I miss the Twins already.
Yes, I am aware that they were virtually unwatchable for the last couple weeks of the season, just like in 2012... and 2011. Must this be an annual tradition now? And yet, as I was watching the play-in game between the Reds and Pirates, I couldn't help but wish that the Twins were still playing.
It turns out most of us were wrong about Kevin Correia. He was terrific at the beginning and end, mediocre in the middle, but in the end less cowbell, more 'neau came out victorious as the lone person that believed we should let Correia play the game before we made any judgments about his ability. A 4.18 ERA later (from a career National Leaguer!), and it appears that more 'neau was the wisest of us all.
Brian Dozier wasn't so great in the beginning (I wanted to say "hot" but after that hair flip early in the season, I think many fans would argue that he's been hot all year), but then he suddenly started battering the ball all over the field. Shockingly, he ended the season as the team leader in home runs. No, that's not a typo, he led with 18, and Justin Morneau was second with 17. Still, his breakout this year terrifies me, as I can't see him hitting 18 home runs again, especially since his career high in one year of the minors was 9.
Oswaldo Arcia led the team in isolated power (slugging percentage minus batting average) for hitters with at least 300 plate appearances. His 14 home runs tied him for 3rd on the team, and if he had received 550 plate appearances, he possibly could have tied or even led the team. Granted, he seemingly would have also struck out 200 times.
What other oddities can we find in this season? Andrew Albers had the only complete game shutout for the Twins. Glen Perkins was 3rd on the team in strikeouts. We freaked out about Joe Mauer striking out so often this year, and yet he still put up 5 WAR. Chris Colabello hit 7 HR... but only 3 doubles. He also batted from the on-deck circle and was unable to pull anything with authority. Justin Morneau was the team leader with RBI... he had 74.
Add it all up and you get a 96 loss team. At least next year should provide more Arcia, Pinto, Meyer, and Sano. Who knows, maybe even some Georgia kid named Buxton will arrive. All I know is that it's the playoffs, and yet I already miss baseball.
- This story just developed yesterday, but it's all kinds of hilarious. You're probably already aware of the whole "home runs kill rallies" cliché, where hitting a home run ends the threat of runners on base and thus the pitcher is able to recollect himself. Never mind that your team just scored some runs, the home run means you're not scoring any more. Former MLB player and current baseball broadcaster Steve Lyons revived that cliché on Twitter last night by saying pretty much what I just typed a couple sentences ago. Now, the argument makes a little sense, especially when Bill Baer of Hardball Talk points out that batters have a OPS 21 points lower when the bases are empty than when a runner is on base, but this was what I couldn't believe that came from Lyons' account. Yep, getting runners on base isn't a guarantee of scoring runs, but as Lyons argues, neither are home runs. D'ohkay.
- "Forget about the stats vs. scouts argument. The biggest dissonance in the game right now is between the showmanship of Latino players and the stoicism of the old guard." That is one of the key parts of Jorge Arangure's article at Sports on Earth, where we are constantly seeing comments that Latino players like Yasiel Puig and Jose Fernandez need to tone down their play. Twice in the past month, we saw the Atlanta Braves - and Brian McCann in particular - get upset with Carlos Gomez and Fernandez for their actions after hitting home runs. Players get drilled after doing a bat flip. A fist pump on the mound is showing up the other team. There's a "right way" to play the game, apparently, and that "right way" was decided upon by the same fraternity of players that feel like you are supposed to keep your emotions in check and act like you've hit a home run before. But, why do they consider that the Latinos are playing the game the "wrong" way? Is a bat flip really all that disgraceful? I'd argue it isn't. After all, Japanese players flip the bat constantly and yet their culture reveres honor. We don't hear about beanball wars in the NPB, do we? Arangure points out that the Dominican Republic won the World Baseball Classic this year and they were certainly one of the flashiest and loosest teams in the tournament. I'd argue that the unwritten rules of baseball are ridiculous, and that players need to learn that there is not a single way to play the game.
- Speaking of the Braves getting upset at how the game is played, it appears that the club is turning on itself. Last Saturday, the Braves were down 5-4 against the Phillies with runners on 1st and 2nd and two outs. Chris Johnson was batting, and he hit a grounder to the shortstop hole. Jimmy Rollins made a diving stop, got up and fired to first, beating a diving Johnson by about a foot or two to end the game. What was interesting though is that after he came back to the dugout, Johnson was grabbed and shoved by coach Terry Pendleton. Why? Well, apparently Johnson had tossed his helmet in the dugout and it hit Pendleton. Seriously. Now, I don't know if there was more to the story (perhaps Pendleton was also upset that Johnson attempted to dive into 1st base?) but it seemed like a severe overreaction by the coach. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the defenders of the unwritten rules, the Atlanta Braves.
- Actual conversation between me and my fiancee. Me: "Check this out." Her: "Are those clowns?" Me: "No, those are fans in redface." Her: "What?" Me: *points at jerseys* Her: *mouth drops* "Well, they still look like clowns."
- On an attempted pickoff at 2nd base, Astros catcher Matt Pagnozzi instead spiked the ball towards the backstop. Again, he's the catcher.
- David Wright offered to sign a kid's baseball glove. The kid said no dice as it was his game glove.
- Finally, if you're having trouble determining who to root for in the playoffs, Emma Span created a handy flow chart for you. Looks like I'm rooting for the Pirates, though my second choice is apparently the A's.