Sunday, April 05, 2009

Twins Notes (Opening Day)

Oddsmakers are suggesting the Twins have a 20-to-1 shot at winning the World Series in 2009, placing them sixth on the list.  Up top are the Yankees (3-to-1), Cubs (11-to-2) and Red Sox (7-to-1) while pulling up the rear are the Nationals (100-to-1), Royals (100-to-1) and Pirates (150-to-1). 
Looking for a last minute ticket to the Twins home opener?  Charley Walters reports that "on-street ticket brokers" (also known as "scalpers") will be asking $30 for the upper deck cheap seats that retail for $8 to the soldout event.   
Tom Powers presents a less-than-flattering remembrance of the Metrodome on the eve of the 27th and final home opener under the Teflon sky, recalling sewage problems, rat infestations and overall terrible odor.  When speculating whether or not he will get nostalgic, Powers say "It's like the late, great sportswriter Dick Young said when asked for a comment on the death of Yankees catcher Thurman Munson that morning: 'Yesterday he was a (bleep). Today he is a dead (bleep).'"
On the other side of the river, Patrick Reusse reminds us of the unsightly sight-lines of the Dome that can be devastated by fans with the smallest of bladders.  Reusse also denounces the powers-that-be in the early 1980's that came up with the contraption to hide folded football seats, otherwise known as the Baggy (or Baggie, depending who you ask).  As rinky-dink as the entire operation is, the Baggy was the one feature that gave the Metrodome an identity.   
Kelsie Smith summarizes the current Twins sentiments regarding the Dome Field Advantage.  Smith points out that the advantage didn't always favor the Twins, recalling one situation in 2007 against the visiting Brewers.  The game start with Torii Hunter being struck by a Jeff Suppan pitch in the first and Ron Gardenhire was forced to replace his defensive stalwart with Lew Ford in center.  For his part, Ford had a good game at the plate, going 2-for-3 and driving in four runs.  His efforts in center, however, nearly cost the Twins the ballgame.  In the top of the ninth, with a comfortable 9-7 lead, Joe Nathan came on for the save.  His first opponent was the girthy Prince Fielder who launched a fly ball towards the ceiling in center.  Lew being Lew, sprinted in the opposite direction of where the ball was heading and Fielder chugged his way around the bases for an improbable inside-the-park home run.  The Brewers eventually tied the game up but the Twins were rescued by a Justin Morneau walk off home run.  
At STATS Blog, Thom Henninger inspects the Twins pitching staff's home/away split which reveals that at the Dome pitchers possessed a very solid ERA (3.27) while the numbers inflated nearly two runs on the road (5.10).  An explanation for the discrepancy isn't readily available either.  According to's new fielding page, the Twins were actually worse on defense at the Dome (-41.8 FRAA) then they were on the road (-33.8 FRAA).  What it appears to be is that the Metrodome's configuration greatly muted the opposing team's power attack.  While at the Dome, opponents hit 0.99 HR/9 but managed to pick up the pace to 1.27 HR/9 away.  Likewise, opponents found extra base hits harder to come by at the Dome (2.74 XBH/9) versus outside (3.49 XBH/9) leading to a better slugging percentage away from Minneapolis (.396 H vs. .467 A).
Joe Christensen presents both sides of the Pitch Count Debate.  Christensen notes that the Twins frequently allowed Brad Radke to encroach on the 120-pitch count to which Gardenhire said that the following outing, they could expect Radke to be less effective.  In February, I inspected Radke's usage patterns by Pitcher Abuse Points which shows that Tom Kelly allowed Radke to throw high amounts of pitches early in his career.  This patterned subsided when Gardenhire took the helm.  "If I hadn't been on a pitch count, I might not have been able to throw half as much as I did." Radke said
The Mankato Free Press's Ed Thoma notes that the 2008 Twins had 72 sacrifice flies (five short of the 1984 Oakland A's record setting team).  Hitting sacrifice flies, much like fouling off two-strike pitches, is not, in essence, a skill that can be maintained.  On average, players hit medium-to-long flyballs in 18% of the sac-fly situations and averaged 18% in all other situations.  The Twins were just adept at getting baserunners to third to allow for a sacrifice condition. 
Last Thursday, Rob Neyer stated "The Twins are always operating on the margins because, with the notable exceptions of Mauer and Justin Morneau, they don't have any excellent non-pitchers (unless you count Denard Span, and I don't yet). Take away one of them and replace Baker with R.A. Dickey -- and yeah, I love the knuckleballer, but c'mon -- and you're looking at a .500 team. At best."  Although I have disagreed with Neyer's assessment of the Twins' offensive talent in the past, his prediction is fairly accurate.  Depending on the length of the pair's tenure on the DL, it stands to reason that it would cost the team approximately five wins.  By the way, Mauer tells Phil Miller that it will be weeks, not months before he returns to the lineup.
While Jim Souhan opines about the longevity of the modern pitcher-batter match-up -- erroneously blaming Bill James, Billy Beane and Michael Lewis for the increased value in walks -- he fails once again to see the big picture.  Consider that since 1901, no team that has finished last in the league in walks has won a World Series.  In addition to that, according to 2000 Baseball Scoreboard, the teams that did finish last in walks had a combine winning percentage of .415.  Eliminate pitch selectivity to appease your fans that want to go to bed by 9:15 and you hasten your team's winter break.   
Baseball announced that the Royals-White Sox opening series will not start on today as scheduled due to weather conditions in Chicago, instead, the festivities in the Windy City will commence Tuesday.  Of course, there are mind-boggling considerations needed when designing a 162-game schedule for 30 teams but the season opens with two teams that have roofs over their respective stadiums playing each other meanwhile another series opens in a northern climate that is often subjected to this kind of weather throughout the first few weeks of April. 
The Salt Lake Tribune looks at the successes and failures of the Large, Medium and Small market clubs.  Once again to perpetuate a common fallacy, the writer lumps the Twins within the "small market" category and describes them as "poster child for small market success".  According to the 2007 census reports, the Twin Cities Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) is ranked 16th in size, just 100,000 fewer people than that of "medium market" Seattle-Tacoma.  The Twin Cities is also larger than several noted "medium market" MSAs, including St Louis and Baltimore.  The Twins should be described more accurately as the poster child for small budget success. 
La Velle E. Neal is hosting a live chat at 12 to talk the upcoming 2009 baseball season. 
Aaron Gleeman provides his predictions for the Twins season and all of baseball for that matter. 
Seth Stohs has the rundown of the roster situations organizationwide.  Stohs, the content editor here at Baseball Digest for the Twins, will be joining John Bonnes, the TwinsGeek, for a nightly postgame podcast at  Be sure to turn in to listen to the two best pair of talking heads in the Twins blogosphere.
Nick Nelson is finally announcing he is officially solo.  (It's like the moment KC finally left the Sunshine Band.) His blog is redesigned for the 2009 season. 
Josh Johnson looks at the full Twins roster and lets us know where it compares with the 2008 version. 
At Twins MVB, the gang offers up their speculations on the 2009 season while Twinkie Town gives theirs as well.
Random Twin factoid:  John Smoltz tells the New York Times that the Twins' Nick Punto is one of the better golfer's in the Major today.