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:

September 22, 2010

Twins Notes: AL Central champs (they gone!)

• About two hours after the Twins completed their eighth-inning comeback against the Indians last night the White Sox lost their eighth consecutive game versus the A's, which means the AL Central race is officially over. Kind of anti-climactic with two weeks left, but I'll certainly take it. And it was funny to see Paul Konerko close out Chicago's playoff hopes by grounding out with the bases loaded against Craig Breslow, who was waived by the Twins in mid-2008.

• Obviously securing homefield advantage throughout the playoffs is always a very good thing, but Cliff Corcoran of SI.com crunched the numbers and found that it's likely not as important as conventional wisdom would have you believe. Since the current playoff schedule format was adopted in 1998, teams with homefield advantage have a 45-39 record in series, which isn't all that impressive when you consider that they're usually the superior team anyway.

Of course, not represented in those numbers are both the economic and "holy shit this is fun" impacts of having extra games at Target Field. No matter who the Twins play in the first round, they'll have homefield advantage when the ALDS begins October 6 at Target Field.

• The good news on Joe Mauer's sore left knee is that an MRI exam taken yesterday revealed no structural damage. The bad news is that Mauer does have inflammation and is expected to miss at least 4-5 days after receiving a cortisone injection. Thanks to the White Sox's collapse, he has plenty of time to rest up.

• Last week Mauer became just the fifth catcher in baseball history to reach 1,000 career hits at age 27. Here are the all-time leaders in hits by a catcher through age 27:

Ivan Rodriguez      1333
Ted Simmons         1279
Johnny Bench        1246
Joe Torre           1087
JOE MAUER           1009

Mauer's hit total is hurt by missing most of his rookie year following surgery on the same knee that has him out of action right now, but also by his being so patient at the plate and passing up hits for walks. Here are the all-time leaders in walks by a catcher through age 27:

Johnny Bench         516
Darrell Porter       510
Butch Wynegar        450
JOE MAUER            433
Ted Simmons          427

Butch Wynegar ranked 31st on my list of the best players in Twins history.

Ozzie Guillen had a particularly amusing quote when talking about Danny Valencia coming out of nowhere to hit .340, noting that Valencia played in the same high school conference as his son Ozzie Guillen Jr.:

They go and get this kid Valencia. When you play against Ozzie Guillen Jr. in the same division in high school, you're very horseshit because Ozzie Guillen Jr. is not going to choose any good conference to play baseball. And [Valencia] is a superstar [for the Twins].

As usual, Guillen had all kinds of praise for the Twins after they dispatched with the White Sox.

• Something to consider when debating who should get the Game 1 and Game 5 starts in the ALDS: Francisco Liriano has allowed zero or one run in 11 starts this season, compared to six from Carl Pavano. And they've both allowed three runs or fewer in 22 starts.

UPDATE: Liriano has officially been named the Game 1/5 starter for the ALDS. Good call.

• Last week I mentioned discovering a podcast called "Jesse, Jordan, Go!" hosted by Jordan Morris and Jesse Thorn, the latter of which is a big baseball fan. Over the weekend I listened to various episodes from their archives and stumbled across a show from 2007 in which they had a lengthy discussion centered around the question: "Shia LaBeouf or Boof Bonser?" As if that weren't enough, they interviewed Kelsie Smith of the St. Paul Pioneer Press about Bonser.

For literally five minutes she answered very serious-sounding questions about Bonser's name, Bonser's personality, Bonser's weight, and other pressing matters. It was pretty hilarious, and it was long enough ago that Smith a) described herself as "the backup Twins beat writer," and b) had never even heard of LaBeouf. If you want to hear the Boof-related hilarity for yourself, the segment occurs about three-fourths of the way through this episode.

Jim Thome and Target Field are on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated, with a feature article written by the great Joe Posnanski and this spectacular looking photo:

That scaled-down version doesn't even begin to do it justice, so click on the photo and then hit zoom to see the full-sized masterpiece.

• Speaking of the Twins getting some national attention, Tyler Kepner of the New York Times wrote a good article about pitching coach Rick Anderson and his strike-throwing machines.

• I stepped in for an on-vacation John Gordon as the Monday afternoon guest on 1500-ESPN, talking Twins with Patrick Reusse and Phil Mackey. Surprisingly, during the 15-minute chat I was the only one to bring up a pitcher's win total. And the pitcher was Tony Fiore. You can get the segment here. I'm on about halfway through the clip. I'll also be co-hosting "Twins Wrap" on 1500-ESPN again with Darren Wolfson Friday night, starting 30 minutes after the final out.

• And finally: Woo!

June 23, 2010

Twins Notes: Mauer, Lowell, Bonser, Neshek, Plouffe, and prospects

• A few weeks ago after Ken Griffey Jr. retired friend of AG.com Jay Jaffe wrote a good article at Baseball Prospectus focusing on his place in baseball history, which also included this list of the best No. 1 overall picks of all time based on Wins Above Replacement Position (WARP):

NO. 1 PICK           YEAR     WARP
Alex Rodriguez       1993    101.0
Ken Griffey Jr.      1987     79.7
Chipper Jones        1990     72.4
Harold Baines        1977     48.4
Darryl Strawberry    1980     46.9
Joe Mauer            2001     34.5

I was surprised to see that only six No. 1 overall picks in baseball history have accumulated as many as 30 career WARP. To put that in some Twins-related context, Corey Koskie and Greg Gagne had 26.0 and 24.6 career WARP, respectively. Joe Mauer is already the sixth-best No. 1 pick ever despite being in the middle of his age-27 season. He won't top Alex Rodriguez and may be a long shot to pass Griffey, but should give Chipper Jones a run for the third spot.

• Last week I examined whether the Twins should trade for Mike Lowell after Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reported they were talking to the Red Sox about the veteran third baseman. Rosenthal has since followed up his initial report, adding that the Red Sox are in a "stalemate" with the Twins and Rangers regarding Lowell because they're willing to pay the rest of his $12 million salary, but only if they get a decent player in return.

In other words the Red Sox want to save money or get a decent player. If the Twins are willing to absorb most of Lowell's remaining salary they can likely get him for a low-level prospect. If the Twins are willing to part with a mid-level prospect the Red Sox will likely pay the rest of his salary. Either way, the price is right. Lowell makes sense as a third baseman or DH platoon partner for Jason Kubel, who has a Jacque Jones-like .235/.317/.352 career line off lefties.

• Traded to the Red Sox in December after missing all of last year following shoulder surgery, Boof Bonser spent the first two months of this season on the disabled list, allowed four runs without recording an out in his first big-league appearance in 21 months, and was designated for assignment a week later. Meanwhile, the prospect the Twins got in return, Chris Province, has a 5.66 ERA in 41 innings as a 25-year-old reliever at Double-A. Seems like a fair trade.

• After angering the team by writing publicly about his injury status, Pat Neshek was activated from the disabled list and optioned to Triple-A earlier this month, with Ron Gardenhire saying:

He's just like everyone else in the minor leagues now. He's got to pitch his way back up. When there's a need, he'll get an opportunity ... if he's the one throwing the ball good.

Neshek has pitched in four Triple-A games with a 2.00 ERA, .152 opponents' batting average, and 7-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in nine innings. So far so good, although I doubt he's gotten much closer to rejoining the Twins and even a 2.00 ERA ranks just third-best in the Rochester bullpen behind Kyle Waldrop at 1.16 and Anthony Slama at 1.60 ERA. Despite that, Rochester is 28-41 and has the worst team ERA in the International League at 5.03.

Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reported recently that the Orioles have been "sniffing around for a shortstop" and Trevor Plouffe "is rumored to have piqued their interest." Plouffe was oddly the only shortstop Stark mentioned by name and that seems like some awfully random smoke if there's zero fire behind it. Over the weekend Plouffe was sent back to Triple-A, where he's hit a career-best .278/.340/.449 in 54 games.

• Last week B.J. Hermsen was four outs from a no-hitter at low Single-A, settling for a one-hit shutout. Friend of AG.com and former part-time MLB.com Twins beat writer Thor Nystrom was in attendance and told me Hermsen was "very solid looking" and "goes after guys." However, he was surprised that Hermsen "doesn't throw hard for his size" and "doesn't have dominant stuff," which matches reports I got before ranking him as this year's 18th-best Twins prospect.

• After signing in September for $3.15 million, Miguel Sano homered on the first pitch he saw in the Dominican Summer League and is hitting .341/.444/.636 in 14 games. What makes that even more impressive is the DSL as a whole hitting .234 with a .315 slugging percentage this year, so his OPS is 427 points higher than the league average. Also worth noting is that Sano has played primarily third base, so any notion of him as a long-term shortstop is already over.

• In less positive prospect news, last year's supplemental first-round pick Matthew Bashore is out for the season following Tommy John elbow surgery and third-round pick Ben Tootle is out indefinitely after shoulder surgery. Bashore signed for $750,000 shortly after the draft, but got into just one game before being shut down and never pitched this year. Tootle looked good in his debut last year, but gave up 17 runs in 18 innings before going under the knife this year.

• Outfield prospect Rene Tosoni is also out for the season following shoulder surgery, which is a shame because he was off to a good start at Double-A after ranking 11th on my preseason list and could have factored into the Twins' plans at some point next season.