February 12, 2003

Brush with greatness

As mentioned in this space yesterday, I had lunch with a celebrity yesterday...

Yep, that's right, none other than the Twins Geek, aka John Bonnes.

What'd you expect? Heidi Klum? (Yes, mentioning her name is just an excuse to post this picture...)

John and I talked websites, the Twins, the Timberwolves and all sorts of good stuff, over burgers and milkshakes.

It was a lot of fun and hopefully John enjoyed it as much as I did (although I am the only one of the two of us that got a free meal out of it).

John told me all about the "First Annual Twins Geek Ballpark Tour" that he has planned for July.

Basically, John and a whole bunch of baseball fans will be going to 3 games at 3 different ballparks in 3 days.

The trip may or may not also include a whole bunch of tailgating, drinking, partying and even some possible arrests - although John wouldn't promise anything regarding that last part.

Most of the spots are already taken, but, as of yesterday, there were still a few remaining.

To learn more about it, check out this link:

The 1st Annual TwinsGeek Ballpark Tour

John and I may be joining forces on an "event" sometime in the near future, so stay tuned!

Speaking of the Twins Geek...

In today's guest column, Dan Landherr takes a look at the differences between how Tom Kelly managed the Twins in 2001 and how Ron Gardenhire managed them last season.

I am not talking about personal opinions here, I'm talking cold, hard facts.

A couple I found interesting:

Under Kelly, the Twins attempted 213 steals in 2001 and were successful 68.5% of the time.

Under Gardenhire, the Twins attempted 141 steals in 2002 and were successful 56% of the time.

As Dan points out in the article, somewhere abound 66% is usually considered the "break even" point for stealing bases - meaning that is the point where it is neither hurting or helping a team.

Managing the running game was, by far, my biggest complaint about Gardenhire last season. It just seemed like he took them out of a ton of possible big innings by trying to steal a base.

Only 1 Twin, Torii Hunter, was truly an effective base-stealer last season (he was 23/31).

Guzman (12/25), Koskie (10/21) and Jacque Jones (6/13) each got thrown out more times than they were successful, which is just horrendous.

And even Luis Rivas, for whom speed was supposed to be a major strength, was just mediocre, at best (9/13).

The horrible success rates in 2002 were particularly depressing because a lot of guys had been very good on the bases in 2001.

Koskie was 27/33, Guzman was 25/33 and Rivas was 31/42.

Obviously, all the struggles can't be blamed on the manager, just as the good success rates can't be attributed solely to Kelly in 2001.

That said, picking good spots to run and, perhaps more importantly avoiding bad spots to run, is definitely a skill and Gardenhire simply did not show that he had it last year.

In fact, after finishing 4th in AL in steals in 2001 and doing so with a very good success rate, the Twins dropped to 8th in the AL last year and were at the bottom of the league in SB%.

Personally, I am a fan of the Billy Beane-style of basestealing, which basically lives by the motto: "Why run when you can just let the next guy hit and then stroll around the bases with him?"

But, if you are going to run, it is absolutely essential that you do not waste outs and you must avoid making stealing bases a negative instead of a positive.

It was a huge negative for Minnesota in 2002.

Another interesting thing I learned from Dan Landherr's column was just how much more TK liked to "hit and run" than Gardy.

In 2001, TK did 136 hit-and-runs, while Gardy executed it only 91 times last year, a difference of over 50%.

Not only did Kelly do it a lot more often, he was much more successful with it, succeeding 38.2% of the time to Gardy's 24.2%.

I am not a big fan of the hit and run either, but I did see a noticeable difference in that area during the season and it's good to see actual numbers support my observations.

Looking at the numbers and the comparison, it is quite obvious that Gardenhire struggled with all phases of managing the running game last season. I am not sure how much of the blame should be put on him, but I am sure that, in the end, he is responsible for a lot of it. That said, it was his first year as a manager and I would expect the Twins to be much improved in 2003, particularly in regard to their stolen base %.

For more on the TK/Gardy comparison, go check out TwinsGeek.com.

I was reading the Minneapolis Star Tribune online yesterday and I came across an article about the Timberwolves that had a Kevin Garnett stat that shocked me:

With Garnett on the court, the team has outscored its opponents by 215 points this season. When he sits out, the other teams have outscored the Wolves by 157.

Even more stunning is the pace at which the bottom drops out when Garnett gets a breather. Because he has sat out only 380 minutes in the Wolves' 50 games, that 157-point backslide translates to 4.13 points for every 10 minutes Garnett doesn't play. On a 48-minute basis, that's like getting outscored by 20 points every game.

When Garnett is in the game, the Wolves average an extra 1.06 points every 10 minutes. Oh, and in the NBA All-Star Game on Sunday in Atlanta -- in which Garnett was named Most Valuable Player -- the West squad outscored the East by 15 points with the Wolves forward on the court, while getting outscored by five when he sat.

There are a lot of different factors involved in a stat like that, so it isn't exactly 100% trustworthy, but it's still pretty amazing.

While Garnett is on the bench, which isn't very often, the Wolves are getting outscored by .413 points per minute.

While he's on the court, which is about 85% of the minutes in a game, they outscore their opponents by .106 points per minute.

I don't know about you, but I found those numbers pretty staggering.

Basically, in the 40 minutes Garnett plays, the Wolves go up about 4 and a half points.

And then in the 8 minutes he doesn't play, they lose about 3 and a half points.

Like I said, amazing.

Since I am officially in Garnett-butt-kissing mode, I might as well show you his season stats:

Min/G     Pts/G     Reb/G     Ast/G     Blk/G     Stl/G      FG%      FT%     3PT%

40.7 22.1 12.8 5.7 1.5 1.4 48.4 76.1 34.8

That is what I would call an all-around game!

Garnett ranks 14th in the NBA in scoring and 2nd in rebounding.

He is also 15th in assists. Oh, did I mention he is 7-feet tall?

KG is 1st in the NBA with 41 double-doubles (in 51 games) and even has 3 triple-doubles, which ranks 2nd in the league.

And he is the only player in the NBA that leads his team in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and blocks.

Wow, look at that, an entire column devoted to sports in the state of Minnesota!

Tune in tomorrow when I continue my look at "Professional Sports in the Midwest" by examing North Dakota.

That's looking like it's gonna be a very short column...

*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****

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