Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday Power Rankings: Naps

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

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

Honorable Mentions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obligation is a Triangle Choke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

It's Raining 40-Men: Brandon McCarthy?

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

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

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

2015 Role Projection
#2 Starter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 20, 2014

It's Raining 40-Men: Aaron Hicks

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

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

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

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

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

Or, he won't.

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

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

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

Friday, October 10, 2014

It's Raining 40-Men: Lester Oliveros

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 9, 2014

It's Raining 40-Men: Mike Pelfrey

YEEEEEEEAHHHhh!  Remember this dude?  He's the who wants to eat your soul in the Twins' barbershop commercial.  Here's a refresher:

More importantly, Mike Pelfrey is the guy the Twins paid over $1 million per start in 2014.  Not ideal, but what if they were truly amazing starts? 

2014 Season Overview
They weren't.  After spending most of 2013 wandering around the pitching mound, Pelfrey was re-signed to a two-year deal for 2014 and 2015.  He earned this contract based on...probably...height?  Pelfrey is really tall, no one can dispute that.  Pelfrey was slotted as the Twins' fourth starter out of Spring Training.  He threw 23.2 innings in those five previously mentioned starts, posting a 7.99 ERA, 1.983 WHIP and 0.56 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Despite these numbers, the Twins placed Pelfrey on the disabled list on May 2, instead of completely moving all of the team's operations to hide from him as I had advocated for.  Pelfrey never got healthy and didn't pitch after May 1.  Pelfrey has currently made $9.5 million from the Twins and rewarded them with a 5.56 ERA in 34 starts.  He's averaged just a hair over 5 innings per start as a Twin, revealing his true value to the team:  bullpen-practice helper. 

2015 Role Projection
Blerg, probably in the rotation because he's under contract.  In a just world - some sort of baseball scarecrow. 

2015 Season Prediction
Any positive prediction for Pelfrey is completely illogical.  Since 2011, Pelfrey has an ERA of 4.99.  He can't go deep into games, he slows down the game, he licks his lips constantly, he's not young and he doesn't have upside. 


So, it's not all bad. 

A 90s Song for Mike
Pearl Jam - "Release"

Long-Term Outlook
I think his long-term outlook is pretty great.  He's only 31 and he had a 3.66 ERA in 2010.  That may seem like ages ago, but remember how Nick Blackburn pitched in that one game 163?  That bought him like 3 extra years, and he was mostly healthy.  Pelfrey had a full season of good games back in 2010 and he's barely gotten a chance with the Twins due to injury rehab and then injuries.  There are still people who probably think Blackburn didn't get a fair shot, so Pelfrey is likely to get a fair chance in 2015. 

Since Pelfrey's performance has yet to be a reason to get rid of him, I can only imagine he'll get another contract after the 2015 season.  He's earned it, right?  Perhaps he becomes a Twin for life, one day becoming the pitching coach, then the manager, then the general manager and then the owner, eventually holding all of those titles concurrently. 

The more likely scenario involves the Twins releasing Pelfrey at the end of Spring Training, Pelfrey signing with the Pirates, Pelfrey throwing one good game for the Pirates and the entire Twins Facebook page spontaneously bursting into flames. 

Is he a keeper?
Define keeper.  Could he provide some surprise value in 2015?  I suppose it's possible.  Perhaps his injuries really held him down in 2013 and 2014.  Perhaps when fully healthy, he can be a serviceable back-end starter.  $5.5 million isn't a crazy price for a back-end starter and Pelfrey was good back in 2010 (remember).  The money is a sunk cost and any value would be a big surprise.  That's the best way to spend $11 million - to explain the concept of sunk cost to a fan base. 

If he's bad and then re-signed for 2016, we'll know that the Twins are just trolling the daylights out of us.  So, at least we'll have that knowledge.  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

It's Raining 40-Men: Oswaldo Arcia

Oswaldo Arcia led the Twins in outrageous swings, wacky outfield plays and amazing hair.  He also improved as a hitter in 2014 and he appears to have the potential to be a cornerstone offensive player.  He is currently a man without a real position, as he has not shown the ability to be a reliable outfielder and he hasn't hit enough to be the long-term DH.  Can Arcia harness his talent or will his Billy Mumphrey-esque unbridled enthusiasm be his ultimate downfall?

2014 Season Overview
Arcia was up and down in 2014.  He batted .231/.300/.452.  His batting average dropped about twenty points from 2013 and his OBP dropped about five points.  Arcia also continues to rate as one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball and the eye-test would confirm that data.  He struck out at a very high rate and some of his swings can be described kindly as "adorable" and "aggressive" or harshly as "wild" and "uncontrolled."  

But man, that .452 slugging percentage!  Arcia has power.  He hit 20 home runs in 410 plate appearances, a roughly 30-home run pace over a full season.  His power is more impressive within the context of his age.  Since 1995, only 75 players have slugged over .450 at age 23 or younger.  Last season, only five non-Arcia players 23 and under slugged like Arcia:  Mike Trout, Yasiel Puig, Nolan Arenado, Marcell Ozuna and...Danny Santana!  Santana isn't a power hitter, but the other four could be described that way.  So can Arcia.  He's got the potential for elite power and he's already flexing it as a very young man. 

2015 Role Projection
Right Field - Starter - Heart of the Order

2015 Season Prediction
I'm about as bullish on Arcia as one can be.  I see a blossoming star and a potential emotional leader in the dugout.  Arcia is about as exciting a Twins player as we've had in recent memory.  He's wild, exciting, sometimes careless and generally carefree.  I predicted 55 extra-base hits for Arcia in 2014 and I'll make that same prediction for 2015.  I might even push it to 60. 

Arcia will be entering his third season, he should be an unquestioned starter and he's just a lot of fun to watch.  That might be qualitative data, but I'm still going to use it.   His defense...will be fun when the Twins are winning.    

A 90s Song for Oswaldo
R.E.M. - "King of Comedy"

Long-Term Outlook
It's great.  It's relatively safe to say that Arcia will never hit .300 in the Majors.  He doesn't make contact like a .300 hitter.  He also is unlikely to be an elite OBP-guy, as he does like to swing.  However, he should continue to grow in those areas as he matures and his power will keep pitchers from giving him too much to hit.  I think Arcia is a major breakout candidate in 2015 and he could be a fixture in the Twins' lineup for a very long time. 

Is he a keeper?
Oh goodness, yes.  Arcia might be one of those guys who you curse in the 3rd inning when he misplays a ball in right, but then you cheer wildly for and cut your hair like when he hits a walk-off home run in the ninth.  He's going to be a rollercoaster of a player until he fully matures.  At his peak, I think Arcia could be a .280/.370/.500 hitter who absolutely fits the profile of a traditional #3 hitter.  Giving up on Arcia at 23 because he plays like a 23-year-old would be completely unwise. 

I love him.

Monday, October 6, 2014

It's Raining 40-Men: Joe Mauer

No player on the Twins is more famous than Joe Mauer.  No player is scrutinized and criticized like Mauer, but no player cashes bigger checks either.  In terms of dollars, not size.  I like to think that Oswaldo Arcia gets paid in giant novelty checks.  Was 2014 kind to Joe Mauer?

2014 Season Overview
No, 2014 was not kind to Joe Mauer.  What would be the opposite of smooth?  If only there were a book that could tell me such things.  Mauer made the transition from elite offensive catcher to Lyle Overbay in 2014.  Unfortunately, because of his contract, he needs to be referred to as Lyle Overpaidbay.  Mauer finished the season with a .277/.361/.371 batting line, 4 home runs, 55 RBI and countless people questioning his value, manhood and soul.  No, 2014 was not kind to Mr. Mauer. 

Mauer did start to show signs of the "old Mauer" near the end of the season.  When Mauer went on the disabled list with an oblique injury in early July, he was batting .270/.342/.350.  That's not as awful as you would be led to believe, but it certainly was not the level of production we had come to expect from such a talented player. 

Things got somewhat better in the second half.  Starting with his return from that oblique injury on August 11, he batted .289/.397/.408 to finish the season and he was even better in September at .305/.406/.390.  The lack of power is not cool, but if Mauer can hit some combo of .300/.400/.XXX in 2015, I'd take it. 

2015 Role Projection
First Base - Starter - Top of the Lineup

2015 Season Prediction
I anticipate that Mauer will perform more like he did in August and September rather than how he performed in the first half of the season.  I think he'll hit for slightly more power and he'll return to a .400 OBP-guy.  I also think his defense will be improved and he'll basically be Mauer-lite, exactly what we should expect from a guy in the decline phase of his career.  I also think it's safe to say that he'll never post a .324/.404/.476 batting line like he did in 2013. 

The real question is - will the new Twins manager have the insight and stones to bat Mauer in the leadoff spot?  Really, that's Mauer's best spot based on his talent, approach and production.  I predict that veteran-ness will trump logic and Mauer will remain in the middle of the order.

A 90s Song for Joe
Alice in Chains - "Love, Hate, Love"

Long-Term Outlook
Mauer will be 32 in 2015 and he's not going to change his approach.  Mauer isn't going to add power and he isn't going to stop poking the ball the other way for singles.  The hand-wringing is likely to continue for four more seasons.  If you want to yell about what Mauer doesn't do, you're going to be quite hoarse. 

Why not focus on what he can do?  OBP and walk rate tend to stay stable as players age and Mauer had an elite OBP prior to 2014.  If those skills are still present, and his second half indicates they are, he can still be a good offensive player through his current contract and possibly a little longer.

Is he a keeper?
I don't think it's really a question worth asking.  You can't get good value in a trade for Mauer and he's still good enough to be a productive player.  Even in a very down year, he posted a 107 OPS+.  That's terrible production for his contract, but it's still 7% better than the average player.  His OPS+ was above 130 in August and September.  That would be much more acceptable. 

Mauer is almost certainly going to be overpaid for the next four seasons, but that's a sunk cost.  Mauer is a keeper and unless you trust one season (and really, one half-season) over a ten-year career, it seems reasonable to think that he'll bounce back to a moderate extent. 

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!