I went over some of the preseason predictions I made during spring training in an earlier post, and I was pretty much right about all the things that could possibly go wrong during the season. Now it's time to go over what I thought would go well. As you can see, I whiffed on pretty much all of these. One of these days, I'm going to remember that everybody looks good in spring training and I should probably just ignore those numbers.
- Kevin Slowey is the new Brad Radke: If he hadn't gotten hurt, this probably would have been true. His fastball averages a blistering 89 mph, but since he can locate it pretty much wherever he wants to, Slowey is one of the best starters in the rotation. His strikeout rate is pretty average, but he is very stingy about issuing free passes, walking hitters at a rate of 1.5 per nine innings. Thus, his 5.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio is among the best in all of baseball, behind only Roy Halladay (5.94), Dan Haren (5.84) and Javier Vazquez (5.41). As a flyball pitcher who tends to give up a lot of hits, it is obviously in his best interest not to issue too many free passes.
- Francisco Liriano will emerge as the staff ace: Oops. F-bomb was awful this year, even when you account for a lack of run support and a run of bad luck. Control is often the last thing to come back after Tommy John surgery, and Frankie clearly didn't have it (plus he dealt with some injury issues of his own). He still misses a lot of bats (8.03 K/9), but he also walks a lot of hitters (4.28 BB/9, yikes) and gives up a lot of home runs (12.5 HR/FB%). Obviously, the fan base is frustrated with his struggles and has been demanding a trade, but F-bomb was still a 1.1 WAR pitcher despite putting up such poor numbers. His stock is pretty low right now, and considering that he's still pretty young and cheap, the front office might want to wait and hope his control comes back next year.
- Jason Kubel and Delmon Young are poised to have breakout seasons: Well, I was half right. Jason Kubel did indeed have his breakout season, batting .300/.369/.539 with a career high 28 home runs. Yep, nothing to complain about here, except of course that he can't hit left-handed pitching.
Delmon...well, he got really hot over the last couple of weeks of the season, batting .455/.500/.909 with 3 home runs. He, Joe Mauer, and Michael Cuddyer were obviously huge contributors in the Twins' last minute push to clinch the division. But he was awful before that, batting just .264/.288/.384 with almost no power whatsoever. He sucked again in the postseason, when he had to face better pitchers than the likes of Luke Hochevar and Nate Robertson.
I haven't done a breakdown of the Delmon Young trade like I did the Santana trade yet, mostly because I start sobbing uncontrollably whenever I think about it too much. Besides, I don't really need an entire post to say that the Twins got hosed, one paragraph should be sufficient. The Santana trade will probably end up being a bust, but the Delmon Young trade is much, much worse because, not only did the front office deal strength up the middle for a corner outfielder, they didn't even have to make this move in the first place. Yes the outfield was a big question mark after Torii Hunter left, but you can throw a rock and hit about five or six cheap, replacement-level corner outfielders on the free agent market in any given season. They aren't exactly in short supply, unlike decent shortstops and starting pitchers (the trade makes even less sense when you consider how much the Twins struggled to get decent production out of the middle infield before Jason Bartlett came along). And a replacement-level outfielder would be a huge upgrade over what the Twins have been getting out of Delmon. So, good job, Bill Smith, taking one hole and turning it into three.
- Jesse Crain will be dominant: Um, not quite. Crain had a strong second half, but he was so ineffective before the All-Star break that he got demoted to AAA for the first time in his career. Crain is going to earn substantial raise in arbitration, and with the 40-man roster being such a mess, there is a distinct possibility that he will be non-tendered. It's unfortunate, since it's always nice to have another solid arm in the 'pen, but with Joe Nathan and Jon Rauch owed a combined $14.15 million next year, the bullpen is already pretty expensive and those resources could be better spent elsewhere.
- Glen Perkins might not be that bad, either: Ugh, really the best thing you can say about Perk is that he's left-handed. And he did get off to a great start, posting a 2.48 ERA in his first four starts. Unfortunately, he came back down to earth pretty quickly after that, going 5-5 with a 5.89 ERA before landing on the DL with shoulder pain in early August. Yes, he did suffer from shoulder problems for about half the season, but injuries aren't the main reason Perkins was ineffective. The problem is that he has no stuff: his strikeout rate is well below league-average, but unlike teammates Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey, he lacks the pinpoint control necessary to be effective while pitching to contact. Perkins recently filed a grievance against the organization over his service time, and since he was already in Gardy's doghouse for failing to disclose his injury, there is a good chance we have seen the last of the mediocre lefty. His trade value at this point is pretty low however, and it isn't as though the Twins have a glut of major-league ready arms, so perhaps they will give him another chance.