Friday, June 13, 2008
Amazingly, the spectacular "I'm Pressin' Charges" remix somehow manages to be even better:
My favorite part is the Najeh "Deuce" Davenport cameo, but the remix is 270 seconds of perfection.
No doubt taking that as a personal challenge, Hazell put on a whole bunch of clothes this week while showing almost zero skin, and still looked stunning.
Even Torii Hunter would probably agree that's marginally dumber than sliding head-first into first base.
Buzz Bissinger saw Leitch as the representative for "the internet" when he freaked out at him on HBO, but in truth Leitch has writing chops that go well beyond blogging. My sense is that after three years of producing relative short, humor-driven entries about sporting events and odd news items he wanted to stretch his writing legs again. As Leitch told Michael David Smith of AOL FanHouse in an interview last week: "I'm going to be doing long, 8,000-word features for them, and I'm looking forward to that."
Actually, Bosh is funny, but Glen "Big Baby" Davis steals the show about four minutes in.
Sadly, becoming an adult has given this site a smaller priority in my life every day. ... So I'm not going to write for awhile. Will I never write again? Probably not. I'm sure at some point I'll get the creative juices flowing for a random entry here or there.Will has a knack for writing excellent articles on Twins history and his game-by-game Win Probability Added charts were a great resource, so he'll be missed tremendously. When it comes to his stepping away from blogging, the good news for me at least is that he's less likely to pass along embarrassing stories from his experience as my roommate at the upcoming Society for American Baseball Research Convention. Or maybe that'll be enough to coax him out of retirement.
Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Twins Notes: Height, Lately, False Hustle, and Sir Sidney
A 7-foot-1 right-hander who was signed out of the Netherlands, Van Mil has a 2.73 ERA and 32-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 29.2 innings as a reliever this season. Cates is a 5-foot-2 shortstop who was taken in the 38th round of the 2007 draft out of the University of Louisville and has hit .269/.348/.301 in 185 plate appearances. While Cates is merely organizational filler, Van Mil cracked my annual list of the Twins' top 40 prospects heading into last season and narrowly missed doing the same this year.
He's done a lot of great things here so you keep running him out there. He has a track record of getting people out. He's struggled lately, but he's continuing to work.Gardenhire's definition of "lately" differs considerably from mine. As noted in this space repeatedly over the past two years, in reality Rincon's pitching has steadily declined each season since 2004:
YEAR SO% K/BB OAVG xFIPThat pattern was plenty clear this offseason, yet the Twins tendered Rincon a contract and signed him to a one-year deal worth $2.5 million. Whether you focus on stuff or results, he's a shell of his former self. Rincon's strikeout rate, strikeout-to-walk ratio, opponent's batting average, and Expected Fielding Independent Pitching have each declined every year since 2004. Beyond that, his fastball and slider are both down 3-4 miles per hour compared to his prime. There's nothing "lately" about his struggles.
UPDATE: Rincon has been designated for assignment.
Torii Hunter has some advice for the Little Leaguers who saw him dive headfirst into first base trying to beat out a grounder Saturday night: Don't try this at home.During their four seasons together with the Twins, Hunter likely saw Nick Punto slide head-first into first base no fewer than 50 times. Oh, and "false hustle" is the exact phrase that I've used in the past to describe Punto's annoying habit.
Liriano's complete inability to throw the ball over the plate sabotaged a rushed comeback attempt and he continued to struggle with command for several starts upon being sent back to Triple-A, so it's very encouraging to see the progress that he's made with his control over the past month. Liriano can have success in the majors again whether or not his stuff ever returns to pre-surgery levels, but consistently throwing strikes becomes hugely important if his fastball continues to clock in at 90-92 miles per hour.
While he's made great progress at Rochester, it's worth noting that Liriano remains nowhere near his old self. Totaling 41 strikeouts over a 51-inning span is far from exceptional, especially compared to the amazing strikeout rates that he posted prior to surgery, and his ground ball-to-fly ball ratio is nearly even after he once ranked among the most extreme ground-ball pitchers in baseball. Liriano looks nothing like the mess we saw in April, but also still looks nothing like the phenom we saw in 2006.
First, you can see the potential just ooze out of Hicks: a lot of athleticism; a frame with plenty of room to fill out; and a swing that can be worked on to produce a lot of power down the road from both sides of the plate.Very encouraging, although Eisenberg's conclusion throws some cold water on things:
I've seen reports on a need for Hicks to improve his pitch recognition, so the coaches in the Twins organization are really going to have an interesting time turning this tremendous athlete into a complete player. One piece of advice if I were the Twins: Don't teach Hicks to hit the ball on the ground and "take advantage of his speed." Teach him to drive pitches over the outfield wall.Unfortunately, counting on the Twins to "teach him to drive pitches over the outfield wall" is like counting on me to skip dessert. For more on Hicks and the rest of the Twins' draft, check out my recap.
He embarrassed the team and himself with an ugly incident at the hotel bar while the team was playing at Tampa Bay. Observers say that when the bartender there tried to cut off a clearly already over-served Ponson, the Aruban right-hander became enraged, challenged him to fight and teammates had to intervene. And Ponson was pitching against the Rays the next day.All indications are that Ponson was a model citizen while going 2-5 with a 6.93 ERA for the Twins, but that someone with his history would even think about drinking while experiencing success for the first time in years says an awful lot about the strength of his demons.
Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Recapping the Twins' Draft
By selecting Aaron Hicks with the No. 14 overall pick in last week's draft the Twins used their first pick on a high-school hitter for the eighth time in the past 10 years. Here's the complete list:
Selecting Joe Mauer first overall in 2001 has worked out brilliantly, but taking B.J. Garbe fifth overall two years earlier was a disaster. A toolsy outfielder from Washington, Garbe batted .235/.305/.325 over eight minor-league seasons, never made it past Double-A, and announced his retirement at the age of 25. Matt Moses is on a Garbe-like path to being a complete bust, sporting a .257/.313/.391 career line in the midst of his sixth minor-league season.
Denard Span got off to a hot start at Triple-A this year, but is a .285/.353/.354 hitter in six minor-league seasons and looks capable of becoming at best a fourth outfielder in the majors. Trevor Plouffe has a similarly unimpressive .255/.323/.376 career line, although he's improved since moving past Single-A. Chris Parmelee and Ben Revere have both established themselves among the Twins' top prospects, but because neither player has advanced past Single-A the jury is still out on their long-term potential.
Mauer has lived up to the hype as the No. 1 pick and both Parmelee and Revere look capable of being good players at this point, but the foursome of Garbe, Span, Moses, and Plouffe will likely provide very little combined value given where they were drafted. Of course, mixed in with those eight high-school hitters were a pair of college pitchers in Matt Garza (25th overall in 2005) and Adam Johnson (second overall in 2000). Garza is already a solid big-league starter, but Johnson was a complete bust.
Hicks was a two-way star in high school and most teams reportedly liked him more as a pitcher, but he made it clear prior to the draft that he wanted to be a position player and the Twins selected him as a center fielder. Teams having to decide whether to groom a top high-school player as a pitcher or hitter is not uncommon. For instance, the Twins made Plouffe a full-time shortstop after taking him with the 20th overall pick in 1999 despite many teams viewing him as having more upside on the mound.
Baseball America ranked Hicks as possessing the second-best arm strength and third-best fastball in the high-school class, but also pegged him as the second-best athlete. BA's scouting report on Hicks called him "the finest prep outfielder/pitcher prospect in the greater Los Angeles area since Daryl Strawberry in the early 1980s" and compared him to former first-round pick Adam Jones, who's now starting in center field for the Orioles. Here's more of BA on Hicks as a position player:
As an outfielder, Hicks projects as a five-tool player, and his arm grades out to near 80 on the scouting scale. With his plus speed (6.6 seconds over 60 yards), Hicks is a daring and aggressive baserunner. His speed, easy range and arm mean Hicks will begin his career as a center fielder. Prior to the 2008 season, many scouts had reservations about his hitting ability. A switch-hitter, he's shown improvement by lowering his hands. His hitting mechanics and lightning reflexes permit scouts who believe in him to project him as an above-average hitter with above-average power.Between Revere, Span, Garbe, and Hicks the Twins have used four recent first-round picks on athletic, speedy outfielders who came with questions about their bats, although Hicks is generally believed to have far more power potential than anyone expected from Span or Revere. MLB.com called Hicks "one of the more athletic outfielders" in the draft, but added: "He's got a ton of tools, but will he learn how to use them?" Here's the MLB.com scouting report on Hicks:
Hitting Ability: Hicks generally has an idea of what he wants to do at the plate, but sometimes gets away from it, using his athleticism more than a polished game plan.MLB.com's description of Hicks as "very athletic, projectable, toolsy" is essentially the epitome of what the Twins look for in a position player, so in that sense he's a perfect fit. Torii Hunter was described that same way when the Twins selected him out of an Arkansas high school with the 20th overall pick in the 1993 draft, but even with the many high draft picks spent on "athletic, projectable, toolsy" teenage outfielders since then there have been many more misses than hits.
Interestingly, after taking Hicks with their own first-round pick the Twins then used the compensation picks that they received for losing Hunter via free agency on a pair of college pitchers, taking University of Miami closer Carlos Gutierrez at No. 27 and Tulane University ace Shooter Hunt at No. 31. Much like taking Revere last year, the Twins provided the biggest surprise of the first round by grabbing Gutierrez, who was expected go several rounds later and didn't even have an MLB.com scouting report.
Gutierrez missed the 2007 season following Tommy John elbow surgery, but unlike Francisco Liriano came back stronger than ever this year, posting a 3.02 ERA, 70-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .199 opponent's batting average over 48 innings. As the closer for one of the country's best college teams Gutierrez could move through the minors quickly and the Twins' sudden bullpen struggles may have played a part in the selection, although there's talk that the team plans to use him as a starter.
He was in Miami's rotation pre-surgery, but works almost exclusively with a low-90s sinker and doesn't appear to have the secondary stuff that most teams look for in a starter, as BA notes that "he throws a slider on occasion, but it currently can't be considered average." Giving him a chance to prove the scouting reports wrong as a starter is an interesting idea, but if Pat Neshek struggles to bounce back from his own elbow injury next year Gutierrez may be fast-tracked to the Twins' bullpen.
Taking Hunt with the 31st overall pick is my favorite draft choice that the Twins made this year, and not just because "Shooter Hunt" is great name. Ranked by BA as the 11th-best prospect in the entire draft class, Hunt was pegged as having the second-best offspeed stuff of any college pitcher. He posted a 2.68 ERA, 126-to-54 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .175 opponent's batting average in 101 innings, taking Pitcher of the Year honors in Conference USA. Here's some of his scouting report from BA:
Batters just can't put the barrel on his lively fastball, which sits at 91-92 mph and tops out at 94, or his hard breaking ball, which features curveball break and slider velocity. A full-time catcher until his junior year in high school, Hunt still is learning the nuances of pitching. He nibbles at the corners and often pitches away from contact rather than attacking hitters. As a result, he had allowed more walks than hits this spring. A sturdy 6-foot-3, 200-pounder, Hunt should be more than capable of handling the demands of starting in pro ball. His biggest adjustment will be learning to trust his stuff so he can keep his pitch counts down. He flashes a plus changeup in the bullpen, though he doesn't use it much in games.It's not often that the Twins target a pitcher with less than outstanding control, so they must think very highly of Hunt's raw stuff and believe that he'll eventually fit into the organization's strike-throwing mold. Athletic, toolsy high schoolers haven't provided a great return for the Twins recently and save for some prominent exceptions taking college closers in the first round typically provides mediocre value, but balancing Hicks and Gutierrez with a high-upside college starter in Hunt was a good move.
After making three first-round picks, the Twins used their second rounder on arguably the nation's top junior-college prospect, shortstop Tyler Ladendorf. There are questions about his ability to remain at shortstop long term and his amazing numbers offensively should be discounted somewhat given the level of competition, but it's nice to see the Twins targeting someone for their bat while addressing the organization's longstanding lack of middle-infield depth.
In the third round the Twins selected right-hander Bobby Lanigan from Gary Dell'Abate's alma mater, Adelphi University. Like Ladendorf he's faced questionable competition while at a Division II school, but Lanigan is 6-foot-5 and BA reports that he throws a low-90s fastball and a quality slider. Puerto Rican high schooler Danny Ortiz went to the Twins in the fourth round, with BA calling him "a sweet-swinging outfielder ... with a projectable bat and a good approach at the plate."
Perhaps surprisingly the Twins then went fairly heavy on college players, taking San Diego State third baseman Nick Romero in the fifth round, Cincinnati left-hander Dan Osterbrock in the seventh round, New Orleans catcher Jeff Lanning in the eighth round, and Vanderbilt outfielder-second baseman Dominic de la Osa in the 11th round. They even took Gophers left-hander Kyle Carr in the 12th round despite his ugly 6.13 ERA this season.
BA notes that Romero should be capable of sticking at third base defensively, which is good news given that he led San Diego State in both on-base percentage and slugging percentage this season by hitting .335/.418/.544, although his 49-to-35 strikeout-to-walk ratio isn't a great sign. Osterbrock went 9-2 with a solid 3.55 ERA while walking just 10 batters in 14 starts, but managed only 74 strikeouts in 99 innings and allowed opponents to bat .283.
Lanning hit .369 with a team-leading .627 slugging percentage, but threw out just 5-of-32 runners from behind the plate. BA notes that de la Osa "is a free swinger and somewhat streaky, making his bat his main question mark," but he hit .297/.410/.506 with 27 steals while No. 2 overall pick Pedro Alvarez batted .317/.424/.593 in the same lineup. For more on the draft, check out BA's unmatched coverage, MLB.com's in-depth reports, and friend of AG.com Keith Law's analysis at ESPN.com.
Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.
Monday, June 09, 2008
Quarterly Questions (Part 2: Random Questions)
Last week's quarterly call for reader-submitted questions led to over 150 being posed between e-mails and the comments section. Responding to all of them would be pretty tough, but I've tackled as many as possible by breaking up the answers into a pair of entries. The first installment covered questions related specifically to the Twins and today's second installment covers non-Twins questions that are thrown together in the "random" pile.
How many questions can a single person ask?
A single person? One. Married people? Unlimited.
How many times have you gotten a date strictly because you're a well-known blogger?
I stopped counting at zero.
Who's lineup of women wins, Derek Jeter or John Mayer?
Here's a side-by-side comparison of the famous women Derek Jeter and John Mayer have dated, at least according to two impeccable sources:
Derek Jeter John MayerThere's surprisingly little overlap between the two lists, with only Minka Kelly being linked to both Jeter and Mayer. Jeter's list has more depth, which makes sense given that he's been famous since 1996 and Mayer didn't make it big until around 2002. In baseball terms, Mayer probably has a higher batting average, but Jeter has more total hits and a better OPS.
What's your second favorite MLB team?
Probably the A's, although technically "whoever is playing the White Sox" is perhaps the correct answer.
How can you still have LaVelle E. Neal III as Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com? Joe Christensen beats him soundly.
First of all, LaVelle E. Neal III does a good job reporting on the Twins for Minneapolis Star Tribune and has been kind to me personally, which are the two primarily requirements for Official Twins Beat Writer of AG.com status. Beyond that, while Joe Christensen also does a fine job and has been friendly, his job title is actually "national baseball reporter" and not "Twins beat writer." Given the highly technical nature of OTBWoAG.com status, LEN3 and Christensen aren't in direct competition.
Phil Miller of the St. Paul Pioneer Press is LEN3's only true competition. In a relatively short time on the job Miller has also proven himself to be a nice guy who covers the team well--especially compared to his predecessor--but the Pioneer Press' website being a complete mess keeps him from getting more praise in this space. If linking to articles on the Pioneer Press' website wasn't such a headache, Miller would be a much bigger factor in the OTBWoAG.com race and LEN3 might have to step it up a notch.
How long before KFAN gives you a show on the weekends to talk baseball?
How long until you ditch those mainstream media folks and open AaronGleeman.tv, your own 24-hour sports news vlogging corner?
Who's your favorite Twins blogger?
It's tough to single one out, so here are my daily reads among non-mainstream Twins blogs:
- Stick and Ball Guy
- Seth Stohs
- Nick Nelson
- Will Young
- Over The Baggy
- Twinkie Town
- John Bonnes
Are you going to add links to any other Twins blogs to the sidebar of your site? I think there are a couple deserving that you're missing.
There are no doubt many Twins blogs that are worth reading despite not having links on my sidebar. Back when this blog started in mid-2002, there were literally only 2-3 other Twins blogs in existence. Now there are dozens, which while a great thing overall makes it tough to keep track of everything. For whatever reason, Over the Baggy is the only "new" Twins blog that I've added to my daily routine this season.
With the number of bloggers (like Batgirl) dwindling, how long will you keep AG.com active?
As mentioned in response to the previous question, any notion of a "dwindling number of bloggers" couldn't be further from the truth. Batgirl retiring last year was a major loss for the Twins blogosphere, but there are more regularly updated Twins blogs now than ever before. Between the ever-growing number of independent blogs and increased amount of online coverage by mainstream outlets, there's never been a better time to be a Twins fan interested in reading about the team.
As for the lifespan of this blog, who knows? August will mark the six-year anniversary of AG.com, which is an incredibly long time in blog years and seems surreal to me given that I was a teenager back then. I still very much enjoy blogging and the readership here continues to grow every month, so there are no plans to stop any time soon.
What kind of income do blogs like yours bring in?
Enough to place the blog somewhere between "hobby" and "job."
Let's go to a dream world for a moment and say that you can replace Bert Blyleven and Dick Bremer with any two people. Who would they be?
I'd pay a month's salary to replace Bert Blyleven and Dick Bremer with Vin Scully, even for a season. Without putting a whole lot of thought into making a complete list, I'm also fond of Jon Sciambi, Matt Vasgergian, Josh Lewin, and Dan Schulman among play-by-play guys, and Orel Hershiser, Steve Stone, and Jerry Remy among color commentators. And if they weren't forced to work with annoying play-by-play man Michael Kay, most of the Yankees' analysts are pretty good too.
Are there any good Timberwolves blogs that you would recommend?
I'm sure there are some good Timberwolves blogs, but unfortunately I'm not aware of them. SBG's blog has some good Wolves-related stuff, particularly during the season.
Who do you think the Timberwolves should take in the NBA draft?
They pick third, so whoever is left from the trio of Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, and O.J. Mayo.
Can you please just go ahead and name Keely Hazell as Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com? She's as hot or hotter than all of the other candidates and she's frequently nude. Where's the conflict?
Her being "frequently nude" is actually the main conflict, crazy as that sounds. A large percentage of the people reading this site do so at work and another sizable fraction of the audience is under the age of 18, so linking to her latest photo spread is sometimes problematic. With that said, it's probably time to put this thing to a vote and settle on a new title-holder before the throne is completely covered in dust.
What's your favorite perk as a member of the national media now that you've had a chance to settle in at NBCSports.com and Rotoworld?
I've yet to request a press pass for anything and my lone experience with media credentials came at the winter meetings in Orlando a couple offseasons ago, so that wins by default.
How were you able to drop out of school and live at home until your career took off? Most parents would have kicked you out and made you take a job you didn't like.
Luckily my family--and particularly my mom--has always been very supportive of my writing career. With that said, I lived on campus during my four years at the University of Minnesota and upon moving back home already had a steady income between Rotoworld and some other gigs (which played a big part in my dropping out of school to begin with). My mom allowed me to live rent-free for a little while until my bank account and paycheck could support a move to The House That Blog Built in May of 2007.
Will you ever finish the Top 40 Minnesota Twins series?
Definitely, although my inability to regularly produce a new installment has been a major regret. Each write-up requires quite a bit of research and it's tough to find the time during the season, which is why the series has been stuck on No. 16 for far too long. For those of you interested in reading (or perhaps re-reading) the 25 completed write-ups, here they are:
- #16 Corey Koskie
- #17 Earl Battey
- #18 Rick Aguilera
- #19 Dave Goltz
- #20 Camilo Pascual
- #21 Gary Gaetti
- #22 Zoilo Versalles
- #23 Cesar Tovar
- #24 Shane Mack
- #25 Brian Harper
- #26 Eddie Guardado
- #27 Larry Hisle
- #28 Tom Brunansky
- #29 Kevin Tapani
- #30 Jacque Jones
- #31 Butch Wynegar
- #32 Al Worthington
- #33 Greg Gagne
- #34 Matt Lawton
- #35 Steve Braun
- #36 Dave Boswell
- #37 Jimmie Hall
- #38 Eric Milton
- #39 Scott Erickson
- #40 Randy Bush
How do you find enough time to write for multiple media outlets and still keep your blog up to date?
After nearly six years this blog still feels like a hobby to me rather than a job, so it often serves as a much-needed break from my other obligations even if it all falls under the heading of "writing." Beyond that, not wasting more than 5-6 hours per night on sleep helps provide some extra writing time.
Can you convince me that Chris Young of the Diamondbacks is not the next Mike Cameron?
That comparison is a relatively good one, but being "the next Mike Cameron" is a very positive thing. Consider the following career numbers for a pair of center fielders:
PA AVG OBP SLG OPS+Cameron has always been among the most underrated players in baseball because he strikes out a lot and typically hits for sub par batting average, but in terms of overall offensive production he's been nearly identical to Torii Hunter and during his prime Cameron was one of the elite defensive players of this era.
Are you going to the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR) convention this year?
Of course. Even holding the convention in Cleveland couldn't stop me from going.
What is your diet plan and what else are you doing to reduce your weight?
While shedding 90 pounds a couple years ago, my diet plan involved exercising for at least 30 minutes every weekday and establishing a daily calorie limit regardless of food type. Unfortunately, as simple as that sounds I've been slacking off for quite a while and really need to get back on the weight-loss plan before my chins realize that they out-number me and revolt.
Do you still bet on baseball? I remember seeing that you used to post a few plays every day.
I used to post daily baseball picks here and then eventually moved that over to Rotoworld, where I had a remarkably good run of success. However, once NBC purchased Rotoworld a couple years ago any link to gambling was frowned upon and my daily picks ceased in mid-2005.
Do you prefer poker tournaments or cash games?
I'm probably not patient enough to thrive at a cash game long term, so tournaments are my favorite. Unfortunately, I haven't had much time to play any kind of poker for the past year or so.
You're from Minneapolis and you listen to regular, boring, white people music. What's your take on the funk bands from your hometown and why haven't you embraced them?
I'm nothing if not a regular, boring white person, so that's my music of choice even if not loving Prince is sacrilegious for a Minnesotan. A while back someone here accurately described my musical taste as being the same as a teenage girl, although to be fair that mostly covers my taste in contemporary music. Al Green is my favorite musician and some of my other all-time favorites (Otis Redding, Van Morrison, Bill Withers, Stevie Wonder) probably don't show up on the iPods of many 15-year-old girls.
Why do you like St. Paul better than Minneapolis (assuming you do)?
Despite spending the first 17 years of my life in St. Paul my affection for the two cities is relatively equal.
If you could ask Dave St. Peter any question, what would it be?
Isn't that type of thing supposed to be about George Washington or Babe Ruth or some other historic, unavailable figure? Dave St. Peter is seemingly the most publicly available member of the Twins' front office and would surely be willing to answer just about any question if you gave him a call.
What's your Vikings forecast?
As of right now, my prediction would be 10-6.
Since you're now becoming a local personality, any thought to hosting events with you alone or you and another blogger doing Q&A sessions?
There have been a handful of blogger get-togethers in the past and they're always fun, but I've tended to tag along rather than put together my own because a) I'm incredibly lazy when it comes to such things, and b) I'd be afraid that no one would show up if the primary draw was me. I'm almost always willing to show up once someone else does the leg work, though.
What does Tiffany Simons smell like?
She smells like however a very nice, attractive woman smells like. Incidentally, if that question made the decency cut, try to imagine the handful that didn't.
Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.