October 31, 2005

Q&A

I'm still hard at work on The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006, so there's nothing new here today. Luckily, those of you who are in desperate need of your daily Gleeman fix have another option ...


Seth Speaks: Q&A with Aaron Gleeman

Feel free to mock me for my various answers in the comments section.

Today at The Hardball Times:
- It's October! Let's Dig Up The Dead! (by John Brattain)

Today's Picks (132-112, +$2,065):


October 30, 2005

Trick Or Treat

I'm busy putting the finishing touches on The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006 (although not nearly as busy as Dave Studeman, who is working like a mad man), so blogging is light today and may be light this whole week. Or not, I can never be sure.

A few very quick notes ...

  • I'm not normally a big fan of sub-titled movies, but I watched Maria Full of Grace this weekend and really enjoyed it. While the story wasn't exactly packed with action it moved quickly enough to keep my attention, and I thought the acting was excellent. Plus, the lead actress, Catalina Sandino Moreno, is right up my alley. I give it a 7.5 out of 10, and I fancy myself a tough movie critic.
  • The AG.com Fantasy Basketball League drafted yesterday morning. I picked ninth, continuing my remarkable lifelong streak of never picking first in any league, regardless of sport. I ended up with Tracy McGrady, which probably isn't the worst thing in the world. Here's my whole roster:
    Tracy McGrady         Donyell Marshall      Mike James
    Vince Carter Samuel Dalembert Joel Przybilla
    Manu Ginobili Josh Smith Deron Williams
    Lamar Odom Al Jefferson Raja Bell

    Keep in mind that it's a 12-team league, so the roster is stronger than it looks. My basic strategy was to take young players and focus on guys who do a lot of things fairly well, rather than guys who are great in a category or two but lacking in others. For the most part I followed the plan, ending up with a very young roster and a bunch of players who contribute in just about every category.

    Still, I'm not thrilled with my team. The Samuel Dalembert pick was a dumb one, as I'm not all that high on him and he's out for at least two weeks with an injury. For some reason I strayed from my plan and went after blocks, when I could have grabbed a player I liked a lot more in that spot. I've found that about 90% of winning in fantasy basketball has to do with in-season moves, so I'm not too worried.

  • I turned the Vikings game off in the third quarter, just because I couldn't take it any longer. It was bad enough that they played like crap yet again, but watching Daunte Culpepper go down with what is likely a season-ending knee injury was too much to handle. Plus, he's on my fantasy football team, so I'm now without my "stud" QB.

    Also, watching Fred Smoot get absolutely torched by Steve Smith while trash talking the whole time was pathetic. It is the second time this year that Smoot has shot his mouth off, either to the media or on the field, and then been lit up by a receiver. First it was Chad Johnson, who went for 139 yards and a touchdown on seven catches. And yesterday Smith racked up 201 yards and a score on 11 catches.

    Smith dominated Smoot like I've rarely seen a wide receiver dominate a cornerback, beating him deep several times, running over him after catching short passes, and drawing several penalties. I don't mind athletes who run their mouths -- in fact, I typically enjoy it -- but when a guy does so and is consistently made to look silly, it's embarrassing.

  • Finally, if Culpepper is indeed done for the year, the Vikings will be better off losing all of their remaining games. The NFC North is horrible, but the Vikings' chances with Brad Johnson at the helm are very slim. Going 3-13 or 4-12 would guarantee them a top-five pick, which would give them a shot at Reggie Bush, LenDale White or Laurence Maroney.
  • Today at The Hardball Times:
    - But for This ... (by Dan Fox)
    - I Can See Your House From Here: 2005 World Series TV Ratings (by Maury Brown)

    Today's Picks (132-111, +$2,175):
    Pittsburgh -11.5 (-110) over Baltimore


    October 27, 2005

    Link-O-Rama

  • Seth Stohs has had a lot of good stuff lately over at his blog, Seth Speaks, including an interview with MLB.com Twins beat writer Mark Sheldon the other day. In addition to saying "I read Aaron Gleeman's stuff a lot" when asked about Twins blogs, Sheldon had some interesting thoughts on the Twins as they begin preparing for 2006. I won't ruin it by revealing too much here, but I did want to comment on one of the things Sheldon said:
    SethSpeaks: Specifically, would Ron Gardenhire look at things like, lefty-righty splits? It would appear that he doesn't as he continued to play Jacque Jones against lefties and Matthew LeCroy against righties?

    Mark Sheldon: I know for a fact that he does often look at splits because he's mentioned that in his reasoning for why he might pinch-hit a guy in one situation or start another guy in a game. But there are obviously variations. Not everything a manager decides can always be by the numbers. Personalities often come into play too. With the exception of this year, Jones had shown improved numbers vs. lefties since earlier in his career. Some of that came from having his manager's confidence and knowing he would play every day.

    While Sheldon's statement about Jacque Jones improving against lefties "with the exception of this year" is technically true, I found it very misleading.

    JACQUE JONES VS. LEFTIES

    YEAR AVG OBP SLG OPS
    1999 .222 .231 .361 .592
    2000 .230 .269 .297 .567
    2001 .182 .224 .200 .424
    2002 .213 .259 .331 .590
    2003 .269 .310 .393 .703
    2004 .245 .328 .329 .657
    2005 .201 .247 .370 .617

    CAREER .227 .277 .339 .616

    I don't mean to pick on Sheldon here, because he does an excellent job covering the Twins and has been very friendly to me in our correspondence. With that said, this is the sort of thinking I wish more local media members would avoid. Yes, if you ignore his horrible numbers against lefties this season, as Sheldon suggests, then Jones has shown some minimal improvement against lefties "since earlier in his career."

    However, does saying that Jones' limited improvement "came from having his manager's confidence and knowing he would play every day" have any real value analytically when we're still talking about a guy who narrowly cracked a .700 OPS against lefties once, back in 2003? I would think that an objective look at Jones' numbers would lead to a conclusion more along the lines of "Jones has been given everyday playing time and still hasn't learned to hit lefties acceptably."

    Now, this was just an off-the-cuff remark said in a very informal interview. Still, it is ideas like the one Sheldon expressed -- that Ron Gardenhire sticking with Jones every day has somehow paid off -- that really bugs me. We need the intelligent, thoughtful, open-minded members of the local media like Sheldon and Minneapolis Star Tribune beat writer LaVelle E. Neal challenging ideas like that, rather than perpetuating them.

    And yes, I sure do have a funny way of thanking someone for saying something nice about my blog.

  • The Twins have a new hitting coach and his name is Joe Vavra. I expect to have more thoughts on this next week, but the short version is that while very few Twins fans have ever heard Vavra's name before, the good news is that it's not "Scott Ullger."
  • In addition to the White Sox beating up the Astros on the field during the World Series, the White Sox's fans also beat up the Astros' wives in the stands. First-base coaches, umpires, wives ... Chicago takes on all comers.
  • On the other hand, Chicago's manager, Ozzie Guillen, is more of a lover than a fighter.
  • Former Gophers running back Marion Barber III is making a name for himself with the Cowboys. Barber, who was a fourth-round pick, rushed for 95 yards on 22 carries while subbing for the injured Julius Jones last week and is expected to start in place of Jones again Sunday. I always thought Barber had a chance to be a solid NFL running back, so it's nice to see him getting a chance despite being drafted by a team with a young starter like Jones.
  • I'm a big Michael Vick fan and I think the growing sentiment that he is the NFL's most overrated player is ridiculous. Yes, he is a poor passer and makes more than his fair share of poor decisions. However, as I always preach here when it comes to evaluating baseball players, you have to focus on what a player can do, rather than what he can't. Vick makes an extraordinary number of plays with his legs, which many people seem willing to dismiss simply because he plays quarterback.

    It's as if the fact that he ran for 902 yards last year and is on pace for 805 yards this year doesn't count. Vick's career quarterback rating is a mediocre 75.3, but if you take an average quarterback and then add on the ability to rush for nearly 1,000 yards a season while chewing up 6-7 yards per carry, doesn't that equal a very good player? He doesn't derive his value in a standard way, but it's still there.

    As you might expect, Vick's coach, Jim Mora, agrees with me:

    I think it's unfortunate that people always put him in a mold. Let him be him. He's a quarterback. He's a great quarterback. ... When are we going to start talking about when Peyton Manning is going to start doing what Mike Vick does? Let's flip it. The guy wins games, and that's the role of a quarterback, to win games. ... I don't know why people are so narrow-minded that they can't understand why the guy is a great player.

    I believe that running quarterbacks have an impact on the game that is not accurately measured by traditional stats or even accounted for in the outstanding work the guys over at Football Outsiders are doing with sabermetric-style analysis. And at the risk of sounding like a Derek Jeter fan, Vick must be doing something right because the Falcons keep winning.

    In fact, here's a stat to chew on: When Vick starts, the Falcons are 28-13-1, for a .678 winning percentage. Over that same span when Vick doesn't start, the Falcons are 9-20, for a .310 winning percentage. The guy has won nearly 70% of his career starts, including going 16-5 over the last two seasons, and yet people act as if he's Bobby Douglass.

  • I'm not generally for siding with the French, but it's possible that Jean Van de Velde has some sort of a point. If women can qualify for men's golf tournaments, why can't men qualify for women's events? And for those of you who are going to point out that the PGA Tour isn't specifically for men, I'd like to ask why women are allowed to have a tour solely for them if the opposite isn't true?
  • As long as I'm trolling for angry e-mails with subjects like "YOU'RE A PIG!" ... I had a difficult time deciding which piece of WNBA news I cared less about this week, the Minnesota Lynx winning the draft lottery or Sheryl Swoopes coming out as a lesbian. A team I don't watch winning the right to draft a player I have never heard of? Or a player I have a passing knowledge of revealing that she, like much of the league's fan base, is attracted to the same sex?
  • Speaking of being attracted to women, The Week in Waffle Crappers:

    * It's difficult to admit this, but there was a time when I favored Britney Spears over Christina Aguilera. That sounds crazy now, with Britney spitting out kids and generally aging slightly worse than Terrell Davis, but there was a period when Christina was not looking her best and Britney was still in her prime. However, Britney has had her Waffle Crapping privileges rescinded until further notice, while Christina is now looking better than ever.

    * I liked Avril Lavigne a lot better when she didn't look like Nicole Kidman. And not the old-school, Waffle Crapping-version of Kidman, either.

    * I'm not sure how they did it, but Arena magazine managed to make Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com, Elisha Cuthbert, look less than incredible.

  • For those of you who are finally ready to embrace football now that baseball is done for the year, here are the links to my Football Daily Dose columns over at FoxSports.com this week: Tuesday ... Wednesday ... Thursday.
  • Today at The Hardball Times:
    - And Then There Was One (by Dan Fox)
    - World Series WPA Leaderboard (by Dave Studeman)

    Today's Picks (131-110, +$2,185):
    Colorado State +6.5 (-110) over New Mexico


    October 26, 2005

    Another Season in the Books

    Congratulations to the Chicago White Sox and their fans.


    Aside from the Yankees, there is no team in baseball I root against harder than the White Sox, but they are deserving champions. Not only did they play well all season, sprinting out of the gates and holding on to their division lead in the face of a late-season charge from the Indians, they did so despite almost no one giving them a chance prior to the season.

    Hell, I predicted Chicago would finish third in the division, and all they did was win an AL-leading 99 games, go 11-1 in the postseason, and take home the franchise's first World Series since 1917. General manager Kenny Williams deserves credit for going into the offseason with a plan to overhaul the roster, following through with that plan, and having it work to perfection. And manager Ozzie Guillen deserves credit for pulling the right strings all season long.

    In watching the Astros get completely shut down by the White Sox for the final 15 innings of the World Series, I couldn't help but think of the Twins. The Twins' disappointing season was defined by a punchless offense that couldn't support an outstanding pitching staff, and in particular a frustrating inability to come up with hits in key spots.

    In the end the Astros, like the Twins, had plenty of pitching but simply couldn't put any runs on the board when it mattered. Meanwhile, the White Sox had pitching as good as any team in baseball and were able to get hits to drop when they needed them most. While the thought of the Twins competing with the reigning champs and the rapidly improving Indians in 2006 is intimidating, watching the White Sox blitz through the postseason in the manner they did does give me some hope.


    I see no reason why the Twins can't become the same type of team, with great pitching and timely hitting. That feels odd to say, since for several years it was the Twins that other teams were trying to emulate, but certainly the 2005 White Sox are the model the Twins should be shooting for going forward.

    Chicago won this season because they pitched and played defense, and their lineup provided enough offense to win close games. The difference between the disappointing season the Twins had in 2005 and a Chicago-like run in 2006 is really not all that huge. While watching another AL Central team take home the championship was disappointing, watching how they did it was encouraging.

    Today begins an offseason of uncertainty and change for the Twins. I have confidence that the team will be better in 2006, but the question is whether or not their improvement will be enough to get them into the playoffs. And from there, the question is whether or not they will get the hits to drop and make the plays in the spots that matter.

    Chicago did just that and now their fans -- and the following outstanding White Sox blogs -- are celebrating:

    - South Side Sox
    - Exile in Wrigleyville
    - Black Betsy

    Go check em out. It's been a long time coming.

    Today at The Hardball Times:
    - A Pennant Flies in Chicago (by Dave Studeman)

    Today's Picks (130-110, +$2,085):
    Virginia Tech -13.5 (-110) over Boston College


    October 24, 2005

    Almost Famous

    I had an odd experience Friday afternoon. There was a message on my answering machine from Minneapolis Star Tribune gossip columnist C.J., who apparently had her interest piqued by the A.J. Pierzynski photos I linked to in Friday's Link-O-Rama entry. She asked me to call her back, saying she wanted to confirm if the photos of a man doing jello shots with various women were, in fact, of Pierzynski.

    I didn't call her back, mostly because I have absolutely nothing to do with the pictures beyond linking to them here. In fact, I purposely didn't comment much on the link. Plus, me being quoted in the gossip column of a newspaper I've been criticizing here lately for a lack of quality content seemed sort of silly and hypocritical.

    Anyway, C.J. and her column went on without my involvement (shocking, I know). Here's some of what she wrote about the pictures in yesterday's Star Tribune:

    Type "A.J." and/or "Pierzynski" and "jello shots" into some search engines and up come photos of some party animals, one of whom looks a whoooole lot like the former Twin now with the World Series' Chicago White Sox.

    [...]

    There's "A.J." hamming it up with a Jell-O shot in his left hand; "Mel," with her right arm twined through his left arm and her right index finger in her mouth, presumably tasting the topping in her left hand. There's also a photo of "A.J." with his tongue hanging out, while "Melz" leans in on his left.

    [...]

    "Oh, that's definitely A.J. Pierzynski," said Dave Rogge. "I've seen him several times in person. I know that's him." Rogge, webmaster for a health care consulting company, called my attention to the photos that are apparently being enjoyed by bloggers in the Twin Cities and elsewhere.

    I don't really have a problem with C.J. writing about the pictures, but I'd just like to point out how much more attention the Minneapolis Star Tribune gave this "story" than this lowly blog did. I devoted 24 words to it Friday, while the Star Tribune devoted 375 words to it yesterday. Take from that what you want, but as someone who has had an ass-full of blog-bashing by members of the mainstream media, I found it interesting.

    * * * * * * * * * *

    Speaking of blogs, apparently AaronGleeman.com is worth $70,002.96. To whom it is worth that much and how exactly that figure was derived is beyond me, but I'll take it. Also, The Hardball Times is worth even more, at $180,088.26. All of which means I am suddenly fairly wealthy in the fantasy world where people are paying thousands of dollars for websites I run. I plan to spend my pretend money on lots of pretend luxuries, like really expensive imaginary cars, invisible flat-screen TVs, and vacations to places that don't exist.

    Today's Picks (128-110, +$1,820):
    Chicago (Garland) +165 over Houston (Oswalt)

    Wednesday's Picks:
    Chicago (Garcia) -130 over Houston (Backe)


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