October 24, 2008

Link-O-Rama

For some unknown reason my typical bucket full of links isn't overflowing as much as usual this week, so today's Link-O-Rama is embarrassingly light. However, hopefully the higher-than-usual percentage of Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com-related content will help make up for the overall lack of links ...

  • Were any AG.com readers in Foxboro, Massachusetts earlier this week?
  • I'm scheduled to be a guest on Seth Stohs' highly enjoyable podcast one of these weeks, but in the meantime he chatted with Pat Neshek, who's making his way back from a season-ending injury that wrecked the Twins' bullpen. Given that he appears on bloggers' podcasts and runs a blog of his own, it probably shouldn't be surprising that Neshek recently updated the media on his progress via e-mail.
  • Speaking of Seth, it looks like his blog will welcome its one millionth visitor today. Congrats!
  • The following 123 seconds of video goodness comes courtesy of retired Twins blogger and friend of AG.com Will Young, who told me: "This better make your Link-O-Rama." Yes, sir:


    Seriously though, it's just like a mini-mall.
  • Craig Calcaterra recently passed along an interesting note involving the Twins:
    All four of the 90s expansion teams--Marlins, Rockies, Diamondbacks, and Rays--have won a pennant. Teams that have not won a pennant during those clubs' existence: Orioles, Twins, Royals, Rangers, A's, Mariners, Nats/Expos, Cubs, Brewers, Reds, Pirates, Dodgers.

    As someone born in 1983 winning championships in 1987 and 1991 has always struck me as "recent" success, so it's really odd to think that much of Minnesota's next graduating high-school class weren't even alive for the Twins' last World Series appearance.

  • Moneyball was an excellent book, but the story of a numbers-crunching general manager and his various undervalued players seemingly doesn't exactly lend itself to the big screen.
  • Taking photos of Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com runner-up Marisa Miller in a bikini is such a simple, oft-repeated concept, yet somehow the idea never gets stale.
  • Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com fourth runner-up Mila Kunis' recent Jimmy Kimmel Live appearance included her looking exceptionally fetching, talking about baseball, telling a story about her screaming obscenities at Rafael Furcal during his three-error playoff game last week, and going into heavy detail about her video-game obsession:


    In other words, it may have been the greatest segment in the history of late-night television.
  • Miller is showing no signs of slowing down and Kunis has had a Cliff Lee-like breakout year, but the reigning OFGoAG.com title-holder appears to be in a slump. I'm available as a slump-buster.
  • Phil Mackey of KFAN has amped up his blogging lately and was nice enough to co-host a few radio shows with me in the past, so go check out his site.
  • Speaking of KFAN, perhaps it's due to me bumping into him in the hallway on Friday mornings or the fact that several local media outlets initially misreported key aspects of his case, but I've found myself feeling very sorry for Jeff Dubay considering the huge amount of coverage given to his recent arrest.

    UPDATE: According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, KFAN has fired Dubay. The newspaper notes that producer Justin Gaard, who recently wasted a Saturday afternoon watching college football and eating frozen pizzas with me, "would be a leading candidate" to replace Dubay as Paul Allen's new co-host.

  • Lori Loughlin would have been a leading Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com candidate if this blog were around in, say, 1998, and amazingly she's still making a pretty convincing case a decade later.
  • If you missed the entries the first time around or are new here, check out yesterday's breakdown of a potential (or maybe not) Delmon Young-for-Matt Cain trade, the transcript from my weekly chat session, and Monday's collection of random Twins notes.
  • Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is Anthony Hamilton doing a live, concert-ending version of "Comin' From Where I'm From":


  • Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

    October 22, 2008

    Young for Cain?

    Last week both Sid Hartman and Charley Walters had notes in their columns about the Twins likely shopping Delmon Young this offseason, which is a coincidence that led me to speculate that "you can be fairly certain that information is purposely being made public by someone from the Twins." Walters specifically mentioned that San Francisco might be interested in Young and Giants beat writer Chris Haft addressed a question on MLB.com this week about the team's potential pursuit of Young:
    My understanding is that the Twins covet [Matt] Cain and would be willing to relinquish Young for him. But it's unlikely that the Giants would make that deal, one for one.

    Not so long ago the Giants sent Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser to the Twins for one season of A.J. Pierzynski, but even considering that expecting them to give up Matt Cain for Young is a bit much. Young starting pitching is pretty far down on the list of things the Twins need at this point and Cain's career record is an underwhelming 30-43, but his wins and losses are misleading due to horrid run support and if he can be had for a package built around Young they should jump at the deal.

    Cain is a 24-year-old former first-round pick who's logged 190-plus innings in each of his first three full seasons in the majors and sports a 3.74 career ERA. His average fastball clocked in at 92.4 miles per hour this season, which ranked as the eighth-fastest in the NL, and he's racked up 7.7 strikeouts per nine innings for his career. He's one of the best, most promising young pitchers in baseball, but may be undervalued after going 7-16 and 8-14 over the past two seasons (with ERAs of 3.65 and 3.74).

    Of course, he's not without flaws. Cain's arm already has a ton of mileage on it thanks to debuting as a 20-year-old and being allowed to rack up huge pitch counts since. He topped the 100-pitch mark in 18 of his final 21 starts this year, threw at least 110 pitches a total of 15 times, and had a 126-pitch outing and a 125-pitch outing within a 10-day span in August. Cain has thrown significantly more pitches than he would have as a member of the Twins and is certainly a candidate for future arm problems.

    He'll also already be arbitration eligible this winter for the first time, which means that he's beginning to get expensive and has just three seasons remaining until free agency. In other words, in terms of past workload and future cost he's not a typical 24-year-old. Unfortunately, one area where Cain is a typical 24-year-old is control. He's walked 87, 79, and 91 batters in three full seasons in the Giants' rotation, and each of those three walk totals would have been the highest for any Twins pitcher since 1996.

    In fact, during seven seasons with Ron Gardenhire as manager and Rick Anderson as pitching coach a Twins pitcher has walked as many as even 55 batters a grand total of just three times (twice for Kyle Lohse and once for Bonser). Twins starters simply don't walk anyone, which seemingly makes Cain a poor fit. On the other hand, he turned 24 years old two weeks ago and if Anderson can somehow mold him into another strike-throwing machine Cain has the raw stuff to be pretty special.

    Parting with Matt Garza (and Jason Bartlett) to get Young from the Rays last winter immediately struck me as a mistake, and gradually the early results from the trade have convinced many fans and media members to join me in that belief. Unfortunately his value is likely much lower now than it was when the Twins paid a premium to acquire him less than a year ago, and certainly as a 23-year-old former No. 1 overall pick with a .292/.326/.413 hitting line in 344 career games he's not without potential.

    However, if the Twins can get their hands on an asset like Cain is exchange for a package built around Young it should be a no-brainer. In fact, in some ways it would reverse the mistake made by dealing Garza while simultaneously lessening the current outfield/designated hitter logjam that has four spots available for Young, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, Denard Span, and Carlos Gomez. Acquiring Cain might create a similar logjam for the rotation, but my guess is that wouldn't be an issue.

    Haft's speculation that the Giants wouldn't trade Cain for Young straight up seems fairly obvious and is likely an understatement, so making the deal might require packaging Nick Blackburn or Glen Perkins with Young for Cain and a lesser player. Those scenarios make it a much less appealing deal for the Twins, but that's still a trade they should consider. Perkins and Blackburn are both solid, inexpensive starters, but they're also both several years older than Cain and have relatively limited upsides.

    Ideally the Twins could hold onto Young, keep the rotation intact, lessen the outfield logjam, and still be able to address other needs by trading Cuddyer, but between his age, contract, injuries, and declining performance that may be a tough sell. Dealing Young is the next-best option, and unlike Cuddyer his trade value may still be high enough to fetch a nice return. Similarly, they have enough rotation depth to part with Perkins or Blackburn if that's what it takes to turn Young into a better building block like Cain.

    The lack of speculation about specific trade rumors in this space is intentional and reversing that trend now based on one-liners from Hartman, Walters, and a Q&A session on MLB.com makes me feel sort of silly. However, the larger point is that the Twins appear willing to part with Young after just one year and likely still have the ability to turn him into a player with star potential if they're amenable to giving up Perkins or Blackburn as well.

    That may mean going after a young middle infielder or a power-hitting third baseman instead of Cain, but whatever the case the Twins are in a position to turn outfield and rotation depth into a meaningful upgrade elsewhere. Given the Twins' poor choices in free agency trades become hugely important, so whether Cain is the target or someone else is now on the team's radar hopefully general manager Bill Smith's next big deal produces better immediate results than his first two blockbuster swaps.


    Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

    October 21, 2008

    AG.com Live Chat Today at Noon

    Today will be AG.com live chat No. 5, so you probably know the drill by now. Doors open 15-20 minutes before noon and I'll answer questions on any topic for as long as they keep rolling in.

    Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

    October 19, 2008

    Twins Notes: Redmond, Batting Titles, Rumors, and Knapp

  • General manager Bill Smith was forced to make several huge decisions almost immediately after taking over for Terry Ryan last year, but his second offseason on the job began with a no-brainer, as the Twins picked up the $950,000 option on Mike Redmond for 2009. Not only was the price right, as a good defensive catcher and right-handed hitter who's said to be a vocal leader in a clubhouse where the stars reportedly aren't very outspoken, Redmond is essentially the perfect backup for Joe Mauer.

    Mauer had a career-best performance versus left-handed pitching this year, faring much better against lefties than he did against righties, but that's the result of random chance and a small sample of plate appearances. Nearly all left-handed hitters are significantly worse against left-handed pitchers over the long haul, and even including his 205 plate appearances against southpaws this year that's certainly been true of Mauer during his career:

                  PA      AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS
    vs RHP 1626 .326 .417 .493 .910
    vs LHP 762 .300 .361 .383 .744

    Mauer is obviously a good enough hitter that he warrants being in the lineup regardless of the pitcher's handedness, but catchers need regular days off and over his career he's been about 18 percent worse against lefties. Redmond was actually better against righties than lefties in an even smaller sample of plate appearances this year, but like Mauer he's been far better against opposite-handed pitchers over his 11-season career:

                  PA      AVG      OBP      SLG      OPS
    vs RHP 1479 .273 .329 .332 .660
    vs LHP 809 .327 .382 .426 .809

    Redmond has been 23 percent better versus lefties over his career, including 32 percent better during the past three seasons. In four years with the Twins he's hit .308/.347/.372 overall and thrown out 37 percent of steal attempts while never complaining about averaging just 182 plate appearances per season playing behind Mauer. There's tremendous risk of decline with any 37-year-old catcher, but for a one-season commitment Redmond is a perfect fit on the Twins' payroll and roster.

    Thanks to the ideal combination of Mauer and Redmond, the Twins have ranked first, fourth, first, and third among AL teams in OPS from the catcher spot over the past four seasons.

  • Not only is Mauer the only catcher in AL history to win the batting title, doing it twice in three seasons at the age of 25, the Twins have accounted for a remarkable 13 batting titles in 48 years of existence:
                          YEAR      AVG
    Tony Oliva 1964 .323
    Tony Oliva 1965 .321
    Rod Carew 1969 .332
    Tony Oliva 1971 .337
    Rod Carew 1972 .318
    Rod Carew 1973 .350
    Rod Carew 1974 .364
    Rod Carew 1975 .359
    Rod Carew 1977 .388
    Rod Carew 1978 .333
    Kirby Puckett 1989 .339
    Joe Mauer 2006 .347
    Joe Mauer 2008 .328

    Over the 15 seasons from 1964 to 1978, Rod Carew and Tony Oliva combined to win 10 batting titles, including six in seven years from Carew. Not surprisingly Carew is the Twins' all-time leader in batting average at .334, followed by Kirby Puckett (.318) and Mauer (.317). No. 4 on the list may surprise you.

  • When both Sid Hartman and Charley Walters have notes about Delmon Young being on the trading block within the same week, you can be fairly certain that information is purposely being made public by someone from the Twins. First, here's Hartman:
    The Twins won't talk about it, but it's expected that Delmon Young, the left fielder they obtained from Tampa Bay before this past season, will be made available on the trade market.

    Right, so "the Twins won't talk about it," but the 88-year-old columnist who serves as a mouthpiece for every team in the state has the inside scoop. Meanwhile, here's Walters:

    It wouldn't be surprising if the Twins have trade talks about moving outfielder Delmon Young to the San Francisco Giants, from whom they acquired pitchers Joe Nathan and Francisco Liriano. The Giants' leading home run hitter this season was catcher Bengie Molina with 16.

    Oh, to be a "journalist" and write stuff like "it wouldn't be surprising if" before throwing a random rumor against the wall. Amusingly, Walters mentions Bengie Molina leading the Giants with 16 homers as if Young's arrival would change that, except that he hit 10 homers this year. My take was that the Twins vastly overrated Young's potential long before that become a relatively popular opinion and dealing him now would alleviate the outfield logjam, so hopefully some teams still have a rosy view of his upside.

  • Speaking of last offseason's the regrettable Young trade, Matt Garza pitched the Rays into the World Series last night and was named MVP of the ALCS.
  • So far this offseason the Twins are 1-for-2 keeping key non-player personnel from jumping to other organizations. Longtime scouting director and current vice president of player personnel Mike Radcliff recently turned down the chance to interview for the Mariners' vacant general manager gig, but after a dozen years as the Twins' minor league pitching coordinator Rick Knapp has been hired as the Tigers' new pitching coach. According to the Associated Press:
    Knapp has drawn plenty of praise from the Twins organization over the years for his work with several prospects. He was instrumental in helping Nick Blackburn overcome a knee problem, weight gain and confidence loss to rise through the system and land a spot in the Twins’ rotation this spring.

    It's tough to say how much of a loss Knapp represents considering how little media coverage is given to the non-MLB members of the organization, but certainly during his decade-plus on the job the Twins have had tremendous success developing young pitchers. Hopefully his departure follows the same script as longtime assistant general manager Wayne Krivsky's exit a few years ago, because the last thing the Twins need is to lose an important piece of their system while making the Tigers stronger.

  • In reviewing the year's top international free-agent signings, Baseball America reports that the Twins signed a pair intriguing players in 16-year-old Australian third baseman Rory Rhodes and 19-year-old South Korean first baseman Kyun Kang. According to BA, "the 6-foot-7, 200-pound Rhodes ... has plus power to all fields from the right side" and received "the second-highest bonus for an Australian player this year" at $220,000.

    To put Rhodes' bonus in some context this year's fourth-round pick, Danny Ortiz, signed for $253,000. BA notes that Kang "signed for a low six-figure bonus" and calls him "a 6-foot-1, 202-pound lefty-hitting first baseman" with "a fluid swing and a chance to have above-average power." Internationally signed teenagers are impossible to project and the Twins sadly lag behind other teams in foreign spending, but given the system-wide lack of impact bats Rhodes and Kang at least sound like interesting players.

  • In recapping the Red Sox's victory over the Angels in the ALDS, Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan wrote the following about Torii Hunter:
    However, what's up with the Angels? ... Hunter has seven Gold Gloves cluttering up his mantel, but he allowed a very routine fly ball off the bat of Kotsay to bounce off his glove two nights later. That stuff never happened when he was with the Twins.

    Obviously "that stuff never happened when he was with the Twins," because as every Twins fan knows when it came playoff time Hunter never made big, game-changing mistakes defensively. Some things never change and the emperor is still making that whole no-clothes look work for him.

  • For all the talk of "small ball" and "doing the little things," the Minneapolis Star Tribune notes that "the Twins lost a major league-leading five 1-0 games this season."

  • Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

    October 16, 2008

    Link-O-Rama

  • You'd probably freak out like this too if your dad just got knocked out by this guy.
  • George Costanza was lord of the idiots and not much of a latex salesman, but evidence suggests that the "short, stocky, slow-witted bald man" was one of his generation's greatest overachievers.
  • Not only is The Big Lebowski a great movie, it contains an impressive number of life lessons.
  • Shockingly, Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com fourth runner-up Mila Kunis looks great in magazines and on red carpets. She also revealed recently that she's addicted to video games and is "a true, true fan of Office Space," both of which bring her closer to being the perfect woman.
  • Over at MinnPost, my colleague David Brauer penned a nice piece about why labels like "journalist" and "blogger" are becoming increasingly pointless.
  • One glance at this list may have been enough to stop me from being expelled from Hebrew school.
  • Sure, a 5,000-word profile in New York Magazine is very impressive, but when it comes to Baseball Prospectus boss Nate Silver's foray into politics nothing will beat five minutes with Stephen Colbert:


    Those jet packs in 2036 are going to be awesome.
  • As the St. Louis Post Dispatch notes, since taking over as general manager last year John Mozeliak has led the Cardinals to a "heavier reliance on sabermetrics and fantasy baseball consultants." Most recently he hired former BaseballHQ.com writer Deric McKamey as an adviser and MLB scout.
  • Ike Hilliard was the No. 7 overall pick in the 1997 draft, ranks 82nd all time in career receptions, and loves Rotoworld:
    What Web site do you visit the most?

    Rotoworld.com, because I like to see what's going on in fantasy basketball. That's usually the first page that I go to once I see what's going on in the world. Fantasy basketball is my thing. I'm big on that.

    Luckily for me there's no indication that LenDale White is a Rotoworld reader.

  • Speaking of fantasy basketball, CBSSports.com was kind enough to invite me back for the second annual 30-team "CBS Sports vs. The World" league. My LeBron James-led squad made the final four last season, but sadly the No. 1 pick didn't fall my way again this year.
  • Many of you were as impressed as me with Ed Thoma's recent column in the Mankato Free Press, so here's a link to his baseball-only blog.
  • Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com third runner-up Kate Beckinsale is so good looking that ... well, insert your own punchline.
  • First he landed a spot covering the Twins for MLB.com and now friend of AG.com Thor Nystrom has won Rolling Stone's annual College Journalism Competition. The lesson? Reading this blog makes people successful, or at least more successful than the guy writing the blog.
  • In honor of their 10th birthday, Google recently turned back the clock to show what the search engine contained in 2001. For instance, whereas today a search for "Aaron Gleeman" produces over 72,000 results, the same search in 2001 came up with exactly two things.
  • On the Scale of Really Bad Ideas, a Bull Durham sequel ranks somewhere between Dan Orlovsky scrambling out the back of the end zone and Jamie Lynn Spears deciding that one kid isn't enough.
  • Leave it to ESPN to hire the guy who brings TNT's otherwise great NBA studio show to a screeching halt each time he speaks.
  • Motorcycles never really did much for me until now. Oh, and there's video:


    Incidentally, someone who looks like Marisa Miller really shouldn't have that accent.
  • Linda Hogan (also known as Hulk Hogan's ex-wife) isn't much of a Bubba The Love Sponge fan.
  • Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star Tribune makes several valid points about on-field delays in his recent column headlined: "Games drag on in era that rewards the walk." However, he misses the mark when it comes to blaming the longer games on increased walks:
    [Tom] Kelly played only briefly in the big leagues in the 1970s. He was around long enough to know that hitters were expected to swing the bat. ... This is an era when the on-base percentage guys are running many front offices, including Boston's.

    They have been assisted in their success by cowering plate umpires, intimidated both by the whining of hitters such as David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis over every called strike. For 100 years, a double was a good at-bat, and now in this century it is drawing a nine-pitch walk.

    Reusse certainly isn't the first over-50 baseball fan to suggest that the game was better back when he was younger and he's also not the first media member to decry the new-fangled focus on OBP, but the notion that more walks are leading to longer games simply isn't true:

    YEAR     PA/BB     BB/G
    1987 11.25 6.84
    1991 11.49 6.64
    2008 11.49 6.73

    Tom Kelly may "know that hitters were expected to swing the bat" back before the supposed "era that rewards the walk," but when he was managing the Twins to World Series titles in 1987 and 1991 there were just as many walks as this year. In fact, the MLB-wide walk rate has remained amazingly constant over the past two decades, with a free pass every 11-12 trips to the plate and 6-7 total walks per game.

  • Adam Carolla got an opportunity to fawn over Marshall Faulk while on NFL Network this week, which hopefully makes up for Ray Oldhafer filling his beloved Rams beanie with feces back in high school. Speaking of Carolla, he was one of my two favorite couples to attend Howard Stern's wedding.
  • Elizabeth Banks is officially on the Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com radar.
  • After looking over some of these beauties, perhaps my various head shots aren't so bad.
  • Technorati's annual "State of the Blogosphere Report" details tons of random facts about bloggers.
  • Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is John Mayer's live version of "Stop This Train":


  • Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.

    « Newer PostsOlder Posts »