Monday, November 17, 2008
Casey as a Bat… for the Twins?
BOOK UPDATE – If you haven’t pre-ordered your copy (or a copy for that huge Twins fan that is so tough to buy Christmas presents for) of my soon-to-be-released book, I am taking pre-orders for Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook – 2009. If you are looking for information including pricing, payment and such, please click on the link. I hope to make it available online right before Thanksgiving. However, if you would like to pre-order the book, or several copies of the book (for a discounted price), check out the pre-order details and send me an e-mail. Again, if there are any retailers (book stores, sports card shops, convenience stores, etc.), please e-mail me for a pricing plan.
Twins Make Offer to Casey Blake
On Friday, LaVelle E Neal broke the news that the Twins have prepared paperwork and sent a contract offer to the representatives of free agent 3B Casey Blake. My initial thought was, “Here we go again!” Another veteran, likely past his prime. But I didn’t think that was really fair. What do we know about Blake, and can he make the Twins better? Would signing him make sense on some level? Here were some of my thoughts.
· He is from Iowa and grew up a Twins fan. Does this mean anything? Not really, unless along with that comes a willingness to sign a “hometown” discount a la Paul Molitor, Terry Steinback and Dave Winfield.
· He is a great guy, a great teammate. Again, this is something that the Twins like, and for good reason.
· He was with the Twins organization for several years. Is this good or bad? Well again, there could be some familiarity with how things are done. The basic Twins system has not changed much since 1986 when Tom Kelly took over the reigns. However, 2002 was the last year that Blake spent with the Twins before heading elsewhere. Michael Cuddyer is the only Twins player around who played with the Twins at that time. Of course, Cuddyer’s name is all over rumors now as well. Oh, and I guess Eddie Guardado would have been a Blake teammate, but it is quite unlikely that the Twins would bring him back.
· Blake is 35 years old. This isn’t a horrible thing. The concern comes in the contract. Would he be willing to sign a two year contract when rumors indicate he could get three, if not four?
· According to Jeff Passan’s free agent tracker, Casey Blake is the #22 free agent on the market. He is the top 3B on the list. Of course, that is what it is. Remember that Mike Lamb was the #2 3B on the free agent market a year ago, behind only Alex Rodriguez.
· He made $6.1 million in 2008. He should expect a raise. My guess is that the first Twins offer will be more in the range of two years and $14 million with a 2011 option and a $1 million buyout. That won’t do it.
· I have heard people say that Blake provides a lot of versatility. He can play 3B, but also 1B and RF (as well as DH, obviously). A review of Baseball-Reference.com reminded me that he had spent the 2005 and 2006 seasons as Cleveland’s primary RF. In 2008, he played 133 games at 3B and 29 games at 1B. In 2007, he played 145 games at 3B and combined for 19 more games between 1B and RF. Going back further, he played 292 games at 3B between 2003 and 2004, with 39 at 1B. Versatility is good if crazy events happen in the game. However, what does it mean for the Twins? He can play 1B… Great! The Twins have a pretty strong 1B who should be able to man that position at least 155 times during the season. RF? Well, Michael Cuddyer is still around, and if he is dealt, a move of Delmon Young back to RF makes some sense, unless they keep Denard Span over there. In other words, it is more than unlikely that Blake would see any time in the outfield. DH? I think Jason Kubel showed enough in 2008 that he is the team’s DH Blake could DH from time to time against tough lefties. In other words, versatility is a wonderful thing, but in my mind, it is not a deal breaker.
· I am not going to throw a bunch of numbers at you about defense. One, I question most defensive statistics. I have looked at them, and basically what they say is that he is about an average defender. Compared to Brian Buscher, he is a bit of an improvement. Brendan Harris made some great plays at 3B, but his range is pretty non-existent. So defensively, Blake would be an improvement over a combination of Brendan Harris and Brian Buscher, but just not that great.
· So, the question remains, how much difference would there be between the Buscher/Harris platoon and Casey Blake? Let’s try to see if we can figure it out:
o Casey Blake in 2008 – He went 147-536 (.274/345/.463) with 36 doubles, a triple, 21 homers and 81 RBI. He walked 49 times and struck out 120 times.
o Brian Buscher in 2008 (against righties) – He went 55-174 with nine doubles, no triples, four homers and 40 RBI. He walked 16 times and struck out 30 times.
o Brendan Harris in 2008 (against lefties) – He went 40-151 with 14 doubles, a triple, a homer and 14 RBI. He walked 13 times and struck out 33 times.
o Note – In the platoon, Buscher and Harris would theoretically only bat against either a lefty or righty. Of course, there would be overlap, but we are thinking in theory, so bear with me.
o Combined in 2008 (Buscher/Harris) – 95-325 with 23 doubles, a triple, five homers and 54 RBI. They walked 29 times and struck out 63 times.
o Now, we need to ‘normalize’ the numbers to assume every day play, which is what Blake would get. In other words. We need to assume that the Buscher/Harris platoon would get the same number of at bats as Casey Blake would get. It would be better to ‘normalize’ to the number of plate appearances, but using the same number of at bats (536) meant just one difference in walks, so it is very close.
o The Platoon in 2008-Normalized – 157-536 (.293/.351/.416) with 38 doubles, two triples, eight homers and 89 RBI. They would walk 48 times and strike out 104 times. (Please note that these are not official numbers in any way. It doesn’t include things like HBP or SF, etc, so it is just a number to give an idea. In fact, it is likely that the OBP would be slightly higher.)
o Looks pretty similar to me. Blake’s OPS was .808. The Platoon would be .767. That is a 5% difference, with Blake being better. Of course, the platoon would hit for a higher average with Blake hitting more home runs, hence the higher slugging percentage. The 21 homers to just eight homers is noticeable. Blake also strikes out a lot. Also, do we think that Blake would hit 21 homers for the Twins? As Joe Christensen noted on his blog, the Metrodome was the most pitcher-friendly AL stadium in 2008.
· The platoon of Brendan Harris and Brian Buscher will make about $850,000 in 2009. Casey Blake will likely make at least $7 million in 2009.
· Would signing Casey Blake make the Twins better at 3B? I think so. But will it have a significant difference on the 2009 Twins? I really don’t think so.
· Would signing Casey Blake keep the Twins from acquiring a SS that can actually significantly improve their SS production in 2009? That is the big question. What would signing Casey Blake keep the Twins from doing at other positions?
Arizona Fall League Weekend Update
· The Phoenix Desert Dogs played Friday and Saturday against Mesa. They lost 15-7 on Friday and 8-1 on Saturday.
· On Friday, Dustin Martin went 1-3 with a walk, his fifth double and his fifth stolen base. Anthony Slama pitched a perfect inning. In fact, he needed just three pitches to get all three outs.
· On Saturday, Martin went 1-4. Danny Valencia went 0-3.
Venezuelan Winter League Update
· After a horrific start, Luke Hughes has been hitting much better of late. He is now hitting .304/.345/.468 (24-79) with three doubles, two triples and two homers. He has walked three times and struck out 17 times.
· Wilson Ramos has cooled off. He is now hitting .271/.271/.313 (13-48) with two doubles. He has not walked and struck out eight times.
· Jose Mijares has been quite good. He is 1-1 with five saves and a 0.79 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP. In 12 games, he has pitched 11.1 innings. He has walked four and struck out 12.
· Bobby Korecky hasn’t. He is 1-1 with a 6.00 ERA and a 1.73 WHIP. In 11 games, he has thrown 15 innings. He has walked six and struck out 11.
· One to watch would be Danny Rondon. He is 1-1 with a 5.51 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP. He has thrown 16.1 innings in 12 games. He has six walks and nine strikeouts. Not great numbers but not that he pitched for Elizabethton in 2008 whereas Korecky split time between Rochester and the Twins.