December 30, 2011

Link-O-Rama

Boof Bonser is back with San Francisco on a minor-league contract, so Giants fans are surely just fine with that trade now.

• As always, corrections are a very important part of journalism.

John Biggs of the New York Times did an interesting article about who owns Twitter accounts and their followers, which is something Judd Zulgad had to deal with locally when he switched from the Minneapolis Star Tribune to 1500-ESPN.

Glen Perkins is one of the few professional athletes worth following on Twitter, and not just because he shares my desire for Ricky Rubio to make neck beards acceptable in Minnesota.

• On a related note Britt Robson has a nice article at SI.com analyzing Rubio's first two games.

• As part of an ongoing series of posts about transitioning from lawyer to baseball writer Craig Calcaterra explained how I ruined his life.

Scott Raab of Esquire has a pretty accurate take on why writers write.

• Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com candidate Kelly Brook's annual calendar is out.

• If you stick around until (or fast forward to) the end of this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode you can hear my dieting advice, which is a lot like Drew Butera sharing his hitting tips.

• Even if the lockout soured you on the NBA this welcome back video from TNT was amazing:

Kevin Love makes an appearance fighting for a rebound with Jerry Lucas.

April Ludgate highlights are the best highlights.

Keith Law, who left Baseball Prospectus to take a job in the Blue Jays' front office a decade ago, may soon be leaving ESPN.com to take a job in the Astros' front office. That could put an end to his Twitter account, but hopefully they'd at least let him keep reviewing Top Chef.

• My favorite football announcer, Mike Mayock, got some much-deserved national praise from Sports Illustrated media critic Richard Deitsch.

• Maria Menounos' football career continues.

• Sadly, this is a fitting end to a spectacularly awful year in Minnesota sports.

• Earlier this week I fell asleep with my laptop on and woke up to find this page on the screen, which is extra weird/nerdy when you consider I haven't played the game in at least 10 years.

• I'll still be working from bed in Minnesota, but Elizabeth Kim of the Stamford Advocate penned a lengthy article about the new 300,000-square foot NBC Sports offices in Connecticut.

• It's painful for me to see Michael Jordan with his new wife after eating "Juanita's macaroni and cheese" at his restaurant in Chicago about 20 years ago. It was good, too.

John Legend's taste is apparently even better than his voice.

Don Cherry's hockey analysis and flamboyant suits are well known, but he has another skill:

Imagine how much more work would get done around the world if everyone had a piano desk.

Courtland Milloy of the Washington Post wrote an intriguing column examining the prominent role marijuana plays in professional sports.

• Congrats to one of my favorite baseball writers, Matthew Leach, for his MLB.com promotion from Cardinals beat reporter to national columnist.

• Podcast recommendation: "Your Mom's House" with Tom Segura and Christina Pazsitsky.

• I didn't know Greg Spira well, but got a chance to see him each year at the SABR convention and he was a great guy despite getting a raw deal health-wise. He'll definitely be missed.

• For anyone curious about what Hanukkah cookie-making looks like, here's a blurry picture.

• My beloved Hardball Dynasty league on WhatIfSports.com starts a new season next week. If you're interested in joining, click here for more details.

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is Billy Bragg singing a live, solo version of "A New England" from 1985:

December 28, 2011

“Gleeman and The Geek” #21: Mijares and Minor Moves

This week's "Gleeman and The Geek" is a special Christmas/Hanukkah episode and the topics included Jose Mijares' departure, Bill Smith's return, Prince Fielder's likely home, waiving Jim Hoey, signing former top prospects Sean Burroughs, J.R. Towles, and Steve Pearce to minor-league contracts, slashing $15 million off the payroll, Jacque Jones' post-playing career, Joe Mauer's love life, and dieting tips from a fatboy.

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 21

In addition to the direct download link above you can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

December 26, 2011

Twins spend $3 million to fill out the starting rotation with Jason Marquis

By cutting the payroll from $115 million to $100 million and then dumping Kevin Slowey on the Rockies for a marginal prospect the Twins forced themselves to go shopping for rotation depth in the bargain bin. They were linked to low-cost veterans like Paul Maholm, Jeff Francis, and Joel Pineiro, but ultimately settled on Jason Marquis and signed the 33-year-old right-hander to a one-year deal worth $3 million (which is $300,000 more than Slowey will get in Colorado).

Had the Twins kept the payroll stable from 2011 to 2012 there would've been plenty of money available to add a better starter via free agency or trade, but slicing $15 million off the budget limited their options and left them with less than $5 million to fill the final rotation spot and find right-handed bullpen help. As a fan that payroll drop is tough to swallow going into Year 3 of a publicly funded ballpark, but within the self-imposed spending limit Marquis is a decent pickup.

Marquis was once an innings-eater for the Cardinals, Cubs, and Rockies, averaging 32 starts and 196 innings from 2004-2009, including 190 or more innings if five of six seasons. That got him a two-year, $15 million deal from the Nationals as a free agent, but Marquis spent most of that time on the disabled list. Elbow surgery limited Marquis to just 13 starts in 2010 and his 2011 season ended in mid-August when a line drive fractured his right fibula.

Signing a 33-year-old who logged a total of just 191 innings during the past two seasons due to injuries doesn't really match the Twins' oft-stated focus on adding a durable starter, but $3 million doesn't buy a whole lot of durability and prior breaking his leg Marquis had a 4.43 ERA in 132 innings. In fact, if you ignore his abbreviated 2010 season that was wrecked by elbow surgery Marquis has posted an ERA between 4.00 and 4.75 in five of the past six years.

His secondary numbers are similar, with xFIPs between 4.00 and 4.99 in all but one of the past 10 seasons, as Marquis makes up for poor strikeout-to-walk ratios by inducing tons of ground balls. Of concern to the Twins is that Marquis' off-speed pitches have never been very effective and his fastball has steadily lost velocity, falling from 92-93 miles per hour in 2002-2004 and 90-91 miles per hour in 2005-2009 to just 89 miles per hour in each of the past two seasons.

Marquis has never missed many bats and this past season he averaged just 5.2 strikeouts per nine innings, which ranked 113th among the 132 pitchers to start 20-plus games. And among all active right-handed pitchers only Jon Garland has started more games than Marquis with a lower strikeout rate. Despite previous lip service to the contrary adding another soft-tossing, pitch-to-contact starter shows that the Twins haven't changed their preferred pitching mold.

Of course, hard-tossing, bat-missing starters aren't usually available for $3 million and at least Marquis keeps the ball on the ground. During the past three years his ground-ball rate of 55.1 percent is fifth-highest in baseball, trailing only Tim Hudson, Derek Lowe, Justin Masterson, and Fausto Carmona. Not surprisingly Terry Ryan called Marquis "a ground-ball machine" and noted that the Twins "have got to support him defensively."

However, the general manager also said Marquis "throws the ball over the plate" and ... well, that's just not true. He had 3.2 walks per nine innings in 2011, which is double Carl Pavano's rate of 1.6 per nine frames, and Marquis' career rate of 3.5 walks per nine innings is the exact same as Francisco Liriano. In fact, over the past two years only Lowe and Livan Hernandez have thrown fewer of their pitches in the strike zone than Marquis at 40.7 percent.

"Throws the ball over the plate" is an odd description of someone with twice as many walks as another pitch-to-contact starter like Pavano and the same walk rate as a bat-missing starter with control problems like Liriano. Marquis offsets the poor control and pitching to contact with lots of grounders, but that's a fine line for a 33-year-old with declining velocity and leaves little room for upside when combined with an infield defense that figures to be at best mediocre.

In his first go-around as general manager Ryan made an annoying habit of signing washed-up starters like Hernandez, Ramon Ortiz, and Sidney Ponson rather than trusting younger and cheaper in-house options to fill out the rotation. At first glance Marquis might seem similar, but he's a step up from the previous scrap-heap veterans and unfortunately the Twins don't have an obvious in-house option breaking down the door thanks to Kyle Gibson's elbow surgery.

Liam Hendriks is the best upper-minors pitching prospect, but he's 22 years old, far from elite, and has just 162 innings above Single-A. Aside from Hendriks the farm system lacks MLB-ready starters, Anthony Swarzak is iffy as even a fifth starter, and the Twins are smartly committed to shifting Brian Duensing back to the bullpen. Marquis throwing 175 innings with a 4.50 ERA would be worth $3 million, but he's an uninspired pickup made necessary by payroll slashing.

December 23, 2011

Link-O-Rama

• You'll have to wait until Monday morning for my analysis of the Twins signing Jason Marquis, but in honor of today being Festivus this week's Link-O-Rama is super-sized ...

And here's a little more about my favorite holiday:

Coincidentally, today is also the 100,000th time Seinfeld has been referenced on this blog.

• I'm only into Minka Kelly for her memorabilia collection anyway.

• "Survey finds most people go online for no particular reason" explains my entire career/life.

• If you've seen Pulp Fiction as many times as me you'll love watching it in chronological order.

Albert Pujols made headlines, but this was by far the best moment of the winter meetings.

• I've been getting into Johnnie Walker black label lately, and that was before seeing their new advertising campaign.

• Whomever suggested White Castle should sell beer and wine is a genius. An evil genius.

Headline of the week: "Man eats cocaine from brother's butt, dies."

Louis CK skipped the middle man and sold his new comedy special on his website for $5. Not only was it great and easy to buy, the numbers should encourage others to follow suit and he donated $280,000 to charity.

• CK also called himself the Orlando Hernandez of stand-up comedy and was a great guest on Bill Simmons' podcast, although ESPN had trouble deciding which bad words to bleep out.

Terry Ryan's taste in sweaters is similar to his taste in proven closers.

• As this intense video clearly shows, taekwondo is no joke:

My favorite was the spinning back kick.

Chris Ison is a Pulitzer Prize winner and was one of my favorite teachers at the University of Minnesota, so his writing about my career path for the journalism school magazine is surreal.

• I used to dislike Bill Conlin as a columnist, but now that couldn't matter less. Yuck.

David Brauer of MinnPost notes that Judd Zulgad and Joe Anderson quadrupled the ratings on 1500-ESPN after replacing Colin Cowherd.

• Hopefully throat surgery will at least allow Adele enough time to get into a relationship and have an angry breakup she can use for material. And if not I'll just try to break this record.

• If a judge sentenced me to 30 days of house arrest I'd laugh maniacally like Roberto DeNiro in Cape Fear and then take a nap.

• Probably the best (or least bad) thing Nickelback has ever done.

• Reminder: Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com candidate Kate Beckinsale is a 38-year-old mother.

• As an NBC employee and longtime Howard Stern fan this shouldn't make me so sad.

Tony Levine, who used to referee my JCC basketball games, has replaced Kevin Sumlin as the University of Houston's new football coach.

Amare Stoudemire was on Sesame Street teaching Hebrew. Obviously:

He probably would have been pretty decent in that JCC basketball league.

Al Jefferson has a 38-year-old girlfriend and she got arrested for allegedly biting him.

• My online love affair with Chantel Kendall from Baseball Wives was fun while it lasted, but all good things must come to an end.

• Not to be outdone by Jacque Jones becoming the Padres' new Single-A hitting coach, Doug Mientkiewicz is the Dodgers' new rookie-ball hitting coach. Luis Rivas is still out of work.

• My favorite quote from Anthony Bourdain's predictably terrific appearance on Marc Maron's podcast: "I was regularly vomiting publicly and happy about it."

Paz de la Huerta should be at the top of most lists, but this one in particular makes sense.

• Anyone wanna back me for this poker tournament?

• My childhood gets super confused looking at a 44-year-old Pamela Anderson.

• Local reporter Jon Krawcynski and the Associated Press reached a settlement with the NBA.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" podcast we discussed what the Twins' lineup looks like with Josh Willingham and Ryan Doumit replacing Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel, the difference between Christmas and Hanukkah, and first impressions of Ricky Rubio after seeing him in person. We also recapped one of my rare party-going experiences, as shown here:

From left to right that's me, Lindsay Guentzel, John Bonnes, and Parker Hageman.

• There's also photographic evidence of Bonnes dominating at quarters. Made a co-host proud.

Sports Business Journal named my boss as the most influential person in sports business.

• So far so good with the Minneapolis Star Tribune's switch to a metered paywall.

• It turns out no one wants to read about actual baseball on a baseball blog.

• From now on I'll be referring to Kelly Oxford as a co-worker.

• Hey girl, how about some drunk history?

Brandon Roy's too-short basketball career got the eulogy it deserved from Jason Quick.

Melanie Laurent in Beginners might be the most attractive person ever. Good movie, too.

• On a related note, I carry around this list in my pocket, just in case.

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video--as quoted in Monday's post--is "Yesterday Was Hard On All Of Us" by Fink:

December 21, 2011

“Gleeman and The Geek” #20: Willingham, Cuddyer, and Kubel

This week's episode of "Gleeman and The Geek" was recorded at Scoreboard Bar and Grill in Hopkins and the beer of choice was Grain Belt Nordeast. Topics included swapping Michael Cuddyer for Josh Willingham, Jason Kubel's departure, Christmas vs. Hanukkah, projecting the Twins' lineup, outfield defense, how to use the leftover payroll on pitching, a Ben Revere-Trevor Plouffe platoon, first impressions of Ricky Rubio, and what not to drink at a party.

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 20

In addition to the direct download link above you can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

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