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Entries in Minnesota Twins (25)

Monday
Dec052011

Matt Capps' Fastball Velocity Drops

After an underwhelming 2011, Matt Capps is now one of the more interesting options out there for teams looking to fill the closer role.  Last year, Capps saw his strikeout per nine rate drop to 4.7, the lowest in his career.  He also gave up 1.4 home runs per nine, the highest since his 1.7 in 2009 with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

One reason for his troubles last season could be a slight decrease in his velocity.  Capps lost one mph on his fastball in 2011 compared to 2010, dropping to an average of 92.8 mph.  As a result, he produced an 11.8% miss rate on his fastball, compared to 17.5% in 2010 and 15.1% in 2009.

To make matters worse, Capps’ fastball BABIP actually dropped to .258, 32 points lower than his previous 3 year average while his line drive rate on fastballs also dropped a full 10%.  While this may seem like a positive, his HR/FB jumped from 6.1% in 2010 to 9.3%.  And considering he was giving up 14% more fastball induced fly balls in 2011, his long ball troubles far outweighed any positives from a decrease in hits on balls in play.

Early CAIRO projections peg Capps at about a .6 WAR.  The word is the Twins would like to bring Capps back.  He’ll probably be looking for something more than a 1 year deal, however.  Given his velocity troubles last year, it might be a bit risky to invest in Capps with a long term deal, especially for a small market team like the Twins.

Tuesday
Nov222011

Perkins Plenty Capable in the 9th

With Joe Nathan now a Texas Ranger, The Twins are in search of someone to conquer opposing clubs in the late innings. Minnesota needn't look far to find a high-leverage gun slinger, though. Lefty Glen Perkins's stuff improved dramatically in the bullpen last year, allowing him to quietly turn in one of the better performances among all relievers amid the Twins' apocalyptic 99-loss season.

A University of Minnesota product taken with the 22nd pick in the 2004 draft, Perkins was an unremarkable, back-of-the-rotation arm as a starter. Sitting around 90 with his fastball and mixing in some sliders and changeups, Perkins posted an ERA around five and struck out a paltry 4.4 batters per nine in 246.1 innings as a starter for the Twins in 2008-2009.

After another yawn-inducing season spent mostly at Triple-A Rochester in 2010 (5.81 ERA, 4.08 FIP), Perkins was bumped to the 'pen in 2011. Going all out in short stints, Perkins pumped up his fastball velocity, turned his slider into a weapon and became a relief ace.

The 28-year-old struck out 9.5 batters per nine, walked 2.3 unintentionally and surrendered 0.3 HR/9 in 61.2 innings pitched. He lucked out by giving up a homer just 4.3 percent of the time that a batter put the ball in the air (about one-half of the average rate for relievers), but his fielding-independent stats still pegged him as a sub-3.00 ERA pitcher. With 1.7 Wins Above Replacement, Perkins ranked just outside the top 10 among relievers despite missing time with a strained oblique.

As a reliever, Perkins simplified his approach. He attacked hitters with his fastball (up to an average of 93.9 mph), throwing slightly more than 59 percent of his heaters in the strike zone. Perkins used that fastball to get ahead in the count, throwing it more than three-quarters of the time in the first pitch of the at-bat.

Getting ahead of batters so often (about two-thirds of the time) then allowed Perkins to expand the zone with his low-80s slider and changeup. While he pounded the zone with his fastball, he baited hitters to chase his breaking and off-speed stuff off the plate:

Perkins' slider and changeup location, 2011

And chase they did. Check out hitters' swing rate by pitch location against the slider and changeup, compared to the league average. Opponents chased ankle-high sliders and changeups against Perkins:

Hitters' swing rate by pitch location vs. Perkins' slider and changeup, 2011

Average swing rate by pitch location vs. sliders and changeups, 2011

Perkins is yet another example of the marked difference between starting and relieving. Facing lineups multiple times and having to pace himself, Perkins was Joe Saunders' little brother. Letting 'er rip an inning at a time, he gained zip and was fantastic. Teams give starting prospects every chance to make it because they're more valuable if they can capably pitch 150-200 innings. But if you're scrounging for relief help and looking to avoid the financial pitfalls associated with adding a "Proven Closer," turning the stalled-out starter loose in the bullpen isn't a bad plan.

Saturday
Nov192011

Ryan Doumit's Catch-22

Minnesota Twins signed C(?)/1B/DH/OF Ryan Doumit to a one-year, $3 million deal with possible performance incentives.

Possessing an injury history suggesting he needs to take the field covered in bubble wrap (at least one DL stint each season since 2006, including a fractured ankle in 2011) and a defensive reputation behind the plate earning him the nickname "No-Mitt" (Baseball-Reference's Total Zone says he has been eight runs worse per year than an average catcher), Doumit always seemed destined to end up in the DH league.

Just where he'll play with the Twins is unclear -- the health of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau will likely dictate that -- but Doumit gives the run-starved Twins a decent hitter at a position to be named later. The problem is, the 30-year-old is sort of baseball's version of Yossarian. This is the Catch-22 that led the Pirates to decline Doumit's 2012-13 options for $15.5 million and that the Twins now face: Doumit's bat is only valuable at catcher, but having him catch takes that bat out of the lineup often due to injuries and costs his team runs through his dubious D. At first base, DH or in the outfield corners, he's just another guy.

Over the past three seasons, Doumit has a .263 average, .327 OBP and a .426 slugging percentage. The cumulative line for first basemen over since 2009 is .270/.353/.462. DHs have a .258/.336/.433 triple-slash, left fielders have hit .263/.332/.426 and right fielders .269/.343/.443. The switch-hitter's upside, if you accept the idea that he should only be a "break glass in case of emergency" backstop, is that of an average DH. And even there, he's best off in a platoon that limits his exposure to lefties.

From the left side of the batter's box, Doumit has a career .275/.336/.461 line in a little over 1,600 plate appearances. He has plenty of pull-side power, as his hit chart over the past three years shows:

Doumit's hit chart vs. right-handed pitching, 2009-2011

In about 500 PAs as a righty hitter, he doesn't have a drastically different average (.262) or OBP (.329) but he has slugged just .389. He hits more ground balls against lefty pitching (48 percent over the past three years, compared to 40 percent versus righty pitching), often chopping the ball to the third baseman or shortstop:

Doumit's hit chart vs. left-handed pitching, 2009-2011

It's hard to criticize the Twins for adding a competent batter at a low base salary after a 2011 season in which they placed 25th in run-scoring and gave significant ABs to the likes of Rene Rivera, Drew Butera, Jason Repko and Rene Tosoni as injuries piled up. But Doumit is a player whose value is higher in theory (switch-hitting catcher who dabbles at other corner spots) than in practice (injury-prone, DH-worthy defender whose power stroke comes from one side of the dish). The signing could work out, but you don't have to walk around with crab apples in your cheeks to understand why it might turn sour.

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