reportedly been confirmed as 16, which caused other teams to back down. The signing bonus is reportedly $3.15 million. Sano's comparables have been listed as Evan Longoria, Alex Rodriguez, and Hanley Ramirez.

This season Minnesota has spent over $6 million on international prospects, including 16-year old Max Kepler, considered the best European prospect. The Twins have spent more money on international free agents this year than any other team, which is extremely rare.

It will be interesting to see where these young kids start next season. Sano will almost undoutedly start with the Dominican Summer League Twins, while Kepler could land in either the DSL or the Gulf Coast League. Neither will likely be in the big leagues sooner than five years from now.

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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 25 September 2009

Dan Osterbrock

Daniel Osterbrock, a 7th-round draft pick last year, is considered one of the top left-handed pitching prospects in the Twins' organization. After being drafted out of the University of Cincinnatti, Osterbrock reported to the Elizabethton Twins and did not disappoint.

In 75 innings, Osterbrock posted an ERA of 3.00 and an extremely impressive 104 strikeouts compared to just eight walks. His FIP was an incredible 2.08. Perhaps most remarkable about Osterbrock's 2008 campaign, however, was the fact that his Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) was a bloated .370; well above the league average. He was receiving virtually no luck at all, yet dominated opposing batters.

Osterbrock spent this past season with the Beloit Snappers, where his production dipped. He posted an ERA of 5.19 with a 4:1 strikeout/walk ratio. Osterbrock didn't put up the same dominating numbers he did in 2008, yet his BABIP was an incredibly high .391.

Next year Osterbrock's BABIP is almost certainly going to regress closer to average, which could very well translate into a jaw-dropping statistical season. Here at TwinsTarget we wish Osterbrock nothing but the best.

I recently had the chance to ask him a few questions. Be sure to read carefully; Osterbrock gives some profound answers and offers great insight and openness into his life both on and off the mound.

TwinsTarget: You've said that your favorite team growing up was Cincinnati. How much are you familiar with Red's history, and do you look up to or idolize a certain player?

Dan Osterbrock: Yeah my favorite team growing up was the Reds and I know quite a bit about them. My whole family loved the Reds too so I heard a lot of stories about the Big Red Machine from the 1970's. I'd have to say my favorite player growing up was Eric Davis. When I was a little kid a wanted to hit and play outfield and be just like him. I even wore his number pretty much my whole life and through college.

Click here to read he rest of Dan's answers!

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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 25 September 2009

Being a switch-hitter requires a great amount of determination, skill, and hand-eye coordination. Some of the all-time greats are considered greater still because of their ability to effectively hit the ball from both sides of the plate.

Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose, Eddie Murray, Chipper Jones. The list goes on and on. Who are the best switch-hitters to ever put on a Twins' uniform, though?

Here are the best switch-hitters in Twins' history, ordered by preferred position. To be fair, the prerequisite will be at least 100 games with Minnesota.

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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 24 September 2009

Not much in baseball can be chalked up to chance. In an age where statistics are king, a number can be put on virtually everything that happens on the baseball diamond. But sometimes there are those instances that even the fiercest of sabermatricians can't document, analyze, or predict.

There's a stat for that immeasureable element. Hardly surprising.

Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) is a tool used as a red flag when analyzing seasons. If a player has an abnormally high or low BABIP, they will likely regress to the mean in the future. BABIP could be considered as a "luck" measure stick. The unlucky pitchers have a high BABIP, while conversely the lucky pitchers boast a BABIP under the league average of around .290.

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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 23 September 2009

What's that you say? Joe Mauer is less worthy of the MVP than Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira, or Miguel Cabrera?

There are a total of four qualified players since league integration who have put up at least a .372 batting average, .442 on-base percentage, .609 slugging percentage, and 182 OPS+.

When you insert Cabrera's numbers, you find that 99 others have put up better numbers. There are 176 better seasons than Jeter and 268 better seasons than Teixeira.

Is there any question that Mauer is having one of the best offensive seasons in history? The race all boils down to that pesky "valuable" word, which either means nothing or everything... depending on whom you ask.

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Written by Andrew Kneeland | 22 September 2009

Joe Nathan

The closer role has undergone perspicuous changes since baseball began.

The first relievers were coined “firemen” because of their ability to get struggling starting pitchers out of jams with minor damage. Pitchers like Dennis Eckersley and Goose Gossage earned their reputation playing this way.

Then, in 1969, the “save” became an official statistic. The game has never been the same since. Now, closers are typically the best pitchers on a team. Their pitches either go the fastest, curve the most, or sink the hardest, but they only pitch in the ninth inning when ahead by three runs or less.

While I would be perfectly willing to abandon the save rule, the last inning in a baseball game is certainly important.

More important than the last three outs of a game in which you lead by three runs, however, is in the fifth or sixth inning of a tied game, when the other team has loaded the bases.

Why wouldn’t you want your best reliever pitching in that situation? In this case, it has become common practice to send a “middle reliever” to try to stop the onslaught of runs. Instead of using your best reliever in this crucial scenario, most managers will save him for the ninth inning and hope his offense can get those runs back.

Clearly, a ridiculous strategy.

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