Saturday, January 28, 2017

Myths of the Offseason

Every off-season the media and bloggers create some urban legends that aren't really supported on closer look, but they get repeated over and over again until people start to believe them. It sort of works like political campaigns, interesting trumps truthful. Pun intended.

For the the Twins this off-season its the idea that Byron Buxton showed major improvement with his September performance. The reality is a bit different. He had a great first week - just as he did the first week in June when he returned from the minors. Unfortunately, like June, he couldn't sustain anything like that. He raised his batting average to his season average .225 with a 1 for 4 performance on  September 9th. He then hit .225 over the next 21 games to end the season at .225. It was an improvement over his earlier dismal performance, but I am not sure hitting .225 is going to be enough to keep him in center field no matter how many balls he runs down.

This is similar to last off-season when we kept hearing how good the Twins were at the end of the 2015 season, when again the reality was different. They had a great May.  It was their only real winning month of the season if you throw the October games in to September.  They were 10 games over .500 entering June.. But they were a sub-500 ball club from that point on. They were only 5 games over .500 by the end of June, 4 games by the end of July and then played .500 ball the last two months to stay at that level.

That was encouraging, given their struggles in recent seasons. But the second myth was that the Twins had somehow improved after the 2015 season. In truth they had lost their right fielders, Torii Hunter and their center fielder, Aaron Hicks. They also lost Mike Pelfrey, who was second on the team in getting outs, and Blaine Boyer who lead the relievers in innings pitched. In addition Brian Duensing was gone. Their additions were a potential backup catcher, some potential relief help and a potential DH. In short, far from building on the previous season, They were looking for an awful lot of people to have the best year of their careers just to hold their own at .500. That it didn't happen shouldn't really have caught anyone by surprise, but it did.

So here are this off-season's myths:

1. Byron Buxton's September showed he is ready.

2. Moving Miguel Sano back to third base will solve his hitting problems. Sano strikes out too much and its likely he will strike out more, not less, as pitchers see more of him.

3. Paul Molitor showed he was a great manager in 2015 and 2016 wasn't his fault. Molitor was a professional hitter and DH most of his career and it shows in his decisions. He is going to need several more years of managing before he is ready to lead the Twins to a championship, if he ever is ready.

4.   The new baseball people are smart young forward thinking people who will fix a backward, out of date, organization. In truth, like Molitor, they are going to have a learning curve. So far they have demonstrated they are smart enough not to make snap judgments. We will have to wait until later in the season and the next off-season to really judge how good they are. But if they are successful it will be because the Twins organization was already pretty good.

5. The Twins need to add pitching. In fact, the Twins need to see what they have before they start adding additional arms for the long haul. They will no doubt add some veteran options for the bullpen. But beyond that Santana, Gibson, Hughes, Sanchez, May, Berrios, Perkins et al need to be given a chance to see what they can do. Another Ricky Nolasco isn't the answer.


Jim H said...

Every so often I check your site. Wish you would post more often.

I agree with a lot of your comments and thoughts but perhaps I have a slightly different take on some things. I believe that there is so much parity in major league baseball that most teams tend to hang around .500 most of the year. The difference between "good" teams and "bad" teams isn't all that profound. Most of the time it is one long hot streak or one long cold streak, often brought about by injuries or just a run of poor pitching. There are always a few superior teams and a few really bad teams, but most teams, in any given year, are really pretty much in the middle. There isn't all that much to separate them, though they all have different strengths and weaknesses.

I don't know if Buxton is truly ready for big leagues now or not, but I believe he is going to be one of the best players in baseball, sooner or later. His physical tools are just overwhelming, he apparently is more than willing to work on his weaknesses, and most of his tools are close to being elite skills. I think it is just a matter of time with him, and not necessarily a lot of time either.

I tend to agree with the thought that if the Twins are going to be better soon, it will largely be with what is already in the organization. There is a quite a bit of pitching that could quite a bit better than it showed last year, if they are healthy a develop a little more. There is also a fair amount of both starters and relievers who have reached AA or AAA who have quite a bit of promise. This year may show a bit more clearly how good all of these guys could be.

TT said...

Phil Miller in today's STRIB mentioned Buxton's "dazzling September call-up last season". Apparently last year's Twins' performance has made three weeks as a .225 hitter "dazzling" to reporters. What was more disturbing is that Paul Molitor apparently agrees with them. Buxton has yet to prove he can hit big league pitching and Paul Molitor is already comparing him to hall-of-famer Kirby Puckett. We have seen the same thing with Sano and Berrios. These are young players with the tools to be stars, but Berrios has said he wants to "dominate" major league hitters, instead of just getting them out. Buxton is supposed to be Kirby Puckett, not just a solid major league contributor. Sano sees himself as the next David Ortiz. They may all live up to that hype, or they may all turn out to be Delmon Young.

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