July 18, 2012

Twins Notes: Liriano, Santana, Mauer, Blackburn, Capps, and Pavano

• How dominant was Francisco Liriano against the A's on Friday night? Not only were his 15 strikeouts the second-most in Twins history behind Johan Santana with 17 on August 19, 2007, his 30 swings and misses induced were the most by any MLB pitcher since ... Santana had 32 on August 19, 2007. I went back through the AG.com archives to find what I wrote about his incredible performance that day and shockingly it included a Jessica Alba comparison.

Liriano's first start following his brief demotion to the bullpen also came against Oakland and he overpowered the A's then too, giving him a ridiculous 24-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 14 innings against them since May 30. And it was good timing, as at least a half-dozen teams reportedly sent scouts to evaluate Liriano for a potential trade. Since rejoining the rotation he's thrown 57 innings with a 2.83 ERA, .170 opponents' batting average, and 67 strikeouts.

• Some fun facts from that Santana start on August 19, 2007: He struck out 17 in eight innings and then closer Joe Nathan struck out two more in the ninth inning, as they combined for 19 strikeouts, zero walks, and two hits allowed in a 1-0 shutout of the Rangers. Michael Cuddyer homered for the game's only run, C.J. Wilson pitched in relief for Texas, and the Rangers had a 38-year-old Sammy Sosa batting cleanup. And here was the Twins' lineup:

1. Alexi Casilla, 2B
2. Joe Mauer, DH
3. Torii Hunter, CF
4. Justin Morneau, 1B
5. Michael Cuddyer, RF
6. Mike Redmond, C
7. Rondell White, LF
8. Tommy Watkins, 3B
9. Nick Punto, SS

Oh, and Jason Tyner came in defensively for Rondell White late in the game. One not-so-fun fact about the game: Santana made just seven more starts in a Twins uniform.

• Friday's deadline to sign draft picks came and went without much drama for the Twins, who'd already agreed to deals with their first 11 picks weeks ago. Or so everyone thought. It turns out sixth-round pick Andre Martinez, a high school pitcher from Florida who originally agreed to an over-slot $260,000 bonus, ended up reworking his deal after a pre-signing physical exam revealed shoulder issues. He signed Friday for $80,000 compared to the $200,000 slot.

Another last-minute signing was 20th-round pick Zach Larson, a high school outfielder from Florida who agreed to a $190,000 deal that's nearly twice the slot value for picks after the 10th round. By saving money elsewhere compared to the slot values for various picks the Twins had plenty of extra money to throw Larson's way and in fact overall they spent about $300,000 less than their MLB-high $12.3 million allotment.

Ninth-rounder L.J. Mazzilli is the earliest Twins pick not to sign, as the Connecticut second baseman and son of longtime big leaguer Lee Mazzilli presumably turned down close to the $130,000 slot amount for the No. 280 overall pick. Mazzilli hit .339/.404/.548 with 16 steals in 58 games as a junior, but also committed 20 errors and was no sure thing to stick at second base defensively as a pro. In all the Twins signed 27 of 43 picks, including 14 of their first 15.

Mark Appel, the Stanford pitcher represented by Scott Boras who fell to No. 8 after being an oft-projected No. 1 pick and possible Twins choice at No. 2, ended up as the only first-rounder not to sign. He turned down $3.8 million, which is $900,000 more than slot and the most the Pirates could offer without forfeiting next year's pick. Appel can return to college for his senior year and be drafted again, while the Pirates get the No. 9 pick in 2013 as compensation.

• After going 3-for-4 with a walk (and a great diving catch) last night Joe Mauer is now hitting .333/.420/.462, which is nearly identical to his .324/.404/.470 career line despite offense being down across baseball. He leads the league in on-base percentage and ranks second in batting average, has hit .385 in his last 45 games, and is projected to be worth $26 million this year according to Fan Graphs. He's being paid $23 million.

Nick Blackburn is already back with the Twins after allowing one earned run in two starts at Triple-A following his demotion, but the bad news is that he managed just five strikeouts in 15 innings. He succeeded there by keeping the ball in the ballpark, but his ground-ball rate wasn't exceptional and as usual there's little reason to think pitching to that extreme level of contact is going to get the job done against big-league hitters.

Matt Capps' return from the disabled list lasted all of five days, as he showed decreased velocity and was shut down again with more shoulder problems. That ruins whatever chance the Twins had of trading Capps before July 31, which is a shame because reportedly at least one team was actually showing interest. Suffice it to say that the Twins' decision to forfeit a draft pick in order to re-sign Capps for $5 million has gone about as well as expected.

Carl Pavano isn't close to returning from his own shoulder injury, so the even slimmer odds the Twins had of trading him before the July 31 deadline is officially gone. It's possible that he could return in time to make a few starts before the August 31 waiver trade deadline, but even that's no sure thing and obviously counting on Pavano to be effective enough to draw interest at that point would be wildly optimistic.

David Laurila of Fan Graphs interviewed Terry Ryan and the lengthy transcript is definitely worth reading, but here's one particularly interesting excerpt about the team's oft-questioned involvement with statistical analysis:

We never messed with that too much back in the '70s, but we did in the '80s and the '90s and the 2000s. We've been looking at that forever. ... People don't want to hear that out of the Minnesota Twins. But we've been looking at that forever. Way before some. We're not as deep as some, but we do believe in certainly doing our work, and that stat page is one big piece to the puzzle of putting players together.

Our scouts, and our people, will tell you if I'm looking at a player, and I go down and look at his line, and it doesn't add up, I've got to give him a call quick. I tell him, "This doesn't make any sense." His role, his skills and his statistical history, and you're going to tell me this? How do you get there? I believe in that.

All forms of information are good. I've drilled that into our people. Bring it on. All forms, let me sort it out. ... I read all that stuff, and sometimes it's so much information that I do get paralyzed reading it and taking it all in. You can spend as much time as you want on everything that is available. It's almost mind-boggling how much stuff is out there.

Ryan and other Twins decision-makers have adopted "we're into that even if you don't know it" as their response to those questions. And that's fine, although it's worth noting that, for instance, assistant general manager Rob Antony lacked familiarity with basic aspects of statistical analysis as recently as two years ago and even in the above excerpt Ryan talking about looking at stats isn't really what anyone would consider a new-school approach.

When people wonder if the Twins are involved with statistical analysis the questions aren't about literally looking at a player's stats--that much is assumed, no matter a team's public stance--but rather taking full advantage of new technology and the increasingly in-depth data available. They've recently hired some stat-heads and clearly want to keep things secretive, but what little Ryan and others do say about the issue leaves plenty of room for skepticism.

• Midseason prospect rankings are out and Baseball America moved Miguel Sano from No. 18 to No. 22, whereas ESPN.com moved Sano from No. 28 to No. 26. In other words Sano remains a top-30 talent as an all-around prospect and among hitters who don't play up-the-middle positions only Wil Myers of the Royals, Oscar Taveras of the Cardinals, and Nick Castellanos of the Tigers rank ahead of Sano on both lists.

• As part of their minor-league roster shuffling the Twins released Jairo Perez, who ranked 34th on my preseason list of the team's prospects. He hit .337/.413/.580 at low Single-A last year and .265/.350/.403 at high Single-A this year, which makes cutting Perez in July an odd move. On the other hand at age 24 he was very old for Single-A and didn't really have a clear defensive home. And now he's playing in an independent league.

Matt Maloney parlayed a good spring training into an Opening Day bullpen spot after the Twins claimed him off waivers from the Reds in October, but the soft-tossing left-hander coughed up 10 runs in 11 innings and not surprisingly passed through waivers unclaimed in May. He was even worse at Triple-A, allowing 33 runs in 24 innings, and now he'll be out until mid-2013 following Tommy John elbow surgery.

• Twins castoff Luke Hughes was released by the A's after hitting .223/.316/.338 in 42 games between Double-A and Triple-A.

This week's blog content is sponsored by Ballplayer: Pelotero, a controversial new documentary about baseball prospects in the Dominican Republic starring Miguel Sano as a 16-year-old.

July 13, 2012

Link-O-Rama

• August 1 will be the 10-year anniversary of this blog and it seems like I should do something special to celebrate, but so far I'm drawing a blank. If you have any ideas besides "announce your retirement" I'd love to hear them, but please keep in mind my usual level of laziness.

Glen Perkins outed himself as a stat-head with interesting thoughts about how knowing the numbers can help pitchers and how advanced metrics might underrate relievers like him.

• Finally, my working from bed while lying down emerges as a brilliant way to beat the system.

• This almost makes up for all the parents who threw their kids' baseball card collections away.

• All you need to know about my appearance on KFAN with Paul Allen yesterday: It was three segments long and after listening my mom said: "Now you have two Jewish mothers."

• Making fun of Jonah Hill would be easy, except the best-case scenario for my current weight loss involves spending the rest of my life in constant fear of following in his footsteps.

• And at the opposite end of the spectrum there's Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com Mila Kunis.

• Should the Twins trade Denard Span, Josh Willingham, Justin Morneau, and Francisco Liriano? I'm glad you asked.

• Amazon's plan for taking over the world would guarantee that I never leave the house.

• Eight years, one marriage, and two children later former Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com Jessica Alba is still getting the job done.

Larry Bird had a very sensible take on the current Olympic team vs. Dream Team "debate."

Ballplayer: Pelotero is a new documentary about teenage prospects in the Dominican Republic that's made headlines because Bud Selig is angry about how it portrays the allegedly corrupt system in which they sign with MLB teams. Twins fans should be particularly interested in the film because it tells the behind-the-scenes story of two players who signed as 16-year-olds in 2009 and one of them is Miguel Sano. Here's a preview:

Sano is now the Twins' top prospect and one of the best prospects in baseball, and the movie opens today. I'll have a review early next week, but in the meantime I'd encourage anyone in the Twin Cities to see it locally at St. Anthony Main Theatre in Minneapolis, where Ballplayer: Pelotero is showing from July 13-19 as part of The Film Society of Minneapolis St. Paul. For show times and further details, click here.

• As someone totally obsessed with the Food Network show Chopped this is pretty great.

• When he's done counting his $18.3 million Antonio Esfandiari can say he won the richest poker tournament of all time.

• One out of every eight MLB regulars was an All-Star this season and even that might be stretching the definition of "regulars" a little bit.

Adrian Peterson hired Roger Clemens' lawyer following his arrest in Houston.

Kyrie Irving does things with a basketball that shouldn't be possible and it's only a practice.

Zach Lowe's blog on SI.com has become an hourly must-read during the NBA offseason.

• I'm way too excited that this show is coming back on the air next week.

• Minnesotans complain a lot about Joe Mauer's contract, but it could be much, much worse.

• I saw Moonrise Kingdom and definitely enjoyed parts of it, but mostly came to the conclusion that I just don't get Wes Anderson.

• If you're interested in a movie that's still quirky, but in a less annoying, more compelling way I rented Death of a Superhero and highly recommend it.

Dov Davidoff's appearance on You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes was full of really deep, interesting conversation with some comedy sprinkled in.

• As always, the combination of Chelsea Peretti and Harris Wittels on the same podcast can't be beat, especially when you add in Adam Scott and Scott Aukerman.

• Netflix instant recommendation: The Swell Season is such a well-done documentary that I loved it despite only barely being familiar with Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova.

• This week's Gleeman and The Geek episode mostly featured me obsessing about unknowingly wearing a shirt that John Bonnes owns too, but there's also a look back at how our winter over/under predictions for the Twins have fared.

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is "For You" by Angus and Julia Stone:

May 4, 2012

Link-O-Rama

• What an incredibly sad way for one of the greatest baseball careers of all time to end. Damn.

Jered Weaver's no-hitter against the Twins involved an added degree of difficulty.

• SABR announced that Terry Ryan, Dave St. Peter, Roy Smalley, and Ron Coomer will be among the speakers at this year's convention in Minneapolis, which begins June 27. It'll be my ninth consecutive SABR convention and I'm hoping to see a ton of AG.com readers there.

Kate Upton may not be much to look at, but she's a great dancer.

• It'll be tough to top Tim Welke for worst umpire call of the 2012 season. Or the decade.

• I had a great time talking Twins and blogging/media with Paul Allen on KFAN earlier this week and the full appearance is available online. And as always you can hear Gleeman and The Geek live on KFAN at 4:00 on Sunday.

• My podcast co-host says I look like Richard Lewis and there's never been violence, yet Vikings running back Caleb King nearly killed a man who said he looks like Eddie Murphy.

• This story explains why I don't date or go to the dentist. Better to play it safe.

Shaquille O'Neal has single-handedly made "Shaquille" into an actual name people use.

Happy birthday to Jessica Alba, who was 22 years old when she captured the Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com title, 24 years old when she lost it to Elisa Cuthbert, and is now 31.

• On last week's Gleeman and The Geek episode we discussed dipping Francisco Liriano in chocolate and inviting Delmon Young to a Hanukkah party. And also some baseball.

• As someone who once had a conversation with his grandmother about the origins of Kim Kardashian's fame this video of three grandmothers reacting to her sex tape is amazing:

Ray J has to feel pretty good about their review of his performance too.

• Last night Bryce Harper became just the fourth teenager since 1980 to bat third in a major-league game. And he drove in the game-winning run with an opposite-field double.

• I'm not sure if this is ironic, exactly, but it's definitely something.

• Imagine the amount of shit being talked in the fire extinguisher community this week.

• Who is the fastest man in baseball? If you don't know him yet you soon will.

• Minor leaguers are frequently suspended for marijuana usage, but players on 40-man rosters aren't even tested for it.

• Congrats to friend of AG.com and original Dodgers blogger Jon Weisman for his promotion at Variety magazine.

• Podcast recommendation: Jesse Thorn's lengthy chat with Michael Ian Black on Bullseye was a great mix of funny, serious, and interesting.

• For now they're both in the "very good but not great" category, but I'm glad to see that HBO has renewed Girls and Veep for second seasons. I'm still bitter about Luck, though.

• At the risk of going against blogger stereotypes I've been working outside on my balcony now that the weather is so nice, but the fact that laptop screens become nearly unreadable in sunlight makes it tough. Does anyone have a suggested easy fix that doesn't look ridiculous?

• Netflix recommendation: Bill Cunningham New York, which is a documentary about a weird and talented and loveable and obsessed man who found a job he truly loves.

• To preview the Twins-Mariners series I did a Q&A with Jon Shields of Pro Ball NW.

• I've linked to him before, but as always Edward Thoma of the Mankato Free Press is doing some very good Twins blogging.

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is Ingrid Michaelson doing a one-woman band cover version of "We Found Love" by Rihanna without using any instruments:

This week's blog content is sponsored by One Stop Insurance, which helps Minnesotans find the best value and protection in an insurance company. Please support them for supporting AG.com.

March 2, 2012

Link-O-Rama

• Monday night John Bonnes and I are hosting a get-together/meet-up/viewing party.

• Who among us hasn't tried to steal hash browns by putting them in our pants?

Jonathan Abrams' "oral history of the scariest moment in NBA history" at Grantland is one of the best things I've read so far this year.

• I'd pay big money for a set of these wind-up action figures of The Wire characters, but sadly they're apparently not for sale.

• Of course, if a certain The Wire fan took up the cause he could probably change that.

• A's right-hander Brandon McCarthy got hardcore into sabermetrics because he "didn't want to suck at baseball anymore" and turned into one of the best pitchers in the league.

Billy Beane wasn't the only MLB general manager at the Oscars, as Ned Colletti snagged a seat right behind Michelle Williams despite the fact that Brad Pitt has never portrayed him.

• I suppose Fez from That '70s Show is basically a lateral move from Derek Jeter.

Ozzie Guillen has one rule: Don't be late for the f***ing National Anthem.

• After months of waiting and way too much online research I finally bought a new car.

Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley passes along this old video about Steve Carlton's sick slider:

"I hold it like this and I throw the s*** out of it."

• Congrats to Jim Souhan for becoming the one millionth mainstream media member to make a parents' basement joke about bloggers.

Mike Pomeranz is leaving his news anchor job at KARE-11 to become the Padres' new pregame show host on FOX Sports San Diego.

Jessica Alba lost her Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com title in 2004 and has since had two kids, but she's still getting the job done.

• After years of tireless research I finally found the perfect podcast and it's Jen Kirkman's recent appearance on Todd Glass' show.

Luke Scott brought seven-foot-long, pig-killing spears into the Rays' clubhouse and then the next day he called Red Sox fans "ruthless and vulgar." Should be a fun season in Tampa Bay.

• In fairness, the straw man was really asking for it. Oof.

• The story of how a little-read 16-year-old blogger broke the Ryan Braun news weeks ahead of everyone else is pretty amazing.

• Being known as the world's most famous urine sample collector must be weird.

• Not only is Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch one of baseball's best beat reporters, he's a hell of an artist too.

• According to Chris Broussard of ESPN the Lakers turned down a trade for Michael Beasley.

Barely anyone is watching Luck on HBO, but I'm there every week for the slow burn.

• I watched the premiere episode of Awake on NBC and it hooked me, although I agree with Alan Sepinwall that there's reason to be skeptical long term.

Delmon Young remains as graceful as ever.

• Even the scariest baseball team of my childhood couldn't defeat time.

• My fellow Howard Stern fans will enjoy Artie Lange's appearance on Adam Carolla's show.

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is John Mayer's new song "Shadow Days":

January 6, 2012

Link-O-Rama

• Much to the delight of The Wire fans, Omar Little got arrested in Baltimore last week.

Simon Konecki may not know it yet, but someday he'll be the subject of a No. 1 album.

Adrian Peterson didn't let career-altering knee surgery ruin his New Year's Eve celebration.

Howard Stern used Twitter to drunk dial a bunch of his fans on New Year's Eve.

• This week's 60 Minutes had a segment about someone who ran a scam charging kids to take the ACT and SAT for them, and I'm proud to say the homepage on his computer is Rotoworld.

• Having two kids cost Jessica Alba the Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com title, but she's staging a helluva comeback.

• This week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode featured me chasing scotch with beer, pitching an idea for a podcast recording my blind dates, and ultimately concluding that "this podcast is completely off the rails." Oh, and we talked Twins too.

• I turned on the Nuggets-Kings game Wednesday to see rookie Kenneth Faried get garbage time action and this immediately happened:

And then moments later he did this too.

Alex Rodriguez, nerd or hipster? You decide!

Brandon Warne's lengthy chat with Twins hitting coach Joe Vavra is well worth reading.

Aaron Rupar of City Pages raised an intriguing question in relation to the start of my age-29 season: Prime age for baseball players is typically around 26-30, but what's the prime age for bloggers? In terms of producing content I'd say prime blogging age is 20-24, but in terms of producing good content it's probably closer to 24-28. Either way, I'm over the hill.

• I'd watch a lot more soccer if all the goals were like this one.

• I never watch hockey, but I've never missed a second of HBO's great 24/7 series on the NHL.

• Old friend Carlos Silva has found a new home after making $48 million to throw 297 innings with a 5.82 ERA since leaving the Twins.

• I know I said not to get me anything for my birthday, but I'm still kind of disappointed that no one got me Lizzy Caplan. Maybe next year.

Brad Miller hasn't played for the Timberwolves yet because of microfracture knee surgery, but he's already had a significant impact on the team.

• As you'd expect, Charles Barkley is even better when he thinks the microphones are off:

Something tells me TNT won't exactly be thrilled with Kevin Harlan either.

• Because of her divorce Zooey Deschanel's finances went public and I'm kind of surprised she doesn't have more money. Her eyes alone should be worth at least $1 million per month.

• I'm ashamed to have missed Portlandia until now, but immediately watched every episode on Netflix and the new season starts tonight on IFC. Until then, watch their take on baseball.

Aimee Teagarden has maintained her adorability since Friday Night Lights ended.

• Latest podcast recommendation: "Throwing Shade" with Bryan Safi and Erin Gibson, whose various great podcast appearances have made her my favorite Erin/Aaron, including myself.

• I picked against the spread for every NFL game this season and my final tally was 129-119-8 overall, but only 69-69-4 on my favorite picks each week. That may not look bad, but if you bet $100 per game going 129-119-8 would equal a $190 loss with the vig. Gambling is hard, kids.

• In case you were wondering, this is what a 29-year-old adult eats for lunch on his birthday.

• Friend of AG.com Lindsay Guentzel is auditioning to be this season's MLB Fan Cave resident and could use your help to win the contest.

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is Vika Yermolyeva doing a piano cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana (and there are a bunch more where that came from):

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