Friday, July 28, 2006

Mr. Lee, Mr. Lee

The Rangers won the Carlos Lee sweepstakes this afternoon, trading Kevin Mench, Francisco Cordero, outfielder Laynce Nix, and minor league pitcher Julian Cordero in exchange for Lee and minor league outfielder Nelson Cruz.

Lee was the best regular player on a 48-54 Brewers team that trails Cincinnati by 6 games in the NL Wild Card race, batting .286/.347/.549--or a .296 EqA, worth 27.4 VORP to the team. But, GM Doug Melvin says Lee recently rejected a contract extension of $48 million over 4 years, so he had to be traded to help build towards the future, if not also bolster this year's team for the stretch run at the same time.

So what kind of haul did he bring in?

  • Kevin Mench is a 28 year-old corner OF hitting .284/.338/.459, a .270 EqA (.274/.335/.480, .274 EqA career), worth 8.3 VORP so far this season.
  • Francisco Cordero is 31, and has a 4.81 ERA, 1.32 WHIP in 48.2 IP (3.44, 1.39 career), worth 7.0 VORP so far this season.
  • Laynce Nix is 25, hitting .269/.323/.430 in AAA this season, with a career line of .241/.278/.414 in 869 PA's in the majors.

As for the minor leaguers, the Brewers sent Nelson Cruz, turned 26 this month, hitting .302/.378/.528 with 20 HR and 17 steals in AAA Nashville, who will start in Rightfield for the Rangers after joining the team this weekend. In return comes 21 year-old lefty Julian Cordero, 2-5, 2.91 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 6.49 K/9, 1.89:1 K/BB ratio in Low A Clinton.

Doug Melvin may claim to have immediately multiplied his assets with three players who may make immediate contributions to the Brewers, but it's really a poor return for one of the best trading chips on the market this month. Mench will be with Milwaukee for at least two more years while in his arbitration period, but at 28 he's only an ordinary corner outfielder. Francisco Cordero always puts up a nice K/9 ratio, but otherwise he's a mediocre righty reliever in mid-career who stands to make $5 million next season if the Brewers pick up his option. Nix at this point seems to have marginal offensive skills. And to top it off, it looks like the Rangers got the best of the prospect exchange, too.

Maybe this is just the benefit of dealing with a man who used to run your organization: he still sees Mench, Cordero, and Nix as the bright young things, full of potential, that he used to know when he first acquired them. But it also goes to show how even the best players on the trading block may change teams without exchanging core players or top prospects. In terms of general value measured by VORP, this deal is something like the Twins giving up Luis Castillo, Jesse Crain, Jason Tyner, and a Class A pitcher of no concern, in exchange for a player who would be the best OF bat on the Twins, plus a promising minor league hitter to bolster the bench.

Denizens of Twins Territory, if you feel so inclined, today thank Jobu for not making us Brewers fans.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Displaced Anger

White Sox reliever Neal Cotts expresses his feelings after giving up a 3-run HR to Joe Mauer in the 7th inning Monday night, Mauer's first home run against a lefty this season, to put the Twins up, 6-2.

G'ah! So angry! But what to do about it... A-ha!

After punching the bucket with the back of his hand, sunflower seed packets go flying.

Iguchi (Guchi-gu) and Pods pretend not to notice.

Oh, no, bucket. He's not done with you, yet.

Cotts SMASH!



Friday, July 07, 2006

All-Star Arcana

In a game thread at the SBG site during the Houston series, the question came up, "Is Ron Coomer the worst Twins All-Star?

So I did some research to find all the Twins All-Stars who finished the season with an OPS+ below the league average. You can find my complete list and comments here.

These were the Twins to finish their All-Star seasons with a VORP under 10.0:

Line at Break
Final Line
Win Sh.
R. Coomer, '99
D. Engle, '84
E. Battey, '66
J. Roseboro, '69
B. Wynegar, '77
G. Gaetti, '89
J. Perry, '71
12-8, 4.10 ERA
17-17, 4.23 ERA
*signifies ERA+

Since then, of course Francisco Liriano in the midst of a phenomenal season has been robbed of his rightful place on the 2006 All-Star team, which makes me wonder: what were the best seasons posted by a Twins player who did not make the All-Star team in that year?

First we'll look at the hitters, then the pitchers.

Line at Break
Final Line
Win Sh.
C. Knoblauch, '95
L. Bostock, '77
K. Hrbek, '84
S. Mack, '92
K. Hrbek, '88
T. Walker, '98
R. Smalley, '78
P. Molitor, '96
C. Davis, '91
C. Koskie, '01
K. Hrbek, '87
C. Tovar, '70
J. Jones, '02
Minimum 25 Win Shares or 40 VORP

Justin Morneau is hitting .301/.355/.596 with a 27.0 VORP as of today, and 11 Win Shares through 7/2.

Chuck Knoblauch made 4 All-Star teams in his Twins career, but missed the '95 Game because Indians fans stuffed the ballot boxes for Carlos Baerga, and Roberto Alomar was chosen as the 2B reserve. Knobby responded by hitting .345/.442/.547 in the last 3 months of the season.

The '77 Twins apparently filled their quota of All-Stars with Rod Carew, Larry Hisle, and Butch Wynegar, leaving great performances by Lyman Bostock and Dave Goltz unrewarded.

Kent Hrbek in '84 had the strange distinction of finishing 2nd in the MVP vote, but was passed over as the Twins' token rep at the All-Star Game in favor of Dave Engle, one of the least deserving Twins ever to get the honor. Hrbek lost out again in the World Series year of '87 when Kirby Puckett was the Twins' lone rep. Incredibly, when Tom Kelly had the authority to pick All-Star reserves the next summer, he didn't pick his man Hrbek, although Hrbek was enjoying one of his very best seasons. TK later did the same thing to Shane Mack in '92. Of course, you see Todd Walker up there, another part of TK's player relations legacy.

Cesar Tovar established himself through his first four years with the Twins as a Super-Utility regular in the lineup. In a late-September game in 1968, he even played all 9 positions on the field, striking out Reggie Jackson in his scoreless inning on the mound. But, by 1970, he had moved to the outfield nearly full-time, usually in Centerfield. He must have been an extraordinary fielder in the Twins outfield that year, because he rates 28 Win Shares despite a 118 OPS+ and a VORP that ranks 51st in the majors that season, and yet he didn't win a Gold Glove and isn't listed by Win Shares amongst the top three defensive outfielders in the AL for 1970. So I'm a bit skeptical of those 28 Win Shares, but that's what the book says.

Jacque Jones was one of the AL's best defensive Leftfielders in 2002 with an .899 ZR and league-leading 2.60 RF, earning 4.57 Win Shares for his fielding, just 0.75 Win Shares less than Torii Hunter's defensive value in Centerfield that season. Jacque also led the Twins with 97 Runs Created and 19.89 Offensive Win Shares, but his VORP takes a hit because of all the Leftfielders who could mash, particularly in the NL, that season. Had he been the one groomed to take over Centerfield instead of moving over for Hunter in 1999-2000, he well might have been the one to sign the big multi-year contract and become the "Face of the Franchise" in 2002, instead of his good buddy.

Line at Break
Final Line
Win Sh.
J. Santana, '04
7-4, 3.89 ERA
20-6, 2.61 ERA
F. Viola, '87
8-6, 2.96 ERA
17-10, 2.90 ERA
K. Tapani, '91
5-7, 3.14 ERA
16-9, 2.99 ERA
J. Koosman, '79
11-6, 3.52 ERA
20-13, 3.38 ERA
C. Pascual, '63
9-5, 2.57 ERA
21-9, 2.46 ERA
B. Blyleven, '74
8-10, 3.06 ERA
17-17, 2.66 ERA
D. Goltz, '77
10-6, 3.67 ERA
20-11, 3.66 ERA
B. Blyleven, '75
7-4, 3.42 ERA
15-10, 3.00 ERA
J. Perry, '69
11-4, 3.07 ERA
20-6, 2.82 ERA
F. Viola, '84
9-7, 3.02 ERA
18-12, 3.21 ERA
D. Corbett, '80
2.15 ERA, 8 Sv
8-6, 1.98, 23 Sv
B. Blyleven, '71
7-11, 3.13 ERA
16-15, 2.81 ERA
Minimum 20 Win Shares and 50 VORP

First, it's interesting to note that Santana in '04 and Viola in '87 posted the two best seasons of pitching, by VORP, in Twins history, and yet both also were excluded from the All-Star Game in those years.

Francisco Liriano has a 10-1 record and 1.83 ERA through tonight's game, and 13 Win Shares and a 37.4 VORP prior to his latest start. So he's on a pace to hit at least #3 on the list, and clearly he is the most dominant Twins pitcher through this point of the season not to get an invitation to the All-Star Game.

Santana's 2004 season tops the list, and most of us remember how he was slow to get going that season: at the end of May, he was 2-3 with a 5.61 ERA. When he beat Milwaukee on June 25, his ERA was still just a so-so 4.38 to go with a 6-3 record, and then he took the Loss in a 2-1 defeat to Chicago on July 1, albeit dropping his ERA to 4.22. He wouldn't generate a national buzz about him until August, when he beat Mike Mussina and the Yankees on the 18th to put his record at 13-6, 3.23, and people started talking about him as a short-list candidate for the Cy Young Award.

The usual trouble for the pitchers above seems to be a mediocre W-L record at the break, or a low Saves total in Doug Corbett's case (Joe Nathan, give him a call). Last night during the Twins TV broadcast, Dick once joked, "You know what they say down on the field, 'It all evens out in the end,'" but Bert wouldn't play that. As he muttered that he didn't believe in that aphorism, he sounded all of the man who was cheated out of 300 Wins, his fair share of All-Star Games, and possibly a plaque in the Hall of Fame because of bad breaks that decidedly did not even out in the end.

Jim Perry's chances of making the All-Star team in '69 might have been hurt because there were already 4 Twins getting the nod, but he also might have rallied just too late to get serious consideration. After pitching on July 1, Perry had a 6-4 record and 3.68 ERA, only about league-average that season. But in his next 6 starts before the break in late July, he racked up 5 Wins and lowered his ERA to 3.07. He ended up 3rd in the Cy Young voting, and would go the All-Star Game and win the Cy Young Award the next year.

Camilo Pascual in '63 was already a veteran of 4 straight All-Star Games, and would play in the Mid-Summer Classic again in 1964, but in 1963 he was out of action for the better part of June and early July, spoiling his All-Star streak. He would finish the season 2nd in the league with 21 Wins, 3rd with a 2.46 ERA, and best in the league with 202 strikeouts.

Jerry Koosman in '79 was a 36 year-old veteran taken off the Mets' scrap heap before the season in exchange for Greg Fields and prospect Jesse Orosco. He had posted a 3-15, 3.75 mark (94 ERA+) the previous year in New York, but the waters of Minnesota revived him. The 3rd place Twins (48-41 at the break) were only represented at the All-Star Game by Roy Smalley; but, on the last day of the season, Koosman had his moment of glory when he not only earned his 20th Win but also blanked the Brewers, spoiling Milwaukee's bid to be the first team since the '32 Yankees to play an entire season without being shut out.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Travesmockery

So A.J. Pierzynski, who may be the 5th or 6th best Catcher in the American League this season, won the "last chance" fan vote to make the All-Star team today. This means, barring any righteous changes over the weekend, that Travis Hafner, the league's most valuable hitter, and Francisco Liriano, the league ERA leader, will not be AL All-Stars.

Can you imagine David Stern standing for this?

There are always deserving players who miss the cut for the All-Star teams, but Hafner and Liriano are more than just deserving, they're a couple of the most valuable players in the league to this point in the season. If the Indians hadn't tanked this spring, Hafner would be a leading MVP candidate; and, despite his late entry into the Twins rotation, Liriano looks to be on his way to win the Rookie of the Year and possibly even the Cy Young Award. Yet neither player is on the AL All-Star team, because a player from Chicago actively campaigned for votes on Fox Sports Net this week, but also because the commissioner will not exert some of his authority to override Ozzie Guillen's shenanigans and make things right.

Bud Selig could have said no when Guillen picked Mark Buehrle, on the grounds that not only Francisco Liriano but several starting pitchers in the league have been better than him this season. Selig could have stepped in to name Hafner when Alex Rios or Robinson Cano withdrew because of injury. Selig could have said, there are enough White Sox players on the team, so, no, we're not putting another White Sox player on the "last chance" ballot.

Manny Ramirez has announced that he will skip the All-Star Game to rest a sore knee. I've heard that Guillen has promised to add his 3rd baseman Joe Crede to the All-Star team. Last night, Dick Bremer reported a rumor that former White Sock, and Guillen's fellow countryman, Magglio Ordonez would get the nod. Either way, more cronyism.

Selig could put his foot down. He is the Supreme High Commander, after all. But, as usual, it looks like he'll act as if it's all out of his hands. Maybe he'll commission a Blue Ribbon Panel to study the issue, and announce the findings as soon as George Mitchell is done asking players if they know anyone who ever used steroids, or sometime next decade, whichever comes first.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Ex-Twins Update

As we cross the midway point of the season, let's check in to see how some old friends are doing.

K. Rogers (Det): 10-3, 3.72 ERA, 25.2 VORP
H. Carrasco (LAA): 2-2, 3.93 ERA, 11.1 VORP
L. Hawkins (Bal): 1-1, 3.82 ERA, 8.8 VORP
J. Beimel (LAD): 2-1, 3.34 ERA, 8.5 VORP
E. Milton (Cin): 4-4, 5.09 ERA, 6.5 VORP
A. Fultz (Phi): 1-0, 4.70 ERA, 4.7 VORP
M. Redman (KC): 5-4, 5.59 ERA, 3.5 VORP
E. Guardado (Sea): 1-3, 5.48 ERA, 5/8 Sv, 1.2 VORP
T. Jones (Det): 1-5, 6.00 ERA, 22/25 Sv, 0.0 VORP
J. C. Romero (LAA): 1-2, 6.83 ERA, -7.5 VORP
J. Mays (KC): 0-4, 10.27 ERA, -16.9 VORP
J. Mays (Cin): 0-1, 5.50 ERA, 0.2 VORP
G. Balfour (Cin): 60-day DL, shoulder and elbow

D. Ortiz (Bos): .273/.380/.589, 30.1 VORP
C. Blake (Cle): .304/.388/.519, 18.9 VORP
J. Jones (Cub): .307/.339/.537, 16.7 VORP
A. Pierzynski (CWS): .327/.372/.449, 16.5 VORP
C. Koskie (Mil): .265/.347/.498, 10.0 VORP
D. Miller (Mil): .275/.343/.446, 8.5 VORP
D. Mientkiewicz (KC): .278/.361/.403, 5.8 VORP
T. Walker (Cubs): .287/.359/.374, 5.8 VORP
R. Bowen (SD): .311/.418/.489, 5.5 VORP
B. Kielty (Oak): .288/.368/.432, 3.5 VORP
J. Castro (Cin): .304/.304/.478, 1.2 VORP
M. LeCroy (DC): .219/.329/.359, -0.6 VORP
C. Gomez (Balt): .222/.327/.311, -0.8 VORP
M. Lawton (Sea): .259/.310/.259, -1.3 VORP (released)
H. Blanco (Cubs): .240/.286/.438, -1.4 VORP
Q. McCracken (Cin): .212/.268/.327, -2.0 VORP
D. Mohr (Bos): .175/.233/.350, -2.5 VORP (released)
J. Valentin (Cin): .211/.273/.294, -6.1 VORP
C. Moeller (Mil): .184/.231/.276, -7.5 VORP
D. Ardoin (Col): .191/.248/.266, -8.1 VORP
C. Guzman (DC): Out for the season, shoulder

T. Bowyer (Fla): disabled, arm
S. Tyler (AA-Fla): 1-0, 2.83 ERA, 1.69 WHIP, 30 K, 35 IP
M. Ryan (AAA-Atl): .234/.308/.327, 3 HR
B. Abernathy (AAA-Mil): .282/.358/.344, 10 SB
C. Miller (AAA-Bos): .214/.281/.333
C. Allen (AAA-KC): .336/.388/.556, 10 HR
M. Restovich (AAA-Cub): .296/.376/.538, 11 HR
L. Rivas (AAA-TB): .183/.204/.247, 96 PA

Snarky aside: for the 6th season running, Todd Walker, even in a down year, is better than the Twins 2nd baseman. Minnesota this year is spending $5 million on a 2B worth 2.1 VORP, so far. But it's not as if anyone saw Castillo as a mistake last winter, right?

Anyhow, if I missed anyone of interest here, please let me know.