Not your average Joes…

In the last six months, the American nation living rooms heard of Joe the plumber and Joe six-pack, who were introduced as iconic images during the 2008 U.S. Presidential campaign, carrying the hope of victory on their shoulders for the candidates who iconized them. This season, a lot of the hopes of victory for the Twins’ nation will be carried by the backs, arms and shoulders of three Joes: Joe Mauer, Joe Nathan and the newest Joe, Joe Crede.

A potential cause for concern is the possibility that these backs and shoulders might not be ready to bear the weight of everyday play by opening day and through out the season: Joe Crede comes into the season after back to back back surgeries. Joe Mauer had kidney surgery during the off-season and his back is still sore enough not to allow him to take the field so far this spring. Joe Nathan was scratched from the U.S. World Baseball Classic team, because of discomfort in his right (throwing) shoulder (AC) joint.

Even though Joe Nathan’s injury might be the least serious of the three (there are recent reports that he threw 25 pitches Thursday with no pain), he is the oldest of the 3 and the most likely to decline. Hopefully that will not happen before he finishes his contract with the Twins.

I have discussed Joe Crede’s back situation ad noseum here. So far this spring there has not been a single report of pain or discomfort in his back either batting or playing on the field. He did make a diving play this week and Gardenhire promptly reported that he felt no pain. On the other hand, his bat (other than a double against Puerto Rico, in an exhibition game) has been fairly silent. Lets hope that this is just a timing issue and not the silence of the Lamb.

Joe Mauer’s situation has been a bit more worrisome (at least to me), mainly because the reports seem to be a bit “template-based”. He had surgery to repair a kidney constriction that he had all his life. That much we know. To do that, a surgeon goes threw ones back or abdomen, cuts through muscle and takes care of the kidney. The kidney is not an issue with Mauer’s ability to play (if corrected and healed), the muscle healing is. All it was reported was that “Mauer is looking to be 100% by opening day” and (a couple days ago) “Mauer had a small setback”. I really do not like that “setback” noun, because it is non-specific. Yes, the HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) applies to Joe Mauer as much as it to Joe Schmoe, but I am sure that fans are questioning (at least this one is) the nature of the “setback”. Was it something kidney-related (blood in the potty; sorry if this is too graphic) or was it something muscle-related? I have been trying to get information left and right these days about the nature of Mauer’s baseball-related ailment and it is just not there. Here is a simple question: How exactly is Mauer unable to play? I assume that he has problems getting to the crouch position, since that puts stress into the couple of muscles affected by the procedure (regardless whether it was through the back or abdomen) I’ve never heard a single report on (or got answers to questions about) whether he can swing a bat off a tee (edit, there was one a few hours ago, but you got to dig deep. And yes he can swing off a tee, which is extremely good news). I just wish Joe the best and I hope that he is healthy soon.

The ’87 Twins had their killer Gs (Gladden, Gaetti, Gagne.) These ’09 Twins are poised to be the killer J’s even if the Joes are not 100%. In the 40-man roster there are:

3 Jasons, Kubel, Jones and Pridie
2 JosĂ©’s, Mijares and Morales, and
1 Justin (who sometimes is mistaken for a Jason,) Morneau

This makes me confident.

This post has been brought to you by the letter J and the number 90, which is how many wins I project for the Minnesota Twins for the 2009 season (more on that next week)

Who is Tom Stuifbergen?

Tom Stuifberger, a member of the Twins' organization, was the starter of the Dutch National Team today against the Twins. He pitched 3 innings allowing only one run to score. He surrendered two hits, was called for a balk (who brought Mike Cuddyer, the only runner who scored off Stuifberger, to 3rd base, allowing Brock Peterson to drive him home with a sacrifice fly) and walked also two. He is a 6'4` and 240 lbs 20 year old right hander and was signed by the Twins as a free agent in 2006 after his excellent performance at the inaugural WBC with the Netherlands team. Stuifbergen played for the Amsterdam Pirates in Holland before signed by the Twins. He throws a fastball in the high 80s to low 90s, a changeup and a curveball. He spent 2007 with the GCL Twins where he was used as a reliever for 7 games pitching 12.1 innings and ending up with 2.19 ERA and 0.73 WHIP for the season, holding opponents to a .140 average. He was out in 2008 after undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs from his right shoulder,. Good to see him back.

Here is a video of Tom from 2007 with the GCL Twins pitching against the GCL Orioles

Here is Tom's facebook page.


Are the Twins serious about replacing Neshek?

Then they should try to make a deal for Shunsuke Watanabe... Here is one of his performances in a Japanese All Star game. He is 32 and he will be in the WBC again. (And this is not a serious post - the guy has a 75 mph fastball; but nothing much is going on these days)


Does spring training record matter?

The conventional wisdom is that spring training is a time to try new players, have a look at the organizational depth and get an idea who to call up if necessary during the season, and a time for the veterans to get in top shape by opening day. A team's spring training record should not matter, right? This excellent analysis by Michael Wolverton of the Baseball Prospectus and ESPN, looked at all spring training records vis-a-vis a team's record the following season and reached the conclusion that "there's very little relationship between spring training records and regular season records, in the short term or the long term, whether you look at all teams or just the extreme ones."

That is the conventional wisdom proven. Also, the conventional wisdom is that the one single statistic measurement that has the closest correlation with wins in baseball is run differential (RS-RA). However, these Gardenhire Twins, break that conventional wisdom, as I showed here. How about that spring training record conventional wisdom and these Gardenhire Twins?

Here is the Twins spring training record the last few years and their finish in the AL division the same season:

2008: ST record: 15-15; season division rank: 2nd
2007: ST record: 14-17; season division rank: 3rd
2006: ST record: 20-12; season division rank: 1st
2005: ST record: 15-14; season division rank: 3rd
2004: ST record: 20-14; season division rank: 1st
2003: ST record: 19-13; season division rank: 1st
2002: ST record: 18-15; season division rank: 1st

So, it looks like the score is: Gardy Twins: 2, Conventional wisdom: 0

Spring training record does matter for these Minnesota Twins.

as a matter of fact, the correlation coefficient between the Twins' spring training record and their record during the season following that spring training is .849.

Here is a graph of the Twins' spring training (ST) records and regular season (RS) records, since 2002 (and the respective finish in the division during the regular season):

On a totally unrelated subject, Seth Stohs of Sethspeaks.net and the author of the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook -2009 (the one and only book in its category) was more than kind to invite me to participate in his weekly podcast. You can here the podcast here. It was a spare of the moment, last minute thing and I was grossly unprepared, but it was fun. I hope to do that some time again.


Spring training week 1 summary.

The first week of spring training passed and found the Twins within 2 runs of a perfect record. I will be giving weekly recaps of the cumulative performance of players in Spring training, focusing on the roster battles.

Here is the summary of week one:

Position Players:

Outfield Starter Battle:

Young .857/.857/1.000, 1 SB (7 AB)
Gomez .222/.300/.556, 1 HR, 1 BB (9 AB)
Cuddyer .167/.167/.167 (7 AB)
Span .111/.200/.111 1 BB (9 AB)

Spot on the Bench vs Rochester Battle:

Buscher .600/.600/1.100, 1 HR (10 AB)
Hughes .333/.333/.333 (6 AB)
Machado .200/.200/.200 1 SB (5 AB)
Tolbert .167/.231/.167 1 BB (12 AB)
Macri .000/.200/.000 1 BB (4 AB)
Plouffe .000/.000/.000 (5 AB)

Battle for Rochester vs. New Britain:

Valencia .800/.800/.800 (5 AB)
Martin .600/ .667 /.889 (5 AB)
Peterson .200/.429/.800 1 HR (GS) 5 AB

Other notable starter stats:

Kubel .500/.714/1.500/.500 1 HR, 3 BB (5 AB)
Morneau .429/.500/.714/ 1 BB (7 AB)

Position Player of week 1:

Delmon Young

Honorable mention: Brian Buscher, Jason Kubel, Danny Valencia, Dustin Martin


Best Starter Performance:

Slowey ERA 0.00, WHIP 0.00, 0 BB, 1 K 2 IP
Blackburn ERA 0.00, WHIP 0.00, 0 BB, 0 K, 2 IP
Perkins ERA 0.00, WHIP 1.00, 0 BB, 3 K, 5 IP

Battle for set up man:

Crain 0.00 ERA, WHIP 0.00, 0 BB, 0 K, 2 IP
Ayala 0.00 ERA, WHIP 0.50, 0 BB, 0 K, 2 IP
Breslow 4.50 ERA, WHIP 1.00, 0 BB, 2 K, 2 IP
Guerrier 4.50 ERA, WHIP 1.50, 2 BB, 0 K, 2 IP

On the bubble; battle for the last 1-2 spots:

Dickey 0.00 ERA, WHIP 1.00, 1 BB, 3 K, 2 IP
Henn 0.00 ERA, WHIP 1.50, 1 BB, 0 K, 2 IP
Mijares 0.00 ERA, WHIP 1.50, 2 BB, 3 K, 2 IP
Jones 3.00 ERA, WHIP 2.00, 2 BB, 3 K, 3 IP
Goslin 0.00 ERA, WHIP 2.50, 2 BB, 1 K, 2 IP
Humber 18.00, WHIP 2.50, 0 BB, 0 K, 2 IP

pitcher of week 1, spring training:

Kevin Slowey

honorable mention: Nick Blackburn, Jesse Crain, Glen Perkins, R.A. Dickey