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