March 24, 2009

Help: Good Blog Name?

This site was initially called Aaron's Baseball Blog before becoming, so clearly my blog-naming skills aren't the world's greatest. Because of that I'm looking for some help in coming up with a solid name for a new baseball blog that's launching soon on and My best idea so far is probably "Circling the Bases," but I'm pretty sure that you guys can come up with several hundred better options.

If we end up using your suggestion, you'll get a free one-year subscription to along with my undying gratitude (both valued at $0.00). You can either e-mail me your blog name suggestion or post it via the comments section. Oh, and please try to come up with names that are free of profanity (or basically anything offensive) and have nothing to do with the Twins, difficult as that may be.

March 22, 2009

Replacing Mauer

After meeting with various doctors about his back injury, Joe Mauer admitted Friday that he's unlikely to be ready for Opening Day and general manager Bill Smith explained that "there's not a timetable right now to say when he is going to be on the field." Being without Mauer for a significant chunk of the year would be a massive blow to the Twins' playoff chances, but if he's able to return after sitting out weeks rather than months the team is relatively well-equipped to handle his absence.

Mike Redmond will take over as the starter behind the plate, with either Jose Morales or Drew Butera (or perhaps both) serving as his backup. Redmond has hit .327/.382/.426 against left-handers over his career, including .350/.398/.439 from 2006-2008, so being without Mauer versus southpaws won't be a major downgrade for the Twins' lineup. Mauer posted flukishly big numbers versus lefties last year, but from 2006-2008 hit .329/.393/.432 against southpaws to nearly duplicate Redmond's career mark.

However, replacing Mauer against right-handers is a much different story. Mauer has hit .326/.417/.493 against righties over his career, including .324/.419/.481 during the past three years. Redmond has hit .273/.329/.332 against righties over his career, including .280/.313/.322 during the past three seasons. The gap from Mauer to Redmond versus righties figures to be about 100 points of on-base percentage and 160 points of slugging percentage, which would obviously cost the Twins a ton of runs.

To put those numbers into some context, consider that Justin Morneau is a career .281/.348/.498 hitter overall. Take away 100 points of on-base percentage and 160 points of slugging percentage, and you get a near-perfect fit for Juan Castro's career .228/.268/.331 line. Morales is a switch-hitter and batted .318/.373/.421 in 475 plate appearances against righties during two seasons at Triple-A, so whatever playing time he gets in place of Redmond should definitely come with a right-hander on the mound.

As for Butera, he's a right-handed batter with a Castro-like .215/.287/.324 line over 528 trips to the plate at Double-A and zero experience at Triple-A, so he figures to be pretty awful regardless of which hand the opposing pitcher is throwing with and realistically should be viewed as little more than a defensive replacement. Being without Mauer will cost the Twins a significant number of runs, but determining an exact number is difficult without knowing specifically how Ron Gardenhire plans to replace him.

For instance, if Redmond starts against all lefties and splits starts verus righties with Morales, the duo is capable of matching and perhaps even slightly bettering the .257/.325/.390 line that MLB catchers as a whole produced last year. In that case, the dropoff from Mauer should be around one run each week. That may not sound like much, but one run per week represents a difference of 35-40 runs per season and each 10-run change is typically worth about one win. One run per week adds up in a hurry.

In other words, even if the Redmond-Morales platoon is utilized properly and both players perform well in their roles, being without Mauer would likely cost the Twins approximately one win every two months and 3-4 wins over the course of an entire season. Utilizing a Redmond-Morales platoon improperly by playing Redmond against most righties would increase the number of runs lost and pairing Redmond with Butera instead of Morales would magnify the dropoff even further.

All of which is a long way of saying that being without Mauer for a few weeks would cost runs, but being without Mauer for a few months would cost wins. Redmond is among baseball's best backup catchers and Morales has hit well enough at Triple-A to suggest that he's a capable backup too, so the Twins are as well-equipped to weather the loss of an MVP-caliber backstop as could be expected. Still, Mauer is so much better than the average catcher that well-equipped or not his absence is a huge blow.

March 20, 2009


  • Quote of the Week, courtesy of Mariners southpaw Erik Bedard: "My ass feels good and that's that."
  • One thing I've always wondered is whether or not being charged with criminal mischief and earning the nickname "Dookie" for defecating in a laundry basket would negatively impact someone's post-NFL modeling career. Thanks to Najeh Davenport, we may soon have an answer.
  • Oakland signed 16-year-old pitching phenom Michael Ynoa last year by handing him a $4.25 million bonus that's the largest ever given to an international free agent and now A's beat writer Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle has a scouting report on him:

    Santiago Casilla told me a few weeks ago when I asked if he'd seen Ynoa this winter that Ynoa has "beautiful eyes," which made me laugh, since I'd been asking about his pitching. (Casilla hadn't seen him pitch, as it turned out.) But Casilla wasn't just cracking a joke: Ynoa does have extraordinary eyes--aquamarine or sea green, something like that. Striking.

    Slusser may be on to something, as looking back at the Twins' biggest prospect busts of the past two decades shows a clear lack of beautiful eyes. If nothing else, that was clearly Willie Banks' problem.

  • Last year the Royals avoided their fifth straight last-place finish by one win, yet their fans apparently do not take well to someone predicting that they'll be a last-place team in 2009. Funny how that works.
  • On a related note, Sidney Ponson is 32 years old and has gone five seasons without an ERA under 5.00, but two decent outings in the World Baseball Classic convinced Royals general manager Dayton Moore to sign him:

    Our scouts saw him in the WBC and were very aggressive in their recommendation that we need to bring him in here so we could evaluate him ourselves. We've got several scouts who have seen him pitch who are convinced this guy needs to be part of our rotation competition.

    Obviously it's safe to bump the Royals up into fourth place now. Also, the above Kansas City Star article is worth reading, if only to see this picture of Ponson and his Ynoa-like eyes.

  • Is former Official Fantasy Girl of Elisha Cuthbert making a Josh Hamilton-like comeback or does Women's Health magazine just have a good air-brushing team?
  • LaVelle E. Neal III announced that there will not be a weekly minor-league report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune this season because "there just isn't any space available to do it the right way." You know, because the newspaper's sports section obviously needs to save up all the space it possibly can for a few more reprinted Associated Press articles and 2,000-word Sid Hartman columns. Wouldn't want to clog up the pages with any unique, Minnesota-specific content that can't be found everywhere else.
  • Last month the Rocky Mountain News shut down after 149 years and the list of two-newspaper cities shrunk even further this week when the Seattle Post-Intelligencer ceased producing a print edition after 146 years. Luckily for Rockies fans, longtime Rocky Mountain News staffers Tracy Ringolsby and Jack Etkin have started their own website and will continue to cover the team despite the newspaper folding. I'm guessing that Inside the Rockies will have room for some minor-league reports.
  • I've done a few photo shoots and inevitably the photographer will ask that you get into some kind of weird pose. With me it usually involves a laptop and a bed, but with Alex Rodriguez ... well, you'll see.
  • Had it been a regular-season game, Delmon Young hitting into four double plays Wednesday would have tied the all-time MLB record. Young hit into the sixth-most double plays in baseball during the past two seasons, so the more surprising thing is that he also homered in the game.
  • Not only is my childhood friend Jeremy Neren getting good press in Madison, here's better than me at the weight-loss thing without even trying (or needing).
  • It's nice to know that Craig Monroe can still hit against the Twins even if he couldn't hit for the Twins.
  • My favorite couple has broken up, again.
  • It's been a while since I've thrown a plug to Scott Huff and Joe Stapleton of Two Jacks in the Hole, but their podcast this week was especially funny.
  • Ben Reiter of thinks the Twins "won't sneak up on people this season."
  • If you're curious about how sabermetric-style statistical analysis is changing the NBA, Bill Simmons' recent podcast with Rockets general manager and admitted stathead Daryl Morey is a must-listen.
  • For anyone wondering, reached five million visitors at 4:30 yesterday afternoon while I was in the middle of a 90-minute conference call, which gives you an idea of how glamorous the event was. I've gotten much better at keeping secrets over the years, but I'm still not good enough to stop myself from at least hinting at something in this space. So, I'll just say that there's some exciting news on the baseball-writing front coming up for me very soon and regular readers should be pleased.
  • Finally, in honor of Simmons ripping him at the end of the aforementioned podcast with Morey this week's music video is Ray LaMontagne doing a live version of "Trouble":

  • March 18, 2009

    5,000,000 Visitors and a Live Chat

    At some point today this blog will surpass five million total visitors, which is even more impressive than it appears when you consider that at least 100,000 of those visits came from people who are not in my immediate family. Probably. I've spent this week trying to think of ways to retroactively charge everyone, say, a nickel per visit, but realistically that plan is flawed because my mom likely doesn't have that kind of cash lying around and collecting $5,000 from my 85-year-old grandfather seems excessive.

    Getting rich off this blog will sadly have to wait for another day, but I'm happy to say that the traffic here has risen every year since launched on August 1, 2002. It took over 30 months for this blog to reach one million visitors and at the time that total boggled my 21-year-old mind, but the second million arrived 17 months later and the third million showed up 12 months after that. Going from three million to four million was accomplished in 11 months and the most recent million took about 10 months.

    Quite a few people have suggested to me lately that reaching the five-million mark warrants some sort of celebration, but unfortunately laziness and lack of creativity have conspired to keep me from coming up with any good ideas. Instead, you merely get two incredibly boring paragraphs about blog traffic and a live chat at noon. Sorry. As always the live chat will open 15-20 minutes beforehand for pre-submitted questions and I'll keep going until you're too distracted by the NCAA tournament to keep asking stuff.

    March 17, 2009

    Dreams to Remember

    Whether due to the completion of my annual top-40 prospects series or last week's mention of David McCarty, several readers have inquired recently about the Twins' biggest prospect busts. There are two ways to look at that question, because there are basically two ways for a prospect to be considered a bust. One way is failing to pan out after being a first-round pick and the other way is failing to live up to the hype after being a highly ranked prospect. And some busts fit into both categories, of course.

    Researching the biggest busts in the Twins' five-decade history is a more difficult and time-consuming project than I'm ready for, but examining the past 15-20 years is pretty simple with the help of Baseball America's archived prospect rankings and's draft database. Because the jury is still out on most recent draft picks and prospects, let's focus on 1990-2003. Here are my choices for the Twins' biggest first-round busts during that time:

                        YEAR     PICK
    Adam Johnson 2000 2nd
    David McCarty 1991 3rd
    B.J. Garbe 1999 5th
    Ryan Mills 1998 6th
    Matt Moses 2003 21st
    Dan Serafini 1992 26th
    Scott Stahoviak 1991 27th
    Midre Cummings 1990 29th

    McCarty might be considered the biggest draft bust in team history after going third overall in 1991 and using three straight top-six picks on Ryan Mills, B.J. Garbe, and Adam Johnson was a brutal stretch for the Twins that was thankfully snapped when they selected Joe Mauer first overall in 2001. Now here's a look at the players who failed to have much big-league success after being ranked among baseball's top 100 prospects by BA from 1990-2003:

                        YEAR     RANK                            YEAR     RANK
    Willie Banks 1990 13th Luis Rivas 1998 55th
    Willie Banks 1991 15th Luis Rivas 1999 63rd
    David McCarty 1993 16th Michael Restovich 2002 63rd
    David McCarty 1992 22nd Willie Banks 1992 68th
    Pat Mahomes 1992 25th Luis Rivas 1997 70th
    Michael Restovich 2000 26th Marc Barcelo 1995 70th
    Midre Cummings 1992 33rd Dan Serafini 1996 76th
    Michael Restovich 2003 37th B.J. Garbe 2000 79th
    Adam Johnson 2001 41st Adam Johnson 2002 85th
    Johnny Ard 1990 46th Luis Rivas 2000 86th
    Michael Restovich 1999 50th Luis Rivas 2001 93rd
    Alan Newman 1992 96th

    Willie Banks missed the 1990-2003 cutoff for draft busts listed above because he was picked in 1987, but just like McCarty he went No. 3 overall and then ranked as a top-20 prospect in back-to-back years. Luis Rivas was never a top-20 prospect, but he placed among BA's top 100 in 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001 before becoming the Official Whipping Boy of in mid-2002. Michael Restovich was a top-50 prospect in three straight seasons and ranked 68th in a fourth year.

    Also worth noting is that while he was never actually ranked by BA as Twins property, Frank Rodriguez ranked ninth in 1992, 25th in 1993, and 39th in 1994 before coming to Minnesota in the mid-1995 trade for Rick Aguilera. If you count Rodriguez as a Twins prospect, then he joins Mauer (2002, 2003, 2004, 2005), Francisco Liriano (2006), and Todd Walker (1997) as the team's top-10 prospects since 1990. Based on draft position and BA rankings, here are the 10 biggest Twins prospect busts in that time:

     1. David McCarty           .676 OPS in 1,647 PA
    2. Willie Banks 4.75 ERA in 610 IP
    3. Frank Rodriguez 5.53 ERA in 654 IP
    4. Adam Johnson 10.25 ERA in 26 IP
    5. Ryan Mills Never played in majors
    6. B.J. Garbe Never played in majors
    7. Michael Restovich .690 OPS in 297 PA
    8. Luis Rivas .680 OPS in 2,290 PA
    9. Dan Serafini 6.04 ERA in 264 IP
    10. Pat Mahomes 5.47 ERA in 709 IP

    If you're curious, Delmon Young was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 draft and BA's prospect rankings pegged him No. 3 in 2004, No. 3 in 2005, No. 1 in 2006, and No. 3 in 2007.

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