Seth Davis of SI.com wrote a great tribute on the 15th anniversary of Hoop Dreams, which for some reason I can remember watching for the first time while sitting in the hallway of my elementary school. Easily one of my favorite movies of all time and just as compelling 15 years later.
Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Jon Tevlinmakes some very good points about the downside of having comments sections attached to articles, including: "I've had people refuse to have their photos taken because they were overweight ... people would call them names in comments." Fortunately my self-esteem is low enough that I post pictures of myself specifically for you guys to mock. In fact, that's the only reason I even own a camera.
When it comes to women's teeth I'm normally not a fan of the Michael Strahan look and True Blood lost my interest after five episodes, but for some reason Anna Paquin is still right in my wheelhouse.
Eddie Guardado is five outings away from becoming the 21st pitcher in baseball history to appear in 900 games. Trevor Hoffman (958) and David Weathers (932) are the only active guys ahead of him, although it's worth noting that 112 active pitchers have faced more career batters than Guardado's total of 3,965. Still, it's been a pretty good run.
Twins Notes: Injuries, Massages, Graphs, and Twitter
Joe Crede's surgically repaired back was the big concern when the Twins signed him to a one-year contract this offseason, but instead he's been sidelined for a couple days at a time with an assortment of other injuries that now includes a potentially serious shoulder problem. He's avoided the disabled list so far despite sitting out 24 of 95 games, but that could change depending on how things go during his visit with Angels team doctor and shoulder specialist Lewis Yocum.
Kevin Mulvey has been sent back to Triple-A after retiring the only batter he faced in his big-league debut Monday and then coughing up four runs in one inning of work yesterday. He could be back in a hurry if Perkins' injury proves serious, but in the meantime the Twins have recalled Jesse Crain from Rochester. Crain has pitched well there since last month's demotion, posting a 2.55 ERA and 22-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 17.2 innings.
Not that anyone with the Twins would care given that they haven't even bothered to promote him to Triple-A at the age of 25, but Anthony Slama has a 2.98 ERA, 20 saves, and 77 strikeouts in 54 innings at Double-A. His control isn't great, but opponents are hitting .218 against Slama while striking out 35 percent of the time, and he now has a 1.83 ERA with 236 strikeouts compared to just 102 hits allowed in 157 career innings. What possible reason could there be not to at least promote him to Rochester?
As if ranking No. 26 on my list of the Twins' top prospects heading into the season wasn't enough of an honor for Rene Tosoni, he was named MVP of the Futures Game over the All-Star break. Tosoni has boosted his stock quite a bit by hitting .281/.387/.476 with 10 homers and 33 total extra-base hits in 86 games at Double-A as a 23-year-old.
After cycling through the usual assortment of banjo-hitting middle infielders in the No. 2 spot, Ron Gardenhire has mercifully gone back to usingJoe Mauer there. There was zero reason to move Mauer from the second spot to begin with given that he batted .435/.481/.739 with 22 RBIs and 24 runs in 25 games there, so hopefully Gardenhire will stop tinkering with what works. If you remove Mauer's totals, the No. 2 spot has hit .193 with a .243 on-base percentage and .256 slugging percentage this season.
Here's what the Win Probability Added graph looked like for Monday night's implosion in Oakland:
I'd make some pithy comment about WPA showing home-plate umpire Mike Muchlinskias the game's MVP, but I'm just trying to forget the whole debacle ever happened. Thankfully yesterday's game wasn't on television, or I'd be trying to scrub that memory from my brain too.
Speaking of scrubbing memories from your brain, here's footage of Ron Coomergetting a massage that was featured during Saturday's game against the Rangers:
Not shown in that video are the other plugs for the Wisconsin Dells that annoyingly dominated the FSN broadcast, causing me to long for the sweet sounds of Dick Bremer and Bert Blyleven for the first time in my life. FSN better have made tons of money for the non-stop infomercial overshadowing the game.
Garrett Jones left the Twins as a minor-league free agent this winter following four underwhelming seasons at Rochester and a forgettable 31-game stint in Minnesota, but now appears to have found a home in Pittsburgh. Jones is hitting .313 with nine homers in 17 games with the Pirates, which is pretty astounding for a guy who hit .265/.321/.463 in 575 games at Triple-A. He'll come crashing back down to earth soon enough, but in the meantime the Pirates cleared first base by dealingAdam LaRoche.
Released by the Twins last month in large part because he complained about not being used as a late-inning setup man despite being completely unqualified for the job, Luis Ayalahas found a home in the Marlins' bullpen ... and so far has been used in even lower-leverage situations.
Next time someone opines that the Twins don't make in-season deals because quality players are too costly, point to Felipe Lopez and Cla Meredith. Lopez is a switch-hitting second baseman with a decent glove who's hit .294/.355/.402 in 230 games since the start of last year, yet the Brewers got him for two marginal prospects. Meredith is a ground-ball machine with a 3.49 ERA in 240 career innings, yet the Padres basically gave the 26-year-old reliever away. Inexpensive upgrades are available.
Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribunewrote a well-done article about the mutual respect between Mauer and Ichiro Suzuki as they battle to see who can capture their third career batting title.
Jim Caple, who worked for the St. Paul Pioneer Press before landing at ESPN, wrote a nice feature on Mauer for a national audience.
Rod Carew recently joined the Angels' front office as something called an "executive representative." Carew finished his Hall of Fame career with the Angels and later served as the team's hitting coach.
Last and least, after listening to everyone's thoughts on the subject I've decided to give Twitter a try. Please be gentle, because I have no clue what I'm doing yet and the whole thing makes me feel sort of like my grandparents looked when we first gave them a computer. Any advice on how to get started is definitely appreciated. In the meantime, you can start "following" me in the hopes that someday I'll get the hang of things enough to actually post something that interests someone.
As someone who's been blogging for nearly seven years people often assume that I'm tech-savvy, but it took me around five years to give Facebook a try and I'm still debating whether to dive into the Twitter pool. I've sent maybe a dozen text messages in my life and most of you are probably sick of me already just from this blog, which is why I've avoided the Twitter craze so far. On the other hand, it doesn't seem to be going away and we're citing more and more Twitter feeds from writers and players at Rotoworld.
Is it worth trying Twitter? What advantages are there for someone like me compared to simply posting stuff on here or Facebook? On one hand I'm perhaps not familiar enough with Twitter to know what the point is for someone who already posts thousands of words per day spreadbetweena wholebunch ofdifferentplaces. On the other hand, I'm having zero trouble picturing myself completely obsessed with typing up 140-character notes about random things that no one else could possibly care about.
Unhappy with the league-worst production that they've gotten from second base and unwilling as usual to make a significant midseason trade to address the issue, the Twins signed Mark Grudzielanekto a minor-league contract yesterday. Grudzielanek is a 39-year-old veteran with 14 seasons, 1,774 games, 2,010 hits, one All-Star game, and one Gold Glove filling his resume, but sat out the first half after going unsigned this offseason and hasn't played in nearly 12 months thanks to a late-season ankle injury.
Assuming zero risk while bringing in a potentially washed up veteran is obviously nothing new for the Twins and has gotten tough for fans to tolerate, but believe it or not Grudzielanek actually still has a fair amount of upside. It remains to be seen how much sitting out for so long at the age of 39 will hurt him and certainly it shouldn't surprise anyone if he proves to be done, but he was a solid all-around player when healthy last season and is unique in that he remained a strong defensive middle infielder at 38.
Grudzielanek hit .299/.345/.399 in 86 games with the Royals last year, giving him a .300/.339/.412 line in 336 games since signing with Kansas City in 2006. For comparison, during that same stretch Nick Punto has batted .252/.326/.324 and Brendan Harris is at .275/.331/.408 while Alexi Casilla and Matt Tolbert have career lines of .246/.297/.315 and .227/.295/.302. In other words, if Grudzielanek can pick up right where he left off at the plate he'd be the Twins' best offensive middle infielder.
That probably says more about the motley crew the Twins have been trotting out there, but he's been at worst a league-average second baseman offensively every year since 2003. And his defense has been even better. Ultimate Zone Rating pegged Grudzielanek as 5.3 runs above average per 150 games at second base last season after showing him as 9.9, 16.1, and 10.9 runs above average per 150 games from 2005-2007. He's been a legitimately outstanding defender based on both reputation and stats.
For comparison, UZR has Punto as 3.4 runs above average per 150 games at second base while with the Twins, and Harris, Tolbert, and Casilla are all deep into the negative numbers. Again, it remains to be seen how much Grudzielanek's skills have eroded since last season, but picking up where he left off would make him either the team's best or second-best defensive second baseman. Add that to his solid offense and if his skills remain intact he represents a substantial upgrade at the position.
Grudzielanek is only a big name is the sense that he literally has a large name in the tradition of Doug Mientkiewicz and A.J. Pierzynski and signing him won't stop fans from clamoring for a guy like Freddy Sanchez after seeing him at the All-Star game. However, as far as low-risk moves to get veterans go signing Grudzielanek is a rare reasonable one for the Twins, whose second basemen have amazingly been worth 35 runs below replacement level through 92 games and 387 plate appearances.
Last year Grudzielanek was 17 runs above replacement level in 360 plate appearances and he was 20 runs above replacement level per 400 trips to the plate from 2006-2008. Ten runs is typically worth one win, so replacing the Twins' second basemen with the Grudzielanek of 2006-2008 would have added about five wins. Sanchez has been slightly better than that over the same period, rating 21 runs above replacement level per 400 PA, and unlike Grudzielanek there are no questions about his current skills.
Certainly it's safe to assume that Sanchez would be a bigger upgrade than Grudzielanek at this point, especially given that Grudzielanek is no sure thing to be the player he was last season. On the other hand, their production since 2006 hasn't been that different and Grudzielanek costs the Twins nothing in terms of salary or prospects. Sanchez makes $6.1 million this season with another $8 million or a $600,000 buyout due in 2010 and the Pirates would've required at least one good prospect to deal him.
Considering the cash and players it would take to get Sanchez and the Twins' longstanding reluctance to part with either, it should surprise no one that they went for the lower-cost, lower-upside option. And for once it's not a bad decision. He may be toast after the long layoff, in which case they have 10 days to evaluate him in the minors before deciding whether to pursue another move before the July 31 trade deadline. Or he may be close to the guy from 2006-2008, in which case he's a nice, cheap upgrade.