Logo Awesomeness

October 15, 2009

Just saw this at Alright Hamilton!.

PATR100509 06target1005.jpg

It would be difficult to have a more perfect logo. I think, however, I could think of a few better names for the field.


They were who we thought they were

October 14, 2009

Thanks to Denny Green for the inspirational words used in the title

Given a few days to recover from the debacle that was the Yankee series, I have had some time to put the season and the finish in some perspective.

For five and a half months I thought of the 2009 Twins as nothing more than a slightly better than mediocre team with a catcher who was having a season for the ages. As the team’s record hovered around .500 for the bulk of the summer, the only thing that kept me going to games and following the team closely was the desire to see every single plate appearance by Joe Mauer. The division and the playoffs, it seemed, would be closer than it should be thanks to a poor division, but would remain just out of reach. When Justin Morneau was shut down for the season, the last little bit of hope I had for a late season run seemed to be squashed.

The Twins, of course, proved that a late season surge was not out of the question, and did just that, catching up to and eventually overtaking the Tigers in a thrilling tiebreaker game. I got swept up in the run as much as anybody, and had high hopes for the team’s first appearance in the postseason since 2006.

Game 1 was a bit of a throwaway game. Nobody expected the Twins to beat the Yankees when, less than 24 hours ago, they had finished an exhausting extra-inning game and had, no doubt, celebrated even later into the night. The team was flat and the Yankees took advantage. That was expected. We’ll get ’em in Game 2, I thought.

It looked as though the Twins might do it in the second game. Even with a base running mistake that erased a Twins run, a two-run lead in the ninth seemed safe, and the Twins looked as though they would make it a best-of-three series with home field advantage until the unfortunate turn of the ninth inning. Two days later, another base running mistake highlighted a game that was close until the final inning, but the Twins and the Metrodome finally succumbed to the highest payroll in baseball.

I tend to not put as much mystique around playoff wins as your typical television announcer might. I’m not sure that a three-game sweep at the hands of the Yankees means that the Twins are chokers, or that they can’t win the big one. What I think it means is that a better team was able to win three straight games. Play the series again and things might be different, with the Twins even winning the series somewhere in the neighborhood of 40% of the time.

The fact is, however, that the Twins didn’t win, and are 1-5 in playoff series since 2002. Even more grating was that the loss came at the hands of the Yankees, and looked on the surface to prove the cliches that the TBS announcers loved to lean on, particularly the one about the Twins having to work extra hard to get a run, while the Yankees just had to swing the bat once. While true in the series, over the course of the season (a much better measure of a team), the Twins weren’t this band of piranhas that had to make productive outs to get runs. They had four players with more than 25 home runs, hit 172 throughout the season, and had a team slugging percentage of .429 (better than league average).

The most ridiculous statement, however, was Caray’s assertion that as Punto goes so go the Twins. I won’t bother the break down the numbers that he presented. He loses all credibility for that statement, if he had any to start with.

What didn’t change about the Twins, however, was the overall performance of the team. Except for a blip in late September, this was an average team. That is how they looked against the Yankees, like a team that made the postseason thanks in large part to a mediocre division. I hope that fact is not lost on the front office as they go about their offseason business.

Still, it was a fun couple of weeks, and the Twins will be able to hang another banner in Target Field when it opens next April.

The end, a little too early

October 12, 2009

“(Baseball) breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring when everything else begins again and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it. Rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”
-A. Bartlett Giamatti

A very long day

October 11, 2009

I didn’t have the heart to comment on Friday night’s game after it happened. As much as I like seeing my favorite team play meaningful baseball in October, I don’t know how much longer I can take it. My only saving grace was that my son was sleeping in the next room during the final innings, forcing me to keep my comments about the Yankees and the umpires under my breath.

Quick note on that: lets put to rest this meme that the Twins have to play mistake-free baseball to beat the Yankees. The Twins made dozens of mistakes on Friday night, and were still in a situation where they could have won had one more break gone their way. The 2009 Yankees are a very good team, but they are far from invincible.

As I started to compose my thoughts Saturday morning, I was interrupted by my wife, who is 37 weeks pregnant and was having fairly regular contractions. She called the doctor, who basically told her that it was up to her whether she go in to the hospital or not. We decided to wait, make sure it was the real thing. About six hours later the contractions continued at regular intervals, and we were advised that it would probably be a good idea to check in to the hospital.

We put the plan into motion, getting the two-year-old (who was alternating between excitement that his baby brother might be coming and frustration that he had to miss a cousin’s birthday party) and the Schnauzer to Grandma and Grandpa’s house and checked in to the hospital at about 5:00 PM. We waited and waited, and nothing changed. At about 9:30 we checked out, baby still healthy and seemingly happy (except for his tendency to kick the heart monitor), contractions still pretty regular, and one very tired woman.

I thought that I might be watching the Game 3 from the hospital, hoping that I could share a Twins win with my youngest. Now I just have to figure out how to explain to a two-year-old that his baby brother wasn’t quite ready to come out yet, and we’ll do it all again sometime soon.

Where does Mauer’s 2009 season stand among Twins greats?

October 9, 2009

With all of the excitement of the Twins’ late season comeback to overtake the Tigers, it has been easy to overlook the historic nature of the season that Joe Mauer posted in 2009. There will certainly be more time for this later, after what hopefully becomes a deep run into the playoffs, but it is worth taking an initial look at some numbers.

Twins single-season VORP leaders (taken partially from SBG’s work):
1. Chuck Knoblauch 1996 – 99.3
2. Rod Carew 1977 – 92.4
3. Joe Mauer 2009 – 91.0
4. Rod Carew 1974 – 75.4
5. Harmon Killebrew 1969 – 75.2
6. Kirby Puckett 1988 – 75.1

Mauer is in good company in a number that only measures offense. Knoblauch’s 1996 campaign was off the charts, and I still don’t think that he gets the credit for just how dominant he was that season (part of the reason, of course, is what happened after). One would guess that this list would be littered with Carews, Killebrews, and Pucketts. Now, some more traditional numbers:

1. Carew 1977 .449
2. Knoblauch 1996 .448
3. Mauer 2009 .444

1. Killebrew 1961 .606
2. Mauer 2009 .587
3. Killebrew 1969 .584

So not only is Mauer right up there with the two seasons you would expect on the OBP list, he is right up there in the all time great slugging seasons, eclipsed only by some guy named Killebrew. Interesting…

1. Mauer 2009 1.031
2. Carew 1977 1.019
3. Killebrew 1961 1.012
4. Killebrew 1969 1.011

I wasn’t aware that Joe Mauer’s 2009 season was the top OPS season in Twins history. I guess you won’t hear that from Dick and Bert. What about if you adjust those numbers relative to context.

Adjusted OPS+
1. Carew 1977 178
2t. Mauer 2009 177
2t. Killebrew 1969 177

Just about indistinguishable from the two seasons that are largely considered the best in Twins history.

So it is safe to say, then, that Joe Mauer’s 2009 season ranks right up there with the greatest in Twins history. Among the four that popped up in most of the lists above (Killer 1969, Carew 1977, Knoblauch 1996, Mauer 2009), Mauer had the fewest plate appearances, 88 fewer than the next closest due to missing the month of May:

Killebrew 1960 709
Knoblauch 1996 701
Carew 1977 694
Mauer 2009 606

Some of Mauer’s counting stats, including VORP, are going to look a little less impressive due to the time off. Still, he stacks up favorably in many of those categories.

Still, none of the stats above take defensive value into account. Given that Mauer plays the most demanding position on the defensive spectrum, you would think that accounting for defense might put him over the top. WARP3 does account for defense (flawed as is might be):

Killebrew 1969 8.7
Carew 1977 9.4
Puckett 1988 8.9
Knoblauch 1996 9.9
Mauer 2009 10.5

It is not hard, looking at these numbers, to jump to the conclusion that we just witnessed the greatest individual season by a position player in Twins history. I would imagine that Mauer in 2009 compares favorably to the greatest pitching seasons in team history as well.

Trying something new

October 7, 2009

I didn’t expect much from this game, and that looks to be exactly what I got from the Twins. After last night, I would expect them to be a bit hungover, if not from the marathon ballgame then from the champagne in the clubhouse.

Whatever the reason, it proved to be a losing effort for the Twins in Game 1.

I am taking heart in the fact that the last two times the Twins played the Yankees in an ALDS, they won the first game. In both series, they went on to lose the next three games. Let the Yankees bask in their own Yankee-ness and buy into the hype that this series is only a small speed bump on the road to a championship. Perhaps the Twins have them right where they want them…

It’s not much, but it’s something.

In any event, I expect a better showing in Game 2.

Top Single-Season Batting Among Catchers: 2009 Update

October 7, 2009

since 1900

1. mauer2.jpgJoe Mauer 2009 .365

2. piazza.jpgMike Piazza LA 1997 .362
3. dickey.jpgBill Dickey NYY 1936 .362*
4. cochrane.jpgMickey Cochrane PHA 1930 .357
5. davis.jpgSpud Davis PHN 1933 .349
6. Mickey Cochrane PHA 1931 .349
7. Joe Mauer MIN 2006 .347
8. Mike Piazza LA 1995 .346
9. lombardi.jpgErnie Lombardi CIN 1938 .342
10. hartnett.jpgGabby Hartnett CHC 1930 .339

*Bill Dickey was a few plate appearances  short of qualifying for the batting title in 1936 (3.1 PA’s per team game required; Dickey = 3.06 PA’s per game)