January 22, 2004

What if?

My entry from earlier this week about Albert Pujols segued nicely into one of my favorite subjects, a man by the name of Theodore Samuel Williams.

As I've said many times in many places, Ted Williams is my favorite baseball player of all-time. That is probably a fairly strange thing for a 21-year-old who never saw Williams play to say, but it is true. I've read about him, I've heard about him, I've seen him interviewed and I've read his magnificent book on hitting. Everything about him, from his background and upbringing to his life in and out of baseball, is incredibly intriguing to me. Plus, the guy wasn't a bad ballplayer either.

Sticking strictly to the baseball stuff, there is so much about Williams that is interesting. For one thing, he is the only guy in the history of baseball who it can be honestly said gave Babe Ruth a run for his money for the title of Best Hitter Ever.

In addition to that, there is the fact that he was a two-time MVP and should have won more. He was a two-time Triple Crown winner. He's the last man to hit .400. He won the league batting title in nearly half the seasons he qualified for it. He led the league in on-base percentage in every single one of his full seasons after his rookie year. His career OBP of .482 is the highest in the history of the sport. His career slugging percentage of .634 is second all-time to The Babe, as is his 190 career OPS+. He was a 17-time All-Star.

Williams' batting average dropped from .328 as a 39-year-old to .254 as a 40-year-old. Unsatisfied with retiring after a season like that, he came back and hit .316 with a .451 on-base percentage and a .645 slugging percentage at 41, and then called it a career.

I could go on and on all day, just as I could stare at his numbers all day.

As I said on Wednesday, perhaps the most amazing thing about Williams' career numbers is that he was able to compile them despite missing all of 1943, 1944 and 1945, and the majority of 1952 and 1953, serving in the military. Because of his time in the service, Williams did not play a single game as a 24, 25 or 26-year-old, and played just 43 total games combined in his age-33 and age-34 seasons.

Here's another way of looking at it...

Everyone knows just how extraordinary Barry Bonds' career numbers are. Here's a look at some of the most impressive ones:

 AVG     OBP     SLG       H     HR     2B     SB     RBI     RUN      BB

.297 .433 .602 2595 658 536 500 1742 1941 2070

Now, let's pretend for a moment that Barry Bonds had missed the same time at the same ages Ted Williams missed because he was serving in the military. Here are what Bonds' "new" career totals would look like:

 AVG     OBP     SLG       H     HR     2B     SB     RBI     RUN      BB

.303 .445 .627 1909 519 383 334 1270 1458 1592

His average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage actually all go up, but his "counting stats" all plummet. Bonds loses nearly 700 hits, including 139 homers and 153 doubles. He also drops 166 stolen bases and nearly 500 RBIs, runs and walks. The "lost" years obviously don't turn Bonds into anything less than an all-time great, but they do drop him down quite a bit on most of the all-time leaderboards.

- He goes from #4 all-time in homers to #16, and he goes from being just 97 homers shy of tying Hank Aaron's record to being 236 homers behind Hammerin' Hank.

- He goes from ranking 70th all-time in hits and needing 405 for 3,000, to not ranking among the top-250 all-time hit leaders and needing nearly 1,100 more for 3,000.

- He goes from being the only man in the history of the sport to ever hit 500 homers and steal 500 bases, to simply being in the 300/300 Club, along with three other guys.

- He goes from being 9th all-time in runs scored and 16th all-time in runs batted in, to ranking 65th in all-time runs and 96th in all-time RBIs.

You see what missing all that time would have done to Bonds' numbers, so you can imagine what it did do to Williams'. I thought it might be fun to attempt to figure out what Ted Williams' career numbers would have been like, had he been able to play his entire career without having to step away for years at a time.

To figure out what Bonds' numbers would have looked like with him missing time, all I had to do was delete his age-24, 25 and 26 seasons, and then give him only a fraction of his totals from age-33 and 34. To figure out Williams' "missing" numbers, it's a little tougher.

If we wanted to be really technical about it, we could try to figure out how Williams would have aged, so that we could have really gotten a handle on his stats from 24-26 year old. And then we'd try to do the same thing for the huge chunks of two seasons he missed in his 30s.

I'm more interested in getting a good rough estimate though, so we'll try to keep things fairly simple. To figure out his missing numbers from 1943, 1944 and 1945, I am simply going to take the average season from the two years prior to his absence and the two years after he returned.

So, we take 1941 and 1942 and add them together with 1946 and 1947, and then figure out the average of those four years that surrounded his missing seasons.

Here's what the average season from 1941, 1942, 1946 and 1947, combined, looks like:

  G     AVG     OBP     SLG      H    HR    2B    3B     TB    RBI    RUN     BB

150 .360 .509 .669 182 36 36 6 338 124 136 153

Not a bad average season, huh?

Then what we do is simply take that average season and plug it into Williams' career three times - in 1943, 1944 and 1945. That takes care of filling in the blanks for ages 24, 25 and 26, but it still leaves ages 33 and 34.

This part is a little more complicated, because Williams actually did play parts of both the 1952 season and 1953 season. In 1952 he played six games, hitting .400/.500/.900. Then he came back in 1953 and played 37 games, hitting .407/.509/.901 with 13 homers. I think you're starting to see why I think Ted Williams is so amazing now.

I'm sure there are several intelligent ways to try to figure out what he might have done in 1952 and 1953, but we're going to go for simplicity over preciseness. All I am going to do is add up all his numbers from the two years prior (1950, 1951) and the two years after (1954, 1955), plus the stuff he did in the 43 games he did play in 1952/1953. Then I'm going take that and make two full seasons out of it. We'll make the "full seasons" just 135 games, since the schedule was shorter then and Williams did often miss games later on in his career.

Those four total years surrounding his second group of missing time and the 43 games from the years he missed time add up to a total of 495 games. So, if we take the per game averages and make two 135-game seasons out of them, we get two seasons that look like this:

  G     AVG     OBP     SLG      H    HR    2B    3B     TB    RBI    RUN     BB

135 .337 .483 .641 153 35 28 3 292 118 104 129

So, we just plug that "season" into both 1952 and 1953 and...PRESTO!...Ted Williams has a full career without any interruptions.

Ready to see the new final numbers?

(Drum-roll please...)

TED WILLIAMS (1939-1960)


AVG OBP SLG H HR 2B TB RBI RUN BB
.345 .485 .637 3465 685 683 6391 2410 2395 2717

Those are simply monstrous numbers across-the-board.

Here is where he would rank among the all-time leaders in each stat with his new numbers, along with where he actually ranks with old numbers:

                         NEW        OLD

Games 11 91
Batting Average 6 7
On-Base Percentage 1 1
Slugging Percentage 2 2
OPS 2 2
Hits 6 62
Home Runs 3 14
Doubles 5 30
Total Bases 2 19
Extra-Base Hits 2 12
Runs Batted In 1 12
Runs Scored 1 16
Walks 1 4

By my rough estimation, Ted Williams lost 677 games while serving his country. In those games, he lost 811 hits equaling 1,507 total bases. Included among the lost hits were 158 doubles, 23 triples and 164 homers. He also lost 571 RBIs, 597 runs and 696 walks.

By giving him credit for all that missed time, he shoots up to the very top of almost every all-time list that he isn't already at the top of.

Williams would rank first all-time in on-base percentage, RBIs, runs and walks. He would rank second all-time in slugging percentage, OPS, total bases and extra-base hits. He would move from 30th all-time in homers to third, behind only Aaron and Ruth, and would move from 62nd all-time in hits to sixth.

"A man has to have goals - for a day, for a lifetime - and that was mine, to have people say, 'There goes Ted Williams, the greatest hitter who ever lived.'"

--- Ted Williams


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

January 21, 2004

Damned if you...

A funny thing happened to me late Tuesday night. I typically post each day's new blog entry a few minutes past midnight, and yesterday's entry on Albert Pujols was no different. By 1:00 am I had about a dozen emails in my mailbox, all of them saying essentially the same thing. And that number grew throughout the day.

Here's a little sampling...

From B.J.:

"Aaron, you can't possibly think Albert Pujols is really 24 years old, can you?"

From Joe:

"Great post again, Aaron. Only one problem...do you honestly think Pujols is 24?"

From Conor:

"Do you really believe that Pujols is only 24? I'd love to believe it, but I don't."

From Josh:

"So you think Albert Pujols is 24, huh? I have a bridge in New York and some swamp land in Florida to sell you. Don't be so naive."

Now, this is a funny thing. I have written about Pujols many times in the past and have commented specifically on his age being in question on several occasions.

Here's a quote of mine from way back in October of 2002:

"I have a hard time believing Pujols' listed age of 22 (I think he is probably closer to 26 or 27)."

And here's a more recent quote, from May of 2003:

"First of all, before I say anything else about Albert Pujols, I feel the need to let everyone know that I simply do not believe he turned 23 years old last January. He doesn't look like he's 23, he doesn't act like he's 23 and he doesn't play like he's 23. And yeah, I know he went to college in the United States and most people don't think there is even a chance that he is older than he says he is, but I still don't buy any of it, not for a minute."

Both of those entries resulted in my mailbox being filled with emails from people taking me to task for what many claimed was a ridiculous position. Some people even suggested that what I said about Pujols' age made me a racist.

The two types of reactions I have gotten to my various Pujols-related entries are extremely interesting to me and they say an awful lot about the types of reactions someone who writes a blog like this one often gets.

If I do a Pujols-related entry and I don't mention his age in any way, I get bombarded with emails from people taking me to task for not mentioning it and for being naive. If I do a Pujols-related entry and I do mention his age, I get bombarded with emails from people taking me to task for mentioning it, and I get accused of racism on top of it.

It's the perfect "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario. Of course, it's not exactly the end of the world. It is just one of the things I have gradually learned to live with over the last year or two.

For the record, I am still of the belief that there is a relatively good chance Albert Pujols' listed age is not accurate. I say this because a) his performance is absolutely incredible for such a young player (as I discussed yesterday) and b) he doesn't look like a 24-year-old now and he didn't look like a 21-year-old when he first burst onto the scene. Hell, I saw him play in the Arizona Fall League prior to his rookie season and I didn't think he looked like a 20-year-old then.

If that is a ridiculous opinion to have, so be it. If that makes me a racist, then fine. If I hold back my opinion on Pujols' age (like I did yesterday) to avoid emails like that, I am instead deluged with emails telling me how naive I am to think he's really 24 years old.

What I have learned from this experience is that I apparently have an audience of which 50% are completely naive and 50% are racists. And, lucky for me, 100% have email capabilities and aren't afraid to use them!

Old man look at my life

I'm a lot like you were

Old man look at my life

I'm a lot like you were

Old man look at my life

Twenty four and there's so much more

--- Neil Young, Old Man


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

January 20, 2004

Phat Albert

This is the time of year when there is a serious lull in the way of baseball news. We are far enough away from the next season starting that there isn't any news related to that, and we are far enough into the off-season that almost all of the big-name free agents have been snatched up.

It's around this time that otherwise unimportant happenings suddenly turn into front page "news." The following front page story from a few days ago on ESPN.com is a good example:

Pujols to Cardinals: I want long-term contract

ST. LOUIS -- Albert Pujols wants a long-term contract from the St. Louis Cardinals, and he doesn't plan to give them a bargain.

"What do you mean?" Pujols said Sunday at the team's annual winter fanfest. "This is business. There's no break here."

"You try to get what you deserve and that's what I want. I've taken care of my business in the field the last three years and hopefully I get treated respectfully, that's all I ask for."

In other words, the entire story is based upon the fact that Albert Pujols, a 24-year-old player who is three seasons away from being a free agent, expects to be paid fair market value on any contract extension he signs with the Cardinals.

The story is not about Pujols saying he doesn't want to play for St. Louis or that he wants to be traded or that he is going to holdout until they meet his contract demands. No, it is a player saying that he would like to sign a contract extension for a price that he sees as fair.

Shocking, I know. I'm surprised it wasn't "breaking news" all over the country.

Anyway, in the midst of all the non-news, I started thinking about just how amazing Pujols has been in his first three seasons. Just look at these numbers...

YEAR       G      AVG      OBP      SLG     HR     2B     RBI     RUN

2001 161 .329 .403 .610 37 47 130 112
2002 157 .314 .394 .561 34 40 127 118
2003 157 .359 .439 .667 43 51 124 137
----------------------------------------------------------------------
TOTAL 475 .334 .412 .613 114 138 381 367

Those are incredible numbers. Add in the fact that Pujols has done all that at the ages of 21, 22 and 23 and...well, it is simply an extraordinary start to a career.

Ah, but exactly how extraordinary a start, you ask? Well, let's take a look...

2003 was Pujols' "age-23" season. Let's compare some of his numbers thus far to other great hitters in baseball history, through age-23.

HOME RUNS THROUGH AGE-23


Eddie Mathews 153
Mel Ott 153
Alex Rodriguez 148
Frank Robinson 134
Ken Griffey Jr. 132
Ted Williams 127
Orlando Cepeda 122
Juan Gonzalez 121
Mickey Mantle 121
Jimmie Foxx 116
Andruw Jones 116
Johnny Bench 114
ALBERT PUJOLS 114
Jose Canseco 111
Hank Aaron 110

How's that for company?

Pujols has the fewest at bats (1,771) of any player on that list and Pujols, Jose Canseco and Juan Gonzalez are the only guys with fewer than 2,000 at bats.

Eddie Mathews had a very interesting career, in that he started so fast and so well, but was essentially done being a dominant player by the time he was 31. As you can see on the above list, Mathews ties for the most homers ever through the age of 23. He also hit a total of 399 homers through age-30, which ranks fourth all-time. Mathews then hit just 113 homers after the age of 30 and retired after hitting .212/.281/.385 in 52 at bats with the Tigers in 1968, at the age of 36.

Here's another interesting factoid... The player with the most career homers through the age of 30 in the history of baseball? Ken Griffey Jr., with 438. He'll be 34 next season and has "only" 481 homers now, which you would think shows just how quickly someone can lose all their steam in pursuit of Hank Aaron. On the other hand, Griffey is still tied for third all-time in homers through age-33 with...none other than Hank Aaron.

DOUBLES THROUGH AGE-23


Ken Griffey Jr. 170
Cesar Cedeno 164
Alex Rodriguez 160
Mel Ott 159
Vada Pinson 156
Ty Cobb 154
Ted Williams 154
Buddy Lewis 149
Robin Yount 144
ALBERT PUJOLS 138
Joe Medwick 138
Al Kaline 137
Orlando Cepeda 137
Freddy Lindstrom 135
Stan Musial 135

Pujols is even higher up on the doubles list than he is for homers, tying for 10th all-time. That Griffey kid shows up at the top of the list, but Eddie Mathews, who hit more than 30 doubles in a season just once in his entire career, is absent from the top-15.

It also should be noted that Alex Rodriguez shows up at #3 on both lists. Rodriguez is the all-time leader in homers through the age of 27, with 345.

RUNS CREATED ABOVE AVERAGE THROUGH AGE-23


Ted Williams 407
Ty Cobb 318
Joe Jackson 295
Mel Ott 279
Mickey Mantle 260
Jimmie Foxx 230
Eddie Mathews 224
Stan Musial 216
Arky Vaughan 212
ALBERT PUJOLS 206
Mike Tiernan 197
Ken Griffey Jr. 195
Sherry Magee 183
Joe Kelley 181
Pete Browning 180

Runs Created Above Average (RCAA) is a Lee Sinins stat that shows how good someone was offensively, compared to the average hitter in the league, and adjusted for home ballpark.

The first thing that pops out at me is just how amazing Ted Williams was. He pretty much laps the field in this stat, with more RCAA than the 10th and 11th ranked guys of all-time combined. Williams ranks "just" 6th on the homers list and 7th on the doubles list, mostly because he took such an incredible amount of walks (495 in his first four seasons).

To Pujols' credit, he is able to rank 10th on the RCAA list through age-23 despite only playing in 475 games. Williams played in 586 games by the time he was 23 and, among the players ahead of Pujols on the list, only Stan Musial played in fewer games (455).

I heard some talk last year from people wondering if Pujols' first two seasons were the best start to a career of all-time and certainly after what he did in 2003 there is even more talk about his first three seasons.

That said, if you want to try to judge the start of someone's career, I think it is probably smart to do so by age and not number of seasons. After all, if Pujols has three great years by the time he's 23 and Ted Williams has four, isn't Williams off to a better start? I suppose it's debatable.

For those of you who want to debate it and feel like "start of a career" applies to number of seasons, let's take a look at how Phat Albert and The Splendid Splinter compare, after three seasons each:

              G      AVG      OBP      SLG      GPA     RCAA

Williams 436 .356 .475 .640 .374 285
Pujols 475 .334 .412 .613 .339 206

I love Pujols, but even if we're only looking at their first three seasons and not what they did through age-23, Ted Williams simply blows him away. He's got him beat by 35 points of GPA and he's got 79 more RCAA, despite playing 39 fewer games.

That's no knock on Pujols, of course. What he has done is simply amazing and his first three seasons are among the greatest in baseball history. It's just that, in addition to being so great, they also give us a chance to once again notice just how extraordinary Ted Williams was.

Finally, here's a little something to chew on, in case you're not quite convinced of the greatness of Ted Williams...

Albert Pujols' incredible 2003 season - .359/.439/.667 with 43 homers, 51 doubles, 124 RBIs, 137 runs - was good for a 189 OPS+. Ted Williams had an OPS+ of at least 189 in the following seasons (500+ plate appearances):

1941

1942

1946

1947

1948

1949

1954

1957

And that's despite missing all of 1943, 1944 and 1945, plus the majority of 1952 and 1953, serving in the military.

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

January 19, 2004

Not So Gleeman-Length Thoughts

Well, I'm back at school. I packed everything up, shoved it in a few duffle bags, drove it over to campus, brought it into my dorm room, took it out of the duffle bags, and shoved it into some drawers. So basically everything is back to normal.

In fact, depending on when you're reading this, I might be back in class at this very moment, learning the tricks of the journalism trade and other wonderful things.

I'm not sure whether it is the fact that I have been thinking about starting school again or if it's just one of those weeks, but I haven't been able to think of one topic to cover with an in-depth blog entry. Yesterday, I touched on several different things, ranging from women's golf to porno conventions.

Today is going to be more of the same - a few scattered thoughts on different stuff - with one big difference from yesterday: everything today has to do with baseball.

Enjoy...

Oh, great...

From Twin Cities sports gossip columnist Charlie Walters:

Insiders say contract negotiations between the Twins and pitcher Johan Santana, who is eligible for salary arbitration, have become contentious.

I have no inside information other than the stuff I read from Charlie Walters, so I don't know if Santana's contract demands are ridiculous or not. I also don't know if the contentious negotiations Walters refers to are in regard to a one-year contract or a long-term deal. That said, if the Twins piss Johan off and he leaves for free agency in a couple years, I am going to be one very angry Twins fan.

They brought Santana along very slowly and didn't give him a chance as a full-time member of the starting rotation until the second-half of his fourth major league season. Now, when they are finally going to let him shine and make him a huge part of the team, they are pissing him off during contract negotiations?

If Santana has the type of season I think he is capable of having in 2004, his contract demands are only going to grow next time around. I really hope the Twins are trying to lock him up long-term, before he has a chance to show what he can do with a full-season's worth of starts.

If anyone reading this knows the real scoop on the contract talks (you know who you are), I would love hear about it.

Moneyball: Part II

I stumbled across an interview with Moneyball author Michael Lewis in the San Francisco Chronicle over the weekend and found the following tidbit particularly interesting:

I'm going to write a sequel to "Money Ball" (2003). It's a story about what happens to the kids who the Oakland A's drafted last year. They drafted all these curious characters who didn't fit the description of professional baseball players. They were either too small or too fat.

I actually did a mid-season update on "The Boys of Moneyball" here on this blog and it might be something to do again at some point. Certainly if Lewis writes the sequel, I'll be reading it.

The first player to make a major league impact from that draft will likely be Joe Blanton, a right-handed pitcher from the University of Kentucky that the A's took #24 overall. I wouldn't be surprised to see him in Oakland by mid-season and he has the potential to follow in the footsteps of Zito, Mulder, Hudson and Harden and become the next great, young, homegrown Oakland pitcher.

Having read Moneyball some time ago and having read and heard a lot of varying reactions to the book, I think I feel safe saying that Lewis exaggerated some aspects of what was going on with the A's, in an effort to produce a better story. I'm not saying that's a bad thing necessarily or that he shouldn't have done it, just that I think it is fairly clear that the story he wrote isn't 100% factual. Although I suppose it could have seemed factual to him, depending on how much time he actually spent inside the organization.

There was no doubt some poetic license involved in writing the story and I think that's part of the reason for some of the negative response to the book that everyone saw in the months after it came out. Of course, there's probably a good chance Joe Morgan still thinks Billy Beane shouldn't have written Moneyball. And, obviously, he's right.

I was thinking the other day about how a Moneyball-type of book needs to be written about an organization much different than the A's. A team that doesn't rely heavily on statistics for everything and a team that doesn't preach on-base percentage and patience throughout its ranks. Perhaps a team that relies more on scouting and "tools." A team like...well, a team like the Twins, for example.

I would love to write that book about the Minnesota Twins and about Terry Ryan, but somehow I just can't see anyone, let alone someone like me, ever being granted the type of access Lewis got with Beane and the A's. Of course, I could be wrong. If Terry Ryan or Wayne Krivsky or someone else is out there and you wouldn't mind me hanging around for a year with a notebook and pen, just say the word.

Mauer Power

I have praised Joe Mauer as a prospect many times. I believe he is the best prospect in baseball right now and that he will have an extremely successful career as a starting catcher in the major leagues.

Each time I write about Mauer, I get bombarded will emails from people asking me how I can be so high on a player who has yet to show any sort of power as a professional. I usually reply that power is oftentimes the last part of a hitter's game to develop and that Mauer is still very young. I also explain that almost every scout or front office type I have heard speak about Mauer says they expect him to develop significant power in the future.

Baseball America's Jim Callis had some interesting thoughts on Mauer recently:

Mauer may have just nine homers in 277 pro games, but he's a magician with the bat. He always has been quite young for his league, yet he has a career .330 average with significantly more walks (129) than strikeouts (101). Power is often the last tool to develop, and as Mauer learns to loft more pitches and pull more pitches, he'll hit more homers. The Twins believe he has the pop to hit 35-40 homers annually if he wanted to focus on power, though he'll probably be a guy who hits for a very high average and hits 20 homers.

That is exactly the points I try to make in the "Mauer will add power" argument, although Callis does a much better job explaining things than I usually do.

He goes on to compare Mauer to Twins first base prospect Justin Morneau, who has a ton of power:

Mauer was 20 last season, when he hit .338/.398/.434 while splitting time evenly between high Class A and Double-A. When Morneau was 20 in 2001, he tore up low Class A and then batted .272/.359/.396 in high Class A (53 games) and Double-A (10 games).

In other words, as I have said here so many times before, the context in which numbers are put up is extremely important, particularly at the minor league level.

I will certainly have a lot more on this subject in the coming months, but let me just say that I don't think Joe Mauer is going to show much power as a rookie this season. I do think he will eventually develop into a well above-average power threat and the fact that Morneau's power numbers in high Class A and Double-A at the same age weren't exactly McGwire-esque is good news.

Of course, what's even better news is that Mauer and Morneau should be members of the same lineup from 2005 until about 2020 or so.

If Joe Mauer doesn't develop any power, he's a left-handed Jason Kendall. If he does develop power, he's a left-handed Johnny Bench. Frankly, neither of those options sound too bad.

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

January 18, 2004

Notes from the weekend

I know Bill Simmons. You're no Bill Simmons.

I go to ESPN.com multiple times per day, to say the least. One of the first things I do there is check "Page 2" to see if Bill Simmons, aka "The Sports Guy," has a new column up. Simmons is, without a doubt, my favorite sports writer in the world. The level of admiration I have for his writing cannot be overstated and the pleasure reading his column every week gives me cannot be explained sufficiently.

To quote the legendary Kenny Banya: "He's the best Jerry. The best!"

In fact, if I could write like anyone who writes about sports, I would write like him. He is incredibly funny and I have never read a column of his and not been entertained, which is pretty amazing.

Anyway, I thought his column from over the weekend was particularly good. Simmons was in Las Vegas last Friday, the same day I left Vegas. He was there to tape a piece at the "Adult Entertainment Expo" for "Jimmy Kimmel Live," which he writes for.

First of all, yes, I did know there was a porno convention in Las Vegas while I was there. Second of all, no, I did not get a chance to attend. I would have. I mean, I'm not against such things. I just didn't. Luckily though, Bill Simmons did:

I met Playboy star Devinn Lane, who helped with our piece. What do you say to a porn star? Well, here's what you say: "It's nice to meet you -- I enjoy your work." And then they give you a knowing smile, and you feel really awkward and uncomfortable, and you want to say, "No, no, I don't mean it THAT way," but you don't want to hurt their feelings, either. So you nod like an idiot, then wait for them to look away so you can stare at their chest. And even if they catch you ... I mean, what can they say? They're a porn star.

Here's the sad thing about me: I would liked to have gone to the convention...so I could have met Bill Simmons.

Oh, Judge, I don't keep score.

Then how do you measure yourself with other golfers?

By height.

--- Caddyshack

Speaking of ESPN.com, here's the leader in the clubhouse for my favorite ESPN.com front page headline of the year:

Wie Nearly Makes Cut

The headline refers to Michelle Wie, the 14-year-old female golfer who played in the Sony Open on Thursday and Friday of last week. First of all, any 14-year-old nearly making the cut at a PGA Tour event is incredibly impressive. I don't want to take anything away from Wie, who appears to be have future superstar written all over her.

I just thought the media coverage I saw of her (mostly on ESPN and ESPN.com) was funny. Every time I saw the coverage on SportsCenter it would always come with commentary about how impressive she was, how she held her own, how she finished ahead of X number of male pros, and all that other stuff. And then they'd go to the next story or some NBA highlights or something, and you wouldn't even know that she actually finished tied for 80th and missed the cut. That's not to say a 14-year-old girl tying for 80th in a PGA Tour event isn't amazing, just that it should be part of the actual story at some point.

And then you have the ESPN.com headline above, which is similar to seeing:

Detroit Tigers Nearly Finish Fourth

As you probably know, I try not to get too political on this blog, but I'm going to branch out once and hope I don't offend anyone. The one question I have in regard to Wie playing on the PGA Tour and Annika Sorenstam doing so before her, is whether or not men should be allowed to play on the LPGA Tour? If women can play with the men, why can't men play with the women? I'm not the world's biggest golf fan, so I really couldn't care either way, but it does seem strange to me.

This isn't a case where there's not a women's league or team as an option. I can understand a high school girl who wants to golf on the team but doesn't have a girl's team to join, so she joins the guys. But there is a women's golf tour.

Either way, I hope Michelle Wie becomes the female Tiger Woods, because having more interesting and spectacular athletes is never a bad thing.

A brilliant idea

As long as I am showing my male chauvinist side, let me share with you a story...

I was waiting for one of my classes to start one day, having a conversation about the Minnesota Gophers men's basketball team with a male classmate. We were talking about how poor we thought they would be this season and how disappointing they have been over the last several years.

The Gophers' coach, Dan Monson, had come from Gonzaga, where his teams were built around tremendous guard play. I was lamenting the fact that, during his time with the Gophers, his teams have always had poor guard play, sometimes to the point that they had the worst point guard in the Big Ten playing 35 minutes a night.

A girl in class overheard us and decided to chime in with her thoughts. Let me preface what she said by assuring you that she is very intelligent, easily among the smartest people in what was a very good class. She said, and I quote:

"Why don't the guys see if Lindsey Whalen can play for them? I don't know what the rules are, but she could probably play for both teams, or at least play all home games."

Now, let me point out that "Lindsey Whalen" is a guard on the Gopher women's basketball team. When you're sitting in a class and someone you respect, someone whose academic abilities are evident throughout everything they said and did previously, says something like that, what is the correct response?

If it is "stare blankly at said person until class starts," then I did perfectly.

Trimming the fat

Here's a little glimpse into the inner-workings of Aaron's Baseball Blog. At some point during the second-half of each month, I go through every single link that I have listed on the left-hand side of this page. I did January's "link check" this past Saturday morning, because for some unknown reason I was up at 8:00 am.

Anyway, what I do is click on each and every link to check when each website was last updated. Believe it or not, the links I have on this page are actually links to places I think most of my readers would enjoy going to. Because of that, I have to monitor them, not for content usually, but for update frequency. There is nothing worse than clicking on a link to a website and then seeing that the site hasn't been updated since the Brewers were good.

You would be amazed at the number of links I delete from this website each month, for no other reason than they simply are out of date. And then, just like clockwork, I get emails from people saying "Hey, how come you deleted the link to my site?!"

I'll tell you why. I go through all the links during the second-half of each month and if the site being linked hasn't been updated at all during the current month, I delete it. For this time around, that meant that if a site hadn't been updated during 2004, it got the boot. That seems fair enough, right?

Like I said, there is nothing worse than clicking on a link only to find that the last entry was from November 14th or something. Plus, I literally get a request to add a link to a new website every day and I usually add them eventually. At some point though, if you're adding links three and four times per week and you don't want the blog to just become one big list of links, you have to trim some fat every month.

And there is plenty of fat to be trimmed every single month. The amount of blogs that die off every 30 days or so is amazing to me. This time around I got rid of about two dozen links and that is not an uncommon amount.

The truth is that the amount of sports blogs popping up these days are incredible, and growing. When I started this particular sports blog in August of 2002, I don't think there were more than 10-15 blogs that I knew about. Now, I have over 125 links to sports blogs on this site alone.

I would say that there are too many sports blogs out there, but as the writer of one myself, who the hell am I to say such a thing? Instead, I'll say this: one of my favorite things is getting an email from someone who says something like "Hi Aaron, I've recently started a blog of my own. Do you think you could add a link to it? Here's the address..."

I'd say in those instances, there is a 50/50 shot that by the time I get around to actually adding the new site to my links, it is already obsolete. Although I suppose that's as much an indictment of how slow I am to add links as it is the rapidly disappearing and infrequently updated blogs.

In football, a bad drive for an offense is a "three and out," consisting of three plays and a punt. In blogging, a lot of blogs don't even make it to three entries before they go "out."

The Big Screen

My favorite non-sports blogger, Stephen Silver (who will always have a link on this site, even if he goes AWOL for a month), has an entry from Sunday about the Internet Movie Database's Top 100 Movies of all-time. Stephen says that he's seen 72 of the 100, and 19 of the top 20. For no other reason than I like lists like this and I like movies even more, let me say that I have seen just 39 of the top 100 movies.

Here's my personal top 10, using only the movies from the IMDB Top 100:

1) The Godfather

2) The Godfather: Part II

3) The Shawshank Redemption

4) Seven

5) Pulp Fiction

6) Memento

7) American Beauty

8) Fight Club

9) Goodfellas

10) Resevoir Dogs

I judge all movies by the "it's 1:08 am and I stumbled across it on HBO84 while flipping channels" test. That is, if I come across a movie I have seen numerous times, how likely am I to sit through the entire thing again. By my rough estimation, I have seen Pulp Fiction 1,746 times.

Just missing the cut from my top 10 (from the IMDB Top 100): Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List, Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Usual Suspects, Silence of the Lambs, American History X, The Professional, Bravehart and Requiem for a Dream.

Of course, I'm not sure why anyone should trust my opinions on movies. One of my all-time favorites (although not one of IMDB's Top 100) and one that I not only will watch anytime it is on, but that I also own: Blue Chips. Yes, I'm serious.

Your wish = my command

Here's an email I got last week:

Hi Aaron,

I was wondering if you could do me a favor and WRITE SOMETHING ABOUT THE TWINS!

Thanks,

Rob

To which I responded:

Hey Rob -

I'll write about the Twins as soon as they actually do something.

Thanks for reading,

Aaron

Well, they still haven't done anything, but let's see if we can't put together a few hundred words for Rob anyway...

It has not been the best off-season to be a Twins fan. They lost their two best relief pitchers and traded away their starting catcher. They re-signed a 30-year-old left fielder and have been unable to cash in their former left fielder in a trade that they liked. Now they are back where they almost always are, with too many outfielders and not enough infielders, except now they've added "not enough pitching" to the equation.

Luckily, they are still in the worst division in baseball. The Twins are going to need to have some things go right this year for them to win. First and foremost, Joe Mauer is going to have to avoid being completely overmatched at the plate. I happen to think he'll do just fine, but you never know with a 21-year-old making the jump from Double-A.

In addition to that, they're going to need Grant Balfour to perform very well, hopefully in the rotation but perhaps as a reliever. They are also going to need a healthy season from Joe Nathan. And either Rivas or Guzman actually hitting a little wouldn't hurt either.

This team is not as good as last season's team, but neither are the White Sox. The Royals, on the other hand, are better.

While I'm on the subject of the Twins, let me deal with a topic that I have seen and heard many Twins fans worrying tremendously about this off-season: the starting rotation.

From among last year's starters, the Twins lost Kenny Rogers, Rick Reed, Joe Mays and Eric Milton. That sounds like disaster has struck the franchise, until you realize that Reed and Mays both stunk and that Milton only threw 17 innings all year.

I've heard very intelligent Twins fans talking about how the team won't be able to replace all those innings they lost and how you can't lose that many starters and expect to compete, and all sorts of stuff like that. Here's the thing though, the Twins starting pitchers simply weren't all that great last year.

Starter           GS        IP      ERA

Brad Radke 33 212.1 4.49
Kyle Lohse 33 201.0 4.61
Kenny Rogers 31 193.1 4.56
Rick Reed 21 124.2 5.13
Joe Mays 21 110.1 6.77
Johan Santana 18 110.1 2.85
Eric Milton 3 17.0 2.65
Carlos Pulido 1 3.0 9.00
Grant Balfour 1 2.2 13.50

As you can see, replacing Milton's production can be done without any problem. Replacing Mays' 6.77 ERA in 110 innings could likely be done by choosing a Triple-A pitcher at random and having him make 20 starts, and Reed's 5.13 ERA in 124.2 innings should be fairly easy to duplicate as well. Rogers' 193 innings with a 4.56 ERA are going to be tougher to fill, but it's not like he was a Cy Young candidate last season.

The three guys the Twins kept - Radke, Lohse, Santana - were their three best starters from last season.

Here's what the Twins' rotation did last season, overall:

 GS        IP      ERA

162 974.2 4.69

Among the 14 American League teams, they ranked 6th in innings pitched and 8th in ERA.

Let's see what they would have to do to match last season's production...

First, let's look at the three holdovers from last year, Radke, Lohse and Santana. Let's simply project Radke and Lohse to perform exactly as they did last season. With Santana, it is a little tougher, as he didn't join the rotation until around mid-season. He made 18 starts last year and 13 starts in 2002, which equals 31 over the last two years. Assuming he's healthy, that is just about how many starts he would make as a full-time member of the rotation in 2004. So, let's just add up his numbers as a starter over the past two years and make that his 2004 projection.

Here's what we get:

Starter           GS        IP      ERA

Brad Radke 33 212.1 4.49
Kyle Lohse 33 201.0 4.61
Johan Santana 31 185.0 2.97
---------------------------------------
TOTAL 97 598.1 4.06

And here's what that leaves, in order to duplicate the entire rotation's 2003 production:

GS        IP      ERA

65 376.1 5.69

If you give Radke and Lohse credit for exactly what they did last season and give Santana credit for what he's done over his last 31 starts, that leaves the Twins needing to fill 376.1 innings worth of 5.69 ERA pitching in 2004. Not exactly the same "sky is falling" outlook I've been hearing from many Twins fans.

The Twins recently signed long-time MLB starter Rick Helling, which suggests one plan is to let Helling eat up about half of those 65 starts and 376.1 innings. Helling threw 155 innings with a 5.17 ERA last season, which is not good. However, if he does exactly that well in exactly that many innings for the Twins in 2004, he would leave just 221.1 innings of 6.06 ERA pitching left to be filled.

I personally think Grant Balfour has a very good chance of becoming an excellent starting pitcher, but even if he doesn't, they should have absolutely no problem finding guys to eat up 221 innings with a 6.06 ERA in 2004.

No, if the Twins are going to have big problems with their pitching-staff in 2004, it's not going to be because they lost guys from the starting rotation. The bullpen on the other hand...

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

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