Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Tuesday Notes

Happy Tuesday everyone! I hope you all enjoyed the holiday weekend (I know I did, since for me it was an extended five-day stay-cation), but now it's back to work. So let's get caught up with some notes.

* In beating the Royals yesterday, the Twins notched a victory for the ninth time in their past 11 games. Unfortunately, they've been unable to create any separation in the standings during that excellent stretch because the second-place White Sox have been on fire themselves. Chicago came back to beat the Tigers yesterday, marking the seventh straight victory for Ozzie and Co. Like the Twins, the White Sox have won nine of their past 11.

Last Monday, when the Sox were at their lowest point of the season, I wrote that they shouldn't be counted out because they were a streaky team stuck in a slump that could snap at any time. At that point, they'd just finished dropping a series to the Yankees that pushed them 4 1/2 games out of first, but since I posted that article the White Sox haven't lost and they've actually gained ground on a Twins club that's gone 6-1.

As the season winds down, an upcoming three-game series between the Twins and White Sox in Chicago begins to look increasingly pivotal. It commences a week from today and, depending on what happens in the six games between here and there, it could either give the White Sox a chance to vault the Twins with a home sweep or the Twins a chance to effectively bury the South Siders with only 16 games remaining afterward.

I'm reminded of a somewhat similar situation (with roles reversed) two years ago. Minnesota sat 2 1/2 games behind Chicago in the AL Central standings when they welcomed the White Sox to the Metrodome for a late September series. In a thrilling series capped by an epic 10th-inning walk-off in the finale, the Twins swept the Sox and found themselves in first place by the end of the three-game set.

Hopefully this year's Twins squad will be mindful as this series in Chicago looms.

* Matt Capps can't seem to get a break from the fans around here. For whatever reason -- perhaps because they feel like the Twins got stiffed in the trade that brought him here -- many of the Twins faithful that I interact with continue express serious doubts about Capps. Any time he allows a base runner or two in an outing, it seems that Twitter explodes with venom.

That was certainly the case on Sunday afternoon when Capps entered and allowed three hits and a walk to nearly cough up a gift-wrapped sweep-clinching victory against the Rangers. But, like he typically has since coming over, Capps got the job done. In fact, the Twins have yet to lose a game that their new closer has entered with a lead.

Ultimately, that's the barometer by which he should be judged. His saves may not always be pretty, but that's because he's merely a good reliever, not an elite shut-down guy. People should have stopped expecting the latter back in March when the Twins announced Joe Nathan's season-ending surgery.

Yesterday, Capps delivered a perfect ninth inning to seal a one-run victory over the Royals. That's the result he's usually going to get, even if he doesn't always get there all that cleanly. He's obviously not one of the game's great closers, but he's clearly a better option than Rauch -- who continues to look terrible -- and while many would prefer to see Jesse Crain taking care of the ninth, let's not forget that he's a guy with a history of bad slumps.

The Twins wanted a closer with an established track record, and they got one. So far, it's worked out just fine.

* I was delighted to see the Twins call up prospect Ben Revere over the weekend. Revere, a 22-year-old selected in the first round of the 2007 draft, has become one of my favorite stories in the organization.

A top prospect ever since bursting onto the scene with a .325 average in rookie ball after being drafted, Revere was enjoying a successful first season at the Double-A level when he was hit in the face with a pitch in early August, fracturing his eye socket. At the time, his season was thought to be done, and one couldn't be blamed for wondering whether his game would be affected by the traumatic incident.

Revere surprised many by returning to the New Britain lineup less than a month after taking the pitch, and he showed no fear at the plate, batting .382 in eight games. Now, he'll get the opportunity to help a major-league club make a push for a division title in September.

I don't know how much we'll see of him over the next few weeks, but I'll certainly be rooting for Revere every time he gets a chance to contribute. With his blazing speed, he's capable of providing us with some exciting moments.

* I didn't think I could be any more impressed with Jim Thome. Then, yesterday, he hit a home run that deflected off the top of the highest flag pole beyond the right field wall in Target Field.

It was the decisive blast in a 5-4 victory, and part of a 2-for-3 day that pushed the 40-year-old slugger's OPS into quadruple digits. His mark now sits at 1.020; only fives times in his illustrious career has Thome finished higher. He's averaging one home run per every 13.9 at-bats, which is almost exactly in line with his career rate of 13.6. Simply put, while it almost defies logic, Thome doesn't seem to have really lost anything at all.

I've said this before, but with the Vikings season upon us, I'm reminded of how fortunate we Minnesota sports fans have been over the past year to have the privilege of watching a couple of all-time greats in their respective sports playing at their very best despite being in the fourth decade of life. Especially considering that both legendary men had spent much of their prior careers playing for hated rivals.

I'm talking, of course, about Thome and Brett Favre. Much like with Favre, I'll bet we have plenty of folks clamoring for an encore to Thome's amazing performance.

* Today, Shawn Berg is celebrating the one-year anniversary of his "On the Road" blog, which features great Twins takes and eyewitness accounts of minor-league affiliate games (he did a nice report on Kyle Gibson's Triple-A debut back in the middle of August, for instance). Please do me a favor and go pay Shawn's site a visit. He's even giving a Rod Carew figurine away to his 1,000th visitor today!

* If some of these note themes sound familiar to you, it might because I've probably mused about all of them at one point or another on my Twitter page. I've basically started using Twitter as a stream of consciousness to post any Twins-related thoughts I have throughout the day (many of which become the seeds for lengthier blog posts), and I've also found it to be a great tool to interact with other fans. So if you've got an account and you haven't already, I'd love it if you gave me a follow and joined the conversation!


On the road with.... said...

Thanks for the mention! Capps doesn't so much scare me as he pisses me off when he gives up hits. Having said that, the Twins have been great this year and I don't think the fan-base has taken enough time to enjoy this season.

Ed Bast said...


If Capps could face Yuniesky Betancourt, Gregor Blanco, and Mitch Maier every time he came in, he'd be the greatest closer in the history of baseball. Unfortunately, come playoff time for example, he's going to have to face much better hitters. He has blown saves against Tampa and the Sox, and only recorded an out vs. Texas because of some obscure baserunning rule.

I just don't know how you can watch him pitch and be comfortable with him as our guy in the playoffs. Maybe we've been spoiled by Nathan.

And it continues to frustrate me that the Twins gave up Ramos for him. Bad, bad, bad trade.

Mike M. said...


I could not agree more with you about the general attitude towards Capps. No doubt that he struggled on Sunday, with some hard-hit balls finding holes in the infield, but he came into a tough situation on Friday night and recorded a five-out save. And while Nathan has certainly been among the elite closers of recent years, he did not distinguish himself in last year's ALDS.

More than anything else, I think it is the fact that the Twins traded Ramos for Capps that has caused Twins fans to have this disdain for Capps.

Anonymous said...

Why are people still hung up on Wilson Ramos as a top prospect? I think chances are he'll be the next Javier Valentine. I mean, when the Yankees and Rangers dangled Jesus Montero and Justin Smoak, respectively, for Cliff Lee, the Twins had zero chance at getting Lee for Ramos. That should tell you Ramos isn't close to being at the top tier of prospects. I think the Twins fanbase were too high on Ramos thanks to his great two game debut.

As for Capps, he makes me nervous too, but so did Nathan during the playoffs in previous years. I agree that Capps improves our bullpen, which is a good thing.

Ed Bast said...

Ramos was a Baseball America Top 100 prospect (#58), which made him #2 in the Twins organization. You don't give up your #2 prospect, plus another player, for a below-average closer.

And if "end results" are all that matters, Rauch had 3 blown saves in 4 months; Capps has 2 in 1 month.

I want to like Capps, I do. But he gets hit really, really hard. He doesn't have an out pitch. He doesn't have great control. He makes me very nervous.

Josh said...

I'm excited to see Revere too. Considering how many fly-ball pitchers we have on this roster and how big the park plays, a guy who can really get after it in the OF will be an asset as the Twins try to close the season. Let's see what the kid can do a bit, and how he reacts getting his feet wet in a pressure environment.

The Thome signing is looking like one of the best offseason moves in all of baseball. I've ripped Gardenhire many a time over here for his mismanagement of lineups and player useage, but he's gotten exactly right with Thome. Thome is no longer an everyday player and can't be used as one, but he's skill got the skills at the plate to be an enormous asset if kept fresh but still getting reps. They've managed it perfectly here: he's healthy, crushing the ball, and giving the Twins a terrific power threat and on-base machine for incredible value. Hope he comes back next year in the same role and gets #600 here.

Capps is ok, but we probably overpaid a bit for him. Of course, with Rausch, Guerrier, et al struggling lately, it's probably a good thing we got the reinforcements if we're gonna contend. Hopefully the pitching staff can all get healthy and we can sort out who can bring it down the stretch.

(word verification: "splartfu". a form of martial arts developed on Nickelodeon by the creators of "You Can't Do That on Television"...)

Steve L. said...

"Maybe we've been spoiled by Nathan."

That's not a 'maybe' question, that's a fact. Everybody was so used to Joe coming in and closing games with little to no resistance that some fans just can't fathom the fact that another closer isn't as good as he was (there are maybe 3 in the game right now that are, actually, probably only 2). Joe had plenty of 1-2-3 Saves, and now when we see a guy get a hit in the 9th inning its a catastrophe.

As soon as fans quit expecting Capps to be Nathan, they'll get on his bandwagon, because as Nick says, he still gets the job done.

SoCalTwinsfan said...

"who continues to look terrible"

Rauch has actually been pretty good of late. In his last eight games (8 1/3 innings), he has a 7/2 K/BB rate and has allowed just five hits. He shouldn't have been removed for Capps, who I think is better suited for starting an inning, not coming into the middle of an inning. Gardy should have left Rauch in, who had three strikeouts in his 1 2/3 innings and just gave up a two-out RBI double because Delmon has no range in left. Rauch wouldn't have even faced the tying run. He should have been allowed to face at least one more batter. Gardy was managing to the save stat again, which usually leads to trouble. I do agree that Capps improves the bullpen, however, mainly because of added depth.

Nick N. said...

Outstanding comment, Steve.

Nick N. said...

Ramos was a Baseball America Top 100 prospect (#58), which made him #2 in the Twins organization. You don't give up your #2 prospect, plus another player, for a below-average closer.

Says who? Ramos wasn't going to help the Twins this year (and probably not ever), Capps does. You can complain all you want about how bad he is compared to Nathan but he's still one of the Twins' best relievers right now and he adds crucial depth with several guys hurt and others struggling.

By the way, Ramos gained that high ranking from BA prior to this season, which was filled with struggles at the Triple-A level. His inability to hold his own against pitchers there over the first four months of the season greatly diminished his prospect luster, which was already somewhat in doubt due to a lack of on-field results.

I just think it's incredibly silly to call this a "bad, bad, bad trade" and act like Bill Smith could have gotten much more for Ramos. You don't think he tried?

All I know is that fans would be far, FAR more upset right now if the Twins had not added a reliever at the deadline and were now trying to make a playoff push with only one healthy, reliable arm in their bullpen.

Matt said...

Ramos could have been this "great" trade bait had he been dangled the moment Mauer signed. Letting him flail away at AAA all season diminished him extensively, and he would have dropped out of the top 100 on BP's list. Dealing him after his torrid spring training would have probably been the right call, but hindsight is always 20/20.
Oh, and how did Nathan do in the playoffs for the Twins? I agree he's better than Capps, but almost all closers are a step below the best pitchers, anyway, and very few can hone the craft to be dominant year in/year out. Mo Rivera is about the only one who can stay dominant all year and continue to dominate in October.
Is Capps a great closer? Not really, but "great closer" doesn't say that much anyway. He's better than some, and at that very overrated role (most games are over by the time the overpaid closer, a glorified reliever, comes in anyway), I'll take him in the playoffs over some other playoff teams' closers.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why anyone is wasting thier breath criticizing Capps. He was the best reliever traded this year, and we got him for a player who had no future in Minn.

Capps has 10 saves in five weeks. He may not be Joe Nathan, but who is?

Anonymous said...

"He may not be Joe Nathan, but who is?"

IF he blows a couple of saves in the playoffs, he'll be right up there with Nathan.


Anonymous said...

Evaluating a closers capabilities based on whether or not the team ends up winning the game is soooo barbaric. Capps did just about as bad of a job as a closer could have done in sundays game and still "got the job done". Im going to go on a limb as guess that 3 hits and a walk without retiring a batter gets the job done almost never.

I dont dislike matt capps because hes worse than joe nathan, i dislike matt capps because we traded wilson ramos for him, and i believe the twins could have gotten more value out of ramos. Capps isnt particularly cheap and is far from elite. I think the twins made the trade for capps because they were panicking, and they overvalued capps because he was an established closer, an allstar and a reliever. If capps was the best player the twins could have gotten for capps, which is possible at the time, just making ramos the back up and replacing butera would have generated more value for the than capps will as a twin in 2-3 years for league minimum.

Nick N. said...

Im going to go on a limb as guess that 3 hits and a walk without retiring a batter gets the job done almost never.

And how often does Capps have an outing like that? You're seriously judging the guy based on his worst outing since coming over?

Once again, Capps is NOT JOE NATHAN. He's just a solid but human reliever who will have a bad day from time to time, much like the rest of this team's bullpen arms. But there's no denying that he has been one of the best relievers on this roster since the trade and without him the bullpen would be in a state of crisis.

Ramos was not going to help the Twins this year or next. Capps will. The money they spend on him next year would have otherwise gone to someone like Guerrier or Rauch, who don't represent meaningful improvements in a setup role (or closer role, if Nathan can't come back).

Ed Bast said...


I'll stop posting on Capps. He's no Joe Nathan, that's for sure. Hopefully he can figure it out and at least be a Jon Rauch (88%) for us.

Anonymous said...

"You're seriously judging the guy based on his worst outing since coming over? " Absolutely not what im doing. I was trying to point out just how worthless evaluating a closer based on team win loss record when he pitches is. Nothing matt capps does good or bad the rest of this year is going to change my opinion of him as a pitcher as ill just defer back to his mediocre track record over whatever insignificant sample he produces for the twins this season. That is unless he changes something and starts striking out more guys or starts generating more ground balls in a sustainable way. Otherwise ill continue to believe hes an alright reliever, with just one plus pitch, whose true pitching skill is an era much closer to 4 than 3 (or 2.22 whatever it is now), who's going to be looking for 6-8 mil in arbitration for 1.5 WAR after the season.

Mike M. said...

For everyone unhappy with Matt Capps, who would you rather have closing for you right now: Bobby Jenks or Capps?

Vincente said...


Agreed, but what's his plus pitch? Fastball? Respectable hitters (and between his appearances vs Seatle, Oakland, Cleveland, KC, etc, he doesnt face many) have absolutely teed off on his fastball. He doesn't have a plus pitch, that's why he's not a good closer. As Matt G if a 93-mph fastball right down the middle is a plus pitch.

Ed Bast said...

Mike M,

Jenks in a heartbeat. He actually has a history of being an above average closer (lifetime 87% vs. 76% or so for Capps) and has good enough stuff to get away with a few mistakes. If we can't judge Capps on the poor outings he's had here, we surely can't judge Jenks on a few bad weeks either. Jenks is actually 27 for 31 on the year (87%) We'll see where Capps ends up, but as he's new to the AL I don't see him improving on his lifetime number. Probably go down a few ticks when the sample size gets bigger.

How about this: Would you trade Aaron Hicks for Jenks? Hicks won't help us this year or next, he's blocked by Span, and Jenks would help this year.

Hugh said...

Yah plus Jenks has pitched in the playoffs where he won a WS. And its always good to have power arms in the play-offs. So Jenks by a country mile.

Mike M. said...


My point is that I do not think there is a significant difference between Capps and Jenks, particularly this year. The Twins had a need for bullpen depth this year, and Capps was apparently the best available option. I think that if the Twins could have done better than Capps for Ramos, or traded a lesser prospect than Ramos, they would have.

With regard to Jenks for Hicks, no way would I make that trade.

Mike M. said...

If you lived in Chicago as I do, you would know that most White Sox fans have about as much confidence in Jenks as most Twins fans have in Capps, WS experience and power arm notwithstanding.

Matt said...

How about this: Would you trade Aaron Hicks for Jenks? Hicks won't help us this year or next, he's blocked by Span, and Jenks would help this year.
Hicks blocked by Span is multitudes different than Ramos blocked by Mauer. A very average CF and formerly above average leadoff man who is appearing to be in decline (we'll see how next year goes, this year is a wash), vs. a batting title winning gold glove catcher and 2009 MVP? Jenks is better, but the Ramos and Hicks situations aren't even close.

Anonymous said...

Rauch was told that he was going to be the closer when they were on the airplane back to Minnesota, just a little pressure, do you think? So let take a look at what Rauch has done for the Twins in 2010: He came in to close 16 games with a one run lead and he saves 14 of them and two of the games were blown saves, oh and by the way he won both of these blown games on the road no less, pitching two innings in each game. At the end of July he gets the word from another player(not the Coach OR GM) that Capps was on his way...how does one mentaly handle that your closing days are over? He was in the top five closers for most the of season, so how is that for a slap on the back!! I quess they made the move because Rauch cannot throw 95-98 MPH fastball, and did not think that he could compete, oh, by the way how much money did Rauch lose when this decision was made to replace him with Capps as the new closer. Would most of you be able to perform your job after getting this type of news? I doubt it!
Lets talk about Capps, comes from Pittsburg and Washington, certainly pitched under a lot of pressure for these two teams. Now that he is involved in a divisonal race, a few nights ago he told the coaching staff that he was too tired to pitch, so they had to bring several of our starters to complete the game. That was special! I do hope that the Twins make the playoffs, and that Capps is able to close out some very important games in the near future!
BUT, there is no doubt in my mind whats left of it, Rauch got the royal screw job!

Nick N. said...

I'm 90 percent certain the author of the above comment is in fact Jon Rauch, because I can't imagine why any other person in the world would get so lathered up about something so trivial.

With that likely being the case, I shall withhold rebuttal, since that dude could squish me with his thumb.

Anonymous said...

Nick, I am not Jon Rauch, what a grin!! I am just a fan that was tired of hearing what a terrible pitcher Rauch has been this year.
However I might know people who know people that could set up a face to face meeting, so you can tell Jon Rauch that he sucks!!
I would love to be there when you have this brief meeting.

Paul said...

"Matt Capps can't seem to get a break from the fans around here. For whatever reason -- perhaps because they feel like the Twins got stiffed in the trade that brought him here"

That is probably it. It's not like we did not want pen help, the FO just sold way too low on Ramos.

On top of the selling low concern is the concern that Gardy will assume Capps is another Joe Nathan. He is not. He has picked up a bunch of saves in spite of getting hit hard the last 2 years and there is no reason to expect that to change. We are playing with fire every time Capps is out there and I hope Gardy keeps him on a pretty short leash in the play offs.

The 3rd reason this deal was disliked was the financial aspects. Not only does Ramos have a chance to be a much bigger star than Capps, he also will be much cheaper for many years. Capps arb estimate for 2011 is 6-7 million, and at that price that is probably an albatross contract. It's true that the Twins are spending more these days but Capps's 2011 deal will still hold the team back from spending elsewhere, so he is costing us talent in Ramos as well as additional talent for our 2011 roster.

The pick ups of Rauch last year and some of the cheap/free reliever pick ups this year show a team does not have to send one of their top hitting prospect for a hittable reliever. I have no idea how Ramos will do in Washington, but the guy is a potential monster at the plate, and I think the odds that this trade becomes one of the most regrettable in Twins recent history are fairly good.

Anonymous said...

The #1 reason fans don't like Capps is that he isn't any good. just watch him pitch. he's not good. explain to me why hes good. its hard to like players who arent good.