Having discussed this disturbing news with a fellow member of the tribe last night, we decided that there should be some sort of vote on whether or not to let her in, like when a condo board decides on a new resident or something. And if we can't do that, then we should at least be able to trade one of our undesirables to whichever religion she came from, like a prisoner exchange program. A Pauly Shore-for-Lindsay Lohan swap seems fair for everyone involved, like two teams trading bad contracts.
I'm disappointed to report that my many Keeley Hazell scouts have now failed to send links related to the Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com in back-to-back weeks. C'mon people! Fortunately, OFGoAG.com runner-up Marisa Miller continues to go out in public looking like this, so at least a little bit of Link-O-Rama's dignity has been salvaged.
Speaking of tribe members and Miller, there's this story about Brewers slugger Ryan Braun:
On a sun-dappled Friday on the baseball field behind Brookfield East High School, Braun took on what even he admitted beforehand might be a more daunting task: trading lines with supermodel and magazine cover girl Marisa Miller in a viral video for a new Remington men's hair-care product.
Under nearly perfect conditions, the shooting of the video went well. The story line involves a softball tournament. When a loose ball got to the fence, it was Miller, in a pink top, black shorts and black tennis shoes, chasing it down. Waiting in the outfield with ball in hand was Braun, dressed in an Affliction T-shirt and designer jeans, with his dog.
"Shouldn't you be in a bikini on a beach?" Braun asks Miller.
"Shouldn't you be signing some kid's ball?" Miller responds.
HAZEL PARK, MI--In a statement made to reporters earlier this afternoon, local idiot Brandon Mylenek, 26, announced that at approximately 2:30 a.m. tonight, he plans to post an idiotic comment beneath a video on an Internet website.
"Later this evening, I intend to watch the video in question, click the 'reply' link above the box reserved for user comments, and draft a response, being careful to put as little thought into it as possible, while making sure to use all capital letters and incorrect punctuation," Mylenek said. "Although I do not yet know exactly what my comment will entail, I can say with a great degree of certainty that it will be incredibly stupid."
Mylenek, who rarely in his life has been capable of formulating an idea or opinion worth the amount of oxygen required to express it, went on to guarantee that the text of his comment would be misspelled to the point of incomprehension, that it would defy the laws of both logic and grammar ... "The result will be an astonishing combination of ignorance, offensiveness, and sheer idiocy," Mylenek said.
Not mentioned in the above excerpt is that Brandon Mylenek believes the Twins should trade Brian Bass and Adam Everett for Albert Pujols, and thinks "this blog used to be good, but now it sucks."
While in Minnesota for last weekend's show at the Target Center, UFC president Dana White posted daily video blogs basically chronicling his every move. Most of the footage involved stuff like attending press events, walking around the arena, going to dinner with Rampage Jackson, and hugging Laura Prepon, but if you look closely around the 4:15 mark of the video for August 8 you can see a blast from the Twins' past:
"Tell them who that is. That's Marty Cordova, 1995 American League Rookie of the Year. Woo hoo!"
For anyone who's been wondering what it might look like to watch Baseball Prospectus managing partner Nate Silver talk politics with Keith Olbermann ... well, it's your lucky day.
Thanks to Dan Steinberg's recent interview with Craig Sager, we now know far too much about the man who wears ridiculous suits (and apparently matching thong underwear) on TNT.
A new site to check out: Sports on a Stick, which creator Ben Malmo described to me as The Onion for Minnesota sports.
In what was a pretty decent precursor to my becoming a college dropout five years later, I skipped a day of school to go see The Original Kings of Comedy stand-up concert at the Mall of America movie theater way back in 2000. As the lone white, truant 17-year-old at an afternoon showing the experience was an interesting one to say the least and my memory of the afternoon involves laughing hysterically at the following (completely not-safe-for-work) Bernie Macbit about his family:
Prior to re-starting a weight-loss program last week, my diet was eerily similar to Michael Phelps'. If you're curious, I'm down 14.5 pounds in 11 days as of Thursday's weigh-in. So far, so good. A few deck chairs have been thrown from the Titanic.
If for some highly unlikely reason the KFAN segment doesn't provide your fill of me in a non-writing medium, you can tune into FOX's website Monday afternoon around three o'clock to watch my bi-weekly appearance on "Sports on Demand" with Jim Rich and Seth Kaplan. My goal for Monday's taping is to arrive at the studio on time and avoid getting a $128 ticket on the way there.
My ticket-inspired call for GPS recommendations a few weeks ago pretty much confirmed that going with Garmin is the right choice, so I'm giving serious thought to picking up this version at Costco. Any last-minute advice to the contrary? Speak now or forever hold your peace.
Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is Ernie Halter doing a live, "is someone smoking herb in here or is it just me?" version of "Whisper":
Twins Notes: Breakouts, Overuse, Upgrades, and No Such Thing
Delmon Young provided one of the more dramatic moments of the season Tuesday night when he sliced a fly ball down the right-field line that wrapped around the foul pole for a game-tying three-run homer off Mariano Rivera. Unfortunately his clutch bomb and Rivera's first blown save of the year were wasted when Matt Guerrierfell apart in the 12th inning, but yesterday afternoon Young came up with another huge three-run homer that put the Twins up for good in a 4-2 victory.
Young failed to homer in the Twins' first 61 games and spent most of the first 118 games coming up empty in crucial spots, compiling -1.44 Win Probability Added to rank third-worst in the league among outfielders behind only Carlos Gomez and Melky Cabrera. Not only do a pair of game-changing blasts against the Yankees go a long way toward wiping away those memories--Young couldn't hold back a huge smile while rounding the bases Tuesday night--it also wiped away much of that negative WPA.
In two games Young went from -1.44 WPA to -0.73 WPA, making half of his negative contribution for the entire season vanish. Of course, his improved performance goes well beyond the past two games. Through the Twins' first 61 games he hit .270/.321/.349 with zero homers in 249 plate appearances. In the team's 59 games since then he's hit .315/.355/.477 with seven homers in 212 plate appearances. His overall numbers (.290/.336/.407) remain mediocre, but Young's turnaround has been dramatic:
PA AVG OBP SLG OPS IsoP SO% BB% First 61 249 .270 .321 .349 .669 .079 15.6 6.4 Next 59 212 .315 .355 .477 .832 .162 15.6 2.3
Young has upped his batting average by 45 points while doubling his power and improving his overall production by 25 percent. Interestingly, his strikeout rate has stayed identical during the improvement while his walk rate has fallen through the floor. When he was struggling overall Young showed vastly improved plate discipline compared to his hacktastic rookie season in Tampa Bay, but he's drawn a grand total of five non-intentional walks in 212 plate appearances while thriving.
It's been a tale of two seasons for Young and certainly it'd be nice to think that what he's shown over the past 10 weeks is more indicative of what the Twins will get in the future than what he showed during the first 10 weeks. However, 59 good games is still a very small sample of playing time in the grand scheme of things and Young's overall performance this season has been eerily similar to the numbers that he posted for the Rays last year:
There's plenty of reason to get excited about Young's recent play and certainly as a 22-year-old who many people feel has significant long-term upside it's easy to view what he's done over the past 59 games as sustainable improvement. On the other hand, at the end of the day a season is 162 games full of ups and downs, and Young's overall production this year hasn't really been meaningfully different than his overall production last year. Either way, it's very nice to see him hitting and hitting for power.
With 13 runs allowed in his last eight outings Guerrier is pretty clearly running on fumes at this point and despite Howard Sinker's recent assertion that "it's not overuse" wearing him down there's plenty of evidence to suggest otherwise. Not only does Guerrier lead the league in appearances with 58, his usage has increased dramatically of late as the rest of the bullpen has faltered following Pat Neshek's season-ending injury.
Prior to getting a much-needed day off yesterday Guerrier had worked 43 of the team's 84 games since Neshek went down, including 13 of the past 21 games. That's an 85-appearance pace since Neshek's injury and a 100-appearance pace over the past month. Short of some kind of crazy, Mike Marshall-like usage, that's what "overuse" looks like for a reliever. Ron Gardenhireran Guerrier into the ground once he couldn't lean on Neshek and now the struggling bullpen's best remaining setup man is a mess.
A big part of why Guerrier has been so overused is that Gardenhire continues to deploy Joe Nathan sparingly despite the fact that he's clearly the bullpen's best pitcher and one of the truly elite relievers in all of baseball. Compared to Guerrier, Nathan has logged 16 percent fewer innings, thrown 24 percent fewer pitches, and faced 28 percent fewer batters. In Tuesday night's extra-inning loss, Guerrier threw 36 pitches, Jesse Crain threw 22, and Dennys Reyes threw 18. Meanwhile, Nathan threw just 15.
At this point the Twins' bullpen struggles have become so obvious that Patrick Reusse actually took a break from writing 50 consecutive columns about golf to chime in on the subject, yet Nathan is on pace for a career-low 68 innings, has averaged just 15 pitches per appearance, and has gone five weeks since throwing even 20 pitches in a game. Underusing Nathan has led to overusing Guerrier and that combination has played a big part in the bullpen's collapse.
Despite talking a good game recently about loosening the reigns on Nathan the odds of Gardenhire actually using him in a less rigid role are slim, which is why claiming a quality setup man like Chad Bradford off waivers made all kinds of sense. Bradford would have been at worst the Twins' third-best reliever and is under contract at a reasonable price through next season, yet LaVelle E. Neal IIIreports that the Twins didn't claim him because "they weren't sure he would be much of an upgrade." Really?
2005-2007 PA ERA FIP 2008 PA ERA FIP Bradford 645 3.24 2.84 Bradford 170 2.34 3.56 Guerrier 957 3.26 4.03 Guerrier 271 4.67 4.43 Crain 722 3.36 4.00 Crain 210 3.28 3.61
At worst Bradford has been every bit as effective as the Twins' two main setup men, and based on FIP he's been better than both of them from 2005-2007 and this year. He's arguably an upgrade over Crain and Guerrier, let alone Brian Bass and Boof Bonser. What makes the decision to pass on Bradford even more frustrating is that the Twins reportedly claimed Alan Embree off waivers this week. Embree is five years older and far less effective than Bradford, in addition to being left-handed.
2005-2007 PA ERA FIP 2008 PA ERA FIP Bradford 645 3.24 2.84 Bradford 170 2.34 3.56 Embree 736 4.85 3.65 Embree 193 5.40 4.41
Not only has Bradford been significantly better than Embree this season and during the previous three years, over the past eight seasons few relievers have consistently posted lower ERA or FIP totals than the side-arming ground-ball machine. It's a moot point because the A's pulled Embree back off waivers rather than send him to the Twins, but passing up a very good right-handed reliever while making a play for a mediocre left-handed reliever is misguided to say the least.
Remember last spring, when Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Jim Souhan accused Joe Mauer of making up an injury when he missed time with a "stress reaction" in his knee? Souhan wrote at the time: "I've spoken with trainers in other sports who have told me there is no such thing." With minimal research Stick and Ball Guyshowed how incredibly off base and irresponsible Souhan's claim was. All of which brings us to this St. Paul Pioneer Pressnote about Adam Everett's throwing problems:
Everett said his goal upon returning to the team was to prove that he finally was healthy. His shoulder had bothered him from the get-go. He called it a "stress reaction" in his right shoulder. That means it was this close to being a stress fracture, which is a very bad thing.
Apparently Tom Powers doesn't speak to those same "trainers in other sports" that Souhan does. And sadly Everett's throwing problems haven't gone away even though "there's no such thing" as his injury.
People fretted about losing a "veteran innings eater" when the Twins let Carlos Silva walk as a free agent, but it may have been the best move (or non-move) of the winter. Silva got a four-year, $48 million deal from the Mariners and is 4-13 with a 5.93 ERA. Better yet, he's called out teammates publicly for their lack of effort recently, saying that he should "grab somebody in his neck and pin them to the wall" because only "half of the team wants to do the best they can." At 4-13 with a 5.93 ERA, that takes balls.
As Phil Milleramusingly notes over at his must-read Pioneer Press blog, when it comes to sliding into first base Randy Ruiz is the bizarroNick Punto.
Won't Get Fooled Again (Kielty for Stewart, Revisited)
I'll tip my hat to the new constitution Take a bow for the new revolution Smile and grin at the change all around me Pick up my guitar and play Just like yesterday Then I'll get on my knees and pray We don't get fooled again
News of the Twins inkingBobby Kielty to a minor-league contract brings back all sorts of memories for me and this blog. Five years ago, in the early days of this blog, Kielty was the subject of perhaps my very first campaign for freedom. A switch-hitter with good power, excellent plate discipline, and a strong minor-league resume, he hit .269/.375/.444 with 23 homers, 61 total extra-base hits, and a 147-to-102 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 750 plate appearances as a part-time player for the Twins.
That's my kind of player and so this blog featured regular calls for the Twins to "Free Bobby Kielty!" They eventually did in July of 2003, trading him to the Blue Jays for Shannon Stewart in a deal that struck me at the time as "horrible." Kielty was a 26-year-old switch-hitter with a .269/.375/.444 career line who played solid defense in all three outfield spots and cost little. To a 20-year-old blogger who loved young hitters who got on base and hit homers, he seemed like someone to build around, not trade away.
Plus, Stewart was a 29-year-old impending free agent whose .299/.365/.447 career line was so close to Kielty's .269/.375/.444 mark that an upgrade seemed unlikely, let alone an upgrade big enough to warrant giving up Kielty's entire career for a half-season rental. Why trade a good, young, cheap player for a veteran version who doesn't appear to be any better, makes far more money, and can become a free agent at season's end?
It seemed to me five years ago like "a horrendously awful trade" and five years later the logic involved in coming to that admittedly hyperbolic conclusion still strikes me as fairly sound. Of course, logical or not my reaction (or perhaps overreaction) to the Kielty-Stewart trade is something that longtime fans (and critics) of this blog can point to as a moment where my analysis turned out to be completely wrong. The first of many, some might say.
Stewart indeed supplied a short-term upgrade over Kielty, hitting .322/.384/.470 in 65 games to help lead the Twins to their second straight division title. He was rightfully credited with jump-starting the lineup from the leadoff spot and wrongfully viewed by some misguided voters as a "good story" MVP candidate based on a strong but unspectacular half-season for a playoff-bound team. Meanwhile in Toronto, Kielty hit just .233/.342/.376 in 62 games with the Blue Jays.
After hitting the open market that winter Stewart ended up staying in Minnesota, signing a three-year, $18 million contract that ultimately didn't work out all that well for the Twins. He hit just .287/.347/.405 while missing 200 of the team's 486 games (41 percent) with injuries, seeing his stock drop so much that he had to settle for a one-year, $1 million deal from the A's once free agency rolled around for the second time.
One very good half-season followed by three mediocre, injury filled years at a total cost of around $20 million wasn't especially good value for a small-payroll team, yet the trade still didn't come back to bite the Twins long term because Kielty never turned into even half the player that he seemed destined to become. Actually, that's not true: Kielty turned into almost exactly half that player. It turns out that while Kielty was a switch-hitter, his bat proved everyday-caliber from only the right side of the plate.
PA AVG OBP SLG OPS vs RHP 1281 .228 .329 .348 .677 vs LHP 803 .296 .379 .503 .881
Batting from the left side against right-handed pitchers, he's hit like Nick Punto. Batting from the right side against left-handed pitchers, he's hit like Justin Morneau. Unfortunately for Kielty that's the recipe for a career spent as a part-time player and so despite my optimistic view of his potential five years ago the 509 plate appearances that he got between Minnesota and Toronto in 2003 remains a career-high. And it'll stay that way for good, because Kielty is now fighting just to reclaim a part-time gig.
Kielty has yet to stop knocking around southpaws, but he's now 32 years old and injuries limited him to just 101 plate appearances last season before relegating him to the minors this year. Cut by the Red Sox after an uninspiring 28-game stint at Triple-A--despite hitting .333/.485/.625 against lefties--Kielty sat around for a month before hooking back on with the Twins. He'll report to Triple-A and likely just replace Randy Ruiz in the Rochester lineup, but could find himself back in Minnesota.
Ruiz is perfectly capable of filling the role of Jason Kubel's platoon partner, but if the Twins decide to add another right-handed bat and Michael Cuddyer's latest injury keeps him sidelined Kielty would be the obvious choice. Either that or they could bring back Stewart again, because in an odd twist of fate on the same day that Kielty re-signed with his original organization Stewart was released by the Blue Jays following an unsuccessful second stint with his original team.
SINCE THE JULY 16, 2003 TRADE:
PA AVG OBP SLG OPS Shannon Stewart 2353 .289 .349 .402 .751 Bobby Kielty 1334 .246 .333 .389 .723
Who'd have thought that just five years later the Twins could have both and perhaps want neither.
Twins Notes: Cuddyer, Casilla, Liriano, Everett, and Korecky
Initially scheduled to come off the disabled list today following the completion of a brief minor-league rehab assignment, Michael Cuddyer will instead be out for an additional 4-6 weeks after breaking his left foot in a Triple-A game Friday. Occupying first base with Garrett Jones at the plate, Cuddyer's jump to avoid a line drive heading in his direction proved unsuccessful as the ball hit "right smack dab in the middle of the foot" and broke the second metatarsal bone.
Cuddyer hasn't ruled himself out for the remainder of the year, optimistically saying over the weekend that he's "expecting to be back" and wants to "contribute in some capacity" even if it means returning for just a handful of September games and a potential playoff run. Of course, when he landed on the DL with a finger injury in June the hope was that Cuddyer could come back within a few weeks, but instead he was on track to return six weeks later before Jones' line drive found him.
His impending return had set up Ron Gardenhire for a decision, but now instead of having to squeeze Cuddyer, Delmon Young, Jason Kubel, Denard Span, and Carlos Gomez into four lineup spots he'll continue to give the healthy foursome each everyday playing time. It would've been interesting to see who lost at-bats to Cuddyer, because while benching Gomez or even demoting him to Triple-A briefly may have been the obvious move there's a good chance that it wouldn't have been Gardenhire's move.
Given his poor pre-injury offense and the huge defensive upgrade that came from replacing him with Span in right field, not getting Cuddyer back perhaps isn't as big a blow as it seems. Waiting for him likely kept the Twins from adding a right-handed bat via trade and his .283/.370/.443 career line versus left-handers definitely would've come in handy, but Randy Ruiz can do a solid job against southpaws anyway and despite his big contract Cuddyer just isn't that great an all-around player against righties.
While Cuddyer's return has been delayed and perhaps even canceled by another injury, it sounds likeAlexi Casilla could be on the verge of returning despite initial fears that he was lost for the season. Casilla was examined by a hand specialist Thursday and the current hope is that he'll be cleared to resume baseball activities once the splint is removed from his injured right thumb later this week. Out since July 28, Nick Punto has gone 9-for-48 (.188) with 11 strikeouts replacing him at second base.
Like his first post-demotion start versus the Indians, Francisco Liriano was solid but unspectacular Saturday against the Royals. He more or less cruised through five innings before allowing two doubles and a walk in the sixth frame, finishing with 5.2 innings of three-run ball thanks to reliever Boof Bonser stranding a runner on second base. In two starts since returning from Rochester, he's allowed three runs on nine hits with a 10-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 11.2 innings against two poor lineups.
Interestingly, Joe Christensennotes that if Liriano remains on his current schedule 10 of his 11 starts will come against the AL's six worst offenses, with three matchups against Kansas City and two each versus Seattle, Oakland, and Cleveland. Christensen writes that he's "not sure if the Twins purposely planned it this way," but whatever the case it's probably a good thing for Liriano's short- and long-term success. He's definitely setup to thrive.
Rather than actually using the team's best, highest-paid pitcher in a crucial eighth-inning jam or in the extra innings of a tie game, Gardenhire let Craig Breslow lose the game in his third inning of work. If you're curious, Nathan last pitched on Friday, when he threw 14 pitches, and threw a grand total of 50 pitches during the first nine days of August. Once again, Gardenhire held him back for a save situation that depending on your point of view either never materialized or emerged full force in the eighth inning.
Nathan was all set for his usual three-out, ninth-inning save when two hits off Matt Guerrier, a Dennys Reyes wild pitch, and Adam Everett's two-out throwing error let the lead slip away in the eighth. "I just threw it away," Everett said. "You can slice it and dice it and word it anyway you want, but it cost us the game. You know we got Nathan coming in right there ... so I'll take that one for the team. It stinks, but that's the way it is." Despite a two-month DL stint, Everett's shoulder pretty clearly still isn't right.
Claimed off waivers by the Rockies last week after being designated for assignment by the Twins, Livan Hernandezmade his Coors Field debut yesterday and got rocked by the Padres for nine runs before exiting to "a chorus of boos" in the third inning. Hernandez naturally blamed the ugly outing on the fact that he "didn't pitch for 12 days" while changing leagues and Rockies manager Clint Hurdleagreed, adding that his "ineffectiveness was a combination of rust and location."
Of course, Hernandez had a 6.87 ERA since mid-May and failed to make it out of the fifth inning four times in his last 10 starts with the Twins. As the typically criticism-free Associated Pressgame recap pointed out: "Hernandez had allowed a major league-high 199 hits and .341 opponent batting average before he was waived. A move to Coors Field, coupled with nearly two weeks off, wasn't the antidote to those problems." Shockingly, there really isn't an antidote for "being a horrible pitcher."
Dumping Hernandez on the Rockies and getting a $1.7 million rebate was nice, but sadly the Twins weren't able to find a taker for Craig Monroe's contract. Monroe was released after clearing waivers, so the Twins ended up paying $3.82 million for him to bat .202/.274/.405 in 179 plate appearances spent primarily at designated hitter. In other words: "Monroe is ill-suited to be an everyday player and vastly overpaid as a reserve, and there are better, cheaper players available to fill either role." Oh well.
LaVelle E. Neal IIIreports that Pat Neshek has an outside shot of pitching again this season despite being out since mid-May with a partially torn elbow ligament. According to LEN3, Neshek has begun playing catch and could be cleared to throw off a mound by the end of the month if he avoids a setback. Getting a healthy Neshek back for the stretch run would obviously be huge, but it's unlikely that he'll pick up right where he left off and waiting until next spring may be best for his long-term outlook.
Despite obvious stylistic similarities, LEN3 notes that Kevin Slowey has been the anti-Brad Radke in at least one area: "Slowey hasn't allowed a first-inning run in 18 straight starts, which breaks Camilo Pascual's club record in 1963." While certainly impressive, that also means Slowey has a 4.88 ERA after the first inning. During his career, Radke allowed opponents to bat .285 and slug .508 in the first inning, compared to hitting .273 with a .434 slugging percentage in all other innings.
Failing to claim Chad Bradford off waivers last week was a mistake given the bullpen's struggles, but the Twins have another chance to add a veteran reliever after the Rays cut Al Reyesto make room for him on the roster. Reyes is closer to LaTroy Hawkins than Bradford in terms of effectiveness, but has a 4.75 ERA and 89-to-31 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 83.1 innings since last year. Of course, he also has a history of arm problems and taser issues, so the Twins passing on him will be understandable.
LEN3 received an e-mail from me last week asking him to look into why the Twins haven't recalled Bobby Korecky from Triple-A yet and wrote about the topic yesterday:
Righthander Bobby Korecky has been solid as the closer, entering Friday 5-4 with a 3.34 ERA and 19 saves. He was called up to the Twins briefly in May and pitched 10 1/3 innings--earning a victory over Texas on May 19. The Twins want him to work on his changeup, which he will need in the majors, but it's hard for him to work on the pitch in closing situations.
In other words, the bullpen is struggling and Korecky has a 3.29 ERA with a 63-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 63 innings at Triple-A, but he's still there because the Twins want a 29-year-old in his seventh pro season "to work on his changeup." Apparently Brian Bass has mastered his changeup despite using it on just 4.9 percent of his pitches while amassing a 5.01 ERA. Remember when Jason Bartlett got stuck at Rochester supposedly "working on his infield leadership"? Same thing.