The boys over at Stick and Ball Guy have been running various Twins blogs through Typealyzer.com and GenderAnalyzer.com, with amusing results. For instance, the gender analysis is 89 percent sure that AG.com is "written by a man," so apparently more weight is placed on the constant links to pictures of Keeley Hazell than the blogger doing the linking having the musical taste of a 13-year-old girl. Phew. Meanwhile, "the analysis indicates that the author of AaronGleeman.com is of the type":
The active and playful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking, and engaging in physical, outdoor activities.
The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.
A lack of recent progress on the "Top 40 Minnesota Twins" series is evidence of me being "more keen on starting something new than following it through," but otherwise that description couldn't be further from the truth. There's a decent chance that no one has ever described me as "active and playful" and "engaging in physical, outdoor activities" likely would lead to a bit more success with the Fat-O-Meter. Plus, no human has less of "a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time."
Derek Jeter hasn't shown that much range in years.
If you miss out on that job, the new Mariners' regime is creating a "statistical research and analysis department" to be run by fellow Society for American Baseball Research member and former Rotowire writer Tony Blengino. Surely the Twins will soon be searching for their own SABR member and fantasy writer to run a similar front-office department, and once hell thaws out they know where to find me.
Pat Neshek has long been the Official Relief Pitcher of AG.com, but during his lengthy recovery from Tommy John elbow surgery Craig Breslow may prove to be a capable fill in. Not only did Breslow post a 1.63 ERA in 38.2 innings with the Twins after being claimed off waivers in May, he's a member of the tribe and Yale graduate with a degree in molecular biophysics who founded a charity that raises money for childhood cancer research. I'd pay to hear what his conversations with Carlos Gomez sound like.
One of the misconceptions that many people have regarding the rapidly changing media landscape is that good reporting will vanish along with ink-on-a-page newspapers. In reality newspapers are just a platform for that type of writing and as online media continues to evolve plenty of sites will emerge as similar platforms. Or at least that's the point I've been trying to make in this space over the past couple years, which is why it was nice to see a New York Timesarticle on "web-based news operations":
As America's newspapers shrink and shed staff, and broadcast news outlets sink in the ratings, a new kind of Web-based news operation has arisen in several cities, forcing the papers to follow the stories they uncover. ... Their news coverage and hard-digging investigative reporting stand out in an Internet landscape long dominated by partisan commentary, gossip, vitriol and citizen journalism posted by unpaid amateurs.
The fledgling movement has reached a sufficient critical mass, its founders think, so they plan to form an association, angling for national advertising and foundation grants that they could not compete for singly. And hardly a week goes by without a call from journalists around the country seeking advice about starting their own online news outlets.
These things obviously don't happen overnight, but the ball is definitely beginning to roll. Locally there's MinnPost, which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary and was featured in the Times article:
Most of this new breed of news sites have a whiff of scruffy insurgency, but MinnPost, based in Minneapolis, resembles the middle-age establishment. Its founder and chief executive, Joel Kramer, has been the editor and publisher of The Star Tribune, of Minneapolis, and its top editors are refugees from that paper or its rival, The Pioneer Press in St. Paul.
MinnPost is rich compared with its peers--with a $1.5 million bankroll from Mr. Kramer and several others when it started last year, and a $1.3 million annual budget--and it has been more aggressive about selling ads and getting readers to donate.
The full-time editors and reporters earn $50,000 to $60,000 a year, Mr. Kramer said--a living wage, but less than they would make at the competing papers. MinnPost has just five full-time employees, but it uses more than 40 paid freelance contributors, allowing it to do frequent reporting on areas like the arts and sports.
As one of those freelance contributors I'm obviously biased, but clearly sites like MinnPost will continue to pop up all over the country as newspapers continue to shut down. Good writing and reporting is not limited to ink on a page and given some time to develop the online world will become a fine home.
How popular was Fire Joe Morgan before they retired from blogging last week? Michael Schur, Alan Yang, and Dave King did an exit interview with Leitch over at Deadspin and the blog itself essentially got an obituary in the New York Times. Along those lines, when AG.com eventually comes to an end my goal is for the news to warrant a one-sentence note near the bottom of Seth Stohs' latest 3,000-word entry and a quasi-obituary in the Hopkins Sun Sailor.
Schur is retiring from baseball blogging in part because he's in charge of the upcoming NBC sitcom starring Amy Poehler of Saturday Night Live. As if one of the driving forces behind The Office creating a new show starring Poehler wasn't enough to make me watch, Rashida Jones is reportedly also joining the cast. Fire Joe Morgan going dark is bad news, but at least the world gets another funny television show and the return of Karen Filippelli out of the deal.
Brad Childress has had a busy week. First he criticized the local media for criticizing him, ending his press conference with a quote about how "editorialists and columnists are like men that come down from the mountains after the battle and shoot the wounded." Obviously between Sid Hartman and the rest of the notoriously blood-thirsty Minnesota media looking to tear Childress and the Vikings down he has it tough. Or something. My apologies to anyone who drowned in that sarcasm. Wait, it gets better.
Childress apparently made an enemy of Troy Williamson, the former No. 7 overall pick who was a bust in three seasons with the Vikings. Williamson is now on the Jaguars, who host the Vikings this week, and said Thursday that he'd like to "go at it" and "duke it out" with Childress at the 50-yard line prior to Sunday's game. "I'd even tie my hands around my back," Williamson said. Of course, as Childress and Vikings fans know all too well, Williamson's hands were never good for much anyway. Rimshot!
After initially trying to avoid addressing Williamson's comments, Childress eventually loosened up and displayed some rare humor to all those men who come down from the mountains after the battle and shoot the wounded. "I'm not like a woman, I'll give you my weight," Childress offered. "It's 190 pounds of twisted steel and rompin', stompin' dynamite." Then, to make sure that his status as a world-class blowhard with a grating personality wasn't in danger, Childress asked: "Is that enough humor for you?"
My appearance on KFAN radio Tuesday night went very well, and you can listen to the hour-long clip of me talking Twins with Doogie Wolfson and Phil Mackey by clicking here. You may want to skip past the first 20 minutes, because it's all Vikings talk and my appearance doesn't begin until after the first break. Amusingly, the very first thing that Wolfson did after introducing me was ask why the Fat-O-Meter reads "still fat." You know, because talking on the radio about how fat you've become is always fun.
Doors open for submitting questions 15-20 minutes before noon and I'll keep going until the questions stop rolling in, which usually means a couple hours of live-chatting thrills on a hump day afternoon.
Jeremy Affeldt headlined yesterday's entry examining my favorite low-cost bullpen targets, but sadly less than 24 hours later he's already off the market after becoming the first free agent of the offseason to sign. My suggestion was that the Twins should offer Affeldt a three-year deal worth $9 million and he ended up taking $8 million over two years from the Giants, which is a very nice deal for San Francisco. Apparently he wasn't even on the Twins' radar, which is a shame at that price.
I'll be on KFAN radio tonight from 8-9 with Doogie Wolfson and Phil Mackey. You can listen online by clicking here and my guess is that we'll probably be taking some phone calls, so feel free to call in with a question. Thanks to various guest spots with Doogie and my weekly Friday morning appearances on "The Power Trip Morning Show" during the baseball season I've learned to really enjoy doing in-studio radio, so talking Twins for an hour should be fun.
Actually, with a new year around the corner perhaps my goal for 2009 should be to land a regular radio gig, if only because it may be the only other job that would allow me to keep shaving no more than once per week, showering sporadically, and wearing sweatpants and flip-flops to work. Unlike my wonderful day job at Rotoworld doing regular radio stuff would involve actually leaving the house and interacting with other people, but in fairness not every gig can be completely perfect.
If you haven't already, please pre-orderSeth Stohs' must-read Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook. Seriously, even if you're some sort of weirdo who wouldn't enjoy reading thousands upon thousands of words about Twins prospects from the blogger who covers the team's minor-league system far better than anyone else, consider buying the book a personal favor to me and the entire blogging community.
While not unexpected, news of Pat Neshek's delayed decision to undergo Tommy John elbow surgery leaves the Twins without their top setup man for 2009 and makes addressing the bullpen's weakness an even bigger offseason priority. As usual Joe Nathan was great in 2008, converting 39-of-45 saves with a 1.33 ERA, 74-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .179 opponent's batting average in 67.2 innings, but the rest of the bullpen posted a 4.27 ERA that would have ranked 11th in the 14-team league.
Things were particularly bad for the non-Nathan relievers after Neshek went down in mid-May, as Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, and Brian Bass struggled when asked to take on bigger, more important roles in his absence. As the trading deadline neared both Chad Bradford and LaTroy Hawkins emerged as potential low-cost pickups who could help the sagging bullpen, but general manager Bill Smith opted instead to merely bring back a 37-year-old, decliningEddie Guardado.
Within a week of his arrival Guardado had pitched himself to the back of the bullpen, whereas Bradford and Hawkins combined for a 0.90 ERA over 40 innings down the stretch for their new teams. Beyond that, Bradford was already under contract for a reasonable $3.5 million in 2009 and Hawkins recently re-signed for the exact same amount, meaning that picking either of them up at midseason would have helped the Twins address a major weakness for both 2008 and 2009.
Now the Twins are left with a bullpen that consists of Nathan and a bunch of question marks, although losing left-handers Guardado and Dennys Reyes via free agency are the least of the team's problems given the presence of southpaws Craig Breslow and Jose Mijares. Once again relying upon Guerrier, Crain, and perhaps even Boof Bonser as the top right-handed setup men is a far shakier proposition and should have the Twins looking to add another capable arm to the late-inning mix.
Picking up a reliever via trade is always possible and there are also several intriguing internal options like Bobby Korecky, Philip Humber, and Robert Delaney, but looking toward free agency for a low-cost veteran could be a quick fix after passing on Bradford and Hawkins. Of course, the Twins' track record for signing low-cost veterans is ugly, and just because Bradford and Hawkins were available cheaply at the trade deadline may not mean that similar relievers are available cheaply on the open market.
Francisco Rodriguez, Brian Fuentes, Kerry Wood, and Trevor Hoffman can all be ruled out thanks to their expected price tags and Juan Cruz, Bob Howry, and Russ Springer likely aren't options because as "Type A" free agents they'd cost a first-round pick, but there are still other free-agent relievers who can help the Twins. The key for Smith will be avoiding paying too much for a quick fix and resisting the urge to hand money to any old reliever just because he's a "veteran" with "experience."
All of which leaves the following lost-cost bullpen arms as my suggested free-agent targets ...
Jeremy Affeldt isn't right-handed, but along with Fuentes he's one of the few available southpaws who figures to be a reliable setup man rather than merely a situational left-hander. Affeldt came up through the Royals' system as a starter, but moved to the bullpen after struggling to stay healthy and has quietly turned in back-to-back strong seasons as a reliever despite calling hitter-friendly ballparks home. His success can be traced to a dramatic rise in both strikeout rate and fastball velocity since the move.
Affeldt can bring it in the mid-90s, misses bats, throws strikes, and induces ground balls--which is the perfect recipe for a late-inning reliever--and unlike most potential free-agent targets he's not yet on the wrong side of 30. Affeldt has a 3.73 career Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) as a reliever, including 3.52 in 2007 and 3.61 in 2008, which compares favorably to the FIPs posted by both Crain (3.81) and Guerrier (4.35) over the past three seasons. Offer: Three years, $9 million.
Another rare under-30 free-agent reliever, Brandon Lyon spent much of the season as Arizona's closer before struggling mightily in the second half and losing ninth-inning duties to Chad Qualls down the stretch. An ugly 8.46 ERA after the All-Star break is a concern that takes a chunk out of Lyon's earning potential, but he was excellent while converting 19-of-23 saves with a 2.43 ERA in the first half and has posted solid, relatively consistent FIPs over the past three seasons while in a hitter-friendly ballpark.
Lyon is much different than Affeldt in that he doesn't miss many bats or induce many ground balls, but his average fastball is decent at 91-92 miles per hour and he's a strike-throwing machine. In fact, as a fly-ball heavy control artist Lyon fits the Twins' favored mold and has a similar overall profile to Guerrier. Lyon's late-season struggles make him a risk, but may also lower his price tag enough to leave him in the Twins' shopping range. Offer: Two years, $5 million.
ERIC GAGNE | THROWS: RIGHT | AGE: 32
YEAR G IP FIP SO% BB% GB% FBv 2007 54 52.0 3.20 23.0 9.5 38.5 92.3 2008 50 46.1 5.96 18.7 9.9 37.4 92.1
Eric Gagne was baseball's best closer from 2002-2004, posting a 1.97 ERA with 365 strikeouts in 247 innings while converting 152-of-158 save chances (96.2 percent, including 55-of-55 in 2003). Tommy John elbow surgery followed and Gagne pitched just 15 innings over the next two years before signing with Texas in 2007. He converted 16-of-17 save chances with a 2.16 ERA for the Rangers, but fell apart after a midseason trade to the Red Sox and continued to struggle for the Brewers this year.
Gagne is coming off the worst year of his career and has an ugly 5.82 ERA in 65 innings dating back to the trade to Boston, which along with the injuries and inclusion in the Mitchell Report makes him a big risk. However, it also means that he'll be cheap and Gagne quietly had a 20-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio from July 1 on while allowing zero runs in 24 of 30 games. He's a shell of his old self, but look closely and he still has more upside than anyone in his price range. Offer: One year, $3 million plus incentives.
Will Ohman has been used as a situational left-hander throughout his career, logging just 219 innings in 303 appearances, but he's capable of being more than just death to lefties. Fellow southpaws have hit just .197 off Ohman, but he's also held his own against righties by limiting them to a .262 batting average and .397 slugging percentage. By comparison, righties have hit .245 with a .381 SLG off Crain and .242 with a .380 SLG off Guerrier (and .282 with a .437 SLG off Reyes).
In other words, Ohman is just slightly less effective against righties than the Twins' top right-handed setup men, which along with being nearly unhittable against lefties makes him a capable late-inning option. Ohman's declining velocity is a concern, but he maintained a healthy strikeout rate despite his average fastball dipping under 90 miles per hour in 2008. He has 219 strikeouts in 219 career innings, including 18.3 percent of his plate appearances versus righties. Offer: Two years, $3 million.
In addition to Affeldt, Lyon, Gagne, and Ohman there are some other free-agent relievers who would be intriguing if they'd take inexpensive one-year deals. Keith Foulke, Jason Isringhausen, Al Reyes, Chad Cordero, Tom Gordon, and Akinori Otsuka are former closers coming off injuries and at the right price it would be worth finding out if they still have something left in the tank. Doug Brocail, David Weathers, and Rudy Seanez are each right around 40 years old, but have been solid over the past 2-3 seasons.
Kyle Farnsworth and Guillermo Mota have had sub par results despite mid-90s fastballs and if they're cheap enough perhaps pitching coach Rick Anderson can try to work his magic. Brendan Donnelly makes for a nice reclamation projection two years removed from Tommy John surgery. And if Springer, Howry, or Cruz aren't offered arbitration by their current teams and no longer require losing a first-round draft pick to sign, they would definitely move near the top of my preferred targets list.