Twins on winning the division

DMZ · March 11, 2005 at 1:29 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

One of the common complaints about the M’s is that they want to be competitive in their division and not win the World Series. This is not a complaint unique to the Mariners, and led to this interesting bit on Twins Territory:

The night before I interviewed Ryan, my Baseball Prospectus 2005 arrived in the mail. It continued to perpetuate a myth that they had started and the blogging community has embraced – that the Twins hold themselves back from a championship caliber level by focusing on winning the AL Central. I repeated the argument to Terry and gave him a chance to talk about wanting to win the World Series. Just the opposite happened.

“Our objective is to win the AL Central”, he stated matter-of-factly.

I want to point out, first, that it’s kind of funny he wants to mock this “myth” that the team aims to win the AL Central, when — whoops — turns out that’s what Ryan wants. Now, as to whether that holds them back from going farther than that is up for debate.

Also, here’s the thing — this year’s BP goes to great lengths to praise the Twins. I’m a huge fan of what they’ve done, even as I acknowledge that they’ve to about as much use for statistical analysis as I do for the works of Nora Roberts.

This does go back to the Mariners, though, and I hope to have a longer post when I’m done wrassling with the site to talk about this.


19 Responses to “Twins on winning the division”

  1. Glenn on March 11th, 2005 1:37 pm

    Ummmm, who’s Nora Roberts?

  2. Zzyzx on March 11th, 2005 1:46 pm

    Hey! I can spam the site again! W00T!

    As for the post, hey, you can’t win the Series if you don’t make the playoffs. That’s much more controllable than hoping you win a short series.

  3. Kelly M on March 11th, 2005 1:52 pm

    This is the kind of thing that drives me crazy when listening to the M’s radio announcers. Situation is today’s game against the Rockies with men on third and second, one out, and Sexson at the bat. Neihaus’s color commentary buddy, whose name I can’t remember but who is known as “Big Red” by Neihaus, chimes in with this winner:

    “This is where Sexson can be so dangerous. He can make out, after out, after out, but if the pitcher makes a mistake he can hit the ball a long, long, long way.”

    This is correct because, in a little noticed rule change, baseball now allocates runs based on how far the ball is hit. So, like a 3-pointer in basketball or using the letter X on a double word score square in Scrabble, monster home runs count more. Plus, runs now carry over from game to game. So when Sexson hits a monster home run with 2 men on base, the Ms receive a monster home run bonus and are awarded 6 runs. Those runs can also be used in later games when Sexson is making out, after out, after out.

    Sorry for the snark.

    Oh, and Sexson hit the ball to third and Reed was thrown out at the plate trying to come home.

  4. Paul Sieczkowski on March 11th, 2005 1:58 pm

    The twins pitching staff is getting closer to being one that can win in the playoffs. Santana obviously. Now they’ve locked in Nathan and Rincon for the next couple of years. Crain has arrived. However, it really remains to be seen whether Cuddyer, and the SS have the goods. I think its already pretty clear Rivas and Jacque Jones don’t. The lineup needs work.

  5. NBarnes on March 11th, 2005 2:06 pm

    #3: That was cold, man.

    The other annoying thing about that is that Sexson, historically, doesn’t make out after out. His OBPs with the Brewers ranged from the acceptable to the excellent. Whomever this ‘Big Red’ person is needs to stop looking at Sexson’s K totals and pay more attention to his BB and OBPs….

  6. troy on March 11th, 2005 2:10 pm

    Big Red = Ron “cliche” Fairly

  7. Ralph Malph on March 11th, 2005 2:15 pm

    Big Red (or just Red) is Ron Fairly. Or as someone called him the other day, Ron Fairly Awful.

    Sexson has made out after out this spring.

  8. Dobbs on March 11th, 2005 2:30 pm

    I think teams *should* focus on winning their division. Make that the goal, to simply get to the playoffs. Anything can happen once you get there. The best team on paper doesn’t always win, so just being there gives you a 1 in 8 chance of winning it all.

    Worked out well for the Angels and Marlins I’d say. Just not so much for the A’s and Mariners.

    Of course, it helps having ace pitchers who come in and shut down the other teams. But Pedro and Randy took years upon years before their teams finally went all the way.

  9. ChrisK on March 11th, 2005 2:44 pm

    If you are a small-revenue team like Minnesota, your realistic goal may be to win the division because you can’t afford to pick up impact players at the trade deadline. On the other hand, big revenue teams (except Seattle) battle for every available star in late July and can bolster their lineups, bullpens and rotations for a 7-game series (as well as a playoff push). A big market team can add a star player being dumped b/c of contract issues, a #1 or #2 starter for a short series, or depth for their bullpen in Sept and Oct. Minnesota basically has to rely on their current players and minor league callups for that extra boost. And the Mariners rely on Jose Offerman and Ismail Valdez.

  10. Chris Begley on March 11th, 2005 2:51 pm

    And.. If I am the manager, what is my goal? I have 162 games. I have 25 players. The GM is in charge of building the roster (presumably with some input). The manager has to make the playoffs. So if you asked me at the start of the season what my goal is – we are going to go out and win the Division is fairly reasonable. I think.

  11. Evan on March 11th, 2005 3:31 pm

    Given that team quality plays a much bigger role in regular season performance that postseasn performance (purely due to sample size), if it’s true that the postseason and regular season reward different strengths within a team, then it makes a lot of sense to build a team to win the division, rather than postseason games.

  12. Ralph Malph on March 11th, 2005 4:32 pm

    Of course your first objective is to get there. Once you get to the postseason, everybody has a chance (some better than others).

    You just shouldn’t admit that to the press. Like a couple years ago when Woodward said the M’s goal was to be “competitive”. Why would you admit that?

  13. Metz on March 11th, 2005 5:00 pm

    You want to build a team that can win both. While having a rotation of 5 number 3 starters is effective if you want to win the division it is less competitive in a short series. Building a team that scores enough runs to defeat inferior competition in the regular season will net you some nice AL Central division banners to hang in your stadium. However, unless lightning strikes it won’t get you the brass ring.

    Yes, you have to win the division in order to get a seat at the next level. However the objective of every GM should be to build the best team they, can given the resources at their disposal. The threshold should not be to build a team that reaches down to the level of its local divisional competition.

    The brain trust of the M’s should not be building a team to compete with Oakland, Anaheim and Texas. They should be putting the best team on the field that they can for $95 million dollars.

  14. Paul Covert on March 11th, 2005 5:30 pm

    It is tempting to weigh in here. However, it seems that any proper discussion of the “Build team for Series?” question would have to begin with the question: “How much can a team realistically do to optimize its playoff chances?” And to answer that properly would require some research. I have some intuitive guesses on what the skill/luck balance might be– but until I do the actual work, a guess is all it would be.

    I may check back in later in the weekend if I can contribute anything meaningful….

  15. Bill Fugazi on March 11th, 2005 5:51 pm

    Agree with #8 and others who argue that making the playoffs should be the goal. The playoffs may not exactly be a crapshoot, but they’re certainly not as predictable or controllable as a 162 game season. Get there, then take your chances.

  16. Shoeless Jose on March 11th, 2005 9:09 pm

    I know my opinion on this puts me in a tiny minority here, and in baseball fandom in general, but: I don’t expect the M’s to win the World Series, or even get there. Yeah, it would be nice, and I’ll enjoy it if it ever happens. But only one team in 30 wins the World Series every year; only two in 30 play in the WS. That’s about a 3% or 6% chance. Now I know you can probably throw out the eternal losers like the Devil Rays and the Brewers, but that’s offset by the eternal winners like the Yankees and the Braves. And even the Yankees can’t reasonably expect to play in the WS every year, let alone win it. Winning the AL West, on the other hand, is a one in four shot (easiest in baseball). That’s a reasonable thing to shoot for. After that, everything’s up for grabs anyway (and it seems to be where the manager really earns his keep).

    So, I want to see the M’s put a team together that can win the division. I don’t mind them not winning every year, but I hate to see them spend more money than the A’s and not beat them. Being (relatively) rich is no excuse for being (relatively) stupid. Is this a recipe for being the Braves — always in the post season, almost never past the first round? Maybe. But give me a dozen division winning seasons in a row, and then maybe I’ll start complaining about never getting to or winning the World Series.

  17. Tim O on March 12th, 2005 10:07 am

    I don’t pretend to be a baseball historian, but despite the Twins relative lack of recent playoff success, I do remember them winning the 1987 and 1991 World Series as a small market team. In both 1987 and 1991 they beat superior teams from Detroit and Toronto in order to get to the World Series, where in 1987 they faced an injury racked St. Louis team and in 1991 a very young Atlanta team. It would be hard to say that either Marlins team, the Angels or for that matter the 1996 Yankees were clearly the best team in the playoffs in their Series winning teams. Bottom line is get to the playoffs and anything can happen. Even the idea of having aces as pitchers is questionable given the Braves lack of playoff success. The Mariners were literally a couple pitches from beating the Yankees in 2000. One could argue that the mid-season acquisition of a David Justice is what made the Yankees the better team, but frankly I would take the matchup of Rhodes vs. Justice any day in 2000. Unfortunately for the Mariners on that day, Justice won the battle, but I chalk that up to the baseball gods as much as any inherent superiority on the part of the Yankees.

  18. clarence credence on March 13th, 2005 12:15 am

    Totally unrelated, but this bit from Murray Chass’ column in today’s New York Times made me laugh, it shows just how forgettable Rich Aurelia’s stint with the M’s was:

    “You can’t hope to replace a guy like that,” said Aurilia [of Barry Larkin], who was the San Francisco shortstop for eight years before playing for San Diego last season.

  19. dave paisley on March 13th, 2005 12:21 am

    Well, technically Aurilia never actually “played” for the M’s. Took the field, yes. Put on the uniform, definitely. But played? Nah.