Friday, July 11, 2008

The Friday Flotsam

* The PiPress's Tom Powers is suggesting the Twins pick up the recently jettisoned Richie Sexson to address several needs, most notably the ability to hit left-handed pitching. This, of course, would mean that the Twins would have to do the same to one member of their roster as the Mariners did to Sexie. Mike Lamb seems to be a logical candidate as the Twins have an overwhelming amount of players that can handle third base plus the left-handed Brian Buscher who is produce in the way the Twins wanted Lamb to when he was signed in the winter. One obvious reason that the Twins wouldn't release Lamb is that they are still committed to paying him $3 million dollars in 2009. Even at the cost of discarding $3 million plus and adding the 34-year-old Sexson who may or may not be washed up, the Twins might be desperate enough to execute a move such as that. Craig Monroe, the right-handed bat the traded for in the off-season, was acquired because he was hitting .260/.311/.467 in his career against lefties but is hitting a paltry .127/.225/.225 in 80 plate appearances this season. Sexson has had better career average against lefties (.265/.369/.510) and is doing better against lefties this season, hitting .344/.423/.623 in 71 plate appearances. Sexson would be limited to designated hitter but could also displace first baseman Justin Morneau for a night off (however Sexson has an atrocious glove, ranked 30th among major league first baseman according to the Fielding Bible Plus/Minus). Using Sexson ONLY against left-handed pitching would be the ideal deployment, however, Geoff Baker with the Seattle Times reports that the main reason to cut Sexson was his "body language" displayed when manager Jim Riggleman limited him to left-handed pitching. "I think he would have given us power immediately against left-handers," Riggleman said. The cost of adding the right-handed dh against left-handed pitching and late-innings pinch hitter to the roster would be approximately $4 million-plus (on top of the $390K league minimum payment), the amount the Twins would owe Mike Lamb, and the possible addition of someone who is unsatisfied with their role. BUT the Twins wouldn't have to package anyone in a trade (like they did in the futile Phil Nevin deal). Is this a desirable acquisition?

Richie Sexson's .218 batting average was the worst of any major-leaguer with at least 250 at-bats. Interim general manager Lee Pelekoudas said Sexson's homer on Monday and double on Tuesday did little to impact the move.

* Ragging on Sid Hartman is like shooting fish in a barrel of petroleum jelly...with a hand grenade. It really isn't sporting. He is to sports reporting what People magazine is to news. Nevertheless his longevity and "close personal friends" have kept him in print even though his columns have turned into uninteresting, rambling talking points introduced by his trademark "Well,". Today his column title ("Morneau sizzles at the plate, but also impresses with his glove") sucked me in via the TwinsGeek blogroll. Before I get to far off in this tangent, I want to begin by saying I do believe that Justin Morneau has developed into a solid defensive first baseman. He cannot handle the hard hit grounders between him and second or him and the foul line the way converted shortstop-cum-first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz could but Morneau has become a vacuum when it comes to the low-throws and picks. (Then again, I feel that having a first baseman that cannot contain a majority of the low throws and throws in the dirt is as useful as having a shortstop that can't pivot left for the doubleplay. It should be in the job description.) His ability to cover ground in foul territory has seemed to expand since his earlier seasons as well. Bottom line is that whatever range is sacrificed in the field is more than regained through his power and his ability to hit for a high average. Sid's justification for Morneau's candidacy for a gold glove is fielding percentage - a statistic that is as antiquated as the medium in which Hartman writes for. I would go into the complete details of why it is a faulty meter in this diatribe, assuming that most readers that have found themselves here at OTB have a good comprehension on why fielding percentage is a junk metric. According to the Hardball Times revised zone rating statistic, Morneau is eighth among AL first basemen at .709. Like it's predecessor fielding percentage, revised zone rating is a better yet incomplete statistic. The overall encompassing measurement is the one created by John Dewan. The Fielding Bible Plus/Minus has Morneau ranked at 15th among major league first baseman with 0. Casey Kotchman of the Angels, on the other hand, leads American League first baseman with a +12. Daric Barton, Lyle Overbay and Kevin Youkilis all have rankings better than Morneau. I do believe that Justin Morneau is a high-quality first baseman defensively but he is hardly a glove glove candidate.
* LEN3 wrote that the Twins do not have an 8th inning guy in the wake of two consecutive losses attributed to the bullpen. He indicated a very good point that the trade market for solid middle relief will undoubtedly be overpaid for. SBG's ubelman made a quick post that echoed the same sentiment. Without a doubt, the Twins have all the components to make an outstanding bullpen but lack the pitcher (Neshek) that would put it over the top. Acquiring it on the open market before the trade deadline would most likely cost the organization dearly. Last year when Boston traded for Eric Gagne they gave up Kason Gabbard, David Murphy and Engel Beltre. In 18.2 innings of work, Gagne produced a 6.75 era and opponents were hitting .325/.393/.463 in 89 match-ups. The Red Sox gave Gagne his walking papers prior to this season but were three prospects short when gaining -1.58 wpa in those 20 appearances. It would be more beneficial for the Twins in the long run to exhaust the search for an internal candidate before attempting to make a trade.
* The disbelief behind Nick Punto's play is quite staggering. Who could have predicted this? Oh yeah, me. I might as well have tried to forecast that gas prices would decline to under a buck a gallon or predict that Pauly Shore was destined for an Oscar in 2009 for the reaction it got me when I wrote it originally. I'm not saying that Baseball Prospectus should have me on the payroll, but still, have to pat myself on the back a little. Is Punto really a .320/.378/.460 hitter? No, but he isn't a .210/.291/.271 hitter either. He had extremely bad luck mostly because his .257 batting average on balls in play was the lowest among qualified batters in the American League - a direct result of him hitting line drives only 12% of the time. This season he might be one of the luckiest batters in the league riding a .369 batting average on balls in play with FEWER line drives (11%). Want another prediction? It's not sustainable but it is not entirely out of the question for him to finish close to his 2006 numbers.
* Watching Ron Gardenhire emerge from the dugout to argue with the umpire after questionable calls is getting as predictable as a band returning to the stage for an encore at a concert. Fans half-heartily cheer when Gardy gets going full-steam but it feels forced. It is expect. After finishing the book on Hall of Fame manager Earl Weaver, "Weaver on Strategy", I have been somewhat enlightened as to some of the various reasons cited for why a manager would dance the charade of arguing with an umpire. Some of the reasons are legit, some are just out of sheer frustration. And sometimes the umpires egg you on - like in this recorded instance in a game against the Detroit Tigers. Personally, I love Weaver and the majority of his strategies but you have to love the way he handled the media the most. (warning: potty mouthery in the links).