November 15, 2013

Link-O-Rama

Headline of the week: "Woman having sex at Waffle House uses burger for sandal."

• I lost a lot more weight in a lot less time, so where's my $10,000?

• Everyone's favorite retired Twins blogger, Batgirl, was featured in the New York Times for the writing she does under her "Anne Ursu" alter ego.

• Monday night I saw Dave Chappelle at First Avenue and it was amazing. He took the stage at around 11:00 p.m. and begrudgingly left at 2:10 a.m. after three hours of stand-up and chatting with the audience. Chappelle is such a gifted, relaxed performer that it was often hard to figure out what was a planned routine and what was improvised riffing, but he had the sold-out crowd wrapped around his finger all night.

Chappelle famously removed himself from the spotlight for a long time and in going back on tour he recently made headlines for a messy show in Connecticut, but his genius was on full display Monday and he seemed to feel such a genuine bond with the adoring Minneapolis crowd that he couldn't bring himself to leave the stage. As an insomniac comedy junkie, watching him light up cigarette after cigarette and shoot the shit until 2:00 a.m. was an experience I'll never forget.

It's tough to fully describe the late-night craziness Monday night, but Chris Riemenschneider of the Minneapolis Star Tribune gave it a good try.

UPDATE: Chappelle got his own star on the side of First Avenue.

Kevin Love apparently took in one of the Chappelle shows too.

• I had my first TCF Bank Stadium tailgating experience before (and during/after) last weekend's Gophers-Penn State game and took a bunch of pictures.

• Did the Twins and Joe Mauer make the right decision moving him from catcher to first base?

This week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode features an update on my $4,700 exploding tire, tales of tailgating, dumb pranks, and our growing feud with "The Sportive" podcast. Oh, and it was literally recorded in a basement.

Five words: Puppies. Learning. How. To. Walk.

On a related note: Boston Terriers in shower caps.

• Here's how KFAN's website described my Thursday morning return to the airwaves with Paul Allen: "Aaron Gleeman joins PA in-studio to catch up on baseball, Mauer's move to first base, his love life, and his mom." Not quite accurate, though: We talked about Twitter too.

Scott Melker mashed up Hall and Oates with a bunch of different rappers, including a combo of "Maneater" and "C.R.E.A.M." by Wu-Tang Clan that's brilliant.

Carson Cistulli of Fan Graphs explains why Big Pun was the real MVP this season.

Amanda Brooke Perrin's awkward guide to first dates is fantastic.

• I'm printing this out and taking it on all future dates.

• See, now this is my type of (almost) love story.

Ricky Rubio got an assist through Jarrett Jack's legs.

• There is where I'm getting noted jumpsuit enthusiast Michael Rand's birthday present. And possibly my entire wardrobe from now on.

• My breakdown of some free agent starting pitchers the Twins might actually sign.

Brian Wilson can't sign with the Yankees because he won't shave his beard.

Ten years ago this week the Twins traded A.J. Pierzynski to the Giants for a decent haul.

• Hey look, it's David Ortiz's first career walk-off home run and he's wearing a Twins uniform:

That video has so much amazing in it. There's even a Bobby Kielty sighting.

• Sure, there could in theory be multiple people named D.J. Short, but I choose to believe that my Rotoworld and HardballTalk colleague has been living a secret life this entire time.

• For anyone interested in supporting the free content at AG.com, I've cut the sponsor of the week price in half from now until the end of the year.

• The latest from my future wife, sans video but still pretty damn good.

Nick Punto is the new Moneyball.

• I'm into not-safe-for-work burrito talk, so Liz Welle and Maggie LaMaack are my favorite same-sex Twitter couple.

• To honor Tom Scharpling announcing that he's ending "The Best Show on WFMU" next month after 13 years the Fenway Park organist played the theme song during a World Series game.

Saoirse Ronan has the greatest accent of all time.

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

- "Aaron Gleeman bullshit theories"
- "Gleeman vs. vegetables"
- "Boy who lost 23 pounds with water"
- "Blowing a .789"
- "Chubby kid making pizza"
- "How the hell do I get the elliptical to fold?"
- "Breaking cartilage in the ear"
- "Yangtze restaurant best dish"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Bad" by Wale and Rihanna:


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November 13, 2013

Free agent pitching options: Middle-of-the-rotation starters

Dating back to the 2011 season Twins starting pitchers have posted a combined 5.08 ERA for the worst mark in baseball and the only other rotation with an ERA above 4.80 during that three-year span plays half its games at Coors Field. In those three seasons Twins starters ranked 26th, 29th, and 30th in ERA. They also ranked 28th, 30th, and 30th in strikeout rate, including a pathetic 4.9 strikeouts per nine innings this year while no other team was below 6.0.

To figure out their options for addressing the dreadful rotation via free agency I've grouped the available arms into three categories: Top-of-the-rotation starters, middle-of-the-rotation starters, and back-of-the-rotation starters. Below are the middle-of-the-rotation starters, which I view as a No. 3 or No. 4 starter on a contending team, which means an average-or-better starter without the same type of upside as the front-line guys.

Miami Marlins Photo DayRicky Nolasco - RHP - 199 innings - 3.70 ERA - 3.58 xFIP - 165/46 K/BB

Nolasco was a No. 2 starter early in his career and pitched like one again this year, but from 2009-2012 he threw 740 innings with a 4.68 ERA despite calling a pitcher-friendly ballpark home. His secondary numbers were always much better than his ERAs during that time and it wouldn't be a huge stretch to include him in the top-of-the-rotation group, but he lacks the big-time velocity or strikeout rates to totally convince me he's better than a really good mid-rotation guy.

Cleveland Indians Photo DayScott Kazmir - LHP - 158 innings - 4.04 ERA - 3.36 xFIP - 162/47 K/BB

Kazmir was a dominant young starter with the Rays and then rapidly deteriorated to the point that he posted a 5.34 ERA in independent ball at age 28. He made an incredible comeback with the Indians, racking up strikeouts at the same rate that made him a star in the first place, and finished strong with a 43/4 K/BB ratio in September. Kazmir is a huge risk, but he's still just 29 and looked an awful lot like his old self this year. Based purely on upside, he's easily the best of this bunch.

Cincinnati Reds Photo DayBronson Arroyo - RHP - 202 innings - 3.79 ERA - 3.97 xFIP - 124/34 K/BB

Arroyo's average fastball has never cracked 90 miles per hour, but he's logged 200 innings per season for a decade thanks to a wide variety of off-speed pitches and good control. He also gives up a ton of homers, leading the league in two of the past three years, and at age 37 he's had to become an extreme strike-thrower to make up for diminished strikeout rates. Arroyo is a prototypical Twins pitcher in the good and bad ways, and it'd be shocking if they weren't targeting him.

Atlanta Braves Photo DayPaul Maholm - LHP - 153 innings - 4.41 ERA - 3.89 xFIP - 105/47 K/BB

Maholm was headed for his third straight season with a sub-4.00 ERA when arm problems tripped him up. He had a 6.00 ERA after July 1 and also spent a month on the disabled list during that time, but no serious injuries were found. At age 32 with a high-80s fastball he lacks upside, but Maholm has generally been a solid mid-rotation starter with average strikeout rates, acceptable control, and lots of ground balls. He's one of the few quality left-handers in a righty-heavy class.

2013 New York Yankees Photo DayPhil Hughes - RHP - 146 innings - 5.19 ERA - 4.39 xFIP - 121/42 K/BB

Considered baseball's best pitching prospect when the Twins tried to get him in the Johan Santana trade, Hughes is now 27 years old with a 4.54 career ERA. As an extreme fly-ball pitcher getting away from Yankee Stadium would help Hughes a lot, but it's also possible he's just mediocre. He had a 4.34 ERA on the road from 2011-2013, and his velocity and strikeout rates are good rather than great. He's better than his ERAs suggest, but the potential ace simply never developed.

2013 Oakland Athletics Photo DayBartolo Colon - RHP - 190 innings - 2.65 ERA - 3.95 xFIP - 117/29 K/BB

A flame-throwing top-of-the-rotation starter for a decade, Colon was wrecked by injuries after robbing Johan Santana of the Cy Young award in 2005. Out of MLB in 2010, he came back at age 38 as a strike-throwing machine and has a 3.32 ERA in 507 innings since. Now he's 40 and coming off a 2.65 ERA for the A's, but his secondary numbers are far less impressive. No longer a strikeout guy, he pumps low-90s fastballs for strikes and relies on good defense behind him.

2013 Philadelphia Phillies Photo DayRoy Halladay - RHP - 62 innings - 6.82 ERA - 5.10 xFIP - 51/36 K/BB

Halladay is one of this generation's best pitchers and a likely Hall of Famer, but it's tough to say if he has anything left in the tank at age 37. He was wobbly at times in 2012 and the wheels fell off this year, as he got battered for a 6.82 ERA in 13 starts and averaged just 88 miles per hour with his fastball. It was hard to watch Halladay pitch in his diminished state, but if healthy he certainly has the control and smarts to extend his career as a mid-rotation starter.

Los Angeles Dodgers Photo DayChris Capuano - LHP - 106 innings - 4.26 ERA - 3.67 xFIP - 81/24 K/BB

Los Angeles' rotation depth and a groin injury limited Capuano to 20 starts this year, but he posted a 3.91 ERA and 52/10 K/BB ratio in 13 starts after June 1. He also tossed 198 innings with a 3.72 ERA in 2012 and has always managed above-average strikeout rates to go with being impossible to run on, so even at age 35 he looks far from washed up. There's no upside to be found, but he's a perfectly capable mid-rotation guy who likely won't require a multi-year commitment.

2013 Chicago Cubs Photo DayScott Feldman - RHP - 182 innings - 3.86 ERA - 3.96 xFIP - 132/56 K/BB

Placed in the back-of-the-rotation starter group last offseason because he hadn't topped 150 innings in three years, Feldman signed a one-year, $6 million deal and threw 182 innings with a 3.86 ERA. Not much about his underlying performance actually changed, he just stayed healthy and got away from Texas' hitter-friendly ballpark. He gets an average number of strikeouts with average control and was a ground-ball pitcher for the first time this year, although that may not stick.

2013 Tampa Bay Rays Photo DayRoberto Hernandez - RHP - 151 innings - 4.89 ERA - 3.60 xFIP - 113/38 K/BB

On one hand the Rays not being able to fix a pitcher makes me think he may not be fixable. On the other hand Hernandez's secondary stats improved dramatically, as he issued just 38 walks in 151 innings after years of awful control and managed a decent number of strikeouts while maintaining a strong ground-ball rate. He's not the same pitcher he was back when his name was Fausto Carmona, but there's still reason to be intrigued if the price is right.


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November 12, 2013

Concussion forces Joe Mauer to switch from catcher to first base

joe mauer first base

Since the moment Joe Mauer suffered a concussion from a foul tip to the mask on August 19 there was a very real possibility that his days behind the plate were numbered. He attempted to return to the Twins' lineup down the stretch only to experience dizziness, sensitivity to light, irritability, and other post-concussion symptoms and missed the final 40 games. And now Mauer and the Twins have decided a permanent position switch is necessary.

It's a damn shame, because Mauer has been the best catcher in baseball for the past decade, hitting .323/.405/.468 in 1,178 games while making six All-Star teams and winning three batting titles, three Gold Glove awards, five Silver Slugger awards, and one MVP. Among all the catchers in MLB history through age 30 he ranks sixth in Wins Above Replacement, behind only Johnny Bench, Gary Carter, Ivan Rodriguez, Joe Torre, and Ted Simmons.

This year Mauer batted .324/.404/.476 with 46 extra-base hits and 61 walks in 113 games before the concussion, basically duplicating his career numbers while leading all MLB catchers in batting average, on-base percentage, and OPS. He also threw out a league-leading 43 percent of stolen base attempts. Here's how Mauer's career numbers look among all active catchers with at least 1,000 plate appearances:

BATTING AVERAGE            ON-BASE PERCENTAGE         SLUGGING PERCENTAGE
JOE MAUER         .323     JOE MAUER         .405     Buster Posey      .486
Buster Posey      .308     Buster Posey      .377     Brian McCann      .473
Yadier Molina     .284     Carlos Santana    .367     JOE MAUER         .468
A.J. Pierzynski   .283     John Jaso         .364     Carlos Santana    .446
Jonathan Lucroy   .279     Ryan Hanigan      .359     David Ross        .441

Mauer has the best batting average by 15 points over Buster Posey and at least 39 points over everyone else. Mauer has the best on-base percentage by 28 points over Posey and at least 38 points over everyone else. And he ranks third in slugging percentage behind Posey and Brian McCann. However, if you take his 2012-2013 numbers and make the same comparison to first basemen (and designated hitters) Mauer slides down the rankings a bit:

BATTING AVERAGE            ON-BASE PERCENTAGE         SLUGGING PERCENTAGE
JOE MAUER         .321     Joey Votto        .450     David Ortiz       .582
Joey Votto        .317     JOE MAUER         .410     Chris Davis       .571
David Ortiz       .312     David Ortiz       .403     Edwin Encarnacion .546
Allen Craig       .311     Prince Fielder    .387     Paul Goldschmidt  .523
Billy Butler      .301     Paul Goldschmidt  .382     Joey Votto        .520
                                                      ...
                                                      JOE MAUER         .460

If you compare Mauer to first basemen he dips behind Joey Votto as the king of OBP and falls all the way to 20th in slugging percentage. However, his overall production (as measured by adjusted OPS+) would've ranked sixth among all first basemen in 2012-2013 behind Votto, David Ortiz, Edwin Encarnacion, Chris Davis, and Paul Goldschmidt. Mauer will clearly be a top-ten first baseman and could easily move into the top five without the physical demands of catching.

With that said, it will be very hard for Mauer to provide more all-around value at first base than he did at catcher because he's shifting from one end of the defensive spectrum to the other. As a catcher Mauer was arguably the best at his position and no worse than the top three, producing 20-25 percent more offense than an average player. As a first baseman he'll likely have zero claim to being the best at his position and produce 10-15 percent more offense than an average player.

Unfortunately a brain injury makes any debate about all-around value sort of silly. Mauer is 30 years old with five years remaining on his contract and the Twins need him healthy and in the lineup. Moving to first base certainly won't make him immune to injuries, but it will make him less likely to get hurt and specifically less likely to rejoin the incredibly long list of catchers to spend time on the disabled list for a concussion in recent years. Catching is a rough, rough gig.

Under normal circumstances it might make sense to say that Mauer should stay at catcher unless or until the injury reoccurs, at which point a position switch could be made for good. However, with a brain injury that could mean it's too late, both to save Mauer's value as a baseball player and to avoid significant long-term health problems off the field. This isn't an elbow or a knee we're talking about and too often that distinction seems to be overlooked.

In the short term this may not even have a particularly big impact on the Twins, in part because their in-house options at first base (Chris Parmelee, Chris Colabello) aren't exactly can't-miss prospects and in part because Josmil Pinto's emergence gives them a 25-year-old potential replacement at catcher with upside. He'll need to show that his defense is passable enough to play regularly behind the plate, but the Twins were going to find a spot for Pinto's bat somewhere.

In the long term switching Mauer from catcher to first base removes a spot in the lineup for the Twins to stash a big bat with a poor glove--which is always part of the dynamic that tends to make good-hitting catchers underrated in general--but that may not become a full-fledged logjam for a couple more seasons and by that point Mauer would have been old enough that moving away from catcher may have been needed regardless of injuries.

Mauer moving to third base could have represented a potential middle ground positionally, but with Miguel Sano nearly MLB-ready and the Twins seemingly convinced he'll stick at third base for at least a little while it wasn't really much of an option. It's disappointing to see Mauer forced to move away from a position he dominated for a decade, especially when his performance hadn't declined at all, but brain injuries aren't something you can really negotiate around.

If he can stay healthier and up his production even a little bit by getting out from behind the plate and Pinto can turn himself into a reasonably capable defender in addition to being an asset with the bat the Mauer position switch might not even be a huge negative. Those are some pretty large ifs, of course, but I'll take my chances on them rather than holding my breath every time Mauer took a foul tip off the mask or stood tall for a plate collision. It's sad, but it's the right move.


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November 11, 2013

Gleeman and The Geek #119: Live From Mom’s Basement

Topics for this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode included the Twins' potential interest in Johan Santana, Alex Meyer's impressive Arizona Fall League, the $4,700 exploding tire, injuries to Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano, redoing or undoing the Denard Span and Ben Revere trades, beer-soaked iPads, tailgating at a Gophers game, weddings in Dallas, mailbag questions from listeners, feuding with "The Sportive" podcast, and going to see Dave Chappelle.

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 119

In addition to the direct download link above you can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.


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November 8, 2013

Link-O-Rama

Mase is releasing a new album for the first time in nearly a decade, which means I might have to update my Twitter profile. This is a big deal for me, guys.

• I've been thinking about moving away from the suburbs and getting a new place in uptown or maybe downtown, but something tells me I wouldn't fit in at this apartment bro-plex (although obviously $2,800 per month for the penthouse is a steal).

• There's a "Ladies Night Out" promotion for Timberwolves games in which $18 gets you a game ticket, a glass of wine, and Season 1 of "Girls" on DVD. Seriously.

• Texans coach Gary Kubiak suffering a stroke on the field Sunday night got me thinking about the worst day of my life, which I wrote about in 2003 for a non-fiction literature class in college.

• I'm saving myself for divorce, personally.

Sarah Silverman and Todd Glass goofing around with Doug Benson on "Getting Doug With High" is one of my favorite things ever.

Zach Galifianakis got real skinny all of a sudden. Must be on that baseball blogger diet.

Usain Bolt revealed that he ate exclusively McDonald's while in Beijing for the Olympics and consumed approximately 1,000 chicken nuggets in 10 days. He won three gold medals.

• On this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode I told an incredibly embarrassing story about my weekend and then the show had the worst ending in the history of podcasts.

• I'm sure Ricky Rubio is perfectly capable of singing some fantastic Bill Withers covers, but until then Victor Oladipo is my new favorite basketball player:

Having talent must be really fun.

Mike Napoli celebrated the Red Sox's title in style, and that style was shirtless and drunk.

• Not ashamed to admit that I read this entire history of the Trapper Keeper.

• As far as mash-ups go, Lorde and The Spin Doctors are a surprisingly enjoyable combination.

• I'm not delusional enough to think the Twins might actually sign any of these guys, but I wrote about them anyway.

• Old friend Matthew LeCroy was named the Nationals' new bullpen coach at age 37.

Ben Revere's honeymoon in Philadelphia was a short one.

Jon Marthaler filed his final post for Twinkie Town, which kindly put together a comprehensive best-of collection that highlights just how much fun he's been to read over there since 2007. You can still listen to Marthaler every week in his role as ringmaster on "The Sportive" podcast.

• Speaking of Twinkie Town, they're looking to add some new writers to the staff.

• I'm sad about Rusty Quarters closing because it was a great place to re-live childhoods, but I'm especially worried what it will do to the psyche of Minnesota's favorite manchild, Dana Wessel.

• Blockbuster is closing 300 stores, putting an end to what was basically the center of my universe in Highland Park for a few years in the mid-90s. I want to rent "Kids" on VHS one last time.

• At long last, a useful PR e-mail pitch: "I look forward to us starting a long and exciting wine journey together."

• My future wife is so good that she can even make me like Elvis Presley:

 Possum Plows is dominating Link-O-Rama like few others in AG.com history.

• Tuesday afternoon First Avenue announced that Dave Chappelle is coming to town to do two shows Monday night and I felt so proud of myself for snagging tickets before they both sold out within an hour. I felt slightly less proud when First Avenue later added two shows Tuesday, two shows Wednesday, and two shows Thursday because of the tremendous demand. Either way, it should be great. Shows that start at 10:30 on Monday nights are where insomniacs shine.

• Speaking of stand-up comedy, in the first step toward my goal of creating a comedy club club I'm taking a big group of people to see Tom Segura tape his new television special Saturday at the Cowles Center. If that goes well, we might have some traction on the club idea.

• This is just a really cool thing to be known for.

• Obviously this kid read my interview about Twitter dating last week and took my advice to heart.

• My texting experience is very similar to Aziz Ansari's texting experience, sadly.

• On a related note, Ansari's new stand-up special "Buried Alive" was just released on Netlix and I liked it a lot after previously being ambivalent about him. Much more personal, interesting stuff.

Jen Kirkman's quarterly appearance on "The Crab Feast" with Jay Larson and Ryan Sickler is always a must-listen.

• I've long said that Chelsea Peretti is the best and here's compelling evidence to back that up.

• I just discovered the "Hip Hop BBQ" station on Pandora and it has changed my entire life.

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

- "Aaron Gleeman recipe"
- "Aaron Gleeman over-sharing"
- "Aaron Gleeman plaid shirts"
- "Aaron Gleeman dead"
- "How to prepare yourself to starve"
- "Is 36 pounds bad if you're a 2-year-old?"
- "Bed snacks for 11-year-olds"
- "Gang dressed in orange"
- "Great player cut by Twins"

• Finally, in honor of my recent interest in changing zip codes this week's AG.com-approved music video is Susan Tedeschi doing a live cover version of "Gonna Move" by Paul Pena:


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