Friday, July 15, 2005
Link-O-RamaI was planning to devote today's entry to Bret Boone's debut with the Twins, which went about as poorly as possible without some sort of meteorite colliding with the Metrodome and the roof collapsing on everyone in attendance (0-for-4 with a strikeout, four runners left on base, two relatively playable balls not fielded, and a one-run loss). But then I realized that by the time my next entry shows up, Boone's debut will be old news and he will have played four games with the Twins.
No sense overreacting to and overanalyzing one measly game when you can dump some links instead and come back Monday with an entry about four games, right? Plus, that'll give us a little time to see if Boone, who was one of the worst everyday players in baseball during the first half and was let go by one of the worst teams in the league, is really going to hit third in Ron Gardenhire's brilliantly constructed lineup.
If Glenn Williams never sets foot in another batter's box for the rest of his life, he will finish with the highest batting average ever (.425) for any major-leaguer with at least 30 plate appearances.I'm not even sure how Williams would fit in the Twins' plans if he came back at this point. He'd be their seventh infielder.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Riffing (by John Brattain)
Today's Picks (75-63, +$1,170):
Boston (Wells) -150 over New York (Redding)
Thursday, July 14, 2005
Open Chat: Boone's DebutWith the entire baseball world (or at least the optimistic Twins fans I've talked to) eagerly awaiting the Minnesota debut of Bret Boone tonight, I figured now would be a good time to put my money where my mouth is and make an actual prediction for how he'll do in the second half.
I encourage all of you to do the same in the comments section today, and of course feel free to also chat about whatever else is on your mind (Boone, the All-Star game, the World Series of Poker, how much I suck ... you know, the usual stuff).
So here it is:
G AVG OBP SLG HR RBI RUNNot bad, but not great (most of the RBIs will come courtesy of batting in the middle of the order). And I also expect his defense to be surprisingly sub par. If you're wondering, Twins second basemen hit a combined .279/.339/.387 in the first half, which while a different shape than my prediction for Boone, is basically the same level of offense.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Ten Times We Changed the Way We Watch Baseball (by Dave Studeman)
- Baseballís Hegelian Dialectic (by Dan Fox)
Today's Picks (74-63, +$1,070):
Los Angeles (Washburn) -130 over Minnesota (Lohse)
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
Countdown to BooneI have never seen a group of fans so excited about the acquisition of a guy hitting .231. Mariners fans spent the entire first half complaining about Bret Boone and talking about how done he was, and with one trade now an entire group of fans thinks he just had a bad few months and is surely set for a big second half.
So while the baseball world breathlessly awaits the beginning of the Bret Boone Era in Minnesota (for the love of Cuthbert, people, don't get your hopes up!), here are some quick poker notes and a link to my article over at The Hardball Times (which, coincidentally enough, features the Twins' new second baseman) ...
I know far too much about this year's World Series of Poker Main Event already, and the tournament still has three days remaining. Here are the chip leaders heading into today's action:
1) Tim Phan: $3,244,000
2) Mike Matusow: $2,561,000
3) Farzad Bonyadi: $2,402,000
4) Steve Danaman: $2,143,000
5) Phil Ivey: $2,027,000
Those may seem like some huge numbers, and they are, but remember that the winner will eventually have to find a way to accumulate over $56 million in chips.
While he's about $1.2 million behind Phan in chips, I think Ivey has to be considered the favorite at this point. He has over two times the average stack and is perhaps the best poker player in the world. Plus, he is without question the coolest-looking player left in the tournament.
Last year's champ, Greg Raymer, was at the top of the leaderboard for most of the tournament, but lost several big pots last night to drop below par. He is still in 31st place with $766,000 in chips though, which is a pretty amazing accomplishment in itself considering the size of the field.
With 58 players remaining out of an original field of over 5,600, here's who I'd like to see win:
4) Tiffany Williamson
5) John Juanda
6) Yakov Hirsch
I'm rooting for Ivey and Juanda because they are two of the greatest tournament players around and I generally like to see the best man win. Raymer repeating as champion, while going through two fields that combined to have nearly 9,000 players, would be maybe the single most amazing feat in poker history. With Matusow, I just think it would be funny if the second-most despised player in all of poker (behind Phil Hellmuth) won the biggest tournament ever. Plus, I find him humorous at times.
Despite not knowing who she was until last week, I'm rooting for Williamson because a woman winning the Main Event would do all sorts of things for the world of poker, and a black woman winning the Main Event would be even better (plus, I like the idea of the WSOP champ being named Tiffany). And last but not least, Hirsch is one of the partners over at Rotoworld, so perhaps if he wins the $7.5 million first prize I'll be in line for a raise.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Bizarro World All-Stars: 2005 (by Aaron Gleeman)
- Business of Baseball Report (by Brian Borawski)
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
The Boone TradeThe Mariners designated 36-year-old second baseman Bret Boone for assignment earlier this month, meaning they had 10 days to trade or release him. Much like the Vikings on draft day, Seattle ran the clock down to the last moment yesterday afternoon, before finally trading Boone to the Twins for a Player To Be Named Later.
I wrote quite a bit about the possibility of acquiring Boone last week, so I won't rehash all the details. The short version is that Boone has declined significantly over the past two seasons, going from an excellent player both offensively and defensively to average, at best, in both areas. In particular, his batting average, power, and range defensively have all dropped off a cliff, which is of course why the Mariners were so willing to let him go.
In addition to that, the Twins have, for the first time in recent memory, a decent collection of second basemen. Unless you think Boone can find a time machine for the second half, Nick Punto, Luis Rodriguez, and Michael Cuddyer are each likely able to provide similar all-around value at second base, and arguments could certainly be made that one or more of them are better bets.
With all of that said, trading for Boone carries very little risk as long as the PTBNL is no one significant. If all the Twins are sending to Seattle is a live Single-A arm or perhaps a Triple-A spare part -- and I have enough faith in Terry Ryan to believe that's the case until proven otherwise -- this amounts to little more than claiming a player off waivers for the second half.
Or, as Ryan put it yesterday:
This is a high-reward, low-risk situation. I don't think there's any downside.I have no confidence in Boone being able to return to his level of play from 3-4 years ago, but it is certainly not out of the realm of possibility. If he can find the fountain of youth for even 70 games' worth of .260/.320/.440 hitting and avoid being completely overmatched by the Metrodome turf, he will represent an upgrade to the Twins roster at a very minimal cost.
Again, as Ryan put it:
I'm not saying that Bret Boone is going to be a savior, but he might be a guy that can help.And even if Boone is as done as his declining statistics all suggest -- and if so, things could get ugly in a hurry -- the Twins will only have risked about 300 plate appearances, a minor leaguer, and $150,000. There are better risks for a team to take, particularly considering the other options the Twins have at second base, but this is certainly a decent move.
If Boone can somehow find a way to provide average defense at second base and some power at the plate, he will allow the Twins to mix and match the aforementioned second-base options at third base, while adding another right-handed bat to the predominantly left-handed lineup. And if adding Boone means more playing time at shortstop for Punto, that's even better.
Which, interestingly enough, brings up an issue that I would guess will be addressed by Ryan within the next few days. At the moment, the Twins' 25-man roster contains middle infielders Boone, Punto, Rodriguez, Luis Rivas, and Juan Castro, and another infielder, Cuddyer, is on the disabled list. That is, at the very least, one infielder too many.
That means a) Cuddyer's stint on the DL will be much longer than expected, b) the Twins are willing to completely ignore the strength and versatility of their bench, or c) Ryan is working on another move. As I'm sure you can guess, if another move is coming I'm hoping it will involve Rivas, who in addition to having a horrible season (and a horrible career) is now completely superfluous on the roster.
Whatever happens, here's hoping we see plenty of this in the second half ...
UPDATE: Torii Hunter is clearly a big AaronGleeman.com fan:
Twins center fielder Torii Hunter was hooking up Internet service at his mother's home in Pine Bluff, Ark., on Monday when he clicked on a website and read the news.Hi Torii!
Today at The Hardball Times:
- Win Shares at the All-Star Break (by Dave Studeman)
- Sociology of the MLB Player: 1940 (by Steve Treder)
Monday, July 11, 2005
Breaking News: Twins trade for BooneI'll have a lot more on this tomorrow I'm sure, but for now this will have to do: According to the Seattle Times, the Twins have traded a Player To Be Named Later to the Mariners for Bret Boone. As of 2:45 p.m. I haven't seen this confirmed anywhere locally, but the Seattle Times story looks legit.
Here's hoping the PTBNL is no one of note and the Mariners are picking up the majority of Boone's salary. Assuming both of those things, it's not a horrible risk to take. I'll remain skeptical about Boone's potential impact though, because he looks done to me.
Reusse's ColumnI got a number of e-mails this weekend regarding Patrick Reusse's Sunday column in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. While a lot of you expressed emotions bordering on outrage, I have to say that I don't think it was a horrible column.
I agree with one of Reusse's main points, which is that he's sick of Ron Gardenhire's whole "we came to the ballpark and we battled our tails off" act. Plus, Reusse managed to get off a very nice shot at Luis Rivas, saying, "He should do that now-popular point-to-the-sky show of gratitude every morning that he wakes up and finds himself still in the big leagues."
With that said, there were certainly a few aspects of the column that I disagreed with. For instance, Reusse writes:
The outfield of Torii Hunter, Shannon Stewart and Jacque Jones -- the lineup's strength -- has been fully available.Then, a few paragraphs later, he writes:
Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer were going to be ready to produce in the middle of a contending team's order. They aren't.I just don't understand how Shannon Stewart and Jacque Jones can be considered part of "the lineup's strength" while Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Lew Ford are considered disappointments, weaknesses, and unproductive. Here are the five players in question, ranked by their OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage):
AVG OBP SLG OPSMauer leads both Jones and Stewart in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS. Mauer is also 22 years old, in his first full major-league season, and a catcher. Jones and Stewart are 30 and 31 years old, respectively, major-league veterans, and corner outfielders. The positional differences in particular should not be glossed over, as Mauer currently ranks as the second-best offensive catcher in baseball.
If you want to say that Mauer has not been productive enough to bat in the middle of the lineup, that's one thing (and more a criticism of the overall lineup than a rookie catcher). If you want to say that Mauer has been any less of an asset to the lineup than Jones and Stewart, that's just plain wrong. Mauer has been a better hitter than both Jones and Stewart according to just about any stat you want to look at, and he plays one of the most important defensive positions while they each play one of the least.
Similarly, both Morneau and Ford have offensive numbers that are very close to the numbers put up by Jones and Stewart. The case could easily be made that Morneau has been the best hitter among the four this year, and Ford has the best on-base percentage in the group. The fact is that no one on the team is having a great season at the plate, but that's no reason to praise two guys having mediocre years while criticizing other players with nearly identical numbers.
Wait, I know what you're saying ... Morneau has slumped horribly after getting off to a great start. But guess what? So has Jones.
AVG OBP SLG OPSYes, for all the talk about Morneau going in the talk about a great first month, Jones has actually been worse since the end of April.
And yes, Morneau and Mauer are each having a lot of trouble hitting lefties this year. But guess what? So are Jones, Stewart, and Ford.
AVG OBP SLG OPSAgain, if you're going to blame one, blame all. Don't pretend as if there's some big difference between the players that just isn't there.
To blame Mauer and Morneau for the Twins' perceived problems this year is beyond ridiculous. They are both in essentially their rookie seasons and both have numbers that make them one of the top three hitters on the team. If anything, I see the mediocre offensive numbers Jones and Stewart are putting up this season as far more disappointing than the numbers from Mauer and Morneau.
Oh, and the Twins' plan that "doesn't work" has them at 48-38 and leading the Wild Card by 1.5 games at the All-Star break. After 86 games last season, the Twins were 47-39. After 86 games in 2003, the Twins were 44-42. After 86 games in 2002, the Twins were 48-38. In other words, the plan is working the same as it has always worked.
Today at The Hardball Times:
- News, Notes and Quotes (July 11, 2005) (by Aaron Gleeman)