If you don't have HBO and haven't seen the video online yet, do yourself a big favor and watch Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and Friday Night Lights author Buzz Bissinger make an absolute fool of himself by verbally attacking Deadspin editor Will Leitch during a roundtable "discussion" about blogging on Costas Now. The full-length version of the 20-minute train wreck is definitely worth watching, but here's perhaps the most relevant clip:
My thoughts on the subject could redefine Gleeman-length, but the video pretty much speaks for itself and some of my favorite writers have already weighed in on the topic, so check out Bissinger-related takes from Alan Sepinwall of the Newark Star Ledger, Michael David Smith of AOL Fanhouse, Joe Posnanski of the Kansas City Star, Jason McIntyre of The Big Lead, King Kaufman of Salon, and Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts.
Leitch recovered from the experience to pen a well-done postmortem piece hours after the taping, and Jason Whitlock of FOXSports.com and Ken Tremendous of Fire Joe Morgan also wrote interesting takes after being involved in the show. Bissinger surely got high fives backstage and congratulatory phone calls from fellow old-school media types, but to me he just looked like an angry, bitter, out of touch man who unknowingly made a great case for why blogs are thriving and newspapers aren't.
On a related note, my MinnPost colleague David Brauerreports that the Minneapolis Star Tribune's circulation declined seven percent over the past year and has dipped a total of 10 percent over the past 18 months. Given the overall state of the newspaper industry that's certainly not shocking, although the Star Tribune's decline is the sixth-largest in the country among major newspapers. Meanwhile, the St. Paul Pioneer Press essentially holding steady during that same stretch is definitely surprising.
I haven't read either newspaper's print edition regularly in years, but frequent the Star Tribune's website daily. Doing the same with the Pioneer Press' website is tough, because the layout is awful and most articles vanish within days, making linking to content nearly impossible. For a newspaper to make life difficult on people who'd like to read and link to stories online is inexplicable at this stage of the game, and I'd be curious to see a comparison of online readership in addition to print circulation.
Based on personal experience, my guess is the Star Tribune dominates online even more than in print (where Brauer notes they still hold a 2-to-1 edge). Phil Miller is a nice, smart guy who does a good job as Twins beat writer in St. Paul, but LaVelle E. Neal III and Joe Christensen will continue to dominate the links here until the Pioneer Press' website ceases being a mess. Also of note (to me at least) is that Rotoworld's daily readership is now within 10 percent of the Pioneer Press' print circulation.
As someone who spent several hundred summer afternoons mimicking entire lineups while playing home run derby growing up, this guy's eclectic mix of batting-stance impressions and attention to detail were very impressive and oddly fascinating:
My favorite was Willie McGee.
It was a good week for Keeley Hazell's longstandingandincreasinglyconvincing Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com campaign, although as usual anyone at work may want to think twice about clicking those links. She even put out a music video that's pretty damn good if you watch it with the sound muted.
If you missed it earlier this week, check out my in-studio appearance on FOX's "Sports on Demand" show with Jim Rich and Seth Kaplan. And if for some insane reason you're hungry for more of me on video, check out my picks for April fantasy awards on NBCSports.com's "Fantasy Fix" show with Tiffany Simons and Gregg Rosenthal.
I've intentionally avoided any hint of politics here over the years, but it's probably worth making an exception when the Dilated Peoples provide the soundtrack to Barack Obamabasketball highlights:
His court vision and passing are actually pretty impressive. Seriously.
As a rare straight, male John Mayer fan whose blog traffic has benefited greatly over the years from Jennifer Aniston, they have my blessing.
Can you imagine living in a world where Avery Johnsonloses his job after going 194-70 (.735) and Mike D'Antonipossibly moves on after going 267-172 (.608), all while Randy Wittmankeeps his gig after going 96-192 (.333)?
One of my rules is that whenever the original Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com poses with a current OFGoAG.com candidate, it gets a link.
The following "Point of View: Guy Stuck in Class" video is sadly a fairly accurate representation of my illustrious college career:
Four years of that definitely prepared me for a life of blogging.
Rotoworld rookie Drew Silva is showing an awful lot of range with his new blog, One Droo Hill. A look at the front page reveals entries about Peyton Manning, Kim Kardashian, and Kosuke Fukudome, plus Silva live blogging an episode of The Hills.
I'll walk 60 miles over the course of three days with other people in an effort to raise awareness and to find a cure for breast cancer. I've created a mini-program named "Walks for a Walker" to raise money for the walk. In this program, people are donating a certain amount of money for each Twins walk from the beginning of the season until August 1 (since the walk is in September).
So far the people are donating anywhere from 25 cents per walk to $1 per walk. I'm making this pretty painless for the people who want to donate in that I'm sending out monthly e-mails to each person who decides to be part of this program, letting them know how much they owe. Each donor has the option of donating money per month, at any point they want, or at the end of the "program."
For more information, please check out her blog, where you can pledge a donation and then have even more reason to hope that Carlos Gomez can learn some semblance of the strike zone.
Carlos Gomez went 3-for-4 in yesterday's win over the White Sox, making him 7-for-15 with a homer, a double, and two steals since a one-game benching last week. He's already bunted for a hit eight times this year, which accounts for nearly one-third of his total hits and puts him on pace for 50. During Tuesday's broadcast Dick Bremer and Ron Coomer brushed aside a question about Gomez topping the all-time record for bunt hits in a season, which they said was 42 from Brett Butler in 1992.
Given their reaction to the topic my guess is they simply saw the huge total from Butler and assumed Gomez wasn't close to being on that sort of bunt-hitting pace. In reality, he's actually on track to top Butler's mark. According to Baseball Prospectus, since 1959 only Butler, Willy Taveras (38 in 2007), Kenny Lofton (31 in 1992), and Alex Sanchez (31 in 2003) have bunted for more than 30 hits in a year, so Gomez has a chance to make some history even if his pace slows considerably.
Twins fans might be surprised by Rod Carew's absence from the bunt-hitting leaders, but Baseball Prospectus' historical data shows that he never bunted for more than 30 hits in a season. However, despite Carew never producing a historic number of bunt hits in a single year, his 190 career bunt hits ranked fourth among all players from 1959-2007 and Dan Fox of Baseball Prospectus--who has since joined the Pirates' front office--awarded him the crown of "Best Bunter of the Past 40 Years."
Fox showed that among players who attempted to bunt for a hit at least 100 times from 1959-2007, Carew was the only one to be successful more than two-thirds of the time. Carew's success rate? An astounding 80 percent. To put that in some context, Butler, Lofton, and Otis Nixon were the only three players to have more bunt hits than Carew from 1959-2007 and their success rates were 51, 59, and 46 percent, respectively. So far, Gomez has successfully bunted for a hit on 53 percent of his attempts.
Francisco Liriano made his first post-demotion start yesterday afternoon at Triple-A and struggled, allowing four runs without getting out of the fifth inning. Liriano was chased from the game with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth frame, but reliever Ricky Barrett kept his final line from being even uglier by wriggling out of the jam without any further damage. Liriano needed 94 pitches to record 13 outs and just 54 percent of his offerings went for strikes.
He walked five and allowed five hits, including a homer to Jeff Bailey, a 29-year-old veteran of 4,000 plate appearances in the minors who has appeared in three career MLB games. Liriano has made a total of 11 post-surgery starts if you include spring training along with his time in the minors and majors, posting a 7.03 ERA, 36-to-32 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and 1.94 WHIP in 40 innings. If you ignore his spring starts, he has a 9.00 ERA, 21-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and 2.25 WHIP in 24 innings.
Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote an article earlier this week focusing on what should be incredibly obvious by now, which is that on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and runs scored are a whole lot more important to an offense than batting average. Of course, that point is far from obvious for most fans and far too many media members (including just about everyone covering the Twins on television or radio) equate batting average to offense on the team level.
To show the difference between team batting average and team offense, Christensen noted that the White Sox came into this week's series against the Twins leading the league in runs per game despite ranking dead last in batting average. He could have just as easily and perhaps even more convincingly used the Twins as the example, because they've shown for years that "batting average" and "offense" are often very different things.
From the time they re-emerged as a competitive team in 2001 through last season, the Twins ranked among the AL's top five in batting average five times in seven years. During that same span, they never ranked among the AL's top five in scoring and were in the bottom half of the league all but one year. On average from 2001-2007, the Twins ranked sixth in batting average and 11th in scoring, including a 2006 season that saw them lead the league in batting average while ranking just eighth in runs.
None of that is a coincidence, because few organizations place more emphasis on batting average while focusing less on power and plate discipline. All of which is why the Twins haven't finished with a higher ranking in runs scored than batting average since way back in 1987. For 20 years the team has been better at hitting for average than actually scoring runs--and often significantly better--yet no one in the organization seems to view that as a problem.
Two decades passed in between the Twins producing a 30-homer hitter and the David Ortizsaga provided a glimpse into why that was the case, as the team tried to take a young hitter with tremendous power potential and essentially mold him into just another slap hitter. Back in 2004, when Ortiz was putting together the second of what is now five straight (and counting) 30-homer, 100-RBI seasons for the Red Sox, he said the following about his time in Minnesota:
When I first came to Minnesota, that's when I was told, "Stay inside the ball, hit the ball the other way." I always was a power hitter in the minor leagues. Everything changed when I went to Minnesota. I would take a hard swing and my first manager would be in the dugout, saying, "Hey, HEY, what are you doing?"
Beyond the apparent lack of interest in encouraging slugging and inability to develop power hitters, the organization also repeatedly makes it clear that they care little about plate discipline, acquiring players who struggle to control the strike zone and seemingly refusing to coach them differently. When told last week that Delmon Young had chased more pitches out of the strike zone this season than any other hitter in baseball, Ron Gardenhiresaid:
I watched Torii Hunter for like 10 years. You think Torii hasn't swung? You know what? There's nothing wrong with swinging. That's why they give you a bat. This kid's 22 years old. He's got everything ahead of him. So let it fly. Learn as you go. He'll learn the strike zone.
To start telling a guy to just "take, take, take," sometimes that's just not human nature. You don't get to the big leagues, and you don't become a big league player, by "take, take, take" and get walks.
Some people are paid to drive in runs. You think David Ortiz goes up there to walk? He's paid to drive in runs. He walks because we walk him. On purpose. And that's what's going to happen to Delmon as he goes along, too. Right now, they know he's going to chase a little bit, but that's OK. I'll take my chances with him letting it fly.
Gardenhire acting like he knows what makes Ortiz a great hitter while dismissing his outstanding plate discipline is amusing given what Ortiz has repeatedly said about the Twins stifling his development. Torii Hunter is a fantastic all-around player and succeeds offensively despite lacking plate discipline, but possessing that ability is fairly unique and pointing to him as the model for Young hardly inspires confidence given Hunter's lowly .325 career on-base percentage and unspectacular .795 OPS.
Beyond that, why are the only choices to "go up there looking to walk" or "swing at everything"? What happened to being disciplined, showing patience, working the count in your favor, and putting together a good at-bat? How many seasons in a row does the Twins' offense need to rank in the bottom half of the league while everyone in charge downplays the importance of plate discipline before people do the math? And why do they love pitchers who avoid issuing walks, but not hitters who coax them?
The Twins have failed to draw an above-average number of walks every year since 1988. On average during the 20 seasons since then they've ranked 10th in walks, never placing higher than seventh. So far this season they rank dead last in walks and on-base percentage, plus second-to-last in homers and runs. Oh, and as usual they also rank fifth in batting average, for all the good that does them. As for Young, he's "let it fly" to the tune of .265/.306/.314 this year and .290/.317/.407 for his career
The names and faces change plenty on both sides, but beating the White Sox never gets old. After sweeping this week's two-game series, the Twins are now 74-61 (.548) against the White Sox dating back to 2001 and have had a losing record against them in just one of those eight years. Meanwhile, the White Sox have gone 61-74 (.452) versus the Twins during that eight-season stretch, compared to 547-478 (.534) against everyone else.
Thanks to sports director Jim Rich and producer Seth Kaplan for inviting me down to the FOX studios and having me on for the full 30-minute live show. Aside from me looking not totally unlike a whale on camera, it went well and was a lot of fun. We covered a wide range of Twins topics in some pretty solid depth and also discussed the Vikings, so please check it out.
Twins Notes: Liriano, More Liriano, Korecky, and Waldrop
Francisco Liriano struggled for much of spring training before posting a 6.75 ERA and 1.71 WHIP in a pair of minor-league starts, at which point Triple-A manager Stan Cliburnsuggested that he needed more time to regain his pre-surgery form before returning to Minnesota:
I would say maybe one more start here to get a little bit more command, maybe build a little bit more strength. That would be my call. Of course, I know it's going to be a group decision. His health is good. His strength is good. His mound presence is good. He just pitched backwards, and maybe he just wanted to find out if he could use all his pitches.
Instead, the Twins called up Liriano shortly after Cliburn uttered those words and stuck him right back into the rotation. He lookedshaky in his first two starts and then completely fell apart in his third outing Thursday against the A's, allowing six runs on five hits and three walks without making it out of the first inning. Liriano's first two post-surgery outings were recappedin plenty of detail here, and the third start featured the same decreased velocity and lack of command.
After going 0-3 with an 11.32 ERA, 13 walks, and a .366 batting average against in three starts, his comeback was aborted Friday and Liriano was sent back to Triple-A. He rarely looked comfortable on the mound or capable of consistently getting big-league hitters out with the stuff he was working with, and Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com LaVelle E. Neal IIIreports that Liriano will stay in Rochester "for a while." Here's what pitching coach Rick Anderson had to say about the three-start comeback:
Confidence comes with success. He's got to get down there and clear his mind, and he admitted to me that he's thinking too much about what he's doing. I asked him, "How did you feel before you were hurt?" He said, "I didn't think, I just threw." He's not to that point yet. When he does get to that point, he will have success, and success breeds confidence.
What Anderson said is true, but no amount of confidence is going to make up for Liriano's missing velocity. General manager Bill Smithsaid Friday that "there's no harm done" in calling up Liriano when the Twins did, but Anderson's quote about his current lack of confidence may contradict that somewhat. Smith also admitted that the Twins rushed Liriano's return timetable "just a bit" due to Kevin Slowey's biceps injury, which seems incredibly short-sighted.
"I think we did the right thing," Smith said. "Maybe the best thing that will come out of this is everyone realizes he's not ready." Fair enough, but given how he pitched this spring and during his abbreviated stay in the minors, it's unclear exactly what made the Twins think that Liriano would have success in the majors to begin with. Of course, my MinnPost colleague Pat Borzirecently wrote that the Twins may have wanted Liriano in the majors just to keep an eye on him regardless of his performance.
Given how Liriano pitched during his three-start comeback, it's interesting to look back on offseason reports about his status. Early offseason updates included quotes like "everything is perfect" and "there are no problems at all." In February, as spring training neared, Ron Gardenhiresaid that Liriano was "letting it fly" while throwing at the Twins' academy in the Dominican Republic: "He threw two innings at the academy and they said he was averaging 93 and throwing it up to 96. Free and easy."
It seems pretty obvious now that those reports were completely false, because Liriano averaged 88-91 miles per hour with his fastball this month, reached 93 MPH on maybe a handful of pitches in three starts, and never came anywhere close to "throwing it up to 96" at any point. Nearly every report about Liriano prior to his arrival at spring training noted that he was looking good and throwing as hard as ever, which is astounding given what we know now.
Interestingly, a rare winter report suggesting that Liriano wasn't looking anything like the pitcher from 2006 came via Tracy Ringolsby of the Rocky Mountain News. In the middle of a long column covering a variety of subjects, Ringolsby wrote the following one-sentence note about Liriano under the heading "overheard": "Left-hander Francisco Liriano, 24, is rehabbing from the reconstructive left elbow surgery he underwent a year ago, and it appears he will not be ready until midseason."
That got my dander up at the time, because it differed dramatically from every other Liriano report, yet Ringolsby didn't see fit to expand upon his note. My response here opined that the Liriano information "would be worthy of more than a one-line note buried midway through Ringolsby's column if it was based on serious reporting" and suggested that "if Ringolsby has solid information about Liriano being behind schedule, it'd be nice to engage in a little journalism by sharing with the rest of the class."
For the most part my feelings on Ringolsby's report haven't changed. It seemed to me that "he will not be ready until midseason" implied that Liriano wouldn't pitch until then, let alone pitch multiple times in April. Beyond that, Ringolsby dropping that little tidbit into the middle of a column without going into any further detail still seems odd to me, but while engaging in an extremely long, testy e-mail discussion with me over the past few weeks Ringolsby explained that his non-Rockies coverage is limited.
Of course, the column that the Liriano note appeared in contained 1,300 words of non-Rockies content, so Ringolsby certainly could have offered up another sentence or two if he felt that the news he was passing along had major importance. Whatever the case, my dismissal of Ringolsby's note was due partly to it differing from what later proved to be totally inaccurate reports, making the whole situation an interesting reminder not to believe everything you read regardless of the source (among other things).
Because a fifth starter won't be required for a while thanks to multiple off days, the Twins replaced Liriano on the roster with reliever Bobby Korecky. He didn't come close to cracking my annual ranking of the Twins' top 40 prospects, but Korecky has a chance to carve out a decent MLB career as a middle reliever. Originally taken by the Phillies in the 19th round of the 2002 draft, the Twins acquired Korecky along with Carlos Silva and Nick Punto in exchange for Eric Milton back in December of 2003.
He's spent parts of three seasons at Triple-A, posting a 3.31 ERA and 111-to-54 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 149.1 total innings. Korecky has been a closer in the minors, saving 110 career games, but he's already 28 years old and his low strikeout rate combined with mediocre control make it unlikely that he'll succeed as a late-inning option in the majors. With that said, Korecky has a 3.04 ERA in 365 pro innings and induces a high percentage of ground balls, so a middle-relief gig seems doable.
After blowing a 5-0 lead and losing in extra innings Friday, Gardenhire said: "We deserved to lose that game." We're in agreement, except Gardenhire wasn't talking about his misguided, oft-repeated decision to leave the team's best pitcher unused in the bullpen for 10 innings while lesser relievers combine to face 16 batters and allow the game-winning run. Saving Joe Nathan for a save situation that never arrives and then needing to "get him work" in a blowout days later is a Gardenhire tradition.
Johan Santana is off to a nice start with the Mets, posting a 3.12 ERA, 32-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .209 opponent's batting average in 34.2 innings spread over five starts. He's also smacked three doubles, which gives him one fewer extra-base hit than Delmon Young, in 87 fewer plate appearances. For his career, Santana has now hit .250/.283/.386 in 46 trips to the plate. As a team, the Twins have hit a combined .263/.303/.364 this year, for a slightly lower OPS than Santana's career mark.
After being benched Wednesday and called "not an MLB-caliber hitter at this stage of his career, let alone an MLB-caliber leadoff man" in this space Thursday, Carlos Gomez led off that night's game with a homer and collected four hits over his next seven at-bats. Unfortunately, that simply raised his overall hitting line to a still-horrible .255/.271/.362 and he exited Friday's game with a calf injury that kept him out of action for both weekend games.
Thanks to the Minneapolis Star Tribune's decision to bring back LEN3's weekly minor-league report after a long hiatus, there's news of Kyle Waldrop being out for the season following shoulder surgery. Waldrop was a first-round pick back in 2004 and many people considered him one of the team's top pitching prospects initially, but he ranked just 32nd on my list of the Twins' top 40 prospects heading into the season. Here's part of my write-up on Waldrop, from back in February:
The closer he's gotten to the majors the more difficult it's been for Waldrop to succeed on that mediocre stuff, which is evident by his sub par strikeout rates and the deterioration of his once-great control. With that said, it's important to note that he's only 22 years old despite logging over 500 pro innings already and has induced two ground balls for every fly ball over the past two seasons, which shows that he's still capable of having a solid big-league career as a fourth or fifth starter.
It's possible that a year of lost development time won't hurt Waldrop's long-term outlook as much as it would an elite pitching prospect, because he's relatively polished and seemingly doesn't have a ton of projection remaining. Of course, he'll have to come back from the surgery first and that's certainly no sure thing. Along with Waldrop's season-ending shoulder injury, LEN3 reports that No. 13 prospectDeibinson Romero will miss 3-4 weeks following surgery to repair torn meniscus in his right knee.
Analyzing pitching mechanics is a growing trend among bloggers and there are a pair of new entries about Twins pitchers that are worth checking out. Kyle Boddy of Driveline Mechanics examinesNick Blackburn's delivery, while Kiley McDaniel of Saber-Scouting looks atDeolis Guerra's form.
Speaking Guerra, he was part of an eclectic mix of pitchers who worked a game at high Single-A Fort Myers last weekend:
IP H R ER BB SO HR Kevin Slowey 3.0 1 1 1 1 5 1 Deolis Guerra 4.0 4 3 2 2 3 1 Danny Graves 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0 Tim Lahey 1.0 0 0 0 0 1 0
Making his way back from a strained biceps, Slowey began his rehab assignment by starting the game and tossed three solid innings. Guerra came on in relief and worked four innings to pick up the win. Danny Graves, who was an All-Star closer with the Reds and is now little more than minor-league filler at the age of 33, pitched a scoreless eighth inning. And Tim Lahey, who was briefly lost via the Rule 5 draft before returning to the organization earlier this month, closed things out.