August 22, 2014

Link-O-Rama

Ron Gardenhire admitted to knowing of Fan Graphs and, despite this being 2014 and his being a highly paid baseball manager, everyone was rightfully shocked. Which is funny, but also not.

• I mean, did someone really "fake their own death" if one phone call to their parents immediately blows up the entire scheme?

• The American Reader examined how "bae" became a thing people say.

Phil Hughes, Ace. (Seriously.)

• One of my favorite writers, Gaby Dunn, put together an amusing Jezebel post about "ghosting" people via text, which I've regretfully done twice and constantly feel guilty about.

Pat Neshek gave up his number so John Lackey could keep wearing No. 41 after being traded from the Red Sox to the Cardinals and in return he received a ball autographed by Babe Ruth.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode I finally got rid of John Bonnes.

• Comedy Central just made the entire first season of "Broad City" available online and I liked it so much I'm re-watching the whole thing. Here's a scene featuring Hannibal Buress:

Ilana and Lincoln might be the best couple on television.

• You'd think people mistakenly getting into random cars believing they'd paid the driver to pick them up would be crazy, but as someone who now uses Uber and Lyft regularly it makes sense.

Chipper Jones randomly bumped into Manny Ramirez at the Des Moines airport.

• Indians righty Corey Kluber came out of nowhere to become one of baseball's best pitchers and Jordan Bastian of MLB.com deftly mixed reporting and analysis to see how that happened.

• Good job, y'all. Negative feedback made Blue Plate Restaurants get rid of the "minimum wage" fee and increase their servers' base pay.

• This week's "Gleeman and The Geek" guest co-host, Parker Hageman, has his own podcast called "The No Juice Podcast" and I generally find it very amusing.

• Another catcher whose career may be in jeopardy due to concussions from foul tips.

• Thought Catalog occasionally has some interesting stuff and has given quite a few good writers their first sizable audience, but things have gotten pretty disgusting there lately.

• Sadly, it didn't work.

• Friend of AG.com Dana Wessel is back writing his weekly Premier League column for the Minneapolis Star Tribune's website.

• New Bohemia in Northeast has been a big supporter of "Gleeman and The Geek" and now the beer-and-sausage house is opening a second location in Golden Valley.

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

- "Roy Smalley, baseball player"
- "Your favorite Coen brothers movies"
- "What is Scott Ullger good at?"
- "Sad guy sitting alone in restaurant"
- "How much does Joe Nathan make per inning?"
- "Where did Nick Blackburn go?"
- "Are the suites at Target Field air-conditioned?"
- "Weight loss Zubaz"

• Finally, in honor of the Twins Daily light rail pub crawl Saturday this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Fast Train" by Solomon Burke:


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."

August 6, 2014

Oswaldo Arcia, lefties on lefties, and swinging “too hard”

oswaldo arcia twins

After a promising rookie campaign last year Oswaldo Arcia has been a mess for most of this season, hitting .199 with 56 strikeouts in 44 games since homering in back-to-back games in early June. He's been particularly helpless versus left-handed pitching, hitting .180 with 24 strikeouts in 68 plate appearances for the season, and Ron Gardenhire recently got Arcia's struggles against southpaws some media coverage by discussing them with reporters:

Not good. Hasn't been good. He missed some fastballs [Friday] night. He had two to hit. He's just got to put the barrel on them. He's got to hit them. The first one was right there, and he just fouled it off. He's just trying to hit the ball 8,000 miles right now. Every swing he takes, he swings so frickin' hard that I don't know any way possible that your head can be on the ball. ... He's got to get away from that. He's not going to hit at this level if he continues to swing as hard as he possibly can, trying to hit the ball 8,000 miles.

I'm certainly in no position to say whether those criticisms are legitimate and/or helpful, but I will note that the Twins had similar and similarly public "swings too hard" criticisms of Carlos Gomez and, before him, David Ortiz. I'll also note that Arcia is hardly the first young left-handed hitter to flail away against left-handed pitching. Through age 23 he's hit .229 with a .625 OPS versus lefties. Here's how that compares to some other left-handed Twins hitters at the same age:

vs. LHP                PA      AVG      OPS
OSWALDO ARCIA         185     .229     .625
Justin Morneau        110     .218     .630
Joe Mauer             398     .275     .671
Rod Carew             178     .286     .704
David Ortiz            78     .234     .734

Arcia is a rarity in Twins history simply by being in the majors and accumulating regular playing time versus left-handed pitching at age 23. In fact, only 11 left-handed hitters in franchise history have at least 50 plate appearances versus lefties through age 23. I've included four of the most prominent names on that list in the above comparison with Arcia. He has the worst production of the bunch, but Justin Morneau was almost exactly as unproductive and no one was very good.

Joe Mauer and Rod Carew hit for solid batting averages off lefties, because that's just what they were born to do, but they both had modest overall production and extreme platoon splits. And that's simply how it goes with left-handed hitters. Most of them struggle against lefties initially and many of them never really learn to hold their own against them. For instance, Jacque Jones hit .227 with a .616 OPS off lefties for his entire Twins career, totaling 848 plate appearances.

In other words, for his seven Twins seasons Jones was as terrible against lefties as Arcia has been through age 23. Gardenhire used Jones as an everyday player nearly that entire time, refusing to platoon him and often starting him in the leadoff spot versus lefties. Perhaps he didn't "swing too hard," but Jones was helpless versus lefties too and Gardenhire stubbornly never let that change his strategy and the Twins' coaching staff never helped him get any better.

Want more examples? No left-handed hitter in the history of the Twins with more than 200 plate appearances against left-handed pitching has ever topped an .800 OPS off them. And among that group only Carew, Ortiz, Doug Mientkiewicz, Denard Span, Kent Hrbek, and Matt Lawton topped .750. Here are some of the bigger names who struggled against left-handed pitching while in a Twins uniform:

vs. LHP              OPS
Jimmie Hall         .564
Jacque Jones        .616
A.J. Pierzynski     .647
Jason Kubel         .673
Tony Oliva          .690
Justin Morneau      .711
Corey Koskie        .725

Morneau won an MVP award and is one of the best half-dozen hitters in Twins history, but he hit just .251 with a .298 on-base percentage and .414 slugging percentage off lefties. Tony Oliva is a borderline Hall of Famer, but he had a lower OPS against lefties than thoroughly mediocre right-handed hitters like Brendan Harris, Steve Lombardozzi, and Dustan Mohr. Going beyond the Twins, across all of MLB this season lefty hitters have a .649 OPS off lefty pitchers.

My point isn't that Arcia ought to stick with his approach versus lefties. It also didn't work in the minors, where he hit .265 off lefties compared to .330 off righties. He absolutely needs to improve against them in order to fulfill his potential and hopefully Twins coaches can help him. However, the fact that he's struggling with lefties so far isn't necessarily some sort of character flaw and it may not mean anything at all other than he happens to be a left-handed hitter.


For a lot more about Arcia's struggles, plus a review of the Twins' trade deadline moves and non-moves, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.

July 9, 2014

Twins Notes: Nolasco, Buxton, Sano, Gordon, Parmelee, and Dozier

ricky nolasco and ron gardenhire

• In signing Ricky Nolasco to a four-year, $49 million contract the Twins touted his durability as a major selling point, as the 31-year-old right-hander had started at least 30 games and logged at least 185 innings in five of the previous six seasons. Now, just four months into his Twins career and with an ugly 5.90 ERA in 18 starts, Nolasco has been shut down with elbow soreness that he's apparently been pitching through since spring training.

If everyone involved is to be believed that news came as a surprise to the Twins, which means either Nolasco went out of his way to hide the injury from trainers and coaches or those same trainers and coaches went out of their way not to investigate his season-long struggles. Or maybe a mixture of both. Certainly if he was hiding the elbow injury that has to be very frustrating for the Twins and Nolasco is absolutely at fault.

However, it's also worth noting that the Twins--from the front office to manager Ron Gardenhire and his coaching staff--have created and repeatedly fed into a culture in which acting like a tough guy and playing through pain is considered noble rather than stupid or irresponsible. Even in discussing how Nolasco hid the injury from the team Gardenhire almost couldn't help acting as if there was something positive about the so-called "old school" approach taken by the pitcher.

Meanwhile, seemingly every season one or two key players try to tough their way through injuries with disastrous results and no one ever seems to learn a lesson from it. Who knows whether that played a role in Nolasco pitching through pain, but it certainly didn't play a role in convincing him to do otherwise. When can we end this outdated, shortsighted approach of letting hugely valuable athletes risk their short- and long-term health and productivity in the name of being tough guys?

If you're a player and you're hurt, tell someone in charge. And if you're someone in charge and a player tells you he's hurt, don't let him continue playing. As simple as those two directives sound, they've been sadly lacking for the Twins in recent years. This time around it led to their trotting out an injured pitcher for 18 horrible starts and putting at risk a $48 million investment. If that's "old school" then everyone flunked out.

• Worst single-season adjusted ERA+ in Twins history among pitchers with 100 or more innings:

68 - Jim Deshaies, 1994
66 - Ricky Nolasco, 2014
71 - Boof Bonser, 2008
72 - Ray Corbin, 1974
72 - Joe Mays, 2003
72 - Jim Hughes, 1976

Helluva list.

• MLB starting pitchers have a combined 3.90 ERA. Twins starters have the following ERAs:

3.70 - Phil Hughes
4.17 - Kyle Gibson
4.79 - Kevin Correia
4.98 - Yohan Pino
5.90 - Ricky Nolasco
6.52 - Sam Deduno
7.99 - Mike Pelfrey

As a group Twins starting pitchers rank 29th among MLB teams in ERA, ahead of only the Coors Field-inflated Rockies. Last season they ranked 30th in ERA and in 2012 they ranked 29th in ERA, also ahead of only Colorado.

Byron Buxton finally returned from a wrist injury after sitting out the first three-plus months of the season and despite all the missed time Baseball America's midseason update still ranked him as the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball. Miguel Sano also ranked No. 9 even though the Twins just announced that he'll miss the entire season following elbow surgery and pitchers Jose Berrios, Kohl Stewart, and Alex Meyer also cracked Baseball America's updated top 40.

• Meyer looks to be back on track at Triple-A after some struggles last month. He struck out 10 last night and has a 2.00 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 18 innings over his last three starts.

• No. 5 overall draft pick Nick Gordon has hit .359/.408/.500 with five extra-base hits and four stolen bases through his first 15 pro games for rookie-level Elizabethon.

Chris Parmelee is 26 years old and has batted .235 with a .299 on-base percentage and .370 slugging percentage in 677 plate appearances since his big September debut, so it's probably time to stop getting excited whenever he has a decent week.

• His batting average isn't pretty, but Brian Dozier's current 112 adjusted OPS+ is the best by a Twins middle infielder since Todd Walker in 1998 and Chuck Knoblauch in 1994-1996.

• He's a deserving All-Star, but it's odd to hear Kurt Suzuki endlessly praised for "handling" a pitching staff that ranks 28th in ERA, especially when pitch-framing stats show him as poor.

• This offseason the Twins were believed to be deciding between Suzuki and John Buck as their veteran catcher addition. Buck hit .226/.293/.286 for the Mariners and just got released.

• I looked this up after watching him leg out a single Monday evening: Kendrys Morales has 48 career infield hits, including at least 10 in three different years. Imagine that.

Eduardo Escobar was hitting .314/.357/.473 on June 15. Since then he's 9-for-66 (.136) with 17 strikeouts and 2 walks. Track records: Trust 'em.

Hisashi Iwakuma owns the Twins, with a 5-0 record and 0.00 ERA in five starts against them.

Vance Worley has a 2.28 ERA and 18/5 K/BB ratio in four starts for the Pirates, who think they've fixed whatever ailed him with the Twins last season.

Pat Neshek, who has a 2.39 ERA since being waived by the Twins in 2011, made his first All-Star team at age 33.

Lew Ford, now 37 years old, is hitting .372 with a .445 on-base percentage and .568 slugging percentage in the independent Atlantic League. And he's the team's hitting coach too.

• One-time Twins minor leaguer Yangervis Solarte turned back into a pumpkin after a big April and May for the Yankees.


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."

April 11, 2014

Link-O-Rama

Delmon Young hitting a 50-hop ground ball past a diving Derek Jeter is what the 2014 baseball season is all about

Bartolo Colon jiggling his gut is my spirit animal.

• If you've ever wanted a customized nickname from Ron Gardenhire, this is your lucky day.

• Someone please hire Randball's Stu to write for a living. He suddenly needs a job and is Minnesota's funniest writer.

• The lesson here is to not trust anyone who doesn't like Kendrick Lamar.

• My analysis of the Twins trading for Eduardo Nunez was mostly underwhelming.

• I love how seriously Jay Boller took his analysis of the Twins' walk-up songs.

• Dang. The Ultimate Warrior died.

• I've been using Uber a lot lately and it's amazingly easy/pleasant compared to cabs. If you use this promo code you get $20 off a ride and I get $20 too, which allows me to drink Jack Daniels all across this great state of ours. Give it a shot. Why not?

This week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode kicked off our third season on KFAN, with a new producer and the usual live radio show plus podcast portion.

• I've been getting really into "Workaholics" lately and Waymond is my favorite character:

Great acting is all about subtle nuance.

• I'm planning to make this an ongoing project with expanded reviews, pictures, and lots of other stuff, so for now this is just a very preliminary version of my Uptown Bar Power Rankings.

• Speaking of which, I'm very sad to see Rye Deli suddenly close up shop. It was home to many of my mediocre first dates and even hosted "Gleeman and The Geek" on multiple occasions. RIP.

• We've talked about it so much that Parker Hageman of Twins Daily is now trying to convince me to buy this bar.

• On a related note, Hageman wrote an interesting article about Chris Colabello that's definitely worth checking out.

• Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons is absolutely ridiculous.

• As a Jack Daniels devotee I enjoyed Kara Nesvig's tribute to whiskey-based romancing.

• This week I went to the Kmart on Lake Street for the first time and it was one of the saddest experiences of my entire life, so I'm not sure how I feel about this development.

Paul Goldschmidt owns Tim Lincecum.

• America's best, most important television couple.

• I'm pretty sick of Maggie LaMaack at this point, but she interviewed yet another tweeter I very much enjoy following in Talia Wischmann.

• Royals rookie Yordano Ventura threw a 103-mph pitch.

• If you're wondering whether Hank Aaron is the "True Home Run King" read this.

• Based on Molly Fitzpatrick's article about dating labels, I'd like to someday be known by: 1) "My plus-one." 2) "My arm candy." 3) "The Bae."

Taco Cat delivery service is the type of thing that makes me proud to have moved to Uptown.

• Friend of AG.com and former "Gleeman and The Geek" guest Jack Moore has a Kickstarter-driven project at the Beacon Reader, which is the type of thing baseball fans should support.

Jason Isbell chatting with Marc Maron was basically my idea of podcasting perfection. And they even recorded the episode in Minnesota.

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

- "Hairy twins"
- "Ricky Rubio tattoo"
- "Can I eat baked chicken wings after late-night workout?"
- "Did Brock Lesnar play for the Minnesota Twins?"
- "Greg Gagne net worth"
- "Minnesota Twins players with beards"
- "Can you break your ear cartilage?"
- "Kevin Slowey shirtless"
- "I'm a teen and I want to work at Pizza Hut"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is "So Special" by Lil Wayne and John Legend:


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February 28, 2014

Link-O-Rama

Johan Santana's comeback from multiple shoulder surgeries at age 35 isn't going so well.

• Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com is no longer really a thing, so longtime title-holder Mila Kunis gave up and decided to just marry some loser.

• Those of us who're naturally blessed resent the fact that people can now fake having our gift.

• I did something very similar for about 10 years, except with Chinese food.

• As a college dropout I'm thankful that this is an increasingly prevalent thing, if only so someone can support me in my old age.

• I wrote a White Sox season preview for HardballTalk and for the second straight season they might be even worse than the Twins.

Lydia Loveless put out a new album last week and I've already listened to it several dozen times. Good music with emotional lyrics, an interesting perspective, and a pretty solid Lucinda Williams vibe. She's coming to Minnesota in April to play First Avenue and I'll be there.

• Really good long read: Benjamin Wallace-Wells of New York Magazine on prison gang culture and the craziness of a large-scale hunger strike in solitary confinement.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode I gave John Bonnes a tour of my new place in Uptown and told a lengthy pooping-related story.

• On a related note, the podcast is making tremendous strides in the female listener demographic.

• I stupidly didn't go see Hannibal Buress at Varsity Theater after loving him at Acme Comedy Company last year, but at least his five-minute set on "The Tonight Show" was really good:

Here's hoping that Jimmy Fallon keeps giving good, young stand-up comedians a big stage.

• Big news in the fast food world, as Taco Bell is set to launch a breakfast menu and McDonald's is thinking about serving breakfast all day.

• It never stops: "If you don't know what type of phone this guy has (if it's a BlackBerry, dump him) you should prepare to bring a charger."

• Having just realized that Uber is available on BlackBerry, this Mickey Rapkin article for GQ about a week-in-the-life of an Uber driver was really eye-opening to me.

Mike Minor and his urethra had a rough offseason.

Jason Schwartz of Grantland wrote a really interesting article about the Houston Rockets using their Developmental League team to essentially experiment with extreme strategies ... and win.

"Humanitarians of Tinder" is just perfection.

• It turns out that I could never play for the Vikings.

• Yet another writer/analyst left Baseball Prospectus for a job with an MLB team.

Sarah Silverman and Michael Sheen are a couple now, which seems both random and fun.

Ron Gardenhire looks fit, well-rested, and ready for the challenge of leading the Twins back into contention!

• Old friend Carl Pavano is retiring after 14 seasons, the last three-and-a-half with the Twins.

Marc Maron's chat with Tom Arnold was manic and weird and fascinating.

• You should go vote for Meredith Westin as the Twin Cities' best music photographer.

• "Bad Self Portraits" by Lake Street Dive was the AG.com-approved music video in Link-O-Rama a few weeks ago and now it's the free song of the week on iTunes.

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

- "How much is a Ron Coomer signed baseball worth?"
- "Brian Duensing trade contract"
- "David Ortiz dating"
- "Robin Thicke socks"
- "Is LaVelle Neal married?"
- "When is Aaron Gleeman's wedding?"
- "Aaron Gleeman top tweeters"
- "Paul Lambert on KFAN"
- "Ryan Doumit home run"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is Loveless singing "Back On The Bottle":

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