Wednesday, October 1, 2014

2014 Playoffs Mailbag!

Hey, how about that Wild Card game last night?  What a game or what a dud, depending on how it went.  I'm writing this on Tuesday afternoon because I'm a total sham.  I hope that it was a great game, but I'm unwilling to update this to reflect my true feelings.  In the spirit of laziness, here are some fake questions that will serve as my playoff preview.  Because of course, you cannot live without it.

Do you like the Wild Card games? 
~Fake Person, Fake Place (Getting lazy)

I do.  I like baseball and these are baseball games.  Sure, they don't fit the traditions of baseball, but neither do t-shirt guns and kiss cams, but we've integrated those just fine.  The Wild Card games are quite entertaining and I imagine they are very fun for the involved teams' fan bases.  The Twins played in consecutive Game 163s and I remember those games more than any playoff game they played in during the 2000s.  Winner-take-all games are officially fun, even if the all they take is hardly all at all. 

I am a Twins fan so I don't know what "playoffs" are.  Which team should I root for once I figure out what I am rooting for them to accomplish?
~FP, FP (so lazy...)

In my opinion, there are exactly five acceptable bandwagons to jump onto:  The Royals, Pirates, Nationals, Orioles and As.  You could talk me out of the Orioles and As because of their lineage, but their successes happened years ago.  In case you were wondering why those five:  the Dodgers, Angels and Tigers are too rich, and the Cardinals and Giants are too successful.  The Giants are rich too.  This isn't the 80s, we don't like rich and successful anymore.  Those five teams have slicked-back hair and suspenders.  The other five surf.

Now, if you're going to jump on a bandwagon, you want the ride to be substantial.  I'd cross the Royals and As off your list.  Sure, one of those teams is going to make the Divisional Round (note - it was the [winner from Tuesday], see I did update some of this!), but I don't see either team winning in that round.  Sadly, I think the Wall Street Giants are likely to beat Pittsburgh tonight, so they're out too. 

That leaves the DC/Maryland area.  The Nationals had the best record in the NL and they used to be the Expos.  They also have that punk Bryce Harper and they're rich.  If there's one thing we hate more than successful rich people, it's their punk kids.  The Orioles were surprisingly good this year but they have that cheating punk Nelson Cruz on their team.  That's no good.  Plus, they're kind of rich too.  Where is all this money coming from!

You know what, just root for the Pirates or the Royals.  You'll feel good about it and you can feel cool on the internet too. 

(Note - I believe nothing I wrote in those paragraphs.  Additionally, I know nothing of the following:  the 80s, slicked-back hair, surfing, punks, and baseball.) 

(Note 2 - I totally watched the game last night.  Root for the Royals).

It seems the National League is better than the American League.  Would you agree?
~Fakey P, Fakeville, USA

Yes, and I agree a lot.  I honestly cannot see an American League team winning the World Series.  I think the three best teams in baseball are all in the National League - Giants, Nationals and Dodgers.  I could see any of those three beating every AL team left.  Of course, I am very biased against the Tigers, so that could be clouding my judgment.  Mike Trout could also transform into a baseball monster and devour all comers, but that seems unlikely.  He'll probably just be really good at baseball but not a mythical creature. 

Put it this way, if there's a way to bet on a league to win the World Series, I would bet your house on the NL.  Of course, it's your house, not mine. 

Does excellent starting pitching really matter as much as we are lead to believe?  Can you provide some research to back up your answer for once?
~Angry Jerk, Jerk Store

Yes and no.  I could provide some research, but then how will I find time to watch this Seinfeld episode that I've seen 15 times and that I just referenced?  If you can figure that part out for me, I'll gladly do some research.

Anecdotally, I don't think starting pitching is quite as important as we're lead to believe.  By the time the playoffs roll around, most of the remaining teams have pretty good starting pitching.  The Dodgers had amazing starting pitching last year, but they didn't even reach the World Series.  The Tigers appear to have dominant starting pitching, but I'm not going to pick them to get out of the Divisional Round.  I think the starting pitching adage is an outdated one, but I will tell you this much for sure:  you will NEVER see any research to back it up on this blog.  I'm just too busy watching TV.

Do you think it's strange that the playoffs have expanded to five teams in each league and neither the Red Sox or Yankees are in the playoffs?  Will our TVs actually stay on without those teams involved?
~Cynical Sam, Somewhere where a lot of cynical people live

Well, I guess with a name like that, I shouldn't be surprised with your cynical attitude!  I do think it's borderline crazy that neither team made the playoffs, simply considering their great financial advantages.  That said, teams are getting smarter and if the Yankees and Red Sox don't make smart moves, they aren't going to make the playoffs.  Making Brian McCann shave his goatee?  Not smart.  Relying on Clay Buchholz?  Not smart. 

Yes, your TVs will stay on, stop it.  The ratings might dip just a tad, but I think MLB will be just fine.  New blood is refreshing, so just enjoy it and stop being so cynical.  Maybe change your name to Positive Outlook Sam.  Just a suggestion.

World Series, who you got?
~PA, Radio

Angels and Dodgers in the battle of who can talk about traffic more.  I don't really love the Angels, but they offer the best combination of defense, offense and pitching of all the AL playoff teams.  I'm going to contradict how I answered Angry Jerk's question and say that the Dodgers' pitching is too great to overcome.  While starting pitching may be a bit overrated in the playoffs, outstanding, almost-alien starting pitching is pretty helpful in short series. 

If you want to know which matchup I am rooting for:  Washington and Baltimore in a battle for the heart of our Nation's Capitol.  I doubt that the country would put the Capitol up for grabs in the World Series, but ratings are pretty important and it's a Congressional election year, so who knows. 
As long as the World Series is geography-friendly, I'm going to be okay with it.  Kansas City-St. Louis?  Yes.   San Francisco-Oakland?  Oh, of course!  Pittsburgh-Los Angeles?  That would be too wacky.  Where's the geography story?  I'll pass, thank you!

You know what, if we can just have Kershaw and Stephen Strasburg in Game 1 of the NLCS, the entire playoffs will be cool with me.  Of course, the Cardinals will probably muck it up with their brand of good playing.  Or the rotations will be all wacky because of the previous series.  Jack Morris, where are you?!?

Who wins?
~Vox, Radio

Concise, very good.  I'll oblige concisely:  The Dodgers.  They are good.  The other teams are good too.  The Dodgers are the most good.  Or, the best, if you must. 

There you have it.  I am picking the Dodgers but I want the Nationals.  I am fine with anything geography-friendly.  I think starting pitching is both overrated and the reason why the Dodgers will win the World Series.  I dislike rich punks.  I think Brian McCann looks weird without his goatee.  Are you questioning why you read this yet?

I'll be back on Friday with some Twins year-end POWER RANKINGS!  See you then; take care!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

2014 Awards Mailbag!

The MLB playoffs start today.  Sort of.  There are two Wild Card games today and tomorrow.  While these are technically playoff games, I am a traditionalist, so I long for the days when no teams make the playoffs and we all just go home for six months.  I hate excitement.  I hate having more happy fan bases.  I hate fun.  I hate baseball.  Thus, I hate these Wild Card games.  I love hyperbole and I love fake mailbags.  Here's a Playoffs/Awards fake mailbag for me:

I think Johnny Cueto is the NL Cy Young Award winner.  Do you think I'm cool?
~Cool Guy, Somewhere, USA (probably Cincinnati)

Eh no, I do not think you're cool.  Johnny Cueto had a wonderful season.  His ERA is elite, he led the NL in strikeouts and innings pitched, he won 20 games and he has a brilliant hair length/waist twist combo that cannot be matched.  In just about any season, Cueto would be a runaway winner. 

Clayton Kershaw exists, so no one else gets to win this award.  Sure, Kershaw threw about 50 fewer innings than Cueto.  However, Kershaw also led the NL in ERA, ERA+ (natch), wins, WHIP, FIP, PIP (great expectations), strikeout rate and strikeout-to-walk ratio.  In addition, he's got an awesome stutter-stop motion/beard combo.  Cueto is great-o but Kershaw is Kershawesome.  Someone put that on a t-shirt.

Official K-Slow NL Cy Young - Clayton Kershaw

How are we supposed to pick the AL Cy Young Award winner?  Corey KluberFelix Hernandez?  They're both great candidates.  How am I supposed to live without one of those two?  How am I supposed to carry on?
~M. Bolton, Scragglyhair, USA.

No one is a bigger Felix Hernandez fan than I am.  I have his posters, I have his baseball cards, I have his Fathead, I have his face tattooed on my face, I have it all.  I want to pick King Felix because I am not a journalist and I am allowed to be biased.  But, I am a blogger too, so it's very important that I am right and that I am loud about being right.  I have to throw my support to Kluber. 

Hernandez beats Kluber in ERA, but Kluber has more wins, strikeouts, more impressive rate stats and had a BABIP nearly 60 points higher than Hernandez.  Trust me, if I could spin things toward Hernandez, I would.  I just can't ignore how great Kluber was this year.  Somehow, Felix Hernandez had the best season of his Hall of Fame career, and he's going to get edged out by a guy who no one had heard of 12 months ago.  Funny how that works.  In a movie, they'd fall in love.

Official K-Slow AL Cy Young - Corey Kluber

I think it's lame that players who were already professionals can win Rookie of the Year, so I'm voting for Danny Santana
~Twins Fan, MN

Submitting a statement to a mailbag is unconventional, but I respect it.  It might be lame, but we have to look at this logically.  Is Cuban professional baseball on the level of MLB?  No.  It's likely more analogous to AAA.  If we accept this comparison, Jose Abreu made the leap from a AAA-equivalent and then murdered baseballs through all of 2014.  He batted .317/.383/.581 with 36 home runs and 107 RBI.  Only Victor Martinez, Andrew McCutchen and Mike Trout surpassed his 165 wRC+.  That's good; Abreu wins. 

Of course, if you want to make a homer case for Danny Santana, I'm not going to get in your way.  If you can convince enough writers to get on your side, I'll support you.  It's a losing battle, but I'm just sitting on my couch regardless, so what do I care?  Santana was a revelation/treasure this year, but it's pretty hard to argue that he was as good as Abreu. 

Official K-Slow AL Rookie of the Year - Jose Abreu

Have you ever heard of Jacob deGrom?  How many bases did he steal?
~B. Swanson, St. Paul, MN

This is in reference to my prediction that Billy Hamilton would literally run away with the NL Rookie of the Year.  He did steal a whole mess of bases, but he did it with a completely garbage sub-.300 OBP.  I still think he needs to change his name to Bill Hamilton.

deGrom, who refuses to capitalize the first letter in his last name, came out of nowhere to lead the race for this award.  He's got a bit of a mushroom hairstyle, but let's try to look past that.  He threw 140.1 innings over 22 starts.  He went 9 and 6 with a 2.69 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.  His 3.35 strikeout-to-walk ratio legitimizes his stats and his 2.67 FIP makes him nerd-friendly.  deGrom is deWinner.  I'M ALL ABOUT SLOGANS!

Official K-Slow NL Rookie of the Year - Jacob deGrom

How deep is your love for Clayton Kershaw?  Are you willing to select him as the NL MVP as well?
~Dru Hill, Not Sure, Probably USA, maybe China

We've hit our two-obscure-song-reference limit, so it's time to stop.  My love for Kershaw is very deep.  He led the National League in fWAR and he's an outstanding baseball player.  I have no problem with a pitcher winning MVP and Kershaw is a perfect example of a pitcher who deserves the award.  I'm still going to pick Andrew McCutchen though.

McCutchen led all NL position players in fWAR and he was just a tad behind Kershaw.  McCutchen did miss a few games and his defense continues to see-saw, but he's also having his finest offensive season, leading the National League with a 168 wRC+.  McCutchen is the best position player in the National League and he had the best season in the National League.  Seems pretty cut-and-dry to me.  BACK TO BACK, BACK TO BACK, BACK TO BACK...   

Official K-Slow NL MVP - Andrew McCutchen

How does Mike Trout get robbed this year?
~Trouts, Water

Seems unlikely that all the trout in the world have banded together to support a guy with the last name "Trout."  Also, Trout of all creatures should know that the plural form of Trout is Trout, not Trouts.  Finally, Trout was hardly robbed in 2012 and 2013, although he was very deserving both years.

This season appears to finally be Trout's MVP season.  Like, for real this time.  Trout led all position players in rWAR and fWAR.  He finally led his team to the playoffs (my tongue is stuck) and he finally drove in 100 runs (so stuck).  The Angels are the best team in baseball.  Mike Trout is the best player in baseball.  Mike Trout plays for the Angels.  This one is kind of hard to mess up. 

Official K-Slow AL MVP - Miguel Cabrera

Wait!  I messed up. 

The Real Official K-Slow AL MVP - Miguel Cabrera

Hold on.

The Actual Real Official K-Slow AL MVP - Miguel Trout

Close enough.  I'll be back with fake questions about the playoffs tomorrow.  

Monday, September 29, 2014

2014 Minnesota Twins Predictions Revisited

In the immortal words of Michael Jordan, "I'm back."  Consider this the Wizards portion of my blogging career.  It's all been the Wizards portion, so it should be easy to adjust.

Before the season started, I made 11 BOLD predictions.  I had planned to make those predictions after the season, but the jagwagons who run the blogging cabal said that I had to make predictions before things actually happen.  This will adversely affect my accuracy, but apparently that wasn't important.  At this moment, I would like to take a fond look back at my original 11 predictions. 

If you didn't read these predictions back in March, well...what's wrong with you?  I worked hard on those predictions.  I didn't sleep for days.  I ate nothing but Lemonheads and BBQ sunflower seeds.  That's my normal diet, but the sleeping part really sucked.  Here's the post if you missed it, but I expect some level of sympathy as you read.  Support local arts in the future, you monster.

Prediction #1 - Sam Deduno will be voted King of Minnesota

Most people grow out of their sarcasm faze after they leave high school.  Some people just can't help themselves.  Obviously, Minnesota does not have a King.  Sam Deduno is not royalty.  I was all annoyed by his disproportionately popular status and I took to my blog to knock him down a peg.  Now he's gone.  I wrote a song for him almost twenty years ago to apologize.  I stole most of the lyrics, didn't sing it, and I didn't write it either.  Take a listen

Prediction #2 - Kevin Correia will be traded by the end of the season

*swish sound* 

That was a lay-up, but one of those lay-ups that is more of a finger roll because you have too much time on the fast break and you get in your own head and forget that the backboard exists.  One of those.  We all knew Correia would be traded.  Had he been just a complete disaster, he might have been simply released, but that was unlikely because he had been serviceable for so many years.  Now, he might get a ring with the Dodgers.  A promise ring. 

Prediction #3 - Eddie Rosario and Trevor May will not make their MLB debuts

I choose to see this prediction as half-correct instead of half-incorrect.  I am an optimist.  Although, I am concerned that this half-correct prediction could ruin my karma and leave me prone to a bee attack.  Rosario was a bit of a lay-up.  The easy kind, backboard and whatnot.  May was a lot better at AAA than I was expecting and some of the guys who I thought could be ahead of him on the depth chart were unimpressive.  I'm glad I was wrong about May, even if his first season with the Twins did not go well.

Prediction #4 - Byron Buxton, Alex Meyer and Danny Santana will make their MLB debuts

I choose to see this prediction as half-weaksauce.  Santana was outstanding (just wait for my year-end POWER RANKINGS later this week).  Meyer was great at AAA but he's really tall so the Twins chose to keep him out of the clubhouse.  At least, that's how I perceive it.  And it's best not to talk about Buxton because my keyboard is not tears-resistant.

Also, in the original piece, I actually predicted that Bryon Buxton would make his MLB debut in 2014 which would have been super impressive because he is not a baseball player.

Prediction #5 - Pedro Florimon out, Eduardo Escobar in

NAILED IT!  OH GOD I NAILED IT!  ADMIT IT, I NAILED IT!  WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  WHOOOO!  WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!  

Please ignore the second part where I compared Escobar to Yokozuna and thought he would then lose his job shortly thereafter. 

I NAILED IT!

Prediction #6 - Josmil Pinto will replace Kurt Suzuki as the full-time catcher by June

Can a prediction be superwrong?  Ron Gardenhire couldn't handle Josmil Pinto's machismo and toothpick flicking, so he got relegated to a bench role.  In addition, Kurt Suzuki decided to have a season where he actually hit baseballs for the first time since Nixon was still kicking around.  I'm not sure if that's accurate, but I do know that Pinto has taken up permanent residence in Gardy's doghouse, Suzuki's luster is going to wear off and the 2016 Twins will likely feature Henry Blanco as the starting catcher. 

I'm not bitter, I just want everyone involved in the decision to hold down Pinto to feel an intense burn when Pinto has 55 home runs for the A's in 2017.  Of course, I predict that MLB will replace baseballs with superballs in 2016, so I'm not sure if 55 home runs will be a lot or not.  Intense burns regardless.

Prediction #7 - Phil Hughes will be better than Ricky Nolasco 

I'm so proud of this one, I got a vanity license plate. 


It's worth the many tickets.

Prediction #8 - Oswaldo Arcia will finish the season with 55+ extra-base hits

My most arbitrary prediction, I honestly cannot remember where I came up with the number 55.  I thought 20-25 home runs (right) and 30-35 doubles (wrong).  I didn't think he'd spend as much time with Rochester as he did and it took him a long time to get going at the plate.  Even so, his 36 extra-base hits in 102 games would translate to just about 55 extra-base hits given a full season.  I wasn't THAT far off when you start doing annoying math. 

Arcia's low batting average overshadows some improvements that I saw from him this season.  He walked more, he hit for more power, and he slugged almost .550 in August and September.  I think he's a cornerstone player, even if his defense can best be described as "whaaaaaa?"

Prediction #9 - Joe Mauer will win his 4th batting title

Judging my Twitter, I am going to say this did not happen.  I have also learned from Twitter that Joe Mauer might be overpaid, he might be in the decline, he might be soft and he might be pure evil.  I can't confirm any of this in 140 characters.  

Prediction #10 - Chris Colabello will hit more home runs for the Twins than Josh Willingham

Willingham 12 - Colabello 6.  It was closer than it should have been.  Willingham did get traded, as I predicted.  He did struggle to hit home runs, as I predicted.  Colabello did force his way to the Majors, as I predicted.  The rest is fuzzy and I'm pretty sure Colabello was abducted by aliens who needed a Spanish translator for all their aliens who actually did something valuable for their alien baseball team.    

Prediction #11 - The Twins will win at least 75 games

The "at least" was probably overkill.  Now, if the season ended today, the Twins would win 70 games.  But, there's still...wait...what?...oh.  The season's over.  I did not notice that.  That's on me. 

The Twins fell short of 75 wins and that is sad.  Their starting pitching was somewhere between "dreadful" and "not cool" and their defense was funny, but not funny "ha-ha."  Their offense was actually in the top-half in the AL and their Pythagorean record was closer to 74-75 wins.  All I really care about is what could have happened, not what did happen, so this confirms my prediction.

Predictions, huh?  Yeah, not great.  I tried my best though.  I predict that I will make more predictions before the 2015 season.  I'm here for the long haul.  I'm going to write so much Twins nonsense this offseason, your head is going to spin.  Other heads will roll.  Some heads will just maintain a healthy tilt.  

Monday, September 8, 2014

I'm Still Around!

Good morning everyone!  I apologize for the lack of activity on this blog over the last month.  I really miss sharing my thoughts on the Twins and other related subjects.  I appreciate those of you who have reached out to check in on me.  Everything is great and I appreciate your concern!  There have been a series of events that have kept me from my computer and kept me from watching Twins baseball.

First, my wife and I sold our house.  We sold it quickly too.  So quickly that we don't have a new place just yet.  We're staying with very understanding and accommodating family, so we're in good shape.  Second, my school started back up and we've been extremely busy.  Most of the nights I used to devote to writing are being devoted to my school.  I'm happy to do that, but it really gets in the way of a good Kennys Vargas KWL chart.  I've been begging my school to add Vargas Studies to our curriculum, but I keep getting shot down.  Third, it's wedding season and we're in the thick of it.  I swear every person I've ever met is getting married between 8/2014 and 9/2014.  It's wild.

These events are all positive, but when they compounded, the time to absorb Twins baseball enough to post a cogent thought and a silly photoshop is simply not there.  Plus, I haven't watched a lot of games and it would be disingenuous to write about something that I haven't seen.  Now, if you want my analysis of how awful wedding music is or how to Tetris-ly fill a storage locker with everything you own, please reach out.  

I am hopeful that things will slow down in the next couple of weeks and I can get you some hardcore analysis.  I have plans to write about the ten best performances in the Twins organization in 2014.  I have plans to analyze the 40-man roster and look at free agent targets.  I have plans to take Oswaldo Arcia's hair and photoshop it onto important historical figures.  These are the things I want to share with you and I want to share them very soon.

I do have some very quick Twins thoughts that I just can't keep inside me any longer.  Because I am still short on time, these thoughts will be only half-baked, slightly less baked than my typical 60%-baked thoughts.

Eduardo Escobar will reach 400 at-bats, likely in his next game.  When I invented the Eddie 400, it was all about giving an opportunity to a younger player with more potential.  I had no idea he would seize his opportunity so greatly.  In fact, when I do write about the ten best performances in the Twins' organization, Escobar will likely be one of the ten.  Plus, that smile.


Aaron Hicks is back, which pleases me greatly.  He's finally getting some ground ball luck too.  Just watching this weekend, I saw at least two ground balls that actually found holes instead of gloves.  While Hicks hasn't consistently hit the ball hard as a Twin, his .266 career BABIP is shockingly low for someone with his speed and power-potential.  He has been quite horrible as a Twin, but I still think he can be a valuable piece going forward.  His current .347 OBP would be in the top 50 in the Majors if he qualified.  Hey, he has a skill!

These are too baked, it's time to move to some true quick-hits!
  • Kennys Vargas is a monster who does monstrous things to baseballs.  No analysis here, he's just really fun to watch. 
  • Josmil Pinto is back in Minnesota, so I can finally stop crying.  
  • Kyle Gibson looks tired.  Not like he didn't sleep well but like he's thrown a lot of innings.  He's already past his total from last season and he's improved substantially in year two.  I think he could really break out next season.
  • Oswaldo Arica continues to be my favorite player despite a complete lack of any sort of discipline.  Who am I kidding?  That's why he's my favorite player!
  • Uh, Phil Hughes was a pretty good signing.  
  • Uh, Ricky Nolasco was a pretty unfortunate signing.  I think he's much better next year though.  Of course, that's a bit akin to saying that Fall will be colder than Summer.  
Well, that's all I've got.  A month away and I can't muster up more than this?  I'm excited to get back to regular posts.  Hopefully, I can keep battling and grind out some good posts.  Have a good day, everyone!

Friday, August 15, 2014

My Talk to Contact Appearance

Good morning everyone!  My apologies for not posting this week.  Of course, the Twins played the Astros this week, so does that really count as baseball?  I did appear on the Talk to Contact podcast last evening.  It was fun and the hosts were very nice.  That's how a six-year-old would describe it, sure, but it's true.

You should really be listening to this podcast and not just this episode because I'm on it and you want to hear what I sound like (it's unpleasant, spoiler).  This podcast combines great Twins talk with a really fun, light atmosphere.  All of the hosts are great, super nice people and they know their Twins baseball.  If you haven't checked it out, listen to this episode and you'll be hooked.

Here's the link to episode 95.

Once you're hooked, subscribe on iTunes and leave them a five-star review.  That's the best way to get the word out.

In my segment, we talked for almost ten minutes about various topics like putting players' heads on bird bodies, how to name a podcast/blog and why I think Eduardo Escobar should retire when he hits 399 plate appearances.  I also pledged to join him in retirement if he goes down that path.  We'll see how it all plays out.

Here are some very abbreviated Twins thoughts, just to prove I'm still paying attention:
If you are curious about the bird thing, you can check out my "Funny" Stuff archive here.  There's all kinds of silly stuff in there, some of which might be amusing for a few seconds.  I hope to be back with new stuff next week.  If not, I'll eat an entire pizza to make it up to you.  Have a great weekend, everyone!