April 11, 2014

Link-O-Rama

Delmon Young hitting a 50-hop ground ball past a diving Derek Jeter is what the 2014 baseball season is all about

Bartolo Colon jiggling his gut is my spirit animal.

• If you've ever wanted a customized nickname from Ron Gardenhire, this is your lucky day.

• Someone please hire Randball's Stu to write for a living. He suddenly needs a job and is Minnesota's funniest writer.

• The lesson here is to not trust anyone who doesn't like Kendrick Lamar.

• My analysis of the Twins trading for Eduardo Nunez was mostly underwhelming.

• I love how seriously Jay Boller took his analysis of the Twins' walk-up songs.

• Dang. The Ultimate Warrior died.

• I've been using Uber a lot lately and it's amazingly easy/pleasant compared to cabs. If you use this promo code you get $20 off a ride and I get $20 too, which allows me to drink Jack Daniels all across this great state of ours. Give it a shot. Why not?

This week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode kicked off our third season on KFAN, with a new producer and the usual live radio show plus podcast portion.

• I've been getting really into "Workaholics" lately and Waymond is my favorite character:

Great acting is all about subtle nuance.

• I'm planning to make this an ongoing project with expanded reviews, pictures, and lots of other stuff, so for now this is just a very preliminary version of my Uptown Bar Power Rankings.

• Speaking of which, I'm very sad to see Rye Deli suddenly close up shop. It was home to many of my mediocre first dates and even hosted "Gleeman and The Geek" on multiple occasions. RIP.

• We've talked about it so much that Parker Hageman of Twins Daily is now trying to convince me to buy this bar.

• On a related note, Hageman wrote an interesting article about Chris Colabello that's definitely worth checking out.

• Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons is absolutely ridiculous.

• As a Jack Daniels devotee I enjoyed Kara Nesvig's tribute to whiskey-based romancing.

• This week I went to the Kmart on Lake Street for the first time and it was one of the saddest experiences of my entire life, so I'm not sure how I feel about this development.

Paul Goldschmidt owns Tim Lincecum.

• America's best, most important television couple.

• I'm pretty sick of Maggie LaMaack at this point, but she interviewed yet another tweeter I very much enjoy following in Talia Wischmann.

• Royals rookie Yordano Ventura threw a 103-mph pitch.

• If you're wondering whether Hank Aaron is the "True Home Run King" read this.

• Based on Molly Fitzpatrick's article about dating labels, I'd like to someday be known by: 1) "My plus-one." 2) "My arm candy." 3) "The Bae."

Taco Cat delivery service is the type of thing that makes me proud to have moved to Uptown.

• Friend of AG.com and former "Gleeman and The Geek" guest Jack Moore has a Kickstarter-driven project at the Beacon Reader, which is the type of thing baseball fans should support.

Jason Isbell chatting with Marc Maron was basically my idea of podcasting perfection. And they even recorded the episode in Minnesota.

• Some of this week's weird and random search engine queries that brought people here:

- "Hairy twins"
- "Ricky Rubio tattoo"
- "Can I eat baked chicken wings after late-night workout?"
- "Did Brock Lesnar play for the Minnesota Twins?"
- "Greg Gagne net worth"
- "Minnesota Twins players with beards"
- "Can you break your ear cartilage?"
- "Kevin Slowey shirtless"
- "I'm a teen and I want to work at Pizza Hut"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is "So Special" by Lil Wayne and John Legend:


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November 13, 2013

Free agent pitching options: Middle-of-the-rotation starters

Dating back to the 2011 season Twins starting pitchers have posted a combined 5.08 ERA for the worst mark in baseball and the only other rotation with an ERA above 4.80 during that three-year span plays half its games at Coors Field. In those three seasons Twins starters ranked 26th, 29th, and 30th in ERA. They also ranked 28th, 30th, and 30th in strikeout rate, including a pathetic 4.9 strikeouts per nine innings this year while no other team was below 6.0.

To figure out their options for addressing the dreadful rotation via free agency I've grouped the available arms into three categories: Top-of-the-rotation starters, middle-of-the-rotation starters, and back-of-the-rotation starters. Below are the middle-of-the-rotation starters, which I view as a No. 3 or No. 4 starter on a contending team, which means an average-or-better starter without the same type of upside as the front-line guys.

Miami Marlins Photo DayRicky Nolasco - RHP - 199 innings - 3.70 ERA - 3.58 xFIP - 165/46 K/BB

Nolasco was a No. 2 starter early in his career and pitched like one again this year, but from 2009-2012 he threw 740 innings with a 4.68 ERA despite calling a pitcher-friendly ballpark home. His secondary numbers were always much better than his ERAs during that time and it wouldn't be a huge stretch to include him in the top-of-the-rotation group, but he lacks the big-time velocity or strikeout rates to totally convince me he's better than a really good mid-rotation guy.

Cleveland Indians Photo DayScott Kazmir - LHP - 158 innings - 4.04 ERA - 3.36 xFIP - 162/47 K/BB

Kazmir was a dominant young starter with the Rays and then rapidly deteriorated to the point that he posted a 5.34 ERA in independent ball at age 28. He made an incredible comeback with the Indians, racking up strikeouts at the same rate that made him a star in the first place, and finished strong with a 43/4 K/BB ratio in September. Kazmir is a huge risk, but he's still just 29 and looked an awful lot like his old self this year. Based purely on upside, he's easily the best of this bunch.

Cincinnati Reds Photo DayBronson Arroyo - RHP - 202 innings - 3.79 ERA - 3.97 xFIP - 124/34 K/BB

Arroyo's average fastball has never cracked 90 miles per hour, but he's logged 200 innings per season for a decade thanks to a wide variety of off-speed pitches and good control. He also gives up a ton of homers, leading the league in two of the past three years, and at age 37 he's had to become an extreme strike-thrower to make up for diminished strikeout rates. Arroyo is a prototypical Twins pitcher in the good and bad ways, and it'd be shocking if they weren't targeting him.

Atlanta Braves Photo DayPaul Maholm - LHP - 153 innings - 4.41 ERA - 3.89 xFIP - 105/47 K/BB

Maholm was headed for his third straight season with a sub-4.00 ERA when arm problems tripped him up. He had a 6.00 ERA after July 1 and also spent a month on the disabled list during that time, but no serious injuries were found. At age 32 with a high-80s fastball he lacks upside, but Maholm has generally been a solid mid-rotation starter with average strikeout rates, acceptable control, and lots of ground balls. He's one of the few quality left-handers in a righty-heavy class.

2013 New York Yankees Photo DayPhil Hughes - RHP - 146 innings - 5.19 ERA - 4.39 xFIP - 121/42 K/BB

Considered baseball's best pitching prospect when the Twins tried to get him in the Johan Santana trade, Hughes is now 27 years old with a 4.54 career ERA. As an extreme fly-ball pitcher getting away from Yankee Stadium would help Hughes a lot, but it's also possible he's just mediocre. He had a 4.34 ERA on the road from 2011-2013, and his velocity and strikeout rates are good rather than great. He's better than his ERAs suggest, but the potential ace simply never developed.

2013 Oakland Athletics Photo DayBartolo Colon - RHP - 190 innings - 2.65 ERA - 3.95 xFIP - 117/29 K/BB

A flame-throwing top-of-the-rotation starter for a decade, Colon was wrecked by injuries after robbing Johan Santana of the Cy Young award in 2005. Out of MLB in 2010, he came back at age 38 as a strike-throwing machine and has a 3.32 ERA in 507 innings since. Now he's 40 and coming off a 2.65 ERA for the A's, but his secondary numbers are far less impressive. No longer a strikeout guy, he pumps low-90s fastballs for strikes and relies on good defense behind him.

2013 Philadelphia Phillies Photo DayRoy Halladay - RHP - 62 innings - 6.82 ERA - 5.10 xFIP - 51/36 K/BB

Halladay is one of this generation's best pitchers and a likely Hall of Famer, but it's tough to say if he has anything left in the tank at age 37. He was wobbly at times in 2012 and the wheels fell off this year, as he got battered for a 6.82 ERA in 13 starts and averaged just 88 miles per hour with his fastball. It was hard to watch Halladay pitch in his diminished state, but if healthy he certainly has the control and smarts to extend his career as a mid-rotation starter.

Los Angeles Dodgers Photo DayChris Capuano - LHP - 106 innings - 4.26 ERA - 3.67 xFIP - 81/24 K/BB

Los Angeles' rotation depth and a groin injury limited Capuano to 20 starts this year, but he posted a 3.91 ERA and 52/10 K/BB ratio in 13 starts after June 1. He also tossed 198 innings with a 3.72 ERA in 2012 and has always managed above-average strikeout rates to go with being impossible to run on, so even at age 35 he looks far from washed up. There's no upside to be found, but he's a perfectly capable mid-rotation guy who likely won't require a multi-year commitment.

2013 Chicago Cubs Photo DayScott Feldman - RHP - 182 innings - 3.86 ERA - 3.96 xFIP - 132/56 K/BB

Placed in the back-of-the-rotation starter group last offseason because he hadn't topped 150 innings in three years, Feldman signed a one-year, $6 million deal and threw 182 innings with a 3.86 ERA. Not much about his underlying performance actually changed, he just stayed healthy and got away from Texas' hitter-friendly ballpark. He gets an average number of strikeouts with average control and was a ground-ball pitcher for the first time this year, although that may not stick.

2013 Tampa Bay Rays Photo DayRoberto Hernandez - RHP - 151 innings - 4.89 ERA - 3.60 xFIP - 113/38 K/BB

On one hand the Rays not being able to fix a pitcher makes me think he may not be fixable. On the other hand Hernandez's secondary stats improved dramatically, as he issued just 38 walks in 151 innings after years of awful control and managed a decent number of strikeouts while maintaining a strong ground-ball rate. He's not the same pitcher he was back when his name was Fausto Carmona, but there's still reason to be intrigued if the price is right.


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