March 13, 2015

Link-O-Rama

• I'll bet the guys in Lifehouse were super pumped about their super fun plane concert and then they saw Jonah Keri's tweets.

• My dad was on WCCO news being interviewed about getting free tickets from Kevin Garnett.

Stephon Marbury scored 38 points to beat likely top-five pick Emmanuel Mudiay's team in the Chinese league semi-finals.

• Twenty years ago this week Michael Jordan quit baseball. His one Double-A season was a lot more impressive than he gets credit for.

• Just sub "Joe Mauer" for "Joey Votto" and almost any Minnesota newspaper columnist could've written this same thing.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode we revealed the details of a straightforward, no-strings-attached contest giving away 20-game Twins season ticket packages to listeners. And also a drunk woman crashed the show until her friend came and got her.

• To wrap up my series ranking the Twins' top 40 prospects I reviewed their entire farm system.

• On a related note, here is some hardcore pornography for Twins fans:

And a little more, just in case:

You're allowed two cigarettes now.

• If my hypothetical rankings of non-sports prospects this kid would be the easy No. 1 pick.

Nicole Curtis answers the age-old question: What's worse, tearing down an old Minneapolis house or sending an online mob after a woman?

• This isn't such a big deal compared to the Twins giving $9 million to Tsuyoshi Nishioka.

Manute Bol's son is a 6-foot-10 high school basketball player struggling to find stardom.

Rihanna is singing about whiskey now, because sometimes dreams really do come true.

• Red Sox bench coach Torey Lovullo opened up about how close he was to being chosen as the Twins' new manager over Paul Molitor.

Johan Santana signed a minor-league deal with the Blue Jays, including an opt-out clause.

Pat Neshek wanted to stay with the Cardinals, but they didn't want him.

Kevin Correia, fresh off a two-year, $10 million contract with the Twins, signed a minor-league deal with the Mariners.

Nick Punto is sitting out the season and probably retiring despite signing with Arizona.

Paul "Meatsauce" Lambert ran the 40-yard dash in the KFAN offices while wearing boots and a sweater:

Still faster than me, guaranteed.

• Congrats to friend of AG.com Brad Fischer for coaching the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh women's basketball team to a second straight conference title.

• I highly recommend "The Overnighters" on Netflix, which is a fascinating documentary about the North Dakota fracking boom and pastor Jay Reinke. It starts heavy and gets heavier.

• HBO's six-part documentary "The Jinx" is great. Strong mix of facts, drama, weirdness, and mystery like a television version of what "Serial" was hyped up as.

• Baseball Prospectus has been sold to Jim Walsh, formerly of Maple Street Press.

Rob McElhenney from "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" was fun on Marc Maron's podcast.

• My favorite podcast is "Stop Podcasting Yourself" and they had back-to-back great episodes with guests Todd Glass and Andy Kindler. Choose one and become a fan.

• I loved my first time at Travail Kitchen, which offers a 15-course tasting menu and now takes pre-paid reservations rather than everyone waiting in line for tables every night.

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

- "Sid Hartman net worth"
- "Minnesota Twins blog sites"
- "Where is pitching coach Rick Anderson now?"
- "How much is Jon Taffer worth?"
- "Top tweeter city"
- "Justin Morneau shirtless"
- "Glen Perkins arrogant"
- "Chicago White Sox jokes"
- "Bumped into Kate Mara"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Hanging By A Moment" by Lifehouse:


This week's blog content is sponsored by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association, which is hosting a Twins season ticket giveaway contest on their website, MNFarmTeam.com.

February 20, 2015

Link-O-Rama

Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs examined the video of every Ben Revere assist and it's great.

Pablo Torre of ESPN wrote an interesting, lengthy article about how the Philadelphia 76ers are trying to innovate during a scorched-earth rebuild.

Harris Wittels, who wrote for "Parks and Recreation," made "humblebrag" famous, and was a hilarious podcast guest, died at age 30.

• Celebrity chef Geoffrey Zakarian went to McDonald's for the first time and it was amusing.

• JNCO jeans are making a comeback.

• My fellow "Bar Rescue" fans will hopefully appreciate this Instagram account devoted exclusively to pictures of Jon Taffer.

Headline of the week: "Casual dating has millennials confused."

Maggie LaMaack wrote a good piece for Vita.mn about Twin Cities couples that met online.

• Timberwolves fans still giddy from Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine making headlines during All-Star weekend should check out these "Bounce Bros" t-shirts.

• Speaking of which, on this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode we tried to determine whether Wiggins or Byron Buxton is the superior prospect.

• Now that the Twins have re-signed Torii Hunter and the Timberwolves have traded for Kevin Garnett, it seems only fair that the Vikings talk Randy Moss out of retirement. To get in the mood for Garnett's return to Minnesota, here are some highlights from his fist go-around:

It's not shown in the above video, but I've missed that thing where Garnett stubbornly refuses to let opponents make dead-ball shots after whistles and catches them all.

• Minnesotans need constant validation from non-Minnesotans that we're good and nice and not at all insane for living in this weather, so this The Atlantic article is a big hit locally.

According to the Wall Street Journal "vodka sales fall as drinkers opt for whiskey."

• Legal marijuana is already a billion dollar per year industry in Colorado.

• Apparently you can be "jailed for months" if Mankato police mistake your vitamins for drugs.

• If you believe Baseball Prospectus' new pitch-framing numbers, Joe Mauer should have won two and possibly three MVP awards in a four-season span.

• On a related note: Of all the No. 1 ranked prospects in Baseball America history, Mauer has turned out to be the third-best player.

• WNBA star Diana Taurasi makes 15 times her WNBA salary to play in Russia, so she's sitting out the WNBA season.

Kevin Durant is the latest athlete to get sick of being a quote machine for reporters.

• It's often said that stat-heads are rude and insulting to those who disagree with them, but these columns in mainstream publications are still common. Also, "you go girl"?

• Someone bought Josh Hartnett's house on Lake of the Isles for $2.4 million.

Kerry Washington was once engaged for three years to the guy who played the kid in "Big."

Sam Miller of Baseball Prospectus wrote a fun post showing that basically every star player in baseball was once a shortstop prospect.

Jared Burton, whose $3.6 million option for 2015 was declined by the Twins, signed a minor-league deal with the Yankees.

Jack Morris has a new job in Detroit as one of the Tigers' television analysts.

Barb Abney, whose firing by The Current last month led to lots of listeners being angry, has a new gig with the Pohlad family-owned GO-96.3.

John Mulaney is at the State Theatre on March 20. I saw him in 2013 and he was amazing.

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

- "Ricky Rubio tattoo 79"
- "Twin Cities morning show rankings"
- "Brian Duensing fastball speed"
- "People staring at their phone"
- "Dick Bremer foul ball stories"
- "Tommy Herr reputation"
- "What position did Roy Smalley play?"
- "What happens in arbitration hearings?"
- "Dana Wessel superstar"

• Finally, in honor of Valentine's Day this week's AG.com-approved music video is my favorite love song, "How To Love" by Lil Wayne:


This week's blog content is sponsored by Uber, which is offering a free ride to first-time users who sign up with the promo code "UberGleeman."

October 29, 2014

Twins Notes: Molitor, Maddon, Lovullo, Colabello, Buxton, and chafing

Joe Maddon Rays

• After interviewing a surprising (to me, at least) number of outside candidates to replace Ron Gardenhire the Twins have settled on a final three of Paul Molitor, Doug Mientkiewicz, and Torey Lovullo. Molitor was on Gardenhire's coaching staff, Mientkiewicz managed the Twins' high Single-A team, and they're both longtime members of the organization. Lovullo has no real ties to the Twins and is portrayed as being very stat-head friendly, so I'll be shocked if gets the job.

Because the Twins' manager search is still unresolved Joe Maddon opting out of his contract with the Rays led to some speculation about their chances of hiring him. General manager Terry Ryan then fanned those flames by publicly commenting on Maddon, seemingly making it very clear that he thought highly of and had interest in Maddon. However, according to multiple reports the Twins never even contacted Maddon. Anyone shocked probably isn't much of a Twins fan.

• For a lot more about the Twins' managerial search and why Maddon was never going to happen, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.

• Gardenhire has publicly been supportive of Molitor's candidacy to replace him, but this tidbit from Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press was interesting:

Molitor's addition to the staff caused Gardenhire to chafe at times behind the scenes, especially early on, considering their shared expertise when it comes to infield play.

For years fans and media members wondered why Molitor wasn't being added to coaching staff and there was speculation that Gardenhire was against the idea. Molitor was finally added to the staff in October of last year and less than 365 days later he's a finalist to replace Gardenhire, with the assumption that he's been the favorite the entire time.

• On a random note: While looking at his Hall of Fame playing career I thought this comparison of Molitor through age 31 and Joe Mauer through his current age of 31 might interest people:

THROUGH AGE 31          MOLITOR    MAUER
Batting Average          .299      .319
On-Base Percentage       .360      .401
Slugging Percentage      .435      .459
OPS                      .795      .860
Games                   1,282     1,298
Wins Above Replacement   40.8      46.3

Anything portraying Mauer in a positive light angers a lot of people these days, but whatever.

Chris Colabello joins the lengthy list of Twins to play through an injury and perform horribly, admitting that he suffered a thumb injury on April 23 and "still feels numbness and tingling" six months later. At the time of the injury Colabello was hitting .346. He continued to play for the next month, going 8-for-73 (.110) with 28 strikeouts before the Twins demoted him to Triple-A. He returned later and hit .222 in 19 games before being sent down again.

According to Colabello's hometown Worchester Telegram he "glued cotton to his batting gloves and tried a thumb protector" to alleviate the pain and "didn't tell the media in Minnesota" about the injury. Berardino also reports that "a Twins official rejected that notion" of Colabello being injured when asked in June and "suggested it was purely a matter of timing and confidence." As usual the tough-guy culture of playing through it helped neither the player nor the team.

Parker Hageman of Twins Daily notes that Twins pitchers combined to throw a grand total of one pitch 97 miles per hour or faster this season. It was by Lester Oliveros, in September. By comparison, every other team in baseball threw at least 75, all but four of the other teams threw at least 150, and half of the teams threw at least 500. Kansas City led MLB with 2,287 pitches of 97 mph or faster. Again, the Twins threw one.

• Last month I examined the 40-man roster and identified 19 players the Twins could potentially drop. So far they've dropped four of them by declining Jared Burton's option for 2015, cutting Doug Bernier and Yohan Pino, and selling Kris Johnson to a team in Japan. Johnson and Alex Presley were the Twins' haul from the Pirates in exchange for Justin Morneau. They combined to play 31 games for the Twins and were both sent packing for nothing in return.

Byron Buxton's injury wrecked season keeps getting worse. Playing in the Arizona Fall League after missing all but 31 games of the regular season with a wrist injury and a concussion, Buxton fractured the middle finger on his left hand while attempting to make a diving catch. In the grand scheme of things a busted finger isn't a big concern, but the missed development time for a 20-year-old is lost forever.

• Wins by American League Central teams from 2011-2014:

Detroit Tigers       366
Cleveland Indians    325
Kansas City Royals   318
Chicago White Sox    300
Minnesota Twins      265

And that's not even counting postseason wins.

• Outfield defense played a huge role in the Royals' success this season and according to Ultimate Zone Rating their outfielders were 60 runs above average. Meanwhile, the Twins' outfielders were 36 runs below average according to UZR. Improving the pitching staff is obviously very important, but don't discount the negative impact defense and specifically outfield defense has had on their runs allowed totals. Oswaldo Arcia's continued presence makes big improvements tough.

• In the 23 years since their last World Series title the Twins have a 1,777-1,908 record for a .482 winning percentage, including 6-21 in the playoffs.


This week's content is sponsored by Harry's Razors. Go to Harrys.com and enter in the promo code "Gleeman" to receive $5 off your first order.

October 9, 2014

My hypothetical Twins MVP ballot

Brian Dozier and Danny Santana

Most Valuable Player of a 70-92 team isn't the most prestigious award, but within their struggles the Twins had plenty of good individual performances. Here's my attempt to rank them:

1. Phil Hughes

I've always found arguments against pitchers being MVPs lacking, because while they don't pitch every day their influence on the games they do pitch is huge. For instance, Phil Hughes started 32 games, threw 210 innings, and faced 855 batters. By comparison, Brian Dozier led the Twins with 707 plate appearances. Add in defensive plays and position players re-take the lead, but the point is that saying "pitchers only play once every five days" short-changes their influence.

All of which is a long way of saying that Hughes is an easy choice for team MVP. He had a great year by traditional standards, going 16-10 with a 3.52 ERA in 32 starts while the rest of the Twins' rotation was 32-60 with a 5.53 ERA in 130 starts. Oh, and he had the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in the history of baseball with an incredible 186 strikeouts versus 16 walks, standing atop of this star-studded list:

                    YEAR     SO/BB
PHIL HUGHES         2014     11.63
Bret Saberhagen     1994     11.00
Cliff Lee           2010     10.28
Curt Schilling      2002      9.58
Pedro Martinez      2000      8.88
Greg Maddux         1997      8.85
Pedro Martinez      1999      8.46

Hughes was hurt by the Twins' terrible defense, which allowed a .324 batting average on his balls in play for the second-highest rate of any pitcher in the league and a much worse rate than his career average of .296. That and some mediocre bullpen support caused his ERA to rise to 3.52 compared to an xFIP of 3.18 that ranked eighth among AL starters. Here's a list of the best xFIPs by a Twins starter in the Ron Gardenhire era of 2002-2014:

                     YEAR     xFIP
Francisco Liriano    2006     2.54
Francisco Liriano    2010     2.95
Johan Santana        2004     3.01
Johan Santana        2005     3.12
Johan Santana        2006     3.16
PHIL HUGHES          2014     3.18

Hughes had the most strikeouts (186) and highest strikeout rate (8.0) by any Twins starter in the Gardenhire era except for Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano. Hughes walked zero batters in an MLB-leading 19 of 32 starts and walked one or fewer batters in an MLB-leading 30 of 32 starts, with a season-high of three walks in his second outing of the season on April 9. He led MLB in walk rate with 0.69 per nine innings, which is the second-best rate in Twins history.

Wins Above Replacement for pitchers is calculated in two manners. One, by Fan Graphs, focuses on secondary numbers and has Hughes tied with Jon Lester and David Price for third-best in the league behind Corey Kluber and Felix Hernandez. The other, by Baseball-Reference, focuses on raw totals and has Hughes ninth-best in the league. That large disagreement stems from treating defensive support and luck differently, but either way Hughes had a fantastic year.

2. Brian Dozier

If you're vehemently against pitchers being MVP candidates then Dozier is the obvious choice. His power vanished in the second half, but he still broke his own team record for homers by a second baseman with 23. He also added in 33 doubles, stole 21 bases at a decent clip, and drew 89 walks for the second-most by any Twins player during the Gardenhire era behind Joe Mauer with 90 in 2012. His poor .242 batting average doesn't even begin to show Dozier's offensive production.

And he did all of that at an up-the-middle position where the MLB average was a .313 on-base percentage and .372 slugging percentage, beating the average OPS by 77 points. Dozier led all MLB second basemen in homers, walks, and runs. He also ranked second in extra-base hits and Isolated Power, third in times on base and Runs Created, fourth in on-base percentage, total bases, OPS, and steals, sixth in slugging percentage and RBIs, and seventh in doubles.

Defensively he always looks good and makes plenty of highlight plays, particularly when going to his left, but Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved show him as slightly below average. He played 156 games, logged 1,400 innings at second base, and joined Denard Span in 2010 and Justin Morneau in 2008 as the only Twins to top 700 plate appearances under Gardenhire. Add it all up and here's where his 5.2 WAR ranks among hitters in the Gardenhire era:

                    YEAR     WAR
Joe Mauer           2009     7.8
Joe Mauer           2010     5.9
Joe Mauer           2006     5.8
Joe Mauer           2008     5.6
Jacque Jones        2002     5.4
Joe Mauer           2013     5.3
BRIAN DOZIER        2014     5.2

Helluva season.

3. Danny Santana

After posting a .719 OPS in 131 games at Double-A last season and a .692 OPS in 24 games at Triple-A to begin this season Danny Santana was called up by the Twins on May 5 and batted .319/.353/.472 with 41 extra-base hits and 20 steals in 101 games as a 23-year-old playing a new position. In a lot of seasons that would have gotten Santana serious consideration for Rookie of the Year, but White Sox slugger Jose Abreu figures to win the award unanimously.

Defensive metrics pegged Santana as below average in center field and he certainly looked raw there after spending nearly his entire career at shortstop, but he still had the fourth-highest WAR by a Twins rookie in the Gardenhire era behind Liriano in 2005, Lew Ford in 2004, and Span in 2008. If you prorate his WAR to, say, 155 games, Santana would rank 10th among AL position players and top Dozier for the team lead.

There are strong reasons to be skeptical of Santana's rookie showing being for real, including his mediocre minor-league numbers and ghastly 98/19 K/BB ratio in the majors, but on a per-game basis he was arguably the Twins' best player this season. He places third on this ballot because he was not in the lineup for 38 percent of the Twins' games while Hughes never missed a start and Dozier sat out just six games.

4. Trevor Plouffe

Coming into spring training it seemed like Trevor Plouffe would be keeping third base warm for however long it took Miguel Sano to convince the Twins he was ready, but instead Sano missed the entire season following elbow surgery and Plouffe had a career-year. He struck out a little less, walked a little more, and traded four-baggers for two-baggers on the way to 40 doubles. The end result was an adjusted OPS+ of 110, compared to his OPS+ of 97 from 2011-2013.

His offense improved, but Plouffe's biggest gains came defensively. After three years of rating him horribly at third base both Ultimate Zone Rating and Defensive Runs Saved showed him as solidly above average. Who knows if the better glove is for real--it's not so much different than Santana hitting .319--but Plouffe was one of the 10 best all-around third basemen in baseball after just barely being better than replacement level in his first three seasons.

5. Kurt Suzuki

Defensively his poor numbers are basically the opposite of his sterling reputation and predictably he came back down to earth late, but Kurt Suzuki started 115 games and hit .288/.345/.383 compared to MLB catchers as a whole batting .249/.309/.380. Not trading Suzuki and giving him a two-year extension is questionable, but he was a great pickup on a one-year, $3 million deal and kept the Twins above average at the position post-Mauer.

6. Glen Perkins

If not for his late-season collapse while trying to pitch injured Glen Perkins would have ranked a spot or two higher. As of August 25 he had a 2.44 ERA and 64/9 K/BB ratio in 55 innings, but then he gave up five homers in eight games after giving up a total of seven homers in his previous 116 games. It's a self-inflicted shame, because Perkins was having a fourth straight dominant season while converting saves at the same rate as Mariano Rivera and Joe Nathan.

7. Eduardo Escobar

Little in Eduardo Escobar's track record suggested he was more than a utility man-caliber hitter, but when Pedro Florimon flopped he stepped in at shortstop and batted .275 with 43 extra-base hits in 133 games for a .721 OPS that's 43 points above average for the position. Defensive stats failed to reach a consensus, but he looked decent and if you think his glove was actually a plus Escobar had the best all-around season by a Twins shortstop since Jason Bartlett in 2006.

8. Kyle Gibson

After a putrid rookie showing Kyle Gibson bounced back to throw 179 innings. He managed just 5.4 strikeouts per nine innings and the awful defense turned all those balls in play into too many undeserved hits, leaving Gibson with a 4.47 ERA compared to the AL average of 3.92 for starters. However, his ground-ball rate of 54.4 percent ranked fifth among AL starters and he allowed just 12 homers in 31 starts. If given average defensive support xFIP pegs his ERA at 3.99.

9. Joe Mauer

After missing the end of last year with a concussion Mauer got off to a terrible start and then, just when he was starting to get rolling, an oblique strain sidelined him for a month. There's no way to spin his season as anything but a major disappointment, but Mauer hit .300 in his final 63 games and overall his .361 on-base percentage was 30 points above average for first basemen. Even with his extreme lack of power Mauer was basically an average all-around player at his new position.

10. Kennys Vargas

Promoted from Double-A on August 1 after the Kendrys Morales salary dump, Kennys Vargas hit .337 with a .906 OPS in his first 23 games and .225 with a .665 OPS in his last 30 games. He was good but not great overall, with a .274 average and .456 slugging percentage versus a 63/12 K/BB ratio and .316 OBP. He also played only 53 games, compared to 101 for Santana and 120 for Mauer. He was very fun to watch and dropped a lot of jaws with his smooth, easy power.


For a lengthy discussion of the Twins' ongoing manager search, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode with special guest Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

October 6, 2014

WAR in the Gardenhire Era

Ron Gardenhire, Rick Anderson

Now that Ron Gardenhire's tenure as Twins manager is over, here are the team's Wins Above Replacement leaders during the 13-season Gardenhire era of 2002-2014:

                    WAR
Joe Mauer          46.3
Johan Santana      35.1
Justin Morneau     23.5
Torii Hunter       21.7
Joe Nathan         18.4
Denard Span        17.2
Scott Baker        16.0
Brad Radke         13.4
Michael Cuddyer    12.4
Corey Koskie       10.7

Gardenhire definitely had plenty of star-level talent to work with, including a pair of MVP winners and a multi-time Cy Young winner all in the middle of their primes. For long stretches Joe Mauer was the best catcher in baseball, Johan Santana was the best pitcher in baseball, Joe Nathan was the second-best reliever in baseball, Justin Morneau was an elite power hitter, and Torii Hunter was an elite center fielder.

Within those numbers, here are the Twins' highest single-season WAR totals from 2002-2014:

                   YEAR     WAR
Johan Santana      2004     8.6
Joe Mauer          2009     7.8
Johan Santana      2006     7.4
Johan Santana      2005     7.2
Joe Mauer          2010     5.9
Joe Mauer          2006     5.8
Brad Radke         2004     5.8
Joe Mauer          2008     5.6
Jacque Jones       2002     5.4
Joe Mauer          2013     5.3

I'm still angry that Santana was robbed of three straight Cy Young awards because voters weren't yet over their obsession with win-loss records in 2005.

Oh, and here are the Twins' lowest overall WAR totals from 2002-2014:

                    WAR
Tsuyoshi Nishioka  -2.4
Liam Hendriks      -2.2
Rondell White      -1.5
Joe Mays           -1.4
Chris Herrmann     -1.3
Drew Butera        -1.2
Vance Worley       -1.2
P.J. Walters       -1.2
Trevor May         -1.2
Jason Marquis      -1.1

Joe Mays and Luis Rivas have the lowest WAR totals among Twins who logged at least 1,000 plate appearances or 1,000 batters faced under Gardenhire.

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