Thursday, March 21, 2013

All-Time Teams #17: Minnesota Twins

This is part of an ongoing series where I'm naming an all-time team for each of the current 30 MLB franchises, and using this as a vehicle to discuss their greatest eligible player who is not in the Hall of Fame.

Landon Evanson, who writes for Bugs and Cranks offered invaluable input to the process of selecting this team. In fact, he probably saved me from making a couple head-scratching mistakes due to not placing enough emphasis on the players who led the Twins to their most recent glory.

Franchise History
Minnesota Twins (1961- )
Washington Senators (1901-1960)

An asterisk (*) denotes a Hall of Famer.

C - Joe Mauer (2004- )
1B - Kent Hrbek (1981-1994)
2B - Rod Carew* (1967-1978)
SS - Joe Cronin* (1928-1934)
3B - Harmon Killebrew* (1954-1974)
LF - Goose Goslin* (1921-1930, 1933, 1938)
CF - Kirby Puckett* (1984-1995)
RF - Tony Oliva (1962-1976)

Moving Killebrew to third base to accommodate Hrbek in the starting lineup seems like a logical move, as the other options at third are nowhere near as good as Hrbek.

There are three Hall of Fame outfielders on this team, but the lesser of the three gets moved to the bench (see below) in favor of Oliva, a guy whose name comes up more than occasionally in discussions about deserving players outside the Hall. That still makes five Cooperstown inductees among this team's starters, and one more (Mauer) who, if his health holds up, could well be on his way.

Walter Johnson* (1907-1927)
Bert Blyleven* (1970-1976, 1985-1988)
Johan Santana (2000-2007)
Frank Viola (1982-1989)
Brad Radke (1995-2006)

I'll admit I was initially going to leave Viola out of the rotation, but Landon and a couple other folks on Twitter convinced me otherwise. Looking back, I'm not really sure what I was thinking, but this is why I frequently seek input from others.

Joe Nathan (2004-2009, 2011)

C - Earl Battey (1960-1967)
1B - Joe Judge (1915-1932)
2B - Chuck Knoblauch (1991-1997)
2B/SS - Buddy Myer (1925-1927, 1929-1941)
3B - Gary Gaetti (1981-1990)
OF - Sam Rice* (1915-1933)
OF - Clyde Milan (1907-1922)

I was going to take Eddie Yost over Gaetti, but the latter is another guy Landon lobbied for. In hindsight, I don't think Yost would have been a terrible decision, but Gaetti's place in Twins history earns him just enough extra credit to push him past the walking man.

Firpo Marberry (1923-1932, 1936)
Rick Aguilera (1989-1999)
Camilo Pascual (1954-1966)
Jim Kaat (1959-1973)

Relegating Kaat to the bullpen in favor of Radke might be a controversial choice, but I swear it has less to do with this idiocy than with the fact those same sabermetrics show, rather logically, that Radke's 4.22 ERA in an era when the league average was 4.64 was better than Kaat's 3.34 in a 3.58 league average era.


Tom Kelly (1986-2001)

No way I was going to opt for anyone besides the skipper who led the team to two of their three World Series wins, although a case could be made for Ron Gardenhire or maybe Bucky Harris, the latter basically because he's the franchise's all-time wins leader.

Greatest Eligible non-Hall of Famer

Kaat and Oliva appeared on the 2012 Hall of Fame Golden Era Committee ballot. Both received significant support, but fell short of the votes needed for induction, with Kaat garnering 10 of 16 votes and Oliva pulling in 8.

Kaat vs. Oliva is an interesting comparison, with Kaat's case based more on longevity, while Oliva enjoyed the better peak. Kaat has the edge in Hall Rating, 85 to 82, but that's probably too close to consider worth hanging my hat on.

I probably tend to favor longevity over peak performance, but in the case of just-below-the borderline candidates, which both of these guys are in my opinion, I sometimes have a different perspective.

While Kaat would likely be a Hall of Famer if he combined a little more peak dominance with his longevity and reached 300 wins, the fact remains he only enjoyed two seasons with an ERA+ of 130 or greater, and three more in the 125-130 range. The rest of his career he was basically an above average pitcher, albeit one who chewed up a lot of innings in the process. His accomplishments are certainly worthy of recognition, but not to the extent that Oliva's are.

Tony Oliva was a Hall of Fame player for eight years. Unfortunately, eight years of greatness does not make him a Hall of Famer, but it does offer a glimpse of what might have been.


From his age 25 to 32 seasons (1964-1971), Oliva was worth 40 WAR, and he was consistent at producing that five WAR per season, with 3.4 being the worst year in that stretch. He also hit .313/.360/.507 during that period, for an OPS+ of 140. In fact, his career OPS+ of 131 would be potentially Hall-worthy if extended over more than 6880 plate appearances.

After 1971, his career was as good as over, though. A knee injury limited his 1972 to just 10 games, and he was unable to return to form after that, putting together 3+ replacement-level seasons as a DH before calling it quits.

Next Up: New York Mets

Thursday, March 07, 2013

21st Century Schizoid Ale (2013)

This past weekend, AfroDan set out to brew the fourth batch of 21st Century Schizoid Ale since we conceived of it almost five years ago. As the first three batches were all within the first two years, it had been just a few months short of three years since we last brewed our signature beer.

It just so happened, I had one bomber left from that last batch, so it made for the perfect accompaniment to the start of the process. (We moved on to a couple less remarkable, if i do say so myself, after that.) I feel it's a style that might benefit from a little aging and, while I can't necessarily say it's improved with age, it's certainly held up.

Drinking that last one definitely reinforced my previously held belief it's the best beer we've produced so far, so our expectations were fairly high. In keeping with tradition, and with the fact we're sometimes at the mercy of what ingredients are available at our local home brew store, we had to make a few adjustments to our recipe.

1 lb. crystal malt - 60 L (steeped 20 mins.)
1 lb. crystal malt - 20 L (steeped 20 mins.)
9.9 lbs. light malt extract (boiled 75 mins.) - 4 L
3.3 lbs. amber malt extract (boiled 75 mins.) - 10 L
3 oz. Sorachi Ace hops - 15.1% alpha (boiled 75 mins.)
2 oz. Cascade hops - 8.3% alpha (boiled 30 mins.)
2 oz. Cascade hops - 8.3% alpha (boiled 15 mins.)
0.5 tsp. Irish moss (boiled 15 mins.)
2 vials super high gravity ale yeast (WLP009)

We decided to try and make it a little hoppier, as an extreme hop profile is one quality that has been lacking in our previous high-octane results. We also wanted to maintain an alcohol content equal to our last batch's 10.9%, and maybe even increase it a little by using a double dose of super high gravity yeast rather than by adding more fermentable ingredients. As it turns out, due to a couple things which didn't go quite as planned, we may have achieved the first goal, but not necessarily the latter.

I'm not going to get into all the nitty gritty details, but our initial gravity reading was a little lower than last time (1.091 versus 1.092), meaning the yeast are going to have to really feed their asses off for this one to reach 11% ABV. It's not out of the question, though, but since it took a low final gravity to almost get there last time, we're going to need the double dose of yeast to really pay off.

It should be ready to drink by mid-to-late April, so stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Replacement Level AL East Preview

For the second year in a row, emigo Bryan O'Connor asked me to contribute to an AL East preview at his Replacement Level Baseball Blog. The format basically consisted of one writer with loyalties to each team answering three two-part questions (so, six actually) about their favorite team.

Honestly, I haven't paid as much attention to the off-season as I usually do, focusing more of my time these last few months on parenting, music-related projects (traditional and new) and obsessing about the Hall of Fame. But, I could have easily followed the Yankees' 2012-2013 off-season happenings out of the corner of my eye and not missed a thing.

So, despite being more interested in history than the current game, I certainly feel qualified to write a brief Yankees preview for the upcoming season. That's what follows in this post, but please also click over to Replacement Level to read the entire piece.

What is the Yankees' ceiling? What has to go right for them to win the AL East?

As always, the Yankees ceiling is a World Series victory, although it seems less likely this year than in years past. Frankly, because of the age of the roster and the loss of a few not insignificant players (Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Rafael Soriano) who weren't replaced, it's hard to imagine the 2013 Yankees not being a little worse than last year's squad.

That said, a little worse could mean they win 90-92 games and wind up on top of a very competitive division in which the strength of all five teams prevent any one from rising above. Or, it could result in a wild card berth. [Is it just me, or does the phrase "wild card berth" sound more football than baseball?] As we all know, especially fans of the San Francisco Giants, once a team reaches the playoffs, anything can happen.

Pretty much every player on the Yankees is a question mark, either due to age, sub-par performance last year, attempting to come back from injury, or some combination of those factors. The only sure things—to the extent sure things actually exist in today's game—who will fill important roles on the team are CC Sabathia, Robinson Cano and the catching tandem of Chris Stewart/Francisco Cervelli. The latter duo, of course, is only a sure thing relative to very low expectations.

But, realistically speaking, the two most important factors for the Yankees to come out on top of the division are:
  1. The ability of an aging pitching staff to reasonably approximate last year's performance, in order to make up for what certainly will be diminished production on the offensive side of the ledger.
  2. A resurgent season from either Mark Teixeira or Curtis Granderson, the latter of whom's comeback from a rough second half of 2012 is complicated by the fact he'll miss at least the first month of the season with a broken arm.

What’s the floor for the Yankees this season? What has to go wrong for them to miss the playoffs?

It's inarguable the Yankees are a worse team on paper than last year's model, so I could easily see them finishing third or fourth in an improved AL East this year. I suppose they could even finish last, but I'm guessing the Orioles will return to their rightful place or the Red Sox won't rebound much from last year's disaster.

The Yankees will rely more on pitching than they have since the dynasty years, and two of the pitchers they're counting on the most (Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte) will be a combined 79 years old by mid-season. A third (Mariano Rivera) is 43 and attempting to rebound from what would have been a career-ending injury to almost any other 42-year old. Add to that the fact they'll pin their hopes on a couple younger pitchers (Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova) who've been far from models of consistency and you can see why some folks are ready to write the team's obituary a little prematurely.

How do you see the division playing out? Is there one team you’re particularly afraid of?

Let's not try to kid ourselves that any team other than the Blue Jays has even a remote chance to win the AL East this year. They're easily as much of a lock to win the division as the Red Sox were in 2011.

If you don't get my point here, what I'm basically trying to say is I have no idea. Prognosticating is kind of a futile endeavor, in my opinion. But hey, Bryan asked me and it's kind of fun to look back later and see how bad your predictions were, so what the heck.

Seriously, though, I think any of the five teams could win the AL East. But, I'll call the Blue Jays the favorite, although I'm less confident of that pick than I was of the Red Sox two years ago.