October 11, 2013

Link-O-Rama

• This week the New York Times' "fashion and style" section featured an article by Matt Haber about Minnesotans trying to date in Uptown. It was met mostly with derision, as locals felt it was cheesy and cliche-filled. And it definitely was, as the intro makes very clear:

As night-life emissaries go, one could do worse than Robert John Wayne, a 31-year-old artist here who happily told a recent visitor about everything from an indigenous delicacy called the Juicy Lucy (a burger with cheese baked into the patty) to what women want, something Mr. Wayne should know, seeing as how he's dating four of them.

"Nobody's exclusive," he said "That's what dating is." Mr. Wayne, who described his work as "graffiti realism," was at Mortimer's, a wood-paneled bar on Lyndale Avenue in the swath of Minneapolis known as Uptown.

However, as someone who started hanging out in Uptown recently I mostly found it amusing and made a joke about what a quote of mine would've looked like in the article. And then a few days later friend of AG.com Randball's Stu wrote a brilliant parody of the Times article starring local sports bloggers for the Minneapolis Star Tribune's site. I'd suggest reading the Times version first and then reading Stu's version, because it's a masterful spoof, but here's how it begins:

As night-life emissaries go, one could do better than Aaron Gleeman, a 30-year-old Minnetonka sports blogger who wearily told a recent visitor about everything from a baseball statistic called FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) to what women want, something Mr. Gleeman shouldn't know, seeing as how he recently asked one if he could live-tweet their date.

"It's an endless series of half-starts and missed opportunities," he said. "That's what dating is." Mr. Gleeman, who described his work as "sitting at my computer and writing about baseball as I wait for death's sweet embrace," was at Stella's, a multi-level bar in the swath of Minneapolis known as Uptown.

And then it just keeps building from there. As one of the main characters I'm biased, but it's one of the funniest things I've ever read and so perfectly matches the tone and structure of the New York Times version. My sincere hope is that for the rest of my life whenever anyone Googles me that article is the first result they see. Also, you should follow Stu on Twitter for more genius.

• Here's a non-parody response to the New York Times dating-in-Minnesota article that's also interesting. I'm definitely very guilty of No. 2 on her list and thought for a second she might be talking about me with the quote: "We had a really awesome date and then he bailed on the second date citing 'baseball' as the reason."

• So the Twins are hiring a "full-time data engineer" and OH MY GOD LOOK AT THE COMMENTS.

• Going back to read the stuff about Christian Ponder from right after the Vikings drafted him is quite an experience.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode we talked a ton about Ron Gardenhire, sung the praises of 612 Brew, and unknowingly had our picture taken from across the bar.

• I'm probably Hawk Harrelson's biggest/only fan in Minnesota, but Awful Announcing's lengthy compilation of the season's best "Sad Hawk" moments is undeniably magical:

Harrelson is the Vin Scully of freaking out on the air when things go against the White Sox.

• Speaking of which, Scully will record your outgoing voicemail message for $299 and the money goes to Autism charity. "Hello, this is Vin Scully. You’ve reached Aaron, but there’s zero chance he wants to talk to you, or anyone, on the phone. Seriously, just text him. But leave a message if you want to, I guess."

• Scully's radio call of Juan Uribe's series-winning homer was predictably lovable.

• No one ever listens to me about John Mayer, but maybe you'll listen to Molly Lambert and Tess Lynch.

• Seriously, are any of you even real?

• Twins Daily's annual "Offseason Handbook" is available for presale, so order now and you can get tons of great content featuring analysis of free agent and trade targets, payroll breakdowns, and organizational depth charts for just $4.95. Not only is it a worthwhile product for a very fair price, buying the "Offseason Handbook" also supports all the free content John Bonnes, Parker Hageman, Nick Nelson, and Seth Stohs churn out at Twins Daily all season.

• Hageman's year-end collection of Twins numbers has lots of interesting tidbits.

• I'm not on Tinder, in part because I have a Blackberry and in part because it sounds awful, but if I were on it I'd follow this guy's lead and exclusively talk to women in rap lyrics.

David Ortiz celebrating with Koji Uehara is not safe for work.

• America's highest-paid sportswriter.

• It might be time to re-think America's drug laws now that they're hurting our chubby comedians.

Aubrey Plaza behaved around Chris Bosh the same way I'd behave around Aubrey Plaza.

• In addition to being one half of my favorite podcast, Dave Shumka also writes funny stuff for CBC Music, like how WebMD would diagnose Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus based on their lyrics.

• Take two minutes and see why Jen Kirkman is great:

Related: My mom really liked that video.

Michael Rand is now shooting daily videos for the Minneapolis Star Tribune's website and his latest captures the pure, unadulterated Dana Wessel Experience.

Gabe Vodicka of Flagpole wrote a really good article about Jason Isbell's success as a solo artist, struggles with substance abuse, and songwriting prowess. I'm going to see Isbell at the Varsity Theater in a couple weeks and couldn't be more excited about it.

• How much payroll space do the Twins have and will they actually spend it?

This exchange made me chuckle. Funny how fast it goes from strong opinion nationally to being nice locally.

• Also: Presented without comment, other than to say those all occurred within 24 hours.

Amy Poehler wrote about working at an ice cream parlor for The New Yorker.

Marc Maron's new stand-up comedy special "Thinky Pain" is now available on Netflix and I love that the first person you see and hear is Tom Scharpling giving a pep talk.

• I enjoyed Todd Barry's chat with Natasha Leggero.

• Does anyone in or around Green Bay have any leads on lodging for Packers-Vikings weekend next month? I'm thinking about driving there with a bunch of doofuses, but hotels are all booked up and we'd rather not make a trek from somewhere like Appleton. We're willing to get creative.

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

- "Professional baseball duos"
- "Aaron Gleeman hot wife"
- "What if I eat Green Giant steamers every night?"
- "Nick Punto head-first slide"
- "Influential conservative podcasts"
- "Aaron gettin fat"
- "0.25 pounds in one day is how many pounds in one year?"
- "Lori Loughlin socks"

• Finally, because I stumbled across this video and immediately fell in love with both the singer and her acoustic rendition of the Whitney Houston song this week's AG.com-approved music video is Possum Plow's cover of "I Wanna Dance With Somebody":


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April 4, 2013

Ron Gardenhire, Joe Mauer, and the No. 2 spot

joe mauer and brian dozier

There's been lots of talk about who should bat second in the Twins' lineup. Many simulations and studies show that teams tend to score more when the best overall hitter bats second, but for most of MLB history the best hitter has batted third or fourth and the second spot has been home to lesser hitters with above-average speed and contact skills. Not surprisingly Ron Gardenhire prefers the speed-and-contact route, telling Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

I've always had the thought a No. 2 guy has to be able to take pitches a little bit. He has to be able to protect the guy on base and be an on-base-percentage guy also so your 3-4-5 guys are getting opportunities. Bunt. Get 'em over. Be able to shoot the ball the other way with a man on second. All those things. Basically, handle the bat. That's a No. 2 guy.

Not mentioned by Gardenhire is that he also has a very strong preference for second basemen and shortstops in the second spot. You wouldn't think a player's defensive position should factor into where he fits best in the batting order, but whether Gardenhire specifically wants middle infielders or middle infielders are simply the players who usually fit his "handle the bat" description they've dominated the No. 2 spot since he took over as manager. Starts in the No. 2 spot, 2002-2012:

Cristian Guzman       254
Nick Punto            228
Alexi Casilla         203
Orlando Hudson        126
Ben Revere             86
Jason Bartlett         83
Luis Rivas             77

All four players to start at least 100 games in the No. 2 spot were switch-hitting middle infielders with little power. Six of the seven players to start at least 75 games in the No. 2 spot were middle infielders with little power and the seventh, Ben Revere, was a speedy, no-power center fielder. In all 17 players started at least 30 games in the No. 2 spot and all but four of them (Revere, Joe Mauer, Jacque Jones, Doug Mientkiewicz) were middle infielders.

Gardenhire has used middle infielders in the second spot regardless of on-base skills and overall hitting ability, and not surprisingly the results haven't been good. None of the seven players with at least 75 starts in the No. 2 spot had a .350 on-base percentage there and only Revere, Jason Bartlett, and Orlando Hudson were above .330. Cristian Guzman, who started most often in the No. 2 spot, had a terrible .283 OBP there, and Luis Rivas was even worse at .276.

Looking beyond on-base percentage, the Twins' overall production out of the No. 2 spot has been consistently awful under Gardenhire. During his first 11 seasons as manager here's how the Twins ranked in OPS from the No. 2 spot in the 14-team American League: 13th, 13th, 14th, 14th, 12th, 13th, 8th, 12th, 11th, 13th, 12th. Not once in 11 seasons did they place higher than eighth in OPS from the second spot and they were 12th or worse nine times.

Berardino's article notes that Jack Goin, the Twins' manager of baseball research, has suggested that Mauer should bat second. Goin is the team's stat-head and no doubt has seen the research showing that the No. 2 spot should be filled by the best hitter. Mauer fits that description, with the added benefit of having more on-base skills than power, making him ideal there. As of last week Gardenhire seemed uncertain about the idea, saying:

People say Joe Mauer should hit second or whatever, but do we really want "man on second base and Joe Mauer coming up," and he's shooting it over the other way? I don't know about that. That's not his game. Just hitting is his game, but he could do it. ...

Once we start, I'll make that final decision. I'll sit down with my staff and our stat guy and see what that computer spits out, and then we'll go from there. If it's coughing, then I'll do it my way.

For the past 11 seasons "I'll do it my way" led to ranking among the worst teams in the league at getting production out of the second spot, as Gardenhire chose "handle the bat" middle infielders for a role that logs the second-most plate appearances in the batting order and sets the table for the lineup's power hitters. Sure enough it looked like Brian Dozier, a second baseman with little power and a .280 OBP between the minors and majors last year, would bat No. 2 this year.

All the statistical analysis in the world doesn't mean a whole lot if the actual decision-makers don't incorporate it into their decision-making, but whatever Goin and "that computer" said must have worked on Gardenhire because Mauer batted second in the first two games. Of course, it's worth noting that Gardenhire also batted Mauer second on Opening Day in 2008, but gave up on the idea after a week and turned to light-hitting middle infielders Alexi Casilla and Nick Punto.

In fact, Gardenhire has batted Mauer second a total of 73 times in nine seasons and Mauer has fared well in the role, hitting .316/.373/.512, but within weeks the manager has always moved the best hitter back into the third spot and inserted a light-hitting middle infielder into the second spot. We'll see if it sticks this time around. If it does Goin deserves credit for making a convincing argument and Gardenhire deserves credit for listening and adapting. Better late than never.

Most of the focus on batting orders tends to be about the interactive nature of a lineup, such as a leadoff man getting on base in front of big bats or a cleanup hitter "protecting" a No. 3 hitter, but the bigger impact tends to come from the allocation of plate appearances. Last year, for instance, the No. 1 spot in the Twins' lineup batted 758 times, whereas the No. 9 spot batted 619 times. Moving up or down one spot in the lineup adds or subtracts 15-20 plate appearances.

In this case by dropping Dozier from No. 2 to No. 8 they'd take away 100 plate appearances from one of the lineup's worst hitters. And by moving Mauer from No. 3 to No. 2 and sliding everyone else behind him up one spot as well they'd give an extra 15-20 plate appearances to each the lineup's best hitters. Whether you want to call that sabermetrics or common sense, more of the best hitters and less of the worst hitters is a pretty smart approach.


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February 15, 2013

Link-O-Rama

• One of my favorite reality television shows, "Bar Rescue" on Spike, is back for another season and the episodes are available for free online. I'm joining forces with fellow Jon Taffer devotees Parker Hageman and Dana Wessel in an effort to get the show to do an episode in Minnesota. So far this is the extent of our campaign, so obviously we're open to ideas. Let's make it happen.

• If this ever happens to me at a bar I'm going on a rampage and hopefully we'll be recording the podcast at the time so everyone can hear me murdering people.

• Now that he's replaced Joe Christensen on the Twins beat Phil Miller launched his new blog on the Minneapolis Star Tribune's website.

Mike Berardino, who was formerly a longtime South Florida Sun Sentinel columnist, has been hired by the St. Paul Pioneer Press as their new Twins beat reporter.

• Sometimes it's tough to tell the difference between spring training reports from beat writers and erotic fan fiction intros.

• If you've ever doubted the genius of Michael Schur/Ken Tremendous, he just cast the always amazing Andre Braugher and AG.com favorite Chelsea Peretti for his next FOX show.

Francis J. Underwood, sabermetrician.

• In elementary school my class sold Kirby Puckett candy bars for some sort of fundraiser and my mom just bought a bunch of them from me and then let me eat them all, which explains a lot about my life and is also relevant to this shocking Deadspin investigation.

• I'll have more on this next week, but the Twins signed Rafael Perez to a minor-league deal.

• There is no age at which men are immune to the charms of Connie Britton. And if you're not going to read this whole thing then why even bother having the internet or a computer or eyes?

Francisco Liriano broke his arm at home, but it wasn't from falling in the bathroom. No, it was actually even weirder than that.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode "horseplay" and "natural stank" were discussed at length while a woman named April occasionally chimed in.

• On a related note, I'll marry any woman who wears this on our first date.

• In his new book Mike Piazza talks about taking karate lessons to prepare for revenge against Roger Clemens. This is how I imagine those lessons:

Mediocre movie, but that scene gets me every time.

• This is crazy and all, but to lose "only" $13 million on $1 billion worth of bets isn't too bad.

• My blog-mate Craig Calcaterra explained what going to the doctor for an annual checkup has to do with sabermetrics.

• On a related note, here's an example of the type of fan mail we receive at HardballTalk.

• Nearly a decade after beginning her memorable two-year run as Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com Elisha Cuthbert is Maxim magazine's pick for "television's most beautiful woman."

• I'm proud to have convinced Scott Olstad to put together a collection of his 10 favorite Otis Redding cover songs for The Current's website.

• If you're interested in the history of great music and the impact of technology on art the Dave Grohl-directed documentary "Sound City" is a must-watch. Can't recommend it enough.

"Searching for Sugar Man" is another documentary that's definitely worth watching. I won't give away much, but it's a fascinating story that got me thinking about how context is everything.

Trevor Bauer is the next Shaquille O'Neal.

• By far the worst e-mail I've ever gotten.

Alex Pappademas of Grantland went on tour with "Community" creator Dan Harmon and wrote an amazing article about it.

• I started watching ABC's cooking show "The Taste" because of Anthony Bourdain, but have kept watching it because of Nigella Lawson.

Lenny Dykstra's son and Tony Soprano's daughter are having a baby.

• This week "Gleeman and The Geek" passed 500,000 total downloads, so thanks to everyone for listening and for spreading the word about the podcast.

• Giants teammates Tim Lincecum and Hunter Pence are the cutest:

I miss the long hair, though.

Carl Pavano talked about rupturing his spleen while shoveling his driveway and it was gross and scary and crazy.

"What is a badass?"

• Hard to believe, but unless he's a liar this guy turned 52 years old this week.

• The good news is that I bought a red hat, changed my name to Max, and moved to New York.

• Rays reliever Joel Peralta suffered a sandwich-related injury.

• Bloggers seem contractually obligated to hate "Girls" and Lena Dunham, but I watched the first five episodes of Season 2 in one sitting this week and still liked it. I'm constantly confused by who the internet decides to collectively hate or love, but she seems pretty great to me.

• I already liked Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried a lot, but now he's one of my favorite athletes.

David Brauer's return to college hilariously involves having to take freshman comp.

Sh*tty "New Yorker" Cartoon Captions.

• If you saw Mavis Staples on the Grammys, please note that Bob Dylan wanted to marry her.

• My childhood, represented by 29 pictures from one evening that I remember watching.

Jon Marthaler, Brandon Broxey, Clarence Swamptown, and Randall's Stu have started a new podcast about Minnesota sports called "The Sportive" that everyone should check out.

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

- "Chinese food weight gain 2012"
- "Aaron Gleeman fat"
- "Chelsea Peretti naked"
- "Tosoni toes"
- "Todd Glass baseball"
- "Nineties sex symbols"
- "Zoe Barnes wardrobe"
- "Zoe Barnes hair part"
- "Sid Hartman girlfriends"
- "Ricky Rubio's neck tattoo"

• Finally, in honor of Valentine's Day this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Wicked Games" by The Weeknd: