Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday Power Rankings: Naps

For everyone over the age of 12, a nap is a glorious thing.  In fact, if you were able to read the mind of even the most stubborn "but I want to plaaaaaaaaay," two-year-old on the planet, I bet he or she would be thinking while dreaming "hey, this nap is pretty swell."  I love a good nap.  I relish every opportunity for a nap.  I'll take a catnap, a long nap, a car nap, whatever. 

No two naps are truly the same, but we can categorize naps quite easily.  Once we have categories, we can go one step further and break out some POWER RANKINGS!  Without any further introduction, here are the Nap POWER RANKINGS!

Honorable Mentions:

Car Nap - Napping while riding in the car.  This really only results in a satisfying nap if you are in the passenger seat with no one behind you.  Otherwise, you're using a window as a pillow. 

DaVinci Naps - Napping instead of sleeping.  This can also be referred to as sleep deprivation or "dangerous." 

Work Nap - Unless you're George Costanza, a work nap is a risky proposition.  Odds are, you aren't going to enjoy the sleep because you'll be worried that someone will catch you or hear your elephant snoring and no longer want to promote you.

Catnap - Not really my thing.  I need a nap to last longer than a few seconds and preferably, longer than a few hours.  Then again, cats are very popular on the internet.

Power Nap - 15 to 20-minute naps that are intended as a quick refresher.  Generally, these turn into standard naps once you remember how to turn the snooze off. 

Surprise Nap - These naps hit you out of nowhere and often cannot be halted.  Of course, when you hit a surprise in the wrong setting, you can end up banging your head on some pretty rugged corners. 

School Nap - The only kind of nap can should end with someone yelling "HEY" and pulling your arm out from under your chin.  The yelling could come from a friend, enemy, teacher, principal, lunch lady, police liaison, or Mr. Belding (of course, he'll say "hey" three times).

10.  Exercise Nap
Unfortunately, this nap requires exercise, so it cannot be higher than 10.  However, if you subject yourself to exercise, napping afterwards is a nice reward.  So is pizza.  Which also helps with napping.  The best Exercise Nap occurs immediately after a workout, laying flat on the ground, sweating, red, breathing like a walrus.   

9.  The Late-Night Nap
It's getting late, close to when you normally go to bed, but darn it, you're tired now!  Rather than brush your teeth and put on your PJs, why not take a little late-night nap?  There is something so satisfying about falling asleep just a little bit earlier than usual.  Of course, these naps generally end with you waking up drooling and angry with your one-hour previous self for not just going to bed in the first place.  Because of this phenomenon, the Late-Night Nap cannot be rated higher than this.  It's just science. 

8.  Whoa, it's 11 o'clock? Nap
I was the absolute master of these naps when I was in high school and college.  Don't confuse this nap with the late-night nap.  This is a nap that starts at a reasonable time, say 4-5pm, but ends long, long after you intended to wake up.  These naps typically start during the light of day and end with you confused in the dark.  They also end with you watching Timecop around 1-2am.  

7.  Car Nap at Work
A very underrated nap.  These naps are strictly for napping professionals.  Basically, you go out to your car during lunch or maybe whenever you want depending on where you work, and you take a nap in the driver's seat of your car.  There's always the risk that one of your co-workers will walk by and find out what an oddball you are, but those 35 minutes of sleep are totally worth it. 

6.  Chair Nap
I'm going word of mouth on this one.  The chair nap cannot be perfected until after the age of 50.  You can't cheat the life-cycle.  Once you turn 50 (remembering that we all develop at different rates, some reach this stage at 45, others it's 55 or later), you can take a nap while sitting in a chair and make it look like something a human would actually want to do.  Based on the rate of snoring, these naps seem reasonably satisfying, despite a complete lack of neck stabilization.

5.  Outside Nap
An extremely underrated nap, but one that cannot be perfected in winter.  Don't try.  Napping outside can take a lot of different forms, but there's something about the fresh air, the warm sun, and the accommodating bees, that just create a perfect napping atmosphere.  Just remember, if you fall asleep in the sun, whatever is covering you will be permanently burned into your face.

4.  Bed Nap
This cannot be confused with sleeping.  You cannot nap and sleep at the same time, if that makes any sense.  Taking a nap in your bed is fantastic.  You get all the benefits of night sleeping without losing 7-10 hours of premium late-night television and movies.  Bed naps are required to last at least one hour, or they do not count. 

3.  Couch Nap
Somehow more satisfying than the Bed Nap, a Couch Nap can only be described as "amazing."  Even though the general association of "sleeping on the couch" is considered negative, napping on the couch is divine.  Unlike a Bed Nap, a Couch Nap can be shorter than an hour, or it can be intermittent, spread out over an entire Sunday.  The Couch Nap was made famous by the comic strip "Blondie" which was made famous by newspapers, which is what we use to line our hamster cages and to create our ransom notes.

2.  Sports Naps
Before we had the DVR, we had Sports Naps.  The proper Sports Nap begins somewhere near the beginning part of your favorite sport.  You know, the lame part.  First inning, first quarter, first period, first half, whatever.  When the nap starts, the game is boring.  You'll wake up from time to time, kind of hazily take in the score and proceed to complete the nap.  When it's over, you've time-traveled to the meat of the game.  Eighth inning, fourth quarter, third period, whatever part of soccer is fun. 

Nothing is better than falling asleep during an 8-8 NBA first quarter and waking up to an 88-88 tie with 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter.  These naps are both physically and mentally satisfying.

1.  The Pajama Nap
The Bed Nap's attractive Shelbyville cousin.  Nothing tops the Pajama Nap.  This is a nap that is planned and likely to be long enough to change into comfortable sleepwear.  This nap only comes around once in awhile.  That perfect combination of free time, tired eyes and a quiet place to sleep.  Sleep researchers recommend that you don't nap in your bed because it will confuse you when it's time for real sleep.  On the other hand, screw sleep researchers!  Pajama Naps are worth the confusion.  They are the Holy Grail of Naps. 

This is not an exhaustive list.  There are many other forms of nap that I have omitted, some purposely and some because I really want to go take a nap.  What is your favorite form of nap?  Let me know in the comments below!

Obligation is a Triangle Choke

I have never felt a strong sense of obligation.  When others feel like they have to do things because well, they just have to do them, I often scoff or giggle or chortle, depending on how stuffy my nose is.  I feel badly for people who feel such a strong sense of obligation.  It seems exhausting, if not somewhat noble.  I never felt that way about much of anything.  I’m sure you’re thinking right now “wow, Brad is super cool, he beats his own drum.”  I’m not trying to be cool, that’s just how I am.  Most of the things that I do in life, I do because I like. 

I Googled “obligation” and let the auto-fill do its magic.  When adding “is” an analogy pops up:

“Obligation is to work as freedom is to…?”

This is clearly a high school test question of some sort, as this particular question is asked far too frequently and in this exact format to simply be something that a lot of people are curious about.  The consensus among the many internet users who have way too much free time and devote countless hours to proving their intelligence by helping high school kids cheat was that the answer is “choice.” 

These internet geniuses might be on to something.  Writing about the Twins was starting to feel like work.  I was writing posts instead of doing things I wanted to do.  This would be fine if I had any intention of turning my blog into a job, but that was never my intent.  I have a career.  I like my career.  I chose to write about the Twins because I thought it would be fun.  I like to write.  I like writing about baseball.  The Twins are my favorite baseball team.  It was novel.  It was logical.  It made sense. 

Now, I feel obligated to write about the Twins and I’m not sure why.  No one relies on this blog for news.  Some rely on it for my analysis (thank you!).  Some just find it randomly while searching the internet or visiting Twins Daily or Baseball Reference or whatever.  And yet, within the last year, a strong sense of obligation started to overcome me.

I noticed this for the first time when the Twins signed Ricky Nolasco.  If my memory serves me correctly, he signed late in the day or maybe I just found out late in the day.  I read the news and immediately dropped everything I was doing to analyze the signing.  I spent a good deal of time on the post, I was happy with how it turned out and I felt like I made my points very clearly. 

If this was a movie or a novel, I would have missed my daughter’s birthday or forgotten to pick up my wife at the airport or missed an episode of Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, but the reality is that this post didn't take me away from anything of importance.  I just didn't want to write it.  I didn't really care that the Twins signed Nolasco, to be honest.  I wasn't super excited about it and I just didn't want to write about it.  In the end, I did write about it and I’m still not really sure why. 

At some point during this blogging endeavor, I started to feel like I had to write 3-4 posts per week.  I made a spreadsheet with a schedule.  I planned things out in advance (obviously, that’s what a schedule is for).  I thought I needed give my take on every single Twins-related item.  I needed to keep my readers engaged, by goodness!  I was creating a community, a brand, a persona. 

Hey cool, now I had a second job!  I didn't want a second job.  I didn't have time for a second job.  So, I started compensating.  I started shoehorning in ideas that didn't really fit.  I was re-treading old ideas and I even resorted to re-posting something when I didn't have an original idea.  What was the point in that? 

I did this for most of the 2014 season.  It wasn't what I intended.  It wasn't super fun, although I did enjoy certain things that I wrote.  I wasn't sure how to keep up with what I had started, but if there is one thing I have always felt obligated toward, it’s finishing something I start.  Although, in this case, I wasn't sure what finishing and starting really referred to.  What is the end point of a blog if you aren't trying to turn it into a column or a newspaper gig or a book deal or whatever.  

Then, in August, my family and I moved.  We made a fairly snap decision to take advantage of the market and we put our house up for sale.  It sold very quickly and we needed to take care of that business.  I didn't write for six weeks.  I didn't think about writing.  Occasionally an idea would pop into my head, but nothing that made me sit down and write.  I had some time here and there, but I didn't want to write about the Twins.  In fact, I kind of ignored the Twins altogether. 

I intended to get back to blogging when things cooled down.  I did ... for a bit.  Then, I made the decision that I would analyze all 40 players on the Twins’ 40-man roster over the off-season.  "Hey, that's something to write about!"  While writing about Lester Oliveros, I literally sat back in my chair and thought “what on Earth am I doing?”  What can I even say about someone who threw about 10 innings for the Twins last year?

It was all very stale.  The fact is, just like any other writer, I want to write about everything.  I've hesitated to refer to myself as a writer at all.  I don't even like calling myself a “blogger.”  Mostly, I feel this takes away from the real writers and bloggers who work very hard and want to do it for a living.  The fact is, I like to write, so in some strange way, I am a writer.  I have to embrace that.  Some people read for fun, I write for fun.  I need to find a way to keep writing as an enjoyable experience or hobby or distraction. 

I still love the Twins.  Probably too much.  I want to write about the Twins in the future, but maybe not exclusively.  I love the Twins, but I’m not “in love” with the Twins.  I want to see other topics.  It’s not you, it’s me.  We can still be friends, Twins. 

This blog will be changing.  I think it will still be heavily Twins-related, but it’s definitely going to be all Brad-related.  I’m going to write about other topics:  Twins, baseball, hockey, music, golems, wrestling figures, driving, drill bits, pizza, whatever. 

Ah, but who will read it?  I have HEAVILY relied on Baseball Reference and Twins Daily for links.  Really, without those two sites, specifically the very kind leaders and community at TD, I would have almost no readers.  I appreciate those two resources because I have gotten to share my words with far more people than I deserve or have earned.  If I write about something other than the Twins, those sites will not work as resources.  Who will read my nonsense? 

Does it even matter?  I certainly don’t want to alienate anyone who reads this blog regularly.  I often joke that 14 people read my work, but I know it’s more than that.  I appreciate anyone and everyone who has ever read anything I've written.  I hope that I can continue to provide whatever it is you like about this blog, just with some different topics thrown in when needed.  As far as finding new readers, I’m not so sure that matters to me any longer. 

My posts might be more sporadic, they might be more frequent or I might disappear altogether.  But, I will no longer write about the Twins out of obligation because that doesn't really benefit anyone.  The lure that would prove too much was that freedom of choice.  I choose to embrace choice as a writer, blogger, blog-guy or whatever.

As always, I sincerely thank you for reading.   Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

It's Raining 40-Men: Brandon McCarthy?

No, you didn't miss any news.  No, I am not breaking news.  No, I am not going to make any more no and then a comma statements.  This is my very first in a long series of off-base predictions.  I think the Twins will sign Brandon McCarthy, thus adding him to their 40-man roster.  McCarthy will not be a free agent until after the World Series ends and the Twins have not been linked to McCarthy.  Why write about him now?  Page Views!  Click Bait!  Revenue!  Ad Wizards!  Buy my book!  Buy my book!  Buy my... 

2014 Season Overview
Like Jay Sherman, McCarthy had his ups and downs.  He started the season with the Diamondbacks and by April 22, he was already in what I like to call "Nolascoville" with a 6.23 ERA.  From that day on, McCarthy posted a 3.66 ERA, a strikeout-to-walk ratio just above six, and he finagled a move from the dreadful Diamondbacks to the less dreadful and much, much more loathsome Yankees.  He did all that with a BABIP over .335, just to prove how #sabr he really is. 

Also, he was suddenly throwing harder.  Or, he was doctoring radar guns.  Either way, he's a genius. 

2015 Role Projection
#2 Starter

2015 Season Prediction
McCarthy slots in quite nicely between Ricky Nolasco and Mike Pelfrey.  Wait, c'mon, be nice.  He actually would look quite good as the number two starter between Phil Hughes and Kyle Gibson.  With Trevor May potentially in the rotation and Alex Meyer waiting in the wings, there may actually be an avenue where the Twins can successfully gift Pelfrey to Derek Jeter as I proposed in July.

McCarthy has been really great since 2011 when he decided that "walks are bad."  In the past four seasons, he has consistently walked fewer than two batters per nine innings.  As we learned from Phil Hughes last season, every single pitcher to ever pitch for the Twins lowers their walk rate to historical levels.  This bodes well.

A 90s Song for Brandon
Foo Fighters - "This is a Call"

Long-Term Outlook
McCarthy will turn 32 in 2015 and despite having nine MLB seasons under his belt, he has thrown just under 1000 innings in the Majors.  His low-walk, decent-strikeout act has worked well for other pitchers in Minnesota and not just Kevin Slowey.  In fact, if he has somehow managed to add velocity while maintaining his impressive walk rates, all at age 31, then the second half of his career could be even better than the first.

If nothing else, he can revert back to what he was in 2011-13:  A really solid starter.  The Twins have hardly cornered the market on really solid starters. 

Is he a keeper?
They have to land him first, but he would be a keeper if they can.  McCarthy meets all the criteria of a Twins pitcher: 
  • Doesn't walk batters
  • Tall
  • Battles
  • Let's his fielders field (in that he doesn't try to play all nine positions at once)
  • Owns his own glove
These are not insignificant traits.  Brandon McCarthy would instantly become the Twins' second-best pitcher.  If Ricky Nolasco bounces back or looks like he did in September, the Twins suddenly have a pretty deep rotation:
  • Hughes
  • McCarthy
  • Gibson
  • Nolasco (but the good one from Sept)
  • May/Meyer
This would allow the Twins to hide Mike Pelfrey under coats for the 2015 season or give him to Derek Jeter as I have now suggested twice.  McCarthy doesn't turn the Twins into an 85-win team, but he could be a piece that helps move the team in that general direction.  I'm calling it:  I will be disappointed or right.

If you enjoyed this analysis, please note that I am going to analyze the entire 40-man roster and a few BONUS players along the way.  If you did not enjoy this analysis, please click here and read my other posts on this topic, just to make sure that you really don't enjoy them.

Monday, October 20, 2014

It's Raining 40-Men: Aaron Hicks

What's the word for when something is exactly the same as it was before, only you really hoped that it would be better or at least different but it wasn't and you're crying when I met you and then dying to forget you?  Aaronsmithing?  Aerohicksing?  I'll admit this paragraph makes no sense when you admit that you'd enjoy seeing Aaron Hicks perform in an Aerosmith cover band, but that only plays their 90s songs.  I don't want to miss that thing.

2014 Season Overview
The thing about disasters is that you generally can't have a second disaster.  A second disaster is just cruel.  Well, the first one is cruel too.  It's just ... look, I'm not trying to come off as pro-disaster.  Can we move on?

Aaron Hicks followed up a disastrous 2013 with another disastrous season in 2014.  He did improve his overall performance, but from an '87 Honda Odyssey to a '93 Toyota Corolla.  Is that an apt comparison?  I don't know cars.  If you're wondering why I'm writing about disasters, Aerosmith and cars instead of Hicks, it's because I'm exhausted.  I've defended Hicks just about as much as anyone and I'm not sure I can take another season of being his only champion.

2015 Role Projection
Since I'm exhausted, I'll just assume that Hicks is the starting center fielder once more, a position that he is unlikely to actually earn and seemingly equally unlikely to hold down for the whole 2015 season.  Hicks got on-base at a nice rate in 2014, but he provided less power than an old Honda Punto.  At least Hicks played relatively well in AAA.  Maybe he needs a full season there.  At age 25.  Approaching arbitration.  Bungled. 

2015 Season Prediction
This is the year!  Hicks has too much talent to fail three times.  He's going to get handed the center field job but that's fine, he's going to seize the unwarranted third opportunity and hold down the job until Byron Buxton is ready to seize the job from Hicks and hold it down until the end of time.  Hicks will put together the decent power he showed in 2013 with his solid OBP from 2014 and become a competent outfielder who can hit enough to move to a corner when Buxton arrives. 

Or, he won't.

A 90s Song for Aaron
Blind Melon - "Three is a Magic Number"

Long-Term Outlook
Hicks will be just 25 in 2015 and his performance has been so poor that an arbiter might rule that he actually owes the Twins money when he gets to that point.  The Twins are likely to be bad in 2015 and Hicks is still one of the more logical breakout candidates in 2015 because of his combination of talent and opportunity.  The Twins have just one real outfielder on their MLB roster going into 2015, so Hicks could easily make the team, harness his talent and become a long-term piece.  Well, not easily.  He's proved that twice already.

Is he a keeper?
I guess; why not?  The two bad seasons are done and gone.  Those seasons will be hard to forget, but I'm guessing everyone would forget it right around the time Hicks starts putting together a good season.  That's the thing with memories, they're short.  If Hicks can just be good in April, he'll change his story, possibly forever.  If he's bad in April?  Maybe Buxton will be ready.

Friday, October 10, 2014

It's Raining 40-Men: Lester Oliveros

Close your eyes...wait don't, you can't read with your eyes closed.  Imagine you're closing your eyes.  Now, imagine you're on vacation.  Say you're headed to Hawaii.  You are excited about the weather, the sights, the food, the beaches, the fun, the works.  However, there's still going to be a point in that vacation where you're doing something just because you have to.  For instance, waiting in line for your rental car.  Well, we're waiting for the rental car of the Twins' 40-man roster analysis vacation.

2014 Season Overview
Oliveros threw 6.1 innings for the Twins and managed a 7.11 ERA.  He gave up two home runs.  He did finish two games, so that's something.  1 home run per game finished.  HR/GF - sabermetrics 3.0.  Now, his FIP was 7.08, so he was better than his numbers might indicate.  In the Minors, Oliveros was excellent, posting a 1.64 ERA in 65.2 innings split between New Britain and Rochester.  He earned the right to teach us all about FIP v. ERA. 

2015 Role Projection
Well, I compared him to a rental car, so you could surmise that I'm not high on him.  To me, he seems like a fine AAA depth reliever and a guy you can call up when you're completely desperate for a player capable of having an arm. 

2015 Season Prediction
There's not much to predict for a player who likely won't matter much in the Twins' 2015 plans.  They can't possibly be relying on him or planning for his inclusion in the bullpen.  If they are, then things are more bleak than we even realize.  Nothing personal against Oliveros, but it's pretty clear that he's not a guy who even a decent team should be thinking of.  However, I'll guess that he has a very solid season in the Minors and forces another September call-up.  I'm not a Oliveros-hating monster. 

A 90s Song for Lester
Blur - "This is a Low"

Long-Term Outlook
He's been good in the Minors before, but he has an ERA over 5 in his brief MLB career.  He was also the player to be named later in the Delmon Young trade, so it's clear the Tigers valued him greatly and the Twins wanted him desperately.  I'd say his long-term outlook is good because he plays baseball for a living, but not great as a person who makes a living playing baseball.  If that makes sense.

Is he a keeper?
As a guy who will likely never reach arbitration, sure why not?  Like I already stated, he can serve as decent AAA depth and he'll likely only play for the Twins if everyone important is injured, the Twins are terrible in September, or if they change the rules of baseball so that teams try to give up the most runs.  One of those is likely, one of those is pessimistic and one of those is just a glimmer in the eye of future commissioner Joe Mays

This is too negative.  Look at his Minor League numbers.  It's conceivable that he could have a decent career as a reliever in the Majors. He strikes out a lot of batters, he doesn't walk a ton and he's never gotten a consistent chance in the Majors.  In fact, with the success of the Eddie 400, perhaps it might be time for the Lester 50?  I'll kick it around.