Friday, January 16, 2009
The first is that being fat, losing a huge amount of weight, and becoming fat again is significantly more depressing than simply being fat and remaining that way the entire time. The other is that previously having lost 92.5 pounds makes me all too aware of just how long it will take to do it again. However, the signs are all pointing to me needing to drop some pounds again even if being successful means losing Hall of Fame eligibility.
Assistant general manager Rob Antony brought up my comment on the air a few days later while being interviewed by LaVelle E. Neal III and noted that the Twins do in fact use stats in their decision-making. However, my suggestion was never that the Twins completely ignore stats, because that would be silly. Rather, my point was that for better or worse they don't employ the more advanced statistical tools that have become available recently and are now in fairly wide use among other teams (like the Mariners).
In other words, my point was about things like PitchFX and Zone Ratings rather than home-road splits and fielding percentages. There's a big difference, so in an effort to clear the air I sent Antony an e-mail. To his credit he responded with an explanation of the Twins' stance on the issue, but also confirmed that they indeed "do not have a department devoted to statistical analysis" and are not using the type of advanced tools I was talking about. Whether that's good or bad is up for debate, but it's definitely true.
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.At the time my suggestion was that the Twins should offer Gagne a one-year contract worth $3 million plus incentives, but given how the non-closer reliever market has played out since then that's probably more than they'd need to spend. Gagne is far from a sure thing, but there's a decent shot that he has 60 innings of a 3.50 ERA in him and the Twins are in obvious need of another capable option to bridge the gap from the starters to Joe Nathan.
Meanwhile, the Minneapolis Star Tribune's website is among the best when it comes to content, layout, and innovation. All of which is why online managing editor Will Tacy resigning may quietly be the most significant of the newspaper's growing number of departures. Most of the Star Tribune's audience has surely never heard of Tacy and just about everyone is understandably far more concerned about what's happening with the columnists they read than the guy who puts the website together.
However, in the midst of steadily declining print circulation and a rapidly changing industry landscape the Star Tribune has made tremendous strides with its online presence recently. I'm certainly not in a position to say how much impact Tacy has had or predict what his loss means to the newspaper, but there's zero doubt that the massive gap in quality between the Star Tribune's website and the Pioneer Press' website has shaped my reading habits, and that's more than can be said for any single writer.
UPDATE: Even better news from Sepinwall: Stringer Bell and Michael Scott, together on The Office. As a wise man once said: "Giggity, giggity."
He cut back to half-time at the Star Tribune, but will still write Thursday and Sunday columns. ... Reusse originally wanted out of newspapering; he asked to be part of the Strib's recent buyout, but was turned down. Sportswriters weren't eligible, so half-time was the compromise.Reusse's odd rants against bloggers annoy me and his storytelling has always been much better than his attempts at analysis, but he also clearly stands above the rest of the Twin Cities' barren wasteland of sports columnists. It's ironic that someone who rails against bloggers has cut back on a newspaper column in part because he doesn't want to travel or report as much, but more than that it'll be a shame if Reusse lessening his workload simply clears even more space for Sid Hartman and Jim Souhan.
In what other profession do practitioners brag about their ignorance regarding current events and developments? In what other area of journalism is lack of awareness a mark of distinction? Cut it out, fellow writers. Do your job. Engage with your material. Stay current. Learn about things you don't understand. Ignorance isn't a virtue. It's not something to brag about. It's something to fix.Earlier this week Jim Rice was inducted into the Hall of Fame by receiving almost as many votes as Bert Blyleven and Tim Raines combined, and the dozens of columns explaining why were filled with so much of the anti-intellectualism Kaufman described that it can't be a shock that Rickey Henderson was left completely off the ballot by 28 of those same voters.
I'm sure that hiring Mariotti will bring more eyeballs to AOL Fanhouse because he's always been able to drum up an audience. However, sports fans getting fed up with guys like Mariotti in newspapers is a big part of why people flocked to blogs in the first place and now that online media has gained some serious footing in the marketplace it's unfortunate to see him land a job simply for being a controversial figure with a recognizable byline. Let the newspapers have him, because we don't need him. Oh well.
All of which is a long way of saying thanks for not only reading AG.com, but for checking out the various other sites that I've plugged on the sidebar. I've intentionally kept the number of sidebar links small, so you can be certain that any site found there is legitimately part of my daily reading routine and definitely worth reading. That makes me some enemies at sites not found on the sidebar, but the alternative is flooding the page with dozens of links and that seems silly if I'm not even reading them.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Movie Reviews: Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Iron Man
I'm not sure why exactly, but after a recent pay-per-view binge it struck me as a good idea to write up a couple quick movie reviews. Apparently this is what happens when re-signing Nick Punto is the biggest headline of the Twins' offseason. Sorry.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall tends to get thrown into the massive and ever-expanding Judd Apatow pile, but his producer-only influence appears to be pretty minimal compared to his writing and directing. Most of Apatow's movies are filled with obvious laughs in funny scenes built around goofy banter that's seemingly pieced together around a basic plot to make a film, but Forgetting Sarah Marshall is much more story driven and ultimately more cute than funny.
There are still plenty of laughs, but the memorable one-liners are more or less non-existent and aside from a little male nudity the film more easily fits under the umbrella of modern romantic comedies than something out of the Apatow factory. Jason Segel is bumbling at times and very charming at others as a relatively unique leading man, and Russell Brand is a perfect fit as the swarthy rock star who breaks up Segel's relationship with Kristen Bell's character.
Of course, perhaps the movie's biggest flaw is that while Bell plays a television actress on a hit show she gets overshadowed by Official Fantasy Girl of AG.com third runner-up Mila Kunis, who plays what can only be described as the world's most beautiful and down-to-earth hotel desk clerk. Perhaps not enough setup is devoted to showing why Segel's character would be so crushed by breaking up with Sarah Marshall, or perhaps her celebrity implies the heartbreak and Kunis steals her spotlight anyway.
Either way, at no time during the film did it seem like Segel should be leaning toward Bell over Kunis, which given the plot was a fairly big bump to get over. Apatow favorites Jonah Hill and Paul Rudd make amusing quasi-cameos, 30 Rock co-star Jack McBrayer provides the most laughs per second as an out-of-his-element honeymooner, and there are a pair of obese hotel workers who account for a large percentage of the movie's big laughs.
Ultimately the movie is a step above the average romantic comedy because of some well-placed adult-themed humor and a good cast, but fails to hit as many high points as the average Apatow flick thanks to the Segel-penned script refusing to stray quite as far into the world of absurd dialogue. That's not necessarily a bad thing, because several of Apatow's latest films are more hit than miss anyway, but Forgetting Sarah Marshall didn't give itself a chance to be a truly memorable comedy.
Cheesy and incredibly forced baseball-related rating: Line-drive single.
I'm not usually a huge fan of superhero movies or even films that revolve around special effects and/or action sequences, but Iron Man is far more than that thanks to Robert Downey Jr.'s excellent portrayal of Tony Stark. Downey as Stark is so amusingly charming and the actual creation of his superhero is so intriguing that my favorite parts of the movie were the non-action scenes and the story captivated me despite zero prior knowledge of the comic book.
Most of the secondary characters lacked depth because the movie focused on establishing Downey as the uber-cool hero, but Jeff Bridges still managed to play a plenty convincing, slick villain and Gwyneth Paltrow was fetching enough in an extremely understated role to convince you that Stark could develop a crush on his longtime assistant even while being a brash billionaire genius super-celebrity who has everything and everyone else he wants.
Jon Favreau directed a sleek, fast-paced film that seemed a half-hour shorter than the 126-minute run time despite needing about 30 minutes of setup before completely diving in. I'm rarely blown away by superhero attempts and Iron Man certainly doesn't come close to ranking among my all-time favorite movies, but it's clear to me how much comic book fans would adore the film and even as a non-comic book guy it definitely had little trouble holding my attention.
In fact, between great special effects, interesting action scenes that avoided being overdone, a likable yet slick hero, snappy dialogue, and a cameo by Marvel icon Stan Lee it was nearly a perfect comic film for a non-fanatic. Downey carried the film far more than the story or effects, and Bridges again showed that he can thrive playing just about any type of character with any type of haircut. Not a perfect movie by any means and no hugely memorable moments, but two hours of non-stop enjoyment.
Cheesy and incredibly forced baseball-related rating: Ground-rule double.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
AG.com Live Chat Today at Noon
We haven't done one of these in a while. Today's live chat will begin at noon, with doors opening 15-20 minutes early for pre-submitted questions.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Twins Notes: No Thank You
During the past four seasons his OPS has declined from .898 to .815 to .784 to .741, and those marks are also hugely inflated by Texas' extremely hitter-friendly ballpark. Young has hit just .279/.323/.404 on the road during his career. For comparison, Brendan Harris is a career .269/.330/.408 hitter. Beyond that, Young winning the Gold Glove last year was totally undeserved, as he's consistently rated among the league's worst defensive shortstops in most advanced metrics.
Ultimate Zone Rating pegs him as 65.1 runs below average in over 6,700 career innings at shortstop, including negative totals in each of his five full seasons at the position. Revised Zone Rating shows him as three percent below the MLB average for shortstops during his career, including below-average marks in four of his five full seasons at the position. And last but certainly not least, Young is already 32 years old and is owed $62 million over the next five seasons.
Twins fans should be praying that Bill Smith has zero interest in Young.
Mauer joins a lengthy list of American stars who've passed on playing in the second WBC tournament and the choice is especially sensible for a young catcher. Plus, with Brian McCann and Chris Iannetta already on the roster Team USA is in good shape behind the plate. Incidentally, Mauer ranked second in the AL in innings caught last year and in the four seasons since coming back from his 2004 knee injury he ranks second among all MLB catchers in plate appearances:
PABaseball history shows that catchers simply don't rack up 600-700 plate appearances per season, but the general lack of understanding about their typical workloads is one of the many reasons why Mauer is incredibly underrated. Along with ranking second to only Jason Kendall in plate appearances during that four-year span, Mauer leads all catchers in hits, walks, runs, batting average, on-base percentage, Runs Created, and OPS+. As long as no one tells Dan Barreiro, we should be okay.
Monday, January 12, 2009
Hello Like Before
Hello like before
- Bill Withers, "Hello Like Before"I'm back from Beckett Media headquarters in Dallas and my annual blog-neglecting hibernation while putting together the Rotoworld baseball magazine each winter is finally over. We seemingly never have quite enough time at the Beckett offices to be fully comfortable with how every last inch of the magazine turned out, but I'm very happy with the product that will be hitting newsstands next month. Based just on word count alone you won't find a better value, because $6.99 for 175,000 words is ridiculous.
About one-third of those words were written by me, one-third were penned by Matthew Pouliot, and the rest were split between Craig Calcaterra, David Pinto, Nate Stephens, Nick Nelson, Chris Wesseling, Derek Carty, Drew Silva, and Conor Glassey, which is a group that likely includes several recognizable names whether you're a Rotoworld reader, blog enthusiast, or Twins fan. Toss in Beckett turning those words into a great-looking magazine and I'm confident stacking it up against anything on the market.
Not only does the name Beckett rightfully carry a ton of weight in the magazine world, their ability to put out great products is matched only by their hospitality. Last week was my third trip to Dallas and each trek has involved a ton of stressful, last-minute labor on an important project, yet it always seems more like spending a few days at a friend's house than work. Mike Obert is the friend whose place we crash at, Tim Trout makes life easy coordinating things on Beckett's end, and everyone at the office is great.
We work hard on the magazine all day in a wonderful environment full of smart, easygoing people and then go out to dinner together each night. In fact, even considering the part about having to actually put together a 175,000-word product in a short period of time I look forward to the Beckett trip each winter. All of which is a long way of saying thank you to Mike, Tim, Brett, Brent, Kyla, Pete, and everyone else for treating us so well and making a tough few days seem easy. And for introducing me to hibachi.
Between my trip to Las Vegas for the winter meetings and self-imposed hibernation for the Rotoworld magazine it's been a while since AG.com was running normally with near-daily entries. Thankfully the Twins were kind enough to do absolutely nothing during that time, sitting on their hands until blogging resumed. Thanks, fellas. There's still an outfield logjam and it still involves Delmon Young, third base still belongs to Brian Buscher and Brendan Harris, and the bullpen still looks exactly the same.
I'm on record saying that decent-bat, poor-glove third basemen like Garrett Atkins, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Casey Blake, and Ty Wigginton simply aren't sizable enough upgrades over a Buscher-Harris platoon to justify the prices to acquire them, so the Twins' lack of action on that front doesn't bother me one bit. Similarly, while my sense at the winter meetings was that the Twins were clearly looking to deal Young, hanging onto him is far from disastrous at this stage.
However, the Twins' odd refusal to address the bullpen cost them a trip to the playoffs last season and has led to them watching this winter as quality late-inning options like Jeremy Affeldt, Bob Howry, Joe Nelson, and Takashi Saito signed reasonably priced deals elsewhere. There's some talk of being in the mix for Brandon Lyon and they were in attendance last week when a rehabbing Chad Cordero tried to show that he's healthy following surgery, but most of the good, low-cost options have dried up.
It's possible that the Twins are essentially counting on Jose Mijares to be their big bullpen addition for 2009 and certainly he looked as good as any free agent while allowing just one run in 10 appearances down the stretch last season, but he's hardly a sure thing late-inning option if you trust his career-long track record more than his two-week debut. For one thing, Mijares walked zero batters in 10.1 innings with the Twins after handing out 60 walks in 85 innings between Double-A and Triple-A.
Mijares had a 3.71 ERA in those 85 innings and less than 10 percent of those frames came at Triple-A, which means that he'll enter 2009 as a 24-year-old rookie with a grand total of 19 career innings above Double-A. I'm all for giving young, inexperienced players a chance in key roles, but I'm also a believer in minor-league track records predicting major-league success and nothing Mijares did prior to those two weeks in Minnesota suggested "sure thing."
Far too many fans and media members are criticizing the Twins for not spending money just to spend money without realizing that throwing millions at someone like Wigginton wouldn't actually improve the team much, if at all. However, bringing in even one capable veteran reliever could have a major impact and comes with a minimal cost. Not only were Affeldt, Howry, Nelson, and Saito all reasonably priced individually, the foursome is guaranteed a combined $9.1 million for 2009.
If you're curious, last winter the Twins gave out $8.8 million in guaranteed money to Livan Hernandez and Craig Monroe. I'm perfectly fine with the Twins coming in significantly under what everyone seems to feel their budget should be if the likely alternatives are using that excess money to pay a premium for marginal upgrades or swap cheap talent for expensive mediocrity, but they were (and still are, to some extent) in position to cheaply boost the bullpen and so far at least have watched the pitch go by.
I'm back now, guys. Feel free to, you know, do something.