- The Hardball Times 2009 Season Preview finally went to the printers this week and will begin shipping next week. Editor David Gassko posted a nice run-down on what you will receive if you purchase the book, which I highly recommend and not just because I wrote the Twins section. There are many great contributors that helped make this book possible and The Hardball Times is always one of the frontrunners when it comes to baseball analysis (and unlike some baseball websites, their content is always free of charge). Order your copy today.
- Fangraphs's Marc Hulet wrote a piece reflecting back on the Johan Santana trade. Hulet's understated conclusion is that the trade hasn't gone as well as the Twins hoped it would have. In general, trading one superstar player for a handful of players typically fails. Bill James determined in his 1988 Abstract that "Talent in baseball is not normally distributed. It is a pyramid. For every player who is 10% above the average player, there are probably 20 players who are 10% below the average." (There are the exceptions to that Jamesian rule: Giants GM Brian Sabean figured this out when he accepted A.J. Pierzynski for three players.) Essentially, it is hard to replace the superstar that is Johan Santana, which is why none of the three pitchers (Humber, Mulvey and Guerra) will provide the type of innings that Santana did. Most analysts tend to focus on Carlos Gomez when deciding the victor of this trade. Gomez contains the largest likelihood for R.O.I. Subtly, Gomez's presence in centerfield (+32) probably shaved off runs from Slowey (44% fb%) and Baker's (45.7% fb%) overall totals. This should not be taken lightly, however, that isn't as easy to measure as say, a .657 OPS and therefore easier to deem it a bad trade. An improvement in his offensive production in the next several seasons coupled with one of the three pitchers emerging as a significant contributer could swing the trade into the realm of acceptable. What should be understood at this point is that none of the three will provide production on a Johan Santana scale.
- Of all the manuvers Royals GM Dayton Moore made this offseason, signing Zack Greinke to a 4-year, $38M contract is head-and-shoulders the best. Though known for mental issues that sidelined him in 2006 for the majority of the year, Greinke emerged in 2008 as one of the top young starters in the game. The 25-year-old threw 202.1 innings while striking out 183 and walking just 56 for a FIP of 3.56. The Royals have purchased Greinke's first two free agent years (2011, 2012) but all indications suggest that Greinke should be as effective at 28 and 29. Even though the Royals called on Greinke at the tender age of 20, he rarely threw more than 100 pitches in a start. This was also true in his 2005 season. By taking the year off in 2006 and working mostly out of the bullpen in 2007, Greinke has protected his arm from the abuse that a lot of young pitchers on poor teams suffer (see: Radke, Brad). Rany Jayazerli at Baseball Prospectus developed a system of monitoring "Pitcher Abuse Points" or PAP. In short, going from research conducted by Craig Wright, Jayazerli expounded upon the notion that it is not the amount of pitches a pitcher throws that results in injuries, but rather it is throwing with a fatigued arm. Consider Mark Prior, for example. At age 22 in 2003, Prior would often throw more than 130 pitches in a game, averaging 113 pitches per start. At age 21 in 2005, Greinke made 33 starts and only threw over 110 pitches twice (111) and averaged 93 pitches per start. Because Greinke avoided both throwing all together and amassing a hefty pitch count at an early stage in his career, he is now a solid candidate to pitch well into his 30s while flameouts like Prior attempt to make a comeback with the Padres.
I received a spattering of emails (read: three) inquiring which side of the fence I actually stood when it came to signing Joe Crede in response to the article posted yesterday. It may have been a bit ambiguous. I do believe that depending on the terms of the contract, Crede could wind up a bargain free agent. What I do not believe is that Crede will replicate his totals if the Twins acquire him based upon the disadvantage that a right-handed batter has in the Metrodome. Fans should put that into perspective. Rondell White befell the same fate. At Comerica, White found the seats every 24.4 at bats (7 HR in 171 AB at home). Comerica's left field power alley is 10 feet closer to home than the Metrodome. The Twins brought him in and White hit a home run every 34.4 at bats at the Dome (4 HR in 153 AB). The Dome squelches the majority of right-handed power hitters. That said, I highly respect Crede's glovework -- enough to compensate for his low on-base percentage -- and if the Twins think his back is healthy enough to play 130 games, I'm for it.
The Star Tribune's Jim Souhan recently took the time to solve the Twins' third base woes: move Michael Cuddyer back to third. Number one, this resolves the vacancy at third at the same time it does alleviate the logjam of an outfield. Souhan's argument involves not having to spend money or players in acquiring a working part that could play third. On the surface, this proposition makes sense. Cuddyer has a history of playing third base (after being drafted as a shortstop) and, all things considered, third base is only one position back up the Defensive Spectrum from right field (DS: 1B -- LF -- RF -- 3B -- CF -- 2b -- SS). But the problem lies in that Cuddyer will be 30 in 2009, the defensive spectrum is not kind to outfielders that are converted back to third basemen. Steven Goldleaf conducted a study that suggested nearly 75% of all attempts to reconvert outfielders to third basemen fail. Cuddyer's age is pulling him to the left on on the spectrum -- accept that Jim.
- TwinsFest sounds like a resounding success as the total number of patrons exceeded 31,000 -- the third-highest total behind 2007 which saw 35,000 visitors at the Dome following a miraculous comeback season and the second-highest in 1992's crowd of 32,000 following their second World Series title. In today's economic and below zero climate, it is surprising that the Twins have been able to maintain such interest within a team in an offseason in which the resigning of Nick Punto was the hot stove headline. Things could be worse, you could be a Pittsburgh Pirates fan. This past weekend, PirateFest, celebrated their all-time attendance high of 15,000 visitors to the three-day event. After going 488-644 since 2002 (.396 winning percentage), the Pirates front office rewarded the loyal fans by signing Craig Monroe and Ramon Vazquez.