Q and A, Part II

Posted on September 22nd, 2008 – 7:32 PM
By La Velle

Sorry for the delay. Spent a chunk of the day at a local hospital, checking on a friend who is seriously ill.

from NEI Gopher:
It looks like Hughes & Valencia are both good 3rd base prospects as hitters – How is their defense? – In the meantime,if need be, Chipper Jones & John Smoltz for a few prospects? Atlanta is now on a budget – Might work for a year or two

Let’s focus on Hughes and Valencia.

Luke Hughes has played second base, third base and outfield in the minors-and is not considered a whiz with the glove. At Class AA New Britain, Hughes had a .888 fielding percentage in limited time third base. But Hughes has power potential and there’s a need for an everyday third baseman at the major league level.
Hughes will play third base during winter ball in Venezuela. His ability to get comfortable at that position will be worth watching.
Valencia has many fans in the organization and may be more of a prototypical third baseman than Hughes. But Valencia has only a half year at Class AA and my not be ready.
I expect both Hughes and Valencia to be in spring training next year. Should be interesting to watch – unless the Twins shock me and deal for a proven third baseman during the offseason.
from Jimmy Jam:
1. What is the deal with Ullger’s 3B coaching ability? I see him out of
position a lot of times, and why in the hell did he hold up Delmon Young at 3B on Sunday when Punto had an easy double. We almost ran into a huge gaffe  there. I realize it wasn’t the reason we lost, but geez.

2. Are the Twins seriously considering bringing back Punto? I don’t have any ill-will towards him, but Tolbert is his replacement and he doesn’t POP-UP as much and is much cheaper. What’s the scoop?

1. Being a third base coach means you’re going to get criticized. Ullger generally has been conservative. His predecessor was nicknamed, `Non-stop Newmie,’ by a slightly husky local columnist. I can’t remember the situation with Young (inning, score, outs, etc.) but you have to factor in all of that with the runner, the arm on the outfielder and where everyone is located when the ball is fielded. It’s not easy.

2. Haven’t heard anything on Punto. But he’s a valuable player because he can play everywhere and is a very good defensive player. I’d like to see Tolbert and Alexi Casilla up the middle next season, with Punto coming off the bench.
That said, I still feel that there have been way too many anti-Punto posts this year. I feel some people continue to rip him for 2007 when he’s hit markedly better this year. I wish he wouldn’t hit the ball in the air as much as he does, but he’s been better. He won’t be the reason the Twins miss the playoffs – if they miss the playoffs.
from jimmy bee:
Why can’t Pohlad spend money like Wilff does???

And where has that gotten the Vikings? The Twins locked up Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer and Joe Nathan since last season. They are willing to spend - they are not going to have the highest paid players in the game – but they just need to spend wisely. Trying to squeeze a year out of Tony Batitsta and Mike Lamb have not worked.

from Jimmy Jam:
LaVelle, here’s another question for you. I was down by Target Park yesterday
morning on some business. When I came back to my vehicle it smelled like I was inside of a dumpster. Got into my car and it absolutely stunk. Looked over to see that the garbage incinerator was in use. Gross! The smell was not something I want to take in when going to a ball game in the future. What steps are in place so that the fans don’t have to suffer through a reek-filled 9 inning affair?

I drove around the site last week with the windows down and sunroof open. Even stopped the car at one point, got out and stood for a while. I didn’t smell anything like you described. Did you brush your teeth that morning? Or have chili for lunch?
from Logan:
Also, Boof, does he get one more chance in MN next spring or does he get
dealt also?

Last, do the Twins miss Torii’s leadership in the clubhouse this year, specifically this month? I know that is a little controversial, but Gardy repeatedly said Torii was a leader in and out of the clubhouse and I am taking him at his word. Nobody seems to have stepped up to to take that role, Cuddy tries, it just isn’t the same.

Bonser turns 27 next month, so there’s still some upside there. The question is if he will remain a reliever or go back to starting. Just when he looked ready to take off as a reliever he’d have a poor outing.
There’s talent there. He can hump it up to 94 mph as a reliever and has a good curveball. He’s won’t be eligible for arbitration until 2009, so the Twins can hold on to him one more year and see if he figures things out. As for leadership. I sense that Justin Morneau has assumed a bigger role. Michael Cuddyer and Mike Redmond command a lot of respect in the clubhouse, but Morneau has been around since 2003, has a good work ethic and his presence seems to be growing.
Then again, Tom Kelly used to say that leadership is based on the pitcher that day….
from Steve A:
What don’t the Twins like in Brian Buscher, Matt Tolbert, and Matt Macri? We
keep hearing them talk about getting a legitimate 3rd basemen, but I don’t see anything wrong with giving these guys a shot, especially Buscher. Is it the fact that they want a Right-handed bat for the line-up? Or just aboutdefense? Thanks La Velle

Macri just showed up on the scene this year – and his numbers at Rochester aren’t exactly eye-popping. Right when Tolbert injured his thumb, Gardy was ready to play him every day and move Brendan Harris to third. That, of course, wound up being delayed. Buscher has had a good year. He’s given them a lift at the plate. He’s got to learn how to hit lefties and improve his throwing, but he’s been functional.
I see Tolbert as starter next season. He’s a high-energy guy who Gardy likes. As for Buscher, I wouldn’t blame the Twins for at least considering a deal for a proven third baseman during the offseason. They have the money and the team will be a legitimate playoff threat.

from Kpuck:
What do the Twins do to get the defense back to where it used to be…10th in
the league in defense this year. Lot’s of extra outs. Errors aren’t everything…KC has made 17 less errors than the Twins, yet look at their record. Still, a big concern.

If they follow the La Velle plan and have Casilla and Tolbert up the middle, the defense will be fine. If they don’t deal for a third baseman, they’ll have Buscher and Harris to platoon at third. Harris looks solid at third. Buscher has a couple things to work on, but his bat would offset his defensive issues some. And Punto may be around, and he’s a very good defensive player.
from amtrekman:
Is there any chance that Michael Cuddyer and the team would consider a switch
back to third base? Granted, he had his breakout season in right field but perhaps now that he’s a bit more of a veteran he could be moved back. It seemed to work well with Casey Blake and the Indians (and now the  Dodgers), a player who went from third to right and back to third to help the team.

The Twins remember the last time Cuddyer played third and don’t want to go  there with him. He’s fine in right field with a big arm.

from brett:
I posted this as a response to one of Joe’s game wraps last week, but I’m
wondering what you can tell us about Deolis Guerra’s adjustments this year. His K/BB ratio was horrible after being better in the same league last year, and stat heads can’t understand what’s going on unless we know what’s happening in real life. Changing arm angles, working on pick-off moves, working on new pitches, what?

Guerra threw hard, but his fastball was straight. In order to get more movement on his fastball, the Twins have him dropping his arm angle. His velo was down from reports that he hit 95 as an 18-year old.
I even called Jim Rantz, the Twins director of minor leagues, this morning for an update. “His velo, I think will come,” Rantz said. “He’s just 19 years old.”
from Walter Johnson:
Be honest, which Twins players did you hate the most when you were a kid growing
up in Chicago?

I had no problems with the Twins. I hated the Royals. Hal McRae, George Brett and Willie Wilson would just kill us. And I enjoyed watching the Cubs flounder.
from Bill Burditzman:
Henry Sanchez is hurt, they shut down Parmelee, can’t think of that other
guys name. Who else is being groomed as a power hitter in the organization?

Well, Luke Hughes has shown some pop. Class A Fort Myers catcher Wilson Ramos has massive power but is learning how to harness it. One other player they have high hopes for is E-town outfielder Angel Morales.
from Shaun:
Why does Gardy insist on always managing by numbers? Case in point -once again
messing with the bullpen and pulling out Mijares in favor of Gas Can Guerrier who promptly gave the Tribe the lead.

Gardy actually plays hunches – starting Brian Buscher against lefties is one example.

from TK(2):
One (almost rhetorical) question: Why can every, and I mean EVERY team hit
home runs when it matters except the Twins? True, we hit them when we’re winning big, or down by a lot, but when the game’s close- say we’re down by 2 with 2 on- we Never get them. Why can 29 out the other 29 teams get home runs in that situation, and we can’t? It’s Very frustrating to me, and it has tobe to many others out there I would think.

Is it our hitting philosophy? Do we tell our players to hit for avg. overpower? I could almost guarantee that you could take the Exact same line-up, put it in a different organization, and the power production would increase by at least 15-25%. Am I asking too much for a team that can hit homers at least on par with the Indians?

I don’t think the Twins preach that approach. They have tried to draft power hitters and many of them have failed. Remember when Cuddy, Matthew LeCroy and Michael Restovich were going to change everything? One of them stuck.
They have drafted Matt Moses, David Winfree and Henry Sanchez in recent years but they don’t look to be major leaguers. BAD DRAFTING!
This year looks bad because Delmon Young never got going and Cuddyer has had hand injuries.
The Twins actually have a power development program in the minors in which they take young slugging prospects and have them do drills to increase backspin on batted balls, which leads to more carry and homers. Morneau still does one of those drills. His homers are down but he still drives the ball.
But I’ll state this again: Offense is not the problem with the 2008 Twins.
from Beisbol-a-Go-Go:
1 – is there any way including fines that the team can use to minimize as
close to zero as possible sliding head first? (I’m NOT including pickoff  moves, many of those have to be head first). The many hand injuries so far this year may have already had a dampening effect but then there’s always LNP who will do it at any time. It was interesting that D&B said at the time of a Randy Ruiz feet first slide into FIRST! that something happened in his minor league career and he has never gone in head first since, so you can teach even “old dogs” new tricks with enough incentives.

2 – which coach(es) are responsible for sliding techniques? Now I’m talking about sliding hard enough to get there but not overshoot the bag so much that you can’t recover. I’ve watched nearly every Twins game this season and maybe my memory is playing tricks but I can’t remember the last time I saw so many instances of Twins making an out by oversliding and so few opponents caught the same way. Is this aggressive approach that Gardy promotes shooting them in the foot at times?

It is acceptable to dive into first base in order to avoid a collision or a tag. The Twins should use every means necessary to stop players from doing it in other situation. Once you leave your feet, you lose momentum. And fingers seem to get busted when diving into first. But players are going to dive into second and third to try to beat throws. Some players hold their batting gloves in their hands to reduce the chances of fingers getting busted up. And, hey, players are trying to make plays. Sometimes they will overslide bases and get tagged out.
Jerry White teaches sliding technique. And Paul Molitor has a presentation every year on the mental side of running the bases.
from Diggity Daz:
Why does the local media never, EVER, put any fire to Gardy’s feet or ask him
the questions they should be asking him?

He never gets any crap for the stuff he pulls–I think the media should be MUCH more critical of him. This shouldn’t be a “Well, we were supposed to be .500, but Gardy managed us to 6 games above” year–it should be a “We had a real shot at the playoffs if we’d have just been able to play .500 baseball through September.”

Yost was fired because he couldn’t keep the fire going. Why isn’t Gardy looked at under the same lens, LEN?

Next year, you’ll have the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Blue Jays, the Angels,the White Sox, the Tigers, and the Indians all with a decent chance to make the playoffs. It’s going to be a little tougher to be in the position the Twins were at the end of August of this year, next year.

For the most part, the right questions are asked. The answers often aren’t acceptable to those who read them. Or other forces drive the stories we are writing that day and affect the questions asked. Or it’s a question that has been asked in the past.

Gardy has a better record and more playoff appearances than Yost. That’s a bad comparison. The Yanks, Mariners, Indians, Tigers and others were supposed to be good this year, and we saw what happened…..

from Mark:
Hey LEN III,
Anyway, it’s this: Everyone loves Joe Mauer. He’s a wonderful hitter and
catcher. Great guy, local boy, etc. I don’t want this to sound like I’m ripping him, but it might. If I can get ticked off at guys like Manny and others that fail to hustle to first on ground balls to infielders, then why is Joe special?
Case in point. I was down in KC for the series in August. He hits a routine
ground ball to the left side. He’s running half-speed to first. Problem is, the ball was bobbled. He then busts it down the last 45 feet and just gets thrown out by a half a step. If he hustles out of the box, he beats that easily. I watch Morneau and he’s busting it down all the way. Kirby was the same way.
I don’t want to hear the Barry Bonds excuse that they play 162 games and need
to “pace” themselves. How many times do you REALLY have to bust it in one game? Maybe twice. So let’s go!
Nobody makes a big deal out of it. But, if it makes the difference in one
game… that’s what the season could very well come down to.

Thanks,

Players who are ouchy and dealing with minor injuries usually get leeway on busting it to first base. I’m sure Mauer has been given such leeway. Leg soreness is always an issue with catchers. I wouldn’t get mad at Mark Rosen’s kid if I were you.
 

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