Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Joe Mauer: The AL MVP



As I was watching Sunday Night Baseball this past weekend eating Chinese food, not entirely focused on the television, Joe Morgan almost forced me to choke on my dinner. "I know who I'm voting for. Mark Teixeira first, Jeter second." Suddenly, I realized why I missed FireJoeMorgan so much. Not only did he leave Mauer completely out of his top TWO AL MVP spots, he didn't even both to explain why.

Look, I understand Joe Mauer is the odds on favorite to win the MVP Award, and Joe Morgan's opinion isn't going to change what seems like a virtual certainty. However, in this day and age, it baffles me that someone can screw up the MVP vote so badly, and it happens every year. The year Justin Morneau won the MVP, both Joe Mauer and Derek Jeter were more deserving. Kevin Youkilis was far more deserving than Dustin Pedroia last year, yet Pedroia won it. Those recent examples are the biggest reason I don't care much what 30-something sportswriters think, and rather use common sense to determine the AL and NL MVP Awards. The reason I got so worked up is because Joe Mauer is having one of the single greatest seasons in baseball history and Joe Morgan has the nerve to say he isn't going to even place him in the top two? It's mind-boggling.

Let's pretend, for a minute, that Joe Mauer and Mark Teixeira play the same position. Here are there hitting stats as of today:


Joe Mauer: 130 G, .371 AVG, .444 OBP, .602 SLG, 1.047 OPS, 28 HR, 181 OPS+

Mark Teixeira: 151 G, .294 AVG, .384 OBP, .568 SLG, .952 OPS, 38 HR, 146 OPS+



Mauer's batting average is almost as high as Teixeira's on base percentage, while Mauer has a higher slugging? How are their seasons even comparable? Teixeira is having a very good season, but compared to what he did last season he's been a disappointment. If you want to punish Mauer's case because he missed the first month of the season, feel free, but if we want to make this 'most valuable' and not simply 'most outstanding' I think it's worth noting the Twins were just 11-11 without Mauer and are 71-65 with him. Not a huge improvement, but an improvement nonetheless.

When you factor in that Joe Mauer is putting together arguably the greatest season by a catcher in the history of baseball, it's ridiculous someone else not named Albert Pujols would take any votes from him for MVP.

With the Twins 2 games down and 5 to go, their odds at making the post-season are slim. However, the team at least continues to control their own destiny, as back-to-back wins in Detroit today and tomorrow would give them a share of the division lead heading into the last weekend of the season. The Twins hold the advantage in both pitching matchups, and if they can win both the games they likely will be the favorites to win the division as they get Kansas City at home while the Tigers get to play the White Sox. Mauer is likely the AL MVP even if the Twins fail to make the playoffs, but if they somehow find a way to win the division, Mauer should be the unanimous MVP. Hell, he should get every first, second and third place vote.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Orlando Cabrera Trade

For the record, I didn't see the Twins acquiring Orlando Cabrera as an upgrade. Cabrera is no longer an elite defensive shortstop, and he's actually a liability there. His offense has been terrible in every month except July, and his on base percentage is absolutely awful. Factoring in all of that, along with the fact that Gardy thinks Cabrera is a #2 hitter, and I felt it was a mistake to trade for Cabrera.

Prior to arriving in Minnesota, Cabrera played in 101 games this season for Oakland, and had amassed a .280/.318/.365 line while playing poor defense. Since arriving in Minnesota, Cabrera has played in 48 games and is hitting .255/.288/.399. The difference in OPS between Oakland and Minnesota is only 4 points, and a sub .700 OPS from a defensive liability at shortstop is hardly a desired commodity at the trading deadline. Unfortunately, Bill Smith didn't get the memo, and he traded a former 2nd round pick to get Cabrera.

Quick sidetrack--friends of mine have argued with me that the Twins hardly gave up a quality prospect in Tyler Ladendorf to land Cabrera, and adding Cabrera makes Mauer more likely to re-sign here because it shows the Twins are doing things to try to win now. First, about Ladendorf, maybe the Twins scouts soured on him and he never makes it to the big leagues. Unfortunately, it was Bill Smith and his scouts that wasted a second round pick on the kid, and shelled out nearly half a million dollars to sign him. Giving up on him after about a years worth of at-bats doesn't bother me, but making such a big mistake that they now feel it's clear he won't make it to the big leagues is indefensible. As far as the Mauer situation, I'll get into that tomorrow in plenty more detail.

Back to Cabrera, though. At the time of the trade, I told friends and family it was the wrong decision to trade for him. They said Cabrera was a major upgrade over Brendan Harris and Nick Punto, and since we gave up a minor leaguer it was a no-brainer. There's obviously plenty wrong with that logic, but the most glaring incorrect statement is that Orlando Cabrera, at this point in his career, isn't a major upgrade over anyone. I agreed that he was a slight upgrade over Punto at shortstop, but what people didn't understand was that there was no way Gardenhire was going to bench Punto and continue to play Harris with Cabrera. Instead, Cabrera's bat replaced Brendan Harris in the every day lineup and at shortstop, with Punto maintaining his starting job at second base.

Harris has a career .267/.324/.396 line, and in his age 28 season it seemed unlikely he would see a major decline in his career averages if given an everyday position. As a part-time player, (AKA limited sample size) Harris has hit .262/.310/.364. That's only 13 points lower than Cabrera's OPS since arriving in Minnesota, and for as often as Gardy criticizes how 'unnatural' Harris looks on defense, he's been a better defensive shortstop this season. (Again, limited sample size, so he very well could be worse)

The Twins gave up a 2nd round pick to basically get equal production from the shortstop position without upgrading significantly anywhere else. The biggest issue I had with the trade, however, was the way the lineup was going to be configured. Prior to Cabrera's arrival, the Twins were consistently going with a lineup of:

Span/Mauer/Morneau/Cuddyer/Kubel/Crede/Young/Harris/Punto

After the Cabrera trade, the lineup has almost exclusively been:

Span/Cabrera/Mauer/Morneau/Kubel/Cuddyer/Crede/Young/Punto

Obviously, Crede's injury has switched the lineup around some. The best defense for the Cabrera trade is that now the Twins can use Brendan Harris at third, since Crede is out for the year. Unfortunately, Gardy has given most the at bats over the last week and a half to Matt Tolbert. Yes, Matt Tolbert. Rather than having Mauer hit with one of the best lead-off hitters in baseball ahead of him and often on base, the Twins are basically giving away an out between Mauer and Span. Cabrera has gotten on base less than 30% of the time since arriving here. That's unacceptable, and even more unacceptable when he's hitting directly in front of the AL MVP and the rest of our productive middle of the order.

I don't think Gardenhire will ever figure out that the #2 slot doesn't need to be filled by a light-hitting middle infielder, which is a shame. It's often said the lineup doesn't make much of a difference over the season, which is true in most cases. However, when the Twins are now 2.5 games back in the division, and were 1 win away last season from making the playoffs, one or two games mean everything. Unfortunately, Bill Smith has failed this team again at the deadline, and Gardy continues to stick to his incorrect beliefs, and chances are it's going to cost the Twins another playoff chance.

Introduction

I've noticed there are two ways people generally go about writing blogs. Some choose to remain anonymous, or use a pen name, to ensure privacy in there 'other life.' The others have no problem putting there name out there, with some even using their name as their web address. I can see the benefit from both sides, but I'm going to be in the latter group for this blog.

My name is Erik Voldness. I'm a 20-year-old college student, from the Twin Cities area, currently living in a college town in the southern part of Minnesota. I spent the first two years out of high school playing baseball at Hamline University in St. Paul, but simply decided to transfer out after two years because it just wasn't for me. The baseball was great, but the school just wasn't for me.

Baseball is my favorite sport, and most of the time this blog will cover the Minnesota Twins. If I had to guess, I'd say close to 75% of the posts will be Twins related, with the other 25% about completely random events, other sports, and some funny things I can pass along to my readers from time to time. If that sounds even remotely interesting to you, please, bookmark this blog and make sure to check it out everyday. Thanks for reading, and welcome to 'The Blog That Boredom Built.'