April 25, 2006

Rosen's Sports Sunday (and Twins Notes)

A piece about me aired on Rosen's Sports Sunday over the weekend on the local CBS affiliate. I was hoping to have some video of the segment to link to, but unfortunately I've been told by WCCO that they are unable to post footage online because they "are under restrictions by Major League Baseball." That doesn't really make much sense to me, but it's probably not worth getting worked up over.

They came to my house several weeks ago and shot about an hour of footage, with me talking non-stop for at least half that time, yet the entire segment was about 45 seconds long. As with the story in Sports Illustrated and the piece on Channel 5 Eyewitness News earlier this month, the main focus was that I often write in bed. I'm not sure why that fascinates the mainstream media so much, but apparently it's the only thing worth covering when it comes to me.

Mark Rosen introduced the segment by making a weird face while he called me "a blogger who writes from his bedroom." And then the actual piece showed footage of me working on my laptop while sitting in bed, and had a few soundbites of me talking about blogging interspersed with clips of the Twins. Once it was over Rosen talked about how he now has a blog of his own on WCCO.com, and then they showed a 10-second clip of me giving him pointers on blogging.

I don't mean to complain, since it's flattering to be featured on TV, but I'm sort of amazed by how little actual substance ends up in these things. Not only was it incredibly short and failed to go into anything really meaningful, they cut out all of my one-liners about Sid Hartman and Ron Gardenhire. While you sadly can't watch the footage to judge the piece's quality for yourself, WCCO was kind enough to post a transcript online.

The highlight of the experience was the fact that Rosen's in-studio guest Sunday night was none other than Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Jim "Shecky" Souhan, whose lame attempts at hacky humor I've been known to criticize here. I'm not sure how familiar Souhan is with this blog, but I'm fairly certain that he's not a big fan of mine. It was amusing to know that he had to sit through a taped piece about me and then probably ripped me to Rosen during the commercial break.

While I wait for the Twin Cities' NBC affiliate to contact me for a fluff piece to complete my local TV trifecta, here are some Twins notes ...

  • The St. Petersburg Times had an article last week about hitters working the count that included the following:
    Hitting styles vary, and working the count isn't for everyone. "I don't have time for that," Twins center fielder Torii Hunter said. "I'm more aggressive. I just hack. If I went up there and was patient, I wouldn't be the guy I am."

    But his teammate, leadoff man and left fielder Shannon Stewart, gets plenty of kudos for his knack at running up the count.

    "I can't get a hit every time," said Stewart, a career .300 hitter in 11 seasons. "So the next best thing for me is to walk. I try to work a pitcher. You go up there and take a couple of pitches and go deep in the count and it helps the other hitters out, too. They're all watching to see what the guy's got."

    It's a shame that Torii Hunter feels that way, because his lack discipline at the plate has kept him from becoming a great player. He has power and speed, and plays outstanding defense at a key position, but has never drawn more than 50 walks in a season and strikes out about 20 percent of the time. While Hunter is right when he says that he wouldn't be the same guy if he "went up there and was patient," I wonder if he ever considered that the new guy might actually be a better hitter.

    Shannon Stewart's quote makes more sense, although it's odd that Stewart is often credited with being incredibly patient. From the moment the Twins traded for him everyone talked about Stewart as if he was a walking machine, even giving him credit for making the hitters around him more patient. That sounds good, of course, but it's not actually true.

    While nowhere near the hacker that Hunter is, Stewart has drawn just 102 non-intentional walks in 1,394 plate appearances with the Twins. Over that same span the American League as a whole has averaged 101 non-intentional walks per 1,394 plate appearances. In other words, Stewart walks at almost exactly an average rate. Just one more reason not to automatically trust everything that comes out of Dick Bremer's mouth.

  • Speaking of Twins hitters and plate discipline, here's an amusing quote from Jacque Jones, who is off to a slow start with the Cubs:
    They're trying to walk me, bottom line. They're throwing everything in off the plate, trying to walk me. They're just not throwing strikes, and I'm not letting them walk me.

    Jones, like Hunter, has always been a hacker. He fails to understand that pitchers aren't trying to walk him--Jones is far from a dangerous hitter at this point--but rather realize that he'll chase crappy pitches outside of the strike zone, eliminating the need to consistently throw him strikes.

    Jones also complained about the fans in Chicago booing him:

    I'm angry right now, you know what I mean? ... I've seen friends go through it. Sammy Sosa hit 60 home runs three years in a row, went into a little slump and hey, like I said earlier, they have a right to voice whatever opinion they want to voice. But it's not going to make me play any better.

    [...]

    I'm just getting used to it. Where I came from, they were passionate about baseball. We probably didn't draw as many [in Minnesota], but they were there through thick and thin. [The booing] is something I've got to get used to. I'm blocking it out as much as I can.

    As I've said before, I think fans booing a player on their own team is silly, particularly when he's been on the team for all of three weeks. As Jones said, the booing isn't going to make him play any better and as far as I know no one is accusing him of not trying.

  • With each passing game I become less convinced that Justin Morneau will ever become a star. Yes, he has huge power. And yes, he's still just 25 years old. However, his approach at the plate has not improved one bit in four seasons, and the case could be made that he's actually regressed in how he approaches an at-bat. He wouldn't be the first young Twins hitter who failed to develop at the big-league level.

    Morneau now swings at just about everything (notice a pattern?), yet he doesn't make consistent contact and too often gives the pitcher an easy out because he's over-aggressive and pull-happy. After going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts against a mediocre right-handed pitcher who he should have feasted on last night, Morneau has now gone 18 straight at-bats without a hit and is down to .203/.257/.391 on the year.

    Since June 1 of last season, this is what Morneau's combined numbers look like:

      G      AB      AVG      OBP      SLG     2B     HR     BB     SO
    123 428 .217 .285 .399 17 19 37 88

    That's ugly, and it gets even worse once you account for seven of those 37 walks being intentional. In three-fourths of a full season, Morneau has barely stayed above the Mendoza Line while making an out 72 percent of the time and slugging below .400. That wouldn't be good production from a shortstop; from a slugging first baseman it's simply awful.

    For once I'd like to see a young Twins hitter come up to the majors, do well early on, and then build upon that success by developing his skills further in future seasons. You wouldn't think it'd be all that much to ask for, yet when was the last time it happened? Who was the last young hitter to do well early on--like Morneau did, hitting .271/.340/.536 in 2004--and then steadily develop into an even better and more complete offensive player?

    After some early success Twins hitters--Hunter, Jones, A.J. Pierzynski, Corey Koskie, Luis Rivas, Cristian Guzman, Doug Mientkiewicz, Matthew LeCroy, Michael Cuddyer--have either stagnated or regressed. Aside from David Ortiz once he got away from the Twins' coaching, no one has added considerable plate discipline or developed significant power, and no left-handed hitters learned to handle southpaw pitching. At this point I'd take some stagnation from Morneau, because he appears to be going downhill fast.

  • Here's an interesting tidbit pointed out by someone in the comments section Monday: The Twins' defense has committed the fewest errors in the league, but rank dead last in Defensive Efficiency Ratio. Considering the pitching staff's struggles to keep runs off the board, which stat do you think is more telling when judging a defense? I'll give you a hint: It isn't the one constantly quoted by fans and the media.
  • I saw this headline on the front page of the Star Tribune's website the other day and got really scared: "Hunter seriously injured in attack." Then I clicked on the story and started reading:
    A hunter mauled by a black bear had been chasing the animal on private timberland when the animal turned the tables on its pursuers, officials said.

    Phew.



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