April 30, 2003

65K and counting...

At the end of each of the last several months I have given an update on the "visitor totals" for this blog. So, now that April is in the books, I would like to announce that the visitor totals for this blog have gone up for the 8th straight month. I started the site back in August and got 2,800 visitors that first month. The total has gone up every single month since, which is really awesome.

Here are the month-by-month visitor totals:

Month         Visitors

August 2,800
September 3,200
October 4,200
November 4,400
December 6,600
January 7,800
February 10,100
March 11,500
April 14,900
TOTAL 65,500

Basically, this blog is spreading like a virus - and I couldn't be happier about it. The idea that, over the course of 30 days, there were 15,000 times that a person went to this site is mind-boggling to me. As is the the fact that the "counter" now has a number on it that is higher than 65,000!

My newest goal is a 20,000-visitor month and, since May has 31 days and the site seems to be picking up speed, I figure there is at least a chance of it happening this month.

My other goal, which I made back when I started to realize quite a few people were actually coming here, probably in October, is to reach 100,000 total visitors by the site's 1st anniversary, which is on August 1st. At the time, the goal was a pretty far-fetched one, but now I really do think it can happen.

Once again, I want to thank all of you so much for coming here and so many of you for telling your friends about the site. I also want to thank everyone who sends me email and all the other bloggers out there that mention stuff I have written on their sites. Take a stroll through the links on the side of this page, there are some awesome websites out there that you may not have found yet.

It has come to my attention that some "famous" baseball writers may be readers of this blog (if you are wondering "is he talking about me?" - yes, I am!). I'm not going to name names, mostly because I am not 100% sure in some cases and also because I would never "out" someone like that without their permission. However, if you are a baseball writer and you check out this blog once in a while and enjoy it, I really would appreciate a "plug." A mention on a much more well-known website or publication would really mean a tremendous amount to me and this website, so, if you feel like being charitable or giving a "break" to a poor college kid that likes to write about baseball, give me a quick mention on your website or in one of your articles sometime. Okay, enough begging (at least for plugs)...

The other day I gave a link to Rob Neyer's new book over at Amazon.com and said the following:

This is Rob's third book and I really enjoyed the first two ("Baseball Dynasties" and "Feeding the Green Monster")

As long as Rob keeps writing books, I will keep buying them. And I would strongly suggest everyone else does too. He's one of the best baseball writers out there and, although I haven't seen the new book yet, I am very confident that we will all enjoy it.

I just bought my copy from Amazon.com yesterday. The book is a real bargain. It's only $11.20 if you get it from Amazon (30% off the cover-price) and you should have it within a couple days of ordering.

If you want to get a copy for yourself, click on the following link:


Amazon.com - "Rob Neyer's Big Book of Baseball Lineups"

The cool thing about clicking on the above link is that you can not only buy Rob's book for only $11 and get it by next week, you can also send a little cash my way! I have an "account" set up with Amazon, so that I get a 5% commission on any referrals I send them via this blog.

Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra. Amazon just gives me 5% whenever you click on a link provided here and buy something from them.

So, if you go buy Rob's book for $11.20, I get a massive $0.56! That might not sound like a whole lot, but if I can get 20 of you to click on the link I provided and buy the book, I would get enough commission for me to pay for my own copy, which would be pretty cool.

No pressure though, I am not asking for handouts (although I will certainly accept them!). If you think you are going to buy Rob's book at some point and you wouldn't be completely opposed to me getting 56 cents, click on the link above and you'll get a great book and I'll get enough money to buy half a taco at Taco John's. It's really a win-win situation.

Well, I came pretty close to "selling" the 20 books I needed to get enough money ($11.20) to pay for my own copy. 13 of you clicked on the link and purchased Rob's new book, which netted me a grand total of $7.28. That means if 7 more of you would be so kind as to click on the link and pay $11 for what I think will be a really great book, I will get the additional $3.92 that I need to pay for my own copy. Plus, you'll get a good book and also support Rob Neyer too!

Okay, let me see if I have covered all the things I wanted to discuss today...

Brag about visitor totals - CHECK

Beg for plugs from better-known baseball writers - CHECK

Beg for people to spend money so I can get $3.92 to spend on a book - CHECK

Yep, that basically covers all the bases. What? You wanted to me to actually talk about baseball? Oh...

It is a transaction that I am sure about 8 people in the entire world noticed, but the Blue Jays picked up Doug Davis off waivers from the Rangers yesterday. Davis can be a good major league starting pitcher and this is just another of many "small" moves that the Blue Jays have made recently that have impressed me.

Davis was bad in the only appearance he made for the Rangers this season, but check out his major league numbers from 2001 and 2002, combined:

 IP     ERA     SO    BB    HR    K/9    W/9    HR/9

246 4.58 143 91 21 5.2 3.33 0.76

Okay, so he doesn't strike out a whole lot of guys and his control isn't great, but he's left-handed and he keeps the ball in the ballpark. Plus, he did half of that pitching in The Ballpark in Arlington, which is a severe hitter's park. His ERA of 4.58 looks bad, but when you adjust for ballparks, it is just slightly worse than league-average (4.48) during the span.

He's 27, he's cheap, he throws left-handed, he has shown the ability to be a league-average starting pitcher, and his minor league numbers are very solid (3.22 career Triple-A ERA in 299 innings).

The idea that a team in need of pitching as desperately as the Rangers could afford to lose Doug Davis for absolutely nothing is crazy. The Blue Jays have quite a few very good, young offensive players, but they are definitely in need of starting pitching, so they happily snatched Davis up and may have themselves a quality left-handed starting pitcher for the next few years.

Nice move for J.P. Ricciardi and the boys in the Toronto front office. They continue to do the little things that go unnoticed, but help build successful organizations.

The Twins placed utility infielder Denny Hocking on the 15-day DL with a sore elbow and called up first baseman Todd Sears from Triple-A.

Sears is yet another example of the Twins' ridiculous organizational depth at 1B/LF/RF/DH. He's not great, but he's a left-handed hitter that has always posted very good batting averages and doubles-power in the minor leagues, and he plays good defense at first base. Basically, he's Doug Mientkiewicz, without all the extra letters.

Hocking may end up needing surgery on the elbow, which would (presumably) keep him on the DL for quite a while. I like Denny, but him being out and Sears being in is the best thing that could happen to the Twins. They have Chris Gomez, who is a very capable backup infielder at second base, shortstop and third base, and Michael Cuddyer can fill-in at third base too. So Denny really isn't all that needed, whereas Sears is.

Prior to Hocking's injury, the Twins' usual bench consisted of Hocking, Gomez, Dustan Mohr, Tom Prince and whichever one of Bobby Kielty, Matthew LeCroy or Cuddyer didn't start that day.

Hocking is a switch-"hitter" but really doesn't do all that much hitting, which means the only other guy in that group capable of hitting from the left side of the plate was Kielty. Bobby has finally (FINALLY!) convinced the team that he deserves to play everyday, so he's no longer much of a bench option. Which leaves Gomez, Prince, Mohr and either Cuddyer or LeCroy - all right-handed hitters.

That's where Sears comes in. He can play first base or DH and I'm sure he could stand out in left or right field for a game or two also. And, as I said, he hits left-handed - and actually hits left-handed.

Here is what I wrote about Todd Sears in my season-preview of the Twins for Baseball Primer:

The Twins could swap Sears for Mientkiewicz at first base and not lose much, if anything.

Sears’ MLE for last year at AAA was .292/.364/.478, which looks an awful lot like Mientkiewicz’s 2001 season. However, his MLE for 2001 at AAA was only .294/.355/.438, which looks an awful lot like Mientkiewicz’s 2002 season.

Defensively, he is not as good as Dougie, but Sears is certainly well above-average. That said, is swapping your current 28 year old good-OBP/bad-power first baseman that has been a starter for the last two years for a new 27 year old good-OBP/bad-power first baseman worth the possible trouble and/or unknown? I doubt it.

If Mientkiewicz gets expensive this off-season (and he’s arbitration eligible, so it’s possible), I wouldn’t be surprised if Sears steps in at first base in 2004. In the long-run though, the best Sears can hope for is to be the guy that Justin Morneau takes over for when he is ready to become Minnesota’s first baseman for the next 10 years or so, and I think the Twins would just as soon have it be Mientkiewicz that hands over the first base duties to Morneau.

Mientkiewicz is off to a very bad start this season and, combined with his bad 2002 season and bad second-half of 2001, that means he hasn't hit in almost 2 years. If Sears stays on the team for a while, I wouldn't be shocked if he starts to gradually steal at bats from Mientkiewicz at first base. Even if he doesn't, I think he'd be a great guy to have off the bench.

The domino-effect of the Twins calling Sears up is that Justin Morneau was promoted from Double-A to Triple-A, to take Sears' spot as Triple-A Rochester's first baseman. Morneau is perhaps the Twins' top prospect (I personally have Joe Mauer rated slightly higher) and is one of the best first base prospects in all of baseball, so promoting him to Triple-A is an interesting decision.

On one hand, they obviously had a hole in their Triple-A lineup after calling up Todd Sears, which needed to be filled by someone. On the other hand, they have plenty of guys at Triple-A who could easily fill-in at first base for a while.

So, the decision to promote Morneau has me thinking two things...

1) They expect Sears to be in the big leagues for a while.

If they only expected Sears to be filling in for Hocking for a week or so, they probably would have left Morneau at Double-A.

2) Morneau is a lot closer to being the Twins' first baseman (or DH) than a lot of people, including myself, thought.

I don't think they would promote one of their best prospects to Triple-A based solely on a temporary need to have a player play first base for their Triple-A team. So, they must feel as though Morneau is deserving of the promotion, which in turn means that they feel he is awfully close to being big league-ready. I just don't see them sending Morneau back down to Double-A if/when Sears is sent back to Triple-A.

What this means for Mientkiewicz (and also Sears) is uncertain. However, what I am sure of is that, when the time comes that the Twins feel Morneau is ready to play in the majors, I can assure you that the futures of Doug Mientkiewicz and Todd Sears will have no bearing on what happens to Morneau. He is too good to let a couple of mediocre first basemen affect him at all.

Here is what I said about Morneau in my "Top 50 Prospects" article for Baseball Primer:

#11) Justin Morneau

Minnesota Twins

Age: 21

Pos: 1B

Bats: Left

Justin Morneau began his pro career as a catcher, but was quickly switched to first base, partly because of his defensive deficiencies and partly because of the hope that he would develop into an offensive force once he was out from behind the plate.

Lots of scouts have projected big power numbers for Morneau in the future, based on his sweet left-handed swing and good size, but so far the power isn’t quite there. After hitting .402 in his pro debut in rookie-ball and .356 in low-A in 2001, Morneau’s average has dropped into the .295 zone during his last 700 at bats, between A and AA.

Although he doesn’t walk a lot, he has always had a pretty nice K/BB ratio, although it deteriorated a little bit last year, when he struck out 88 times while only drawing 42 walks. Morneau’s defense is steadily improving, but there is still a lot of work to be done there.

Right now he looks like John Olerud, minus about 50 walks a year and the Gold Glove defense. If the power comes, watch out. He’ll make Twins fans forget all about Doug Mientkiewicz’s glove.

So far this year, it appears as though the power has arrived. Before his promotion to Triple-A yesterday, Morneau was hitting .329/.384/.620 with 6 homers, 3 doubles and a triple in 79 Double-A at bats.

Basically, this whole Hocking/Sears development is pretty great in my opinion. It gives Sears a chance to play, which he deserves. It improves the Twins' bench, which they need. And it allows Justin Morneau to move one step closer to being the Twins' everyday first baseman, which excites the heck out of me.

Today's picks:

Milwaukee (Franklin) +135 over Montreal (Day)

Chicago (Prior) -140 over San Francisco (Moss)

San Diego (Peavy) -110 over Pittsburgh (Wells)

Atlanta (Reynolds) -100 over Houston (Robertson)

Boston (Fossum) -190 over Kansas City (Snyder)

Total to date: + $1,145

W/L record: 53-50 (1-1 with one rainout yesterday)

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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