May 31, 2010

Twitter Mailbag: Any Questions?

I haven't done a mailbag or question-and-answer entry lately and am always looking to justify my obsession with Twitter, so today I'm opening the floor up for any questions you have about the Twins, me, this blog, and whatever else you have in mind, with the only requirement being that they must be submitted via Twitter. Feel free to send as many questions as you want to @aarongleeman and I'll answer them (in much more than 140 characters) here later this week.

www.twitter.com/aarongleeman

May 28, 2010

Link-O-Rama

Zach Randolph makes just $17 million a year playing basketball, so naturally he supplements his income with a second job as a "a major marijuana supplier in Indianapolis."

• My take on Roy Oswalt is that he'd probably be too costly for the Twins. Steve Phillips' take on Oswalt is that the Nationals should trade Stephen Strasburg for him. Seriously.

• After reading this story, I'd advise Joe Mauer to avoid any suspicious-looking twins.

Daunte Culpepper will be reunited with Denny Green in something called the United Football League. Sounds about right.

50 Cent looks scary after going from 214 pounds to 160 pounds for a movie role, but I'm still jealous. And it annoys me when someone who's in fantastic shape to begin with can so easily shed weight.

Bob Davidson furthered his reputation as one of baseball's worst, most combative umpires this week. And yes, I know he's from Minnesota. He's still a terrible umpire.

• Speaking of umpires going out of their way to find confrontation, Joe West was on a mission to mess with the White Sox on Wednesday. Mission accomplished, I guess. Ozzie Guillen then earned himself a big fine by speaking the truth afterward. Obviously no one likes it when umps blow calls, but for whatever reason that doesn't bother me nearly as much as when they seek out confrontation (although usually that's in conjunction with a blown call).

As you might expect, Hawk Harrelson's reaction on WGN was priceless:

It sounds like West will be disciplined by MLB, at least.

• An interesting contrast of managerial personalities was Guillen calling West "a f-ing a-hole" while Brewers skipper Ken Macha complained about "negativism" and "poppycock."

• This picture says a thousand words and all of them are "Ron Swanson is awesome."

• On a related note, this news is the opposite of awesome.

• I've linked to him before, but Joe Posnanski's brother Tony Posnanski has lost 221 pounds. If you're like me and are always looking for weight-loss motivation, check out his blog for the amazing progress in picture form. As for me, I'm holding steady at around 70 pounds lost due to a few dieting slip-ups this month. For me the two biggest struggles are avoiding boredom while exercising and avoiding the seemingly random urge to eat a whole bunch of bad stuff.

• In related news, Pizza Hut's honey BBQ "bone-out wings" are really good even if they aren't really "wings."

Drew Magary also has some helpful (and very funny) dieting tips.

• I'm probably just bitter because I've been doing this for eight years and have made almost enough to buy a Luis Rivas rookie card, but the notion that someone might pay $20 million for Perez Hilton's blog makes me want to shut down the internet. Or maybe start blogging about Lindsay Lohan rather than Delmon Young.

• Do you think Amar'e Stoudemire ever confuses Robin Lopez for his mother?

David Brown of Yahoo! Sports was in town this week and wrote an amusing review of his first trip to Target Field.

• I'm looking forward to the inevitable moment when the Target Field hawk attacks the Target Field squirrel, if only for Brendan Harris' reaction.

• Not surprisingly, 89-year-old Mickey Rooney seems to have a pretty good handle on the ins and outs of Twitter:

"Do you find this fun and interesting?"

• Maybe the Twins could do something like this, but with Anthony LaPanta instead of Elvis?

• I'm a huge Lost fan, but because I didn't start watching the show until last year and blitzed through the old episodes in the span of about a month my time devoted to the series is lower than most. With that said, I thought the finale was good without being satisfying, although in fairness people seem to overestimate the number of truly excellent series finales in television history. I'll definitely remember the characters and acting more than the mythology.

Actually, the thing I'll probably remember most about Lost is the pilot episode that ranks as my all-time favorite (and not just because of the "Kate bathing in the ocean" scene). No show has ever hooked me so thoroughly with a single episode, although re-watching the pilot on ABC the day before the finale was a totally different experience and it actually struck me as sort of quaint. My favorite quote from the finale: "It's a helluva long con, Doc."

• Oh, and as an MMA fan I also enjoyed Jack's odd attempt at a "Superman punch."

• At this point I'll be shocked if the Moneyball film is even decent, with Jonah Hill playing Paul DePodesta, Philip Seymour Hoffman playing Art Howe, and Robin Wright playing someone who didn't actually exist in the book.

Gus Johnson taking over as the voice of the Madden video game franchise may convince me to finally buy a Playstation 3 after years of letting my Playstation 2 simply collect dust.

R.A. Dickey wasn't much good for the Twins last season, but the 35-year-old knuckleballer tossed six shutout innings for the Mets this week after being hit on the elbow by a line drive.

• Some of the highlights from my NBCSports.com blogging this week:

- Are the Phillies overworking Roy Halladay?
- Angels may be giving up on Brandon Wood
- Rockies bringing Chris Iannetta back to majors
- Kyle Lohse needs forearm surgery or a move to the bullpen
- Carlos Zambrano rejoining rotation next week
- Tim Lincecum's rare struggles bring up questions about cracked nails
- Jake Peavy has a 6.05 ERA and a "tired arm"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is Ray Charles performing a live version of "What'd I Say" from 1963:

May 27, 2010

Days Like This

Not sure what to say at this point, so I'll just leave you with a little Van Morrison ...

May 26, 2010

Twins Notes: Hardy, Plouffe, Gibson, Perkins, Morales, and Ramos

J.J. Hardy came off the disabled list last night after missing 17 games with a wrist injury, so as expected the Twins optioned Trevor Plouffe back to Triple-A.  Plouffe made three starts at shortstop in Hardy's absence after Brendan Harris (eight starts) and Alexi Casilla (six) initially filled in, going 3-for-13 with a double and five strikeouts. It'll be interesting to see if Plouffe can resume his solid hitting at Triple-A or if he'll fall back into his underwhelming career norms.

Kyle Gibson turned in another excellent start at Double-A yesterday, tossing a seven-inning complete game while allowing just an unearned run. He induced 11 ground-ball outs, struck out four, and walked none to improve to 3-0 with a 0.84 ERA since a promotion to New Britain. Gibson is now 7-1 with a 1.53 ERA, .207 opponents' batting average, 3.5 ground balls per fly ball, and 60-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 64.2 innings between high Single-A and Double-A.

• I'm not sure how long it'll be available online since the St. Paul Pioneer Press' website remains a disaster, but John Shipley wrote a lengthy article about Glen Perkins' struggles at Triple-A. Perkins is 0-6 with a 9.09 ERA in eight starts at Rochester, serving up seven long balls in 33.2 innings while opponents bat .359 off him. Setting aside his clash with the Twins regarding the service time aspect of his injuries, it sure seems like Perkins' shoulder must not be healthy.

Jose Morales is back playing again following offseason wrist surgery, going 13-for-41 (.317) with two doubles and six walks in 11 games at Rochester. So far he's splitting time between designated hitter and catcher because of his injury and Wilson Ramos' presence at Triple-A. Drew Butera made his seventh start Sunday and is now 4-for-25 (.160), so presumably once Morales looks like his old below-average self defensively the Twins will make the switch.

• Ramos is just 5-for-39 (.128) since returning to Triple-A, making him 6-for-57 (.105) with 12 strikeouts versus one walk since collecting seven hits in his first two big-league games. He's batting just .160/.183/.302 overall in 25 games at Rochester, so it'll be a while before the folks clamoring for him to stick in the majors come out of the woodwork again.

Ron Gardenhire's son Toby Gardenhire is now Ramos' teammate at Rochester after being promoted to Triple-A despite hitting .225/.295/.250 at Double-A and .234/.298/.267 in 380 pro games. I've referred to Matt Tolbert as a poor man's Nick Punto, so I suppose that makes the defensively versatile and offensively inept junior Gardenhire a homeless man's Punto. I'll take a wild guess and say his father has dreams of him filling a utility role one day.

• Minor-league outfielder and former 13th-round pick Michael Harrington was suspended 50 games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Taken in the 2008 draft after a four-year career at the College of Charleston, he was hitting just .145 in 24 games at high Single-A this season and has a .231/.302/.363 overall line in 194 pro games.

• For some reason I watched a few A's games last week and twice saw Craig Breslow throw a scoreless inning. Breslow was a nice waiver-wire pickup for the Twins in 2008, posting a 2.89 ERA over 53 innings before they misguidedly cut him for Sean Henn in a "making moves just to make moves" decision I criticized at the time. Henn went 0-3 with a 7.15 ERA in 11.1 innings, while Breslow has a 2.57 ERA and 63-to-26 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 74 innings since leaving.

Randy Ruiz had a similarly strong run after being dropped by the Twins, batting .313 with 10 homers in 33 games for the Blue Jays last season, but played poorly and sporadically to begin this season before requesting his release to sign with a team in Japan. After over a decade of clobbering minor-league pitching to finally get his first chance in the majors at age 30, he likely finishes his big-league career with a .272/.332/.488 line in 238 plate appearances.

Jim Callis of Baseball America recently ranked the 20 best draft prospects since he joined the magazine in 1989, based strictly on their standing at the time of the draft. Stephen Strasburg tops the list and Joe Mauer is the final selection at No. 20, with two players the Twins passed on to select him in 2001 ranked No. 2 and No. 13.

Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star Tribune has been agreeing with me a lot lately (or the other way around), this time about the silliness behind allowing the accumulation of a statistic determine bullpen usage. As he notes, because of "saves" managers regularly use their best reliever to protect a three-run lead and one of their worst relievers to protect a four-run lead.

• Baseball-Reference.com recently added Wins Above Replacement (WAR) data to its amazing collection of statistics, and Mauer has the top three seasons by a catcher since 2000.

• All beat writers work on their game stories while the game is still going on, and unfortunately for Kelly Thesier of MLB.com sometimes the rough draft makes its way online.

• It sounds like Rick Reed enjoyed his time in Minnesota about as much as Twins fans did.

May 24, 2010

Should the Twins trade for Roy Oswalt?

Roy Oswalt requested a trade from the Astros over the weekend and judging from the e-mails and tweets I received on the topic many fans are wondering if the Twins should pursue a deal for the 32-year-old right-hander. Oswalt has been one of baseball's elite pitchers for a decade, yet generally seems underrated for someone fourth among active pitchers in ERA and winning percentage while winning more games than everyone his age or younger except CC Sabathia.

He's started at least 30 games in seven of the past eight seasons while posting an ERA above 3.55 just once during that span, yet is only a three-time All-Star and has never finished higher than third in the Cy Young balloting. Last year back problems limited Oswalt to fewer than 200 innings for the first time since 2003 and he posted a career-worst 4.12 ERA, but he's been as good as ever this season with a 2.66 ERA and 60-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 61 innings.

One of the issues for the Twins in terms of possibly upgrading the rotation is that they already have five solid starters, and while not all of them have performed as well as hoped early on in 2010 there isn't an obvious Ramon Ortiz or Sidney Ponson or Livan Hernandez to jettison. In other words, it's tough to trade a mid-level prospect or two for a Carl Pavano type when you already have the actual Pavano and a rotation full of similarly solid but unspectacular pitchers.

If the Twins want to legitimately upgrade the rotation they'd have to target an upper-echelon starter, which brings up two other issues. First, those guys tend to be very expensive in terms of both salary and cost to acquire. Beyond that, unless one of the current starters is part of the trade package for that upper-echelon guy a deal would involve dumping someone from the rotation who doesn't really deserve it and is a perfectly good big-league starter.

As for whether Oswalt fits that upper-echelon bill, the answer is a pretty clear yes even if he's just as clearly declined some from his prime. Beginning with Oswalt's first full season in 2002, he's ranked 4th, 15th, 13th, 13th, 9th, 25th, 11th, 26th, and now 8th among MLB starters in Expected Fielding Independent Pitching, which removes factors like bullpen and lineup support, defense, and luck from the equation to evaluate pitchers based strictly on things they control.

At age 32 and with his two worst years coming in 2007 and 2009 he seems more likely to be a top-25 starter than a top-15 starter at this point, but even at his worst he's been a low-end No. 1 guy and Oswalt's strong work so far this year suggests getting back to the top-15 range isn't out of the question (although moving to the AL would make that tougher). Relative to the Twins, he's had a better xFIP than any of their current starters in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010:

2007        xFIP      2008        xFIP      2009        xFIP      2010        xFIP
Oswalt      4.08      Oswalt      3.55      Oswalt      3.88      Oswalt      3.29
Baker       4.41      Slowey      4.02      Pavano      3.96      Liriano     3.37
Slowey      4.78      Baker       4.14      Baker       4.22      Baker       3.70
Liriano      N/A      Liriano     4.31      Slowey      4.23      Pavano      3.72
Pavano       N/A      Blackburn   4.48      Liriano     4.55      Slowey      4.66
Blackburn    N/A      Pavano       N/A      Blackburn   4.56      Blackburn   5.12

Some of Oswalt's advantage over the Twins' current starters is definitely due to his pitching in the much weaker league, but I feel safe in saying he'd be a clear upgrade and likely the team's top starter (depending on Francisco Liriano's progress). However, the Astros would no doubt demand several of the Twins' top prospects in return for Oswalt and he's making $15 million this year with another $16 million in 2011 and a $16 million option or $2 million buyout in 2012.

While around $26 million for 1.5 seasons or $40 million for 2.5 seasons is essentially the going rate for a true No. 1 starter, even with the new ballpark boosting revenue higher than ever the Twins seemingly aren't in a position to add another big salary given their commitments to Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Joe Nathan, Michael Cuddyer, Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, and Denard Span, plus upcoming arbitration-fueled raises for several other players.

There's zero question Oswalt would be an upgrade and his remaining contract is more or less commensurate with his skills, but it's not that easy. Is he better than, say, one of Blackburn, Baker, or Kevin Slowey plus two top prospects and $30 million? Because in trading for Oswalt the Twins would also be dumping one of their current starters from the rotation, giving up at least one and perhaps multiple highly rated prospects, and taking on the rest of his deal.

Without knowing the Astros' demands it's impossible to say for sure, but those factors would make me think twice about a move and my guess is Oswalt's contract alone takes the Twins out of the running. Oswalt is an outstanding pitcher with gas left in the tank, but between the costs to acquire him and lack of an obvious rotation weak spot pursuing him doesn't seem to be a great fit unless the Astros like Slowey, Blackburn, or Baker as a major part of the deal.

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