Friday, September 05, 2003
Perception and RealityI put forth many opinions on this website. Sometimes I'm wrong, sometimes I'm right, sometimes they are widely-held opinions, sometimes they aren't. Whatever the opinions, I think my willingness to express them is a big part of why so many of you stop by here to read my writing every day.
Of course, along with putting your opinion out there for everyone to read comes the fact that there will be people, sometimes many people, who don't agree with you. And, along with that comes emails from those people who don't agree with you. For example, the other day I got this one that I think correctly portrays the average Chicago White Sox fan:
"Subject: Twins are weakTypically, when I post an email from a reader, I correct any major spelling, grammar and capitalization mistakes. You may have noticed that I didn't fix anything in that email, mostly because it is just funnier that way. Not as funny however, as the idea that they will win the division, "especially now that Billy Koch is back." Billy Koch, in case you are wondering, has a 5.55 ERA in 51 appearances this season.
Along with the many emails I get in response to things I say on this blog, I also get responses by way of other baseball blogs out there. For example, over at "ChiSox Daily" (which, aside from the team it covers, is a very good blog), Michael Labuda wrote an entry recently that was partly in response to the entry I wrote way back on July 2nd, when the White Sox traded for Roberto Alomar, replacing D'Angelo Jimenez as their second baseman. Here is some of what he said:
"The improved infield defense up the middle is a big reason for the Sox resurgence. A lot of people questioned whether replacing Jimenez with Alomar was actually an improvement (see here, here and here). The only thing I can say to these people is that they haven't watched these guys play everyday. I follow numbers and see where they are coming from. But in this case the numbers do not tell the whole story.I would be one of those people who "questioned whether replacing Jimenez with Alomar was actually an improvement." To be more specific, I am the very first "here" (you know, when he says "here, here and here") and this is exactly what I said at the time of the trade:
"I am not sure I see an upgrade here, long-term or short-term.I've never been afraid to toot my own horn, so I'll go ahead and say that I think what I said was right on the money.
Here are Jimenez's numbers while with the White Sox and Alomar's numbers while with the White Sox:
AVG OBP SLG EqAAccording to EqA, my preferred offensive metric, Jimenez with the Sox was slightly better offensively than Alomar with the Sox has been. And, since moving on to Cincinnati, Jimenez has been even better offensively, hitting .305/.376/.424 - good for a .280 EqA, which is much better than Alomar's performance with Chicago.
Of course, Labuda is suggesting that the big improvement has come on defense. That is a little tougher to compare, but I think it is still fairly obvious that if you are going to go by actual numbers and not personal observations, even those that come from watching them play everyday, Alomar has not been much of an improvement, if any, over Jimenez.
Range Factors while with Chicago:If Alomar has been so much better than Jimenez defensively, it certainly isn't showing up in either of those stats, which both show Jimenez ahead of Alomar. Jimenez made more plays than Alomar and he made a larger percentage of plays on balls hit into his "zone."
One thing that I have heard suggested is that Jimenez was very poor at turning double plays, while Alomar's main asset is his ability to turn two, helping to explain how his impact on defense goes beyond Range Factors and Zone Ratings. It's an interesting theory and it certainly seems very possible. But when you look at actual numbers instead of opinions and theories, that whole thing sort of falls apart too.
According to a recent article by Baseball Prospectus...
DPs per 9 defensive innings:Again, if what Michael Labuda is saying is true, it certainly isn't showing up in any sort of actual numbers. And, to his credit, that is exactly what Labuda said:
"The only thing I can say to these people is that they haven't watched these guys play everyday. I follow numbers and see where they are coming from. But in this case the numbers do not tell the whole story."Whether or not that is a valid argument is debatable, but certainly you would have to look beyond the numbers to find a way to make the case that Alomar has been an improvement over Jimenez. Personally, one of my biggest pet peeves in sports is the dual cliches of "I know because I've seen him play everyday" and "You don't know because you haven't seen him play everyday."
It really is amazing how much actual numbers can differ from someone's perception of something. In this case, Jimenez was said to be a lousy defensive player and, accoring to ChiSox Daily, someone that was lazy and not particularly liked in the clubhouse. Meanwhile, Alomar came with a reputation for being a defensive whiz. A reputation that has long since ceased being accurate, but a reputation nonetheless.
And after about half a season with Jimenez as the starting second baseman and half a season with Alomar as the starting second baseman, the numbers are almost identical and, if anything, give a slight edge to Jimenez. Yet Alomar is somehow seen as a savior, someone who has rebuilt the defense and been far and away better than D'Angelo Jimenez.
Watching a team every day is extremely valuable in judging a player, there is no doubt about it. I would never feel completely confident basing my judgments about someone entirely on their numbers, particularly defensive numbers. But there is also something to be said for what has actually happened, what can actually be proven through evidence and stats and recorded performance. And I'll take those any day over some highlights pieced together on ESPN or some reputation a player "earned" a decade ago.
Just remember folks, it's not the truth just because Hawk Harrelson says so, as hard as that may be to come to grips with.
In other news...
Since the start of this season, I have been making daily picks on baseball games, placing hypothetical $100 bets on an average of 3-5 games per day. Surprisingly, I have done quite well. As of right now I am up $2,665 on the season.
Anyway, baseball is obviously my area of expertise, but I am always looking for new ways to show everyone how smart I am. Luckily for me, I have found a new place to do so. Seth over "Seth Speaks" got a bunch of baseball bloggers together with a few of his friends for an "NFL picks" contest for this season. Each week, 9 people (including myself) will pick the winners for every NFL game. I don't think there is a big prize for the winner, but I know I'm interested to see if I know anything about picking football games or not.
After the Redskins' win last night over the Jets, I am officially 1-0! To see the rest of my picks, along with everyone else's picks for this week, check out the following link:
Seth Speaks: Football Picks
I'll be making new picks every week and will definitely keep you updated on how I'm doing. Unless, of course, I start to do really badly, in which case you'll never hear another word about the contest again.
At some point I promise to stop talking about this whole PayPal Donations thing, but you guys have been so amazingly generous that I simply have to mention it one more time.I put the link to PayPal Donations up last weekend and in the first 6 days it was up, I got 11 donations, which was far more than I could ever have imagined. Then I got 9 more donations yesterday alone, which was incredible.
I want to thank everyone who has donated so far and say that I am truly greatful for and appreciative of each and every donation. It makes me feel so great everytime I hear from someone that they enjoy stopping by this site on a regular basis, whether I hear by way of a donation or a simple email note.
Yesterday's contributors were Jim, Eric, Charles, Tim, Jamie, Mike, Rick, Larry and last, but certainly not least, David - who is now the "leader-in-the-clubhouse" with the highest donation yet.
While I am thanking people, I also want to say a special thank you to everyone who sent me emails regarding my move back to school and the entries I wrote about my college experience. I am always a little leery of veering too far away from baseball topics on this blog and I don't plan on making this anything but a baseball website anytime soon, but every once in a while I enjoy writing about my life.
When I do so, it's good to know that many of you also enjoy when I do that, and it's a good feeling to know I am can share my feelings and experiences with you all and get such wonderfully thoughtful responses back. I've been very busy with the start of school and I know I haven't had a chance to respond to every email I have gotten of late, but you can be sure I have read what you sent me and you can also be sure that I appreciate your thoughts and support.
Have a great weekend and I'll see you Monday, when I will hopefully have a pretty big surprise for everyone...
If you missed any of this week's previous entries, you can check them out right now:
Monday: The Big Move
Tuesday: In with the old, in with the new
Wednesday: Battle of the Titans
Thursday: Timing is everything
This Week's Featured Links:
Monday: Major League Baseball Graphs
Tuesday: Seth Speaks
Wednesday: Al's Ramblings
Thursday: John's Dodger Blog
Florida (Redman) +125 over Montreal (Hernandez)
Arizona (Webb) +110 over San Francisco (Williams)
Boston (Martinez) -130 over New York (Pettitte)
Kansas City (Anderson) +150 over Anaheim (Washburn)
Total to date: + 2,665
W/L record: 225-223 (0-1 yesterday for -100, although I came soooo close to winning the +180 against Randy Johnson.)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Thursday, September 04, 2003
Timing is everythingSo I'm sitting in my Visual Journalism class jonesing like crazy because I'm missing the afternoon Twins game. It wasn't on TV, but I would definitely have listened to the radio broadcast, as unbearable as that can be. Instead, I'm listening to the instructor talk about the class objectives and what type of stuff we will be working on this semester - you know, all that fun stuff. Then he has us do a little work on the computers and shows us the basics of working a Macintosh.
Then, at around 3:30, he says that if we are finished with the little assignment he gave us, we are free to go. I head out the door of the Murphy Hall (the journalism building) and as soon as I hit daylight, I whip out my walkman and headphones and frantically tune in the Twins game. When I finally get it tuned to WCCO, here is what exactly I heard...
Dustan Mohr will come on now to run for Morneau. The Twins still have some life left here in the bottom of the 9th. Two outs and Mohr on first.I really don't think I can even do the moment justice. It was so damn exciting simply because I had absolutely no idea what was going on and the very first thing I heard was that they "still had some life in them" (in other words, they were losing) and then 10 seconds later I heard an extraordinarily exciting play (and a thrilling call on the radio, kudos to John Gordon...for once).
It was unbelievable and I'm sure the people around me on Church Street probably thought I was a lunatic. I'm not sure exactly what I did, but there may have been a first-pump involved and I think I let out some audible form of celebration too, not to mention the big goofy smile I probably had on my face.
I hesitate to say that was one of the most exciting minutes of my life, simply because it makes it sound like I definitely need a new life. But really, it was. I imagine hearing it like I did, without any prior knowledge of the game or even a perfect understanding of what was going on made it even better than if I had been listening the entire time.
I tuned in having no clue what was going on or even if the game was still being played. Immediately I was down, then way up, then down again, and then BOOM, the Twins just won the game. And even then I wasn't quite sure exactly what happened.
Now that I have gotten a good look at the play on TV (thank god for ESPN), it is my (admittedly biased) opinion that what Dustan Mohr did was perfectly legal and a "clean" play. The throw beat Mohr to the plate by a minimum of 10 feet and it appeared as though Anaheim catcher Bengie Molina figured Mohr would let up and he could just put a soft tag on him for the final out of the game. Of course, Dustan Mohr has been known to crash into the wall down the right field line in the hopes of catching a foul ball that lands 30 rows into the stands, so Molina probably should have known better.
It turns out Bengie Molina broke his wrist on the play. It's why he dropped the ball to allow Mohr to score and it's why Shannon Stewart was able to scamper home with the winning run. Almost immediately after Mohr knocked into him, Molina went down. And he stayed down. Troy Percival actually covered the plate and took the throw that Stewart narrowly beat, and Molina didn't get up for at least 5 minutes following the game. Twins and Angels were huddled around him.
When Molina stuck out his glove to make the tag, Mohr barreled right into him and knocked the ball loose and Molina down. Had Molina been protecting the ball with his right hand, I think he would have held onto the ball and most likely lessened the blow from Mohr quite a bit. Instead, he simply held out his glove hand, with the ball inside, and it took the brunt of the contact. I have mixed feelings about players crashing into catchers at home plate in general, but if it is a legal play and is not frowned upon, what Dustan Mohr did was perfectly fine with me.
Interestingly enough, almost an identical play happened in the Red Sox/White Sox game last night. With the game tied at 4 in the bottom of the 8th inning, Aaron Rowand was on second base. Magglio Ordonez hit a ball into the left field corner and the Chicago third base coach sent Rowand home. Manny Ramirez picked the ball up quickly and relayed it to Nomar Garciaparra, who made a strong, accurate throw to home plate. The ball beat Rowand to the plate by about the same distance that it beat Mohr, but there were two big differences.
First of all, Boston catcher Jason Varitek got the ball in his glove and then protected it with his other hand. Second, Aaron Rowand came in with a full head of steam and looked ready to do exactly what Mohr did to Molina, but he made a half-hearted attempt and ended up stumbling to the plate as Varitek slapped the tag on him and then ripped his glove away like a matador - exactly what Molina should have done.
The inning ended still tied at 4 and then David Ortiz hit what ended up being the game-winning homer the next inning. Two identical plays, two different reactions by the base runners and two different reactions by the catchers. Twins win, White Sox lose, and now the standings in the AL Central look like this:
W L GBAs a Twins fan, all I can say is that we've got 'em right where we want 'em. I stand by what I said last month, which is that the Twins will stay within striking distance and then win this division in the final days, thanks to a very easy schedule during the season's last two weeks. For more on that, including an in-depth breakdown of the schedules of all 3 AL Central contenders, check out my entry from August 22nd, entitled:
"And down the stretch they come!"
Finally...As most of you have probably noticed by now, I put a link to "PayPal Donations" up on the upper left-hand side of this page last weekend. I felt sort of guilty doing it at the time, since it is not totally unlike begging for money. But I did it anyway and didn't expect much to come of it.
Boy was I wrong! I have to say that, after less than a week with the link up, I am sure that I have some of the most generous readers around. For whatever reason, yesterday was a particularly good day for donating money to unemployed college students, because I got 5 different donations.
I want to thank Dave for being the first person to give me a donation. I want to thank Steve and Craig for also donating last weekend. And now this week, I want to thank Jason, Alan, Phillip, Brian, Tom, Kristen (yes, a female!), Andy and Jeff.
You don't really "get" anything for your donation, but I've checked around and it officially counts as your "Good Deed of the Day." I've also been told that anything over $25 assures you a place in heaven, although I haven't been able to confirm that as of yet.
Anyway, I just wanted to thank everyone who has donated and say that the amount of donations in the short time the link has been up has absolutely shocked me and it makes me feel good that you guys like this blog and my writing enough to send me some of your hard-earned money. Oh, and keep it coming boys (and girl), I figure with another 50 donations or so, I can pay for all of my books this semester!
Link of the Day:
John's Dodger Blog - "The blog of John Wiebe, fan of the Dodgers and baseball in general"
Kansas City (Voyles) +180 over Arizona (Johnson)
Total to date: + 2,765
W/L record: 225-222 (3-2 yesterday for +25.)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Wednesday, September 03, 2003
Battle of the TitansI read something on David Pinto's "Baseball Musings" last week that really caught me off guard. According to David's blog entry on August 27th:
This should be a day of celebration in Detroit. The Tigers no longer have the worst offense in the majors.I have to say, this development really snuck up on me. The Tigers were so extraordinarily bad offensively early this season (they hit .184/.258/.262 as a team in April!) that I guess I just had it in my head that they had "Worst Major League Offense, 2003" all wrapped up by May.Team Runs Runs per Game
Heck, during the first few months of the season, back when I used to write the "Bi-Weekly Review" of the American League Central for Baseball Primer, I took every possible opportunity to make jokes about Detroit's offense. And now, after all that, they aren't even the worst in baseball. It's kind of sad really. Particularly if you are a Dodgers fan.
Here is an update with the current totals:
G RS RS/GThe Tigers have been able to maintain that lead they took last week and have actually increased it slightly, so it looks like it's going to be a real race (or limp) to the finish-line.
The amazing thing about Detroit's anemic offense is that they have one of the top offensive players in the American League playing for them.
Dmitri Young has played in 131 of the team's 137 games and is hitting .297/.371/.559 with 28 homers, 26 doubles and 7 triples. He ranks 7th in the AL in slugging percentage, 10th in homers, 16th in Equivalent Average and 15th in Runs Above Replacement Position. Among AL left fielders (the position Young plays most of the time), he ranks 2nd in RARP, behind only Manny Ramirez. In other words, he's having a very good offensive season.
How are the Tigers so bad despite such a good season from Young? Well, as you can probably guess, his teammates aren't doing a whole lot to help him. No other Tiger has an on-base percentage above .335 and 12 different Detroit hitters with at least 50 at bats have an OBP below .300. Along with Young, Carlos Pena is the only other Tiger with a slugging percentage above .450 and 13 Tigers with 50+ at bats have a SLG below .400. It really is a sad, sad group.
Just to put that into some context, the Boston Red Sox have 9 players with at least 350 at bats this season. Of those 9, all but Todd Walker have an OBP of at least .350, all but Walker and Johnny Damon are slugging at least .485, and 6 of the 9 are slugging over .525. But enough about Boston. It's not as fun talking about good offensive teams.
Here is how the Tigers have hit this year, as a team:
AVG OBP SLGIf you take Dmitri Young's contributions out of the mix, the rest of the team is hitting:
AVG OBP SLGNow, that is a sorry bunch. Actually, that .231/.287/.355 line of Detroit's without Young looks an awful lot like the Dodgers' team offense:
AVG OBP SLGOf course, the Dodgers have a little more of an excuse than Detroit does, because they play in a league where the pitcher hits. LA pitchers are hitting a combined .118/.135/.161 this season, which would even get them benched in Detroit.
Erasing the pitchers' offensive "contributions" from the equation, the rest of the Dodgers' lineup has the following numbers this year:
AVG OBP SLGUnlike the Tigers, the Dodgers don't have a single hitter who I consider to be having a "very good" season offensively. While Dmitri Young has been 39.4 Runs Above Replacement Position thus far, the leading Dodger is Shawn Green, at 20.8 RARP. Paul LoDuca is second on the team with 19.0 RARP and Jolbert Cabrera (yes, Jolbert Cabrera) is third with 11.9. And those are the only 3 Dodgers who have been at least 10 RARP this year. In fact, the only other LA hitter who has been more than even 5.0 RARP this year besides those 3 is Brian Jordan (9.8 RARP) and he hasn't played since June 24th.
One could, I suspect, piece together perhaps the worst offensive team in the history of the world simply by using a combination of Detroit and Los Angeles hitters...
AVG OBP SLG RARPThat lineup of 4 Tigers and 5 Dodgers has been 18.7 Runs BELOW Replacement Position this year. Which means Barry Bonds, all by himself and despite missing nearly 20 games, has been approximately 110 runs better offensively those those 9 hitters put together. Think about that for a minute.
And that's not some fake lineup where I have Shane Halter at first base and Andres Torres is left field. Every single one of those 9 guys have played that position for their team for a large part of the season, except for Daryle Ward, who obviously couldn't have been a designated hitter in the National League.
I could say a lot of things to try to describe just how awful that team would be offensively, but I think the best and easiest way to put it is to ask exactly how awful a team would have to be in order for Cesar ".246/.278/.309" Izturis to not be bad enough to crack the starting lineup? Enough said.
While the Tigers and Dodgers have almost identical offenses this season...
G AVG OBP SLG RS RS/G...their records are at vastly different.
Detroit is fighting to not lose the most games of any team in the history of the sport (a fight which they are losing, coincidentally), while the Dodgers are currently 72-65 and right in the middle of the NL Wild Card race. Here's the reason:
G RA RA/GDespite what you may have heard from various cliche-wielding baseball fans, pitching (and defense) is, in fact, almost exactly 50% of the game. It's actually quite simple. If you score more runs than your opponent in a game, you win. That can mean scoring 15 runs and allowing 14 or it can mean scoring 1 and allowing 0. And the same thing pretty much holds true over the course of an entire season. If you score more runs than you give up (like the Dodgers have), you are most likely going to win more games than you lose. If you don't (like the Tigers have), you are most likely going to lose more than you win.
The Dodgers have been able to win this season, despite the worst offense in baseball, because their pitching-staff has been phenomenal all year.
The Detroit Tigers have a 5.17 team ERA.
Among the 14 Los Angeles pitchers who have thrown at least 10 innings for the Dodgers this year, only Andy Ashby has an ERA above Detroit's team mark of 5.17...and his ERA is 5.18.
I don't know exactly what my point is, but the next time you hear Joe Morgan tell you that wins are far more important for judging a pitcher than ERA is, think of the poor pitchers on the Dodgers, try your hardest not to punch a hole through your computer screen or TV set, and then repeat after me...
Serenity Now...Serenity Now...Serenity Now...
Link of the Day:
Al's Ramblings - "Whatever strikes me as interesting, and serious Milwaukee Brewers thoughts."
Atlanta (Ortiz) -150 over New York (Trachsel)
Milwaukee (Martinez) -110 over Cincinnati (Bale)
Minnesota (Balfour) -110 over Anaheim (Ortiz)
New York (Mussina) -130 over Toronto (Escobar)
Boston (Lowe) +105 over Chicago (Buehrle)
Total to date: + 2,740
W/L record: 222-220 (0-1 yesterday for -100.)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Tuesday, September 02, 2003
In with the old, in with the newI've devoted the last couple of blog entries to talking about my move back to school. That's over with now and I am attending my first day of classes, perhaps as you are reading this. So, all of you have probably had enough of me talking about school for a while and I think it's time to get back to baseball. And, what better way to do that than with some Twins talk?
When I first heard that the Twins were interesting in trading for Jesse Orosco, who had been "designated for assignment" by the Yankees last week, I was very surprised. Orosco has been a horrible pitcher this season and he didn't seem like the kind of guy the Twins would go after. Well, they made a deal with the Yankees on Sunday night, getting Orosco for the world-famous "Player To Be Named Later."
Jesse Orosco is a really fun story and certainly a guy to root for. He is 46 years old and has been pitching in the majors since 1979. He was also originally drafted by the Twins way back in 1978, although he never played for them. In a nice bit of symmetry, Orosco, then 22 years old, was the "Player To Be Named Later" in the deal that brought Jerry Koosman from the Mets to the Twins in 1979.
While Orosco is a nice story and someone I am happy to see continue to pitch in the major leagues, he's not someone I am excited about joining the Twins. Aside from all the jokes about his age Twins' announcers Bert Blyleven and Dick Bremer can repeat over and over every time he comes into the game, Orosco simply doesn't add that much to a ballclub, especially one fighting for a spot in the playoffs.
First of all, he is basically limited to facing one or two batters per appearance. Last year he appeared in 56 games and pitched a total of 27 innings, and this year he has 29.1 innings in 57 games. That works out to 0.49 innings per appearance. In other words, he's good for one or two outs. That is obviously not something that is unique to Jesse Orosco, many pitchers throughout the majors - particularly left-handed ones - are used in situations that call for them only facing a batter or two. But even those guys are occasionally able to stretch it out a little longer and pitch a full inning or and inning and a third every once in a while. Not Orosco. During the last two years, Orosco has pitched more than an inning exactly two times.
So, the Twins have acquired a guy to help their bullpen and he is a guy who is so limited in what he can do that, at most, he can account for two outs in a game. To me, unless that guy is extraordinarily good at getting those two outs, his skills are not worth taking up a bullpen spot, especially in the post-season. And at 46 years old, Jesse Orosco is certainly not "extraordinarily good" at doing much of anything.
He has a 7.98 ERA in 29.1 innings this season, including a 10.39 ERA in his extremely brief 4.1 inning stint with the Yankees. Actually, it wasn't that brief. Orosco pitched in a total of 15 games, which is amazing when it accounts for a total of just 4.1 total innings. For what Orosco will be asked to do for the Twins though, his ERA really is fairly insignificant. He will be asked to get left-handed hitters out in the late innings. Let's take a look at how he's done at that job over the last few years:
vs LHBNow, don't get me wrong, those are pretty good numbers. I'd say you could count on Orosco holding lefties to a sub-.250 batting average, an on-base percentage somewhere around .300 and a slugging percentage around .400. Those are certainly decent numbers, but they are not good enough to warrant carrying a guy who limits a bullpen in such a way.
Here the numbers of some other members of the Twins pitching-staff, all of whom could be placed on the playoff roster:
vs LHBI suspect the reason the Twins felt they needed Jesse Orosco was that, of those 5 pitchers I just listed, only Guardado and Romero are left-handed. And Guardado is saved for "save" situations, which means the only lefty they will have in their pen that they can use freely is Romero, and he has struggled of late. "Adding a lefty" isn't a bad idea in itself, but adding a lefty just because he is a lefty is a horrible idea. Who cares what hand the guy throws with if he can do the job, which is getting lefties out?
Sure, it'd be nice to have a left-handed pitcher to pitch to very good left-handed batters, who may not do as well against lefties as they do righties, but it would also be nice to have a flexible bullpen filled with guys who could come in and get lefties and righties out, while being able to pitch to more than one or two batters.
Here are Orosco's numbers against right-handed batters this year:
vs RHBTo Orosco's credit he has actually been pretty good against righties in the past, but those numbers this season are just scary. Would you let him anywhere near a decent right-handed hitter in an important game? Of course not.
So what happens when Ron Gardenhire brings Orosco in to face a tough left-handed batter and the opposing manager responds by pinch-hitting for that guy, to bring in a good right-handed bat off the bench? Then you're stuck with a 46 year lefty giving up a .417 average and a .646 slugging percentage, all because you needed another lefty in a bullpen filled with guys who are very capable of getting left-handed batters out.
I obviously hope Jesse Orosco does very well for the Twins, not only because I like him as a player, but also because I love the Twins. But adding him to this current Twins team is completely unnecessary and the very limited role he will be asked to do not only handicaps the bullpen, it is also a role that could be filled just as well and probably even better by at least 4 or 5 other pitchers who are already on the team. Plus, to get Orosco, the Twins gave up a PTBNL and also had to clear a spot on the 40-man roster. To do the latter, they designated Todd Sears for assignment. I'm not sure what will happen with Sears, but I would guess he'll be in another organization by this time next week. In which case they just gave up a decent 1B/DH option and a PTBNL for a 46 year old reliever who isn't all that good at his job.
While they were making one change to the pitching-staff that I am not very fond of, the Twins made another move that I like a lot...
Joe Mays has been exceptionally awful this season and, to a slightly lesser extent, last season too.
Year IP ERAOver his last two seasons, Mays has a 5.92 ERA and has allowed 272 hits in just 225 innings. He also has served up 35 homers and has struck out just 3.5 batters per 9 innings. In other words, he has been horrible.
And yet, despite his continued awful pitching, the Twins have continued to stick him on the mound. For a team that was so unwilling to put Johan Santana in the rotation for so long and has been unwilling to give young players consistent, everyday playing time in several instances over the last few years, the Twins sure are the exact opposite when it comes to "veterans." On the basis of one very good season in between four bad ones (including two horrendous ones), Joe Mays was allowed to pitch 225 innings and make 38 starts over the last two years.
It seems finally Mays has been so bad that even the Twins were forced to make a change. First they demoted him to the bullpen and replaced him in the rotation with Santana. We all know how well that has worked out, as Johan is currently 8-2 with a 2.24 ERA in 13 starts. After spending some time in the bullpen (and pitching poorly - 3.93 ERA, .312 batting average against), Mays was let back into the rotation recently when Rick Reed went down with a back injury.
Mays gave up 5 runs in 3 innings against the Rangers on Saturday and mercifully got yanked from the rotation for the second time this season. The man who replaces him this time is Grant Balfour, a young right-hander who I really like quite a bit. Not quite at the Johan Santana-level, but he's up there.
Balfour began his minor league career as a starter and was converted to a reliever in 2000. Whether as a starter or a reliever, he racked up very impressive strikeout totals, which, as anyone who reads this blog on a regular-basis can tell you, I feel is one of the most important qualities in a pitcher.
Here are Balfour's year-by-year minor league K rates:
Year K/9Those numbers are good enough to make any smart Twins fan drool. That 12.1/9 K rate in 2001 included a 1.08 ERA in 50 Double-A innings. This season, Balfour was converted back into a starter at Triple-A and the results were extremely good. In 71 Triple-A innings (including 11 starts), he had a 2.41 ERA and a 87/16 strikeout/walk ratio (11.0 Ks/9).
Balfour has had a couple of short stints with the Twins this year and has been very impressive there as well. In 16.1 innings in the majors this year, Balfour has a 1.65 ERA and has held opponents to an amazing .113 batting average. He also has 19 strikeouts.
Way back in October of 2002, I wrote an article about the future of the Twins for Baseball Primer and said the following about Grant Balfour:
"If any Twins minor league reliever has a shot to be successful in the Major Leagues, it is Grant Balfour. He deserves to be given a full-time role in the Minnesota bullpen in 2003 and beyond."Of course, the Twins didn't give him a full-time role in the bullpen this year, but he was so impressive in the limited work he did get, he is now a member of the starting rotation - which is even better.
For years, the Minnesota Twins have relied on "finesse" starting pitchers. That is the nice way of saying it, of course. Another way is that they don't strike anyone out. Whether it is Brad Radke, Rick Reed, Kenny Rogers and Joe Mays on this current Twins team or guys like Kevin Tapani, Bob Tewksbury and Scott Erickson in the past. Now they've got two young power pitchers in Johan Santana and Grant Balfour. Of course, it's probably too early to start thinking about Balfour's future in the rotation. After all, his next start in the major leagues will be his first. Regardless of how he does in that start though, I think he has a chance to be a special pitcher and it makes me smile when I think about a rotation that includes Santana and Balfour who, at just 24 and 25 years old, can rack up strikeouts with the best of them.
Link of the Day:
Seth Speaks - "Seth speaks on sports, the Minnesota Twins, the Minnesota Timberwolves and more!"
Anaheim (Sele) +130 over Minnesota (Lohse)
Total to date: + 2,840
W/L record: 222-219 (1-0 yesterday for +140 and inching my way to 3,000.)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****
Monday, September 01, 2003
The Big MoveSo, I moved back to school over the weekend. This is now the third year in a row I have moved into the dorms at the end of the Summer and the experience is always a bad one. Not only because I get depressed when I have to begin school again (which I discussed last Friday), but because my mom and dad always help me move and the situation causes a lot of tension and crankiness, in me at least.
Every little thing my mom said while we were moving seemed to annoy me. Not to mention the fact that she did a few really boneheaded things. First of all, when we got there on Saturday afternoon she dropped me off in front of the dorm so that I could "sign in" while she parked the car in a ramp. After I signed in, she met me in the lobby and we got a laundry cart and went to the ramp to get the stuff out of the car. She leads me to "Level C" at which point I am staring at a gigantic parking lot full of cars. I can see she has a strange look on her face, so I say something like "what spot did you park in?" She gives me another strange look and says, "I parked on Level C."
For the next 20 minutes or so, we tried to find where my mom parked the car. She even managed to convince two girls working on the "U Crew" (people hired to help you move in) to walk around the parking lot with her looking for the car. I'm not sure how three women walking around together looking for the same car is any better than one, but they eventually found it...about a mile away from where she thought she parked it.
The strange thing is that what happened is extremely unlike my mom. I have never been somewhere with her where she has parked the car without writing down the exact location. Sometimes she'll even remember the exact coordinates, complete with longitude, latitude and surrounding landmarks.
Another wonderful moment from the weekend involved an adventure with my "U Card," which is basically my student ID. At this point, I was pretty much all moved in and my parents and I decided we would go get some lunch at the student union. We were about to step out the door when I realized I didn't have my U Card. This is a big deal because I need to use it to get in and out of about 10 different doors within the dorm.
So for about 15 or 20 minutes, three people searched through 10x12 room for a little card with my picture on it. We searched in the trash, under the desk and in places where the card could not possible have been. Midway into our search, I began to take out my frustration on my mom. You see, while my dad and I were installing the cable box, setting up my voice mail and taking apart the bed loft, my mom was busy basically moving all of my stuff to various locations in the room. She was making stacks of papers and putting stuff in the closet and filling drawers up. Because of that, I was convinced she was responsible for the missing U Card...and I told her so.
The whole moving-me-into-school thing is no doubt just as stressful on her as it is me, so after a few minutes, my mom had enough and she went out into the hallway to get away from her jerk of a son. My dad and I continued to search the room, while I repeatedly said things like "I don't f@#$%* believe this" and "I guarantee she moved it" over and over again. I decided I'd go see if somehow the card got dropped in the hallway or in the lobby or something, so I went to look. When I returned to the room a few minutes later, my dad was holding the U Card. He found it on my bed, underneath a bunch of shirts my mom had unpacked and put there in her effort to reposition everything in the room as many times as possible.
I mentioned that my dad and I took apart the loft for my bed. When I first got to the room, the bed was lofted about 7 feet in the air, like the top bunk of a bunk bed. It had a ladder attached and a desk and a small dresser were underneath. Now, I am a pretty big guy. I'm about 6'2" and two hundred and...well, let's just say I'm well over two-bills. Anyway, there was no way I was going to live an entire school year in a place where I have to climb up a ladder every time I want to get into bed. Not only is that a pain in the butt for me, but I don't think the ladder would be too happy about it either.
So, we went to work on taking apart the loft, so that the bed would be only a couple of feet off the ground. Once we got some tools, the job wasn't too difficult. And not only did I get my bed fixed the way I wanted it, I got the chance to see someone use a rubber mallet for the first time in my life. Trust me, it was a real thrill.
The ladder came hooked to the bed, but I had to unhook it and move it so I could pull the desk and dresser out. I unhooked the ladder and leaned it up against the other side of the bed. A few moments later, my mom found her way under the bed, in what she claims was a search for the phone jack. Anyway, she knocked right into the ladder, which then fell right into the newly painted white wall, knocking a pretty good sized chunk out in the process. My mom told me it wasn't her fault, because she "didn't know the ladder was there."
It was at this point that I asked her if I was on Candid Camera. I have to say that, between the pounding of a rubber mallet, me yelling at my parents and my mom continuously asking me "where do you want to put this," my neighbors must have gotten a pretty good show.
There was one interesting thing that my mom didn't have anything to do with. I have lived in a "regular" dorm room the last two years, first with 3 roommates and then by myself. This new room is more of an apartment/dorm combination. There is a little kitchen in each room and instead of having to share a bathroom with the entire floor, I share one with just one person. It is sort of like adjoining hotel rooms, with a bathroom in the middle. There is my single room, with a door connecting to the bathroom, which then connects to my neighbor's room in the same way.
I wasn't sure exactly how the whole bathroom sharing thing worked, but I figured it wouldn't be a big deal. So I get there and I start checking it out and I see that there is a lock on each side of both the doors. So, in theory, I could lock my neighbor out of my room and I could also lock him out of the bathroom while I was using it - and vice versa. I say "in theory" because that's not quite how it works.
Much to my amazement, the locks appear to be completely useless. They don't keep anyone out of the bathroom or out of my room. If I lock either, the door can be opened by simply turning the handle, at which point the lock clicks back into the "open" position. I found this to be extremely strange (and so did my dad), so I went to the front desk to ask. When I described the problem with my locks to the guy at the desk, he told me that it wasn't a problem, it was the way the locks "work." Basically, you can't actually lock someone out of your room or out of the bathroom, because, according to the guy at the desk, that would break some "fire code."
I took this information in for a moment and then asked, "So, you're saying the locks don't actually serve any purpose, they are just there to look at?" Without even considering the ridiculousness of that question, he told me that yes, they are useless, but that, and I quote, "They give a sort of warning that someone is in the bathroom." The warning that he is talking about is apparently the extra 2% of pressure you need to apply in order to get the door to open when it is "locked."
I did a few "test runs" on the locks and I honestly couldn't tell the difference to opening the door when it was locked and when it wasn't. So not only is there a very good chance of me walking in some guy in the bathroom and him walking in on me, there is absolutely nothing keeping the complete stranger living next to me from coming into my room at any time. Absolutely nothing, not a single thing. He just turns the nob and he's in. I have to say, this fact is absolutely mind-boggling to me.
I mean, it would be different if this were a roommate that had complete access to my room. But it's not, it is just some guy named "Matthew" who I have never met in my entire life and whom I only am aware of because we have been randomly assigned to the same bathroom. And don't get me wrong, it is exactly as strange for him too. I mean, I know I would never go into his room without being invited, but he certainly doesn't know that.
And aside from the possibility of someone coming into my room uninvited or while I am not there, there is also the fact that I could, at anytime, walk in on some guy while he's on the "throne." Let me assure you, that is not going to pleasant for anyone involved.
I know my mom and dad typically read this blog everyday, so I want to say thank you to both of them for what they did over the weekend. They not only helped me move into my dorm room, they did so while taking a verbal assault from me the entire time. I want to appologize for that, because there is no doubt that I was a jerk during almost the entire process and they certainly did not deserve that (I mean, aside from parking lots, U Cards and ladders).
I am not sure what it is, but I just can't help myself from turning into a real jerk during the moving process. I know beforehand that I am going to do so and I even warned both of them. Yet I can't stop myself. I think mainly it comes from me being a little sad and a lot stressed out, and I tend to lash out at the people around me when I feel that way. It's a horrible habit and even though I recognize that I do it, I don't have any way to control it.
But we got the job done. All my stuff is in my new room and I am ready to begin school tomorrow morning. The good news is that I don't have to go through this again for another 8 months or so. The bad news is that the guy living next to me has access to my room 24/7 and there's a good chance we are both going to see some things in the bathroom that we have absolutely no interest in seeing. I'll make sure to keep you updated on the bathroom situation, since I know you are all very interested.
Some of you may have noticed that I recently put a small link to "Paypal Donations" up on the upper left-hand corner of this page.I really hope this doesn't offend anyone (I tried to make it as small and unintrusive as possible), but I figured it wouldn't hurt to give some of you the option of sending a few bucks my way. I know some other blogs have similar setups and, believe it or not, I have actually gotten emails from several readers interested in sending me something because they enjoy this blog so much (trust me, it shocked the hell out of me too).
Anyway, I just wanted to bring the issue up, since it seems foolish to ignore something that I have added to the page and that you probably saw. If you like the blog and all the free articles I have written over the last 13 months, I would certainly be very greatful if you decided it was worth making a small donation. And if you don't feel that way, don't feel bad. I can't say that I would make a donation to someone like me if I had the money to do so, and I definitely do not want to make it seem like you are obligated to do so in any way whatsoever. That said, any donations will certainly be appreciated by me (and by the University of Minnesota too, no doubt).
I want to thank "Dave", who was the first person to make a donation, as well as "Steve" and "Craig" - who also sent a few bucks my way over the weekend. Thanks to you guys, buying my books yesterday afternoon wasn't such a horrible experience and, amazingly, the balance in my checkbook doesn't read "$0.00" yet.
Link of the Day:
Major League Baseball Graphs - One of the best sites on the web contains graphs tracking team performances throughout the season in a bunch of difference areas, and also has up-to-date 2003 Win Shares for all players. Flat out one of the best baseball resources available.
San Francisco (Ponson) +140 over Arizona (Schilling)
Total to date: + 2,700
W/L record: 221-219 (2-2 on Friday for +40)
*****Comments? Questions? Email me!*****