January 18, 2006

Mildly Intriguing Rumor of the Week

ESPN.com's "Rumor Central" had an interesting note about the Wolves yesterday:

According to two league sources, a deal that would send Mark Blount to Minnesota or Memphis could be completed soon, reports the Boston Globe. One source described a deal as "imminent." The most likely scenario would have the Celtics shipping Blount to Minnesota for Michael Olowokandi.

I'm all for getting rid of Michael Olowokandi as soon as possible, but I'm not sure that this deal really solves much of anything. The Wolves have struggled to put together a talented supporting cast for Kevin Garnett for several reasons, one of which is that they've handed out long-term deals to mediocre players like Trenton Hassell, Troy Hudson, Joe Smith, and Mark Madsen. The team has also wasted a lot of money on Olowokandi, but at least he comes off the books this offseason.

According to ESPN.com, "Blount's contract, which includes a 15% trade kicker, has four years and $28 million remaining after this year." In other words, if the Wolves trade for him they will owe $33 million over four seasons to a guy who is averaging 13.1 points and 4.4 rebounds this year. Here's a little of what my favorite basketball writer, John Hollinger, said about Blount prior to the season:

Blount had a career year just in time for his contract to expire in 2003-04, and unfortunately the Celtics decided to pay for it. ... Blount came crashing back to earth in 2004-05 and now the Celtics are feeling they wasted their money.

The most disturbing aspect of Blount's season was the degree to which his energy level diminished. Blount looked especially sluggish at the defensive end, and his "effort" stats confirm that impression. His Rebound Rate suddenly declined to one of the worst at his position.

Great. Amazingly, Blount's rebounding skills have gotten even worse this season, as he's averaging an anemic 6.1 rebounds per 40 minutes despite being seven feet tall and 250 pounds. He'd be a big improvement over Olowokandi, but so would a lot of guys who aren't scheduled to make $33 million over the next four years.

2005-06     TS%     REB     PER     2004-05     TS%     REB     PER
Blount 55.8 9.2 12.1 Blount 55.9 10.4 12.5
Kandi 46.2 14.2 9.1 Kandi 48.0 15.7 10.3

*TS% is a shooting percentage that accounts for free throws and three-pointers.
*REB is the percentage of missed shots that a player rebounds.
*PER is Hollinger's overall rating of per-minute statistical production.

As you can see, from a purely on-court standpoint swapping Olowokandi for Blount is a home run. While Olowokandi is a much better rebounder, Blount is a significantly more efficient scorer and a much better all-around player. However, from a team-building standpoint, it would be yet another example of the team clogging up the roster with a mediocrity who takes up far too much cap room.

Of course, thanks to Garnett's massive salary and the long-term money being paid to the likes of Wally Szczerbiak, Marko Jaric, Hudson, Hassell, and Madsen, the Wolves weren't going to have much cap room to play around with anyway. That means that upgrading from Olowokandi to Blount is probably worth the ridiculous cost, although it also likely means that it won't matter much in the grand scheme of things.

* * * * * * * * * *

On an unrelated note ...

For me, one of the nicest things about having this blog is that it serves as a sort of timeline of my life. I've been writing here nearly every day since August 1, 2002, and while I generally try not to fill too much space with boring personal stuff there is certainly enough of it in the archives for me to relive some memories. It's like keeping a diary that everyone you know has access to.

I was searching for something interesting to write about last night, and ended up looking back through the archives to see what topic I covered a year ago today. Turns out, on January 18, 2005 I wrote about moving back into my dorm room at the University of Minnesota after spending winter vacation at home. Here's a little excerpt:

I moved back into my dorm room yesterday afternoon. Those of you who are long-time readers of this blog know my move-ins and move-outs tend to go horribly, but this one went remarkably well, with no real problems or incidents. Well, aside from the fact that my internet connection still isn't working. I'm told it is a "network-wide problem," but all I know is that I have yet to move in here, whether at the start of the year or after a vacation, and have both the cable and internet hookups working simultaneously.

Ah, the good old days.

Today at The Hardball Times:
- Mapping the Strike Zone (by David Appelman)
- Business of Baseball Report (by Brian Borawski)

Pick of the Day (165-152, +$965):
Pittsburgh -2 (-110) over Rutgers

January 17, 2006

Shoot! (The Kevin Garnett Story)

Kevin Garnett is in the middle of the most efficient offensive season of his brilliant 11-year career, yet he is attempting fewer shots per game than he has since 1997-1998, his third season. Those two facts coexisting would be somewhat understandable if the Wolves were suddenly packed with great offensive players and Garnett was simply blending in, but the team is among the worst in the NBA when they have the ball.

The Wolves rank 25th in the league with an average of 91.5 points per game and rank 24th in the league with an average of 104.8 points per 100 possessions. Now, compare those ugly numbers to Garnett's outstanding individual performance. He leads the NBA with a 54.7% Field Goal Percentage and his 60.0% True Shooting Percentage ranks seventh among frequent shooters. Both of those numbers are career-highs.

There are, at most, a handful of players who have been more effective than Garnett offensively this season, which along with his usual outstanding defense, passing, and rebounding makes him without question one of the league's elite players. However, at this point his unselfishness and/or passivity with the ball (depending on how you want to view it) is actually keeping the Wolves from being a better team.

On a roster with few capable scorers, Garnett should be taking more shots than ever before. Instead, he's attempting 15.9 shots per game, which ranks a ridiculous 21st in the league. Adjusting for playing time and the Wolves' slow tempo, Garnett ranks 30th in the league by using 23.4 possessions per 40 minutes. To put that in some context, Kobe Bryant leads the league at 35.8, with Allen Iverson (32.7), Tracy McGrady (32.1), LeBron James (30.1), and Dwyane Wade (29.8) rounding out the top five.

Garnett is less able to create his own shot than those five guys, all of whom spend most of the game with the ball in their hands, but there's no excuse for him shooting less often than fellow big men like Jermaine O'Neal (26.4), Zach Randolph (24.9), Pau Gasol (24.5), Elton Brand (24.3), and Chris Webber (23.5).

Garnett's outstanding passing ability and unique unselfishness have proven to be major assets in the past, but those skills are less valuable this year. The only other efficient shooter the Wolves have is Wally Szczerbiak, who often struggles to create his own shot. That means the shots Garnett passes on are trickling down to Marko Jaric, Troy Hudson, Eddie Griffin, Rashad McCants, Trenton Hassell, and Michael Olowokandi, which is like The Rolling Stones cutting a set short so that their opening act can play a few extra songs.


Wally Szczerbiak 61.3
Kevin Garnett 60.0


Trenton Hassell 52.4
Mark Madsen 51.9
Richie Frahm 49.8
Marko Jaric 49.3
Troy Hudson 48.0
Anthony Carter 46.6
Michael Olowokandi 46.4
Rashad McCants 44.2
Eddie Griffin 40.3

*True Shooting Percentage = (PTS / (2 x (FGA + (.44 x FTA)))

When those are the alternatives, there is no reason for Garnett to be shooting 16 times per game. Even if increasing his shots meant a significant drop in efficiency, he'd still be helping the offense by taking attempts away from the assortment of mediocrities the Wolves run out there every night. Prior to this season Garnett's TS% was 53.9%, which is safely above league average and would rank second on the team behind only Szczerbiak.

Yet here it is the middle of January, the Wolves are hovering around .500 and clearly struggling offensively, and Garnett hasn't taken 20 shots in a game since December 26. In fact, he has hoisted up 20 or more shots in a game a grand total of three times this season. There are five players (Bryant, Iverson, James, McGrady, and Gilbert Arenas) who are averaging more than 20 shots per game on the year.

This isn't a criticism of Garnett as much as it is a plea to him. The Wolves are going nowhere with other players taking 80% of the team's shots, and while Szczerbiak has been excellent this year, his skill set makes it difficult to increase his attempts much beyond where he's at right now. All of which leaves it to Garnett to finally emerge as more than just a great all-around player. The Wolves need him to become a great scorer.

Today at The Hardball Times:
- The Team That Nearly Wasn’t: The Montreal Expos (by Maury Brown)
- Phranklin (by Craig Burley)

Pick of the Day (165-151, +$1,075):
Louisville -2 (-110) over St. John's

January 13, 2006


  • I got 13 out of 14 questions right in this Seinfeld quiz, which for someone who has seen each episode at least three times is pretty much an embarrassment. The worst, Jerry. The worst!
  • How do I know this week was a good one? Because Jessica Alba's vacation provided us with not one, but two sets of photos featuring her parading around the beach in a bikini. Of course, you'll either have to ignore the guy in all the pictures or simply cover him up with photoshopped pictures of yourself. Not that I did anything like that ...
  • In honor of his first week at Sirius, here's a link to a Howard Stern soundboard. And for those of you who listened to Stern's first week of shows, here's a link to a George Takei soundboard. Oh my!
  • One of the few remaining shows on ESPN that I find tolerable is NFL Matchup, so I absolutely loved reading this engrossing story of the trip Aaron Schatz and Mike Tanier of Football Outsiders took to see Ron Jaworski at NFL Films.
  • The hiring of new Vikings coach Brad Childress has been discussed to death locally over the last couple weeks, but Dead Spin actually found a fresh angle.
  • Not only did ESPN.com's Jayson Stark write a nice article promoting Bert Blyleven's Hall of Fame candidacy, he gave a plug to The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006 while doing it.
  • Friend of AG.com and occasional THT contributor Craig Burley has joined the wonderful world of blogging over at TyBlog. Craig is one of my favorite people and one of my favorite writers, so make sure to go check it out.
  • Here are two links related to one of my least-favorite people in the world.
  • Reason #2,573,048 why I find it difficult to take ESPN.com's Buster Olney seriously when he attempts to be analyze, rather than simply report:

    Maybe there are formulas and charts that tell you that [John] Franco has been as good a closer as [Mariano] Rivera. Maybe there are statistics that demonstrate little difference between a guy like [Bruce] Sutter and someone like Armando Benitez. But you watch the games and you see the hitters react to them and see the pathetic swings the hitters take, and you know there is a difference that will never be quantified.

    Really, has it come to this? Olney is apparently so anti-sabermetrics that he's now arguing against numbers that don't even exist. Where are all these metrics showing John Franco being as good as Mariano Rivera? Where are all these statheads clamoring for Armando Benitez's place in the Hall of Fame?

    The answer is that they only exist in Olney's mind, where strawmen are pummeled daily and ideas like "there is a difference that will never be quantified" between Mariano Rivera and John Franco is one that seems plausible.

  • In trying to explain my lack of interest in the WNBA, I've often said that I would rather watch a good boys high school game because the level of athleticism and overall play is higher. You can imagine how a statement like that is met by most WNBA supporters, and you can also imagine the smile on my face when I read the ESPN.com story about "the Warroad High School boys' team squeak[ing] out a 2-1 victory over the U.S. Olympic women's hockey team Wednesday."
  • Here's a picture of Cindy Crawford in a position you've never seen her in before.
  • This is a difficult thing to pull off -- you have to have at least five friends willing to do it and one of them has to be a black guy -- but you'd be hard-pressed to find a better Halloween costume. I'm jealous.
  • Today at The Hardball Times:
    - When Will Bud Whip It Out? (by John Brattain)

    Pick of the Day (163-147, +$1,315):
    Denver +6 (-110) over Minnesota

    Saturday's Picks:
    Seattle -9.5 (-110) over Washington
    New England +3 (-110) over Denver

    Sunday's Picks:
    Indianapolis -9.5 (-110) over Pittsburgh
    Carolina +3 (-110) over Chicago

    Monday's Pick:
    Miami -2 (-110) over Los Angeles

    January 12, 2006

    One Down ...

    Day 1 of the weight-loss plan went pretty well.

    The elliptical machine wasn't delivered until around four p.m., but I still did 3.5 miles on it last night. I worked out on an elliptical quite a bit a few years ago, when my uncle and I would go to his health club to play basketball a couple times per week, and it was a rude awakening to see just how much harder it is for me now. I used to be able to do 20 minutes on it without much problem, sometimes after playing basketball, and now it becomes a strain at around the five-minute mark.

    I suppose it's not all that surprising, but I wasn't in great shape back then either. I guess that shows how many of levels of "not in great shape" there are. In addition to doing about 30-35 minutes in three stints on the machine last night, I also managed to cut back on food intake. My plan is to simply cut down on what has been a typical amount of eating for me, rather than try to eat what might be a lesser amount for dieters in general.

    Rather than drink milk or Sprite, I struck strictly to water yesterday. And rather than some sort of smorgasbord of fast food for dinner, I ate two relatively small meals. For the first meal I had a small bowl of pasta with marinara sauce, along with sliced turkey and cheese on a plain bagel. Later I ate one hot dog with ketchup on a plain bun. The grand total for the day was 1,330 calories.

    That's probably more food than the Olsen twins eat in a given week, but for me it represents a major change. Not to sound like someone in Alcoholics Anonymous or anything, but if I could just report something similar each day from here on out in regard to both my working out and my eating, I'd definitely be on the right track. (Don't worry, I won't be reporting anything, good or bad, each day.)

    After one day I can already see what the two biggest challenges are going to be. One is that I need to get into good enough shape so that doing 10 minutes on the machine isn't a taxing thing. I realize how pathetic that sounds, but if I was worried about sounding pathetic I probably wouldn't be talking about being a fatass here. The other thing to work on is eating small meals throughout the day, rather than waiting for a big meal at dinner time.

    For as long as I can remember I've skipped breakfast completely, occasionally eaten lunch, and always gorged myself on a gigantic dinner. That can't continue, obviously. On that note, if any of you have good suggestions for reasonably healthy food that I might actually enjoy eating, please post them in the comments section. I'm not talking about tofu burgers or anything like that, just stuff that isn't too bad for you and tastes good.

    I'll try to avoid writing about this topic much more after today, since it's even more self-absorbed than the entries here usually are (if you can believe that) and probably bores the hell out of most of you. For the minority of you who are interested, I'll try to update the "Fat-O-Meter" on the left-hand sidebar every few days.

    Today at The Hardball Times:
    - How Do You Like Your Data? (by Dave Studeman)
    - Run Estimation for the Masses (by Dan Fox)
    - Daily Graphing: Sammy Sosa (by David Appelman)

    Pick of the Day (162-147, +$1,215):
    Cleveland +2.5 (-110) over Los Angeles

    January 11, 2006

    Trimming the Fat

    I was a scrawny little kid. I played a lot of sports and was only willing to eat a few very specific things, so for the first decade or so of my life I was really skinny. At some point, probably around 11 or 12 years old, I began growing significantly taller and started to eat a wider variety of stuff. My athletic abilities also peaked around that time, and soon my participation in sports (aside from watching them) declined.

    From about 13 to 23, I gradually got fatter and fatter. I made peace with being a fat guy years ago, embracing the whole look and self-deprecating act, but recently decided that now is the right time to make a change. After all, if you can't lose weight when you're 23, you're probably never going to. Last week I purchased an elliptical machine, which is scheduled to be delivered here this afternoon.

    Because working out alone won't fix a problem that is 10 years in the making, I've also decided to change my diet. So, starting today, I'm officially trying to lose weight. I bring this up not because I have delusions of anyone reading this being even remotely interested, but because keeping tabs on my progress here may help me stay with it.

    In other words, if in two weeks I have yet to lose any weight and say so here, a few of you are sure to remind me of how pathetic that is. I have no dreams of being particularly fit and I don't even really have a specific number of pounds in mind for a goal. I'd just like to consistently shed pounds on a weekly basis, so that I can motivate myself to eventually drop a significant amount of weight.

    Those of you who get annoyed when I discuss uninteresting aspects of my personal life here should think of it this way: Either I begin to lose weight today and shed about half of David Eckstein over the next six months or so, or I'll be a fat guy for the remainder of my life (which will probably be shorter than it should be because of health problems). If you think of it that way it's fairly compelling, right?

    While I wait for the delivery that will hopefully change my life, some quick Twins notes ...

  • After trading for Corey Koskie last weekend, the Brewers designated Russ Branyan for assignment Monday. Branyan has some sizable flaws both offensively and defensively, but he's intriguing due to big-time power and a .249/.366/.518 line against right-handed pitching over the past three seasons. While not a good defensive player, Branyan is flexible enough in the field to play passably at first base, third base, and left field.

    To get Branyan the Twins would have to assume a one-year, non-guaranteed contract worth $800,000, which is extremely reasonable for someone who would at the very least be an excellent bench bat and platoon option. Of course, Ron Gardenhire doesn't really platoon, the Twins don't like guys who strike out and are allergic to sluggers, and if they had $800,000 to toss around they should have found a way to deal for Koskie.

  • The Twins added to their collection of mediocre LOOGY candidates yesterday by signing Darrell May to a minor-league deal with an invite to spring training. May will presumably compete with Gabe White and Dennys Reyes for the chance to replace J.C. Romero in the bullpen, but he's a 33-year-old soft-tosser with a 5.16 ERA in 661.2 career innings.

    May had a nice year with Kansas City in 2003, but is 10-23 with a 5.92 ERA over the past two seasons. The good news? He's held left-handed hitters to a respectable .251/.281/.419 over the past three years, posting a 76-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The bad news? As I've discussed before Gardenhire is unlikely to use anyone strictly against lefties, and right-handed hitters have bombed May to the tune of .291/.341/.533 since 2003.

  • There is some stiff competition for this title, but the following may be the least-believable thing Charley Walters has ever put in his St. Paul Pioneer Press column:

    Although Toronto was willing to absorb $7.1 million of third baseman Corey Koskie's $11 million, two-year contract if the Twins would give up a minor league player, the reason Minnesota would not bite is that Koskie will receive $6.5 million guaranteed in 2008 if he has 600 at-bats this season or 1,200 over the next two seasons. And there is a $500,000 buyout for Koskie if he doesn't achieve the extra $6.5 million. The Milwaukee Brewers, who traded for Koskie, will pay $2 million of his salary this year, $1.9 million next year.

    First of all, it's 600 and 1,200 plate appearances, not at-bats. A seemingly trivial point, but one that could easily mean a difference of 60-75 trips to the plate per season for a guy like Koskie. Plus, he has a career-high of just 562 at-bats. A total of 85 big-league hitters reached 600 plate appearances in 2005, but just 33 of them managed 600 at-bats. I'm sure you get the point.

    Beyond that, there's just no way that the Twins were so worried about Koskie's option for 2008 vesting. He has topped 600 plate appearances in a season just once in eight years, and if by some miracle Koskie actually stayed healthy for an entire season the team could easily bench him once a week against a southpaw to keep his playing time down.

    Plainly illogical and factually incorrect stuff like that showing up in major-market newspapers is a big part of why sites like this one exist, I suppose.

  • According to MLB.com, Jose Lima's agent, Joe Klein, said he has been "talking to the Minnesota Twins about Lima." Lima went 5-16 with a ghastly 6.99 ERA in 32 starts for the Royals in 2005, so hopefully "talking to the Minnesota Twins about Lima" just means that Klein has been speaking into the phone and Terry Ryan has been listening politely before hanging up.

    Interestingly, Lima went 1-1 with a 4.83 ERA in five starts against the Twins this year, compared to 4-15 with a 7.49 ERA in 27 starts against everyone else. In talking about signing May, Ryan said, "I know he had a tough year last year, but he's always had some success against us." Here's hoping that way of thinking doesn't apply to all pitchers, because the list of guys Ryan would have to sign would be about as big as Lima's ERA.

  • Today at The Hardball Times:
    - Really, Bruce Sutter? (by Aaron Gleeman)
    - THT Interview: Jim Bouton (by Steve Treder)
    - Business of Baseball Report (by Brian Borawski)

    Pick of the Day (162-146, +$1,325):
    Chicago +5.5 (-110) over Minnesota

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