Sunday, December 19, 2010

Quick Notes: Dec. 19

They Say Goodbye...
We can officially say goodbye to a few former Twins this week. Matt Guerrier signed with the Dodgers, Jesse Crain signed with the White Sox, Orlando Hudson is going to the Padres, and Jose Morales was traded to the Rockies for prospects.

I was hoping the Twins would be able to keep one of Guerrier or Crain to keep the bullpen strong -- preferably Matty. When Guerrier's signing was announced, I still held a little hope that the Twins could still snag Crain. But, alas, it was not meant to be. Those two have been pillars in the Twins bullpen for a lot of years, and it's going to be weird to not have either one of them around. I may have been critical of both their up-and-down tendencies, but by and large, they've been very, very reliable. Unfortunately, many fans seem to remember only certain bad days, especially against the Yankees (why, yes, I do remember when Guerrier gave up that grand slam to A-Rod, thanks for asking), but if folks would consider their entire bodies of work, they'd realize they were both very solid pitchers. The Twins will miss having them around.

Orlando Hudson announced on an XM Radio interview his agreement with the Padres, thereby scooping everybody (well, everybody in my Twitter feed) on any rumors about it. He will join former-Twin Jason Bartlett to staff the Padres' middle-infield.

I was quite surprised when I saw that Jose Morales was traded. At first, I was kind of bummed: I like his smile I figured that he's too good for what the Twins got in return. But then I realized that I was kind of doing that remembering only a certain good day (his MLB debut) thing and not considering his entire player profile (shame on me), and I changed my mind. He was out of minor-league options (which meant that if the Twins wanted to send him down, he'd have to clear waivers first, which wouldn't be likely) and they needed the space on the 40-man roster, so it wasn't such a bad trade after all.

I wish all them the best of luck. Well, maybe slightly less luck to Jesse Crain because he's a White Sox now and he's fair game for my rival ire.

~~~

And We Say Hello...

The Twins officially signed and introduced Tsuyoshi Nishioka (he says we can call him "Nishi"). I didn't see any of the press conference, but from everything I read, he seems like a good guy. I'm getting more and more excited to see him play, even if I'm cautiously optimistic. He said all the right things, and he seems to have some personality. Here's he and Gardy modeling the Justin Morneau "sluggies"...if this ain't personality, I don't know what is.
Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Twins


Welcome, Nishi.

~~~

Here's hoping you have a fabulous Christmas. Enjoy.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Quick Notes: Dec. 12, 2010

The Winter Meetings are over, and I have to say they were more eventful than I expected them to be. I was fully prepared to write something about how I predicted that the Twins never do anything during the Winter Meetings, even when they're trying to trade Johan Santana. Boy, do I wish I could've written that.

The Twins traded JJ Hardy, Brendan Harris, and cash to the Baltimore Orioles for ... wait ... who were those guys again. I don't know, a couple minor league pitchers. Hang on a sec.... Oh yeah, James Hoey and Brett Jacobson. Word has it that Hoey could break into the bullpen in 2011, but Jacobson is strictly a prospect at this point. Both are known for throwing heat but struggle with control.

The Twins must be confident they'll sign Japanese player Tsuyoshi Nishioka or else they would've held on to Hardy at least a little longer. The organization claims they made the trade because they wanted more speed in the lineup; not very many fans buy that. Many fans believe it was a salary-dump -- Hardy was arbitration-eligible and will make as much at $5 mil in 2011.

Let me just say that I hate this trade, salary-dump or not. I'm not a fan of the current middle-infield picture -- Casilla, Tolbert, Plouffe, Hughes make for slim pickings and probably a lot of fan eye-rolling. And adding Nishioka doesn't ease my mind much; being good in Japanese ball doesn't always translate into being good in the MLB.

I'm also mad that, if they did have to trade JJ, that's really all they could get for him? He's a damn fine shortstop, I think if the Twins had held on a bit, they could've gotten a better deal. Plus, he's just one of those players I like -- he might not be a superstar, but he did his job, made some nice plays, and seemed like a good guy. I'll miss him. I wish both JJ and Brendan the best with the Orioles -- good luck facing the Yankees and Red Sox 157 times a year. The cash will do well no matter who it faces.

With all that being said however, I don't think this trade is a huge blow to the team. If the Twins can use that saved money to sign a decent starting pitcher or some reliable bullpen help, everything will be ok.

~~~

The Rule 5 Draft took place on the final day of the Winter Meetings. This is where teams can window shop the other teams and select players not on a 40-man roster. The catch is that if a team selects a player, it must put him on the big league active roster the entire next season or he must be returned to his original team (or the two teams could work out a trade).

The Twins selected LHP Scott Diamond from the Braves organization. We'll likely see him in the bullpen.

I swear, if he chooses "Sweet Caroline", or any other Neil Diamond song for that matter, as his walk-out music, I'll puke.

The Twins didn't lose anyone in the Rule 5 Draft.

~~~

I know this is a baseball blog, but I can't let the popping of the Metrodome on Sunday go unmentioned. After all, it is the old neighborhood of the Twins.

I'm sure many of you saw what happened to the roof. It's very fortunate that no one was hurt; on Saturday there were workers on the roof shoveling it off, but they called it off due to dangerous wind and cold. It would've been tragic if those workers were still up there when the Teflon tore.

In case you didn't see it, or if you want to see it again, here:



I hope they can get it fixed soon. There's another Vikings game scheduled for a week from Monday; I'd hate to have them play in a neutral site two consecutive weeks.

~~~

I know you're dying to know how I've been spending my time now that there's no baseball. Crocheting. Lots and lots of crocheting. In addition to scarf-zilla, I've made another scarf (normal-sized), three hats, and 30 smallish things that I'll pair up and give as gifts. Thirty. I'd divulge more, but my mom reads this blog and she's going to get one of those gifts whether she wants one or not (hi mom!). So will just about everyone I've ever met.

I need baseball to come back soon.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Is JJ Hardy "Injury Prone"? (With Paper Dolls!)

Editorial note: I had this post about 2/3 done when rumors of the Twins trading JJ to the Orioles started flying hot and heavy on Wednesday. But, since I've been cooking this in my head for about a week and a half, I figured I'd still go with it. So there's a very good chance that this article will be moot and worthless in 24 hours, but hey, any chance I get to break out my paper dolls, I'm going for it.

K-bro's 2010 JJ Hardy Injury Paper Doll
I find myself defending JJ Hardy a lot lately. Especially since there are rumors that he's possibly being shopped as a trade candidate. I want to keep him around. I think he's a great defensive shortstop and he's decent offensively. But several of my friends tell me that they wouldn't be sad to see him go because he "can't stay healthy" and he's "injury-prone."

Really? I knew he missed a lot of time due to that nagging wrist injury that was caused by a freak event, but I never really considered him "injury-prone." Let's examine.


First, I need to define "injury-prone." How the hell do I know? I've never spent more than 15 minutes willingly on an athletic field of play in my life. So, I did the most logical thing; I asked my Twitter friends.
The responses I got were quite varied: everything from "unlucky" to "Eric Bedard" to "unwilling to play hurt" to "managed by Dusty Baker" (that one made me laugh). But I'll go with Andrew's (@Bryz_OffTheMark): "I'd probably say one significant injury per year for 3+ years where 'significant' means spending more than 15 days on the DL." This definition is good because it excludes players who have a bad-luck injury that hurts them for only one season, such as Justin Morneau and his concussion (hopefully it's only the one year). It also excludes "achy" players who need an extra day or two here and there, but that sitting out time doesn't really hurt the team, such as Jim Thome. So under Andrew's definition, Joe Crede comes immediately to mind. Remember him?

K-bro's 2009 Joe Crede Paper Doll
JJ's 2010 injuries consisted of a migraine, sore or swollen knee, turf toe, and that poor wrist. Over the previous three years, he's reportedly missed games because of back spasms (4 in '09, 3 in '07), collarbone injury (1 in '09), a rotator cuff injury (5 in '08), a hip flexor injury (1 in '07), and a stomach virus (2 in '07) for a total of 16 games, which is not significant, and nothing DL-worthy. Additionally, the turf toe (which is a lot more painful that it's silly name implies -- it's pretty much a ligament strain under the big toe) was listed as an ongoing injury, "I played probably half my games last year with the same problem, so it's not a big deal," but he only missed one game because of it, so he is willing to play hurt.

So it's got to be that wrist, right? The wrist is what everyone is thinking of when they're complaining about JJ's heartiness (Hardy's heartiness?). But can he really be labeled "injury-prone" because of that? He jammed it by sliding innocently, feet-first, into third base after smacking a lovely triple. I'm no expert, because I've never slid into any base in any fashion ever, but looking at it didn't seem out of the ordinary -- guys put their hands down as they slide to keep the upper halves of their bodies from hitting the ground. He's probably slid like that thousands of times. It was just a freak occurrence that he wouldn't be able to do again if he tried. The unfortunate part was that it was especially stubborn to heal. A cortisone shot and a trip to the DL just didn't do it. Apparently either he or the team, or both, rushed him back too quickly, it flared up again, and he needed even more time on the DL for the second trip.
Does this one, obstinate injury make him injury-prone? I don't think so. If he still has problems with it next season, or if it happens again, maybe, but even then I'm not convinced. Yes, it was frustrating how much time he missed, but, if anything, I'd call him "slow to heal" (I totally get that -- I'm "slow to heal" too). However, after a restful off-season, there's no reason to believe it'll hold him back in 2011.

And, hey, isn't it great that I found some real clothes for the JJ paper doll rather than the body-paint uni I had for Joe's?

~~~

My tweet above inspired Nick Nelson of Nick's Twins Blog to explore the Myth of Injury Prone using JJ as an example. Be sure to check it out; it's a good read.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Quick Notes: Dec. 5, 2010

On Tuesday, as expected, all three free-agent players that the Twins offered arbitration to; Carl Pavano, Jesse Crain, and Orlando Hudson; declined. So, if they all sign elsewhere, the Twins will receive four draft picks. I do expect them to try to re-sign Pavano and Crain. Unfortunately, there is a lot of interest from several other teams, so it's likely the Twins will be outbid. We'll see.

~~~

On Thursday, the Twins tendered contracts to all nine arbitration-eligible players. The odd thing was, apparently Clay Condrey was quietly released on November 5. It's odd because no one seemed to know, not even the beat writers. I guess the poor guy has been forgotten and left at the curb.

So now the Twins and the players have to get to work and accomplish the ever-important "avoid arbitration." Like I've mentioned before, no one actually wants arbitration. They've already taken care of Jason Repko and Pat Neshek and came to terms for next season.

There were a lot of rumors that the Twins weren't going to tender JJ Hardy a contract. Now that they have, there are a lot of rumors that a few teams are interested in trading for him. I hope not; I want him to be the Twins starting shortstop for awhile.

~~~

Our old friend Mike Redmond, who retired from the Cleveland Indians last mid-season, has been named the new manager of the Single-A Lansing Lugnuts (of the Toronto organization). Good for him. I read somewhere that he's always wanted to manage. In fact, he was quite close to starting a managing career years ago. When he was in AAA, his manager wanted to cut him, but he begged for two more weeks, and if it didn't work out he'd go manage somewhere. It did work out for him, and later that season, he made his major league debut.

I heard an interview with him a few days ago. He said that he knew it was time to retire when baseball became a "job." His body's been aching for a couple years, but because the Twins were winning, he was having fun and he felt better. The Indians weren't very good, and the losing wasn't fun at all. So, when they cut him, he knew it was time to call it a career.

He said the Blue Jays organization called him about managing about four hours after he announced his retirement (I couldn't really tell if he was exaggerating). He said that he was kind of hoping to take a year off to spend time with his family, but this was a great opportunity and he couldn't pass it up. He said his sons are looking forward to being bat boys.

The hosts went on to ask him about the Indians' young catcher Carlos Santana and pitcher Fausto Carmona. He already sounded like a manager as he was talking about their bright futures.

Good luck to him. Maybe in a few years, we'll see him back in the Twins organization.

~~~

Baseball's Winter Meetings start Monday in Orlando. This is when team GMs, agents, some players, media, and other baseball folks get together and talk 2011. There is a lot of hype around the event, and baseball fans seem to really look forward to it. GMs get together to talk about possible trades; agents meet with GMs to talk free agents; free agent players shmooze to try to increase their value; and all the while, media hounds are lurking around, peeking around corners, riding elevators up and down, and performing all manners of sneaking hoping to hear a bit of information. However, for all the excitement, it usually turns out to be more talk than action.

It totally reminds me of the tech writing conferences I go to. Except on the opposite end of the nerd-cool scale.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Most Important Baseball Position: Starting Pitcher

Editorial Note: One of my Twitter buddies, Andrew (@akneeland) of Twins Target and Twins MVB, sent out a call for assistance with an article he's writing: what's baseball's most important position? So after a few back-and-forth tweets with several Twins bloggers, a number of us decided to write our own articles. So here's mine. It's exciting to have something to write about -- a testament to how much we all need baseball back soon. Oh, and yeah, this is the same Andrew who conceived of Nick Punto Day. He's such a troublemaker.

As the home team takes the field to begin the game, they do so on the cue of the starting pitcher. As the umpire indicates "play ball," he does so at the readiness of the starting pitcher. The fans in attendance wanted to know who the starting pitcher was before they arrived at the gate. The starting pitcher is the captain of the game, the leader, the artist. As he goes, so goes the team. He sets the pace, steers the course, and navigates the game. He is king; there's a reason he stands atop a mound.

When the starting pitcher is on his game and gets outs efficiently, the players behind him are on their toes, are focused, and better able to make plays. This productivity translates to the players as they bat as well because they trust the pitcher to keep the game close with little need to create extra pressure on themselves while they're in the batter's box. When the pitcher is performing well, the pace is good, everyone on the team has fun, and that energy creates a winning atmosphere on both sides of the ball.

If the starting pitcher struggles and allows several baserunners, or worse, runs, the players behind him play flat-footed and become distracted and bored or frustrated. The players at the plate then put additional pressure on themselves to score to make up for the poor pitching. If the pitcher has a bad day, everyone on the team feels the negative mo-jo, which makes it harder to win the game.

Of course, any one starting pitcher is only responsible for one of five games. In fact, "the starting pitcher" isn't one guy, it's five. If MLB were to give me a brand new team to build, I'd start with the pitching rotation. Of course, in my dream team, money wouldn't be a problem.

Since most series are three games, I'd want to keep opponents guessing and have a variety of pitching styles in my rotation -- a couple strikeout artists, a sinkerballer, and the rest contact pitchers. To give opponents different looks during a series, it's also necessary to have at least one lefty -- I'd prefer to have two.

Good teams promote from their minors, which means there are a number of talented, yet fledgling, guys around. I'd like to have a solid veteran pitcher to impart his experience and make the youngsters even better. And since this is my dream team, I want my ace to be in consideration for the Cy Young. Aw, hell, what am I thinking? I want him to win it.

With my rotation set with quality pitchers, the rest of the team would be easy to figure out. A team with great, talented pitching is a great team. That's why the starting pitcher is the most important position.

~~~

The other  participants in the "Most Important Baseball Position Project":

Andrew: Twins Target
CapitalBabs: Knuckleballs
The Common Man and Bill: The Platoon Advantage
Jim Crikket: Knuckleballs
Jesse: TwinkieTown
Andrew: Off the Mark

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Quick Notes: Nov. 28, 2010

This past Tuesday was the deadline for teams to offer arbitration to their Type A and Type B free agents. The Twins offered arbitration to Carl Pavano (Type A), Jesse Crain (B), and Orlando Hudson (B). They declined to offer arbitration to Matt Guerrier (A), Jon Rauch (B), and Brian Fuentes (B). Pavano, Crain, and Hudson have until this coming Tuesday to accept or decline the offer.

Some fans believe that Orlando Hudson has a "gentlemen's agreement" with the Twins to decline the arbitration just so the team can collect the draft pick. It's a fairly common thing, so I wouldn't be surprised. We'll see.

I'm most interested in what Carl Pavano does. It sounds like a lot of teams are interested in him, so if he doesn't accept, he'll have plenty of offers to consider. But I'm hoping that he likes the Twins so much that he'll accept, which buys the team time to come up with a multi-year deal.

I'm also interested in what will happen with Matt Guerrier. The Twins probably did him a favor by not offering arbitration. If they had, teams may have been unwilling to sign him since he's a Type A free agent. Having to give up a high-round draft pick may have been too costly to sign a middle reliever. So this scenario makes it pretty unlikely that the Twins will try to re-sign him. Too bad; I like him -- probably more than most fans do.

~~~

Late Thanksgiving night and early Black Friday morning, we heard that the Twins earned the exclusive negotiating rights with Japanese middle-infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka. The Twins have to pay his team, the Chiba Lotte Marines, reportedly $5.3 million just to talk to him. The Twins have 30 days to come to an agreement, but since they're the only MLB team allowed to talk to him, there's no reason to believe that they won't sign him. If they can't sign him, they do get their damage deposit bid money back. Joe Christensen of the StarTribune has lots of great information about Nishioka and the whole process.

There are a few questions surrounding his potential signing. Will he play 2B or SS? Will this make a difference in whether the Twins offer JJ Hardy a new contract? What about Alexi Casilla and Matt Tolbert? (Ok, I was kidding about Tolbert.) And what if Hudson accepts arbitration?

Another pressing question is, how many different ways will Bert Blyleven pronounce his name? And how bad will Dan Gladden butcher it? Most importantly, what in the world will Gardy's nickname for him be?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hot Stove...Huh?

Or: A Fan Tries to Wrap Her Head Around Baseball Contracts

Disclaimer: This isn't really a well-researched piece; it's more of an exercise in thinking through the complexities of baseball contracts. Everything I say here is either something I've known for a while and I don't know where the information comes from or I've heard on sports talk radio. Regard this as you would something from Wikipedia. If you find something that is wrong, please correct me. I'll even let you point and laugh. However, for more in-depth analysis, I do highly recommend the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook. It's only $9.95, and it's packed with helpful and interesting information regarding the current Twins and their contracts along with predictions on how this offseason will shake out. It's very interesting and thought-provoking, and it would be a bargain at twice the price. But anyway, I digress...

Tuesday's announcement that the Twins offered arbitration to Carl Pavano, Jesse Crain, and Orlando Hudson (and subsequently declined to offer to Matt Guerrier, Jon Rauch, and Brian Fuentes) caused a lot questions on Twitter, and in real life (specifically, my own household) about how baseball contracts, free agency, and arbitration work. I'm pretty sure I've got it figured out; let's go over what I know.

Pre-Arbitration Eligibles:
When a player first becomes a big leaguer, he is under the team's control for six years. However, for the first three, he makes league minimum with no hope of a raise in salary. Of course, at any time, the team may send him back down to the minors, and then service-time is considered. But that's pretty complicated. Just remember the first three years, he's cheap.
  • Alex Burnett
  • Drew Butera
  • Brian Duensing
  • Jose Mijares
  • Jose Morales
  • Matt Tolbert
  • Danny Valencia
~~~

Arbitration Eligibles: 
After those first three years (for some players, it's two-plus years, depending on service time -- they're called super-twos), he becomes eligible for yearly pay increases (usually). He is still on the roster for the next three years, but the team may tender, or non-tender, new contracts on a year-by-year basis. If the team chooses to non-tender a contract, it's usually because his worth is getting more expensive than what the team is willing to pay, or the team simply doesn't want him anymore. A player whose contract has been non-tendered becomes a free agent and may sign with any team. Many fans fear that this may be the situation with JJ Hardy.

If the team does tender a contract, the player remains under control for the following year, and they have until the arbitration hearing date to come to terms on the salary. If not, then they go through the arbitration hearing process. I'll talk about this later.

Of course, the team may offer new multi-year deals at any time. This happened with Nick Blackburn last offseason. Oh, and Joe Mauer.

The deadline to tender or non-tender offers is Dec. 2.
  • Matt Capps (3rd year of arbitration eligibility)
  • Alexi Casilla (1st)
  • Clay Condrey (3rd)
  • JJ Hardy (technically 3rd, but really 4th, he was a super-two)
  • Francisco Liriano (2nd)
  • Pat Neshek (2nd)
  • Glen Perkins (1st)
  • Jason Repko (3rd/4th)
  • Kevin Slowey (1st)
  • Delmon Young (2nd)
~~~

Free Agents with Options:
A free agent's contracts is up, but sometimes optional years are added to the end of the contract. Either the team or the player, or both, can have the option depending on how the contract is written. It's kind of a built-in "out" clause. Most are team options; only superstar players get player options. If the option is exercised, the contract is extended. If it's not, then the player is a free agent and may sign with any team. He may, in fact, sign with his original team. This might happen if the salary for the optional year is higher than the player is worth.
  • Jason Kubel -- Twins picked up his 2011 option, he's under contract
  • Nick Punto -- Twins declined his 2011 option, he's a free agent
~~~

Type A and Type B Free Agents:
Again, these players' contracts are up, but Elias Sports Bureau has deemed them to be a "Type A" (top 20% based on last two years) or a "Type B" (next 20% over last two years) free agent. Teams may offer a player arbitration if they feel the rewards outweigh the risks. The risk is that the he'll accept and they'll have to give him a salary increase. That could also be a reward if they really want to keep him.

If a player accepts arbitration, he is under contract for the following year, and the terms of the salary will be determined before or through the arbitration hearing. They could work out a multi-year deal if they want to.

If a Type A player refuses arbitration, he is a free agent and may sign with any team. However, the team who signs him gives up a high-round draft pick to the original team, plus the original team gets a supplemental (between the first and second rounds) draft pick. This may hurt a player because teams may shy away from signing him so they can save their draft pick.

If a Type B player refuses arbitration, he is a free agent, and the original team gets a supplemental draft pick.

The deadline to accept or refuse arbitration is Nov. 30.
  • Jesse Crain (B) - Twins offered arbitration
  • Brian Fuentes (B) - not offered
  • Matt Guerrier (A) - not offered
  • Orlando Hudson (B) - offered
  • Carl Pavano (A) - offered
  • Jon Rauch (B) - not offered
~~~

Regular Free Agents:
These guys' contracts are up, and they're free to sign with any team, including the original team.
  • Randy Flores
  • Ron Mahay
  • Jim Thome
~~~

Under Contract:
These guys are under contract and aren't going anywhere unless the Twins trade them.
  • Scott Baker
  • Nick Blackburn
  • Michael Cuddyer
  • Brendan Harris (in the minors, not on 40-man roster)
  • Joe Mauer
  • Justin Morneau
  • Joe Nathan
  • Denard Span
~~~

Arbitration Process:
A player who qualifies for arbitration and the team submit salary figures to each other in mid-January for the new contract. Then they work on meeting somewhere in between. They have until the time of the arbitration appointment, sometime in February, to come to terms. They can literally have their hand on the doorknob going into the room and come to an agreement (this happened to Michael Cuddyer a couple of years ago). If they can't agree, they go to a hearing. A three-person panel of independent arbiters listens to both sides' cases and reviews other stats, accomplishments, etc. However, when each side is presenting it's case, things can get ugly. The team's GM is trying to downplay the player's value, while the player's agent is trying to upgrade it, all while the player is sitting there feeling like a piece of property up for auction. Weaknesses, bad habits, and all sorts of negative things are brought up. Egos are bruised; nerves are touched; backs are stabbed. Then, as they leave the room, the player tries convince himself it's "just business" while the GM tries to convince him that it's great to have him and that he needs to bust his balls for the team. This happened to Tim Lincecum and the San Francisco Giants last year. It wasn't pretty. Then the panel makes its decision, choosing either the team's or the player's salary figure -- no in-between.

There's a reason that teams, players, and fans rejoice when they avoid arbitration.

So, yeah, I think I've got it all. Any comments or corrections?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Quick Notes: Nov. 21, 2010

Hearty congratulations to Ron Gardenhire for winning the AL Manager of the Year. It was very well deserved and very long overdue. He's always done a great job making my favorite team win more often than they lose.

Now, I hate to pee in his champagne because I honestly believe he deserves the award, but if he wants to ever win it again, he and the team need to solve the riddle of getting out of the first round of the playoffs. I'm not one to blame the manager for the performance of the players, but I do have a feeling there's just something more he could do to lead, guide, encourage, mentor, fire-up, or otherwise push these guys in these situations. Of course winning is a team effort, and the award is supposed to be for regular-season accomplishments, but these first-round faceplants are pretty memorable and voters won't be able to get them out of the backs of their heads.

But, yes, 2010 was a great year for the Twins, thanks in large part to their great manager.

And as a reward, the Twins extended his, and the other coaches', contracts. Yay.

~~~

The Twins another minor-league signing, 1B Jeff Bailey, this week. It seems as if they're concentrating on beefing up the Red Wings sqaud some more. This is good because they had a horrible season last year. The Rochester fans deserve better, and the Twins could use more depth.

The Twins also added a four minor-leaguers to the 40-man roster to protect them from the upcoming Rule 5 draft: RHP David Bromberg, OF Joe Benson, 1B Chris Parmelee, and OF Rene Tosoni.

~~~

Scarf-zilla update: it's done! It's ridiculous, but it's done! It can warm four people at once, but it's done!


Now, for some smaller, more manageable projects.

~~~

I hope you have a fantastic and safe Thanksgiving. I'm really looking forward to enjoying my mother-in-law's cabbage rolls.  

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Notes: Nov. 14, 2010

Congratulations to Joe Mauer for winning the 2010 Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards. It's not really a surprise that he won them. While there is always controversy around the Gold Glove, and some folks were saying that Joe didn't have his best year defensively, I can't think of a better catcher in the American League.

~~~

Speaking of controversy with the Gold Glove, there was a little issue with the winner at shortstop for the American League, Derek Jeter. You see, the Gold Glove award has a bit of a reputation of once a guy starts winning it, he keeps winning it -- whether he deserves it or not. And giving it to Jeter seems to reinforce that reputation.

Jeter makes great jumping throws, but he has to because he doesn't have much range. If he had good range, his throws would be routine, which probably doesn't really appeal to him anyway. In fact, the folks at Baseball-Reference.com figured out some defensive metrics of all the American League shortstops. Jeter came in at #59*. Seems as if some other guys may have deserved it more than him.

*Baseball-Reference.com has since taken down the link to the list they made, otherwise I would have linked to it.

~~~

Although it's been a pretty quiet week for the Twins, they have added a few new guys to the minor leagues. The most notable of which, and so far the only one to land on the 40-man roster, is relief pitcher Eric Hacker (a name that always makes me think of former Gopher football player Eric Decker).

There's not much to read in to this signing other than that he'll be given every opportunity to prove himself during Spring Training and earn a spot in the Twins' bullpen.

The other guys they've signed are really to fill in spots in the minors. However, one guy, relief pitcher Yorman Bazardo, certainly gets the Cool Name award from me.

~~~

Target Field announced several new features for next season. It's hard to believe they could improve on such a great ballpark, but these improvements sound pretty sweet. There will be a new scoreboard in right field which will be the same as the one in left field, only smaller (great idea -- I sat in the left field seats once, and I had to turn around in my seat just to see the scoreboard). They're also adding a clock tower next to the new scoreboard (nice, IF they keep the graphics on it team- or game-related; lame, if it's just another place to put advertising).

They also hope to improve customer service at the concession stands to reduce wait-time (ok, I've never had a problem) and add more signature Minnesota food (I can't imagine what that would be -- they've already got the Juicy Lucy and Byerly's Wild Rice Soup -- unless it's Spam).

Free WiFi and improved cell coverage will be great too.

~~~

Speaking of improvements to Target Field, it seems as if Justin Morneau was hoping they'd have the hitters in mind and bring in the fences a smidge. I don't blame him. It is certainly near the bottom of the list for homerun-friendly parks.

A lot of sports radio talk show hosts, bloggers, and other fans are kind giving him a hard time about his remarks. But, I seem to remember a lot of folks complaining during the season about all the catches at the wall. Why is it ok for fans and media-folk to whine about it, but not players?

I'm not completely sure that moving the fences after just the first season is the right decision. But, it's his opinion, he feels strongly about it, and I'm glad he said something.

~~~

Scarf-zilla for Jim Thome update: it's longer than I am and almost done. With five rows to go, I ran out of blue yarn. Story of my life.

Yes, I have to get more yarn and finish those five rows. It needs to be symmetrical; I'm particular like that. Luckily, I used cheap yarn that claims to have no dye lot.

By later in the week, Bill Smith should be able to offer Big Jim a contract, complete with scarf-zilla if he wants it.

If Jimmers doesn't need it, it would also be suitable for TC Bear.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Notes: Nov. 7, 2010

The free agency season has officially begun. Ten Twins were granted free agency, which is kind of a lot (only the Rays have more with 12).

Here are the guys we may not see in a Twins uniform any more:
  • Crain
  • Flores
  • Fuentes
  • Guerrier
  • Hudson
  • Mahay
  • Pavano
  • Punto
  • Rauch
  • Thome
Here is my plan: keep the guys I really like, and best wishes to the other guys.

~~~

On October 30, Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press reported that Michael Cuddyer had emergency appendectomy surgery two days prior. But, what's weird is, no one else reported it. Honestly, I looked.

Now, I'm not necessarily a fan of Shooter, but I would think a journalist who's spilled as much ink as he has wouldn't just make stuff up. So, I guess I believe him. But wouldn't you think that someone, anyone, would also mention it? Fifteen people told me about his little knee-cleanup surgery a couple of weeks ago, so I'm confused as to why it's not all over the usual outlets.

I guess everyone takes it to heart when Walters titles that segment of his column "Don't Print That."

And if it is true, Cuddy is a quick healer; he tweeted Sunday about taking his boy to the Wiggles concert. He even proved it with a picture. He looks good (yes, he always looks good; I mean healthy).

So, Cuddy honey, if you really did have your appendix out about 10 days ago, I hope you're well. And if you didn't, I still hope you're well, but I think you should openly mock and laugh at Charley Walters.

~~~

Allow me to give you an update on my crocheted scarf project. Turns out I'm pretty bad at judging size. Not only is it way to wide for my neck, it's also turning out to be way too long (it's a pattern, so I can't just stop). It's so big, it's suitable for Paul Bunyan. Or Jim Thome.

Hey, I have an idea...I'm totally willing to throw in this scarf-asaurus in any offer the Twins give to Jimmers. Big, strong sluggers have to keep warm, you know.

~~~

My birthday was this past week, and I finally got a Brad Radke jersey. Yay me! This is my first player jersey (the other one I have is plain). At least I know I can't bring bad luck to Radke's Twins career.

The notable part about this is that Radke jerseys are really hard to find. So, I'm very happy to get this.

~~~

Speaking of getting old, I take an unusual interest in players over 40. I looked them up to see their contract status and see how many of them were free agents. I guess it's kind of typical that a lot of them are free agents; older guys usually get only one-year contracts. Of the 15 active players in the MLB who are 40 or older, only three -- Tim Wakefield, Omar Vizquel, and Darren Oliver -- have contracts for 2011. Here's a breakdown:
  • Jamie Moyer* (SP) -- free agent from Philadelphia Phillies
  • Tim Wakefield (SP) -- 2011 contract with Boston Red Sox ($1.5 mil + incentives)
  • Omar Vizquel (IF) -- 2011 contract with Chicago White Sox ($1.75 mil)
  • Trevor Hoffman (RP) -- free agent from Milwaukee Brewers
  • Matt Stairs (OF/PH) -- free agent from San Diego Padres
  • Russ Springer** (RP) -- free agent from Cincinnati Reds
  • Brad Ausmus (C) -- free agent from Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Arthur Rhodes (RP) -- free agent from Cincinnati Reds
  • Mariano Rivera (RP) -- free agent from New York Yankees
  • Takashi Saito (RP) -- released from Atlanta Braves
  • Jim Edmonds (OF) -- free agent from Cincinnati Reds
  • Mark Grudzielanek (IF) -- released from Cleveland Indians
  • Craig Counsell (IF) -- free agent from Milwaukee Brewers
  • Jim Thome (DH) -- free agent from Minnesota Twins
  • Darren Oliver (RP) -- 2011 option picked up with Texas Rangers ($3.25 mil)
* Jamie Moyer, unfortunately, may have to call it quits. He's playing in the Dominican Winter League to rehab his surgically repaired elbow and to prove he's still good enough. However, after just a few pitches on Saturday, he re-injured his arm. It doesn't look good.

** Russ Springer was not on my original blog post about the graybeards because he was likely sitting at home that day. He didn't sign with the Reds until mid-July.

So I'll keep track of these guys and see who gets signed, who retires, and who fades away....

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

So That's It?

Congratulations to the San Francisco Giants for winning the World Series. They really played well, and their pitching was outstanding. Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner were tons of fun to watch.

Oh, and a nice pat on the back goes out the the Texas Rangers. They had a great season and they should be proud.

But now what? I miss baseball. I am currently watching a replay of the Twins game the one time they beat the Yankees. It's nice, but it's not the same -- I know how it ends; baseball isn't as much fun without drama.

So, to keep me occupied in these dark months, I'll read and watch TV. Oh, and I've taken up crocheting -- I'm working on a beautiful (read: ordinary) scarf for myself (because I don't really know how to do anything else). And I'll wait.

But that's ok. If I had baseball all the time, I'd probably wouldn't appreciate it as much.

So, in the meantime, I have this:



I attempted to make a sweatshirt with this graphic. My iron was too hot and the transfer burned, melted, and smeared. Story of my life, I can't even complain right.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Notes: Oct. 31, 2010

Just a few quick notes for the week:

Happy Halloween! Here's is my jack-o'-lantern for this year:

Pretty cool, huh? The stencil is available on the Twins website.

~~~

Earlier in the week, the Twins made two of the many decisions they face this off-season. They picked up the 2011 option for Jason Kubel, and he'll make $5.5 million. They also declined the 2011 option for Nick Punto, allowing him to become a free agent.

I'm not surprised by either of these moves. Jason Kubel is still relatively cheap for his production, and he could possibly be used as trade bait -- or not. Punto, on the other hand was set to make $5 million next year -- a lot of dough for a bench utility player.

Because Nicky is a free agent, there's still a chance the Twins could sign him to a new contract, but it would have to be for like $1 million or so. He's still one of my favorite infielders, so I kind of hope he comes back, but I won't be surprised if he doesn't.

~~~

Oh, I forgot to tell you, this blog is the proud sponsor of the Joe Nathan page on Baseball-Reference.com. When I need baseball stats, BR is my go-to place. They rely on sponsorships or advertising to keep doing what they do, and they do excellent work. When I saw that Joe's page was available for a reasonable price, I pounced.

~~~

Here is another video of CJ Wilson. He drives sweet cars. Is there any doubt why I love him? He might have to be my favorite non-Twin. Better still, the Twins should try to get him. (Now waking up from dreamland.)

~~~

So far, this World Series has surprised me. I expected the pitching to be better. I expected the Rangers to be better. If this is going to seven games, things have to improve for the Texas nine.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

World Series Matchups: Fangirl Edition

As I mentioned before, this is the first World Series in a while where I have no one I'm particularly rooting for or against. Which, if you think about it, is pretty exciting. I can watch the games, genuinely hope for the best for both teams, and enjoy some good baseball.

So, because I'm free to root for individual player without guilt, I thought it'd be fun if I presented a head-shot-to-head-shot matchup of the two rosters. I know, I know, you can't swing a virtual baseball bat in the Internets without knocking over handfuls of essays on head-to-head matchups. I'm sure all those gifted writers did due diligence with research and analysis. And that's great. But none of those essays present information that's truly meaningful to me... my entertainment.

So while the other writers look at batting average, ERA, win probability added, value over replacement player, or whatever, I'll look at what's really important: attractiveness, entertainment value, and rooting-interest over average guy. In other words, this is complete based on who do I think is coolest.

And, no matter who wins, I would love it if it went to seven games.

(Forgive the table formatting. My HTML editor is weak, at best. And I don't have the patience to make it perfect. And, if you're used to working in HTML, you get it...)


Starting Pitchers (Probables)
RangersGiantsDescription


















Cliff Lee: I've admitted in the past that I'm not necessarily a fan of Cliff Lee as a person. But have you seen him pitch lately? Yeah, the way he owned batters throughout the playoffs was breathtaking. I'm willing to set aside my personal differences to root for a great pitcher.

Tim Lincecum: I've always like Timmy. They call him the Freak, because of his unique pitching mechanics, and, well, look at him. Plus he's freaky good at pitching.Yes, I want him to cut his hair (at least trim off the split ends), but I do like to watch him pitch.

C.J. Wilson: Another pitcher I've liked for awhile, C.J. made a great transition from relief pitcher to starter. But, I like him best because he's all the awesome. He Twitters (@str8edgeracer), and he's funny. Also, well, just watch this, and you'll agree.

Matt Cain: I gotta be honest, I don't know much about him, but I read that he hasn't given up an earned run in all of the playoffs, and that's pretty cool. But, you know, he's kind of funny looking.

Colby Lewis: He's got a great story. Apparently, in the last few years, he's pitched for approximately eleventyteen different teams, including Japan. And then he pitches out of his mind in the playoffs and drives me crazy -- in a hot-pitching kind of way.

Jonathan Sanchez: Ok, that whole little incident in the NLCS with Chase Utley with the plunking and the harmless soft tossing of the ball and the swearing and the benches-clearing-br...um...milling-about just turned me off. If the guy can't keep his head, it makes for not-so-fun pitching.

My Entertainment Advantage: Rangers



Closers
RangersGiantsDescription
Neftali Feliz: What is he? Thirteen? I don't know. Doesn't matter, because what I do know is that he's fantastic. I love, love, love that a rookie pitcher can be such a good closer.

Brian Wilson: (Ok, yeah, I photoshopped the beard -- his head shot had him clean-shaven. But, hey, my version looks about as good as his.) So, Wilson's success may or may not be attributed to that ridiculous beard. Yeah, he makes things interesting when he pitches, but he gets the job done.

My Entertainment Advantage: Rangers



Catchers
RangersGiantsDescription
Bengie Molina: Fun fact: no matter who wins the World Series, Bengie gets a ring. Since he was traded from the Giants to the Rangers mid-season, and the Giants have decided that any players who contribute qualify. Not bad. Oh, and he did a great job with the Rangers after the trade.

Buster Posey: Another kid who looks like he played on my son's 14-year-old youth team, he earned the confidence of the team enough to trade away Molina. And he didn't disappoint. He's had a great rookie year; he's even getting ROY consideration, even though he only played half the season. Oh, and he has a very cool name.

My Entertainment Advantage: Giants



First Basemen
RangersGiantsDescription
Gotta admit here, I don't know very much about either one of these...


Mitch Moreland: The better-looking one.

Aubrey Huff: The one I've heard of before.

My Entertainment Advantage: Draw



Second Basemen
RangersGiantsDescription
Ian Kinsler: I've had a crush on Ian Kinsler for a while because he is cu-ute. Oh, and he's really good at playing second base and hitting baseballs.

Freddy Sanchez: Another one I don't know much about.

My Entertainment Advantage: Rangers



Third Basemen
RangersGiantsDescription
Michael Young: Is pretty good at baseball.

Pablo Sandival: Is adorable.They call him "Kung Fu Panda" because, well...look at him. Sure, he's a big dude -- ok, he's a really big dude -- and he jiggles when he runs, but he's always smiling. And he's got more range than you'd think a big dude would have.

My Entertainment Advantage: Giants



Shortstops
RangersGiantsDescription
Elvis Andrus: He's another one who always has a smile on his face. He plays with so much confidence and joy, it's fun to watch him.

Juan Uribe: Honestly, when I started watching the playoffs, when he stepped into the box for the first time, I thought "wow, he still plays?". He splits time at short with Edgar Renteria, another guy who I thought "wow, he still plays?" about.

My Entertainment Advantage: Rangers



Left Fielders
RangersGiantsDescription
David Murphy: Sorry. Don't know much about him. He looks young.

Pat Burrell: I know he's been around a long time. He's older than he looks. Actually, not really.

My Entertainment Advantage: Push



Center Fielders
RangersGiantsDescription
Josh Hamilton: He is very, very good at baseball. In fact, he's likely to win the AL MVP, and he deserves it.

Andres Torres:  He has a long face.

My Entertainment Advantage: Rangers





Right Fielders
RangersGiantsDescription
Nelson Cruz: I love Nelly. He's good. They had him in left field one game, and he made a really nice play. I respectfully requested him to be my everyday left fielder. I'm still awaiting his reply.

Cody Ross: He hit a lot of homeruns during the playoffs. But I hated the eye-black.

My Entertainment Advantage: Rangers



Team
RangersGiantsDescription
Rangers: They have the rallying cries -- the Claw, an air-high-five when they do something good; and the Antlers, like a deer when they do something good using their speed. I always love a good rallying cry; the fact that they have two doubles the fun.

Giants: They have the characters -- the Freak, the Panda, the Kid, the Beard, the Eye-black. They also have the orange rally towels, which looks really cool when the whole crowd is waving them.

My Entertainment Advantage: Rangers

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The World Series Picture

Congratulations to the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants for making it to the World Series.

It promises to be a fun series, and I'm looking forward to watching.

Now, if only I didn't have to wait 3 stinking days to watch baseball again...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

In No Particular Order or Of No Particular Importance

So the debilitating pain I was suffering 10 days ago has subsided a bit. It still smarts, though. Watching the other postseason games helps diffuse the depression...well, until the offseason. I guess I'll worry about that when it gets here.

But, since I'm still feeling discombobulated, I can't string together enough coherent thoughts to put together a decent post. However, I do have several haphazard, uncoordinated, random, unconnected, and probably uninteresting, snippets of thoughts I thought I'd share.

~~~

Thanks to XM radio and the MLB app on my phone, I've been able to listen to a variety of teams' radio announcing crews this postseason: Rays, Phillies, Giants, Rangers, and Reds. Baseball on the radio reminds me of good childhood memories. I really like listening to good broadcasters, and I enjoy hearing the different personalities. And, I'll tell you what, they're all better than Dan Gladden.

~~~

Watching the ALCS series on TBS has been positively eye-roll worthy. Their camera work is weak, and their little Pitch Trax strike-zone indicator seems to be off, but the worst is the announcing. They constantly use cliches, they bloviate endlessly about minutiae, and they constantly kiss Yankee ass. Plus, they're ugly and their mothers dress them funny (I'm looking at you, Craig Sager). The only thing that keeps them from being completely insufferable is that every once in a great while, John Smoltz will say something kind of witty.

But, hey, it could be worse. At least none of them are Chip Caray.

~~~

I've always opposed to the use of instant replay in baseball. I find my position softening somewhat for postseason play. The importance of everything in these games is elevated so much, and reviewing tough calls (not balls and strikes) might not be a big deal.

I don't know. I'll still have to think about how I feel about it.

~~~

In case there was any doubt as to why Yankee fans are hated so much by all other baseball fans:
This is the fan who interfered with Nelson Cruz as he tried to catch Robinson Cano's "homerun". We see him here in mid-histrionics trying to...oh, hell, I have no idea what's he's trying to prove. Yeah, homeboy, you're oh-so-fly with your hat all sideways and your mad hott ball-stealing skillz. Stay classy, Yankee fans.

~~~

Speaking of Yankees, a funny thought occurred to me during the game on Monday. Remember when Brett Gardner hit that little infield blooper and he slid headfirst into first and he got called out because Cliff Lee was covering the bag and Gardner was afraid his hand would get stepped on so he pulled it away so he was out and then he and Lee almost got tangled up and it was just really lucky that no one got hurt? Well, I imagined that right after the game, Gardner got a text message from the Yankees front office scolding him for almost injuring their big money off-season free agent signing. Can't be hurting the next Yankee ace pitcher, now can we, Brett?

~~~

I had a dream about Jim Thome the other night. The director of my department gathered us all together in a common area to let us all know that they had to let poor Jim go. I looked over to his cubicle to see him putting his belongings in one of those lid-less boxes with handles. He looked kind of sad. I was kind of sad looking at him.

I have no idea what this dream means. I hope it doesn't really mean what it obviously seems like it means.

~~~

Clearly, a partial meaning of that dream is that I'm worried about this coming offseason. In the past, I didn't give potential moves, free-agents, trades, etc. much thought. I figured whatever happens, happens. But this time, there is so much potential for thrash and change, I wound up making a spreadsheet.

If you know me at all, you know that it's a big deal for me to make a spreadsheet. It's almost as difficult as learning another language. Seriously. It might even be as difficult as understanding the BCS.

~~~

So, obviously, I'm in full-on "anyone but the Yankees" mode. So, clearly I want the Rangers to go to the Series. And, I'm bored with the Phillies. So, I want the Giants to go to the Series.

But, after that? I have no idea. If I get my wish, I'll have absolutely no rooting interest in the World Series. I'll have absolutely no denouncing interest in the World Series. I guess I'll watch because I like baseball.

We'll see.

~~~

Carl Pavano is a finalist for the "Robert Goulet Memorial Mustached American of the Year" award. No, seriously. This is a real thing.

Think about it...Carl grows his 'stache and next thing you know, he starts pitching like a beast. Where would the Twins have been without that epic 'stache? And remember how much fun all of Twins Territory had with it?

So, go vote. Vote for Carl. Vote for the Twins.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Quick Food Drive Update

So, the Twins didn't finish off the season as strong as we all hoped. But they did great enough so that I counted up 48 food items to donate to the food shelf in my community. I really enjoy doing this food drive.

Notice, on the right, there's a bunch of potato packets? Those are for the Thome Taters. Get it?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Judicious Response


Here is my totally rational, completely thoughtful, entirely balanced, extensively researched, absolutely discerning, fully reasonable, thoroughly examined, wholly intellectual, appropriately levelheaded, and copiously objective analysis of the Twins - Yankees series: ...


...


...


I effing hate the Yankees.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Memo To Baseball Gods

To: Baseball Gods
From: k-bro, on behalf of Twins Territory
Date: 6-OCT-2010
Subject: ALDS Yankees v. Twins

Thank you for taking a moment to read my memo; I know that you are quite busy preparing to watch the exciting MLB games. I have a few concerns regarding tonight's Yankees - Twins game, and I hope you can help.

If I've learned anything from the movie Angels In the Outfield (the one starring Christopher Lloyd), it's that neither you nor your angels are allowed to influence the outcome of championship games. I respect that. I also suspect that some of you may be former Yankees, so me asking for a little push for the Twins likely is a fool's errand. However, there are some things you may be able to influence that will improve the enjoyability of the games for everyone involved.

I don't know if you know Mother Nature well, but I suspect that you do since Target Field was blessed with excellent weather all season. Twins fans really appreciated that. So, if you do have pull with her, if you don't mind, please ask her for continued nice weather at Target Field. It's important for Minnesotans to convince the national media that we don't perienially live in igloos and wear mukluks, and we don't want the ESPN folks' brains to freeze any more than they already are. It seems as if she's already blessed us with temperate conditions -- the next two days are forecasted to be nicer in Minnesota than in New York -- so please thank her for that.

Speaking of media-folk, many fans who are unable to attend the games are forced to watch the broadcasts at home or at their favorite drinking establishment. If I remember last year's playoffs correctly, the broadcasting crews left quite a bit to be desired. Baseball fans everywhere were tickled that you managed to get Chip Caray fired from TBS. Would it be possible to find a way to influence this year's announcers to be intellegent, fair, and interesting while at the same time erasing stupid cliches from their memorybanks? Also, if you have time to set Craig Sager's wardrobe locker ablaze, I would greatly appreciate it.

Another issue from last year's playoffs I'd like you to help with is the umpiring. As you may be aware, there were a number of questionable calls that greatly interfered with the outcome of the games. Yes, it's true that Phil Cuzzi, the one who blew the call on Joe Mauer's hit, is not scheduled to officiate during this series, but his was not the only rotten call. So, if you please, bless all the umpires with perfect eyesight, fair hearts, uncanny knowledge of the rules, and correct calls.

Finally, I'd like to ask that you protect all the players from injury, even the Yankees. While my hatred for the Yankees cannot be overestimated, I'm not mean. The series will be most fun if the trainers are doing nothing -- unless, of course, Derek Jeter is pretending to have a broken wrist from a pitch that doesn't get near him. And that won't be a problem if the umpire makes the right call.

Thank you for your time and consideration on these matters. I am confident that you will be able to provide assistance for the good of the game. I wish you health and happiness. Enjoy the post-season.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Regular Season In Review

What a great season! Before the playoffs even start, in my mind anyway, I can call this season a success. For me, when there are more ups than downs, it's good.

I missed Joe Nathan and Justin Morneau, but I enjoyed rooting for Jim Thome and Danny Valencia. It was great to watch Brian Duensing become a solid starter. Delmon and Frankie had great years, and I had fun watching them improve. And, after a "slump" for a brief time, Joe Mauer was Joe Mauer.

So, off the boys go to to the playoffs to face the Yankees. Am I worried? Yep, but then I'd be worried if the Twins had won out the season after clinching. Am I going to let my worrying ruin my enjoyment of the playoffs? I'll try not to. Of course, winning is more fun, so, I'm asking the Twins to do their part.

~~~

Remember before the season, my son j-bro wrote up his predictions? We should see how he did. He's in college now; he should be used to being graded.

Twins MVP: He said: Denard Span. Actually: according to Seth Stohs' survey, it's Joe Mauer. Denard didn't even make my list of the top 8. I think it's safe to say Span didn't have the year many Twins fans were hoping for.

Twins Top Pitcher: He said: Nick Blackburn. Actually: well, it's a debate between Pavano and Liriano. Blackburn has been better lately, but the fact that he had to go to the bullpen, and then to the minors, means this year wasn't his best.

Twins Top Rookie: He said: well, he didn't really know what to say. Actually: obviously Danny Valencia. But, really, who expected that Danny would even be called up (remember? Brendan Harris was supposed to be the third-baseman), let alone thriving at a high level.

Twins Most Improved Player: He said: Delmon Young. Actually: he was right. Delmon had a career year. Let's hope he has an even better one next year.

Bold Predictions:
  • Pat Neshek’s filth will be as filthy as ever.(no, that didn't really happen)
  • Jose Mijares will be successful in saving ballgames.(no)
  • Liriano’s filth will be as filthy as ever. (you bet'cha!)
  • Booing A.J. at Target Field will still sound just as loud as when we booed him in the Dome. (I guess I didn't notice -- could be)
  • Someone will hit an inside the park homerun, I just don’t know who. (not yet)
AL Central Predictions:

  1. Minnesota
  2. Chicago
  3. Detroit
  4. Kansas City
  5. Poor Cleveland
(close. Switch KC and Cleveland)

Keys to Success:  
  1. Stop it with the injuries! Nathan and Morales are enough for the entire season. I’ll keep knocking on wood the whole summer to make sure we win.(Unfortunately Justin Morneau lost half the season, and Mauer, Baker, Thome, et.al., had their share of ouchies. But guys stepped in and did great.)
  2. Pitching needs to be consistent. Our lineup will score the runs we need to win, so we don’t need a Johan-type performances this year. Just keep us in the game; that’s bullpen included. (Pretty profound -- and correct.)
  3. Keep on truckin’. The Twins will do what they always do and get really hot in June and July, and completely die in August. Last year it worked itself out, but let’s try to win the division in only 162 games this year. (I think he was pretty close here too, except for the die in August part.)
All-in-all, I think he did great. I love his optimism. I'll give him an A. But then, I might be biased.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Twins at Royals: Better Baseball Through Movies and Television

Recap:
Monday -- embarrassing
Tuesday -- embarrassing
Wednesday -- hey! Twins win!

Record: Still not the best in the American League, even though neither the Yankees nor the Rays seem to want to own it either.

I get it that it's not easy to get amped up about a meaningless game against the Royals. In fact, a couple of folks compared these last two series to another Spring Training, where guys are more worried about working on stuff and avoiding injury than playing with intensity (see Jim Crikket's piece in the Knuckleballs Blog, and listen to Seth Stohs' interview of Jamie Ogden), which makes sense.

But, really? Did they have to be so gawd-awful? Did they have to so hard to watch? Did they have to look so lifeless? Ugh.

So, with the final series, in front of their adoring fans, coming up, I thought the boys could use some motivation -- (this seems to be becoming a recurring theme in this blog, doesn't it?). I called upon my less-than-vast knowledge of excellent scripts from wonderful movies and television shows to develop a hell of an inspirational speech.

[clearing throat]
You guys. You lollygag the ball around the infield. You lollygag your way down to first. You lollygag in and out of the dugout. You know what that makes you? Lollygaggers! A good friend of mine used to say, "This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains." Think about that for a while.

This is your time. Their time is done. It's over. I'm sick and tired of hearing about what a great [baseball] team the [Royals] have. Screw 'em. This is your time. Now go out there and take it.

You just got lesson number one: don't think; it can only hurt the ball club. Now, you kids are probably saying to yourself, "Now, I'm gonna go out, and I'm gonna get the world by the tail, and wrap it around and put it in my pocket!!" Well, I'm here to tell you that you're probably gonna find out, as you go out there, that you're not gonna amount to Jack Squat! You're gonna end up eating a steady diet of government cheese, and living in a van down by the river!
And then for when the playoffs start:
I'm not much for giving inspirational addresses, but I'd just like to point out that every newspaper in the country has picked us to finish last. The local press seems to think that we'd save everyone the time and trouble if we just went out and shot ourselves. Me, I'm for wasting sportswriters' time. So I figured we ought to hang around for a while and see if we can give 'em all a nice big shitburger to eat!

Gentlemen, the hopes and dreams of an entire town are riding on your shoulders. You may never matter again in your life as much as you do right now. This is national TV. So don't pick your noses or scratch your nuts.

Let's pray: Uh, Lord, hallowed be thy name. May our feet be swift; may our bats be mighty; may our balls be plentiful. Lord, I'd just like to thank you for that waitress in South Bend. You know who she is — she kept calling your name. And God, these are good [guys], and they work hard. Just help them see it all the way through. OK, that's it.

Butt-scratcher! Butt-scratcher! Get your butt-scratcher here!


{Internet points if you can name the movies/shows. Put your guesses in the comments.}

Monday, September 27, 2010

My Super-Secret Blogger Awards Ballot

Seth Stohs invited several Twins bloggers and other media-folks to participate in voting for team “awards” – nothing official; just for fun. He calls it the "SethSpeaks.net Twins Bloggers/Writers/Media Types (SSTBWMT?) Awards". Check out the results here.

When he asked me to participate, I was thrilled. I wanted to take this as seriously as I think real sport writers should take real awards. So I did a bunch of research and made a spread sheet. I chose a mix of advanced and basic stats, weighted them based on the ones I thought were important, and ranked the players. Then, I took a moment to look at the ranking with my heart, and applied a bonus for an intuitive feeling of value, “brownie points” if you will (get it? brownies?), to account for those “intangibles.”

Choosing the right stats to use is probably the most important decision; there are a lot of them and some are useful, some are not. For example, win-loss records are nice for a quick glance of today's matchups and general idea of how a pitcher is doing, but, in my opinion, have no place in awards; there are too many variables and exceptions, and there are too many factors out of a pitcher’s control to be reliable.

I did not factor in defense to my MVP ballot. I believe that taking runs away is almost as valuable as scoring them, but I also believe that great defensive skills should be the norm and not the exception. If someone had wowed me consistently with stellar glovework, I may have added a few browine points, but, honestly, no one really did.

My MVP ballot does not include pitchers for a couple of reasons. First of all, I couldn't figure out a way to convert the super-secret formula for pitchers into the super-secret formula for MVP. More importantly, however, is that since the pitchers get their own award, I didn't think they should be included with the MVP. I know this kind of slaps in the face of the definition of "value" and thereby makes it more about the stats than it probably should, but, hey, it's my ballot.
In order to spare you from your eyes glazing over, I’ll put the details of my super-secret formulas at the bottom of this post, so you can skip it if you’re not interested.

Now, since most advanced stats live on the other side of the neighborhood from me – when I see them, I wave and say “hi,” but I don’t know them terribly well – I had to invite them over and get to know them. I may or may not have chosen the best ones, and all stats are subject to interpretation and controversy, but I think I did all right. At any rate, I had fun and I learned a lot.

Here is my ballot as I gave it to Seth. Be sure to check out his blog to see how all the ballots added up and who “won” this distinguished, if not actual, honor:

Twins MVP (10 points for 1st place vote, 8 points for 2nd place vote, 6 points for 3rd, 5 for 4th, 4 for 5th, etc.)
1.) Mauer
2.) Young
3.) Morneau
4.) Cuddyer
5.) Thome
6.) Kubel
7.) Span
8.) Hudson

Twins Top Pitcher (5 points for 1st, 4 for 2nd, etc.)
1.) Liriano
2.) Pavano
3.) Duensing
4.) Crain
5.) Baker

Twins Top Rookie (5 points for 1st, 3 points for 2nd, 1 point for 3rd) -- Do I really have to pick 3? Can't I just pick Danny three times? ;-)
1.) Valencia
2.) Butera
3.) Manship

My Super-Secret Formula for MVP
:
I concocted a “run-responsible” factor (a combo of RBI and runs, minus HR so they don’t get counted twice). I then used a weighted formula of OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) and that runs-responsible thing. I then factored in plate appearances. I also gave demerits for GIDP (grounding into double plays), because I hate them so much. Cuddy got brownie points for his versatility, which pushed him over Thome by a hair. The fact that Morneau scored so high is a real testament to how valuable he really was -- and could've been. I really, really, really wanted Valencia to make the cut, but he just didn’t have the plate appearances and runs-responsible number to get there; there just weren’t enough brownie points for him.

My Super-Secret Formula for Pitchers:
I used a weighted formula of FIP (fielding independent pitching), WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched), and WAR (wins above replacement) to figure out who was good at pitching. Additionally, I consider being able to pitch a lot of innings valuable to the team, so I factored in innings pitched. I also applied brownie points, which gave the edge to Crain over Baker. Slowey and Blackburn were next on the list, but their high FIPs kept them off the ballot.

My Super-Secret Formula for Rookies
:
Ok, I gotta admit, I have no formula here. I mean, really, Valencia should get some League ROY love – not enough to win, but a few votes. Butera gets second, because he’s been in there all season, valiantly being Carl Pavano’s personal catcher. Manship gets the third spot because he’s the only eligible rookie left who I thought helped somewhat.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Twins at Tigers: Rule of Firsts

Recap:
Friday -- Twins lost
Saturday -- Twins lost
Sunday -- Twins lost

Record: Well, it ain't the best in baseball anymore. I mean, I know the division race is done and all, but, sheesh, winning is way more fun than losing.

*sigh* Ok. I'm sorry. I'm a little snippy. [cleansing breath]

I understand that getting the guys healthy for the playoffs might be a smidge more important that securing home-field advantage, so I get that many of the regular position players are sitting and resting and healing. Good. I hope all the kinks are worked out this next week.

However, the starting pitchers for those three games were our playoff game one-two-three starters. So, yeah, I kind of expected a little bit better pitching than that. In fact, I expected better pitching from all the pitchers. So I think it's time to remind them of the basics of pitching. Better nip this thing in the bud right now.

A few years ago, I bought my son a new glove. A little pamphlet on the basics of baseball, aimed at youth players, was attached to it. And the section about pitching left an impression on me. So, here goes...

Ahem? Are you reading this, Twins pitchers?

The Rule of Firsts

Good pitching is as simple as the rule of firsts. The first pitch to each batter should be a strike; the first batter of each inning should be an out; the first inning of your appearance should be scoreless. If you can do that, you'll usually have a successful outing.

See? It's just that simple -- not difficult at all.

Now if I could only remember the section on defense...