Friday, July 30, 2010

Twins spend best trading chip on closer Capps

By his own admission, Twins general manager Bill Smith seemed to grasp the absurdity of overpaying at the trade deadline. “There is a fine line between patience and impatience or patience and panic,” He told’s Kelly Thesier, “You don’t want to overreact either way.”  
Nevertheless, Smith ignored this philosophy by shipping his number one trading chip in Wilson Ramos to Washington for closer in Matt Capps. It’s basically like encouraging everyone at a party to behave like responsible adults then jump in to the pool with a lampshade on your head.
With the notion of patience and overreacting at the forefront of their minds, coupled with the market shaping up to favor sellers, Smith and company made a snap decision and relinquished their best trading chip to address one of their looming needs.
In his first two games in Minnesota, Wilson Ramos gave fans a glimpse of his promise, going 7-for-9 with three doubles. This perfromance probably obscured some onlooker’s perspective of his immediate talent. He regressed quickly of course, and went 1-for-18 with three strikeouts in the rest of his tenure at the big league level. On top of that, Ramos’s trade value also took a hit when he stopped getting them in AAA, failed to show power or patience at the higher level and was a repeat-offender when it came to injuries. At the same time, let’s not forget that the 22-year-old Ramos has only had slightly more than 500 plate appearances above the high-A level. At this point in his development, the catching prospect has not had ample time to adapt properly at each level lending credence to the notion that the best is yet to come.
In exchange for Ramos and his high-ceiling, the Twins fortified their bullpen with another version of Jon Rauch.
Admittedly, Capps has much better raw stuff than Rauch. His fastball has three-to-four more miles per hour behind it and can actually miss bats. Whereas Rauch’s heater gets a below average 12% miss rate, Capps’s cheddar gets hitters to miss 20% of the time. Even with that arsenal, he’s still has posted similar results.
In the past three seasons, Capps’s 1.8 BB/9 is lower than all relievers with the exception of Edward Mujica and Mariano Rivera. In his 178.2 innings pitched in that span, Capps had issued just 36 free passes. While his walk rate is unquestionably spectacular - which keeps the bases free of clutter in the late innings - Capps has been dinged for hits at a high clip. In that same timeframe, Capps’s .276 batting average allowed has been the ninth-highest among relievers in baseball and he has allowed 23 home runs to boot. Like Capps, Jon Rauch has managed to keep his walk rate at a respectable level (2.2 BB/9) while turning in a somewhat sub-prime batting average (.261). Not to be outdone by his National League counterpart, Rauch also surrendered a matching 23 home runs in the last three seasons.
On top of this redundancy, there is also a buyer-beware element to the Capps acquisition as well. In his younger days in Pittsburgh, toiling away at the league’s worst bullpen, Capps was massively overexerted, making 161 appearances from 2006 to 2007.  With that sort of mileage, it is no wonder that Capps eventually landed on the DL with shoulder bursitis and elbow swelling.  Although he has not had any bouts with injuries since 2009, the concern exists that something could go awry with the wiring at any point.
Was sacrificing their best available blue-chip trading prospect for essentially a carbon copy of their in-house closer a sage decision?   
Again, as Mr. Smith says, there is fine line between patience and panic. A year ago, the Twins waited until late August when they landed Rauch in exchange for a prospect-turned-suspect in Kevin Mulvey. That inexpensive maneuver supplied the Twins will their now-ousted closer for much of 2010. This year the team moved quickly and decisively at a significant cost. It remains to be seen how the aggressive approach plays out.  

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Twins turning to Toronto for help?

1500ESPN’s Tom Pelissero relayed yesterday afternoon that the Twins were in contact with the Toronto Blue Jays, possibly seeking bullpen help. This report would corroborate the speculation of Star Tribune beat writer La Velle Neal who noted that the Twins would be interested in adding another bullpen arm. After scoring runs by the dozens in Baltimore and Kansas City, it seems highly unnecessary to require bullpen help. After all, the team is posting an American League-best 3.17 ERA so far this season. 

Of course, this is potential a case of smoke-and-mirrors as the team also has a 4.41 xFIP out of the bullpen. Additionally, in July, the Twins second-city players have accumulated a gaudy 4.55 ERA – possibly indicative of tired arms that have been overused while starters have called it quits early in the game. If the Twins expect to dash to the finish line with the White Sox in the Central, reinforcements are needed. 

KSTP’s Joe Schmit tweeted that the Twins were not in contention for the 34-year-old left-hander, Scott Downs. Of Toronto’s stable of relievers, Downs may be the most desirable of the lot, especially if his $4 million price tag for 2010 says anything about it. While the majority of long-term contracts to relievers wind up not worth the paper they are signed on, Downs has fulfilled expectations. After signing a three-year, $10 million contract in 2008, he has emerged as one of the game’s most consistent bullpen arms. In the past three seasons, Downs’s 3.44 xFIP has been the 12th-best among the game’s relievers. Meanwhile, for those that prefer ERA, Downs has been the fourth best in that category (2.28) as well. What makes him particularly attractive for the later innings is his restrictive home run nature. During the course of his current contract, Downs’s 0.46 home runs per nine innings in the seventh-lowest among those qualified relievers. As a pitcher who rarely breaks 90-mph with his fastball, Downs earns his living hitting the areas just below the strike zone. This has made him a very effective groundball-oriented pitcher (59% GB since ’08) and very difficult to elevate with power.

With Jesse Crain rebounding to form and Matt Guerrier producing well in later innings, it seems unlikely that the Twins require a right-handed reliever but the Blue Jays have several of those options available too. One-time closer Jason Frasor is one such target. In three consecutive years, Frasor has struck out roughly 20% of his total batters faced while incorporating a split-finger fastball to increase the total amount of groundballs induced in recent years. However, Frasor’s ERA (4.66) has outpaced the anticipated results due to a precipitous amount of balls finding turf. For his career, Frasor holds a .296 BABIP but is carrying a hefty .376 BABIP this season, which is one of the highest in baseball despite having significant groundball tendencies. With the exception of the walks, Frasor has a skill set that could play well in Minnesota as, like Downs, he is miserly with the home runs and is a groundball pitcher. Aside from the walks, the Twins typically do not acquire split-finger pitchers so those two elements would probably He’s nominally cheaper than Downs (slated to make $2.65 million in ’10) and a free agent for the first time in his career after this season.

Like Frasor, Shawn Camp is another right-handed reliever with late-inning pedigree and high leverage experience. Unlike the previous two candidates, Camp is not known for his ability to entice a strikeout. Camp relies on command of his pitches but can get plenty of off-balanced swings with his changeup and slider combination. Likewise, this repertoire gets him plenty of grounders as well (55% career rate). Camp is favorable of a matchup against right-handers (a career 3.25 K/BB ratio) lefties have proven to be a tougher puzzle for him. For his career, left-handers had hit .328/.389/.515. His presence may require some managerial savvy as the amount of available left-handers out of the pen is now limited to Jose Mijares and Ron Mahay. Still, his $1.15 million contract makes him an attractive acquisition and without the Type A label of Scott Downs, Camp would require a much smaller package to obtain.

Lastly, reigning Blue Jays’ closer, Kevin Gregg, was signed after a hellacious season in Chicago’s Wrigley Field combating the prevailing winds. While in a Cubs uniform, Gregg surrendered a career-high 13 home runs and was constantly influx with his closer’s position. Toronto signed him on the cheap ($2.75 with option in ’11 and ’12) in February. Gregg started his season in Canada well, converting 14 of 16 save opportunities while limited opponents to a .250 batting average and 27 strikeouts in 23 innings pitched. From June on, his control waned some (mostly attributed to a five-walk outing against Tampa) leading to a 5.12 walks per nine innings and he blew another two saves in 11 tries as his ERA inflated to 4.70. He’s increased the usage of his cutter, leading to more grounder, yet his ability to hit the strike zone is of concern.

With a relief staff full of arms ready for the trade, Toronto has four viable options that could be had at a relatively low price. Here’s an excerpt from the Blue Jays’ section of the 2010 TwinsCentric Trade Deadline Primer written by Jays' blogger Will Rainey: 
“Just as unexpectedly, it has been bullpen inconsistency that has undermined the team's pitching efforts. Coming into the season, it was widely assumed that the Jays, who'd had the best bullpen in the game over the previous three seasons combined, had not only a solid crew but depth from which to trade as the deadline approached. While it's still true they have movable parts, those players have not spent the first half burnishing their trade value. It is true that reliever's ERA can be one of the most misleading of stats, since one or two rough outings can skew the overall figure badly, but one can't help noticing that several of the Jays relievers have had those blowups. Most frustratingly, these seem to occur most often against the division rival Rays.” 
Because they are undervalued right now, the Twins may be able to land any of the four at a reasonable price and help distribute the workload around more in the later innings.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Delmon Young's RISPy Business

In 2006, the Twins’ backup catcher Mike Redmond encouraged his teammates to “smell” the RBIs. This year, Delmon Young is upping the ante and apparently using all five senses. In fact, considering his league-best .419 batting average with runners in scoring position (RISP) he may be using a sixth or possibly even seventh sense during those all-important run-producing situations.

Because Young has made wholesale improvements to his mechanics, which has led to better overall contact, his numbers have steadily risen. Undoubtedly, this has made him a better all-around offensive contributor. Given the opportunity to hit with runners on base frequently, the Twins’ left fielder has delivered repeatedly in 2010. Young has come to the plate with 257 runners on base and has driven in 23% of those runners – the highest rate in the American League.

While Young was good in RISP situations (hitting .313 with 49 RBI) in ’09, he wasn’t otherworldly like he has been this year. Using the pitch f/x tool found at, we can scrutinize what has made Young such an RBI monster: 

Delmon Young with RISP:
Ball In Play%
Line Drive%

Simply avoiding strikeouts has been a major upgrade in his game. The other key component to achieving an RBI that goes hand-in-hand with the first point is that he has been his ability to put the ball in play. Additionally, you can see that Young is driving the ball better with an increased line drive rate as well.  

Last night’s at-bat in the first inning with two outs and the bases drunk with Twins was a microcosm of what has made Young so successful this year. With the count 3-2, Kevin Millwood threw Delmon Young a slider and Young drove the pitch to the left-center field gap to clear the bases. A year ago, the results may have been wildly different for two reasons.

First, with two-strikes against him, Young was essentially a dead-man walking in ‘09.

In 45% of his total plate appearances that advanced to the two-strike stage, he eventually struck out. This season, his battle tendencies have improved dramatically. When in the hole by two-strikes, Young has struck out in just 29% of those matchups, well-below the league average of 35%. As you can see from the chart above, Young has been even more prudent in avoiding strikeouts in those critical RBI situations – dropping his K-rate from 22.7% to 9.2%.

Secondly, the mere appearance of a slider would have stopped Young cold in ‘09.

For whatever reason, whenever a pitcher threw him a wrinkle last year, Young was useless. Often, pitches would break over the left-handed batter’s box and Young would flail helplessly at it. His slugging percentage on sliders was at a lowly .245 while his well-hit average was down to .160. This season, like almost every other pitch type, Young is mashing it as evidence by his .447 slugging percentage and .247 well-hit average. This development is noteworthy as pitchers thoroughly enjoy throwing Young sliders on a regular basis when runners are in scoring position.  

Yes, Young still eschews walks, swings at everything directed at him and, because of the laws of regression, his RISP average will likely slink back down towards his overall batting average. Nevertheless, this production has been a primary reason the team has remained competitive during a time when the team’s previously thought of run-producers have been MIA. Without question, with his improved capabilities, Young is deserving of a move to the fifth spot in the lineup where he will have a greater number of RBI opportunities presented to him. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Changing speeds critical for Blackburn

Back on June 18th, Nick Blackburn followed a decent seven-inning 3-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves with an absolute throttling by a potent Philadelphia Phillies lineup – one that chased him out of the game in the middle of the second inning. Before most fans had found their seats, Blackburn had been tagged for eight earned runs on six hits including two rocket home runs from Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. After the game, the diagnosis from the Twins pitching coach was that Blackburn failed to adequately change speeds.

As you can see from his pitch speed chart below from that outing, it wasn’t until his 21st pitch of the evening that Blackburn spun his first curveball over. By that time, it was already 3-0 Phillies.

Blackburn vs Phillies - June 18th, 2010

Rick Anderson’s resolution was fairly simplistic. Mixing in different pitches would keep Blackburn from developing a familiar pattern. Even at Anderson’s behest and three out of four starts in which Blackburn failed to enter the fifth inning, he still didn’t incorporate the desired changes.

This kicked off a string of consecutive starts in which the right-hander went 1-3 with a snowman-shaped 8.57 ERA while allowing another seven home runs in 21 innings of work. The unifying link between his fiasco in Philadelphia and the ensuing losses was the inability to vary his velocity. With the exception of his victory over the Tigers on June 29th, Blackburn clung to his sinker with a kung fu death-grip.

In his last start prior to the All-Star Break on July 10th, Blackburn tangled with the Tigers at Comerica. Like his start against Detroit at Target Field the prior week, he opened the game with a decent mix of pitches and variations in velocity. Only, instead of maintaining this pace, after being roughed up for three runs however, this game plan was discarded in favor of the fastball, throwing it 43 out of his last 47 pitches. Following four more runs, including a three-run jack by Johnny Damon, Blackburn was chased from the game in the fifth inning without ever recording an out.

Blackburn at Tigers - July 10th, 2010

In this particular start, it appeared that Blackburn attempted to adhere to the game plan of changing speeds but simply got sloppy once the game started to slip away further exacerbating the situation.

With his spot in the rotation in severe jeopardy and the frustration escalating with every start, manager Ron Gardenhire and Rick Anderson met with Blackburn regarding his struggles. Before Sunday’s game against the White Sox, there was yet another summit among the three. The message expounded on the righty, as conveyed by Bert Blyleven during Sunday’s broadcast, was the value of changing speeds.

Why is this so important?

The idea is simple. If you miss your spots as Blackburn has done so routinely recently, the damage may be minimized by messing with the hitters’ timing. If you are missing spots and throwing at the same speed constantly, professional hitters will hammer those pitches. While location remains supremely important, if there is a deviation in velocity or break, this may incite hitters to commit too early to a pitch they would otherwise drive, turning it over on the ground. When Blackburn was tearing through opponents in May, he rarely showed the same reliance on his fastball in succession. This was a chief reason behind his ability to achieve success with a substandard amount of strikeouts.
Reviewing the pitch speed chart from Sunday’s come-from-behind victory over the White Sox, we see that Blackburn made sufficient strides in improving his deception:

Blackburn vs White Sox - July 18th, 2010

Throughout the first four innings, Blackburn reconnected with what made him successful in May: alternating 92-mph fastballs with 79-mph changeups and back again. Only once did he throw three fastballs in a row in that time and, with the exception of Alexi Ramirez’s groundball double down the third base line, Blackburn did not allow any extra base hits or particularly hard hit balls.

Nevertheless, in the fifth inning, Blackburn once again reverted to his fastball. Instead of mixing in his curve and changeup, he fed the White Sox lineup fastballs on 13 of the 17 pitches – at one point tossing 12 straight to Ramon Castro, Gordon Beckham and Juan Pierre. After that, the White Sox jumped on top of his stuff and stamped his ticket to an early shower.

Again, when he has embraced variety, Blackburn has performed very well (as evident by his month of May and his first four innings on Sunday). On the other hand, when he is lulled into relying on his fastball, he gets whipped. A starting pitcher cannot have sustained success by continuously throwing one pitch at one speed. Blackburn has been given nine starts to recognize that fact in addition to a tutorial from his pitching coach back in early June. Naturally this development has exhausted both the coaching staff and the front office. Even with the signs of progress in his most recent outing, with Brian Duensing waiting in the wings and the trade deadline approaching, Blackburn’s days in the rotation are most likely numbered.

If or when he does get another start, here’s one tip: change speeds.


Friday, July 16, 2010

Bank on a better second-half for Liriano

The Twins starting pitching staff sputtered into the All-Star Break abused and confused in the month of July. The initial start by Kevin Slowey on the other side of the Midsummer Classic did little to reassure the team that things were going to turn around quickly either. In yet another abbreviated start, Slowey allowed five earned runs on nine hits in just three innings. This performance aided in increasing the starting staff’s ERA to a ghastly 6.71 for the month – the second-worst in baseball, ahead of only the Toronto Blue Jays – while sinking the team to a 3-8 record over the past 11 games and distancing themselves from view of the division-pacing White Sox.
Now, once again, the Twins turn to Francisco Liriano to see if the southpaw can stop the bleeding.
In the TwinsCentric Trade Deadline Primer, I stated that “Liriano might be one of the AL’s better starters in the first-half.” While some might disagree with that assessment, especially after his most recent start, the facts show that Liriano clearly possesses ace-like qualities:
  • He has the third-highest strikeouts per nine innings in the American League (9.81) behind only Toronto’s Brandon Morrow (9.99) and Los Angeles’s Jared Weaver (10.19).
  • His groundball rate (50.9%) is the 12th best in the American League.
  • His 0.17 home runs per nine innings is the lowest average in baseball. In fact, Liriano’s two home runs allowed are the fewest among pitchers that have thrown 100 innings to date.
  • His 12% swinging strike rate is the also the best in baseball, putting him ahead of such reputable arms like Tim Lincecum, Josh Johnson, Jared Weaver and Clayton Kershaw. This is the indications of some seriously filthy stuff. 

Because of his high volume of strikeouts, ability to keep the ball in the ballpark and regularly inducing ground balls, Liriano’s turned in the best performance by an American League pitcher when using the xFIP statistic (2.97). Nevertheless, in spite of this high-caliber performance, the lefty has been shackled to 6-7 record and higher ERA (3.87) than xFIP would expect.
If he’s so dominating, why is he the owner of a losing record and a steadily rising ERA?
There are two factors impeding him from achieving those superior numbers. The first of which is that amount of balls skirting past defenders. Liriano’s carrying around the league’s most top-heavy batting average on balls in play (.361). Depending on your religious beliefs, this is a strong indicator that either his defense is not supporting him or the baseball gods are directing more balls into vacant real estate. As a groundball-oriented pitcher, Liriano should have a significantly lower BABIP than the one he currently owns.

What we see from his splits below, regardless of the method they are directed into play, Liriano’s averages are much higher than the norm:
Liriano 2010
League Average
Line Drive
Ground Ball
Fly Ball
Instead of finding leather, the dinks, doinks, gorks and quails have nestled into areas of the field not patrolled by the Twins defense. Per usual, these numbers have a tendency to regress back towards the average. The back-half of the schedule should correct some of the defense’s (or baseball gods’) malfeasances, particularly with a healthy J.J. Hardy rounding out the infield.
The second factor, equally responsible for his misfortunes in the record department, is his lack of offensive support. The Twins have scored two runs or less in six of his 17 starts. Presently, Liriano’s 3.8 runs per game qualifies as the 10th-lowest amount of help in the AL. For a team that typically scores 4.6 runs per game, the Twins should provide Liriano with extra runs in the second-half of the year that they failed to supply in the first-half.
Despite the perception of him wilting under big-game pressure, Liriano retains many of the traits of a rotational ace. His stuff this year has proven to be overwhelming as he’s dispatching opponents at a torrid pace while avoiding hard contact. With improvements in these two areas, coupled with his continued dominance at the plate, Liriano should easily outperform his first-half numbers.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Joe Mauer's pull power?

For the second day in a row, Star Tribune columnist Jim Souhan has taken aim at Minnesota’s All-Star catcher, this time taking an opportunity to highlight what he believes are the reasons behind Joe Mauer’s decline in productivity. Souhan indicates several factors contributing to this drop-off, noting “the ballpark effect”, “the scouting effect”, “the position effect” and “the contract effect”.

Although some of the scribe’s offerings have some merit (for example, teams have shifted the shortstop almost on top of second base when Mauer is batting to cut down the hits up the middle and this plays a role in his batting average), others are more speculative (the contract effect is less likely to do with the “pressures of a contract” but rather the team that signed him did so when he was overachieving and thus likely to have a regression the following season). Still, there is one declaration that Souhan made that caught my attention which fell under “the scouting effect”:
“When Mauer was at his best last season, he was capable of pulling the ball with power; he has not shown an ability to do so this season.”
At best, this statement is shoddy reporting and at worst it is patently false. Either way, it was lazy.

While Mauer demonstrated a decent ability to hit the ball to all fields well, he did not necessarily pull the ball with power. Everybody who has reviewed his numbers last year would agree that Mauer’s power was generated when driving the ball to left field, not pulling the ball. In fact, just eight of his 59 extra base hits (14%) were pulled into right field.

According to’s split breakdown, Mauer’s power numbers were well above the league average when driving the ball to the opposite field but well beneath the norm when yanking the ball to the right:

Slugging Percentage
Mauer 2009
Mauer 2010
League LHB

Obviously his power was most prevalent when going away and has suffered the most from ’09 to ‘10. After all, 16 of his 28 home runs were opposite field shots helping to bolster that slugging percentage. Additionally, Mauer’s power results when pulling the ball this year are almost as good as his previous season, if not better. While his slugging percentage is down to an even .500, he’s knocked seven of his 29 extra base hits to right (25%). So suggesting that he is not pulling the ball for power this year is misleading.

What’s more is that by the virtue of the manner in which he was putting the ball into play, Mauer has demonstrated little that he has a tendency to hit the ball for much power when pulling in the first place.

For his career, Mauer’s hit a groundball to the right side 70% of the time when making contact in play. During the season in which he was supposedly “pulling the ball with power”, the Twins catcher bounced the ball 77.6% of the time in that direction. Last year, left-handed batters as a whole hit the ball on the ground 59% of the time. It’s hard to accumulate desirable power numbers when the ball is kicking up dirt. Nevertheless, as you can see, there is little evidence separating what he did last year in his MVP year when turning on a pitch from this year:

Batted Balls - Pulled
Line Drive%
Fly ball%

Without question, the fan base, front office and coaching staff are all seeking answers to the team’s most well-paid hitter’s offensive doldrums; however, those numbers didn’t drop-off because he has stopped hitting the ball for power when pulling it as the popular columnist noted. Ironically, if Mauer would like to beat the defensive maneuvering that has quieted his riot thus far in 2010, hitting for power to right field could led to alterations in the opposing team’s approach and thereby opening up the middle of the infield for him more often.

Then again, simply continuing to hit the ball hard all over the field will undoubtedly lead to more hits. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Available: The 2010 TwinsCentric Trade Deadline Primer

As it stands, in addition to the current division leaders, twelve teams are within five games of first-place creating a market in which 16 teams could potentially be buyers in the next two weeks as the non-waiver trade deadline rapidly approaches. In the next fortnight, there will be a deluge of rumors, hypothetical scenarios and actual trades that inundate all mediums. To be sure, it is a dizzying time of year to be a baseball fan.

For example, last Friday the day began with Cliff Lee in a Seattle Mariners uniform but ended with him relocating to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Somewhere in the middle of all that, there was a point in which the baseball world was convinced the Yankees would land the southpaw in exchange for catching prospect Jesus Montero. Some of baseball’s most prominent reporters all but confirmed this transaction.

But before you could finish your Jimmy John’s sandwich, that all changed.

Suddenly, the Mariners were no longer interested in the catching prospect and were broadcasted to be discussing terms with yet another team. Undoubtedly, every fan following this action unfold quickly did a mental inventory of their team’s farm system and tried to determine if there was enough prospect in stock to land the coveted ace. Twins fans held their collective breaths hoping that Wilson Ramos’s slump did not deter the Mariners from wanted the best trading chip in the organization. Was he enough? Who could have better chips on the table? Ultimately, the Rangers won the auction, landing Lee with a cache of prospects that included the switch-hitter first baseman Justin Smoak, and have changed the dynamic of the franchises both presently and in the future.

So unless you are nerdy enough to have Jimmy John’s delivered so you don’t have to miss a tweet as the transaction was constructed, you probably don’t have the time to dig through all 32 teams and figure you their needs, their commodities and their ability to absorb a budget. With that in mind, we at TwinsCentric enlisted some of the internet’s best writers to help condense all of this into an easily digestible and accessible 160-page PDF document: The 2010 Trade Deadline Primer.  

These intelligent writers and wonks have provided us with an exclusive firsthand account of their respective team’s needs, trading chips and their specific targets. In additional to the individual teams, we’ve isolated all the potential trade targets league-wide and provided a cliff’s notes scouting report and analysis on the player. Likewise, we also have done the same with baseball’s top prospects as these are often the unknown pawns that wind up emerging as frontline contributors in no time. As names are bandied around on Twitter or, you can quickly review these sections to see what the experts think about his ability.    

Naturally, we did not farm out the writing for the hometown team. We’ve got all the information you want on the Minnesota Twins including a team summary by the always level-headed Nick Nelson, prospects covered by the minor league maven Seth Stohs, and a sharply-penned essay on the team’s future payroll (absolutely vital in shaping the available trade targets) by the entertaining and educational John Bonnes. Finally, I’ve contributed the team’s report card grades along with a first-half write-up on the roster’s individuals, attempting to explain their performances and what we may expect in the back-half of the year. Between the four of us and the stable of writers, we spoon feed you all the background you need to know to help you formulate a well-informed opinion on all trades, rumored or otherwise.

Lastly,’s Rob Neyer, whose resume includes working with Bill James, STATS, Inc as well as authoring numerous books on his own, lends his writing chops to the Primer in the foreword. His contribution to the publication added flavor from a professional individual that shares the same passion for the game and the intricacies of team-building that is enjoyed by the rest of us that do this more or less for free.

So as the activity intensifies in the coming weeks, be a proactive fan: Purchase the 2010 Trade Deadline Primer.