Friday, April 18, 2003
FREE BOBBY KIELTY (Seriously)At what point does a player take all the decision making away from a manager and simply force himself into the everyday lineup? I'm not exactly sure what that point is, but I'm pretty sure Bobby Kielty is getting damn close to it.
Kielty hit 2 mammoth home runs last night, both to deeeeeeep right-centerfield. His season totals now look like this:
AB AVG OBP SLG OPS HR 2B RBI RUNI know it's early. I know it's a small sample-size. I know the Twins have a lot of good hitters that deserve playing time. But for love of God, will someone please FREE BOBBY KIELTY?!
Kielty has played in 8 games this season. He has a hit in every single one of them. He is OPSing at 1.183 right now and he hit .291/.405/.484 last season and has consistently posted .380-.400 OBPs and good power numbers throughout his minor league career. Yet, he is currently 10th on the team in at bats and has been a "healthy scratch" (to use a hockey term) in 7 of the 15 games this season.
I like Matthew LeCroy and I like Michael Cuddyer, but right now neither of those guys should take a single at bat away from Bobby Kielty. I just don't know what more he can do to convince Ron Gardenhire of the obvious, which is that he deserves to play every single day. Here's hoping Gardy's eyes were opened a little bit by the two bombs Bobby hit last night. But if they haven't been opened by Kielty's 348 plate appearances last year and his 30 this season prior to last night, well, like I said, I'm not sure what else he can do at this point.
Coincidentally (or maybe not) the other guy I have been wanting to free, Johan Santana, is also playing about as well as humanly possible. Here is what Johan has done so far:
G IP ERA H SO BB HR OAVG OOBP OSLGHaving a good reliever and a nice spot-starter/pinch-hitter is certainly a nice thing, but having a starting pitcher and a starting outfielder is even better.
It does make me feel good to know that the two players that I have taken up a cause for and have discussed and promoted endlessly over the last year or so are both performing exceptionally well. I mean, I would look pretty dumb if I talked about them every week since August and Kielty was hitting .180 and Johan had a 6.50 ERA, right? As it stands now, I am looking pretty damn good and I like that. Of course, I'd like it more if Bobby had 50 at bats right now instead of 31 and Johan was getting set to make his 4th start of the season this weekend.
I saw Kielty interviewed on TV last night and he was asked how he feels about not being an everyday player. His answer was basically that he'd obviously like to play as much as possible, but that he works just as hard no matter what role he is in - whether that is taking extra batting practice following days he doesn't play or getting himself ready to pinch hit in the late innings when he doesn't start. It's about as good an attitude as a player can have and I really admire that. I also admire the fact that every single time he has been given a chance to play this season (and last season) he has produced, without exception. He isn't going to keep getting a hit in every game he plays, but there isn't a doubt in my mind that he would be one of the best hitters (if not the best) on the Twins if he was just given a chance.
I really like Ron Gardenhire and I think he is a good manager and has done an excellent job with the Twins thus far. But it bothers me quite a bit that he doesn't see the potential in Bobby Kielty and I'm just hoping he comes around sooner rather than later. Keep hitting Bobby, you'll get your chance eventually (I hope).
While Kielty was putting on his power display, the Twins had their best all-around game of the young season.
Kenny Rogers was brilliant, striking out 9 hitters in 8 innings, without walking a single hitter or allowing a single run. The Twins pounded out 13 hits, walked 3 times (I'd still like to see a little more patience) and scored 6 runs.
Torii Hunter continued to snap out of his early season slump. After the final game of the Toronto series on the 14th, Torii was hitting .116/.167/.186 and looked completely lost at the plate. Then he hit a homer and a single in the first game of the Detroit series and followed it up with 2 doubles last night. He's still got an awful long way to go before his numbers stop looking horrendous, but that doesn't matter as much as him producing good at bats, which he did in the Detroit series.
Michael Cuddyer came into last night's game hitting .167 and bumped that all the way up to .205 with a triple and a single, plus he also walked once. Corey Koskie hit his first homer of the season and Chris Gomez got himself 3 hits and is now batting .467!
It's funny how a series against the Tigers can really make a team look sharp and confident and snap people out of funks. Hopefully the Twins are feeling good right now, because the Yankees are coming to town this weekend and they'll need all the help they can get.
If they can somehow manage to split the New York series, they then head to Kansas City for 3 and then Chicago for 3. There is a decent chance that they could be in first place by a game or two about 10 days from now, which would please me tremendously.
Switching to a different topic...
I know this website is actually called Aaron's BASEBALL Blog, but occasionally (2-3 times in the last 9 months, according to my count) I like to talk about my second favorite sport, basketball.
As many of you probably know, the NBA regular season ended a couple days ago and the playoffs are about ready to start. My team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, finished with a franchise-best 51-31 record and got themselves home-court advantage in the first round for the first time in the team's history. That's the good news.
The bad news is that they are the #4 seed in the West, which means they play the #5 seed in the West. I was just about 100% sure that was going to be the Portland Trailblazers, until they absolutely fell apart in their final game of the season and lost to the Clippers (yes, the Clippers) by 14 points, dropping them to the #6 slot and propelling the 3-time defending World Champion Los Angeles Lakers into the #5 spot.
So, the Wolves finally work themselves into a position where they get home-court advantage and what do they get for it? Well, they have to play probably the best #5 seed in the history of basketball, a team that has won 3 NBA titles in a row and, last time I checked, still features 2 of the best 3-4 players in all of basketball.
I'd love to see the T-Wolves get over that first-round hump finally, but it just isn't gonna happen. The home-court gives them a fighting chance, but Shaq and Kobe will be way too much.
As long as I'm giving out NBA predictions, I might as well go the whole 9 yards and tell you my thoughts on all the first-round matchups...
I like Dallas over Portland, in what should be a pretty easy series for the Mavs, probably wining it 4-0 or 4-1. The Blazers are a complete mess right now, fighting with each other and losing games left and right. Once in a while they step up and play as a team, but it's rare and the Mavs are a better team anyway.
The Kings will destroy the Jazz, in what may be Karl Malone's last post-season in Utah. I remember just a few years ago when the Kings were the upstart team that just barely crept into the playoffs and they kept getting matched up with the Jazz in round one. Those were tremendous games, with Jason Williams going against John Stockton and Karl Malone matching up with Chris Webber. Now, just a few years later, the Kings are head and shoulders above the Jazz (who barely crept into the playoffs) and should dispose of them pretty easily.
In the final West matchup, I like the Spurs over the Suns, probably in 5 games. Tim Duncan is a wonderful player and he has a very underrated supporting cast. Guys like Tony Parker, Malik Rose, Emanuel Ginobili and an on-his-last-legs David Robinson play good defense and give the Spurs just enough scoring to compliment Duncan.
Over in the East, I think the easiest call is the Sixers over the Hornets, in what should be a 4 or 5 game series.
The toughest one to pick is probably Boston and Indiana, because both teams have been up and down all season long and who knows which teams will show up on which nights?
Indiana is a much deeper team, but that doesn't matter as much in the playoffs. And the Celtics have the best player in the series in Paul Pierce. One of my theories on the NBA post-season is that, when in doubt, go with the team that has the best player. For some series, that is easy. Duncan and the Spurs, Webber and the Kings, Iverson and the Sixers. For others, it isn't as simple, but in the Indiana/Boston series, Paul Pierce edges out Jermaine O'Neal. What about Antoine Walker? I happen to think he is one of the most overrated players in the league and I am not particularly fond of players that shoot 38%, especially ones that are 6'9". If this series doesn't go at least 6 games I'll be shocked, and I will go with the best player theory and pick the Celtics.
The top 2 seeds in the East each face difficult first-round opponents. The Bucks (the 7th seed) and the Magic (the 8th) aren't really that good, but they do things that will make them tough opponents in round one.
The Bucks play an up-tempo game with tons of shooters on the court at all times and have been known to just click every once in a while and win a game by 25 points. And the Magic have the best offensive player in basketball in Tracy McGrady, so they are very dangerous.
I like the Nets over the Bucks, because New Jersey has the best player (Jason Kidd) and they play very good defense, which is key when going against all the good offensive players on Milwaukee.
The Detroit/Orlando series all depends solely on one thing: The health of Ben Wallace.
You take a look at the Detroit roster and tell me how they could possibly win the most games in the conference. Here are their top 9 guys in minutes played this year:
That is basically a group of over-achievers and castoffs from other teams. Quite a few of those guys weren't even drafted and most of them are with their 2nd or 3rd team in the last few years.
The glue that holds it all together, the person that allows a collection of role players to win 50 games and get the #1 seed in the East, is Ben Wallace. This might sound like hyperbole, but I don't think there has ever been a player that has been as valuable as Ben Wallace while scoring as few points as he does. Now, the fact that he can't score shouldn't be seen as a positive, but it simply shows how tremendous he is in the other parts of the game.
Ben Wallace is quite simply a monster defensively and on the glass. He averaged 15.4 rebounds per game this season, #1 in the entire league (which amazingly saw only
6 players averaged 10+ boards per game this season). He is basically a taller, not crazy Dennis Rodman, and I mean that as the highest compliment possible.
Wallace also averaged 3.15 blocks per game, which ranked 2nd in the NBA, and tossed in 1.42 steals/game for good measure.
Offensively, he is very poor. He is pretty much limited to dunks, layups and, if he's feeling good, shots in the paint. He knows his limitations though and doesn't go shooting 15-foot jump shots. He shot 48% from the floor this year, which ranked 22nd in the league.
At only 6'9" (the same size as Antoine Walker, who is content standing behind the 3-point line lauching threes) Ben Wallace is a major force capable of dominating a game without scoring and he is one of the most valuable players in the NBA. If he is not healthy enough to play or plays and is limited, the Pistons suddenly become a team completely lacking any sort of rebounding ability and their defense suddenly has a massive hole in the middle of it.
If Wallace is healthy, they will win the series. If he isn't, Orlando will win it easily. He is that good.
So, assuming Big Ben is healthy, I like LA, San Antonio, Dallas and Sacramento to advance in the West and Detroit, Boston, Philly and New Jersey in the East.
And after round one? Well, I like the Lakers to beat anyone and everyone they go up against. I don't see how anyone could pick against them at this point. Sure, they got off to a horrible start and "only" won 50 games, but this is the same team that has won the last 3 titles and they still have Shaq and Kobe, which is all that matters. Plus, they have gone 30-9 since a loss to New Jersey on January 24th.
Think about that. The 3-time champs still have Kobe and Shaq and they are 30-9 in their last 39 games? That's good enough for me. The only team in the world right now that can beat them is Sacramento, but I just don't think the Kings will be able to do it. Sacramento's one big advantage over LA is their depth, but that is much less of a factor in the post-season. Plus, when the games get close, the Kings know they can't go to Chris Webber and his neverending supply of crappy little jump-hooks in the lane, so they go to Mike Bibby, who is an excellent shooter and a very good player, but not someone a team should be counting on to carry them in a playoff series. Meanwhile, the Lakers have Kobe Bryant, who is the first guy I would want taking the final shot for my team in a game that mattered.
Who do I like to make the Finals out of the East? I am not sure, but I know it won't matter one bit. The real NBA finals will take place in the Western Conference Finals (just like they have the past several seasons) and the Timberwolves will give LA a better test than anyone out of the East ever will.
That said, GO WOLVES!
Here are two conversations overheard by Yours Truly in the cafeteria yesterday:
Conversation #1 (Two guys from another dorm - one with a not-so-nice cafeteria - sitting at a table, ready to leave):
Guy 1: Hey, before we go, should I grab anything?
Guy 2: Like what?
Guy 1: I dunno, they have everything here. Do we need anything to take back to the room, like ketchup or something?
Guy 2: Hey, grab a bunch of hot sauce packets.
Guy 1: Why?!
Guy 2: We can throw them at people's doors tonight.
Guy 1: Good idea (Grabs about 50 packets)
Conversation #2 (Two girls sitting at a table, discussing what they did last night):
Girl 1: Craig came over last night and he was so high.
Girl 2: Oh yeah?
Girl 1: Yep, but he's so funny when he's like that; everything he said was funny, I couldn't stop laughing.
Girl 2: Really? Even though he was high?
Girl 1: It's like he's so much more illiterate when he's high, you know?
I actually chuckled out loud when I heard that last line and the two girls heard me and looked at me. There are two interesting things going on in that sentence:
1) She thinks the guy is more clever when he's high, but she says he's more IL-literate instead of literate.
2) Literate, illiterate - it doesn't matter, because neither of those words have anything to do with what she was trying to say.
LITERATE - lit-er-ate
1) Able to read and write.
2) Familiar with literature; literary.
ILLITERATE - il-lit-er-ate
1) Unable to read and write.
Unless this kid came over to her room and started reading and writing...
Philadelphia (Wolf) +135 over Atlanta (Maddux)
New York (Clemens) -140 over Minnesota (Radke)
Detroit (Cornejo) +160 over Kansas City (May)
Cleveland (Rodriguez) +200 over Chicago (Colon)
Texas (Thomson) +210 over Oakland (Zito)
Arizona (Kim) +120 over St. Louis (Simontachi)
Florida (Burnett) +115 over New York (Trachsel)
Chicago (Prior) -160 over Pittsburgh (Wells)
Philadelphia (Padilla) +115 over Atlanta (Hampton)
San Francisco (Moss) -115 over Los Angeles (Ashby)
Chicago (Stewart) -155 over Cleveland (Anderson)
New York (Pettitte) -150 over Minnesota (Mays)
Total to date: + $860
W/L record: 32-32 (Not a good day for me yesterday. I went 0-4 and lost a total of $405.)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Thursday, April 17, 2003
The Freedom SquadThe Twins beat the Tigers again last night. Detroit made a change in their lineup for the game that tells you pretty much all you need to know about the quality of their offense (and the whole team) this season: They moved Bobby Higginson from RF to CF in order to "get Craig Paquette's bat into the lineup." Seriously. That's the same Craig Paquette that is a career .240/.274/.413 hitter. He went 0-4 and is now hitting .167/.167/.167 on the year.
Meanwhile, the Twins' offense looked very good early and very bad late - combining to score only 4 runs against a couple of pitchers with career ERAs of 5.60 and 7.71 (coming into the game).
Despite getting 10 hits (all off Adam Bernero), the Twins saw a total of only 114 pitches in 8 innings, which has been a big trend all season thus far.
Rick Reed got the win and pitched well, but certainly didn't inspire any sort of confidence in me, which is also a trend. Reed allowed 2 runs to score in the top of the 5th and loaded the bases with 2 outs, before getting Dmiriti Young to end the inning and the threat.
The bullpen was, as usual, very good. Juan Rincon relieved Reed to start the 7th and got 2 quick outs before getting wild and walking 2 hitters in a row. No matter, Johan Santana relieved him, got Carlos Pena to fly out to end the inning and then got Detroit 1-2-3 in the 8th. Eddie Guardado relieved Johan and pitched a 1-2-3 9th for his 6th save of the season.
The top of the Twins' lineup was great. Jones, Guzman and Koskie combined to go 7-11 with 2 doubles, 2 RBI and 3 runs scored. My guy Bobby Kielty got a rare start and produced (of course) - hitting a double, taking a walk and scoring a run. He is now hitting .370 with a homer, 2 doubles, 3 walks, 3 runs and 5 RBI in only 23 at bats!
Speaking of Kielty...
Over at Baseball Primer there was an interesting discussion about who the hitters in most need a "freeing" (or FREEING) are right now. In other words, who isn't getting the playing time they deserve?
#1 on my list is Bobby Kielty, of course, and everyone seemed to agree with that. I was actually planning to write an entry devoted to this subject in the near future, but since Primer beat me to it, I might as well give you my top choices right now. Keep in mind, I am only considering hitters, not pitchers. If I did rank pitchers, You Know Who would be at the top of the list. So, here are the guys that most deserve to be given consistent, everyday playing time:
Bobby Kielty | OF | Minnesota
Bobby hit .291/.405/.484 in 348 PAs last season and posted .286/.391/.470 line in his Triple-A career. His on-base percentages in Single-A, Double-A, Triple-A and the Major Leagues are as follows: .400, .397, .391 and .379.
He's incredibly patient at the plate, has shown the ability to hit for a good average and get on base nearly 40% of the time. He has good doubles power and improving home run power and is a switch-hitter. Plus, he can play any of the 3 outfield positions, as well as first base.
If you want to know more about him, go check out my archives. You can basically pick any day and there is a good chance I said something about him.
Ramon Castro | C | Florida
Ramon Castro is probably the most "burried" of anyone on this list, because he is currently serving as the third string catcher for the Marlins. It's not so much that the other 2 guys don't deserve to play ahead of him (Ivan Rodriguez is a Hall of Famer and Mike Redmond is a good backup too), as much as it is Ramon Castro deserving to play somewhere, everyday.
Castro slugged .455 with 6 homers and 4 doubles in 101 ABs last year with Florida and is a career .307/.358/.563 Triple-A hitter in 272 games. Castro is a guy that has been hitting the crap out of the ball in the Florida minor league system for years now and just can't seem to get the Marlins to see his potential. He slugged .628 at Triple-A in both 2000 and 2001 and yet, somehow, couldn't get more than 101 ABs last year.
If some team would rescue him from the Marlins - and how much could it take to get their 3rd string catcher from them? - I am confident that, if given 450 ABs, he could hit .280 with 15-20 homers and 25-30 doubles. He's already 27, so it needs to happen sooner than later, because the clock on catchers ticks fast.
Jason Grabowski | C/OF/3B | Oakland
Jason Grabowski is my favorite minor leaguer in need of a major league job. Unlike most of the other guys on this list, he has yet to have any sort of extended time at the major league level. I love Grabowski's versatility. He was a catcher/shortstop in college and was drafted as a catcher by the Rangers. He has also spent significant time playing third base and the corner outfield spots and is passable at any of those positions.
Grabowski is also an excellent hitter ("I'm an excellent driver"). Check out his hitting at each level of the minor leagues:
LVL AVG OBP SLGHe is with the right organization for someone that is looking for a much deserved and long-awaited opportunity and I am pretty surprised he didn't make the A's out of spring training, because he seems like their kind of player. I think Jason Grabowski can be a quality everyday player and he would certainly be a tremendous bench player.
Think about it. A left-handed hitter that can play catcher, third base, first base, left field and right field, and will hit .280 with tons of walks and good doubles power? Sounds pretty good to me.
If Grabowski can handle catcher defensively, you are looking at a poor man's Jorge Posada. If not, he is an above-average corner player (1B/3B/OF) that would provide a ton of flexibility to any team.
Craig Wilson | C/OF/1B | Pittsburgh
Craig Wilson is the only true "slugger" on this list. He spent a lot of time in the minors playing catcher, but has also seen extended time at first base and in the outfield corners. Wherever he has played, he has hit.
Wilson hit .283/.379/.587 in 441 Triple-A at bats and .286/.376/.508 in 510 at bats in Double-A. He hit .310/.390/.589 with 13 homers in only 158 at bats with the Pirates in 2001 and followed that up by hitting .264/.355/.443 in some fairly significant playing time (368 ABs) last season.
To Pittsburgh's credit, they seem to be gradually realizing Wilson needs to be in the lineup more often and have used him as their backup catcher this year, as well as in the outfield.
Wilson is going to strike out a ton, but if you give him 500 at bats he can hit you 25+ homers and should be able to keep a fairly good batting average too.
Javier Valentin | C | Tampa Bay
In 287 career Triple-A games, Javier Valentin, a switch-hitter, is a .293/.356/.511 hitter. His most recent extended playing time in the majors was with the Twins in 1999, when he hit .248/.313/.381 in 218 ABs. While that line from 1999 was decent, is certainly wasn't great, but it came at the age of 23 and before he had even a single at bat in Triple-A.
Last year, Valentin hit .286 with 21 homers and 33 doubles in 455 at bats at Triple-A Edmonton. I was clamoring for him as the Twins' backup catcher (over Tom Prince), but instead the Twins dealt him (with Matt Kinney) to Milwaukee for a couple of pitching prospects. He lasted a couple months with the Brewers and was traded to Tampa Bay for Jason Conti. Now he is wasting away as the backup catcher in Tampa Bay.
Javy Valentin could easily hit .270 with 15 homers and 30 doubles if given the playing time and what team couldn't use a switch-hitting catcher capable of that?
Shawn Wooten | 1B/3B/C | Anaheim
Shawn Wooten has been a solid member of the Anaheim bench for a couple of seasons now, but I think he is capable of more.
Wooten is a career .340/.384/.551 Triple-A hitter and has an MLB hitting line of .307/.338/.460 so far. He can play catcher and third base, but is probably below-average at both spots. He's fine at 1B and even better at DH.
On a team like the Angels, Shawn Wooten is the perfect bench player. He can platoon with Brad Fullmer at DH and come off the bench hacking the rest of the time. He doesn't walk and his game is based solely on batting average and doubles, which fits right in with the other Angels.
Give him 500 at bats and Shawn Wooten will pound out 150 hits, with about 10+ homers and 25 doubles. He's a top-level bench player, but he could also be more.
Mike Kinkade | 1B/OF/3B/C | Los Angeles
Mike Kinkade is the final catcher on this list, I promise.
Kinkade has been bouncing around the minor leagues for forever now and has 2,647 career minor league at bats! He hit .341/.433/.575 at Triple-A last year (287 ABs) and .358/.434/.561 at Double-A in 2000 (344 ABs). Before that, he hit .308 at Triple-A in 1999 and .309 in 1998. Going back even earlier, you find a .385/.455/.588 performance at Double-A in 1997 (468 ABs).
As you can see, this is a guy that can just flat out hit. And, he's even hit pretty well in his limited major league time. In 272 career MLB at bats, Kinkade has hit .279/.357/.423, which is way below his minor league performances, but still pretty decent. That's only 272 at bats though and I would tend to trust his play during his 2,600+ minor league at bats too.
Give him a job, at first base, left field, DH or even third base or part-time catcher, and Kinkade could definitely be a .300+ hitter with 15 homers and 30 doubles. Like some of the other guys on this list, he would also provide a whole lot of flexibility and he's a great bench player.
Benji Gil | 2B/SS/1B | Anaheim
The only middle-infielder on this list and the second member of the Angels' bench, Benji Gil has made an amazing transition from a horrible hitter to a good one. Originally drafted in the first round of the 1991 draft by Texas, Gil hit very little in the minors and then struggled after being called up with the Rangers. In 794 at bats spread over 4 seasons with Texas, Gil hit only .215/.261/.322, which is really awful.
Texas gave up on him in 1997 and traded him to the White Sox, where he never saw any major league action. Chicago lost him to the Marlins in the Rule V draft a year later, but he never saw any time in Florida either. He signed with Anaheim in 2000 and actually saw quite a bit of action that year, although he continued to hit poorly (.239/.317/.352). And then, all of a sudden, Benji Gil became a hitter.
Combined in 2001 and 2002 he got 390 at bats and hit .292 with 11 homers, 23 doubles, 5 triples and a .462 slugging %. That might not seem so incredibly amazing, but coming from a guy that had been a .222/.277/.331 career hitter up until that point, it's pretty damn good.
Despite being on the wrong side of 30, Gil is still a good defensive player at either second base or shortstop and there are a ton of teams that he would be a big upgrade for at either of those spots. With the Angels he is, like Wooten, another quality bat that can come off the bench hacking.
So there you have it, 8 guys that deserve more playing time or to be "liberated" if you wanna get serious about it.
It is pretty amazing that there are so many guys that can play catcher on the list, because I often hear talk about the lack of quality catching in the majors and guys like Jorge Fabregas and Paul Bako get hundreds of at bats year after year.
If a team wanted to get creative and sacrifice a little defense, they could turn this group into an actual team...
C Ramon CastroThat looks really bad defensively on paper and it probably would be pretty bad, but I don't think it's as horrible as it looks.
First of all, you have plenty of catching to go around! Kielty is a fine centerfielder and Gil is good at shortstop, so you've got the 3 most important spots covered. Wooten is good at first base and most of the other guys could play good D there too. Kinkade is stretched at third base and Grabowski is playing out of position at second. Valentin is out of position too, but he's fairly athletic and left field aint exactly rocket science. Craig Wilson plays RF for Pittsburgh a lot and is certainly decent.
Offensively, that is a very solid team. If they all perform up to their capabilities, you could easily have 7 or 8 above-average offensive players (compared to their positions). The one guy that probably wouldn't be a good bet to post average positional numbers is Valentin and that's because he's really a catcher. Wooten might also have a little trouble hitting like the average first baseman, although he certainly could.
The best thing about it is that those guy would make about $2 million dollars - combined - so a team could spend like 99.5% of the payroll on pitching!
I'm thinking this team should probably be in the American League and thus need a 9th hitter to add to the lineup. That's where you guys come in. Do you have a good candidate to join this group? A guy in need of a break and a full-time gig?
Here are the rules for choosing/nominating someone:
1) He has to be at least 25 years old. There are some younger guys that deserve playing time, but if they are 23 or 24, have they really been waiting that long?
2) He can never have had more than 400 at bats in a single major league season. Basically, if a guy has had everyday playing time, I don't feel that sorry for him.
3) Everything else goes. He can be a career minor leaguer, a guy wasting away on a major league bench for the last 5 years, whatever you want. And he can play any position.
So there you have it, a call for your favorite under-appreciated, under-used player. Please email me with all your nominees and I will pick the 9th member of the "Freedom Squad" next week.
And, as always, FREE BOBBY AND JOHAN!
Colorado (Jennings) +220 over Arizona (Schilling)
Oakland (Halama) -105 over Seattle (Meche)
Tampa Bay (Kennedy) +330 over Boston (Martinez)
Kansas City (George) +155 over Chicago (Loaiza)
Total to date: + $1,265
W/L record: 32-28 (Went 2-2 again yesterday and picked up a nice +195 with Cory Lidle and the Jays)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Wednesday, April 16, 2003
Miscellaneous, etcI don't know if it's the weather or a 24-hour case of Attention Deficit Disorder or what, but I can't seem to concentrate long enough to think up a subject for a long blog entry for today. So, instead I'll do a "quick hits" entry and try to touch on a few subjects that I have been thinking about lately...
I wrote the Twins "Season Preview" for Baseball Primer last month and one of topics I discussed in it was Cristian Guzman:
I do think a lot of [Guzman's] disappointing play over the last season and a half has been due to various injuries. At times over the past two seasons it seems as though Guzman is simply being lazy on defense; making lazy, off-target throws to first base, not bending enough on routine grounders and occasionally letting one go right through his legs and simply not showing the range he showed when he first came up in 1999. I believe Guzman is a little lackadaisical by nature, but I also think a lot of that "laziness" is actually the effects of leg and foot injuries.It's still very early, but Cristian Guzman tripled in the 5th inning of last night's win over the Tigers and already has 3 triples in 41 at bats this season. He should (literally) fly by that goal of 10 triples I mentioned. Guzzy's triple total is something I am defnitely going to keep an eye on this year, because it's the most exciting play in baseball and, in 2000 and most of 2001, Cristian Guzman was as good as it gets for three-baggers.
Devil Rays' rookie Rocco Baldelli is currently hitting .426.
As if that weren't amazing enough, Rocco has yet to walk in over 50 plate appearances and he is on pace for about 60 doubles and 25 triples.
As long as I am quoting myself from my Baseball Primer articles, I might as well show you what I wrote about Baldelli back in January, when I did my "Top 50 Prospects" article:
#10) Rocco BaldelliI still don't expect him to hit .330 (or .430) "anytime soon," but that doesn't mean he won't, of course. Every time I watch Baldelli play I am even more impressed with him. I still think he will need to learn to take some walks before he becomes a star, but his ceiling is definitely "as high as anyone's" and he sure is a hell of a lot of fun to watch.
Speaking of my "Top 50 Prospects" article for BaseballPrimer.com...
Once in a while I stumble across a place on the web where I am mentioned, which never gets old for me. I mean, who doesn't like to be talked about (as long as it's nice)?
The newest case is on the "Christopher Newport University" website.
A student at that school, one Mr. Joseph Brucato, has his very own little min-website on the CNU server and used my "Top 50 Prospects" article for one of his homework assignments! Can you imagine that?
Here is what the assignment was (apparently it was for some type of "journal" or something, although I am not sure for what type of class):
"Use an Internet search engine to find an argumentative piece on a favorite pastime/activity, summarize and analyze it. Then, brainstorm about what you like and dislike about it. From these two resources, construct a thesis and write a two-paragraph essay."And here is what Joseph wrote:
"After reading “2003's Top 50 Prospects” by Aaron Gleeman at http://www.baseballprimer.com/articles/gleeman_2003-01-27_0.shtml it puts a bad taste in my mouth. Gleeman speaks about players from the major leagues and also the minors. This in not the problem, many players are shuffled from the majors to the minors and back, so looking at both is very important. My problem is with the formula he uses to decide who is better than who and so forth. He even states in his article that it is “an extremely inexact science."I don't mean to sound like a jerk and maybe I am crazy, but if he got a decent grade on that assignment, his professor should be fired immediately and there should be some sort of investigation regarding the overall quality of the university.
I mean seriously, "I do not know for sure, but I feel as if there could be more than a couple players that are on the fence and who could have made the top 50 and didn’t"? What a ground-breaking statement. A person makes a list of the 50 "top" things and you think that there may have been a couple of things that didn't quite make the cut? Well, yeah!
I also liked, "Aaron Gleeman should refine his formula so it is more of an exact science before he goes ahead and ranks players. Only then can he have a half way decent list of players that fall into the top 50 prospects of 2003." Yes, I really should get to work on "refining" the formula I use for determining THE FUTURE OF HUMAN BEINGS! Maybe during the Summer; I should have some more free time then...
Also, that "bad taste in your mouth" is probably from the bulls@#$ coming out of it.
(Geez, I really get defensive pretty quickly, don't I?)
I also stumbled across an interview Lee Sinins (of Sabermetric Encyclopedia and Around the Majors newsletter fame) did on NetShrine.com, back on April 2nd.
Lee was asked the following:
"What would you recommend to someone who wants to learn more about baseball? Of course, they should have the SBE and your book, as well as subscribe to your ATM reports.To which Lee responded:
"There's a lot of good material out there. I'd put subscribing to Baseball Prospectus at the top of the list. I also highly recommend Rob Neyer's columns and anything by John Sickels. There are some good baseball blogs out there, with my favorite one being Aaron's Baseball Blog. It's really hard to list specific sites since I'm going to inevitably end up also missing a bunch of other good ones. But, these are definitely among those that really stand out.Stuff like that is really wonderful to hear. I really respect Lee Sinins and to have him talk about me in the same breath he does Baseball Prospectus or Rob Neyer or John Sickels...well, it is just extremely cool. Lee, if you are reading this, thanks a lot, I really appreciate it.
The only thing that could have made that even better was if they would have provided a link for people to click on so they could check out this blog after Lee mentioned he liked it. But hey, I am not gonna get greedy!
Remember our good friend Billy Koch, who talked so brilliantly about the Twins just being lucky in 2002 and not being a serious threat to the White Sox this year? Well, Mr. Koch blew his second save of the young season last night, giving up 4 runs in one-third of an inning.
Billy now has 2 saves and 2 blown saves, to go along with a sparkling 7.36 ERA.
There is nothing quite like hearing some guy run his mouth against your team during the off-season and then watch him have 2 complete meltdowns against the Kansas City Royals before the season is even 2 weeks old!
So, Billy Koch, I salute you. And may your pitching never be able to back up your mouth!
San Diego (Lawrence) +130 over Los Angeles (Ishii)
Toronto (Lidle) +195 over New York (Wells)
Kansas City (Hernandez) +135 over Chicago (Garland)
Oakland (Hudson) +105 over Seattle (Garcia)
Total to date: + $1,165
W/L record: 30-26 (Went 2-2 yesterday and am now up $1,165 dollars on the season. I am starting to wish I was betting with real money...)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Tuesday, April 15, 2003
Young armsLast Thursday I said this:
"A.J. Burnett, returned from the disabled-list and made his first start of the season yesterday, against the Mets. I didn't see any of it, but the boxscore line looks very encouraging.Well, that whole "maybe he has seen the light" thing lasted exactly 5 days. Jeff "Ruining Young Arms One at a Time" Torborg let A.J. Burnett throw 113 pitches last night against the Phillies. And they weren't 113 "easy" pitches either, they were high-pressure pitches with runners on base and Burnett threw them in only 5 total innings of work. He walked 5 and struck out 7, giving up 3 runs off of 4 hits.
A.J. Burnett has pitched well this year (so far) and he has tremendous stuff and unlimited potential, but if he pitches more than 100 innings this season I'll be shocked and I wouldn't bet on his career lasting very long. Why?
Here are his pitch-counts from 2001, 2002 and the first part of this season, in games where he has pitched at least 100 pitches:
As you may have noticed, that's a really long list! 39 total games with 100+ pitches out of a total of 58 starts, which comes out to a little more than 67%. Think about that for a second. A.J. Burnett doesn't turn 26 years old until 2004 and over his last 2+ seasons he has thrown 100+ pitches in two-thirds of all his starts.
While I do believe in pitch counts for pitchers, particularly young ones, I am not someone that sees 102 pitches thrown in a game and freaks out. Isolated incidents of throwing 102 or 105 or even 115 pitches in a game every once in a while, or even every month or so, isn't so horrible. But A.J. has been throwing 100+ pretty much every single time out there.
And it's not just 100+, it is 120+ and 130+ - and that's scary. Over his last 58 starts he has thrown 120+ pitches 12 times and 125+ pitches 9 times. Of course, the latest "incident" of 113 pitches last night is perhaps worse than even all those 125+ pitch outings because it came a week after he was activated off the disabled list with an arm injury.
I'll be keeping an eye on Burnett throughout this season and he's on my Diamond-Mind keeper league team so I really hope he does wonderfully this year, but I am not very optimistic. I gave Torborg the benefit of the doubt and he went back to abusing Burnett just a week later, so he is now on my permanent s@#% list.
Perhaps the only thing that could save A.J. Burnett's right arm at this point is Jeff Torborg getting fired as manager. Thankfully, that might actually happen, or at least that's what Peter Gammons says in his latest "Diamond Notes":
"The Florida Marlins are playing well and were helped out when staff ace A.J. Burnett returned to the starting rotation last Wednesday, but there are some internal disputes. Near the end of spring training, club president David Samson wanted manager Jeff Torborg to fire pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, but Torborg refused. Then a week into the season, when Josh Beckett, who has nine career wins, was critical of Ivan Rodriguez's pitch calling, the assault on Arnsberg continued, and got heated enough so that there was some pressure put on Torborg's job. Stay tuned."Keep those fingers crossed.
Last week, after he beat the Twins with a grand slam in Yankee Stadium, I talked about Hideki Matsui and I showed my prediction about him that I made during the pre-season. It's only been a week, but I think it's time to re-visit the issue again:
When I was doing my various predictions for the 2003 season, I said this:
"Hideki Matsui will prove all of the idiots that say he won't hit for power in the United States completely wrong."I also said this:
"Matsui will have a tremendous season and will be one of the best outfielders in the major leagues. Some people have compared his offensive game to Brian Giles'. While I think that comparison is a decent one, I don't think he will walk as much Giles does (135 BBs last year), so I think a better comp would be Ryan Klesko.Now, it is still very early and his stats are sure to change by the end of the year, but Matsui is hitting .306/.375/.490 right now, which looks damn close to my prediction. I'd be interested to hear what Dan Gladden (one of the more outspoken idiots that talked about how Matsui wouldn't be a good hitter here) has to say about Matsui when the Yankees come to Minnesota this weekend. Of course, I can't stand to listen to Dan Gladden and the rest of the Twins' radio broadcasting team, so I guess I'll never know what he says.
Matsui won the game for the Yankees last night with a 3-run homer and now has 14 RBI on the year.
The Royals won their 10th game of the season yesterday, beating Cleveland 12-4. Kansas City is now 10-1 and they sit 3.5 games up on the White Sox and 4.5 up on the Twins. If you would have told me during spring training that I would be able to say that sentence on April 15th, I probably would have slapped you in the face and I may have called you some mean names. I still don't think the Royals are going to end up being a serious contender in the division, but if they win 4 or 5 out of their next 6 games, I might have to change my opinion of them, at least a little bit.
The craziest thing about it is that they are 10-1 without their best player! Carlos Beltran has been on the DL all year and they are expecting him back late this week. Before the year started I predicted Kansas City would finish in 4th place and I thought they would win about 67-70 games. They are really going to have to play horribly if they are gonna end up with less than 70 wins (they would have to win 39% of their games from here on out), but they are the Royals, which is why I am not putting it past them - yet.
It's fun to watch a team come out of nowhere, as long as they don't keep my Twinkies out of the post-season, of course.
By the way, this basically sums up the Royals' season so far:
Brent Mayne - .500/.515/.867 with 3 homers, 2 doubles and 10 RBI.
I watched San Francisco right-hander Jesse Foppert make his major league debut last night, against the Astros. His first inning as a major league pitcher was an easy one, as he got the Astros to go down 1-2-3, including a strikeout of Craig Biggio for the 3rd out. The fact that he made his MLB-debut last night and I watched it isn't particularly noteworthy, but I wanted to put it on this blog so I have a record of it to remind myself when he is going into the Hall of Fame in 20 years or so.
Okay, maybe that is a bit much, but I do think he is the best pitching prospect in baseball right now. In fact, I rated him as my #7 prospect in all of baseball last year, which is very impressive when you consider that I try to rank pitchers as low as possible because of their immense injury risk (see: Torborg, Jeff).
Here's what I wrote about Foppert in my "Top 50 Prospects" article for Baseball Primer:
Foppert is a converted shortstop/first baseman that is now the best starting pitching prospect in baseball.He is a little ahead of schedule, but I think it is a smart idea to work him into the big leagues with some work out of the bullpen. In a year or two, the Giants are looking at a starting rotation that includes Foppert, Kurt Ainsworth (my #33 prospect) and Jerome Williams (my #34 prospect). That's potentially an incredible front 3 and all of them are extremely young and will be extremely cheap for quite a while. It'll be fun watching Barry Bonds make a couple final runs at the World Series with those young guns doing the pitching.
Cincinnati (Graves) +140 over Chicago (Estes)
San Diego (Peavy) +180 over Los Angeles (Nomo)
San Francisco (Ainsworth) -140 over Houston (Robertson)
Detroit (Maroth) +210 over Minnesota (Lohse)
Total to date: + $1,085
W/L record: 28-24 (After going 5-0 with $1,065 in winnings on Saturday, I picked only one game yesterday...and won it!)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Monday, April 14, 2003
$1,065 and a big surpriseI have been "picking" games throughout the season, pretending to bet $100 on each one and keeping a running total of my winnings and losings. I wasn't sure if anyone would be interested in that, but I have gotten quite a few emails about it, so I guess there are some of you out there interested. I only bring this up because I had perhaps the greatest day in the history of gambling on Saturday. Unfortunately I didn't win any actual money because the bets are all hypothetical, but check out what I did:
Today's picks:I picked 6 games.
One of them, LA/SF, got rained out, so that one doesn't count for anything.
I went 5-0 on the other 5 games, which is amazing in itself. What's more amazing is that 4 of them were underdogs and 2 of them were about as heavy an underdog as a bet can possibly be!
I had Matt Kinney and the Milwaukee Brewers +335 on the road over Curt Schilling and the Arizona Diamondbacks, and I had Jason Johnson and the Baltimore Orioles +330 on the road over Pedro Martinez and the Boston Red Sox.
The Brewers scored 2 runs in the 3rd inning and 1 in the 5th and got 3 1/3 scoreless innings from the bullpen, beating the D-Backs 3-2. Schilling actually pitched well, going 6 innings and allowing only 4 hits, while striking out 10 Brewers.
The Orioles knocked Pedro Martinez around real good, scoring 3 in the 1st and 7 in the 5th. Pedro allowed 10 earned runs in 4 1/3 innings and saw his ERA go from 0.60 to 5.12. Pedro was obviously not himself and I can't help but wonder if all the rainouts and rain delays Boston has had lately had something to do with that. He is the kind of pitcher that a team has to be extremely careful with and any little thing can potentially screw him up. He did strike out 5 hitters in those 4 1/3 innings, but he walked 4, which is very un-Pedro-like.
In addition to those huge upsets, I also picked the Tigers +180 to win their first game of the year, against the White Sox, which they did.
All together, I won a total of $1,065 (pretend) dollars in one day, all by betting only $100 per game. Not a bad day at the office...
On friday I promised everyone a big surprise today and I always keep my promises, so without a further adieu I present you with an actual picture of yours truly...
Not the greatest picture in the world (I think it sort of makes me look like Jay Leno), but it's the best one I could find on short notice.
So what do you think? Am I not the best looking 20 year old baseball blogger in Minnesota or what? And yes ladies, the man in that picture is 100% single!
I told my mom that I was going to put a picture of myself up today and she suggested I not do it, because "I might scare away my audience." Aren't moms wonderful?
Okay, now that you are over the shock of actually seeing the person that produces all of this extraordinary baseball material, I have one final thing I want to talk about today, which is, of course, the Minnesota Twins.
The Twins swept the Blue Jays over the weekend and are now 6-6, heading back home to play a series with the Tigers. I admit that I panicked after they lost 6 in a row before the Toronto series and I realize now how dumb that was. It is way too early to get worked up over a bad week and this team is too good to not win a lot of games this year.
The Twins started the year winning 3 in a row, lost 6 in a row and have now won 3 in a row again. And they are playing 3 against Detroit next, which means they will probably be 8-7 or 9-6. So, if I ever start panicking about a bad week again, please slap me.
Last week I asked everyone to vote on their favorite nickname for Luis Rivas. The result of the vote was almost completely in favor of one nickname, which also happens to be the one I like the best, which means it is now his official nickname!
From now on (or at least until Luis or a member of his family hunts me down and murders me), Luis Rivas is (drumroll please)...
I complain a lot about Luis Rivas and often talk about how I wish the Twins would find a new second baseman. Occasionally, someone will ask me for the name of a second baseman that I would want the Twins to get to replace Rivas. There are a lot of good possibilities out there, but I have decided that the one guy I want more than anyone else, the perfect replacement for Rivas, is Jose Vidro from the Montreal Expos.
Vidro is not a great defensive player, but neither is Rivas. And Jose Vidro can do some serious hitting. He is a career .305/.360/.473 hitter that smacks tons of doubles (43 last year, 51 in 2000, 45 in 1999) and 15-20 homers a season - all while hitting .300 and doing it from both sides of the plate.
Over the last 3 years, here are his splits:
Right-handed = .315/.370/.504
Left-handed = .339/.393/.514
Vidro also doesn't strike out (70 in 604 ABs last year) and has gradually improved his plate discipline to the point that he walks at a decent rate now.
My good buddy Craig Burley from the Batter's Box and Baseball Primer is Canadian (don't hold that against him) and a huge Jose Vidro fan. In fact, Vidro is his favorite player. I told Craig that I have come to the conclusion that the Twins need to get Vidro and he had the following to say about the abilities of his favorite player:
"Jose Vidro is my favorite player in the major leagues. He's a hustling, dirty-uniform type of player who gets every last ounce of value out of his limited but obvious talent. He's a terrific hitter for doubles and average, a consistent .300-plus hitter who makes his money by roping line drives to all fields. He had a very nasty shoulder injury (broken bone) last spring, he played hurt all year, and still improved his power versus righties. He should snap back against lefties with the shoulder healed; I'm expecting 30 home runs.That's a description of a player I want on my team! Terry Ryan, if you are reading this, please give a call to Omar Minaya and see if you can get Mr. Vidro here in Minnesota.
Jose Vidro is still young and relatively inexpensive. Plus, he is on the Expos, which makes me think he could actually be had in a trade. My proposal? Let's see...
That might seem like a lot to Twins fans (or maybe not, I don't know), but it really isn't. Rivas is nothing special and Vidro will be replacing him anyway. Restovich is a good prospect and has some serious power potential, but where exactly is he going to play in Minnesota? And Adam Johnson will soon be converted into a reliever after his struggles as a starter and, even if he becomes a good setup man, losing him isn't such a bad thing.
Does a deal like that make sense for Montreal? I think so. They unload one of their bigger salaries and get back a young second baseman to replace Vidro, a power-hitting corner outfielder and an interesting pitching prospect - all of whom will be making minimum salaries for quite a while.
Let's get it done!
Kansas City (Affeldt) +120 over Cleveland (Anderson)
Total to date: + $965
W/L record: 27-24 (I was on fire Saturday! I went 5-0 with one game rained out. Included in those 5 wins was a +335 (Milwaukee over Curt Schilling!), a +330 (Baltimore over Pedro!) and a +180 (Detroit winning their first game of the year)! Absolutely incredible. I ended up winning $1,065 dollars on the day. Of course, it is just pretend money, so it's not quite that exciting...)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****