October 27, 2011: Twenty Years

Twenty years ago today, Jack Morris and Gene Larkin did things that ensured that we'd always say "Gene Larkin wasn't that good, but..." or "Jack Morris is a jagweed, but at least he...".

I love baseball because large sample sizes can prove anything, but I might love it even more because small sample sizes can make Gene Larkin my baseball hero for life.

129 thoughts on “October 27, 2011: Twenty Years”

  1. I figured today was as good a day as any to order the 1991 World Series DVD set. I was rewarded with a much lower price than last time I looked at it. Hooray!

        1. Thanks, pally!

          Planning to celebrate this weekend in Chi-town. Sat morning NBBW and I are running in a 5K in Pilsen called Carrera de los Muertes (Race of the Dead) - should be a hoot. We're all set with Rey Mysterio masks and capes. Hope it's not too cold... snowing here in Hartford as we speak.

  2. I know it's because I added all of my "Halloween" tracks to my iPod last night, but on the bus ride to work, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's "Death to Everyone*" was followed by Monster Magnet's "See You in Hell". Both are joyous, peppy songs, the first about death, the second about damnation. I couldn't have ordered them better had I tried.

    *Funtown Comedown version. It was an album-preview bonus track, it's probably not very available. (I know I've been searching long and hard for the album-preview demo version of "So Everyone" for quite a while.) If you're itching for this (if you like Will Oldham, you should be itching for it), let me know and I'll do my best to e-mail you a copy.

  3. It was the Kirby Puckett home run in game 6 that defined that series for me. Yeah, yeah, game 7, 1-0, ten innings, blah, blah, blah.

    Edit: why provide an embed code when you can't embed it?

      1. I agree. In fact, I haven't even gotten around to watching game 7 just yet. Hopefully this weekend, but I was all goosepimpled from game 6 that I wanted it to simmer for a few weeks.

          1. The original plan was to do it concurrently with the 1991 World Series. Several people however, commented that it would then interfere with this year's World Series. Considering how good this year's Series has been, I'm glad it was unofficially postponed. Instead, I think we should start it before spring training starts (perhaps before pitchers and catchers report). That way, it won't interfere with anything, since January-February is totally dead.

            1. i liked the idea of *cough*streaming*cough* it. that way we call all be sure to be on the same page, but i understand a number of difficulties could come with that.

              1. Yeeeah. I started but then stopped because it wasn't going to happen this month. I will probably need some testers for this eventually.

      2. I'm going to go further. This one moment defines my Twins fandom. That's it right there. 40+ years distilled into that one moment.

    1. Last night on one of the local news broadcasts they had an interview with the man who caught that ball. He'd traded two good tickets on the 3rd base line for 4 in the bleachers so he could take his family. He caught it off a richocet and didn't even know he'd done so until he checked the webbing of his glove. Afterwards, when Kirby asked him what it would take to get the ball, he said that he didn't even hesitate to give it to him for nothing but a photo with the center fielder. Afterwards, he was invited to golf with Puckett on a few occasions and was present at his HOF induction.

    2. Sad confession to make. I was just 9 years old and stayed up to watch the entire World Series. Normally my parents had me in bed by 7pm (seriously!). Anyway, I crashed during the middle of Game 7 and didn't know the result until my parents got home and told me. But I did stake away for Kirby's homer.

  4. I'm hearing that the Twins won't go after Thome in 2012 because they want flexibility on their bench. As opposed to having a dude who can put runs on the board in a hurry.

    1. Flexibility? I guess that means Cuddy will still be wearing the #5. Oh well.

    2. I agree with the flexibility on their bench being necessary, but that doesn't mean that they can't also sign Thome. I liked re-signing Thome last year, but with _elm_n, Kubel, and Cuddyer along with Thome, they had 4 guys out of 13 position players who played little to no defense. That's a few too many. No _elm_n in 2012, and likely one or both of Kubel & Cuddyer will be gone as well, so I think Thome would fit better into this team's plans.

      It would also help "roster flexibility" if Gardenhire didn't waste a roster move with a pinch runner for Thome with two outs and one of the many terrible hitters in the roster coming to bat.

    3. this from the team that wanted more speed in their lineup in 2011. i don't really trust them in addressing their own faults.

      1. It would have been nice to have some more speed, it's just that instead of adding speed where it would really be helpful (like the outfield corners), they gutted the middle infield. I was excited about the Nishioka signing, but I thought it was way riskier to ship out Hardy in case Nishioka played exactly like he did in 2011. And now they're looking for a shortstop... again. Sigh!

        Would it be worth it for the team to be terrible again in 2012 if they net a good draft pick, fire Bill Smith, and bring in a competent GM?

          1. I don't think his drafts have been terrible. I more meant that the bright side to sucking all year would be a new GM and having a very high draft pick.

            I should probably get myself a Mark Appel related avatar for this year's draft!

        1. No, because it won't change anything. Smith is essentially the head of a committee that runs the team and if he is fired, the Twins will just promote from within. I don't see anything he has done that has strayed from the Twins' philosophy, so I doubt a new guy will do anything differently. If you really want a new front office, you will want new owners as well.

        2. Betting on high draft picks in baseball also is a bad strategy, or at least the draft in baseball has the slowest time to help a team as compared to all the other major team sports. The Twins will be more than two months into next season before they even can draft No. 2 after this season and then they have to sign him, which usually doesn't happen with high picks until almost the deadline in mid-August. He might get a few games in the minors next year before getting in High-A or AA in 2013 and maybe getting a September callup in 2013 if he has a really good year. And that's assuming he doesn't turn out to be a bust, which happens more often in baseball than any other major team sport.

    4. They should look to add more flexibility to their bullpen and get 5-6 guys who can pitch at least an inning at a time so they don't ever have to have a 12-man bullpen.

      1. How many teams don't use at least a 12-man pitching staff? It seems like it is pretty much the norm now. I think this is why you see so few full-time DHs. It also may mean that Big Papi's value could be down if the Red Sox dump him.

        1. It might be the norm, but that doesn't mean it's the best strategy. If a team is worried about its bench flexibility, it should definitely look at reducing the number of pitchers it carries.

          1. I didn't say it was the best strategy, just that if it is the norm, then reducing it would require the Twins to go against the norm, which has not been the case very often for this team. After such a terrible season, maybe they will start being more creative, but my guess is that if anything, Gardy will want 13 pitchers instead of 12 since he will likely have a new bullpen or will be trying to find some competent relievers out of what he sifted through in spring training. If they bring back Nathan and bring in a veteran right-handed setup man to go with Perkins and Duensing at the back of the bullpen, then he might be willing to go with a shorter bullpen.

            1. I feel like going with 12 pitchers is against the norm for a guy who started off his career with 11-man pitching staffs. It's not like I'm suggesting he goes with a 3-man rotation. Who's going to help your team more? A pinch-hitter on a team with plenty of questionable spots in the lineup, or a 7th (or 8th?!?!) terrible pitcher out of the bullpen.

              I would seriously consider firing any manager who wanted an 8-man bullpen coming out of spring training. You just had an entire off-season and 6+ weeks of spring training to make a decision on your 6 best relievers, and you still need more time to evaluate? Guess it's time to find someone who can make the hard decisions before the season starts. Not to mention that the first 2-3 weeks of the season usually has plenty of off days so you sometimes don't even need a fifth starter until the 3rd or 4th week of the season. And your entire bench is going to be an infielder, an oufielder, and a catcher? That sounds like a good recipe for running your regulars into the ground over the course of a long 162-game season.

              I hate that managers seem resigned to pull a relief pitcher essentially any time they give up a run-scoring hit in a close game. Sure, the guy just allowed a hit, but it doesn't mean he's got nothing left to give. And in at least half of those situations, you're taking a decent pitcher out of the game to replace him with someone worse who throws with the opposite hand. If platoon advantage is so important, why not put some opposite-handed hitters on your bench so you can use platoon advantage to score runs once in a while?

              1. A pinch-hitter on a team with plenty of questionable spots in the lineup, or a 7th (or 8th?!?!) terrible pitcher out of the bullpen.

                A pinch-hitter who's also a terrible pitcher out of the bullpen. Wait, that still doesn't come out right...

                1. after you've put your 12-man rotation staff and three catchers in place, how much more flexibility do you really need?

  5. Reusse with a window into our favorite GOMLer's soul:

    A recurring recollection for me watching this postseason has involved conversations I had with Dan Gladden that started in 2008. Starting that spring for a couple of years, you couldn't talk Twins with Gladdy without hearing this:

    "The player I would love this team to get is Adrian Beltre. He's the best-fielding third baseman in the game. And Seattle would trade Beltre to get rid of his salary.''

    Gladdy started in on this in spring training and still was going in August, when I was in Seattle for a Twins-Mariners series. The news during that series was the return of lefty reliever from Texas, in exchange for minor leaguer Mark Hamburger.

    Gladden figured that Beltre could clear waivers, since he was having an off year for him, while making $13.4 million (with the same amount due from the Mariners in 2009).

    I remember the conversation in the Twins' hotel in Seattle. Gladden was again lamenting the Twins' vacuum at third base and talking up a trade of minor league prospects for Beltre.

    "That's a lot of money for a guy who is getting ripped as an underachiever here in Seattle,'' I said.

    "Put him on a contender,'' Gladden said. "He'll play great.''

    1. He's right he'll play great, but not because he's on a contender. It's because he won't be stuck in the death-to-righties Safeco. Also helps to move to two offensive parks after being stuck in Safeco.

      That's not to say I disagree with Gladden. Beltre would've been very nice to have, but the Mariners would have needed to kick in a lot of money for the Twins to have traded for him then.

      1. I think that Gladden's primary mistake here is believing that because the fans in Seattle ripped Beltre as an underachiever that the front office didn't like him. I'm pretty sure that every FO combo that Beltre played for in Seattle always thought of him as an asset and not a liability. If Beltre was on the market when he was with the Mariners, there would have been plenty of folks on the phone.

        Beltre does seem in some ways a perfect GOML player--good on defense, has some pop, doesn't get a ton of his value from walks.

        1. Fun fact about Beltre: he has 56 fWAR. That's, future Hall of Famer Adrian Beltre is a perfect GOML player.

          1. Of course, it's pretty much impossible to get into the HOF as a third baseman, so Beltre is almost certain to be snubbed even if he has the credentials.

    2. I LOVED TIm McCarver's comment during Game 5. To paraphrase,

      TIM: "Last year when he was with the Red Sox, we really learned that Adrian Beltre is an entertaining and talented player."
      ME: "Really Tim? I thought we had learned that during his previous TEN-PLUS years in the Majors."

      If you dig through the archives of the Bossman's old site (if accessible), you would see that I've gushed about Beltre being one of my favorite non-Twins for years. Even back around 2006 when I lived with a M's fan, I loved the guy because he was so quirky.

  6. Jayson Stark on the Rangers:

    Only one other franchise in any major North American professional sport -- those Minnesota Vikings -- has been in existence as long as this franchise without winning at least one championship? (The Vikings, coincidentally enough, have also been around for 51 years -- but are not one win away.)

    The Rangers are so going to win this series. Skol!

        1. Correct. They won the last NFL Championship pre-merger and then proceed to cough up a huge hairball in Super Bowl IV.

          1. Oh, I am aware of the SB bed pooping. My point was that they have won a championship, but that's what I expect out of Stark.

              1. If you're not counting NFL Championships before the Super Bowl, then the Browns have gone without a championship for 61 years. Just sayin'.

              2. Oh holy crap is my reading comprehension terrible. I didn't make the connection between 1969 and Super Bowl 4. Sorry everyone.

                I still don't like Stark, though.

    1. It's a bit silly to leave the Astros (a whole one year younger as a franchise) out of this discussion, but I am all in favor of ragging on the Vikings.

  7. From TwinsCentric re. Cuddiier:

    In the Handbook, after looking at the market, we estimate his contract to be 4 years/$44 million. While I wonder if that's high, it'll be at least 3 years/$30 million. For that, do you bring him back?
    -John Bonnes


    However, a healthy Kubel at age 29: Estimated 3 years, $20 million...

    A tentative yes.

    1. You don't bring him back, then you need to replace him. The Twins have to have a RH power bat with Delmon traded and no Cuddyer. I like Danny, but if he bats higher than fifth next year before the Twins have clinched their title, the Twins are in big trouble.

      1. It's too bad JJ Hardy isn't available this offseason!

        In all seriousness, I'm assuming Josh Willingham will be available for much less than Cuddiier.

      2. I don't think we need a RH power bat if we let Cuddyer walk. What we need more than anything are good ballplayers who don't tie up big chunks of payroll for a long time. If we could keep Cuddyer on a one-year deal, then maybe I'd take into consideration the number of other right-handed guys with pop on the team, but it's not a good enough reason to commit to him for multiple years.

    2. I know we have more money to work with than we have in the past, but I struggle to see much upside in getting any mediocre player at market rate for a contract that is guaranteed 3+ years. I thought Dave Cameron was being ridiculous when he said that a 2-year/$7M contract for Kubel wasn't worth signing when such glamorous players as Eric Hinske can be found for less cost, but signing Kubel to a 3-year/$20M deal is committing 1/14th or so of your payroll, for the next three years, to a guy who defensively is a stretch in a corner outfield position, has a significant platoon liability, and seems to have trouble staying healthy.

      To do an off-the-cuff evaluation, we can us a 5-3-1 weighting of a player's last three seasons for his next season value, and go from there. Using fWAR, that puts Kubel at about 0.85 fWAR next year, and giving him the benefit of the doubt, he won't noticeably depreciate over that time. 0.85 fWAR really shouldn't cost you $7M/year. Nick Punto has been worth more than that 5 of the 8 years of his career.

      Cuddyer projects to 2.6 fWAR next year using this method, but he's also had trouble staying healthy and I wouldn't be apt to give him the benefit of the doubt that he could maintain that for three straight years. Something like 2.6/2.1/1.6 is probably fair. At $4M/win, he'd be worth about 3yr/$25M or 4yr/$29M. Being able to stand in at first base or RF does have some additional value, and maybe there's even some value in his personality. (Though I'm not personally sold on his personality.) If Cuddyer was an up-the-middle player or he was the last piece of the puzzle, I could maybe see going out on a limb to get him, but I think the right move is to let him walk, just like we let Hunter walk way back when.

    3. Cuddy has been worth 2.5+ fWAR in four of the last six seasons. 3/$30M is not crazy, nor would it be crazy to pay him that much to DH and fill in at 1b and RF.

      I'd really like to see Joe Benson every day in RF, however.

      1. i know a few of you have been listening to the G&tG podcasts. gleeman's a big advocate of getting 75% of the production out of RF for a fraction of the price from someone like, say, joe benson. i can't see any way that the twins bring back cuddy in a way that helps the team (i.e. he'll be much more expensive than he's worth).

          1. Torii Hunter was also perceived as a leader and they let him walk. I don't think it's out of the question that they let him walk if someone is willing to give Cuddyer $Texas.

      2. Signing Cuddyer for three years just seems too long. If I was running the show I'd do 2/$16 million or 3/$21 million. There's just too many holes to give a player with as limited a skillset as Cuddyer a third of the available payroll.

    4. I am probably in the minority, but I want the Twins to resign Cuddyer (unless the money is outrageous)

      1. It's weird...I've never been a huge Cuddyer fan, but I want him back for non-outrageous money, too.

        After a season like 2011, it just makes sense to hold on to one of the few guys who gets the occasional XBH.

  8. Fangraphs says Cuddy has been worth $58.5M cumulatively since he became a regular in 2004 -- a mean of $7.325M with a std. dev. of $5.322M. His previous year's fWAR has been a lousy predictor of the subsequent year's fWAR, to be sure.

    ubes' 5-3-1 weighting predicts Cuddy will be worth 10.3 WAR next year. Using the step-ahead predicted values to estimate the out years, this formula predicts Cuddy to be worth 10.3 WAR, 10.75, and 10.96 in 2012, 2013 and 2014, which nobody is likely to believe, including Cuddy's agent. But that's as good a starting point for figuring out his market value as any. It just happens to rely on him having had two really good seasons out of his last three.

    So, let's say that his "true" value for the next three years likely lies between the straight-line average over his career ($7.325M * 3 = $21.975M) and his u-weighted forecast (10.3+10.75+10.96 = $32.01M). If Cuddy signs anywhere for less than 3 years/$22M, I will be surprised. I would not be shocked to see him sign for 3/$32M.

    Should the Twins sign him for anywhere in that range? Well, those are decent estimates of his expected value over the three year window. In my world, signing someone for his expected value is a break-even proposition, no matter what share of the payroll he takes up.

    If we are going to concede the next year or two of Joe Mauer's career as "rebuilding" years, then, no, you don't sign Cuddy. Instead, you go cheap and hope you can catch lightning in a bottle. Or you trade Mauer, which I don't see happening.

    1. 10.3 WAR next year? The Twins better hand Cuddyer a blank check then.

      The standard weighting used by projection systems (e.g. Marcel, ZiPS, Oliver, BP's, etc) is 5-4-3. For multi-year projections, a 0.5 win drop after each season matches well for the average player. That is, if you forecast Cuddyer tobe 2.8 wins next year, then he would be 2.3 in 2013 and 1.8 in 2014.

      1. 5-4-3, 5-3-1, I always forget. At any rate, the difference is usually trifling. (2.6 vs. 2.8 here, for instance.)

        1. 5-3-1 is a pretty close approximation to a fairly standard geometric decay function, right? It's a finite distributed lag where the weights of successively more remote observations drops by a constant factor. One pretty typical one is to cut the weight in half each step (4-2-1). 5-4-3 is just a finite distributed lag with a linear decay.

          the "right" decay rate is an empirical matter. In Cuddy's short time series, there's either a lot of noise or negative serial correlation, depending on your beliefs.

      2. 10.3 WAR next year? The Twins better hand Cuddyer a blank check then.

        whoops. half-bakef. $10.3M, obviously.

        I see that sean states that the standard weighting is 5-4-3, but implies that this is not "weighting" in the usual sense, but some sort of discounting of last year's performance??

        That doesn't quite make sense to me. Certainly, at some point in a player's career we should expect him to peak-and-decline, but that has to be a function of age, right? Obviously, any naive application of a weighting rule would ignore where a player is in his career arc.

        1. The weighting is 5 for the most recent year, Y, 4 for year Y-1 and 3 for year Y-2. The idea being that we should weight more recent performance more heavily but we should also look farther back...but not too far back. It's a decent approximation in a pinch.

        2. The reason for the blanket 0.5 win decrease when projecting out multiple years is because it takes into account injuries. Also, we don't know a player's performance trajectory until after it's happened. On average, for players under the age or 37 or so, it works extremely well. For older players (35+), the the 0.5 win difference doesn't apply as much. It ranges from -0.3 to -0.7, based on the type of player. Players with "old" skills tend to fall at about 0.7 while more athletic players and players who maintain good/elite levels until late in their career age slower. Overall, stick with 0.5.

    2. I don't think that Cuddyer has skills that will age well. This is somewhat subjective, but I can put some objective backing to it. Bb-ref's similarity scores aren't perfect, but they're a rough guage. We can use Cuddyer's top 10 comparables through age 32 and look at what they did from age 33 to the end of their career. It doesn't look pretty. Rowand hasn't retired yet, so let's focus on the other 9 guys. As a group, those nine guys had a 113 OPS+ through age 32, and then from age 33 to retirement, they had an OPS+ of 101. And it's not as though they had a long, slow decline to that number. Only Paul O'Neill played for a long time after age 32, and only he and Carl Everett played at least 3 years after age 32. As a group, they averaged about 2 seasons and 180 games played.

      Basically, I think if you sign Cuddyer to a three-year deal, you're very likely looking at something like the age 33-35 years of Carl Everett's career, with fewer arrests, more belief in dinosaurs, and better card tricks. Is it worth tying up $30M+ for that?

    3. In my world, signing someone for his expected value is a break-even proposition, no matter what share of the payroll he takes up.

      It makes a big difference in terms of how much risk you are willing to accept. Why lock up, say, $10M of your 2014 budget on Cuddyer today when you can very reasonably expect to get break-even value for that $10M in the '13-'14 offseason? If anything, there should be a "risk premium" associated with long-term contracts, and for the team to really break even on a long-term deal, the player should get less than expected value for the guarantee of getting paid over a longer term.

      If there weren't many holes on the team, and you absolutely had to spend $10M/year in one place, then it does seem like you have to play the long-term contract game. But with as many holes as the Twins have, I don't see why they should spend $10M in one place on a pretty mediocre player.

        1. Oh, hey, I'm more than prepared to concede that Cuddyer's expected value is less than $X million, and that signing any player over age 30 to a multi-year contract is risky.

          Should the Twins be risk averse in signing players? No, not in general. They have to gamble somewhat in order to be winners.

          In specific cases (e.g., over-30 players with skill sets not expected to age well), certainly.

          I think it is interesting that the list of comparables that ubes pointed us to really only includes one or two contemporary players (Rowand, who basically had a career year in 2007 at age 29 and otherwise has been mediocre or worse since 2005; and Carl Everett, who was a deserving all-star at age 32 in 2003 and then promptly fell off a cliff). Most are from quite a while ago. Whether training techniques and player longevity has improved in the last decade+, I dunno. I'd like to think so, but I dunno.

          I hasten to add, however, that NOT paying Cuddy in order to lower payroll is not what we are or should be talking about. As a fan, I don't see a credible argument in favor of cutting Cuddy loose that does not involve spending those dollars on other talent improvements. Those entail risk as well -- every roster choice entails performance risk. Some are mostly upside "risk" (minimum-salary guys who might significantly outperform replacement level). Others are mostly downside risk (guys past 30 who are getting paid market rate). Still others have both upside and downside associated with them (e.g., Mauer -- guys approaching their career peaks who are getting paid market rate).

          1. I think it is interesting that the list of comparables that ubes pointed us to really only includes one or two contemporary players (Rowand, who basically had a career year in 2007 at age 29 and otherwise has been mediocre or worse since 2005; and Carl Everett, who was a deserving all-star at age 32 in 2003 and then promptly fell off a cliff). Most are from quite a while ago.

            Oh oh oh! I just remembered a new, neat feature with B-R's PI: sub-selects.

            First, a list from the last ten years of every player that played at least 50% of their games at LF, RF, or 1B, at least 100 games overall, and had between 2 and 4 WAR in their age-32 season.

            Using those 14 players, let's take a look at how they did for 33-35 (or until end of career if curious).

            I see one thing immediately: no one accumulated between 3 and 7.4 WAR. Boom or bust it seems.

            1. Using this list, which is slightly more inclusive (20 players), and then looking at their 33-35 years. There is some overlap between my previous list and this one. This time, I searched through 2008 to allow the three speculative years to actually happen.

              Observations: the distribution is smoother than last time. The overall average is 2.7 wins over three years. If we assume Cuddyer will be a net positive (probable outcome), then 3.5 wins over three years. That's for $30 million, or $10 million/win. I'll pass.

      1. Is he speedy? If not, then he'll never stick. At least it could make sense to bat him second in the lineup-by-position.

  9. Rodenticide! The mice are back. I was in the garage tonight and there was one hiding in a corner. I ended his life with the broom.

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