December 5, 2013

Twins Notes: Morneau, Nathan, Kazmir, Pierzynski, and Saltalamacchia

joe nathan and justin morneau twins

Justin Morneau is joining Michael Cuddyer and LaTroy Hawkins in Colorado, agreeing to a two-year, $13 million deal with the Rockies. Morneau is smart to try to resurrect his career in the majors' most hitter-friendly ballpark and calling Coors Field home for half his games should lead to decent-looking raw numbers even if he doesn't actually improve any, but that's a whole lot more money than I'd feel comfortable investing in him at this point.

Joe Nathan is coming back to the AL Central, signing a two-year, $20 million contract with the Tigers that also includes a team option for 2016, when he'll be 41 years old. Nathan was brilliant in two years with the Rangers, saving 80 games with a 2.09 ERA, 10.5 strikeouts per nine innings, and a .198 opponents' batting average, and then shrewdly declined his $9 million player option for 2014 knowing that he could get a multi-year deal for similar annual money on the open market.

Scott Kazmir signed a two-year, $22 million contract with the A's, which is interesting within the context of Phil Hughes' three-year, $24 million contract with the Twins. Both signings seem reasonable to me, but as noted last month in my breakdown of free agent starters I think Kazmir has more upside than Hughes. Kazmir is perhaps also at considerably higher risk to provide zero value at some point, but there's only so much that can go wrong during a two-year commitment.

• There was quite a bit of buzz linking the Twins to free agents Jarrod Saltalamacchia and A.J. Pierzynski, but now both catchers are off the board. Pierzynski signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Red Sox and it sounds like he passed up multi-year offers to join the defending champs. Saltalamacchia got a three-year, $21 million deal from the Marlins, which is pretty reasonable and suggests he really wanted to play in Miami and/or the Twins' reported interest was overstated.

• As expected the Twins tendered contracts to all of their arbitration-eligible players: Anthony Swarzak, Trevor Plouffe, and Brian Duensing. All three are due for raises to around $1.5 million, so there were no monetary reasons to let any of them go. Last month the Twins parted ways with another arbitration-eligible player, Josh Roenicke, because they didn't think he was worth that type of money for a low-leverage middle relief role.

Caleb Thielbar, Andrew Albers, and Chris Colabello worked out well, so the Twins dipped back into independent ball to sign right-hander Jon Velasquez. He spent a couple seasons in the Phillies' farm system before moving on to the Canadian-American Association (where Colabello was MVP) and Atlantic League. Velasquez's track record was nothing special as a starter, but in shifting to the bullpen this year at age 27 he threw 74 innings with a 1.95 ERA and 82 strikeouts.

• They also signed career minor leaguers Brandon Waring, Chris Rahl, and Matt Hoffman to minor-league deals. Waring is a 27-year-old corner infielder with lots of power and strikeouts who hit .214/.317/.449 with 25 homers and 148 strikeouts in 109 games this year. Hoffman is a lefty reliever with just 117 strikeouts in 148 innings at Triple-A. Rahl is a 30-year-old outfielder who's hit .292/.328/.445 at Triple-A. Depth for Rochester, mostly.

Ron Coomer, who does television work for FOX Sports North during Twins games and co-hosts a daily radio show on K-TWIN, is one of two finalists for the Cubs' radio analyst gig.

Adam Platt interviewed Twins owner Jim Pohlad for Twin Cities Business magazine.

This week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode might be the most baseball-focused show we've ever done, with an hour of non-stop talk about the Hughes and Ricky Nolasco signings.


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July 19, 2013

Link-O-Rama

• Sign-ups are open for the Twin Daily light rail pub crawl/Twins game on September 14. For just $36 you get a ticket to the Twins-Rays game, a t-shirt commemorating the event, and a chance to go pregame bar-hopping with me, John Bonnes, Parker Hageman, Nick Nelson, and various other people of note from the internet. Space is limited, so go reserve your spot.

Daunte Culpepper, who once received a $16 million signing bonus from the Vikings, just had his 10,000-square foot house in Florida taken by the bank as part of a foreclosure case.

Carly Rae Jepsen looked good throwing out the first pitch at an Orioles game two months ago, but her second try at a Rays game didn't go so well.

• There was an entertaining profile of Mets ace Matt Harvey in Men's Journal and his comments about modeling his dating life after Derek Jeter drew headlines, but here's my favorite excerpt:

"Dirty martinis and music--that's the big motto in our family," he says, describing his extended Italian-American clan as a rowdy tribe, fond of letting loose as often as possible. "We get the booze going, and the music starts playing. Always old-school hip-hop. Jay-Z. Tribe Called Quest. The Pharcyde. My parents love that stuff."

Do you think Harvey's parents would adopt me? Imagine going to a family dinner and everyone is drinking and your mom puts on Tribe Called Quest. No wonder their son is a superhero.

• All-Star game reminder: Mariano Rivera is amazing, but Joe Nathan is pretty great too.

• I have a couple openings in my "Hardball Dynasty" league on WhatIfSports and the new season begins next week. If you're interested in joining, please read this first.

• This week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode includes a special guest co-host, on-air reactions to the Twins' just-announced roster moves, and lots of Ron Gardenhire talk.

• Oh nothing, just Rosie O'Donnell awkwardly introducing Puff Daddy and Mase to the crowd at the Nickelodeon awards in 1998:

I was 15 years old in 1998, so you can imagine how things got to be the way they are.

Bud Selig says he's never sent an e-mail in his life.

Tim Lincecum and Buster Posey are the cutest.

• Apparently the Kenny Chesney concert screwed up the grass at Target Field.

• My weekly half-hour chat with Paul Allen on KFAN included Glen Perkins trade talk, debating the merits of the Twins not spending money, and the apparent return of "Girls Gone Gleeman."

• On a related note, if the Twins trade Perkins this is the picture fans can look at before storming Target Field.

• And speaking of pictures of the Twins' closer, here's Perkins and Joe Mauer through the years as high school All-Stars, World Baseball Classic teammates, and MLB All-Stars. Pretty cool.

Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky forever.

• I'm apparently not the only blogger re-watching "The Sopranos."

Ben Revere, who hit .347 in 65 games since May 1, is now out two months with a broken foot.

• Before that injury Jeff Sullivan of Fan Graphs wrote a great piece examining how close Revere has actually come to hitting a home run.

• Netflix's new original series "Orange Is The New Black" is definitely worth watching. It's a little uneven at times in terms of tone and some of the performances border on cheesy, but there's lot of good characters, some very compelling scenes, and more humor than I expected.

• "Orange Is The New Black" has a scene in which a prisoner references a YouTube video about the positive impact from minimal amounts of exercise, so I found the video and it's good:

As a lazy person with a sedentary job that's basically the exercise approach that worked for me.

• I'm not sure why, since it was the All-Star break and the team is so depressing, but for some reason I wrote three lengthy Twins articles this week in addition to a two-hour podcast. It would make me feel better about my questionable use of time if you'd read all the stuff:

- Reviewing the Twins' first half: Hitters
- Reviewing the Twins' first half: Pitchers
- Who are the worst All-Stars in Twins history?

Those three articles were written in the span of 72 hours and include about 6,000 words. To put that in some context, many novels are 40,000-50,000 words. This is one of those weeks when I start to think about the amount of Twins content I could produce if it were a job rather than an unpaid hobby and then start to think about needing a new hobby. Anyway, do me a favor and read as many of those 6,000 words as you can.

• I went with a different photo to accompany my "Who are the worst All-Stars in Twins history?" post, but this "Ronald Coomer" baseball card definitely needs to be seen.

• I still can't believe they let my HardballTalk blog-mate Craig Calcaterra (and his HBT Daily co-host Kay Adams) on the field for the All-Star game.

Chris Davis quit Twitter right before the All-Star game and I'm surprised he lasted that long.

• I love when celebrities talk about their Howard Stern fandom and Jonah Hill was the latest to do so on Marc Maron's podcast.

• For my fellow Stern fans: Did you know the morning show that friend of AG.com Dana Wessel now produces on KTWIN-96.3 is co-hosted by longtime Stern show regular Cane? I just pieced that together last week and now I have so many Crazy Cabbie questions for him.

• Speaking of Maron, he was a guest on Joe Rogan's show and they had a good three-hour talk.

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

- "What did the Twins get for Matt Capps?"
- "Picture of Brendan Harris hitting"
- "Famous people over 350 pounds"
- "Zooey Deschanel fantasy baseball"
- "Aaron Gleeman watches 'Blue Valentine'"
- "Man stuffing face"
- "Elliptical workouts at midnight"
- "Elisha Cuthbert in Minnesota"
- "Nikola Pekovic girlfriend"
- "Who was Roy Smalley?"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Royals" by Lorde:


This week's blog content is sponsored by the Twins Daily light rail pub crawl/Twins game, where you can join Aaron Gleeman, John Bonnes, Parker Hageman, Nick Nelson, and Seth Stohs for a day of bar-hopping and baseball on September 14. Space is limited, so book your spot.

July 16, 2013

Who are the worst All-Stars in Twins history?

coomer and laudner

Because so many All-Star selections are based more on first-half performances than overall track records and there's a rule that every team must be represented by at least one player there have been plenty of head-scratching inclusions over the years. Joe Mauer and Glen Perkins are both deserving All-Stars this year, but that hasn't always been the case throughout Twins history and I thought it would be interesting to look back at the team's most questionable All-Stars.


Ron Coomer, 1999: With the Twins in the midst of their seventh consecutive losing season and their third straight 90-loss season Coomer was chosen as the team's lone All-Star in 1999. At the All-Star break the Twins were in last place at 34-52 and Coomer was hitting .282/.312/.458 with 11 homers and 12 walks in 75 games as a first baseman/third baseman. And his production was even worse than it looks because offensive levels across baseball were very high in 1999.

As a whole the American League hit .275/.349/.439 in 1999, which means during the first half that got him named to the All-Star team Coomer had an OPS that was 20 points below average. And not only was he a first baseman/third baseman--two positions where the standard for offense is even higher than the league overall--Coomer was 32 years old with no real history of success. He then made the All-Star nod look even worse by hitting .235/.300/.372 in the second half.

Coomer finished his first and only All-Star season hitting .263/.307/.424 with 16 homers and 30 walks in 127 games, posting an OPS that was 60 points below the league average. That year the AL had 31 first basemen and third basemen who played at least 100 games and Coomer ranked 20th in batting average, 28th in on-base percentage, 25th in slugging percentage, and 25th in OPS. He was also a very limited defender and baserunner.

So who should have been the team's All-Star in 1999? What makes the Coomer selection doubly weird is that the Twins actually had some very good players that season. Brad Radke threw 219 innings with the league's fourth-best ERA. Eric Milton threw 206 innings and ranked among the AL's top 10 in strikeouts, strikeout-to-walk ratio, and opponents' batting average. Corey Koskie hit .310/.387/.468 in 117 games. Coomer wasn't one of the Twins' five best players.


Tim Laudner, 1988: Laudner was 30 years old and in his eighth season when he was chosen as a first-time All-Star in 1988. Combined during the previous seven seasons he hit .218/.285/.393 in 1,580 plate appearances, ranking as one of baseball's worst hitters over that span, and Laudner typically split time behind the plate with catchers like Dave Engle, Mark Salas, Sal Butera, Jeff Reed, Ray Smith, and Tom Nieto.

Laudner hit .191 for the World Series-winning team in 1987, but then in 1988 he took on a bigger workload behind the plate and hit .264/.329/.462 with nine homers in the first half. That earned Laudner a spot on the All-Star team backing up starting catcher Terry Steinbach of the A's, but he turned back into a pumpkin in the second half by hitting .234/.299/.341 with four homers to finish his lone All-Star season at .251/.316/.406 with 13 homers in 117 games.

It was a weak year for catchers and the position's standard for offense is always low, but of the league's 14 regulars he was eighth in OPS while throwing out just 25 percent of steal attempts. And then one season after being a first-time All-Star at 30 he was retired at 31, calling it quits after hitting .222/.293/.351 for the Twins in 1989. Laudner was one of 293 players to log at least 2,000 plate appearances in the 1980s and he ranked 292nd in batting average and 280th in OBP.

So who should have been the team's All-Star in 1988? Believe it or not, Laudner actually wasn't the Twins' only All-Star. In fact, coming off the World Series victory in 1987 they had five All-Stars in 1988, including the deserving Frank Viola, Kirby Puckett, and Gary Gaetti. Allan Anderson also won the ERA title without making the All-Star team and Kent Hrbek wasn't picked in perhaps the best season of his career, hitting .312/.387/.520 for the league's seventh-best OPS.


Jim Perry, 1971: Perry is one of the best pitchers in Twins history and in 1970 he won the Cy Young award with an AL-best 24 victories and a 3.04 ERA in 279 innings. And then in 1971 he was terrible. In a very low-scoring year Perry posted a 4.23 ERA compared to the AL average of 3.46, allowing the most earned runs (127) and home runs (39) in the league. If you translate his 1971 numbers to today's offensive environment it equates to a 5.00 ERA and 53 homers allowed.

And he didn't even have a good first half with a 4.10 ERA and 20 homers in 22 starts. Perry did, however, have enough run support and luck to go 12-8 despite coughing up tons of runs, which is often enough to get an All-Star nod in 2013 and was certainly enough in 1971. It's not hard to see how the reigning Cy Young winner with 12 wins at the All-Star break got chosen for the team, but Perry had a worse ERA than all but three AL pitchers to qualify for the ERA title in 1971.

Perry was so good for so long that it seems wrong to put him on a list with guys like Coomer and Laudner, but strictly in terms of performance during an All-Star season no pitcher in Twins history was worse. Despite going 74-86 in 1971 the Twins had five All-Stars, yet the three players with the highest Wins Above Replacement totals on the team--Bert Blyleven, Jim Kaat, and Cesar Tovar--weren't picked.

                  GS      IP      ERA      SO      BB     HR
Jim Perry         39     270     4.23     126     102     39
Bert Blyleven     38     278     2.81     224      59     21

Blyleven was 20 years old, so no doubt the baseball world in 1971 was slow to come around to him being an elite pitcher, but that comparison between Twins rotation-mates is crazy. Blyleven allowed 95 runs in 278 innings, Perry allowed 135 runs in 270 innings, and Blyleven nearly had twice as many strikeouts, half as many walks, and half as many homers allowed. Three decades later Blyleven detractors used his lack of All-Star games to discredit his Hall of Fame case.


Dave Engle, 1984: As a prospect Engle was acquired by the Twins as part of the four-player deal for Rod Carew in 1979. Engle was very good for the Twins in 1983, hitting .305/.350/.449 in his first season as a starting catcher, and a solid first half in 1984 led to a spot on the All-Star team backing up Lance Parrish of the Tigers. He then hit .192 in the second half and finished the year at .266/.308/.363 with four homers in 109 games overall.

Engle never got 200 plate appearances in a season again after being a 27-year-old All-Star and played a grand total of just 269 career games after the selection, hitting .229 with 10 homers. He was the Twins' lone All-Star on an 81-81 team despite Viola and Hrbek having standout seasons as 24-year-olds and no fewer than a half-dozen other players being far more deserving by the end of the season.


Ken Landreaux, 1980: Landreaux, like Engle, was acquired from the Angels in the Carew trade. And, like Engle, he was the lone All-Star on a mediocre Twins team in 1980 that featured several stronger performances. Landreaux was actually much better for the Twins the previous season, hitting .305/.347/.450 in 151 games as their primary center fielder. He nearly duplicated those numbers in the first half of 1980 to get the All-Star spot, but then dropped off in the second half.

Landreaux wasn't bad in 1980, he just wasn't anywhere close to All-Star caliber. He finished at .281/.334/.417 with seven homers in 129 games split between center field and left field, grading out very poorly in modern defensive metrics. There were 47 outfielders to play at least 100 games in the AL and Landreaux ranked 22nd in batting average, 29th in OBP, 23rd in slugging, and 28th in OPS. That offseason the Twins traded him to the Dodgers for Mickey Hatcher.


This week's blog content is sponsored by the Twins Daily light rail pub crawl/Twins game, where you can join Aaron Gleeman, John Bonnes, Parker Hageman, Nick Nelson, and Seth Stohs for a day of bar-hopping and baseball on September 14. Space is limited, so book your spot.

March 1, 2013

Link-O-Rama

• I also carefully considered my options before deciding to move out and buy my own house.

• Every student in a Johns Hopkins University class boycotted the final exam, so based on the established grading curve they all got a perfect score.

• I was conflicted seeing all the good-looking movie stars sporting beards at the Oscars, but ultimately they can't be blamed for believing in science.

Nikola Pekovic and Zach Galifianakis are besties now. Lotta respect in the beard game.

• Never forget: Kelsey Grammer was the original Jennifer Lawrence.

• Tough to decide between Lawrence and Jack Nicholson or Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Sally Field for cutest Oscar couple.

• It was a good run, but after nearly three years as Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com this might be the end of us. I've got a committee putting together a list of potential candidates.

• And don't feel too bad for Mila Kunis. She's used to it.

• Just to be clear, I'm still willing to marry into Kate Mara's family.

• My annual series ranking the Twins' top prospects will conclude next week, but in the meantime here's the first installment of the top 10.

Ricky Rubio to Alexey Shved on TNT last night: "Change your face. Be happy. Enjoy it."

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode one of my family members was randomly at the bar we chose for the recording and I also compared myself to Jennifer Lawrence.

• Locking yourself out of a hotel room naked is essentially my worst nightmare:

And based on that amazing video it's the worst nightmare of everyone around him too.

Wright Thompson's lengthy ESPN.com piece about Michael Jordan on his 50th birthday is a must-read, if only for the part about Jordan's security code name being a Hebrew word.

• I kind of want to go to New Mexico and take this "Breaking Bad" tour, even if Bryan Cranston isn't around to pose for pictures with everyone.

• Congrats to friend of AG.com and two-time "Gleeman and The Geek" guest Lindsay Guentzel for her new gig on K-TWIN, where she'll co-host a show with Ron Coomer and Mark Rider.

• I've always been a big believer in naps, so I loved the Boston Globe's "how to nap" guide that illustrates the best methods for napping and explains why napping is a good thing. My personal recommendations: Try to nap immediately after finishing work for the day and buy a sleep mask to block out any sunlight for daytime napping (and also to look really cool, obviously).

Erin Andrews had no interest in going to the candy shop.

Zach Lowe of Grantland wrote a really interesting analysis of stat-head general manager Daryl Morey building the Rockets into a high-powered, statistically ideal offense.

• Reading this interview with Linda Cardellini it occurred to me that she's 37 years old, which seemed impossible considering she brilliantly played a teenage Lindsay Weir in 2000. My crush has not dissipated since then and I recommend spending 99 cents to watch Cardellini co-star with John Slattery in the 2011 independent movie "Return."

• Hey, it's spring training for national anthem singers too.

• Now that we know Ron Gardenhire texts I imagine him as a heavy emoticon user.

Stephen Curry had a crazy degree of difficulty while scoring 54 points on 28 shots.

• I first saw Haralabos Voulgaris when he made the final table of a World Poker Tour event in 2007, but poker is just a hobby. He's gotten rich from betting on basketball and as Scott Eden of ESPN.com chronicles that makes him arguably the most successful statistical analysis in sports.

• UFC president Dana White's buddy challenged unassuming lightweight Joe Lauzon to a grappling match and the results were amusingly predictable:

Any weight advantage was canceled out by the scarf.

• Fictional players from my "Hardball Dynasty" league are now being interviewed on Fan Graphs.

• Sure, it's only March 1, but it's hard to believe you'll see a better catch this year.

Jim Thome is still looking for work, so I'll make a standing offer: $20 per episode to co-host the podcast and I'll do the best I can to keep John Bonnes from hugging him.

• It took Joe Posnanski all of two posts on HardballTalk to write something better than anything I've ever written on there.

• In addition to Posnanski we also added Bill Baer of Crashburn Alley to the HardballTalk crew.

• My mom tried to get the inside scoop about the Baer hiring before anyone else.

• There's a podcast about embarrassing pooping stories and it's actually pretty good. "How I Met Your Mother" writer Doug Mand is the host and he's joined on "Doodie Calls" by lots of funny guests, like "Happy Endings" actress Eliza Coupe and Twitter must-follow Alison Agosti.

Adele is great and all, but Paul F. Tompkins does the best version of "Skyfall."

Louis C.K.'s latest stand-up special, which I happily bought for $5 on his website last year, is now available on Netflix online. Here's a screenshot of me watching it for the third time.

• In addition to being an age-old debate Blondes vs. Brunettes is also a female flag football game to raise money for Alzheimer's awareness, so check out a good, fun cause and go to their happy hour at Brit's downtown next week.

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

- "Father of Diora Baird's child"
- "Aaron Gleeman dating Linda Cardellini rumors"
- "Carlos Gutierrez baseball agent"
- "Ear lump"
- "Shecky Souhan"
- "Aaron is fat and mental"
- "NBA players wearing teeth braces"
- "How do I lay my leg with a broken fibula?"
- "Alexey Shved shirtless"
- "Kate Mara ugly"

• Finally, in honor of Cardellini still being great at 37 and Ronda Rousey using it for her entrance at UFC 157 this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Bad Reputation" by Joan Jett:


This week's blog content is sponsored by Rotoworld's annual "Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide," which is available in both magazine and online versions. Please support them for supporting AG.com.