Stakeholders - Minnesota Twins
From now through the beginning of the regular season, we will not be posting in-depth round-tables previewing each division like we have in years past. Instead we will feature brief back-and-forths with "stakeholders" from all 30 teams. A collection of bloggers, analysts, mainstream writers and senior front office personnel will join us to discuss a specific team's hopes for 2010. Some will be in-depth, some light, some analytical, some less so but they should all be fun to read and we are thrilled about the lineup of guests we have teed up. Today it's Aaron Gleeman on the Minnesota Twins.
Jeremy Greenhouse: If you were the Twins new stats guy, what would be your first order of business?
Aaron Gleeman: Order lunch. I never crunch numbers on an empty stomach. After that, I'd push to set up a meeting with the decision-makers to present some of the concepts and stats I'd be using, because the analysis means nothing if the front office doesn't understand or value the underlying concepts and based on their statements so far they don't yet.
JG: Bill Smith seems to be guided more by faith than science. So is Locke his best "Lost" comp?
AG: Well, he can't be Hurley any more because he dropped something like 50 pounds, so Locke might be the best comp. Right now I suspect the new stat guy's best "Lost" comp is probably Artz or maybe even the pilot who got yanked out of the plane in the first episode. Also, if there's a Kate comp working in the Twins' front office my head may explode.
JG: How many wins does the loss of Joe Nathan cost the team, and how would you handle the Twins bullpen?
AG: My best guess is that Joe Nathan's injury costs the Twins three or four wins. I'd like to see them try a true "closer-by-committee" because they have 4-5 capable right-handers and Jose Mijares is death on lefties, but despite Ron Gardenhire using that phrase to describe his ninth-inning plans I think he'll settle on one guy for the job within a few weeks.
JG: Twins starters don't strikeout many guys. The defense rated poorly in terms of UZR last year. Something's gotta give. Do you think the defense turns it around this year, or would the staff be better served with starters who strike out more than 4.5 batters per nine (Nick Blackburn)?
AG: It'll be an interesting experiment, for sure, because the Twins' pitching staffs have long been fly-ball heavy with great control and mediocre strikeout rates, yet their outfield defense has the potential to be pretty bad if past numbers prove accurate and their infield defense has the potential to be very good with J.J. Hardy and Orlando Hudson up the middle and Nick Punto getting most of the starts at third base. Beyond that no one knows how the new ballpark will play and they're switching from turf to grass. I think the key will be whether Denard Span's scouting reports or small-sample size UZRs end up telling the story about his ability in center field.
JG: Delmon Young. Positive or negative WAR?
AG: Positive, but not by a ton. Delmon Young lost a bunch of weight this offseason, he's still pretty young, and everyone takes any positive thing he does as a sign that it's all coming together finally, but I'm definitely not a believer. He swings at everything, his bat speed is often sluggish, and he's yet to show any of the supposed power potential Twins fans have been hearing about for years now. He's also a horrible, clumsy defender, so he'd need to really have a strong year at the plate to post a solid WAR.
JG: Joe Mauer. That's not a question. That's a statement of fact.
JG: What are you hearing about Target Field in terms of aesthetics and how it will play?
AG: Everyone seems to love it, which I think is a combination of the Twins doing a really nice job putting the place together and the fact that Minnesotans have been watching baseball in a warehouse for a couple decades. It seems very tough to predict how new ballparks will play, but I suspect it'll be more hitter-friendly than the Metrodome was in recent years. I'm just hoping it's not too extreme in either direction.
JG: Have you ever considered calling yourself Aaron Gleeman III to gain credibility with Twins fans?
AG: I don't have the je ne sais quoi to pull that off like LaVelle E. Neal III (or LEN3, if you're nasty). I'd probably go with "Trey" in that scenario, although Hillman has kind of ruined that for all the III's out there.
JG: The Twins are the best, most talented team in the division to be sure. So what are you most nervous about heading into the season?
AG: I think the impact of losing Nathan has generally been overstated, but the bullpen is definitely in flux right now and whether or not the closer role is overvalued he's still one hell of a reliever. I'm probably most nervous about that, along with Justin Morneau's health. But at the end of the day I think you're right that they have the most talented team in what figures to once again be a pretty weak division.
Aaron Gleeman is the Senior Baseball Editor at Rotoworld and owner of aarongleeman.com. He was the co-founder and main operator of The Hardball Times before leaving to write for NBC Sports, where he writes the Baseball Daily Dose column for Rotoworld, and he, along with Craig Calcaterra, D.J. Short, and Drew Silva write the constantly updated HardballTalk blog.