Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Q&A with Nick & Nick
Nick Nelson and Nick Mosvick
Nick & Nick's Twins Blog
Good morning! Today I am back with another profile and Q&A of another Twins blog. This one is a little different though in that it has not one, but two bloggers. Today we will hear from both. I guess you could call this somewhat of a double Q&A. Today I have both Nick Nelson and Nick Mosvick, the Twins FanatNicks! I know that I have referenced Nick & Nick's Twins Blog several times on this site because they really combine to put together a very good Twins blog.
Nick Mosvick is a 21 year old student at the University of Minnesota where he is majoring in history and political science. He believes that he will become a law student in the near future. He grew up in Eagan, Minnesota, but is currently living in Bloomington. Nick Nelson is also 21 and a University of Minnesota student. He is majoring in journalism, adding a minor in psychology. He grew up in South Minneapolis and went to high school in St. Louis Park.
I won't give any more background than that as they will answer more questions about themselves below. Of course, most of the questions are about the Twins, so I'm sure you will find it very interesting. If you have any comments for me or Nick or Nick, please e-mail me, and I will try to answer your questions or forward them on to him and see if we can get you an answer. Also, leave Comments below if you would prefer. Maybe the Nicks will stop by once or twice and answer any other questions you may have for them.
Let the Questions Begin!
(Note - Nick and Nick answered these questions for me last week, before the Twins signed Ramon Ortiz, so I have added one question to update their thoughts on that deal and how it will relate to the team's rotation.)
SethSpeaks: What is your baseball history and background? Did you play much baseball growing up?
Nick Mosvick: Well, this probably sounds "nerdy," but I'm a history major and I love the history of baseball and everything behind it. I've read tons of stats and books covering early baseball, because there is so much myth and intrigue to it. I did play baseball as a kid, but I remember quitting because the kids at that age couldn't handle a fastball and I didn't want to get hit in the head again. In 2001, just as the Twins were coming around, I got back into to baseball. I can't exactly recall, but a lot of it was just enjoying pitching. I'd go outside my house and throw the ball against the brick or with my brother, teaching myself whatever I could. I've been doing that for years. I don't know that I'm great at it, but I can throw a circle-change and a splitter.
Nick Nelson: There is no special story regarding my interest in the Twins or baseball really. My parents took me to games at the 'Dome frequently in my younger years and I played baseball from tee-ball up until high school. I've always gravitated toward baseball because I love the strategy, I love all the numbers there are to crunch, and I love following prospects and their paths to the big leagues (much like you, no doubt!).
SethSpeaks: Who were some of your favorite players growing up? Any names that might surprise us?
Nick Mosvick: Well, when I was a kid, I was a huge card collector. I have a Derek Jeter rookie, a Puckett rookie, and lots more. My favorite player as a kid was Tino Martinez. It was random, but my older brother and me collected cards together with my dad and we decided to choose a favorite player and get all their cards. Mine was Tino and his was Jim Abbott, who was the famous Angels lefty with only one hand. Of course, I had pictures of Puck, Hrbek, and Chili Davis on the wall and I loved Bert. My dad had the 1987 Championship VHS around all the time, so I used to watch it. What a curve. I also loved Randy Johnson, just cause he was a fellow Mariner (in 94, 95 at least with Tino) and looked scary as hell. And, of course, Ken Griffey. And me and my brother did used to love the Bash Brothers, but that isn't quite as stylish as it was in 1990.
Nick Nelson: Kirby Puckett tops that list, of course. Aside from him, yeah, there are probably some surprises. I loved Pedro Munoz, if for no other reason than his cool name. I was a big Paul Molitor fan just because it was so fun to watch him work at the plate. Some others would be Brad Radke, Dave Winfield, Shane Mack and of course the unforgettable Chip Hale.
SethSpeaks: How long have you been writing your blog, and what made you start it?
Nick Nelson: We launched our blog in spring training of the 2005 season. The decision was so nonchalant I barely even remember how it came about. I recall suggesting it because I enjoyed reading the blogs of John Bonnes, Aaron Gleeman, SBG and yourself at the time. I also figured that even if we never gained a great readership, it would be a good opportunity to practice writing on a regular basis, which is what I might like to do for a career some day.
SethSpeaks: What is your process for deciding what you will write about?
Nick Nelson: During the season, we alternate days on which we post. On my days, I generally just write down my thoughts down after a game, trying to find a persistent theme and forming everything into a coherent article. Sometimes it ends up being a bunch of bullet-point notes on things I noticed, and sometimes I'll write about a particular topic that related to the game that night. I'll post between 11 p.m. and midnight generally so it will be up the next morning if anyone wants to read at work or school. During the off-season it's a little more difficult to come up with things to write about, and the posts are less frequent. On Tuesday I penned a fairly long article about the future of Johan Santana, and that was pretty fun to write. I enjoy researching longer articles because I always learn new things when I'm doing it, and that's really what this whole blogging thing is all about for me.
SethSpeaks: Where do you stand on the SABRmetrics versus "Traditional" way of thinking?
Nick Mosvick: I'm definitely in the middle. I love stats because it feeds my obsession for history, as I often look over with amazement at the stats of Ruth, Gehrig, Foxx, Musial, and all the others. And, like many, I've read "Moneyball" and even own Gary Gillette's ESPN Baseball Enclyclopedia. However, I also think there is nothing wrong with some traditional ways. I think managers are often blind to the good uses of sabremetrics and stats like OBP, but that the sabremetric obsessed guys also ignore many things that are essential to the game of baseball. Personally, I like to watch, observe, and then see if the stats back up my perception. Sounds like what historians do....
Nick Nelson: I try to embrace both trains of thought because I believe both have a lot of great aspects. For me, it's all about trying to find a balance. I like using statistics to support a particular argument, but not to create one. Basing all of one's opinions on objective statistics takes a bit of the magic out the game, in my mind. That's why things like PECOTA projections are fun to look at for me, but I'm not going to worship them. I enjoy reading baseball writers who are good with statistics--SBG and ubelmann are two of my favorites in that regard--but I also try to get a good dosage of the tradition type writers who write about what they say and predict things based on gut feelings (which I do myself on many occasions).
SethSpeaks: If you can limit yourself somewhat, what are you overall thoughts looking back at the 2006 Minnesota Twins season?
Nick Nelson: The main thing that the 2006 season taught me is that anything is possible. When the Twins were sitting at 25-33 a couple months into the season with two teams playing at a fantastic pace ahead of them, pretty much everyone had stuck a fork in them, including myself. When Justin Morneau was hitting .235 on June 8 following an ugly 2005 campaign, many had him pegged as a lost cause. When Brad Radke held a 7.57 ERA in the middle of May, it looked like the long-time faithful Twins was about to end his career on a somber note. As it turned out, the Twins would piece together a dramatic turnaround and win the division, Morneau would post a phenomenal four-month stretch and win the MVP, and Radke would buckle down and pitch great in the second half to help push the Twins to the post-season. I think that season taught us all that we should never give up on our team in May or June, no matter what the circumstances.
Nick Mosvick: It was a great season. I admit that I didn't carry the same scorn the rest of the Twins bloggers seemed to for Tony Bastita ( I optimistically thought he'd hit 20 or so homers), but I was wrong. Beyond that, it was a blast. When I started to notice Morneau's upward trends in May, I got a little excited. I think a lot of people were down on him, but I remember thinking that he had a good month of May that wasn't reflected in his overall stats and he might have a chance in June. Boy, did he blow us all away. And it was great to see Liriano pitch, watch Santana win another Cy Young, see Mauer win a batting title, and watch this team pull off an incredible comeback. It was an awesome season for a Twins fan, no matter what happened in the playoffs.
SethSpeaks: What do you think that the 2007 Twins will do? About how many wins do you think they will have and how will they finish in the division?
Nick Mosvick: Honestly, this is a hard question. I think the 2007 Twins will be contenders for sure. They still have all their core members. They have tons of good young pitching and a great bullpen. Detroit is definitely poised for a run in 2007 and I expect that the White Sox will be in the race as well. The wild card to me is the Indians. I'm not sure they can continue to under perform the way they did in 2006. I think the Twins may be looking at a Wild Card instead of a repeat division title if the Indians get off to a run with Travis Hafner in the driver's seat. So, second is my prediction right now.
Nick Nelson: The Twins haven't made many moves this off-season, and at this point it appears that they'll be pretty similar to last year, which certainly isn't a bad thing. There is reason to believe that the offense might improve, if Rondell White can put together a good full season and the young breakout guys from last year continue to build on their success. I'm worried about the pitching staff--basically we're looking at last year's staff minus Francisco Liriano and with Sidney Ponson replacing Brad Radke. Ouch. The Twins will definitely need a couple young guys to step up, and they'll need Boof Bonser to prove that his last couple months weren't a fluke. The Tigers and White Sox have both had pretty good off-seasons, but I like the Twins' chances to compete and win 90+ games.
SethSpeaks: Who do you think will comprise the Opening Day starting staff?
Nick Mosvick: Johan Santana, Boof Bonser, Carlos Silva, Matt Garza, and Scott Baker. Slowey isn't ready, Ponson is awful, and J.D. Durbin is destined for the bullpen.
Nick Nelson: Santana, Bonser, Silva, Garza, Ponson... at least out of the gates. I don't foresee Ponson lasting too long, and we might see a Glen Perkins or Kevin Slowey enter the mix. I still don't think Terry Ryan is done searching for a veteran starting pitcher, he's not stupid enough to think Ponson is the answer.
UPDATE/Added Question Seth Speaks: Based on the Twins signing of Ramon Ortiz to a one year, $3.1 million, what are your updated thoughts on the Twins starting rotation?
Nick Mosvick: I think it was an awful idea to sign Ortiz. I'm upset because I think that either Garza, Baker, or Perkins deserved a spot in the rotation. We need talent out there, not experienced pitchers who have shown in their experience what poor pitchers they are. Ortiz's "good" year seems to be very lucky to me. His walk rate was still terrible and I think his rates show lots of luck with fly balls and the highest strikeout total of hist career.
To me, the biggest issue is that Terry Ryan appears to be making the same mistakes he did last year. Didn't he learned to trust his young, talented players already? Look at the performances of rookies like Liriano and Neshek last year. They were held down so that other mediocre pitchers could have their place. (Lohse and Eyre, respectively) This year, its a worse decision. Whats the point with no Liriano in the rotation of not giving opportunities to talented players?
I hear the argument about playing time and keeping these young guys low salaried as long as possible, but that argument doesn't convince me that one of these guys shouldn't be in the rotation over Ortiz or Ponson. We may only have two years of Santana and Nathan left. We better get the best we can out of them.
Nick Nelson: When I answered your previous question regarding what the Twins' 2007 rotation would look like, I noted that I didn't think Terry Ryan was finished searching for veteran pitching help, and clearly he wasn't because he went out and signed Ortiz soon afterward. Obviously, Ortiz does not represent a major upgrade from Ponson, but since he signed a $3 million major-league contract (as opposed to Ponson's minor-league deal), his spot in the rotation is essentially guaranteed. With that being the case, my hope is that the Twins will look to one of their younger guys to fill the fifth spot in the rotation, because the thought having Ponson, Ortiz and Silva all in the same rotation is nauseating.
SethSpeaks: Obviously Johan Santana is the unquestioned Ace. What do you expect from him in 2007?
Nick Mosvick: I don't know about 23 wins, but he'll be great again. At 28, he's in his prime years. I'd say a 21-6 record, a 2.65 ERA, and 265 Ks. I think he'll strike out more batters this year and continue to blow us away. Another unanimous Cy Young. Should be four straight. What a pitcher. Look out Sandy, here comes Cy Santana.
Nick Nelson: Santana has been very consistent over the past few years. Even though he didn't win the Cy Young in 2005, his numbers were right on par with what he did in '04 and '06. I don't see any reason to think his numbers won't stay right in that range in the upcoming season.
SethSpeaks: Which young pitcher or pitchers do you think will have a breakout season?
Nick Nelson: If you're talking about in the major leagues, Perkins and Slowey are obvious choices. In the minors, I'm going to be keeping an eye on Oswaldo Sosa. He's not particularly well-known at this point among casual Twins fans and hasn't pitched past Ft. Myers yet, but he's 20 years old and has posted some very nice numbers up to this point in his career. He's not dominant, but he's the type of groundball pitcher that the Twins like and I could see him rising through the system quickly.
Nick Mosvick: I think Garza really has the best chance. Boof probably won't be as good and Baker has plenty of problems to tackle. But Garza has a great package of pitches along with control. There is no reason he can't have a 3.50 or so ERA with plenty of Ks.
SethSpeaks: Is there are pitcher that you fear will flop?
Nick Nelson: Aside from the obvious in Ponson and Silva, I worry about Scott Baker. His minor league numbers were so impressive and he had a very nice rookie year in '05, but he just looked completely lost last season and I'm not sure if he's going to be able to overcome those problems. It would be a shame, because he was such a promising pitcher and could have been a valuable trade piece had he kept up his production.
Nick Mosvick: I don't fear it. I KNOW Carlos Silva will flop. Pitchers of his type inevitably fall quickly and he basically isn't of much use anymore. Anyone who thinks the 2005 Silva is returning has pipe dreams. Silva, at best, will have a 5.00 ERA. That isn't worth much for a No. 3 pitcher on a contender. They should have gotten rid of him and trusted the young guys.
SethSpeaks: How comfortable are you when the Twins hand a lead over to their bullpen in the 6th or 7th inning?
Nick Mosvick: Very comfortable. There aren't too many better bullpens around. Nathan, Crain, Neshek, Reyes, Rincon (who unfortunately is getting worse) and probably Durbin. Thats plenty of live arms and a great closer. You can't go wrong there.
Nick Nelson: I don't really know what to expect from the Twins' bullpen this year. Jesse Crain was so off-and-on last year, and Dennys Reyes was so out-of-nowhere that I feel slightly uncomfortable expecting him to repeat it. I do know that I have lost a lot of faith in Juan Rincon. Still, Joe Nathan is the best closer in the American League in my opinion and Pat Neshek is quickly forming himself into a dominant setup type.
SethSpeaks: Hypothetically speaking, if Joe Nathan were to miss some time, who do you think the Twins would put into the closer's role?
Nick Mosvick: Probably Neshek. I know Crain is supposed to be the future closer, but I don't think Gardenhire would trust him first. Neshek seems to handle pressure better and we saw Gardy use him plenty in big situations at the end of the summer last year. And we already know that Rincon has lost his set-up role.
Nick Nelson: Probably Jesse Crain. I like Neshek more, but his problems against lefties would likely keep the Twins from wanting to use him as a regular closer.
SethSpeaks: Joe Mauer, at age 22, and Justin Morneau, at age 24, had monster breakout seasons. Generally speaking, just how good can these guys be? What would a ceiling for each be?
Nick Mosvick: Mauer can hit .349 again, if not many times. People may speculate that it was a career year, but he was only 23! Mauer, to me, is similar to a guy like Tony Gwynn. He could easily hit .350 for five straights years and win tons of batting championships. 2006 was not a career-best at all to me. He's just getting started. As for Morneau, I think he'll reach his peak when he adds patience to his skill set. When he's forced to adjust, hopefully he'll end up as a guy capable of .310/.410/.560 lines, just as Jeff Bagwell did for many years. To me, that would be his ceiling. He may also end up more like Paul Konerko, but we'll have to see.
Nick Nelson: I know it sounds like a cliché, but the sky's the limit, especially for Mauer. To lead the major leagues in batting average at age 22 is unbelievable. He added a little power last year and really improved against southpaws, and it appears that he's just going to get better. Morneau really seemed to figure things out after the first couple months last season; however, I expect his numbers to decline slightly in the upcoming season if only because opposing teams will pitch around him more often.
SethSpeaks: Can Michael Cuddyer repeat his '06 performance?
Nick Nelson: Ask SBG what I thought about Cuddyer prior to last season. Wait, actually, don't. It's embarrassing. I'll confess, I had completely given up hope on Cuddy following the 2005 season... it just seemed like he had a tendency to screw up whenever the team needed him to come up big. Last season, he bucked that trend repeatedly by delivering clutch extra-base hits again and again. He finally started to look like the prospect he was in the minor leagues. Wedged between Mauer and Morneau, I think he should be able to succeed once again. Congratulations Mr. Cuddyer, you've made a believer out of Nick Nelson. And I know that was one of your greatest goals in life.
Nick Mosvick: Yes, and he may have even better numbers. He's slotted between Mauer and Morneau all year. He'll have tons of opportunities to drive guys in. If he's allowed to keep swinging for the fences, he'll be fine. If they try to change his approach and cut down the strikeouts, he may have issues again.
SethSpeaks: Which hitter do you expect to have a breakout season for the Twins?
Nick Nelson: Who is left to break out? After Cuddyer, Mauer, Morneau, Jason Bartlett and even Nick Punto posted impressive numbers last season, there aren't too many guys left. Since I don't see any prospects ready to bust out in the near future, I guess the only guy left is Jason Kubel. If his knees are healthy, he could power the bottom part of the lineup.
Nick Mosvick: Jason Kubel. There aren't many other prospects for a breakout. If Alexi Casilla gets a lot of playing time because someone (Castillo) is injured, he may surprise us, but I think Kubel is the best candidate. He was a great prospect before he got injured and he worked out at all this offseason, maybe we'll get to see the real thing in 2007.
SethSpeaks: Is there a hitter that you fear may flop in 2007?
Nick Nelson: Sadly, I've got to go with Nick Punto. I've always been a big Punto defender and was very happy to see him excel once given a chance last season, but even I will admit that he's probably not going to provide sufficient offensive production as a third baseman. He was spectacular in July last season, but his offensive numbers were sub par outside of that month and especially toward the end of the season. I fear that may stretch into the 2007 campaign. Still, if the other guys are hitting well, I can deal with less-than-spectacular numbers from Punto, particularly considering his outstanding defensive play at the hot corner.
Nick Mosvick: Nick Punto. I'm afraid that Punto starting regressing towards the end of 2006 and didn't do much of anything the last two months. I like Punto and he's a good, energetic defender, but I'm always afraid he'll get injured and he is frustrating at the plate far too often.
SethSpeaks: You write a lot about the Twins minor league system. Give me your top 5 Twins pitching prospects?
Nick Mosvick: Garza, Neshek, Perkins, Slowey, Swarzak
Nick Nelson: Kevin Slowey, Anthony Swarzak, Glen Perkins, Oswaldo Sosa and J.D. Durbin. I would include Garza and Neshek, but since they'll likely make the club out of spring training they're not exactly big secrets
SethSpeaks: Give me your top 5 Twins hitting prospects?
Nick Mosvick: Parmalee, Casilla, Romero, Lis, Kelly
Nick Nelson: Chris Parmelee, Alexi Casilla, Joe Benson, Erik Lis and Doug Deeds. The Twins needed some hitters in the draft last year and they got Parmelee and Benson in the first couple rounds, both of whom look very promising. Another impressive outing for the Twins' scouting department. Meanwhile, it's sad how quickly guys like Trevor Plouffe, Matt Moses and Denard Span have dropped off this list.
SethSpeaks: Are there one of two pitchers that you expect to bust out and become a top prospect in 2007?
Nick Mosvick: I think Swarzak has a good chance. Now that Garza, Slowey, and Perkins have moved quickly up the chain, it seems like his opportunity. Swarzak has good stuff and good control and seems primed for a breakout year. Also, Morlan or Jose Mijares may surprise soon.
Nick Nelson: As I mentioned before, Sosa is a good bet. Swarzak could make a big leap as well.
SethSpeaks: Are there a couple of minor league hitters that you think will be a 2007 sleeper?
Nick Mosvick: Joe Benson seems like a sleeper because he's looked at as a toolsy prospect, but its hard to tell in the Twins system. I think Paul Kelly also is a good candidate. He seems to have good skills and a good approach at the plate, which may start to show more and more as he moves up the Twins minor league system.
Nick Nelson: Doug Deeds has had two equally solid seasons in Double-A the past couple years and is due for a promotion. I think he'll start the year in Triple-A and do well there. He has the potential to be a solid backup outfielder in the pros. I also believe Joe Benson will have a big year.
SethSpeaks: Finally, do you have any plans coming up for the year on your website?
Nick Nelson: I'd love to do something special with the site, but for now the plan is just to stay the course and hope people continue to read and react. My favorite part of the blog is interacting with other Twins fans engaging in good discussions, so if we can get a lot of that going this season it should be a lot of fun.
Do you have any thoughts or questions for Nick, Nick or me? If so, please feel free to e-mail me or leave a question or comment below.
If you would like to read any previous Q&A's, I have set up a new page that contains the links to all of them. Click here to see who all has done a Q&A with SethSpeaks.
That is it for today. By the way, if you have any ideas for the site, people to try to get Q&As from, article concepts or more, please leave some Comments or send me an e-mail. I would appreciate your help. Have a terrific day!
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