Author Archive

What’s Wrong with Francisco Liriano?

We’re only heading into the last week of April, but it’s already been a cataclysmic start to the season for Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano. To contextualize a bit for how bad the season has been for the 28-year-old left-hander, take a look at Liriano’s line from Sunday:

5 innings pitched, 5 runs (5 ER), 4 K/4 BB, 86 pitches (47 strikes) Read the rest of this entry »

Early Season Trends Worth Monitoring – NL Edition

Last week I set out to examine some early-season trends and what they may mean for the season ahead. Incidentally, the list was entirely comprised of players on the junior circuit, so today, let’s examine a couple trends that are taking place in the NL, and if we feel they’re worth monitoring. As usual, the “blah blah small sample size blah blah” still applies, though feel free to mention it in the comments if it tickles your fancy.

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Early Season Trends Worth Monitoring

As we round the corner and storm full-steam ahead through week two of the big league season, today I thought it might be apt to take a peek at a few players’ starts and wonder aloud what exactly they might mean for the season ahead. Of course we have the small sample size caveats — likely suggesting we take most trends with a grain of salt — but sometimes a hot or cold start is all it takes to spur a career-altering season, especially if it comes on the heel of a torrid previous September or something like that.

On a semi-related note: How awesome is it to finally be able to click on a 2012 season on the sortable leaderboards?

But I digress. Let’s take a peek at a few trends and see what we think. Again, I’ll emphasize it’s only been three to five games, so I’m not going super serious with how I think these will play out.

Yoenis Cespedes – .250/.368/.875 (.505 wOBA/244 wRC+)

Cespedes is off to a sizzling start which obviously won’t continue, but there have been a few key elements of his game that I’ve found interesting. For one, he’s yet to hit a single, and has only drawn a single walk — two HBP in 19 PA keep his isolated discipline reasonable — so despite a healthy triple-slash, it’s hard to get an exact feel for how his season will extrapolate.

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Alex Gordon Gets Royally Rewarded

Word broke late Friday afternoon that the Royals and 28-year-old left fielder Alex Gordon reached a contract extension. The skinny on the contract is that it’s a four-year deal worth $37.5 million, with a player option for 2016 that can bring the total value to $50 million even. The contract buys out two years of team control and an additional two of free agency, and breaks down to $6/$9/$10/$12.5, and negates the $4.775 midpoint, arbitration-avoiding deal the two parties agreed to in early February. Read the rest of this entry »

2012 Organizational Rankings: #25 — Minnesota

Dave Cameron laid out the methodology behind the rankings last Friday. Remember that the grading scale for each category is 20-80, with 50 representing league average.

2012 Organizational Rankings

#30 – Baltimore
#29 – Houston
#28 – Oakland
#27 – Pittsburgh
#26 – San Diego Read the rest of this entry »

Tsuyoshi Nishioka – A Revisionist History

In a move that was somehow simultaneously surprising and not, Tsuyoshi Nishioka was sent down to Triple-A Rochester Monday, and to say it’s been a tumultuous year for the man would be an understatement. No, this isn’t to evoke images of sympathy for a man who made $3 million for especially bad baseball last year, and is due a minimum of $6.25 million more. Read the rest of this entry »

Is It Over for Ivan?

As we approach the midpoint of spring training and cast a wanting eye towards opening day, it is probably fair to wonder about the status of currently unsigned free agents. One such free agent is future Hall of Famer Ivan Rodriguez, whose dalliances with the Mets a week or so ago proved fruitless, and thus may be pushing the legendary backstop towards retirement whether he wants to or not. Read the rest of this entry »

Big Money Rides off into the Sunset

The eldest of the flying Molina trio, Bengie Molina officially hung up his cleats Monday, though technically they hadn’t been used in well over a year. And while the news of his retirement flew under the radar a bit — perhaps due to not playing in over a year, and perhaps because it was overshadowed by Yadi’s extension — today we’ll try provide an adequate appreciation for just how good he was over his 13-year career. Read the rest of this entry »

Happy Trails, Mike Cameron

A solid, if not a bit underrated career came to an end as Mike Cameron called it quits over the weekend, exactly two months after inking a minor league pact to play in the nation’s capital. Cameron’s career ends after 17 seasons with eight ballclubs, during which time the fleet afoot center fielder nabbed three Gold Gloves, poked 278 homers, swiped 297 bags, collected exactly 1,700 hits, and played in just shy of 2,000 games.

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Scott Baker: Most Underrated Hurler in the Bigs?

As someone who spends a significant part of their work day at a desk, I spend a lot of time perusing stats. Not exactly an earth-shatterer — this is FanGraphs after all — but it does prod my mind to some interesting questions and processes. In fact, you may have read about one last week. As most of you know, I’m willing to be an open book when it comes to researching my pieces — like the Larry Walker one — so keep that in mind as you read.

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Notable Recent Minor League Pacts

The offseason has provided a good amount of drama, some mammoth contracts, and plenty of frequent flyer miles racked up. One thing that I think has gone under the radar a bit is the caliber of players — maybe more so in terms of how good they once were — who have already settled for minor league deals, or may be in line for them as we draw closer to Cactus and Grapefruit League play.

Today, let’s take a glance at the minor league pacts signed in the last week, and have a look at their potential implications.

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Anybody Out There? You Be the Judge.

Most of the big free-agent names have found their homes for 2012; that includes Prince Fielder, who took a staggering amount of cash on Tuesday and will reside in one of his pop’s old haunts. With Fielder’s deal, that leaves Roy Oswalt and Edwin Jackson as the two biggest names still looking for new digs before spring training begins in about a month.

But those names are the obvious ones. Let’s take a peek at some other players still on the free-agent market, and then we’ll try to get a feel for some of their potential landing spots. Read the rest of this entry »

Is This ‘Pen Mightier?

Rebuilding a 99-loss team is never easy, especially when an already tight budget is reduced by more than 10 percent. However, that’s the exact thing Twins GM Terry Ryan was tasked with when he returned to the post following Bill Smith’s dismissal in November.

Ryan has done a nice job of mixing in low-cost free agent options with a few buy-low candidates to rebuild the club on pretty much every level, but today let’s focus on how the nearly completely revamped bullpen should be more of an asset than a liability in 2012, especially in light of the signing of the quintessential buy-low option, Joel Zumaya, which became official Thursday.

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Larry Walker and the Hall of Fame

Let me first preface this column by suggesting that I’m no great Hall of Fame historian; I don’t know as much about the history of this great game as my colleagues.

Today I seek to get a good feel whether or not Larry Walker is a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate. Indeed, much of my gravitation towards Walker is derived from his playing era; my baseball formative years started around 1993, which incidentally coincides with almost the exact time Walker rose to prominence.

Prior to researching for this column, in my view, Walker was a Hall of Famer. I guess you could say I’m going to either convince myself he belongs, or disband my #Walker4HOF campaign altogether. Nonetheless, it’s a case study in journaling the progress of determining one’s HOF credentials. Let us begin.

Monday’s BBWAA announcement that Barry Larkin would join Ron Santo in the 2012 class in the Hall of Fame brought few surprises in terms of overall balloting. Indeed, it’d be nice if Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell, among others, would be joining Larkin and the spirit of Santo on that glorious late-July afternoon, but that’s neither here nor there.

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Full Count: A Twins Offseason on the Brink

Despite losing 99 games in a season sponsored by Murphy’s Law, the Twins entered an offseason in which neither building to contend nor rebuilding really fully made sense. For one, the team lacked the liquid assets required for a rebuild; its more valuable commodities were either inked to long-term deals, or the player was coming off an injury-riddled campaign. Or both.

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Willingham, Twins Agree to Three-Year Pact

Ron Swanson would be proud. On Thursday, the Twins and GM Terry Ryan helped themselves to a heaping plate of amenable bacon, officially inking outfielder Josh Willingham to a three-year, $21 million deal. The deal, which includes a plate appearance-based incentive in 2014 ($1 million for 525 PA in ’13), was announced after Willingham passed what pretty much amounted to a two-day physical in Minneapolis.

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Slowey Dealt to the Rockies for PTBNL

The Twins and Kevin Slowey were able to get some closure to their messy divorce Tuesday as the club dealt the flyballing right-hander to the Colorado Rockies. The Twins will receive a player-to-be-named-later, which potentially hinges on the Rule 5 draft which takes place Thursday. Given Slowey’s struggles in 2011, it’s unlikely that the player will be of much consequence.

The dust-up between the club and Slowey was over his inability — or depending on your prerogative, his unwillingness — to move to the bullpen early last season. The club had a similar row with left-handed setup man Glen Perkins, who felt he was held back in Rochester in an attempt to control his wages when he felt he was healthy enough to be on the active roster down the stretch in 2010.

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New Kid on the (Trade) Block: Jed Lowrie

With Marco Scutaro keeping shortstop warm for Jose Iglesias — and Dustin Pedroia firmly entrenched at the keystone — new Red Sox GM Ben Cherington has an ace up his sleeve with Jed Lowrie. Keith Law noted this week that the Sox are in an enviable position, “with a slight surplus in the middle infield that could be amplified in a market where there’s more demand for shortstops than there is supply.”

Per usual, Law is spot-on in his analysis. Despite a rough 2011 that saw Lowrie race to an April OPS of .962 before sputtering to his season-ending .685 mark, there remains a good chance that Cherington can pull very good value should he engineer a swap this offseason — if only on the premise that Lowrie’s best years are still ahead of him. With Lowrie set to turn 28 just after Opening Day, this doesn’t seem like such a bad bet if one wagers his fast start in 2011 was merely a continuation of his torrid 2010 pace, which saw him hit .287/.381/.526 (.393 wOBA) with a 1:1 K/BB rate. He also enjoyed less-defined platoon splits than the rest of his big-league career.

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Remembering the Departed

Greg Halman’s recent murder, and to some extent the kidnapping of Wilson Ramos before it each provide us with a harrowing reminder. This reminder is that these players who seem superhuman are in fact mortal. They may be young, vibrant men in better shape than 99.9 percent of us, but they’re still human, and some are still cut down in the prime of their lives.

In light of Halman’s passing, I’d like to take today’s post to remember some of the more recent players (the past 40 years) to pass on while still active. I may be an exception, but even as a somewhat astute baseball fan, I forget about these players from time to time. Please forgive if this is less than a statistically-infused column, and more of one in memoriam.

Nick Adenhart

I still remember hearing about Adenhart’s passing. I was just wrapping up my Junior year in college and was doing so while working overnights. I’d inadvertently forgotten to set a sleep timer on the television, and was jostled awake by the breaking news passing towards the end of the 11 am ET edition of SportsCenter. Adenhart was a passenger in a Mitsubishi Eclipse which was broadsided by a Toyota Sienna that had run a red light in Fullerton, Calif. He was rushed to UC-Irvine Medical Center, where he died a short time later. Even after being a baseball fan some 16 years to that point, I think I was struck most by how Adenhart was younger than I was – a full six months younger. As someone who has experienced their fair share of death, it still struck me that a man so far from the prime of his life could be taken in an instant. Not only was Adenhart a top baseball prospect — named to Baseball America’s top-100 list four times — but at age 22, Adenhart was one of life’s top prospects.

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Minor League Free Agent Watch List

As an observer — I hesitate to call myself a fan since becoming a writer — of a team that’s constantly looking for reasonably-priced free agents, I always find minor league free agency particularly fascinating. A couple weeks ago, Baseball America unveiled a comprehensive list of the players available via minor league free agency.

Essentially, these are minor leaguers who have spent the requisite time in the minor leagues without being added to the 40-man roster (based on draft status), or are veterans who signed one-year deals and will test the choppy waters once again. BA does a very good job of summarizing the process after the jump.

A number of noteworthy players on the list have already signed, like Matt Antonelli and Matt Fox. Nonetheless, here are a few of the names I’ll be keeping an eye on:

RP Garrett Mock

Mock has shown good strikeout rates across his entire career, including a 7.8 rate in the minors and an 8.0 mark across three star-crossed seasons in the nation’s capital. After missing nearly the entire 2010 campaign due to a neck injury, it appears as though Mock’s future will lie in someone’s bullpen, where his strikeout rates will likely suit him well. It doesn’t hurt that he spins a pretty good slider, either. He’ll probably have to settle for a minor league deal and spend some time on the farm proving his neck is healthy, but he could be a nice surprise in someone’s bullpen before the end of the 2012 season.

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