My first in-studio radio appearance must not have been a total disaster, because I'll be back on the KFAN airwaves tonight to talk Twins for an hour with Doogie Wolfson. I'm not sure if we'll be fielding phone calls--we planned to last time, but instead ended up just babbling for the entire time--but you can listen via radio or the station's website beginning at 9:00 p.m. Like last time, I'll also try to get some audio clips of the show to post here next week so that everyone can rip my appearance apart.
On its own, the movie was very good. It moved quickly, had an interesting plot, was visually appealing, and revolves around a strong performance from Will Smith. However, I left the theater feeling extremely disappointed because the movie strayed so far from the novel in several major ways and the end result was a significantly inferior version. They took an exceptional book that told a unique, detailed story and essentially turned it into something that resembled a fairly typical action movie.
I don't necessarily blame the movie-makers for straying from the novel, because there are several key aspects of the book that perhaps wouldn't have played well with the average movie-goer. With that said, it's an incredible shame that Richard Matheson's masterpiece became merely the launching point for something that ended up being only marginally recognizable. The movie was good, but it could have been something special if it had followed the book more closely. Grade: B-plus.
Britney Spears' 16-year-old sister getting knocked up made big headlines this week, but news that Jessica Alba is also pregnant hits this blog far harder. Alba is a former Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com who has long remained a candidate to reclaim the title, but can probably now be crossed off the list for good. It was a nice run and this is obviously a very sad day in OFGoAG.com history.
UPDATE: Over at her blog, Fischer provides plenty of reason to see the new movie that she co-stars in with John C. Reilly, Walk Hard:
I should warn you ... this movie is rated R and it is a hard R. It is very raunchy and sexy and the humor is hard core. ... I don't get naked in the film. I should probably say that. But I do showcase the ladies quite a bit. I had to be sewn into most of my costumes to make sure they were as tight as possible. My wardrobe assistant's main job was making sure my boobs didn't fall out. It was hilarious. I would see her across the room starring at my chest all day.
I Am Legend was a letdown compared to the novel and Walk Hard will probably be disappointing compared to that blog entry.
At this point it's widely assumed that the Twins' new center fielder will arrive via a Johan Santana trade, with Jacoby Ellsbury and Melky Cabreranamed most often in rumors. However, if Santana is retained or trading him doesn't bring back a center fielder, then Lofton remains a nice low-risk option. He's 41 years old, but batted .296/.367/.414 in 2007 and .308/.371/.412 over the past three years, would likely agree to a modest one-year deal, and could slide nicely into the vacant leadoff spot.
Erin Andrews of ESPN has seen her popularity rise to insane levels of late and was recently named America's Sexiest Sportscaster by Playboy, but I may have spotted a potential challenger to her throne while watching NFL games last weekend. Her name is Charissa Thompson, she seemed relatively competent while doing sideline reporting for FOX, and she looks like this. Andrews has always struck me as somewhat overrated, so I'm officially on the Thompson bandwagon. Feel free to join me.
One of my favorite journalism-school professors used to advise his class that we shouldn't get into the writing business for the money, because there isn't any. That's good advice and I remembered it often back in 2002 while pumping out content nearly every day for several years on this blog and other websites without making a dime. At no point was money a factor in any way, which is how I knew that writing was truly for me. On the other hand, there is some money in the writing business.
I'm 24 years old and haven't been a full-time writer for long, but my salary is more than I ever expected to make at any point in life. That's perhaps due more to low expectations than big money, so a better example is Rick Reilly. He who wrote the back-page column in Sports Illustrated for years, but recently left the magazine for what's reportedly a $17 million contract with ESPN. If everyone knew that you could make $17 million from writing, those journalism-school classes would have a lot fewer empty seats.
In an ESPN.com article about baseball's best and worst lineups, friend of AG.com Jerry Crasnick passed along this interesting Delmon Young stat:
Young has lot of potential, but he might want to take a pitch once in a while. According to Stats Inc., Young took 1,484 swings last year in Tampa Bay. The only player in the last 20 years who swung at more pitches was Alfonso Soriano, who took 1,519 hacks for the 2002 Yankees.
My lengthy day-after analysis of last month's six-player swap with the Rays questioned Young's horrible plate discipline and noted that "he's hacked at everything while showing only moderate power since advancing past Double-A in mid-2005." My focus was primarily on his lousy walk rates and sub par strikeout-to-walk ratios, but the fact that he literally hacked at a historic number of pitches as a rookie may illustrate the point even better.
At just 22 years old Young obviously still has plenty of time to develop some selectivity at the plate, but being rushed through the minors relatively quickly tends to hurt that aspect of a hitter's game and the Twins aren't exactly known for preaching plate discipline. For Young to become a great hitter he'll have to essentially double his walk rate at some point, along with also showing that his power potential has been undersold by the mediocre pop that he's displayed over the past two seasons.
After Carlos Silva made his final start for the Twins back in early October, Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribunesuggested that he could be in line for a three-year, $25 million contract as a free agent. Given the dearth of pitching talent available on the free-agent market this offseason those figures seemed low to me in terms of both years and money, so my prediction at the time was that "Silva's next contract is likely to be worth closer to $40 million than $20 million."
I've complained plenty about the way that Ron Gardenhire used Jason Tyner by ignoring his awful numbers against southpaws to frequently start him against left-handed pitching and misguidedly deploying one of the least-powerful hitters of all time as a corner outfielder and designated hitter. With that said, it was surprising to see the Twins cut Tyner loose last week rather than pay what figured to be around $1 million via arbitration, if only because of the current hole in center field.
As a corner outfielder or designated hitter Tyner's decent defensive ability is wasted and his weak bat is a liability. However, with no clear replacement for Torii Hunter emerging yet Tyner could have been teamed with a right-handed hitter to form a cheap, mildly productive platoon in center field given his .311/.347/.377 line against right-handers during three seasons in Minnesota. Perhaps Bill Smith simply realized that Gardenhire was unlikely to actually platoon Tyner and decided not to chance it.
Tyner was let go, but the Twins tendered a contract to Juan Rincon for 2008, meaning that they'll either take him to arbitration or agree to a pre-arbitration deal. Actually, a third option is trading Rincon, which is hopefully the Twins' plan given that he was originally included in the six-player trade with Tampa Bay before the Rays became concerned about the state of his elbow. As discussed in this space previously, Rincon's performance has steadily declined since his breakout 2004 season:
Rincon has seen his strikeout rate (SO%), strikeout-to-walk ratio (K/BB), opponent's batting average (OAVG), and Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) each decline in three straight seasons. It's possible that his elbow problems may be smoothed out and he's not yet 29 years old, so he's not a completely lost cause. Still, the patterns aren't encouraging and Rincon figures to make at least $3 million via arbitration, so the Twins would be best off cashing him in for some value while they still can.
While Rondell White was hitting .229/.266/.354 during two seasons in Minnesota the local media constantly told Twins fans that he was a wonderful person and a clubhouse favorite. That may still be true, but now we also know that White spent thousands of dollars on steroids, including one purchase that took place shortly before signing with the Twins. In fact, copies of seven checks that White wrote to steroid supplier Kirk Radomski were included in last week's Mitchell Report.
According to the report: "Radomski recalled teaching White a lot about steroids ... walking him through HGH injections for two hours on the phone one night." Also of note is that rather than breaking his cover by putting "steroids" in the memo portion of one $2,400 check to Radomski from December of 2005, White instead stealthily wrote "bought something." Seriously. My interest in the whole steroids situation is minimal, but details like that made it worth slogging through the entire 409-page report.
Sidney Ponson had a 6.93 ERA in seven starts with the Twins before they cut him loose in mid-May, failed to latch on with another team to finish the season, hasn't posted an ERA below 5.00 since 2003, and has a career ERA of 4.94 in 1,566 big-league innings. On the other hand, he's over 30 years old and was briefly a good pitcher, so naturally the Philadelphia Inquirerreports that the Phillies are considering signing him to a minor-league contract as they "continue to search for pitching."
Giants outfielders Dave Roberts, Rajai Davis, and Fred Lewis were among 25 options included in last month's examination of potential replacements for Hunter. The availability of all three players has seemingly increased now that the Giants signed center fielder Aaron Rowand to a five-year, $60 million contract. The San Francisco Chroniclenotes that Davis and Lewis are "destined for backup roles if they aren't traded" and suggests that "the Giants also could seek a taker for Roberts."
As they've done several times in the past, Seth Stohsrecently interviewedPat Neshek, who once again proved to be an interesting subject. Neshek also recently sent Will Youngseveral wedding gifts, including a hand-written note saying that he likes to check out Will's blog to see how he does in terms of Win Probability Added after each game. Being a native Minnesotan with a wacky delivery and a 2.68 career ERA is more enough to make him a fan favorite, but Neshek is also a pretty special person.
Apparently my first in-studio radio appearance must not have been a total disaster, because I'll be back on the KFAN airwaves Friday night to talk Twins for an hour or so with Doogie Wolfson. I'm not sure if we'll be fielding phone calls--we planned to last time, but instead ended up just babbling for the entire time--but you can listen to the show (via radio or the station's website) beginning at 9:00 p.m.
For years the Twins got very good production at third base both offensively and defensively from Corey Koskie, but in the three seasons since Koskie left for Toronto as a free agent the position has been a major weakness. A total of 10 players have started for the Twins at third base since Koskie's departure and nearly all of them struggled offensively, defensively, or both. Here's a list of the motley crew that has replaced Koskie, along with how many starts each player made at third base from 2005-2007:
GS Nick Punto 189 Michael Cuddyer 92 Luis Rodriguez 64 Tony Batista 50 Terry Tiffee 26 Brian Buscher 24 Juan Castro 13 Jeff Cirillo 12 Glenn Williams 9 Tommy Watkins 8
That ugly list of glorified utility men (Nick Punto, Juan Castro, Luis Rodriguez), washed-up veterans (Tony Batista, Jeff Cirillo), career-long minor leaguers (Tommy Watkins, Glenn Williams, Terry Tiffee), and guys who're now manning less-demanding positions (Michael Cuddyer) is a very long fall from Koskie providing outstanding defense while hitting .280/.373/.463. Here's a look at the pathetic year-to-year production that the Twins have gotten from third base post-Koskie:
Over the past three years Twins third basemen have combined to hit .253/.318/.364 while the average MLB third baseman batted .275/.345/.445, putting them 13 percent below par. During that three-year span Twins third basemen totaled 27 homers and 165 RBIs while the other 29 teams averaged 64 homers and 265 RBIs from the position. While other teams were getting an .800 OPS, 20 homers, and 90 RBIs from third base each year, the Twins got a .680 OPS, nine homers, and 55 RBIs.
Tired of getting little production from a strong offensive position, the Twins signed Mike Lamb away from the Astros for two years and $6.6 million, with a team option for 2010. A part-time player for most of his career, the 32-year-old Lamb was no doubt drawn to the Twins because he'll almost surely enter the season as the team's starting third baseman. "The reality is I've been a bench player for five or six years now," Lamb said. "I realize the Twins are taking a chance on me and I definitely appreciate it."
The Twins clearly targeted Lamb because of his bat. He's hit .281/.339/.427 in 2,676 career trips to the plate, including a .281/.342/.464 hitting line during four seasons in Houston that looks nearly identical to the aforementioned MLB average at third base (.275/.345/.445) over the past three seasons. Lamb's numbers away from Houston's hitter-friendly home ballpark have been somewhat underwhelming, but he's capable of being an average offensive third baseman. That's the good news.
The bad news is that Lamb's defense is another story. While the Twins are looking at Lamb as their everyday third baseman, several other teams were reportedly interested in signing him as either a first baseman or designated hitter. And with good reason, because Lamb's numbers at third base have been nearly as ugly as Adam Everett's numbers at shortstop are impressive. While Everett is among the MLB leaders in Zone Rating and Revised Zone Rating every year, the opposite is true for Lamb.
Lamb's .693 Zone Rating ranked worse than every regular third baseman in baseball this season and his .730 career mark would have ranked better than only Ryan Braun (.697), Miguel Cabrera (.714), and Garrett Atkins (.722). Revised Zone Rating tells a similar story, with Lamb's .619 mark this year ranking ahead of only Braun (.564), Edwin Encarnacion (.600), Jose Bautista (.612), and Atkins (.613) among regular third basemen. He's simply not a good defender at the hot corner.
In Everett the Twins got a replacement-level offensive player whose phenomenal defense makes him a slightly above average all-around shortstop. In Lamb the Twins get an above average offensive player whose horrible defense makes him a slightly below average all-around third baseman. That may not sound especially impressive, but "slightly below average all-around third baseman" represents a big improvement over what the Twins have gotten from the position post-Koskie.
Prorating their combined numbers from the past four years to 600 plate appearances (about one full season's worth), Punto has created about 55 runs and Lamb has created about 85 runs. In other words, if they each perform like they did from 2004-2007 then Lamb figures to be worth 30 runs more than Punto offensively over the course of a full season. If instead they each perform like they did in 2007 alone, then the gap is more like 45 runs in Lamb's favor.
There's no doubt that Punto is a superior defender at third base, but his sterling defensive reputation doesn't even come close to matching his actual numbers, which are merely decent. However, even if Lamb is 10 runs below average defensively (which would be a lot) and Punto is 10 runs above average defensively (which would also be a lot), that still leaves a gap of between 10-25 runs in Lamb's favor. And that's probably a stretch. My guess is that Lamb's true all-around edge is about 20-25 runs.
Terry Ryan was good at acquiring talent and providing the Twins with star-caliber players, but often struggled to build a strong roster around those stars when the organization's homegrown talent wasn't ready to fill holes. As Ryan's replacement Bill Smith is faced with the task of improving a sub par lineup without the benefit of many MLB-ready hitting prospects, but he's smartly chosen to go after mid-level free agents rather than follow in Ryan's footsteps with washed-up veterans off the scrap heap.
The Twins will never be big players in free agency and overpaid for a mediocre hitter in Craig Monroe, but it's nice to see the team identify and pursue affordable players who actually have a chance to contribute positively. By signing guys like Monroe, Everett, and Lamb the Twins are shopping on a budget, but that still beats venturing into the clearance section to find the latest broken-down versions of Castro, Batista, Sidney Ponson, Ramon Ortiz, and Ruben Sierra.
Guys like Everett and Lamb push a team forward rather than hold a team back and during his final few seasons at the helm Ryan didn't fill the Twins' roster with nearly enough forward-pushing players while consistently dragging them down with dead weight. Smith is giving Ron Gardenhire capable options to build his lineup with, although it obviously remains to be seen if Gardenhire makes good use of the tools that he's given.
The infield now appears to be set, with Justin Morneau at first base, Brendan Harris at second base, Everett at shortstop, and Lamb at third base. That would seemingly keep Punto on the bench where he belongs, but platooning Lamb and Harris at third base or simply benching Lamb or Harris altogether can't be ruled out when it comes to ways for Gardenhire to get Punto playing time. Of course, that's an entirely different issue. For now, Smith has given Gardenhire some quality pieces to work with.