Thursday, November 10, 2005
Dueling Guest Columnists
Mike Kramer and "Roger"
Good Morning everyone! I thought I'd try something a little bit differently today. Thursdays have become a Guest Column day during the offseason, but this week I received two very different but both very good guest columns. I couldn't decide which to post today and which to wait a week with, so I decided to go with both of them today. However, I do have to ask now... if there are others out there who would like to participate in a guest column or write a Why Baseball essay for me, please send me an e-mail and we can decide when you will get your day.
First, some JOHAN
For just one more statistical reasoning for Johan Santana being the 2005 AL Cy Young Award winner, we turn to one of our Guest Columnists for today, Roger. Remember his statistical rankings for the Twins minor league pitchers? Well, in that analysis, he took a number of categories and normalized each player. Categories included were again areas in which a pitcher can actually control. Anyway, Roger took a look at the Cy Young candidates and put their 2005 numbers into his formula. The areas looked at were:
Innings Pitched -
Strikeouts per nine innings -
Strikeouts per walk -
Home Runs Allowed per nine innings -
WHIP (Walks and Hits per inning pitched) -
The minor leaguers were also judged on age compared to level. This is not important in evaluating which pitcher was best in 2005, so each pitcher received full value. There was a subjective point piece where All-Star caliber futures warranted 20 points. Each pitcher in this analysis was given full points because each was good in his own right and subjectivity should not be a factor in judging who was best this year. Because each was obviously in the major leagues, there was no deduction for levels from the major leagues.
With that in mind, here are the results of the candidates:
Johan Santana - 142.462 points
Mariano Rivera - 135.751 points
Mark Buehrle - 128.762 points
Bartolo Colon - 122.402 points
Cliff Lee - 113.102 points
Another view showing us that Johan deserved the award. But, let's get back to today's guest columnists...
Leading off will be Mike Kramer with a perspective of the Twins organization that is about as opposite to mine as possible. Does that make him wrong, and me right? Yes! OK, no. I think you will enjoy reading Mike's thoughts on the Twins. Either that, or you will become enraged. In either case, be sure to e-mail me and let me know what you think. If you would like me to forward any thoughts to Mike, I am sure that he would love to read them and possibly respond. So, without any further ado, let's get to our Guest Columns, starting with a piece by Mike Kramer:
The Price of Loyalty
by Mike Kramer
Seth, I first want to thank you for giving me a chance to "vent", as you call it. There is no doubt that I am not a cheerleader for current Twins' management, but I believe that more Twins' fans are starting to grow skeptical of some of the recent plaudits given this organization, after a dismal 2005 season (at least compared to preseason expectations), and so maybe now is the time to take a little more jaundiced view on how well the organization has been functioning. This is just the first part in what I hope will be a series on the subject.
A lot of ink has been spilled lately on analyzing "the Twins way" , particularly with regards to player development. The mindset of "playing the game the right way", understanding the fundamentals, and stressing pitching and defense rather than power is certainly defensible - to a point. After all this philosophy really was attributed to Tom Kelly, the manager who brought us two world championships. Whether this philosophy was instrumental in winning these championships is another story, however, as Kelly was blessed with guys like Puckett, Hrbek, Chili Davis, Brunansky, Gaetti - each offensive forces in their own right and arguably superior in their prime to anyone currently on the Twins' roster. In any case, in Kelly's first five years, there is little doubt that the Twins' play was characterized by the all-out hustle, epitomized by a Hall-of-Famer, Kirby Puckett.
When the Twins decline in the '90's began, as these veterans departed the scene, Kelly did not seem to change with the times. His mean-spirited bad-mouthing of rookies was legendary - from Marty Cordova to Todd Walker to Tori to Doug M. He continued to stress fundamentals, which I might add should have been taught to these guys in the minors, and was frequently trying to change their hitting techniques that got them to the majors in the first place. As an example, Todd Walker, probably the best natural hitter drafted by the Twins since Puckett, was so discouraged after two years that he literally was given away when his production declined after years of badgering. David Ortiz is the most obvious example of the Twins' way of trying to change a hitter's natural swing; the results upon leaving are pretty obvious. Ortiz, like Pedro Munoz before him, was an easy-going Latino whose cultural background required a little different handling than, say, a player like Koskie who came up with mediocre talent but succeeded by hard work. It is this latter type of player that Kelly and now Gardy can relate well to, as it sort of mirrors their playing personalities. But today's player comes from a different mindset, especially with almost 40% of the 25 man rosters being Latino, and a good manager must adapt to the individual personalities instead of a cookie-cutter approach.
So part of the organizations' shortcomings can be attributed partly to the styles imposed by the managers. However, in the area of hitting, it is obvious in retrospect that a share of the problem must be attributed to the hitting coach. Despite an alarming drop in offense under his regime, Ullger seemingly was an untouchable. Both Gardy and Ryan went out of their way to continue to support him, all year even after the season when Gardy maintained that his coaching staff was going to be back in '06 intact. Before the groans from Twins Nation got too loud, Ryan in effect said not so fast, it will all be decided at Twins' organizational meetings. Sure enough, through a byzantine, overly involved process, Ullger was nudged aside, thanks to forcing Newman to resign, and Ryan got his new hitting coach, contrary to Gardy's wishes, I am sure. However, Gardy got his wish that his fishing buddy, Ullger, would stay as part of his crew, even though there is bound to be some infighting now that Ullger has been displaced by Vavra. Does anyone believe that Vavra is not going to be caught in a pincer movement between Gardy and Ullger over hitting philosophies because there was no clear-cut action take Ryan could have sent a very clear message that he was in charge and would make these decisions but he took the easy way out by trying to accommodate his manager.
Why wasn't Ullger just fired for his nonperformance? The same reason that the much vilified Such was not. They were part of the manager's good old boy network that had become very insular over the years. I mean why shouldn't Gardy feel he could have on his staff whomever he wanted? After all, hadn't the owner said after their last division title, that Gardy had lifetime job security. This type of lack of accountability and unswerving loyalty permeates the entire organization, from Ryan all the way down thru scouting, coaching and the managers. Now loyalty to those who achieve is a precious commodity these days and in such cases is very commendable. But what about loyalty to a GM who has turned a blind eye to offense for pitching and who can't seem to unload pitching surplus for hitting? Or what about the scouts who despite very high draft choices in the nineties have failed to produce one all star player, or the coaching that has obviously failed to teach the necessary fundamentals so highly prized at the major league level? Or even a manager who showed another, darker side the first season things didn't go his way. Why hasn't there been any sort of shakeup since Ryan took over the reigns in '94?
It comes down to accountability for performance, or the lack of such.And, of course, this comes from Mr. Pohlad and his hands-off management style (some might go so far as say, a style characterized by complete ignorance of what is going on these days, but that's subject for the next installment.) I'm afraid the Twins are paying the high price of loyalty by prizing it over everything else, including performance. Such loyalty and hence, longevity, breeds insularity and eventually, failure on the field. Just ask any of the airlines or auto or steel manufacturers what happens when organizations prize loyalty over accomplishments - if you can find them anymore! I don't mean to denigrate the good things Ryan has accomplished, particularly with the budget limitations, but as the defacto boss, he must be the one to take responsibility for personnel decisions and recognize when changes need to be made. So far, I would have to give him a mediocre grade, at best. More on Mr. Ryan in later columns.
So, there you have it, Mike's thoughts on the Twins organization! I know that I am frequently told that I am way too positive and optimistic and give Terry Ryan and the Twins minor league system too much credit. (I also will never say that a season in which the team finished above .500 is 'dismal.') I happen to completely believe in Mr. Ryan, Mr. Radcliffe, Mr. Rantz and others involved in the minor league system. I certainly am not a big supporter of Ron Gardenhire and think that Tom Kelly was horrible on young players too. But overall, I am an optimist. That being said, I do enjoy reading the opposite perspective sometimes. First, there are parts that we do agree upon, something that would have surprised me after a few e-mails from Mike. But also, it is good to hear other sides of issues just to open your eyes to other thoughts. Maybe he'll change my mind. In most cases, I find that reading the other sides help me feel stronger about what I do think. So, please, if you would like to ask me or Mike any questions, please feel free to e-mail me.
Next Up... Roger
Our second guest columnist is no stranger to the Thursday's Guest Columns. Roger wrote up a couple of articles ranking the Twins minor league hitters and pitchers based on a very impressive formula. Recently, he looked at the players on Baseball America's Top 20 Players in the Appalachian League. He (and I) couldn't understand why more Elizabethton Twins did not make the list. So, he used his formula and showed how performance played into such rankings. Let's see what he found:
Ranking the Rookie Leaguers
Baseball America recently completed their ranking of the Top 20 prospects in each minor league. I thought it would be interesting to use my formulas to see how the players Baseball America chose for their Appalachian League Top 20 performed this past season. Because the formulas rank pitchers and position players separately, I separated Baseball America's Top 20 prospects into two groups.
Following is Baseball America's ranking of position players, with the gross points, including points from Appalachian League participation only, accumulated by each player per my formula:
Brandon Snyder C Bluefield #1 18 yrs old 107.768 points
Colby Rasmus OF Johnson City #2 18 103.481
Eric Campbell 3B Danville #3 19 118.584
Max Ramirez C Danville #5 20 108.920
Juan Portes 2B Elizabethton #7 19 103.476
Josh Flores OF Greenville #8 19 106.040
Aaron Cunningham OF Bristol #9 19 95.609
Bryan Anderson C Johnson City #10 18 106.918
John Drennen OF Burlington #12 18 96.899
Eli Iorg OF Greenville #14 22 105.040
John Matulia OF Princeton #15 18 93.854
Koby Clemens 3B Greenville #16 18 98.441
All of the prospects fall within a tight range except Eric Campbell, who arguably could have been the top ranked prospect. Considering that nearly all the top prospects were either 18 or 19 years old, it is clear that Baseball America puts substantially more emphasis on age than my formula. An older college player like the Twins Erik Lis (95.129 points, 22 years old) would need an exceptional year (168ab, .315Ave/.356OBP/.577SLG) to be included by Baseball America. Eli Iorg of Greenville who is also 22, had that type of season (138ab, .333Ave/.391OBP/.565SLG) and was included in Baseball America's top group.
Following is the ranking of pitchers, with the points accumulated by each player based on their play in the Appalachian League only:
Brandon Erbe Bluefield # 4 17 123.257
Jesse Litsch Pulaski # 6 20 115.986
Matt Walker Princeton #11 18 94.315
Jairo Cuevas Danville #13 21 116.586
Alexander Smit Elizabethton #17 19 136.467
Ryan Mullins Elizabethton #18 21 116.418
Ryan Mitchell Greenville #19 17 100.848
Tyler Herron Johnson City #20 18 78.416
Although he is a reliever and pitched only 23.1 innings, Brandon Erbe had excellent numbers (23.1ip, 3.09era, 48K/10BB) meriting consideration for the top spot. Alexander Smit's performance at Elizabethton (45.2ip, 1.97era, 86K/12BB) clearly overshadowed the performance of all the pitchers on their Top 20 ranking. Did Baseball America lower Smit's prospect ranking because he began the season at Beloit and was returned to Elizabethton for a second year? Erbe was 17, however , Smit was 19 and performed better than the second ranked pitcher, Jesse Litch (65.2ip, 2.74era, 67K/10BB) who was a year older than Smit. It appears that Baseball America did lower his ranking for whatever reason.
Three pitchers, Matt Walker (5.31era, 57.2ip, 71K/22BB), Ryan Mitchell (3.34era, 35ip, 33K/14BB) and Tyler Herron (5.62era, 49.2ip, 49K/27BB), didn't perform at a level that would merit consideration for ranking #11, #19 and #20 respectively, based on performance. Elizabethton's Adam Hawes had excellent numbers, leading the league with a 1.53 era (59ip, 68K/16BB). Hawes accumulated 117.411 points and clearly should have been included with this top group of prospects. What is interesting is that Baseball America didn't include Hawes on their prospect list, however, included both Hawes and Smit on their All Rookie League All-Star Team.
Although he pitched most of the season at Beloit, Eduardo Morlan could have been included as a Top 20 prospect having pitched 22 innings, which is comparable to Erbe's 23.1 innings. Morlan is only 19 years old and his performance (22ip, 0.82era, 30K/6BB) earned 152.220 points, which was substantially more than any pitcher in the league with more than a few innings. Including a solid performance at Beloit (51.1ip, 4.38era, 4-4 record, 55K/33BB), Morlan appears to be a hard throwing rising star from whom we will hear much about during the coming seasons as he moves through the Twins organization.
Did Baseball America get it right? With the exception of the Danville Brave's Eric Campbell, it appears they did when ranking the position players. However, their ranking of the pitchers raised several questions. Based on performances in the Appalachian League in 2005, several pitchers including the Twins Adam Hawes and Eduardo Morlan probably should have been included over a few pitchers whose on the field performances were very average. Can a pitcher struggle in a rookie league and remain a top prospect, certainly. However, Morlan and Alexander Smit both pitched at a level that exceeded any other pitchers in the League...Smit likely should have been ranked higher and both Morlan and Hawes should have received serious consideration to be included with this group. I am not going to sit in Minneapolis and maintain that this formula is a better tool for ranking prospects than Baseball America, who I assume has access to scouting reports and talks to scouts working the league. These formulas do however, compare players performance within the league which certainly poses questions regarding why certain players were or were not included in their Top 20.
So, there you have it, two very different Guest columnist's topics. So, please, if you would like to ask me, Mike or Roger any questions, please feel free to e-mail me.
Yesterday afternoon, I went to mlb.com and listened to their broadcast of the Grand Canyon Rafters game. It was an impressive day for the Twins guys in the team's 7-0 win over Peoria Saguaros. Glen Perkins made the start and went five strong innings. He obviously gave up no runs. He gave up just one hit, walked none and struck out nine to get the win. Denard Span led off and DHed. He went 2-4 with a walk. He scored two runs, drove in one and stole a base. Garrett Jones played first base and batted clean up. He went 2-5 with his ninth double and his seventh home run. Matt Moses played 3B and batted seventh. He went 2-4 with his second double and second home run.
Mark Sheldon wrote an article on some Hot Stove topics, particularly how the Twins need to upgrade on offense. I was frustrated by the comments on Michael Cuddyer. It is clear that Terry Ryan and Ron Gardenhire were not happy with Cuddyer at 3B. One of the comments was that he had 15 errors at 3B. Well, it was conveniently left-out that just two of those came in the second half, so he obviously made the adjustment. Also, here is the list of major league 3B who had 15 or more errors this year; Morgan Ensberg and Gold Glover Eric Chavez (15), Aramis Ramirez (16), Garrett Atkins, Aaron Boone and Melvin Mora (18), Mark Teahan (20), David Bell (21), Brandon Inge (23), former Gold Glove winner Troy Glaus and David Wright (24).
TSN's Tom Gatto proposed this three-team trade:
2B Alfonso Soriano and RHP Jonathan Broxton to the Red Sox; CF Torii Hunter to the Dodgers; Kendrick, 1B Adrian Gonzalez and 3B Kevin Youkilis to the Twins and RHPs Bronson Arroyo and Cla Meredith and LHP Derek Thompson to the Rangers. Soriano would replace Ramirez as the righthanded thunder in the Sox's lineup and bring 30-30 speed. Broxton could provide bullpen help. Publicly, Hunter is staying put, but Minnesota ought to be trying right now to receive some value for its $10 million man; the Twins would get a new infield here. The Rangers would add needed pitching. The Dodgers would get a premier (albeit expensive) center fielder to replace Milton Bradley.
Replace Adrian Gonzalez with Ian Kinsler and I'm ALL for this!!! Are you kidding! Kevin Youklis and Howie Kendrick for Torii Hunter!? I don't think I could be more thrilled! If only! It looks like the Red Sox are now going to go with Youklis, and the Twins may be able to get Bill Mueller to play 3B. I don't have a major problem with that. I could still see a Torii Hunter for Howie Kendrick deal and be happy with that!
Joe Mauer is in Puerto Rico doing a photo shoot for Perry Ellis clothing.
Any thoughts on the Twins, please let me know. Send me an e-mail and lets chat!
The Wolves improved to 3-2 last night with an 88-74 win at home over the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers jumped out to a nine point lead after one quarter, but the Wolves dominated the final three quarters on their way to a relatively easy win. Coach Dwayne Casey coached despite losing his father the day before. He left the team following the game, but plans on being back with the team for their next game, Sunday at Denver.
Kevin Garnett was excellent as usual. He was 8-16 from the field for 17 points and 15 boards. I love his unselfishness. Like SBG, I would like to see KG take more shots in a game, but I also enjoy watching the way he plays and would hate to see him change too much. The Wolves TV crew threw out an interesting statistic last night that said that Garnett came into the game having taken just 18% of the team's shots. His 16 shots last night was 21% of all Wolves shots. Compare that to the 42% of Lakers shots that Kobe Bryant takes and you can imagine which superstar that other player would prefer to team with. Last night, Bryant scored 28 points on 12 of 26 from the field (that was 33.3% of Lakers shots).
Anthony Carter played just 13 minutes last night, but he was the PG for the Wolves down the stretch. I happen to think he is playing as well as he did in his big days back with the Heat.
Trenton Hassel had a good offensive game, scoring 14 points on 5-7 from the field. After the game, Wolves analyst Jim Peterson said that Hassell "is deadly with an open jumper." Ummm, no, he's not. He occasionally has a game like this surrounded by many games in which he missed open 12 footer after open 12 footer. Hassell is at his best when he is crashing the offensive boards and getting some dunks and easy lay ups.
Eight of Eddie Griffin's 13 shots were three pointers. I really wish that he would take more shots inside, and that somehow Wally Szczerbiak could get that many open looks from downtown!
Minneapolis native and Augsburg grad Devean George scored eight points and grabbed six boards on 4-8 shooting in 26 minutes as the Lakers sixth man.
Marko Jaric played just 18 minutes. Not sure why he played so little as he contributed five assists in that time period.
The Wolves team play is definitely back, well, except when Troy Hudson is in the game.
Stick and Ball Guy calls Kobe the Black Hole, and explains why based on his game last night.
However, it is also important to remember that the Wolves played the Portland Trailblazers, a team many rank very near the bottom of the NBA. The Wolves will not be a bad team by any means. They have some talent. However, I just don't know that their talent can compete with the likes of the Spurs. That said, who can? I mean, Michael Finley is their sixth man!
And on those notes, I will call it a day. I certainly hope that you have found Mike's Twins article and Roger's E-Town Twins article worth reading, and I hope that many of you will have comments for him. I will be back tomorrow for more of my own thoughts, as well as the NFL "Expert" Picks. If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me.
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