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1/26/13

Assessing the Starting Pitching in the Twins' Organization

For a baseball team to content, one of three things need to happen:
  1. An organization has to develop impact starting pitchers.
  2. An organization has to trade for impact starting pitcher.
  3. An organizations has to sign impact starting pitcher free agents.
I demonstrated earlier this month that the Twins' last two year abysmal record could have been predicted as earlier as 2008, based on the state of their starting pitching prospects.  Only 11 pitchers who have been in the Twins' minors in 2008 are still in the organization and none has been an impact starter.  The Twins have been adverse in doing numbers 2 and 3 above, so in order to compete, they have to develop starting pitching talent.

The Denard Span and Ben Revere trades infused the Twins with 3 young starting pitchers: Vince Worley, 24, and Trevor May and Alex Meyer, both 22, which makes the future a bit more hopeful.  How hopeful?  I will try to quantify, so the rest of the discussion here will be metrics and numbers based.  This will actually be somewhat of a logical continuation of this analysis, where in August last year, I tried to look positively into the 2012 Minnesota Twins pitching and draw conclusions based on potential.  What I am doing here is looking at the whole organization Starting Pitching, under very similar metrics and see what the future might look like.  This will include potential rankings of Twins' starters, but it is not a prospect list.  They are based on their 2012 performance (and adjusted for age and playing level) and not their potential.  Injured players, such as Wimmers and Salcedo will be higher on prospect lists that ranked here, because their numbers were awful.

The metrics I like to use to do this have been some simple things of my own device: Pitching Effectiveness or PE and Expected Pitching Effectiveness or xPE.  I fiddled around with PE in 2008 and with xPE in 2009.  Here is the reason I devised PE and here is the reason I optimized it to xPE.  My main arguments were a. I felt like xFIP and FIP and DICE weigh too much things like home runs (which anyone who watched the home runs by Miquel Cabrera and Delmon Young against the Twins yesterday cannot deny that they are a matter of inches and ballpark and luck and fielding performance from being a long fly ball).  Also these formulae are hard to memorize and I wanted something simple I can calculate looking at a stat sheet and also something that you can calculate using splits (e.g. how has Brian Duensing or Glen Perkins been as a starter vs as a reliever); you can find xFIP around, but not in a spit form.  So in 2008 I devised PE, which simple takes account three things:  Strikeouts, walks and hits.  So a pitcher who strikes out more people, walks fewer and gives lesser hits is more likely to succeed than someone who doesn't.  And all hits are counted equal because the difference between a single and a triple might be the difference of having Delmon Young or Ben Revere play Left Field or the difference between a fly ball out and a home run might be the difference of having Torii Hunter or Rich Becker playing Center Field.  And I use WHIP, K/9 and K/BB to calculate PE (a simple PE= (K/9*K/BB)/WHIP).  xPE further normalizes for BABIP (to league average .290) to account for "luck" with hits.  And unlike FIP and ERA, these two measures go the opposite directions (higher is better) and have a large variation (0.x to 100+) to allow for granularity in comparisons vs. compressing performance from 0 to 10 or so.  Over here, I show that xFIP and FIP correlate pretty well to the much more complex SIERA, which is way too complex to be able to calculate just with a cell phone calculate (which is my goal as far as metrics go.)

PE and xPE have been fine to show performance and expected performance.  How about potential?  This is the many million dollar question, because if someone is able to guess estimate future potential of a player in single A, he/she will be having a great advantage in identifying cheap, future impact players, in a more objective way than scouting reports.  So yet a new measure in the PE family has been devised:  the adjusted expected pitching effectiveness or axPE.  I tried something similar the off-season after the 2008 season, but the resulting formula was too complicated (cannot fit on a T-shirt or be calculated using a cell phone calculator), so needed to be refined.  I hope I am close to this, since axPE is simpler.  It takes into consideration level of play.  Each level of play gets a number.  Here are these numbers:

All Rookie Leagues: 1
A: 2
A+: 3
AA: 4
AAA: 5
MLB: 6

the average of the levels a player participated is taken into consideration for axPE.  For example if a pitcher spent part of the season in high A and then moved to AA, the average level grade is 3.5.

The other adjustment involves someone's age.  Younger players in higher levels have higher potential; this is the premise here. axPE is defined as xPE* (level/age) *7 .  The 7 is a coefficient that makes it a number  in the neighborhood of PE and xPE.

A note of importance:  agPE is biased towards better performance in higher levels; this is by design, since there have been pitchers who blew away rookie leagues and then bottomed out when they went to AA.

The PE family metrics translators for starters (and relievers, for the sake of completeness, but RP are out of score here) are roughly translated to:

Rotation:
xPE/axPE
35+ Ace
25-35 #1- #2 Starter
15-25 #2- #3 Starter
10-15 #3 - #4 Starter
7.5-10 #5 Starter

Bullpen:
xPE/axPE
35+ Closer
25-35 Closer-Setup
15-25 Setup- Long Relief
8-15 Long Relief-Mopup

where axPE denotes intermediate/long term potential.

So, do the Twins have any potentially impact starters in their organization, based on their 2012 performance?

Without further ado, here are the numbers, that include pretty much every pitcher in the Twins organization, including the new ones, and those who pitched only in the major league level in 2012, under 30 years old.  The age indicated is their age in 2012.  I am including Nick Blackburn, for comparison's sake.  Raw data is taken from B-R and an (*) denotes LHP:



Thus,  it looks like the Twins have 3 potential impact starters in their organization; Kyle Gibson and Alex Meyer are not a surprise.  Cole DeVries is.  Cole DeVries' axPE is higher than his xPE level (which turns out to suggest a middle of the rotation starter), because he performed at the MLB level.  Whether or not potential is applicable to a 28 year old who has reached the majors, is a good discussion.   On the other extreme, some of the K/9 leaders in the organization, Josue Montanez, Taylor Rogers, Felix Jorge, Tyler Jones have repressed axPE, because they are still at the lower levels of the organization.  I think that they need to prove themselves at higher level.

Based on this, and if you cut the list at 25 years old or younger, the Twins have at least couple of pitchers who have impact starter (i.e. top of the rotation/ace) potential and several who have mid-rotation potential. 

A huge qualifier:  This list is of pitchers who were used mostly as starters (i.e. made more starts than relief appearances in 2012.)  This leaves at least one particular pitcher out who should be included, but he made 4 starts and 7 relief appearances:  Jose Berrios.  His numbers (albeit in 11 games and 30 some innings) are out of this world: 284.12 PE, 236.11 xPE, and 91.82 axPE.  He should be part of the discussion and definitely has top of the rotation potential, but there is an asterisk for the reasons mentioned.

Others who made few starts but mostly used in a relief role but definitely should be part of the equation are (in no order) : Matt Houser, Miguel Munoz, AJ Achter, Cole Johnson, Argentis Silva (the 16 year old high bonus singing) Elias Villasarra, Fernando Romero, Luke Bard, Jose Jimenez, Corey Kimes, Brett Lee and Mason Melotakis.

Again, this is an intermediate term discussion and does not really involve recent Twins veteran acquisitions Rich Harden, Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia.





1/25/13

Who is the newest member of the Twins HOF, Tom Mee.

Today the Minnesota Twins selected two new members to their Hall of Fame,  LHP "Everyday" Eddie Guardado, and long time staffer Tom Mee.  All Twins' fans know Everyday Eddie, but who is Tom Mee?

Tom Mee has been with the Twins' organization from their first season in Minnesota (1961) until their last title (1991).   He was the first front office person hired when the Twins moved to Minnesota in 1960 and was asked to lead their transition from Washington.  The following season he became their PR Director, a position he held until his retirement.  After his retirement  from the Twins he was the official scorer in the Metrodome until 2007 and spend 2 seasons (1992 and 1993) with the Twins' broadcasting team with Dick Bremmer and Jim Kaat.

He is a graduate of Joe Mauer's Alma Matter, St. Paul's Cretin High School. Mee was a baseball player with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers in the late 40s and played a couple seasons in the Independent Leagues.  He was then certified by the Brown Institute of Radio as an announcer and his career as a Baseball radio announcer begun.  It took him form Detroit Lakes to Montana to New Mexico when he finally settled back in the Cities doing Public Relationships for the St. Paul Saints (the former incarnation) in 1957.

One of the little known facts about Mee is that he is the person who hired Jim Rantz to the Twins front office.  In 1965, when the Twins won the pennant and went to the World Series, his one man PR department was overloaded and he needed a part time assistant so he hired Rantz who was managing the St. Cloud Northern League Club.  Rantz stuck around from 1965 until last off-season.

Tom Mee's son and grandson have also played baseball at the University of Minnesota.   His grandson, Mike Mee, played a couple seasons in the Diamondbacks organization last decade.



1/21/13

2013 Spring Training Guide to Fort Myers Part II: The Baseball

This is the second of the three 2013 Spring Training Guides to Fort Myers that will appear here.  The first one was a guide on the logistics of how to get there and where to stay etc., including some ways to get there as inexpensively as possible, if that is a consideration.  The Logistics Guide can be found here.  The next guide will be about food and this one is about the reason people go to Fort Myers:  Spring Training baseball.

The Twins' Spring Training Complex:

Here is a satellite image of the Lee County Sports Complex (all images are screenshots from Bing Maps) :




The complex is accessible via the Miracle on 34th St, either from Ben C Pratt Pkwy or from Plantation Rd. The best was to go is via the Parkway, esp. if it is busy. Miracle on 34th St divides the Twins' part of the complex from the four county softball field. Hammond Stadium, the site of the Twins Spring Training home games and the home of the Fort Myers Miracle (the Twins' high A, Florida State League affiliate) is on the Northeast corner of the Complex. Those parallel lines is the parking lot that can fit about 2000 cars. The stadium seats about 8000 people, so parking can be tight.

In addition to Hammond Stadium, there are four full size practice fields and two infield practice fields. You can find Twins' major and minor league players working out in those fields throughout the day, so it might make sense to explore the whole complex or even catch (a free, other than parking) minor league game or two. Some Hotels offer free shuttle service to the Complex, so make sure you explore this option if available

During Twins' home games you have to pay for parking, however when the Twins are away, you can come into the complex and park for free and watch the Twins' minor leagues (you can do that on game days in the morning as well.)  The minor leaguers are using the 3 full fields further away from the Ballpark and the inflied half field right next to the clubhouse (the tin building). The practice field next to the ballpark is exclusively used by the MLB team.

There are 2 different camps take place there (the MLB and MiLB camp) but there is not a "dividing line" that folks who are cut from the big camp have to cross to get "down to the minor league" camp.  As you can see, all the fields are next to each other.   Often, non-travelling major leaguers (I saw Casilla and Carroll do that last season) play in Minor League games.  So do rehabing major leaguers.

The best way to watch the minor leaguers is to drive and park close to the clubhouse (there are not too many cars on non-game days, about as many as they are in the picture) and go between the 3 large fields.  Usually AAA plays on the North West most field and AA next to it.  With a little bit of imagination, one can sit between both fields and watch 2 games.  There are bleachers in the area (metal).  Bathrooms and a water fountain are in the south of the clubhouse building.   Bringing water is a must here because there are no concessions.  A lot of lower level or non-playing minor leaguers are around  and on the stands watching the AAA and AA games.  Actually pitchers are relegated to radar charting duty in tables in the common area behind the home plates and the fence, and standing around there is a good place to look at the radar readings.  You can also find Twin Cities Sports Celebrities on the stands:






The "dugouts" and "bullpens" are just fenced in areas so you can get a great look of the Twins' minor leaguers.  All minor league games are free.  The new Twins' lease will provide for a dorm to be build in the area, but I am not certain on its wearabouts, but likely South of the fields and just west of the county softball fields.


Hammond Stadium:

Hammond Stadium (and the Lee County Complex) was officially opened in the Spring of 1991. (The year of the Twins' last World Championship.) It is the home of Fort Myers Miracle, a franchise that has Jimmy Buffett and Bill Murray as part-owners. It has been recently renovated and is one of the largest Ball Parks in FSL, sitting up to 8500 people.



As with most minor league stadiums, most sitting is on the infield between the two dugouts. Hammonds Stadium has a nose bleed 2xx level as well and a small grassy field on short right field for fans to sit picnic style. Spring training tickets cost from $45 to $10 or so, depending on the opponent and the seating.  As far as tickets go, there are ticket outlets just outside the Park.  You can preorder tickets over the web, or you can frequently obtain them from locals in the parking lot who are not interesting in attending the game.











One thing that you MUST note: bottled water in unopened containers is permitted in the stadium, as are bags up to 16x16x8 (think reusable grocery bags), so please take advantage of that. That said, the stadium has one of the best selections of beers, including more than 20 mainstream, import and microbrew beers and ales. The best variety of beer, including beer sold only for Twins' and Miracle's games there, is at the bar at the far left (third base) end of the outside concourse, right before the bullpen

They only sell Pepsi products as far as soft drinks go. I will have a food guide within a week, but I have to mention that there is an interesting variety of food, including pizza, sweet potato fries, fish tacos, deep fried nachos on a stick, and two artery clogging specialties: the Carolina Dog, a hot dog topped with pulled pork, baked beans and coleslaw and the Richard Simmons burger a behemoth featuring a 1/4 lb burger, a 1/4 lb chicken, a 1/4 lb brat, held together by 3 slices of cheese and six strips of bacon and contains more calories that the average developing world person eats in a week. There is an annual concession guide, for the stadium that yet has to be published.

Here is the seating guide from the Miracle web site. Also, this is a great article about Hammonds Stadium with a lot of detail about the ball park.  Also, here is a must see panoramic view of the seating are a from last year's Spring Training.  The Twins' dugout is on the third base side and the bullpen on the end of the bleachers in short left.  The new lease provides for major renovations to the Ballpark including a catwalk area at the Outfield.  Not sure when this will start and whether it will be around for the 2013 Spring Training. 

Little known fact:  If you go to the Spring Training and the home of the Fort Myers Miracle and expect to find Miracle merchandise in the gift shop, you will be disappointed.  During Spring Training, there are only Twins' merchandise.  However, they have Miracle merchandise.  If you go there in a day where there are no games (the ballpark is open) and go to the gift shop and ask, they will bring you some.

Other things:

Last but not least, the Twins do not play home games every day. So what to do in an off day? I would chose from one of the following two things: Either drive to the Complex trying to catch minor leaguers (my favorite choice) and non-traveling major leaguers in action in one (or more) of the fields, or drive to watch the Twins in an away game. Here is a map of Florida that shows all the Grapefruit League home team locations:



The Rays play their home games about half an hour away and the Pirates and Orioles about an hour away or so. The Red Sox play in Fort Myers. Those are the most convenient ball parks to visit. 

Next:  The Food Guide.



1/20/13

Newest Twins' Uniform Numbers

Amid great speculation Twins' President David St. Peter revealed the uniform numbers of the newest Twins.  They are:

Kevin Correia 30 (last worn by Scott Baker).  Correia has worn 29 the last 4 seasons with the Pardes and the Pirates and 50, 53 and 32 with the Giants

Mike Pelfrey 37 (last worn by Sean Burroughs.) Pelfrey has worn 34 all his career, but we all know who this number belongs to.

Rich Harden 47 (last worn by Fransisco Liriano.) Harden has worn, 16, 40 and 18 with the Athletics and 40 with both the Rangers and Cubs.

Vance Worley 49 (last worn by Jeff Manship.)  49 is the only number that Worley wore in his pro career (with the Phillies so far)

Aaron Hicks 63 (last worn by Joe Benson). Hicks has been wearing 55 in Spring Trainings

There you go.  You can now order your custom made shirsey or jersey.

Interesting to see that the Ps who are ready for a new beginning are wearing numbers they did not use before.