April 21, 2005

April 20, 2014

Metrodome
Thursday April 21, 2005
Twins 10, Royals 9

Top Play
With Mike MacDougal pitching in the bottom of the ninth inning, Jacque Jones doubled on a ground ball to left field, scoring Torii Hunter from third to tie the game.

Top WPA
Lew Ford MIN 0.40
Torii Hunter MIN 0.39
Jacque Jones MIN 0.32

Bottom WPA
Brian Anderson KC -0.66
Dave Gassner MIN -0.43
Shawn Camp KC -0.36

After this game, a lot of the focus was on a struggling Michael Cuddyer (from Mark Sheldon’s game story at MLB.com:

After Jacque Jones’ RBI double scored Hunter to tie the game at 9, Michael Cuddyer was up with runners on second and third with one out. Cuddyer, who has struggled in recent at-bats with runners in scoring position, grounded out to third.

Twins manager Ron Gardenhire briefly contemplated pinch-hitting for Cuddyer, but decided it was important to stay the course with the third baseman.

“This young man is going to come up in a lot of big situations for us, and he’s going to have to drive in those runs for us,” Gardenhire. “It didn’t happen today, but we look for good things out of Michael Cuddyer.”

The game ended when the Twins loaded the bases with one out in the tenth inning.

Bartlett’s 10th-inning double to right field came off Kansas City reliever Shawn Camp (0-1). Torii Hunter was intentionally walked and the bases went full on Matthew LeCroy’s shallow single to left field.

Knowing he couldn’t take anything for granted, Bartlett readied himself as Kansas City drew its infield and outfield in.

“I was thinking, ‘Read this ball on the ground — I have to beat this ball home,’” Bartlett said. “I was looking for a chopper or something I could beat out, because I knew Lew would beat it out.”

“I was definitely looking up the middle or the other way,” said Ford, who was 4-for-6 in the game. “I didn’t want to roll over or hit a groundball to third base.”

Ford bounced a grounder that shot through the middle infield. Game over.

It was a day game after a night game, so Mike Redmond started at catcher, though Joe Mauer did enter the game as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the ninth. He was intentionally walked. It appears that Redmond left the game after a play at home plate in the 8th inning, making way for a Corky Miller appearance. Miller, one of Gardenhire’s famous third catchers, stayed in long enough to catch Angel Berroa stealing for the last out of the top of the ninth inning before being removed for Mauer in the bottom half.

After starting pitcher Dave Gassner’s day ended before the end of the second inning, the Twins trotted out Matt Guerrier, J.C. Romero, Jesse Crain, Juan Rincon, and Joe Nathan. It was a very stacked bullpen in 2005.

 

 


Billy Hamilton, Replay and the Transfer Rule

April 17, 2014

I am trying out a subscription to MLB.tv this month. Due to blackout restrictions, I can’t watch the Twins, but I am able to see every other game involving every other team. Since MLB seems to hate my money (seriously, every team except the one I want to see…), I probably won’t renew. It has been fun though. Some observations from the first few weeks of the 2014 season:

The Reds have become the must-watch team for me because of Billy Hamilton. I was trying to explain to my 7-year-old son why we keep watching the Reds. It came down to this: he changes the game. As David Roth puts it, he is an “injection of happy” in a game that has perhaps become a little too serious about itself.

He is also a perfect fit for the .gif age.

Billy-Hamilton-Reds-tag-up-score-shallow-040914

My favorite: Hamilton scoring on a popup just beyond the infield.

Unfortunately, he is not getting on base enough this season to show off his unique skill set. In reality, he probably isn’t getting on base enough to secure a major league roster spot for long. Here’s to hoping that the happy injection sticks around for a while.

I still hate the challenge system for instant replay, and really hate the visual of a manager “arguing” with an umpire while facing his own dugout. That said, having replay in place for a couple of weeks has made me rethink my overall stance on the use of replay in baseball.

The system in place has exposed the number of questionable calls that are made over the course of a game. If it takes some form of instant replay to get those calls right, then I am grudgingly for it.

There is no reason, however, that the inefficiencies and downright stupidities of the current system can’t be fixed. The first step is to get rid of the challenge system. It takes people watching at home roughly five seconds to determine whether a given play needs another look – why can’t a fifth umpire “review” every play and communicate to the field umpire on plays that need another look?

Major League Baseball, somewhat quietly, tinkered with the transfer rule during the offseason. It is not a secret anymore. There have been several games impacted by the new rule. Essentially, a catch is not a catch until the ball is transferred cleanly to the fielder’s throwing hand. A safe call could be made, under the current interpretation, if the fielder catches the ball, runs the length of the field with the ball in his glove, then drops it in the course of exchanging the ball to his other hand. This strikes me as one of those rule clarifications that was not well thought out. Hopefully a change will be made before the end of the season, or perhaps a manager will force the league’s hand

 

 


The Franchise 1996 (Pitchers)

April 15, 2014

SP Brad Radke 3.5 WAR
In just his second season, Brad Radke had already established himself as the team’s ace pitcher. Despite a an ugly 11-16 record, Radke improved in just about every other area. Radke walked 2.2 batters/9 inning pitched in 1996 – a very strong number, but the last year in Radke’s career in which that number would be north of 2.0.

SP Rick Aguilera 0.8 WAR
See previous post. Aggie had a mediocre season as a starter, but injuries and other factors may have been involved. He returned as a closer in 1997.

SP Frankie Rodriguez 1.3 WAR
Prior to the season, the Twins felt they had three solid starters: Radke, Aguilera, and Rodriguez. Frankie, of course, came to the Twins in the Aguilera trade. This would be Frankie’s best major league season, and his last as a full time starter.

SP Rich Robertson 1.5 WAR
Lefty Rich Robertson was selected off of waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates after the 1994 season. He didn’t have a lot of playing time with Pittsburgh, making just 17 appearances in two seasons. Roberston split time between AAA and the majors in 1995 before being made a member of the rotation in 1996. As a starter, the Texas native could be an iron man. He led the league with three shutouts in 1996, and led the Twins with 5 complete games.

SP Scott Aldred 1.0 WAR
Aldred was already a veteran when the Twins plucked him off the waiver wire in May of 1996. The 28 year old had pitched for three different major league teams.

CL Dave Stevens 0.4 WAR
When Aguilera was traded to Boston in the middle of the 1995 season, Stevens became the team’s closer. He held the position for most of the 1996 season, but started to be used in fewer save situations as the season wound down. The problem was solved in 1997 when Aguilera was moved back to the bullpen. After pitching part of the 1997 season with the Twins, Stevens was taken off waivers by the Chicago Cubs.

RP Greg Hansell -0.1 WAR
Hansell, who was originally drafted by the Red Sox in 1989, came to the Twins as a part of the Kevin Tapani trade. He made his major league debut with the Dodgers in 1995, and pitched his first and only full major league season with the Twins in 1996.

RP Eddie Guardado 0.2 WAR
Guardado appeared in 30 of the team’s first 50 games. For a while he was well on pace to break the major league record for appearances in a season. Though he fell off the pace for Mike Marshall’s record of 104 appearances, he still played in 83 games in 1996.

RP Mike Trombley 2.1 WAR
Trombley learned the forkball prior to the 1996 season, and the results were immediate. He improved in almost every category as a pitcher, including better strikeout, walk, and home run rates. The results earned him a two-year contract extension.

RP Dan Naulty 0.9 WAR
Naulty was drafted by the Twins in 1992. He made his major league debut in 1996, and was the top reliever on the team until his season was cut short in August due to circulatory problems in his arm. An offseason surgery that removed a rib was expected to fix the problem, and there was even talk of Naulty taking over as closer before the decision was made to move Aguilera back to his old job.

 

 


1996: Twins Re-sign Aguilera

April 13, 2014

One of the objectives of our organization was to try to add a veteran pitcher who would come in and help some of our younger pitchers. With Rick, we are very familiar with what we have to go upon. We asked if he would consider starting, and he responded favorably.

-Terry Ryan, quoted by Scott Miller in The Sporting News, 12/25/1995

Rick Aguilera did not want to be traded to Boston during the 1995 season. He was in the midst of a career season, even by the high standards he had set since the early 1990′s. It was hard to argue that the 33-year-old was not the top closer in baseball. Still, the Twins needed young starting pitching, so General Manager Terry Ryan sent Aggie to Boston for Frankie Rodriguez and a prospect in July of 1995.

While Aguilera was interested in returning to Minnesota as a free agent after the 1995 season, the Twins were not interested in acquiring a closer. What Ryan said the team needed was a veteran starter. Though Aguilera had not started a game since 1989, he was willing to make the move in order to return to Minnesota.

He was penciled in to the number two spot in the rotation, behind Brad Radke. A spring case of tendonitis in his wrist put off Aguilera’s first start, but he finally made it on April 20, a 7-6 loss against the New York Yankees. Aggie was on a pitch count and lasted just three innings. It turned out the start came too early, and the veteran was placed back on the disabled list. After a rehab assignment, Aggie made his next start on June 11, when he allowed five runs in the first inning to the Seattle Mariners. He finally got his first win in his next start against the Tigers.

Aguilera ended the season with an 8-6 record in 19 starts for the Twins. His ERA+ as a starter was 94 (compared with a 188 ERA+ as a closer the season before). In the winter, Aguilera told Terry Ryan that he preferred to stay in the starting rotation, but ultimately was moved back to the closer role by the end of spring training 1997.

It is difficult to say how much of Aguilera’s mediocre performance as a starter in 1996 was due to the wrist injury that he never really shook. Nagging inuries continued to plague Aggie in 1997, but as a closer he was well above league average (121 ERA+), though not as dominant as he had been.


April 11, 1975

April 10, 2014

Royals Stadium
Royals 8, Twins 3

Top Play:
With the score tied at 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Freddie Patek knocked a two-run double down the left field foul line off of Twins reliever Bill Butler.

Top WPA:
Freddie Patek KC 0.23
Al Fitzmorris KC 0.17
Cookie Rojas KC 0.16

Bottom WPA:
Bill Butler MIN -0.28
John Mayberry KC -0.19
Glenn Borgmann MIN -0.16

killer

Of course I am aware that Harmon Killebrew spent his final season with the Kansas City Royals, but it is still somewhat odd to pick a random Twins game and find him in the opposing lineup. This was Killer’s first game against the Twins. He struck out in his first plate appearance against his former team. In the game, Killebrew was 1-for-4.

It was back in December of 1974 that Calvin Griffith had called Killebrew into his office. Harmon said he expected that to be the meeting where he signed his contract for the 1975 season. Instead, the team’s all-time homerun leader was offered a choice, accept an off-the-field position with the team, or be granted permission to speak with other teams. Killebrew thought he still had some baseball left, and worked out a deal with the Kansas City Royals.

Over the course of the 1975 season, Killebrew appeared in 11 games against the Twins. His slash line was .250/.447/.500/.947 with a double and two home runs.

This was the first of a three-game series, and the home opener for the Royals. The Twins were coming off a 2-1 start in Texas, but were ultimately swept by the Royals.

In a note next to this game’s boxscore in The Sporting News, it was reported that Twins’ trainer Dick Martin intended to continue the team’s running program throughout the season. He had the backing of manager Frank Quilici and Dr. Harvey O’Phelen, the team’s physician. Apparently some players had been complaining, but Martin stuck to his guns, saying that no player on the Twins was going to get winded running from first to third.

 

 


The Franchise 1996 (Position Players)

April 8, 2014

C Greg Myers 1.1 WAR
C Matt Walbeck -0.7 WAR
A comparison:
Walbeck 1994-1996 OPS+/WAR 37-0.7;  61/-0.1; 38/-0.7
Drew Butera 2010-2012 OPS+/WAR 46/0.2; 24/-1.5; 53/0.2

Even with the poor performance the prior two years and the signing of free agent Greg Myers, the catcher position was considered Walbeck’s going into the season. The 30-year-old Myers wasn’t great, but was an improvement over Walbeck. Following the season the Twins traded Walbeck to Detroit. He hung around the majors until 2003, and did have some better seasons.

1B Scott Stahoviak 1.4 WAR
Stahoviak had his career season at the age of 26. He didn’t grab many headlines, but quietly it seemed that he was positioning himself to be there first baseman for the near future. An injury plagued 1997 ended that, but it is easy to forget that Stahoviak seemed to be on a path towards being a solid player.

2B Chuck Knoblauch 8.6 WAR
As Knoblauch had another outstanding season, the noise in the papers was mostly about potential trades. The Twins put him through waivers at the trade deadline, but the Yankees made a claim to block potential playoff opponents from acquiring the 27-year-old. The trade talk quieted a bit when Knoblauch signed a five-year deal with the Twins in late August. 1996 was the on-field peak of Knoblauch’s career. Over the course of his time with the Twins, Knoblauch had a .416 slugging percentage. In 1996, he slugged .517 while leading the league with 14 triples and setting a then career high mark with 13 home runs. In 1994 and 1995, his K/BB rates were 1.37 and 1.22. In 1996 it was 0.76.

SS Pat Meares 0.5 WAR
Meares was the quintessential light-hitting good-glove shortstop. The only problem was, in 1996, he was simply a +1 shortstop.

3B Dave Hollins 3.1 WAR
Dave Hollins may have been one of the best moves the Twins made in the late 1990′s. Hollins signed as a free agent in January, and proceeded to be a solid third baseman who provided some power that the Twins lacked elsewhere. At the end of August Terry Ryan traded Hollins to Seattle for a player to be named later. The Mariners completed the deal in September by sending minor leaguer David Ortiz to the Twins.

LF Marty Cordova 2.6 WAR
Cordova’s power numbers took a small hit from his ROY season, but he improved his strikeout rate and knocked in 111 runs.

CF Rich Becker 4.3 WAR
When Alex Cole was released prior to 1996, the Twins made it clear that this was the year that Becker would be given the chance as the full time lead off man and center fielder. He did not disappoint. While he had an average-looking 103 OPS+, he got on base at a .372 clip and was a +12 player in center field (-2 in LF and RF combined). Becker changed to a full-time left-handed hitter in 1996. He did get off to a slow start with the bat, but recovered in the summer months.

RF Matt Lawton 0.6 WAR
Lawton also had a slow start at the plate. He blamed it on tinkering with his stance in the Arizona Fall League before the season. In particular, he said, the St. Louis Cardinals batters were to blame because they convinced him to crouch lower.

DH Paul Molitor 3.7 WAR
I wrote this a few years ago:

Paul Molitor had signed with the Twins before the 1996 season excited to play for his hometown team and looking forward to being in the same lineup with Kirby Puckett (which of course didn’t work out). He came into the season with 2,789 career hits. The Twins started a nine-game home stand on September 6 with Molitor 13 hits away from the milestone. While it appeared unlikely that he would reach it in front of the Metrodome crowd (the Twins started a nine-game road trip immediately following the homestand), there was some hope.

Molitor ended up with 11 hits in the nine games, and took to the road with the team only two hits short. In the first game of the road trip at Kaufmann Stadium, Molitor became the first player to triple for his 3000th hit as mentioned by Souhan above; but also became the first player to reach 3000 in a year in which he had 200 or more hits on the season.

UT Ron Coomer 0.7 WAR
IF Jeff Roboulet -0.8 WAR
OF Roberto Kelly 1.2 WAR


April 7, 2004

April 6, 2014

Metrodome
Indians 11, Twins 4

Big Play
In the bottom of the 4th inning, the Twins were down by 4 runs. Henry Blanco started the inning with a walk, followed by a Nick Punto single. With men at first and second, Cristian Guzman stepped to the plate to face Cliff Lee. Guzman grounded a 2-1 pitch right at the second baseman who started a 4-6-3 double play.

Top Players WPA
Matt Lawton CLE  0.17
Nick Punto MIN 0.14

Worst  WPA
Kyle Lohse MIN – 0.27
Cristian Guzman MIN -0.14

This game was the third of the opening three-game series of the season. The Twins and Indians played 26 innings of baseball in the previous two games – both Twins wins. Less important than the score of this game, however, was the injuries that were already beginning to pile up for the Twins. Torii Hunter left Tuesday’s game with a strained hamstring, and ultimately would go on the 15-day disabled list. Interestingly, it was Michael Cuddyer who spoke to Hunter to convince him that going on the DL was the right move.

More concerning for the Twins, however, was their star-in-the-making catcher, who was injured in only his second major league appearance.

In the top of the third inning against Cleveland Tuesday, Mauer ran behind the plate on Coco Crisp’s foul pop up. The 20-year-old said his shin guard got caught as he slid across the Metrodome’s new rubber warning track.

“I felt it as I soon as I slid,” Mauer said.

Mauer remained in the game though and led off the bottom of the third with a single. Later in the inning, he was running hard around third base on a Luis Rivas hit when he had to abruptly hold up.

“Once I started running and I got to third — it just locked up,” Mauer said. “I knew I had to get out of there.”

It was announced the next morning that Mauer needed surgery.

Mauer joined Hunter, Matthew LeCroy, and Grant Balfour as casualties of the first week of the 2004 season.

 


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