Friday, June 24, 2005
Link-O-RamaIt's been a while since I dumped some links on you, so let's go ...
Do you think Sam Cassell has Internet access, or did he cancel his AOL account after coming across the 500th website that cited him as the ugliest player in sports?I can't even begin to tell you how many Sam Cassell-related jokes I've made since he joined the Timberwolves. And that's coming from a guy who looks like this.
I decided to give it a few weeks before judging the show, but each episode is like a long, drawn-out setup for a big joke with absolutely no payoff. It's a shame too, because the show's plot has a lot of potential if it weren't being done so horribly on every level.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- National League Cy Young Candidates (by John Brattain)
Today's Picks (62-54, +$715):
Detroit (Maroth) -100 over Arizona (Estes)
Boston (Wells) -105 over Philadelphia (Myers)
Minnesota (Lohse) +120 over Milwaukee (Santos)
Atlanta (Smoltz) -130 over Baltimore (Lopez)
Detroit (Bonderman) -140 over Arizona (Vargas)
Thursday, June 23, 2005
Chasing the DreamIf you're going to be bad, be historically bad. That's what I always say. After going 2-for-4 with two infield singles last night (and having a couple close calls with me in attendance Tuesday night), Luis Rivas has now gone 91 plate appearances this season without a single extra-base hit.
Now, 91 plate appearances is not a huge sample and Rivas has certainly never been considered a power hitter. However, his complete lack of power this year is rather amazing. Consider that Rivas had averaged one extra-base hit for every 13.9 plate appearances coming into this season, a rate that would give him 6-7 extra-base hits this year. Instead, he has none.
The only other hitters still stuck on zero extra-base hits while getting even 50 plate appearances this season are Willie Harris, who is a utility man for the White Sox, and Charles Thomas, who was so bad as an outfielder for the A's that they sent him down to Triple-A earlier this month. Harris has gone 74 plate appearances without an extra-base hit, while Thomas has gone 55.
The real question is whether or not Rivas' complete inability to hit a ball into the gap this season is unique, not just in the context of this season, but throughout baseball history. Believe it or not, it is. Here is a list of the hitters with the most plate appearances in a season without any extra-base hits in the history of the sport:
YEAR PAThe first thing you'll notice about the above list is that all the seasons are from before 1920, and nearly all of them are from before 1900. Comparing Rivas' 2005 season with, for instance, how many plate appearances some guy named Herman Pitz had without an extra-base hit in 1890 doesn't interest me very much, so let's adjust the parameters a little.
Here's a slightly revised list, this one showing the hitters with the most plate appearances in a season without any extra-base hits during the last 80 years (which coincides nicely with the end of the Deadball Era):
YEAR PAAh, much better. That list shows the top 10, but in all a total of 18 non-pitchers have finished a season with zero extra-base hits and more than 91 plate appearances since 1925. Dwain Anderson holds the modern record at 144 plate appearances in a 1973 season that saw him hit .121/.232/.121 in 71 games between the Padres and Cardinals. With 91 plate appearances already under his belt, Rivas is nearly two-thirds of the way to Johnson's pathetic mark.
The Twins' team record belongs to Dean Chance, who went 108 plate appearances without an extra-base hit in 1967 and then followed it up with 106 plate appearances and zero extra-base hits in 1968. Of course, Chance was a pitcher and won 36 games during those two seasons, so the fact that he didn't have any power was fairly irrelevant.
The Twins' team record for non-pitchers belongs to Luis Gomez, who went 81 plate appearances without an extra-base hit in 1975. Gomez was a utility infielder who played eight seasons in the majors, the first four with the Twins, and finished his career with zero home runs in 1,391 plate appearances. In 1975, he hit .139/.182/.139 and got just 81 plate appearances in 89 games. In other words, he was being counted on to hit about as much as Chance was.
Unfortunately, we can't do an "Extra-Base Hit Watch" for Rivas. Well, we could do it, but it wouldn't make much sense beyond providing a daily opportunity to mock him (as if I needed that). This is the sort of record that Rivas could "break" in July and then ruin with a bloop double down the right-field line in August. Because until the final day of the season, the streak will always be in jeopardy. Hopefully it won't take that long.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Ten Things I Didn't Know Last Week (by Dave Studeman)
Today's Picks (61-54, +$615):
Florida (Willis) -140 over Atlanta (Sosa)
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Twins Blogger Night: ReportWell, we sure picked a crappy game to get together for. Despite the Twins' listless performance against Jeremy Bonderman and the Tigers last night, "Twins Blogger Night" at the Metrodome was a lot of fun. I always enjoy hanging out with the Stick and Ball Guy and his buddy Moss, and I got to meet the baby of the Twins blogging community, the Twins Junkie.
Twins Junkie (I'm not sure if he wants people using his real name, so I won't) told me he is going into the 11th grade, which made me feel old for the first time at one of these get-togethers. I mean, it wasn't that long ago that people would make comments about how young I was, yet there I was chatting with a kid who probably just got his driver's license. Twins Junkie also had a buddy with him who was wearing a name tag that read: "Not Aaron Gleeman." (I never did catch his real name.)
At one point I was sitting at a table outside the Metrodome, chomping on a hot dog and talking to Stick and Ball Guy, Moss, Twins Junkie, Not Aaron Gleeman, Twins Geek, and Frightwig. All great guys, all a lot of fun to hang out with, and all apparently prefer to go by a "stage name." It was almost enough to convince me to solicit nickname suggestions here, but I'm pretty sure that would just be asking for trouble.
Tony Oliva never did show up, which was disappointing. Instead, Twins owner Carl Pohlad made an appearance. Now, some people might want to meet Pohlad (who Moss referred to as "Montgomery Burns" last night), but for me it was like the Twins announcing minutes before the start of a game that Johan Santana was sick and would be replaced on the mound by some rich old guy in a wheelchair who doesn't spend enough money on the team.
Several readers of this blog introduced themselves to me, both outside at the picnic and inside at the game. I'm sure that will never stop giving me a little thrill. One of them (Matt, I think, although I'm horrible with names) even asked me how my poker playing was going, for which he got a response that was far longer and more detailed than he intended.
When I sat down in my seat along the third-base line I didn't recognize anyone around me. But I ended up sitting next to a couple of readers who were great guys. The funny thing is that neither of them really announced that they read the blog, but rather just sort of started talking to me about Luis Rivas or Defensive Efficiency Ratios, and quoting stuff I had written in the past. It almost made me feel like a mini-celebrity, if not for the part about sitting in the upperdeck.
David Wintheiser sat behind me and introduced himself after about three innings by saying, "You aren't Aaron Gleeman, are you?" For those of you who don't recognize that name, David is a frequent poster over at Twins Territory, and as far as I can tell writes something negative about me in about 98% of his posts.
Despite the event being hyped as "hot dogs, Twins talk and busting on Aaron Gleeman," David was far more agreeable in person, as you might expect. I'm sure I'd behave myself in the presence of John Kruk, too. He was also far less pro-Rivas in person, which I can only assume had something to do with the beer at the Dome being so watered down.
Rather than negotiate my way downtown through rush-hour traffic and pay a ridiculous price to park, I took the light rail to the game, which was a first for me. It was not a great experience. It all started well, as I parked at the Mall of America and caught the light rail there for what was supposed to be an easy 30-minute trip to the Dome.
About 10 minutes into it, the train suddenly stopped. After a few minutes, the conductor made an announcement that was more or less: "We have some sort of delay and I'll let you know if I hear anything else." Another 10 minutes or so passed, at which point we were told that the delay would be another "six or eight minutes." When eventually started moving again, but then stopped after just a few moments.
To turn what is already far too long a story into something you might be able to get through without falling asleep, I ended up arriving at the Metrodome about an hour and 10 minutes after I boarded the light rail. So despite leaving the house at around four in the afternoon and boarding the light rail at around 4:40, I missed a little more than the first hour of the event.
The problem with selling a product or service is that you never know when a potential customer will be judging it for the very first time. In other words, everyone had been saying wonderful things about the light rail, but the very first time I decided to try it I ended up stuck on a motionless train for half an hour while the guy sitting next to me yelled into his cellphone.
It's like someone going to a restaurant they've heard such great things about and then discovering a band aid in their soup. Whether or not the restaurant is good is secondary to the fact that it sucked that night, and whether or not that sort of thing happens often seems fairly irrelevant. Of course, later I found out the reason for the long delay:
Light-rail service was stopped for about 30 minutes Tuesday evening after a woman walked into a slow-moving train near the 46th Street station in Minneapolis.I'm really not sure if this makes me more or less likely to use the light rail again. On one hand, it's not like the system just shut down for no good reason. On the other hand, if all it takes is one woman being completely oblivious to her surroundings to keep hundreds of people from getting to where they want to go, it's not exactly a guaranteed smooth ride.
The ride home was perfectly fine, just as I'm sure the replacement soup you'd get after sending the first one back would be absolutely wonderful.
UPDATE: Sadly, I didn't bring my digital camera after frantically searching in vain for the battery charger right before I left for the game. However, Twins Junkie did use his cell phone to take a horrible picture of Yours Truly and Stick and Ball Guy at the picnic. And by "horrible" I mean the quality of the picture, not how I look. I more or less look like that all the time, unfortunately.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Those Who Can't Do, Teach (Part 1: Managers) (by Aaron Gleeman)
- Business of Baseball Report (by Brian Borawski)
Today's Picks (61-53, +$715):
Oakland (Zito) +110 over Seattle (Moyer)
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Twins Blogger Night: Last CallTonight is the big "Twins Blogger Night" at the Metrodome. It's too late to sign up for the actual event (which is basically just a picnic and a chance to meet Tony Oliva), but if you're heading to the Twins-Tigers game anyway, stop by the "large white tent at the southeast corner of the Metrodome outside Gate D."
I'll be heading to the game nice and early via light rail (a new experience for me), so I should be there around five or so. The picnic for everyone who signed up is supposed to go from five to seven, with the game starting at 7:10. So come by and say hello. I would tell you to look for the big guy wearing a blue Twins hat, but I'm guessing there will be a few people who fit that description.
I'll be back tomorrow with what I'm sure will be a full report.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Game in Review: Indians vs. Diamondbacks (by Dave Studeman)
- Casey at the Oaks (by Steve Treder)
Today's Picks (60-53, +$610):
Detroit (Bonderman) +105 over Minnesota (Lohse)
Monday, June 20, 2005
Context and ExpectationsThe mood among Twins fans seems pretty down right now. In addition to the usual complaints that surface throughout a baseball season (the bullpen, the manager, plate discipline, etc.), I have been hearing a surprising amount of negative talk about Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, as well as an overall frustration with the team's play.
Any complaints about Mauer or Morneau right now are due entirely to ridiculously high expectations, because while they have both struggled at times this season, the fact is that they are each having very good years. In fact, if you take into account that they are in their first full seasons in the big leagues and are 22 years old and 24 years old, respectively, their seasons might even be considered excellent.
Remember back in February, when I did position-by-position "State of the Twins" entries that included three statistical projections for each player? The interesting thing about how Mauer and Morneau have played so far this season is that their offensive numbers are almost identical to their "average" projections.
JOE MAUER AVG OBP SLGIn short, Mauer and Morneau have played almost exactly how they should have been expected to play. Mauer is hitting for a good batting average and controlling the strike zone, but showing mediocre power. Morneau is flashing big-time power and hitting for a solid batting average, but has been extremely inconsistent.
No one has higher expectations for Mauer and Morneau than I do. I have long said that Morneau has the potential to be one of the elite power hitters in all of baseball, and I have also said that Mauer has a chance to be one of the greatest catchers in baseball history. But if you were expecting either of those things this season, that goes far beyond high expectations.
Mauer is having one of the best offensive seasons ever for a 22-year-old catcher and has thrown out 42% of attempted basestealers. Morneau is on pace for 25 homers and 95 RBIs despite missing two weeks in April after being beaned in the head, and he's hitting .297/.369/.604 against right-handed pitching. If anything, what they've done so far this season has made me more confident than ever about their long-term greatness.
Similarly, the Twins are getting dangerously close to having a lot of people view their first half as a disappointment. The reality is that they have played very well this season, but their good play has been masked by the fact that the White Sox have won 68% of their games. Take a look at how the Twins' current record compares to their record at this point in past seasons:
YEAR W L WIN%In other words, the Twins are right where they've been after 67 games during the past three seasons. The Twins have the fourth-best record in the league and are on pace for 92 wins. They won 94, 90, and 92 games while winning three straight American League Central titles. The difference this time around is that the rest of the division isn't rolling over for them, and 92 wins might not be enough to take home the title. They are finally learning what it's like to be a good team in a good division.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- News, Notes and Quotes (June 20, 2005) (by Aaron Gleeman)
Today's Picks (59-53, +$490):
Oakland (Haren) +120 over Seattle (Sele)