Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Projecting the Hall of Fame???

The Hall of Fame inductions for 2014 were this past weekend and whenever that time comes I always start to think about the current players who might be inducted down the line.  Last year, I wrote about a multitude of players who I think have a decent or better Hall of Fame case.  I am basically updating that list, along with some new names who emerged or became eligible this season.  Tomorrow, I plan to write about younger players who aren't eligible just yet. 

I'm not going to write about everyone though.  Basically, if I think they are in the same boat as they were at this time last year, I'm not even addressing them.  If you want to take a look back, here you go:

Qualified Players 
Non-Qualified Players

As is customary, I have divided the players into some crude groups for your ease. 

Not Quite, But Notable
Much like last year, these are players who could conceivably get a few votes when they hit the ballot and might even stay on the ballot for a year or two.  They might even become the pet cause of a given sportswriter.  We'll keep things brief with these four. 

Torii Hunter - Twins fans have the unique perspective of having seen Hunter as a young player, when he was a little out of control, but extremely fun to watch.  His plate discipline improved over time and he aged extremely well.  He's your prototypical "Hall of Very Good" player but he can take solace in knowing that he is a lock for the Twins' Hall of Fame. 

Jimmy Rollins - Depending on how long he plays, Rollins could get some real "counting stat" love.  Plus, he has an MVP under his belt.  That said, he has a career OPS+ of 97 and his defense wasn't transcendent enough to compensate. 

Cliff Lee - I think he has a "late bloomer" reputation, but he did win 18 games when he was 26.  Lee is the premier command pitcher of this era, but his career ERA+ is only 118, he's 35 and nowhere near 200 wins. 

Mark Teixeira - Hall of Fame name spelling difficulty and he runs weird, so those things need to be considered.  He is not aging well and he's basically an all-power guy at this point.  If he can somehow reverse that aging curve, he could get close based on counting stats, but 500 home runs appears to be too far away right now.  Without that number, I'm not sure he gets much consideration. 

Better Chance Than Last Year
These players were all profiled last year, but they have improved their Hall of Fame stock since that time.  Actually, there is one exception...
Abreu wasn't active last year, so I didn't include him.  I would have likely tried to make a strong case for Abreu, as I think he has had a really underrated career.  His career .291/.395/.475 batting line translates to a 128 OPS+.  Anyone who avoids outs nearly 40% of the time catches my eye.  Plus, he had good power and speed.  He was never a good defender and he didn't play a premium position.  He didn't really hit like a traditional right fielder, although that doesn't bother me. 

His peak was truly impressive.  From 1998 to 2004, here are his rWARs:  6.4, 6.1, 6.2, 5.2, 5.8, 5.3, 6.5.  Somehow, he didn't make an All-Star team until 2004 and he only made two All-Star teams in his career.  He'll finish his career with just under 300 home runs, just under 600 doubles, just under 2500 hits and just over 400 stolen bases.  He had a wonderful career.    

Even as a strong pro-Abreu guy, I still think he falls short.  His peak was great, but he never topped 3.9 rWAR in any other season and he didn't reach any big, round, impressive numbers. 
Hudson is having one of his finest seasons at age 38 coming off of a nasty ankle injury that made me call for that weird orange base that we all use in slow-pitch.  Considering how well he is pitching this season, it seems somewhat reasonable that he'll pitch well next season.  If he can make it through the 2016 season, he has a pretty decent shot at 250 career wins.  As far as pitcher wins go, 250 might be the new 300.  He's the active wins leader and we all know that big, round numbers elevate a Hall of Fame case. 

I still don't think he makes it, but coming back from last season's injury with this much success is certainly a positive.
Buehrle isn't a great candidate, but he has a case.  His career ERA is in Jack Morris territory.  While he's won a lot of games, he's also lost a lot of games.  He's not a strikeout pitcher.  Of course, if you want to make a meta Hall of Fame argument for Buehrle, that might be where you focus.  See, he was able to have a ton of success without great stuff, right?  Maybe that proves that he's a better pitcher than the stats show?  There's a narrative to be built, but I don't have the strength.  He's had a great career; that's enough. 
Greinke's an odd choice too.  He had that one amazing season in 2009, but he's never been elite in any other season.  He was great last year, but he only threw 177 innings.  He's been great so far this season, not coincidentally his second All-Star season.  Greinke has a long way to go, but he's in the right place to make a run.  Dodger Stadium has helped many pitchers perform above their heads.  Greinke will be in Los Angeles for the foreseeable future.  It wouldn't be surprising to see him turn in a few excellent seasons before he hits 33.  If that happens, he might have a surprisingly solid HOF app (application not iOS app). 

Worse Chance Than Last Year
I was pretty high on Sabathia's chances last year, as I had only Roy Halladay and Adrian Beltre ahead of him on my non-locks list.  However, he's been pretty bad since about June of last season and he's now out for all of 2014.  Of course, he'll only be 34 next year and he has over 200 wins already.  Plus, he plays in one of the biggest markets and gets a ton of attention.  I think his chances are worse than they were at this time last year, but I still think he's in a pretty decent position if he can rebound in 2015. 

Still Young(ish), But It's Not Looking Good - Joe Mauer, David Wright, Justin Verlander and Dustin Pedroia

Yep, four guys in one paragraph.  Last year, I would have argued that Mauer and Verlander were borderline locks and that Wright and Pedroia could join them with just 2-3 more good seasons.  This would have been massively premature, as shown by the fact that each of these players is struggling in 2014, putting their "Hall" chances in jeopardy.  Mauer isn't catching (or hitting for that matter), Verlander isn't striking out batters as prolifically and Wright and Pedroia suddenly have zero power.  Each of these players is over 30 and in the decline phase of their career.  Without a post-30 renaissance, they are all headed for the Hall of Very Good. 

I don't think this is premature.  Cabrera is having a down season in which he's batting .309/.364/.531.  He's put together an impressive 12-year career and he's only 31.  He's won two MVPs, a triple crown and he's made 9 All-Star teams.  Unless the wheels really fall off, he's a lock for 3000 hits and 500 home runs.  Don't believe me?  If he can play just 140 games over the next four seasons and hit about .300, he'll have about 2950 hits.  Even if he's in severe decline by then, I think he can piece together 50 more hits. 

Unless something shady is involved, there's simply no way a player with 3000 hits, 500 home runs, two MVPs, a triple crown and 10+ All-Star selections is not in the Hall of Fame.  He's 18th in JAWS rankings for 3rd basemen, and he should have no issues getting into the top 12 within a couple more seasons.  He's a lock. 

Adrian Beltre
Of course, Cabrera isn't a third baseman any longer.  Beltre is and he ranks 8th among all-time 3rd basemen by JAWS.  I'm completely in on Adrian Beltre, Hall of Famer.  Last year, I waffled and decided that I didn't think he was a lock just yet.  Now, I think he's a lock and I'll go on the fake record.

He's in the middle of his 8th 5+ WAR season.  He's one of the best defensive third basemen of all-time.  Sure, his numbers dipped like crazy in Seattle, but now we're finding that seems to happen to a lot of guys.  In the five seasons since he left Seattle, he has a 138 OPS+.  He has over 2500 hits, over 500 doubles, over 1300 RBI and he'll get to 400 home runs by the end of this season.  He's just 35 as well. 

Some would argue that he needs anywhere from 1-3 more seasons like his past five, but I'm ready to vote for him right now.  I think the defense is the kicker.  It's not just that he's a great defender, he's one of the best ever.  The Hall of Fame is all about recognizing the best ever.  Beltre's a lock in my book.

If we're looking at active players who will be in the Hall of Fame one day, I think there are five locks:  Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, Ichiro Suzuki, Beltre and Cabrera.  The first three should have no difficulties, Cabrera probably needs just two or three more good seasons and Beltre should be in so long as he can maintain 80% of his current level of production through the end of his current contract. 

Some of the other guys on this list will age well and join those five.  Some will never be mentioned in their breath again.  Some guys who I will write about tomorrow might have even better cases.  Ah, intrigue!  Check back Friday for more Hall of Fame nonsense analysis!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday Morning Madness: July 28, 2014

Weekend Recap
Who won the most recent game?  Those of us with a healthy recency bias are pretty high on the Twins right now.  Everyone else?  Not so much.

Logan Darnell...sort of
Congratulations to Darnell for making his first MLB start on Saturday.  He got lit up, but it's still a great moment for him.  Darnell absolutely deserved this opportunity.  He's slowly climbed through the Twins' system since being drafted in the 6th round in 2010.  In 2014, he's made 17 AAA starts and has a 3.43 ERA.  When the Twins needed a starter on Saturday, Darnell was a logical choice.

In fact, Darnell, Yohan Pino (who was great on Sunday) and Kris Johnson have all deserved the starts they have received.  Each has pitched well at AAA and each has paid their Minor League dues.  That said, can we please have Trevor May and Alex Meyer now? 

Darnell, Pino and Johnson are deserving, but Meyer and May are more talented and much more likely to be in the rotation for a long time.  Pino is 30, Johnson joins him at 30 in October and Darnell actually has a higher AAA ERA than either Meyer or May.

I understand being patient with prospects, but at this point in the season, Meyer and May need to be on the active roster, learning how to get MLB hitters out.  If the Twins have any shot of contending in 2015, one or both of these talented pitchers need to contribute.  

Here's an old Bill Simmons trope for you:
  • Player A - .230/.325/.418
  • Player B - .221/.303/.385
Player A is Dozier, Player B is Arcia.  Player A was elected President of Twins Territory, Player B is having an abysmal sophomore season.  At least, that's how I've read and heard things.  Since May 21, when Dozier's line peaked at .263/.377/.480, he is batting .211/.290/.383. 

This isn't even meant to be a criticism of Dozier, more of a call to "back off" of Arcia.  I'm glad to see Arcia in the lineup most days, something I called for last Monday.  He rewarded the Twins with a pretty decent week.  The major difference between Dozier and Arcia is the Twins' willingness to let Dozier work through his slumps.  Arcia needs to be afforded the same opportunity, especially if the Twins want him to be a cornerstone player in the near future.

Why I hated 2011-2013
You may have already picked up on a trend from these past two sections, but the thing that bothered me most during the crummy 2011-13 seasons was the Twins' unwillingness to commit to young players with an eye toward the future.  To me, a disappointing season is a great time to see what you have in a young player.  I'll give the Twins a pass in 2011, because they didn't think they would be bad.  2012-13?  No pass.

Oswaldo Arcia was shuffled from AAA to Minnesota routinely in 2013.  Liam Hendriks wasn't given a chance to work through struggles in 2012 or 2013.  Brian Dozier wasn't even on the Opening Day roster in 2012, which I had actually forgotten about. 

When Josmil Pinto was called up in September of 2013, it didn't seem like he was going to get much playing time.  Then, he hit like freaking Ted Williams and the Twins had no choice but to give him more playing time.  The better plan would have had Pinto as the primary catcher from the start of September. 

Well, at least they tried with Aaron Hicks.  Of course, they also gave up in the middle of the 2013 season.  Granted, he was awful, he had hit better as the season had went on.  As such, the Twins came into 2014 with no clue how Hicks would perform.  He performed as the baseball equivalent of Courtney Love.  

Maybe these guys hadn't fully earned their chances.  They almost certainly should have played better when they actually arrived.  But what was the point in either waiting on them or not giving them opportunity to adjust?  It wasn't an effort to win games because if it was, it was a massive failure. 

After the trade deadline later this week, the Twins should be prepared to commit to their young players.  Meyer, May, Arcia, Pinto, Danny Santana, Michael Tonkin, maybe even Kennys Vargas.  There is no way the Twins plan to be bad in 2015, so they need to figure out if any of these guys are going to be reliable next year and after next year. 

Or, they can just call up a bunch of AAA duds and watch the fans enjoy the Vikings pre-season.  It's really up to them. 

Former Twin Update - Trade Deadline
Next week, I'll have a current Twin to profile in this section.  Kendrys Morales was traded last week and he won't be the only 2014 Twin on a different team by the end of this week.  The Twins appear to be fully committed to selling, something I applaud them for.  Anyone who isn't a part of the future should be jettisoned.  I hope that I'm picking between a few different guys for this section next week.

For this week's update, Kendrys Morales continued to be Kendrys Molasses with the Mariners.  

Random Gif - Totally Worth It

People love baseballs that are discarded into the stands.  This clip is proof.  A few things.  One, the guy was okay.  Two, the guy to his left (from his perspective while laying in traction on the ground) seemed legitimately concerned.  Three, hey guy who got the ball, it's actually pretty bad form to hold your trophy over the carcass of the guy who fell neck-first into metal seats to make sure the ball got to you.  Four, Willingham smoked one of the next pitches into the bullpen.  Ryan Presley resisted the urge to try to back flip into the bleachers to catch the ball.   

Get Excited about a Prospect - Lewis Thorpe
For those who aren't in the know, Lewis Thrope is an 18-year-old Australian lefty who is making his full-season debut with the Cedar Rapids Kernels.  While you may not get excited about a guy with a 4.91 ERA in 9 starts, I am ecstatic.  Thorpe had a rough outing on Thursday, but his overall numbers are pretty impressive.  He was a little wild in his first two starts, but since then, he's thrown 29.1 innings over seven starts, has a 4.30 ERA with 32 strikeouts while allowing just 12 walks (4 on Thursday). 

I cannot remind you hard enough (can one remind hard?) that Thorpe is a full four years younger than the average player in the Midwest League.  He may not be dominating like he did in the GCL in 2013, but he's more than holding his own against much more advanced players.  And, he's dominating at times too.  On July 2, he went just 4.2 innings, but he struck out 8 and walked just one.  This guy could be special.  Let's get excited!

Random Link - Trade Perkins?
I really enjoyed this article from Andrew Walter, Twins Fan From Afar.  It was thoughtful, well-reasoned, articulate and fair, four things I am not known for.  The discussion it generated at Twins Daily was great too.  Perkins is such a tough trade chip because he is so popular among all fans in Minnesota. 

Even so, I have to agree with Walter.  If the Twins get a great offer for Perkins, I'd make the move.  The fact is, the Twins might be further from contention than we want to admit.  Perkins could bring back a really impressive haul.  It's hard to remove the heart from the head, but the Twins might be wise to try if a team offers something eye-popping for their proven closer.  

UPDATE (Unsolved Mysteries) - There are two sides to a coin, unless you have a ridiculous coin.  Bill Parker wrote this rebuttal for Twinkie Town and it's very compelling.  I particularly enjoyed his first point as I think the pro-sabr, but not really the principles of sabr crowd misses the point on closers sometimes.  The last paragraphs sums things up nicely, as a good last paragraph is wont to do.  READ IT!

Plugging My Way
While I love to plug better writers' work, I really love plugging my own writing.  Last week, I wrote about Trevor May and the value of a good, cheap, durable 4th starter.  I did some crude research and found that shockingly, they are very valuable.  If you missed it and want to criticize my research skills, just click here.  n = the sample size, I'm pretty sure of that.  Everything else I cobbled together from Moneyball and cereal boxes. 

Parting Haiku
Last weekend was lame
Now they go out on the road
Time for BBQ

Friday, July 25, 2014

Minnesota Twins July Power Rankings!

Is it really almost the end of July?  Is the 2014 MLB season really over 100 games deep?  Is it really annoying to ask three hypothetical questions because the writer can't think of an introduction?  As always, these POWER RANKINGS are cumulative, so a hot July is not more or less important than a hot April.  If I have one rule in life, it is that a hot July is not more important than a hot April.

I wanted to write about Kendrys Morales, but a top 250 list would have taken forever.  Plus, he got traded.  Onward!

Correia's most recent start was a dud, but he had been pretty great over the eleven starts before that.  In fact, I had argued that the Twins should hang on to Correia for the rest of the season and I had even started to think that he might be worth extending.  Yikes.  I wonder if Correia has some sort of mind-control device, but really bad instincts on who to use it on.  Of course, his low-strikeout act is always a risky one, so he could be reverting back to his early season form before our very eyes.  It will be very interesting to see if a team makes a decent offer for him. 

A June swoon had me reconsidering my entire Eddie 400 campaign.  I became very disillusioned.  I had my Eddie 400 tattoo converted back to my old Eddie Van Halen 400 albums request tattoo.  I'm wondering if I need to get it changed back again.  In July, Escobar has a .273/.322/.364 batting line, not great, but passable for a shortstop and much more realistic considering his level of talent.  If he can keep those numbers up through the end of the season, I'd see no reason to shop for a new shortstop in the offseason.  Escobar works for me as a stopgap between the "talent" of recent past and the talent in the farm system. 

8.  Sam Fuld
Welcome to the Power Rankings, Sam Fuld!  I would have bet my rather large collection of tunics that Sam Fuld would never appear on a list of top Twins performers.  Yet, here we are.  Fuld has easily surpassed Aaron Hicks' paltry 2014 performance and after a very slow start, he has rebounded to the tune of a 108 OPS+.  His defense has been passable in center and he's stolen 11 bases.  In all, Fuld has been a great in-season pickup.  Who would have thought?

Gibson missed his Wednesday start with a stiff lower back.  While a bad back is concerning, I'm much more concerned with Gibson's vanishing strikeout rate.  His K% had risen in each of the first three months of the season, but that rate has plummeted in 14 July innings.  Eh, small sample, whatever.  More concerning is his paltry 8.4% strikeout rate against lefties this season.  In fact, his strikeout-to-walk ratio against lefties is just barely greater than one.  If Gibson can't find a way to get that K% against lefties into the teens, he's going to struggle to consistently make it through balanced lineups. 

That said, he's been the Twins' second-best starter this season.  Take that for what it's worth. 

Plouffe has become a serviceable player.  Since 2012, he has a 99 OPS+ and he's produced about 4.6 rWAR.  I'm not sure what the trade market for a guy like Plouffe is, but it seems like there would be a team out there who could use him.  Plouffe's future with the Twins is not clear.  Miguel Sano should be ready for third base in 2015 and Plouffe could make around $4 or $5 million in arbitration next season.  Plouffe has 29 doubles this season, and that's a lot.  Just wedging that in there.

Awesome.  9 pitches and now home-field advantage in the World Series is locked in for the Twins.  Perkins currently has the same strikeout total as Gibson and Correia.  I'll let you figure out who has thrown the fewest innings of the three.

Suzuki has been one of the tougher batters to strike out over the last few years.  Jason Kubel had twice the amount of strikeouts in half of the at-bats.  Of course, Suzuki isn't just good because he's better than Jason Kubel.  He's played over 80% of the Twins' games and he's provided decent defense.  His pitch-framing skills aren't great, but he can handle the position. 

Offensively, he's been great.  In fact, he's produced about as well as I thought Josmil Pinto could have performed if he had been given regular time (115 OPS+).  Remember that guy?  Kurt Suzuki made you forget about one of the more exciting young players on the roster.  That's how powerful he is.

Hughes has been slumping lately, but I as I wrote about on Monday, I'm not worried.  He's going through a terribly unlucky stretch where just about every ball put in play is a hit.  That's an exaggeration, but it certainly feels like it.  He'll bounce back.  Even with a slump, he's easily been the most valuable pitcher on the Twins' staff and his contract looks like a bargain.  I wonder when the extension talks start...

Dozier since May 20:  .200/.300/.397.  Yikes.  It's been clear that Dozier is scuffling a bit, but I didn't realize how long he had been struggling.  He has eight home runs during that span, but just 4 stolen bases and a walk rate under 10%.  He's been a consistently streaky player and his overall numbers are still pretty good.  However, two months with the numbers presented above is a concern.  Of course, he had built up so much value over the first two months that he's still easily the second-best player on the team. 

Who's first, you ask?

1.  Nobody
Controversy!  I am doing this for two reasons.  First, there is no one on the 2014 Twins who is truly deserving of being labeled "numba 1."  Dozier, Hughes and Suzuki have been consistently good, but hardly stunning.  Second, this is motivation.  I am doing my part to motivate the players ranked 2-10 (and those unranked as well; looking at you, Oswaldo Arcia).  Hopefully by this time in August, someone has knocked my socks off and rocketed to number 1 status.

In the meantime, the nine players on this top ten have at least contributed positively in 2014.  Somehow, this collection of dudes is on a 74-win pace, marking a fairly vast improvement from 2011-2013.  Can they maintain?  Can a few more players join them?  Can someone please answer my questions; I'm losing my mind?  Have a nice weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Value of Trevor May as a 4th Starter

I frequently read Baseball Prospectus's prospect chats.  The Twins' farm system is loaded and there are always a handful of questions about their players.  Here are some semi-recent quotes about future Twins' starter Trevor May:

”(May) wasn't in the mix for the 50; backend profile for me/innings chewer without frontline upside." - Jason Parks

"(May's) best control yet gives him a chance to stick as a back end guy. The production has never quite added up to the stuff. He could still stick or would still make a good pen piece." - Jeff Moore

"I've never been that enamored with May's long term outlook, and never saw the high-end arm that some did. To me, he's more of a #4 starter; still valuable but not nearly as impressive as some would lead you to believe." - Mark Anderson

The consensus, at least among this group of experts, is that Trevor May is a future back-end, #4-type starter with limited upside.  His stuff has always been better than that, but his production has rarely matched.  He's not a top prospect.  Even so, I don't see these as disparaging quotes.  In fact, if Trevor May rounds into just a #4 starter, I'll be elated. 

Aim high, right?  Well, a good #4 starter is pretty valuable.  A good, durable #4 starter is very valuable.  A good, durable, cheap #4 starter might just be a huge indicator of team success.

May has been very durable.  In fact, when he missed a few starts just this past month, they were his first missed starts in nearly four years.  You cannot discount the value of a durable starter, even if he isn't the "Ace" of the staff.  In fact, a reliable back-end of the rotation might be harder to predict and more costly to produce.  Cost is important here too, as May will make the league-minimum for a few years, and reasonable salaries in arbitration if he simply performs as a 4th starter in his first few seasons. 

Of course, projecting May as a 4th starter is still just a projection.  He'll have to perform at that level when he makes it to Minnesota.  Right now, May owns a healthy strikeout rate, just about one strikeout per inning pitched.  He has also improved his walk rate, doing so while pitching at the highest level he has reached.  If he can continue to refine his command, there should be no reason to believe that he cannot perform at a 4th starter level. 

We all know that pitchers do not bring their AAA strikeout rates with them to the Majors.  Most often, that rate dips as much as 2-2.5 K/9, meaning May would sit more in the 6.5 to 7 K/9 range in the Majors.  While this isn't pure science, it gives us a unit for analysis.  I decided to see how many pitchers in the last ten seasons performed as a "4th starter" or better in their first three seasons in the Majors. 

I used a 100 ERA+ (exactly league-average) as the cutoff, and I only used pitchers who threw 170 or more innings.  May has thrown right around 150 innings in each of his last three seasons, so he seems like a reasonable bet for an additional 20 innings or more with an additional month. 

What good is a 4th starter who can't throw a lot of innings?  The whole concept of replacement value has proved that replacing members of the rotation with 6th and 7th starters creates a dramatic effect.  If May is going to have great value, his durability will be one of the biggest reasons why. 

I only looked at the pitchers who were in their first three seasons in the Majors because I wanted to see pitchers who either provided value at the league-minimum or who were so valuable that their team signed them to a larger contract to keep them around through and/or beyond arbitration. 

Using these parameters, I found just 110 pitchers.  Of those pitchers, just 19 appeared on this list twice and only one (Ricky Romero) appeared three times.  If the Twins are confident that May can provide a league-average ERA over 170 or more innings (obviously not in 2014), then they have a pretty rare young pitcher on their staff.  Roughly 11 pitchers per season mean this criteria, which I think makes May a pretty valuable potential player. 

Not all pitchers are alike.  Some get by for a season but fall apart because they don't have the stuff.  Some mature later.  Some remain stable.  I mentioned strikeout rate a little while back, so I wanted to see how these 90 different pitchers performed in year six, generally the last or second-last year before free agency. 

I divided the players into two categories - K/9 greater than 7 and K/9 less than 7.  If we assume May's AAA strikeout rate will be right around 7, we can see if he is perhaps more likely to be successful down the line, not just when he's making the league-minimum salary.

Not everyone on the original list has reached their sixth season, so the numbers aren't completely final at this point.  However, enough have made it to that season to look for a possible effect.  I used a 100 inning threshold in year six because it could account for a random injury within that selected year and it also eliminated some outliers. 

Of the 32 pitchers on the original list with a K/9 rate greater than 7 in their third season, 22 had an ERA+ greater than 100 in their sixth season.  The average pitcher on this list had an ERA+ of 123 or 23% better than league-average. 

Of the 31 pitchers on the original list with a K/9 rate lower than 7 in their third season, 18 had an ERA+ greater than 100 in their sixth season.  The average pitcher on this list had an ERA+ of 112 or 12% better than league-average. 

It seems reasonable to conclude that good pitchers remain relatively good pitchers as long as they avoid injuries.  However, that difference in ERA+ shows that strikeout rate is very important.  If Trevor May comes out firing and can post a K/9 better than 7, Twins fans should be able to be confident that he can perform at a pretty high level while still making reasonable money. 

I keep bringing up salaries and values.  It seems logical that a team that spends less money on back-end starters is also able to spend that money on other parts of the team.  If that is the case, teams that spend less money on 4th starters should perform better than those teams that spend more money on 4th starters. 

I looked at every MLB team's projected 4th starter going into the season.  I looked at their salary and how many starts they had made going into the All-Star break.  I then divided the salary by their number of starts to arrive at a salary/start figure.  Looking at the numbers roughly, it appeared that teams either spent well over $100,000 per start on their 4th starter, or well under.  I separated the teams into those two categories and then I looked at the winning percentage of each team.  Here are the results:

18 teams paid over $100,000 per start to their projected 4th starter and those teams had a collective winning percentage of .482 heading into the break.  12 teams paid under $100,000 to their projected 4th starter and those teams had a collective winning percentage of .528 heading into the break.  That's the difference between a 78-win team and an 85-win team over the course of a full season.  It's not a massive difference, but I think any team would take seven wins.

Arbitrary start and end points?  Check.  Arbitrary cutoffs?  Check.  No way to isolate the variable?  Check.  One year of data?  Not even, but check.  Obviously, this is not the most scientific of measures, but at least in 2014, a cheap 4th starter has been a measure of success.  Which team spent the most per start on their projected 4th starter?  The Twins, as they have paid Mike Pelfrey over one million dollars per start.  Trevor May looks very attractive now, doesn't he?

Wait, why are we using Mike Pelfrey anyway?  He got hurt right away, shouldn't we look at who actually held the 4th starter role? 

I'm not sure that makes sense.  Plans and budgets are formed in the off-season.  The team you go into the year with is much different than the team you leave the year with, but that doesn't mean you plan it that way.  If a team can logically conclude that they have their 4th starter figured out at the beginning of the season, and at a low rate, they can plan to spend their available money elsewhere.  At least, that makes logical sense to me.

Maybe Trevor May is just an innings-chewing 4th starter with little upside.  Maybe we'll always think that the Twins lost the Ben Revere trade because May never put together a great season.  Maybe we need to expand our concept of value to include traits like durability and cost-effectiveness.  If Trevor May forges a career of 180-inning, 100 ERA+ seasons, I'll be ecstatic.  And it's not just because I have low standards.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday Morning Madness: July 21, 2014

Weekend Recap

Does MLB offer their teams refunds for entire series?  Can an MLB team get a "do over" on the first series out of a break?  If a tree falls in the woods, could it possibly join the Twins' lineup and produce a few hits?  Is suckatude a word?    

Arcia went 0-4 on Friday night, sat against a tough lefty on Saturday and then returned on Sunday with another 0-3, this time with two strikeouts and he was pinch hit for in the 8th inning.  Arcia is clearly not producing as many had hoped.  I predicted 55 extra-base hits from him in 2014!  Instead, he has 13 and the way he's been hitting, I wonder if he reaches 25 by the end of the season.

I still believe that there are reasons to be optimistic about Arica.  His walk rate has improved, his strikeout rate is slightly down.  He's hitting more line drives and fewer ground balls.  I would hope that he's in the lineup just about every single day going forward. 

I don't think sending him to AAA does him any good at this point.  He has a .999 OPS in AAA.  The Twins have sent him down with the hope that he'll mash AAA and bring that confidence or whatever with him to Minnesota.  It hasn't worked.  For now, they need to brute force this slump.  He needs to play until he breaks out of it.  He's too talented to slump forever. 

Hughes had another rough start on Saturday, giving up five earned runs over seven innings, picking up his sixth loss on the season.  Over his last six starts, Hughes has a 6.34 ERA.  In 38.1 innings over those six starts, he has 31 strikeouts to just 4 walks.  Not bad.  Unfortunately, he's given up a shocking 56 hits over those starts.  Even in his one good start during this stretch he gave up eight hits. 

His BABIP during those six starts is .421, both incredibly high and highly unsustainable.  Basically, Hughes is going through a rough patch, but he should be able to ride it out.  Back on April 20, when his ERA was 6.43, his BABIP was .394.  In the ten starts in the middle, his BABIP was .286 and his ERA was 2.08. 

It sucks that his ERA has spiked by nearly a run over his last six starts, but I wouldn't be too surprised to see it down in the low 3s again by the end of the season, especially if he keeps his strikeout and walk rates where they've basically been all year. 

Optimism Fading

I try hard to be optimistic with the Twins.  I predicted (read:  hoped for) a 75-win season.  I'm willing to concede that they are highly unlikely to reach that win total.  The offense goes cold for weeks at a time, the starting pitching is very inconsistent and what does a bullpen matter when the score is 5-1 after 4 innings?  

I greatly hope that the Twins don't completely fall apart in August and September again.  While I don't think they have the talent to reach 75 wins, I really don't want to sit through another 4-25 April.  I'd like to see some young players get time later in the season, but hopefully the few veterans who will remain can keep things together and win some games.  I'm tired of being in the "draft slot derby" in September.  I'd like to see the team finish respectably. 

Former Twin Update - Alexi Casilla

If you're wondering why we haven't heard much about Sexi Lexi this season, it's because he's spent his season with Baltimore's AAA team.  Well, at least the parts of the season when he's been healthy.  It's been a rough year for Casilla, as he hyperextended his knee in May and missed a bunch of time and now he's pretty much out for the season with a broken hamate bone. 

It's a shame because I always liked Casilla, even if his performance didn't merit my affection.  I'll likely always gravitate toward the short middle infielders because that was who I was when I played ball once upon a time.  Plus, we both have spaces in the middle of our front teeth.  Also, he was awesome.  Just ignore his 73 OPS+ in seven seasons with the Twins; he was awesome.

Fun Stat - 4th Starters

Did you know that teams who have paid more than $100,000 per start to their fourth starter have a collective winning percentage of .481?  Did you know that teams who have paid less than $100,000 per start to their fourth starter have a collective winning percentage of .528?  Why is this important?

Well, the Twins happen to have a young pitcher who many have predicted for the fourth starter role.  This particular pitcher is nearly MLB-ready (or already MLB-ready, depending on who you ask) and has been very durable in his Minor League career.  In addition, by way of being young, he will be very cheap and should easily make less than $100,000 per start when he hits the Majors. 

I'm going to expand on this in a post on Wednesday, as I have a whole mess of data and analysis related to Trevor May to share.  Check back on Wednesday!  Cliffhanger!

Baseball Card from the Past

Yep, Rickey Henderson often batted while sitting on six stolen bases.  You probably forgot about that. 

All-Star Game Recap!

As I mentioned roughly 4 million times, I attended the All-Star Game on Tuesday.  In my American League midseason award and predictions column (click here if you missed it), I wrote about how I reacted to a fan who said Mike Trout was overrated.  In addition to that blow-up, I also became irate when I dropped my turkey sandwich.  Seriously, I traversed roughly 30,000 people and 10,000 people looking backward in complete confusion to get to my seat, then I dropped my tantalizing sandwich. 

Make no mistake, I went back and got another one.  It had cajun seasoning and sweet and spicy BBQ sauce.  I made the right choice. 

Oh, the game was fun too.  I think Derek Jeter won.

Poll Results

Last month, I posted a poll with a simple question - When will the Twins make the playoffs next?  Here are the results:

  • 2014 - 2 votes
  • 2015 - 20 votes
  • 2016 - 17 votes
  • 2017 - 4 votes
  • 2018 - 3 votes
  • A depressingly long time from now - 10 votes
To be fair, the last one could overlap with a couple of the other options.  I voted for 2016, a year later than my original projection from before this season.  The two who voted for 2014 are incredible.  I would like to be their friend.  I did post a new poll, so check out my blog and vote.  It's what cool kids do.

Plugging My Way

Well, I already plugged my AL midseason award post, so for the sake of symmetry, here's my NL post as well:  click here!  If you're curious, I did not predict any awards correctly before the season and I did gutlessly change all of my predictions when given the chance.  You should read it, it's fun!

Parting Thought

The second half of the season is not off to a great start.  However, the Twins still have seven games at home to try to pull things together.  Of course, they'd almost have to win six of seven to really have a successful homestand.  I'm just going to assume that won't happen.  At the end of the homestand, the trading deadline will be nearly upon us.  The sweep from the Rays to start the second half might have been the best thing for the "fire sale" crowd and the worst thing for the "buy it now" crowd.  I'm in neither camp, so I'll just chill.  Have a nice week, everyone!

Friday, July 18, 2014

American League Midseason Award Winners and Predictions

With the second half of the MLB season set to start today, bloggers legally have to get their midseason predictions posted before any game action.  Since I am a law-abiding citizen, I will follow suit.  In March, I made award predictions and I stand by them, unless I was wrong, and then I will change them.  This is very serious stuff, so let's just get into it. 

Rookie of the Year

March Prediction - Nick Castellanos
Current Favorite - Jose Abreu
New Prediction - Danny Santana
Real New Prediction - Jose Abreu

I'm going to come right out and say that I didn't pick Abreu because I didn't want him to be good.  I really don't care for the White Sox and I didn't want to admit that Abreu was a smart signing and that he would help them win games.  I also did not want to select Masahiro Tanaka because he spurned the powerful Twins for the less famous Yankees.  However, if I had picked with my head, I would have selected one of those two. 

Instead, I chose Castellanos and he currently has a .701 OPS.  I do maintain that he is still the tallest of the three and that should count for something.  He only has 23 home runs fewer than Abreu, so he's within shouting distance.  Well, at least his defense rates very poorly. 

I really want to pick Danny Santana going forward but that would be lunacy.  I think he can come back and have a fun, flashy second half, but Abreu is going to blow the rest of the rookies away.  He's going to hit 40 home runs, it's really more of a question as to whether he gets to 50.  Tanaka is hurt, so he'll likely fall out of the race, but his first half was so strong that he may still come in second in the voting. 

Cy Young Award

March Prediction - Felix Hernandez
Current Favorite - Felix Hernandez
New Prediction - Felix Hernandez, POTUS

Obviously, Felix Hernandez cannot be elected United States President.  He is not old enough or born in the United States-y enough.  However, the way he has pitched this season, you have to wonder if we'd make an exception.  With Tanaka is injured, Hernandez is the heavy favorite.  Chris Sale and Mark Buehrle are in the mix, but Hernandez is the man. 

Let's take a few minutes to recognize Hernandez's ridiculous career.  2014 would be his third season with an ERA+ over 170, meaning he was 70% better than a league-average pitcher.  Here's the list of active pitchers who have had an ERA+ of 170 or better with at least 200 innings pitched in the American League:
  • Zack Greinke - 2009 - 205 ERA+
  • Johan Santana - 2004 - 182 ERA+
  • Hernandez - 2010 - 174 ERA+
  • Justin Verlander - 2011 - 172 ERA+
  • Hernandez - 2009 - 171 ERA+
Note the only guy on that list twice and therefore, the only guy with a shot at making it a third time. 

Hernandez has started at least 30 games in each season since 2006, with the only exception in his career being his rookie year (2005) when he was 19 years old.  Four pitchers have made at least 250 starts since 2006:  Verlander, James Shields, Jered Weaver and Hernandez. 

Since 2009, Hernandez has thrown 1302.2 innings and has an ERA of 2.77.  In the American League.  Here's a list of AL pitchers who have thrown over 1300 innings since 2009:
  • Hernandez - 1302.2 IP
  • Verlander - 1301.0 IP
That's it.  Verlander's ERA is 3.23 over that span. 

Hernandez hasn't allowed more than a hit per inning since 2007.  In fact, he's allowed just 8.1 hits per nine innings over almost 1700 innings since 2007.  Here's a list of AL pitchers who have thrown over 1500 innings and have a H/9 lower than 8.5:
  • Felix Hernandez
  • Justin Verlander
Hernandez has struck out 1264 batters and walked just 335 in 2009.  Here's a list of AL pitchers with at least 1200 strikeouts and fewer than 350 walks since 2009:
  • Felix Hernandez
Hernandez has given up just 85 home runs since 2009.  Here's a list of AL pitchers who have thrown over 1100 innings and allowed fewer than 100 home runs:
  • Felix Hernandez
His strikeout rate has improved in each of the last seven seasons.  His strikeout-to-walk ratio has improved in each of the last seven seasons.  I could go on and on and on and on and on...

Of course, none of this justifies his selection for the Cy Young in 2014, but I can back that up too!  He leads the AL in pitcher WAR.  He's second in ERA to Chris Sale (2.08 for Sale and 2.12 for Hernandez), but Felix has thrown almost 50 more innings.  He has started the most games in the AL, he's second in innings pitched, his strikeout and walk rates are 7th in the AL, he's 6th in K/BB ratio, his H/9 is 3rd, his HR/9 is 2nd, he's third in wins, 1st in winning percentage, and he has the lowest FIP. 

In summary:  he's good.


March Prediction - Mike Trout
Current Favorite - Mike Trout
New Prediction - Mike Trout, with one hand tied behind his back

While at the All-Star Game on Wednesday, a guy behind me (wearing a Tigers hat) said that Mike Trout was overrated.  I feel I reacted appropriately:

Seriously?  There's simply no way to make that claim without being the most jealous or moronic person on the planet.  Based on other things said during the game, I'm leaning toward moron.

When Miguel Cabrera won back-to-back MVP awards in 2012 and 2013, I would have selected Trout both times.  But, I would never have made the claim that Cabrera wasn't almost equally deserving.  In fact, in both years, I felt the race was extremely close and that either player was a good selection.  Even the biggest Cabrera fan on the planet has to admit that Mike Trout is anything but overrated. 

Unless Trout truly does tie his right hand behind his back, he's going to win his first MVP award in 2014.  The Angels appear to be a playoff team, so he can't get a bogus knock for that.  His numbers are outrageous and since he's been an outrageous player since his first game, there's no reason to think he'll slow down. 

Oddly enough, I distinctly remember people openly worrying about Trout this season.  On May 19, Trout was hitting "only" .263/.358/.509.  People were seriously wondering if a guy with an 870 OPS was starting to decline.  At age 22. 

Well, those days are gone.  He now leads the league in OPS+, total bases and WAR, the metric that we might just need to rename "Troutiness."  Trout leads baseball with a 5.5 fWAR (and rWAR for that matter).  Only four AL players are even in Trout's WAR stratosphere: 
This WAR dominance is despite the fact that his defense only rates as "average."  His offense is so dominant that he doesn't need defense to dominate this catch-all statistic.  Trout has produced 26 WAR since 2012, and I don't need to tell you that he's the leader in that category.  However, only two players (Robinson Cano and Andrew McCutchen) surpass 18 WAR over that span and neither of those guys reaches 20 WAR. 

In summary:  he's good too.

League Champion

March Prediction - Tampa Bay Rays
Current Favorite - Oakland Athletics
New Prediction - Oakland Athletics

Not all predictions are good.  I thought the Rays would ride their awesome pitching to a World Series in 2014.  I saw it as a last stand of sorts, with David Price likely being traded after the 2014 season.  I was wrong.  Matt Moore went down early, their young starters haven't quite put it together, their bullpen has been poor (especially with Grant Balfour's Australia-sized walk rate), and Evan Longoria is not the MVP candidate he typically is. 

That said, if their pitching can improve, they could get back in the race.  The AL East is kind of sucky and the Rays' pitchers appear to be the victims of some bad luck.  Even so, I'm hitching my wagon to the Oakland Athletics.

The A's have an MVP candidate in Josh Donaldson.  They have an excellent lineup with a manager who is willing to put his players in the best position to score runs and win games.  They have four starters who currently have an ERA+ better than 120.  They have three relievers who currently have an ERA under 2.15.  They might have the best closer in baseball, as Sean Doolittle currently has a strikeout-to-walk ratio over 30. 

The A's have the most balanced team in baseball and I think they win the AL and the World Series in 2014.  The AL West is a monster division, home to three realistic playoff teams, the AL MVP and AL CY Young winner.  It would be very fun to see the A's, Angels and Mariners all make the playoffs despite the fact that they have to play each other seemingly every other day.  That's all the predicting I can do right now; I hope you got your fill.  Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

National League Midseason Award Winners and Predictions

The MLB season has reached the fake mid-point that is not really a mid-point at all.  I attended the All-Star Game last night and had a wonderful time.  Who am I kidding, I'm writing this before the game.  I can't write something after the game, it will be like 1am when I get home.  Traffic!  Instead of writing about a very exciting event, here are some mid-season award winners/predictions for the National League!  I predicted these awards back in March, but I'll gladly change my predictions based on MORE DATA!!!!!!!

Rookie of the Year

March Prediction - Billy Hamilton
Current Favorite - Billy Hamilton
New Prediction - Bill Hamilton

I'm making just a slight change to my March prediction, assuming that Billy Hamilton will shorten his name to "Bill" by the end of the season.  That's exactly what happened when Billy Haywood was having a successful first season as a manager in Little Big League and we all know that life imitates art.

I thought Hamilton would literally run away with this award.  I assumed that he would rack up massive stolen base totals and they would overshadow his otherwise lackluster production.  I was half-right.  Hamilton has 38 stolen bases and 6 triples AND his overall production has been good.  Fangraphs has him at 3.2 WAR and his defense rates highly according to most measures.  He has been an above-average offensive player even without the stolen bases. 

Hamilton is figuratively running away with this award as well, as no other NL rookie is even close to his equal.  Chris Owings is having a good season, but cannot compare to Hamilton.  Unless Hamilton completely falls apart, he's already won this award in July.      

Cy Young Award

March Prediction - Stephen Strasburg
Current Favorite - Adam Wainwright
New Prediction - Clayton Kershaw

I have a blind spot that allows me to only see Stephen Strasburg as the pitcher from his MLB debut.  I will never forget that game and it continues to cloud my judgment.  Strasburg is a great pitcher, but choosing him over Kershaw was both silly and stupid.  Kershaw has proved that he is the best pitcher in baseball but I freaked out because he had a minor injury in March.  Kershaw recently threw 41 scoreless innings, staring at me the entire time.

Wainwright would win this award if the season ended right now.  Kershaw has been just as good, but Wainwright has pitched more.  By the end of the season, that won't matter as much and Kershaw will probably have an ERA under 1 and a full beard. 

Back to Strasburg, he is having a really great season.  His luck stats are unfortunate.  If those reverse, he could have a dominant second half.  If he does, I get to boast about being right in March, while quietly deleting this section.  I'll just pretend I got some ink on the Word doc and it can no longer be read.    


March Prediction - Andrew McCutchen
Current Favorite - Troy Tulowitzki
New Prediction - Andrew McCutchen

Tulowitzki is always an MVP candidate, he just can't stay healthy.  This season, he's played a lot of games and he's been ridiculously productive.  In fact, he's been the best player in the National League, providing great value on offense and in the field.  Of course, the Rockies are a terrible team and he has a pretty massive home-field advantage that shows up distinctly in his home/road splits. 

Andrew McCutchen has been nearly Tulowitzki's equal, but has a less striking (albeit still present) home/road disparity.  The Pirates are a pretty good team, and they seem to benefit from their superstar player.  If you had to bet on who would stay healthy for the rest of the season, you'd be a fool to choose Tulowitzki over McCutchen.  Although, I hope both stay completely healthy. 

If you prefer an MVP candidate from a playoff team, then Carlos Gomez is your guy.  I simply cannot believe that the same guy who used to swing at pitches that bounced is a legitimate MVP candidate just five years later.  Here we are.  Gomez has always had all the tools, but now he's utilizing them.  Carlos Gomez is one of the best players in baseball.  Read that again, Twins fans.  Now, please stop vomiting and crying.

I still lean McCutchen because I think he is the best player in the National League.  For me, MVP is the best player, and the word "valuable" was inserted by time travelers who wanted to instigate fights between writers and fans.  The gap between Tulowitzki and McCutchen has been slowly closing and McCutchen is too dynamic too be contained.       

League Champion

March Prediction - Los Angeles Dodgers
Current Favorite - Los Angeles Dodgers
New Prediction - Washington Nationals

Last year, I vowed to pick the Nationals every single year until they actually won the World Series.  I stayed true to that vow for exactly one year, abandoning them for the Dodgers in March.  Well, I'm back!  The Dodgers have been great so far, but the Nationals aren't far behind.  The Dodgers have great pitching, but so do the Nationals.  The Dodgers have had the better offense, but the Nationals haven't had Bryce Harper for the majority of the season.

Which brings me to the main reason behind my Nationals prediction:  I think Harper is going to absolutely explode in the second half.  Well, figuratively.  We've been hearing about his power and potential for so long, it seems like the time is right for his breakout.  Looking for a breakout is a bit unfair, considering he was a really great player last season.  However, he wasn't the player everyone expected, so he'll need to surpass being great to meet his lofty expectations.  I think he joins the elite in the second half.

With Harper exploding, Strasburg's luck improving (hopefully) and solid players everywhere else, I think the Nationals will reach the World Series in 2014.  I have returned to my Nationals Vow and it feels really good.  On Friday, I'll complete this same exercise in the American League.  Mike Trout.  Mike Trout Mike Trout.  Mike Trout, Mike Trout.  Mike Trout.  Mike Trout Mike Trout Mike Trout.  See you then!  

Monday, July 14, 2014

Monday Morning Madness: July 14, 2014

Weekend Recap

Hey, two series wins in a row.  The Twins out-slugged the slugging Rockies over the weekend, pulling to within six games of .500 with a ten-game homestand on the other end of the All-Star Break.  They received a pretty balanced attack from their offense as just about every player contributed in some way.  The offense has been so poor recently, perhaps this is a glimpse of what is to come in the second half.  We can hope, right?

I'm starting to wonder if the Twins should hang on to Correia for the rest of the season.  With Ricky Nolasco out indefinitely, Sam Deduno better suited for the bullpen, Yohan Pino and Kris Johnson mediocre at best and Mike Pelfrey donated to Derek Jeter, the Twins might need Correia for the remainder of the season. 

This is counter to basically everything I have written about Correia this season, but I can't argue with his results over the last two months.  Since his poor start against Boston on May 14, Correia has made eleven very solid starts, posting a 3.22 ERA and averaging just over six innings per start.  It's easy to dismiss a couple good starts, but eleven?

Even if the Twins decide to promote Alex Meyer and Trevor May, they still have room for Correia.  When you consider that Meyer might pass his innings limit by September, Correia may be needed even if Nolasco returns in August.  I'm all for giving younger players opportunity, but I'm not convinced that Pino, Johnson or Logan Darnell can out-produce Correia for the remainder of 2014. 

Of course, my entire perspective changes if the Twins are offered a good prospect for Correia.  Then, I'll finally get my Yohan Pino shirsey.  Even with Correia's improved performance, I'm not sure that a team will offer a good prospect. 

Jared Burton

Burton's ERA is down to 4.82.  That's pretty good.  Since May 1, Burton has an ERA of 3.49 and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is 3.33.  He hasn't been dominant like he was in 2012, but he's been steady like he was in 2013.  I'm not on the "release Burton" bandwagon, as I think he might be the Twins' second most talented right-handed reliever on the roster.  Releasing Burton would hurt the bullpen, so the Twins should hang on to him.  I'd still like to see Michael Tonkin join the Twins very soon, but I don't feel Burton is the player to swap him out for. 

In 2013 and 2014, Willingham has batted .209/.347/.381, good for a 102 OPS+.  Willingham has been better in 2014, getting on base more and providing more power.  His batting average is insanely low, but his BABIP is freakishly low too.  His line drive rate is about four percentage points below his career-average and his ground ball rate is nearly nine percentage points below his average.  Willingham's bad luck is going to become the Twins' bad luck if they are serious about trading him. 

It would be fantastic if Willingham could receive some positive baseball karma.  He's been injured a lot recently, his luck stats are all going against him and he might get traded from a place that he really likes.  Hopefully, he'll start to get some good luck, mash for a few weeks, get traded to a contender for a good prospect and then win a World Series.  He seems like a legitimately good guy, so that would be the best-case scenario for all parties. 

Former Twin Update - Justin Morneau

We failed.  Morneau lost the Final Vote to Anthony Rizzo and will not be in the All-Star Game on Tuesday.  As a result, I ripped up my tickets, baked them into a cherry pie and fed it to anyone in Minnesota who voted against Morneau.  Congratulations!  The better player defeated the better story.  Whoopie!  By the way, morons, you still got it wrong.  If we were really going to take the best player, you got the wrong Anthony.  Anthony Rendon has been better than Rizzo. 

Regardless, Morneau was cool enough to compete in the Home Run Derby and hopefully he wins.  When he wins, I hope he melts down the trophy, bakes it into a cherry pie and feeds it to anyone in Minnesota who voted against him. 

Adieu Scott Diamond

The Twins released Scott Diamond over the weekend, ending his Twins career.  In a perfect world, he latches on with another team and puts together another MLB run.  It's shocking how quickly his career fell apart.  He was so good in 2012 but he couldn't sustain the one thing that he did at an elite level that season.  When Diamond was able to Maddux everyone, he was great.  When he was just simply "good" at limiting walks, he didn't have the same level of success.  Alas, 2012 was fun and we'll always remember his flash of dominance. 

Random Top Five List - Fewest First Half Walks

I am obsessed with Phil Hughes' ability to limit walks.  While he has been getting hit around a bit lately,  his elite walk rate should help him turn things around when the hits stop falling in.  Here are the top five fewest walks in a first half in Twins' history (minimum 75 innings pitched):

  1. Carlos Silva - 2005 - 5 walks
  2. Brad Radke - 2005 - 10 walks
  3. Brad Radke - 2004 - 10 walks
  4. Bob Tewksbury - 1998 - 11 walks
  5. Phil Hughes - 2014 - 11 walks
2005 - "The Year of the No Walk."  I have a way with words.

Baseball Card from the Past

This was my favorite baseball card as a kid.  I started collecting around 1988, when I was five or six.  I got the 1988 Topps complete set for Christmas and I opened it up and started sorting like a madman.  The fact that there were two Kirby Puckett cards in the set blew my mind.  I liked this card better because it was an All Star card.  I always wanted to get this specific card signed, which sadly did not happen.  However, I did accumulate about 25 copies of this card via trades, so at least I have a bunch of them somewhere. 

Futures Game Recap!

Can Jose Berrios start the first game after the All-Star Break?  Can he start every game?  Seriously, that inning was impressive.  It was one inning, but it was super impressive.  Alex Meyer was impressive as well and he might actually be ready for the Majors in the near future.  Before the 2013 season, the Twins had exactly zero impressive starting pitching prospects.  Now, they have Meyer, Berrios, Kohl Stewart, Lewis Thorpe and Trevor May.  Each seems likely to contribute and impress at some point in the future. 

This wasn't really a recap of the game, but the other players in the game aren't on my favorite team so I loathe them and hope their hair turns to snakes.  That is, unless the Twins trade for one of them, then I hope for reverse hair snakes.  Oh, Joey Gallo seems strong. 

All-Star Fan Fest Recap!

My wife, daughter and I went to Fan Fest on Saturday.  We arrived shortly before 7pm, right about when all the fun was beginning.  It was an impressive display.  There looked to be a lot of activities that a younger version of myself would have really enjoyed.  There were batting cages, fielding drills, men writing their names on things, etc.  My daughter isn't old enough to partake, although we did take her picture with the World's Largest Baseball.  My wife also went 3 for 3 at trivia kiosks and won a couple prizes.  She really wants me to give them away on the blog.  Maybe in a few years when they hold absolutely zero value. 

Celebrity Softball Game Recap!

Oh wait, I did not watch this.

Parting Thoughts

I am very excited for the All-Star Game on Tuesday.  I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to attend in person.  I have admitted in the past that the player intros are my favorite part, but if the game is exciting, I might enjoy the actual baseball just as much.  Even if the game isn't exciting, I'll be very happy that I shelled out hard-earned dollars for tickets.  It's the experience!

I am also excited that the Twins enter the break having won 5 of 6.  They might not make the playoffs in 2014, but they might play reasonably relevant games in September for the first time since 2010.  It's funny how low my standards have fallen, but what can you do?  Have a great week, everyone!  

Friday, July 11, 2014

Improving the MLB All-Star Game Festivities (re-post)

Note:  This is a re-posted article from February.  Yep, I wrote about the All-Star Game in February for some reason.  Anyway, if you missed this or just want to re-live it, here are some ideas I had for making the All-Star Game festivities more entertaining.  

The MLB All-Star Game will be at Target Field this coming week.  The game itself is always entertaining, but the events that accompany are either boring or stale. 

Celebrity softball?  Boring.  If I want to see a grown man try way too hard to impress his peers with how hard he can swing at a ball travelling slower than North Carolina traffic when snow is on the ground, I'd watch every single other softball game ever.  Cool, the guy from The Adventures of Pete and Pete can hit a fat baseball 220 feet.  How hard is he running though? 

The Home Run Derby?  Stale.  Unless the MLB Players Union would agree to the temporary use of horse testosterone, I'm pretty sure those balls are going to travel about 400-500 feet.  If you can spot the difference between a 450-foot home run and a 500-foot home run, then you have freakish vision.  Seriously, you missed your calling.  Also, home runs are exciting during games, but that's because they happen spontaneously.  The only suspense during the Derby involves which player will completely ignore the kid bringing him the post-dingers Gatorade.    

Oh, and Chris Berman.  That guy...

Therefore, I felt that it was my duty to come up with some better events.  I'm inspired by the ingenuity of the NBA and the spectacle of the Olympics.  Not all of these are winners, but you've got to try a lot of things.  For a few of these, I'm really only half-kidding. 

3 rules:
  1. There must be some baseball involved.  I don't want to see Evan Longoria dunking or cooking or whatever.
  2. Marketability is really important.  If the event doesn't have a snappy name, then why should it exist?
  3. I don't care about logistics.  That's MLB's problem.  I'm an ideas guy.  Think of me as a high-priced consultant who you didn't hire.
Now that we've got all that out of the way, here are some new events for MLB to try.

This is an actual game, so it should be pretty easy to coordinate.  Basically, my friends and I took my friend's older brother's super expensive baseball bat and hit everything we could find with it.  Baseballs.  Basketballs.  Cleats.  Cans.  This weird figurine we found.  So, for the ASG, we just find a random garage, grab an expensive bat and then start hitting the garage stuff with the bat.  I can't remember how you win the game, but isn't sport about the spirit of competition and not winning and losing?  I'm a Juan Encarnacion purist.  I do remember a basketball rolling pretty far down his street.  Maybe that's how you win. 

That Jamiroquai Video

Basically, put the field on a series of treadmills and see what happens.  I'm not sure a full nine-inning game is necessary.  You could always replace the Celebrity Softball game with this.  Who wouldn't want to see if Chris Pine can handle the shift from a "forwards" treadmill to a "backwards" treadmill.

That Jamiroquai Video but with trampolines

The previous event, but with trampolines instead of treadmills.  I'm leaning toward pro players now.  I feel like Carlos Gomez would be fun to watch on trampolines.  Giant floppy hats would still be required.

That Jamiroquai Video but with trampolines and treadmills

The best of both worlds.  Everything would be disguised so that none of players can anticipate anything.  Someone invent a trampoline treadmill so we can really give the fans a show.

Bo Jackson YouTube videos

We just watch Bo Jackson videos on a big screen. 

Surprise Home Run Derby

The idea here is that we take a bunch of different types of balls and make them all look like actual baseballs.  Tennis Balls, Racquetballs, Oranges, Bocce Balls, etc.  The pitcher just grabs a ball from the bucket and heaves it.  The batter is required to swing at everything.  Each home run is worth a certain amount of points based on the type of ball.  Who wouldn't enjoy seeing David Ortiz try to tee off on what he thinks is a baseball, but is actually an orange that's been painted white with red stripes.  How far can Bryce Harper hit a racquetball?  I think the Players' Union would need to ok this one.

You could also try different types of "bats" with standard baseball.  Tennis racket, golf club, submarine sandwich.  Although, there's little surprise involved there.  You could do giant wheel to pick a "bat" though.  Giant wheels = ratings.

Constant Ground Balls

Basically, we rig up a machine to just hit grounders at a fielder for like 5 minutes straight.  3 seconds apart.  Every ball the fielder successfully fields is worth a point.  Cup shots are worth two points.  Balls through the legs lose you a point.  The special "money ball" is worth five points, but it's orange because it's covered in marmalade and it's really sticky.  They really have to decide if it's worth it. 

Hot Pink Baseball

Everyone wears hot pink jerseys, pants, socks, shoes, caps, gloves, batting gloves, eye black (eye pink?) and cups (just because, you wouldn't see them).   Everything else is exactly the same.  This could also be done with neon green or electric blue.

Classy Baseball

Everyone in tuxedos.  Top hats required.  Players have to grab canes before they can run the bases.  Monocles.

Other costumed baseball ideas:
  • Grunge
  • Wizard of Oz
  • RoboCops
  • Disney Princesses
Pros vs. Kids

A team filled with kids (ages 8-10, let's say) face off against professional players.  The pros are not allowed to take it easy on the kids.  The kids also cannot take it easy on the pros.  This could also be done in hot pink.

Doritos Locos Baseball

Standard baseball but with a Nacho Cheese Doritos shell. 

Talk to Derek Jeter

This is going to be Jeter's final All-Star Game, so maybe we should just talk to him and stuff.  You know, appreciate him while he's around.  This would be particularly interesting in Minnesota as we hate the Yankees because they're good. 

Pitcher Pictures

We load up baseballs with different colored paints.  Each pitcher has to construct a work of art using those baseballs.  They stand at the mound and throw the painted balls at a reinforced canvas.  You'd really get a good idea of Justin Verlander's artistic vision.  Who's just a generic motel room artist?  Does anyone have the stones to throw out an abstract piece?  Something daring?  Matt Harvey, maybe?  Something like this, perhaps:

Arena Baseball

The playing field is smaller and covered in a metal dome.  I'm not sure what kind of metal, but something that leads to a lot of ricochets.  The fans can view from a special monitor in the concourse.  The dome would be about 12 feet above the playing field.  The ball is always in play.  No dingers, and that sucks, but think of all the ricocheting! 

No Stopping Arena Baseball

The same as the previous idea, but in this event, you're not allowed to stop running.  You either get all the way around the diamond or you're out!  This is basically my slow-pitch softball strategy.  I don't trust anyone to make an accurate throw, so I just run until I'm out or home.  My teammates love me.  This style of baseball would lead to countless "pickles," which would be exciting and exhausting.  There would still be much ricocheting. 

Watch a blogger explain advanced metrics to a random player

Can Mike Trout calculate his Hall of Fame candidacy?  Each blogger is paired with one player.  The first blogger to get their player to calculate VORP is declared the winner.  Since this is not a given, judges also award style points based on specific criteria.  Generate a genuine smile from the player - 2 points.  Give a lecture on the ills of RBI or wins - 5 points.  Player calls blogger a "wad" of any kind - 10 points.  Player admits that Michael Young is overrated - 250 points.  You know, I'm not convinced this couldn't be hot pink too.

Catcher Framing competition

The best of the best MLB catchers each have to frame a house.  To code.  In their catching gear.  It's a shame that Joe Mauer had to switch positions, as he'd have a nice height advantage. 

On second thought, maybe we just keep the Home Run Derby.  Could we at least try it in all hot pink though?