Our Optimal Outfield

A couple, well quite frankly dumb, twitter posts have prompted me to dive a little deeper into what our best outfield is. I have a decent sense of it in my head, but I want to see if the numbers bear it out.

First, offensively: Last year Denard Span came out of nowhere to post a .294/.387/.432 line. He didn’t have a ton of power, but he walkled (12.6%) almost as often as he struck out (17.3%). He had abandoned his free swinging ways and turned into a plate discipline guy who wasn’t afraid to go deep into counts. This year the gap between his walks and his strikeouts are similar, although both have gone down. He’s swung at a few more pitches outside the zone, and predictably seen less of his batted balls go for linedrives. Although he hasn’t been quite as good as he was last year, he needs to be the Twins leadoff hitter.

The Twins got some flack for giving Jason Kubel an extension over the winter, rather than signing a player like Eric Hinske. All Kubel has done is hit .311/.371/.560 for an astounding .392 wOBA. His BABIP of .350 is higher than his career totals, and will probably regress, as will his HR/FB rate of 18.6%, but for now Kubel is having a tremendous season.

He’s been hot and cold for most of the year, but when you put his numbers together, Michael Cuddyer has posted a line of .281/.361/.521 for a wOBA of .381. His homers have traveled the second farthest average distance in the American League. Cuddyer is on pace to post the highest walk rate of his career, which would help offset him striking out once every five at-bats. His HR/FB rate is a bit up from his career stats, but given the length of his homeruns, I wouldn’t count on too much of a regression.

Defensively, it is much simpler: Last year, Carlos Gomez was the best centerfielder in the American League. His glove was worth 16.5 runs and is the main reason why he was worth over 2 wins last year, even with his empty shell of a bat.

Denard Span is a bit stretched in center field, but has a career 26.9 UZR/150 in left field, making him an excellent left fielder who can fill in in center in a pinch.

Of the remaining outfielders, it is Delmon Young who is the best, with a UZR/150 of 6.0. He also has a cannon of an arm, perhaps better than Cuddyer’s, to help cut down on the running game.

Given that Gomez’s glove is the Twins’ best asset out there (although he has been worse this year), he needs to start in center. Because he is great in left, Span should start there, filling in for Gomez occasionally when he gets a day off (preferably when Blackburn starts), and right field should be a mish mash of the remaining three. Cuddyer isn’t great out there, but he is the most comfortable, so he should probably be the primary starter. Against lefties, Delmon Young in right and Cuddyer DHing should also happen more often than not.

The End Of Liriano?

location.php

Francisco Liriano really struggled with his control tonight. Without even typing up his stats, you can tell he just didn’t have it. Sadly, if you go through his pitch f/x archives you see a lot of this. His changeup doesn’t even matter anymore, and since the surgery he lost that great slider. No control, not as much movement, nowhere near the velocity. The fastball isn’t the problem (although that’s erratic too), it’s that the slider is ineffective. Sad, sad story.

Thanks to brooksbaseball.net for the graph.

Twins Record By Uniform

First off, I’d just like to apologize to the vest uniforms. You are still ugly as all hell, but wouldn’t you know it, the Twins have their best winning percentage in those monstrosities.

Here’s The Breakdown:

Home Whites: 8-6 record, 76 runs scored, 70 runs allowed, +6 differential

Road Grays: 8-14 record, 67 runs scored, 90 runs allowed, -23 differential

Navy Alternates: 12-10 record, 127 runs scored, 92 runs allowed, +35 differential

Dome Throwbacks: 3-4 record, 42 runs scored, 38 runs allowed, +4 differential

Vests: 4-2 record, 28 runs scored, 33 runs allowed, -5 differential

So the grays are the real culprit. It makes sense, because the Twins are absolutely terrible on the road. They’ve done a bit better on the road as of late, but still awful. Interestingly, they’ve worn the navys on the road a bit more lately. Coincidence? The huge run differential in the navys stands out, but most of it is due to the 20-1 smackdown they laid on the White Sox. Take that out, and the Twins sit at +16, still a good number but hardly great. Basically: scrap the grays cause they’re not only terrible to look at, they don’t play well in them, lose the vests because they’re ugly, and welcome to the playoffs.

I’ll be keeping a running total of how the Twins do in various uniforms throughout the year, as well as which pitchers fare well in which uniforms. The choice of the dome throwbacks is set in stone, as all Saturday home games have those uniforms, but I’m assuming the starting pitcher picks on the other days. Some guys like the vests a little bit too much (hello, Francisco, and you wonder why you suck), and others, like Scott Baker, are more traditionalist. Maybe the Twins need to bring back their other navy uniform and wear that one only on the road.

2B Shopping

Over at Twinkie Town, Jesse puts up a good article wondering if the Twins could get the 2B of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Freddy Sanchez. Since I’m not at all above letting other people do my work for me, let’s take a look at acquiring Sanchez, and who else the Twins could get.

Assuming that the acquisition of a 2B would push Nick Punto back into a starting role at short, and Brendan Harris into a guy who plays third a couple days a week, short a couple days a week, and 2B a couple days a week, I’m not so sure Sanchez is the right fit. Sanchez is due to make just over $6 million this year, with an option for $8 million next year. For a guy who has little power (.122 ISO), no plate discipline (5.3% walk rate) and declining defense (-1.8 runs last year, on pace for roughly 1.5 runs this year), Sanchez doesn’t justify that salary. The Twins also only have one pitcher on staff who is even remotely a ground ball pitcher (Blackburn), so defense from your second baseman is less important on the Twins.

We’ll call Sanchez our leader in the clubhouse for now, but I have to figure there’s another 2B out there the Twins could snag for a much cheaper price.

Clint Barmes, Colorado

Barmes had the best year of his major league career last year, with 11 homers and a .344 wOBA. This year he has a .352 wOBA, helped along by a .341 BABIP. Barmes has never walked a lot, and has struck out about three times as much this year. Barmes’s .496 slugging percentage this year is boosted by his 8 homers. His HR/FB rate has spiked up fairly high, so the Twins shouldn’t expect a sudden power surge from their middle infield if they acquire Barmes. He’s a pretty good fielder, who, other than 2007, has posted UZR/150’s that are pretty high. He certainly wouldn’t be a downgrade defensively. Barmes is inexpensive, but with the Rockies recent surge, it seems unlikely they would part with Barmes, especially fairly cheaply.

Adam Kennedy, Oakland

Kennedy has been much better with the bat this year than ever before in his career. His current wOBA of .375 is almost 30 points higher than his career high. His BABIP isn’t high, and his line-drive percentage is in line with the rest of his career numbers, so who knows what’s going on there. Kennedy has been pretty bad with the glove this year (-4.5 runs) but for the rest of his career has been very dependable. He is in the final year of his deal and if the Twins acquired him today they would owe him a little more than $2 million. I would say he’s the perfect choice, but the thought of Bill Smith trying to discuss a trade with Billy Beane makes me want to go into the fetal position. We could end up giving Aaron Hicks and Ben Revere for Kennedy.

David Eckstein, San Diego

Just kidding, he sucks.

Jorge Cantu, Florida

He’s playing mostly first with some third mixed in with the Marlins, but Cantu began as a second baseman. Cantu has been worth about 5 wins above replacement over the course of his career, most of it with the bat. This year he has a .772 OPS with a .339 wOBA. But his glove might as well be made of iron. He’s never been in the plus defensively. He has a 1.9 UZR/150 at first base, so he would be in the negativesĀ  at second. He was at -9.1 last year for the Reds, so there’s no doubt he would be a hindrance defensively.

As much as I hate to imagine Smith and Billy Beane talking on the phone, Adam Kennedy is probably the best bet. His true talent isn’t a .375 wOBA hitter, but given that he is in the last year of his contract it might be worth it to take a shot and see if his hot streak will last the rest of the year.

Linktastic

I’ll be out of town all weekend, with no access to a computer or the internet, so rather than disappoint (all 10 of) my readers, I decided I’d link to some stuff that other people have written. People doing the work for me is a beautiful thing.

Ron Gardenhire is kind of dumb, but more relevant to this link, he is fed up with the youngsters [Twinkie Town]

It took her roughly 10 years (ok 3 days) but k-bro finally has written a post. Yay! [K-bro]

CRM previews some MMA fights. I have no idea who any of these people are. [Blood, Booze and Bruises]

A liveblog of the US Open. [Souvenir City]

A Bert Blyleven Bingo game [Star Tribune]

Old news, but Aaron Hicks is in Beloit finally [Seth Speaks]

An analysis of the mechanics of Twins first rounder Kyle Gibson [Driveline Mechanics]

You Complete Me

It’s something I wouldn’t say to my girlfriend, but I’ll say it to Nick Blackburn*. Blackie pitched the first complete game effort for the Twins today, giving up 6 hits and 1 walk while striking out 2 hitters. His sinker was really working today, as he got 17 groundouts and just 8 flyouts, in addition to the two strikeouts, all on 107 pitches, 70 for strikes. He had 49 pitches after the 4th inning, so I was optimistic that the Twins could squeeze 8 innings out of him. As it was, the bullpen got a day off, leaving them fresh for this weekend’s series against Houston. Joe Nathan did warm up a bit in the 8th and 9th, but seeing as he hadn’t thrown since Sunday, it was probably good for him to get out and stretch his arm a bit.

The Twins put out a fairly weak lineup, but managed to put some runs on the board, led by Brendan Harris’s 3 hit day, and homers by both Brian Buscher and Michael Cuddyer. Fun fact: Michael Cuddyer’s home runs have the 2nd highest average distance in the AL. He is trailing only Miguel Cabrera.

Harris has rebounded from a pretty slow start to post a .281/.333/.384 line for a .320 wOBA. As bad as he is at shortstop, he’s finally hitting well for a middle infielder.

*Yay! I get to use the “horrible jokes” tag for the first time!

Is Kevin Slowey An All-Star?

Last night, over at Twinkie Town I was commenting a bit in the game thread, when someone brought up Mauer and Morneau going to the All-Star game. Both of those guys should go and will go, so we’ll leave that one alone, but someone else commented that if Kevin Slowey can get to 11 or 12 wins he should definitely be making the trip to St. Louis.

Currently, Kevin Slowey sits at 9-2 with a 4.23 ERA. Adjusting for park effects and all that good stuff, Slowey’s ERA is slightly below league average (97 ERA+). Slowey’s FIP sits at 4.01, a shade better than his 4.23 ERA*. I honestly thought there would be an even bigger gap, seeing some of the defensive lineups the Twins have put out there this season (Brendan Harris at short, a Young/Cuddyer/Kubel outfield), but no matter. Currently, his FIP of 4.01 places him 17th in the AL. However, amongst those players, Slowey is 2nd only to Roy Halladay in K/BB, mainly because he doesn’t walk anyone (1.14 per 9 innings). He doesn’t strike a lot of guys out either (6.98/9), and with some of the defenses the Twins trot out, that is a huge problem (seriously Gardy, Span/Gomez/Someone; it’s not that hard).

When you take all of these things into account, Slowey’s WAR (wins above replacement) is 1.4, tied with, among others, Matt Garza and Nick Blackburn. It’s a good value, but it also places him tied for 19th in the American League. Kevin Slowey is probably the ace of the Twins staff, but because he doesn’t strike a lot of guys out, and doesn’t get a lot of ground balls, his value is depressed and he should not be an All-Star.

* For an explanation of FIP, go here