Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fare thee Well, Gaston Diedhiou?

Gopher hoops 2014 commit Gaston Diedhiou was denied admission to the U, and as such will not be a Gopher - at least not for the first semester of this year.  Apparently he didn't speak/understand English well enough for the admissions department.  This despite the fact that he was cleared by the NCAA, received a good score on his ACT in English, and "would be admitted to 95% of the Universities in the country" according to a source.  Basically this is the higher ups at the University once again screwing over the basketball program (see:  White, Royce).

Diedhiou is apparently still coming and is enrolled in the English Language program at the school with the hope that he will be admitted for the second semester and join the team then.  Given that he's likely a bit of a project it may not really impact the team all that much since he's more important to the 2015 squad once Mo and Eliason are out of here, but it's still another reminder that the basketball team doesn't really mean jack to the powers that be.  A little thing that, as has been pointed out in the comments of my prior post, is not an endearing quality to a coach who is destined to have suitors come calling every offseason.  Let's hope this is simply a minor blip.

Of course, this also opens up a scholarship, although using it on another player if Diedhiou can get admitted for the second semester is a pretty big dick move.  The whole thing seems a bit silly considering Diedhiou already speaks multiple languages so handling English shouldn't be an issue and likely he's on the team come January.  If not, however - if he is unable to pass muster or decides to "F this shit" and enroll elsewhere another open scholarship isn't the worst thing in the world considering Pitino's hot start to the class of 2015.  So either way we win.  And we lose.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Welcome aboard, Dupree McBrayer!

Richard Pitino added another to the class of 2015 over the weekend or late last week or whatever, with the hilariously awesomely named Dupree McBrayer declaring he'll be a Golden Gopher.

McBrayer, a 6-4 wing from New York, is ranked as the 218th best player in the class according to 247sports composite ranking (and #57 shooting guard), but is considered to be rising up the ranks after an excellent summer session.   He fits in well with what Richard Pitino is trying to do here, as he's super athletic and can play multiple positions (1, 2, 3).  He needs to get stronger, but he's already a skilled scorer particularly when it comes to getting to the rim.  Along with Kevin Dorsey, the Gophers now have two attack, athletic guards who should be excellent defenders.  A damn good start.  Good enough, in fact, that according to 247sports the Gophers have the #21 recruiting class in the country at this point, and the fifth best in the Big 10.

Perhaps even better, McBrayer is from NYC, and with Dorsey from Maryland it shows Pitino and staff making significant inroads on the East Coast, especially considering both Seton Hall and St. John's were after McBrayer.  Winning recruiting battles out of the region against other high major programs is a pretty big deal, and the Gophers have won two already this year.  Next up:  Jarvis Johnson and Alex Illikainen.  Keep it rolling.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Danny Santana - Future Center Fielder?

The people are clamoring for a Danny Santana related post, and when the people talk I usually get around to it sometimes maybe.  So let's talk some CF/SS guy sometimes leadoff guy.

When Santana was first called up I put up a post looking into his background, and was strangely and uncharacteristically optimistic.  I am happy to say that at this point he's justified the hype, hitting .313/.349/.463 while playing two of the most premium defensive positions in the game.  If he had enough plate appearances to qualify, he'd be tied for sixth in the AL in batting average and would rank second among all major league shortstops (if he is a shortstop, which he is, except when he isn't) in OPS.  He's not a crazy power hitter, but his ISO would rank 4th at his position in the league, and he's a good base runner with 12 steals against 3 caught, an acceptable success rate.  All in all the Twins should be ecstatic with Santana, though we'll get into fielding later.

There is one caveat I have to point out with his hitting, and that's his crazy high .384 BABIP that would lead the entire major leagues and is simply unsustainable.  Now, the good news is he's always had a high BABIP through the minors so it's not as hugely fluky as it would be if it was somebody without some past history of this type, but it's still not going to be able to continue.  Mike Trout is a guy who has always blown buy BABIP league averages, but his career mark is just .361 and as much as I really like Santana, he's no Trout.  Still that's not much of a concern.  His walk rate is down just slightly from his minor league numbers, but his K rate is down as well while he's adding power - all fantastic signs.  He's also putting up a line drive rate of 24.6%, a top 20 mark in the league and a driver of high BABIP (suggesting less luck).  If he can cut down on infield pop-ups (12.3%, a bottom 30 mark) he could be even better.  Really, this kid can hit.

 The fact that he's doing this while learning a new position, a position he shouldn't have to learn on the fly, is all the more impressive.  Thanks to the Twins' complete and total mismanagement of the Aaron Hicks situation and center field in general, somebody needed to suddenly become a CF, and the Twins chose Santana despite his grand total of 25 games played out there in his 4 minor league seasons, just 2 of which came after 2012.  And, as you'd expect, he's been pretty brutal out there.  According to UZR he ranks 29th out of 39 center fielders with at least 350 innings played there this year, although as a testament to how unreliable defensive metrics are some of the guys who rank as worse than him are Trout, Ben Revere, and Andrew McCutchen so take it for what it's worth.  In any case, the eye test backs it up on Santana.  His footwork and the routes he takes to balls are often terrible, and his arm is weak enough that runners have no issue taking extra bases whenever possible.

That's not to say he's doomed to be a below average outfielder.  He has potential, namely speed which I'm sure is what the Twins saw, and he's not exactly a great shortstop so it's not like you're hurting yourself moving him off the infield.  Even if Santana pans out and Byron Buxton lives up to expectations you're ok moving Santana to left (or back to short) since Buxton's supposed to be a good enough hitter to help offset some power deficiency from a corner OF spot.  Which is all just a round about way of saying that with about a half season on the books, Danny Santana looks like a legit major league hitter.  He just needs to find a position.

Is there any doubt the Twins screw this up?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Happy Trails, Josh Willingham!

At one point, Josh Willingham was one of the most valuable players in baseball.  Not necessarily from a production perspective, but from a production for the money perspective.   Back in 2012 he was in the midst of a .260/.366/.524 season with 35 homers and 110 rbis, and he was in the first year of a 3 year, $21 million dollar contract. does some fancy stuff with player value, and that season was worth $15.9 million according to their metrics.  He could have been moved for a pretty good offer at the 2012 trade deadline, most likely, but the Twins decided he was worth holding on to even though the season was kind of an outlier and he wasn't likely to still be around when they got back to contending.  Two years later, injuries and poor play torpedoed his value, though a decent second half so far was enough to trick the Royals into trading for him, though the return is dubious at best.

Kansas City has been desperate for outfield power this season, particularly as they try to make a playoff push, so Willingham is pretty perfect match consider the Royals and their aversion to costs, both monetary and prospect wise.  Though his average is poor for the second straight year (.210), he put up a very nice OBP (.345) and decent enough slugging (.402) that he represents an upgrade for the Royals.  Royal outfielders have slugged just .381 this year, and their RFers (where Willingham will most likely play with Alex Gordon entrenched in left) have OPSed just .687 (better than the Twins, actually) so RF was a good place to upgrade and KC was able to do it fairly cheaply.

The Twins received pitcher Jason Adam in return, and it's a mixed bag for certain.  Adam's numbers in his minor league starting career aren't great.  Hell they aren't even good with a career 4.38 ERA, but his peripherals suggest he's better than that (7.4 K/9 vs. 2.6 BB/9, good FIP, bad BABIP) and most prospect lists I could find going into 2014 had him ranked right around #10, with my favorite guy John Sickels from ranked him 11th and said he's "not an ace, but could be a fourth starter."  High praise?  No.  A good return for Willingham at this point?  Absolutely.  Worst case he should end up a fairly decent middle reliever, which is where he's been slotted since being promoted to triple A midway through the year and put up a 2.35 ERA in 8 appearances.

Frankly I didn't expect to get anything of value for Willingham.  Actually, I didn't expect the Twins to trade him at all because I thought they had screwed it up twice, so getting a possibly useful arm is a pretty big win, if you ask me.  Even if his upside is just a 4th starter, if you stockpile enough of those kind of arms eventually you might end up with a few halfway decent starters.  In any case it's a good return on a player who was completely expendable and extremely unlikely to be around in the future.  Even if Adam doesn't pan out at the very least the Twins opened up their outfield playing time, which means plenty of time for Oswaldo Arcia to figure out his bat, Kennys Vargas at DH to gain experience, Chris Parmelee at first so the Twins can figure out he's not very good, and Danny Santana in center to gain time playing a new position.  And of course, Jordan Schafer who probably deserves his own post.  But I'm not going to do that.

Schafer, once regarded as a top prospect in the Braves' system, was selected off waivers by the Twins a few weeks back and has played well.  Since those top prospect days he was traded once (in the Michael Bourn deal) and waived twice, so as you might guess things haven't exactly been working out.  Schafer has been a terrible hitter in his major league career, hitting just .223/.308/.305 in just over 1,200 career plate appearances spread over 5 seasons, while striking out far too much for such little power.  This year he's been spectacularly bad, leading the Braves to finally throw in the towel.  Naturally, one team's trash is always the Twins' treasure bin, so they scooped him up to give a look.

Thus far he's played much better for the Twins than at any other point in his career, hitting .273/.333/.364 with 6 stolen bases and a very good walk rate, and he's playing pretty good defense, especially as a corner outfielder.  Don't get all excited though.  He's still striking out a ton and hitting for zero power, and nothing has drastically changed when you look deeper, so he's probably the same hitter his track record portrays.  But guess what?  He's fast, plays good defense, seems scrappy, and is under team control until 2017 so you know they're going to keep him around.  Get used to this guy.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Gopher Hoops Recruiting Update

As you probably know, the Gophers recently picked up an excellent commitment from Kevin Dorsey.  That is a good start.  With the Gophers still having three open scholarships for 2015 in hand, and entering the period where recruiting news can fly fast and furious, I figured I might as well look at who the Gophers are looking at and where they stand.  All ratings via 247 sports's industry composite rankings.

PG Jarvis Johnson (#128 overall, #25 PG).  Jarvis is the De La Salle kid who it seems the Gophers have been waiting on forever.  The Gophers already have Dorsey on board, but I've read that it hasn't deterred Johnson at all.  Pitino is reportedly pitching putting Dorsey and Johnson (and don't forget Nate Mason) together to create a back court with an interchangeable #1 and #2, just like what UCONN had last year and Louisville two years ago.  It would be pretty awesome.  Both like to play uptempo and run the break, and you give Dorsey the ball-handler roll and Johnson the ball-handler/scorer role and it could work, especially if Johnson's shooting comes around.  It seems like he's a pretty strong Gopher lean right now, but the longer things go without him making it official the more likely it becomes a situation where Izzo misses out on his top targets and then goes hard at Johnson or something like that.  We've seen it before.  It's crucial to get Johnson to commit soon.

PG Craig Randall (unranked).  Not a ton of information out there about Randall, and it appears the Gophers are his first high major offer, though the mid-major offers he has are from some pretty good programs (Akron, LaSalle, St. Joe's, Kent State, UTEP).  Scouting reports say he can already score from both the perimeter and on the drive, and at 6-2 he has good size already, though at just 165 lbs. he'll have to put on some weight.  Clearly a back-up plan if the Gophers fail to land Jarvis, but maybe not the worst plan I've ever seen.  Plus he shoots left-handed, which always looks cool.

PG K.J. Walton (#96 overall, #16 PG).  Getting major interest from Walton, on the other hand, would certainly force Johnson's hand and Pitino may even prefer Walton to Johnson (purely a speculative maybe here).  Walton is ranked slightly higher than Johnson, but maybe more importantly is already known as a defensive terror.  His ability to come in and immediately lead Pitino's press is a major selling point.  You'll hear this a lot, but he's a big time slasher who needs to work on this jump shot, but his general athletic ability and defense outweigh any jumper concerns.  Although there hasn't been a ton of info coming out regarding Walton to the Gophers, they're still seen as a front runner along with Xavier, who Walton says have been recruiting him the longest.  Additionally, rumors say if Indiana gets involved it's as good as over.  Which makes sense since Tom Crean is in no way a terrible coach or an even worse person so why wouldn't you want to play for him and his hair.

SG/SF Chris Clarke (#116 overall, #37 SG).  At one point the Gophers looked to be in decent shape for Mr. Clarke, but he's absolutely killed it this summer and is flying up recruiting boards (247 has him at #39 and #8, other services used to do the composite haven't been updated as recently).  And it's not just recruiting services noticing him as he's picked up offers from UCONN and Florida lately.  Seeing as how Richard Pitino is trying to turn the Gophers into a poor man's Florida, but now Clarke can just go to Florida, I think it's unfortunately time to move on.  Too bad, too.  Dude's a force.

SG Dupree McBrayer (#255, #72 SG).  Not only does McBrayer have a sweet name, but he's moving up the recruiting boards as well (albeit not like Clarke, but it's still nice to see).  The Gophers are thought to be in the lead for McBrayer, who was recently in the business of taking several unofficial visits including to the Minnesota campus.  Most of those visits were to teams on a lower tier (in my opinion) than the Minnesota program, other than Seton Hall, but he also recently picked up an offer from Pitt so schools are starting to pay attention to him.  McBrayer is from Queens and has some ties to Kimani Young (I think) which should help the Gophers, and his combo guard skills and ability to attack the rim should help him thrive if he comes to Dinkytown.  He's another slasher who needs to work on his outside shot, but his athletic ability means he'll fit in with Pitino.

SG Landry Shamet (#221, #60 SG).  Shamet is interesting because he's one of the few guys Pitino is after for 2015 who is a plus shooter.  There's not a ton of info out there on Shamet, probably because he's been mainly recruited by mid-majors and Colorado prior to last week when both the Gophers and Illini offered, but from what I've seen he's very smooth with the ball.  He comes off as a little bit slow, but I have a feeling that could be a deceptive slowness along the lines of Deron Williams or Kyle Anderson (not comparing him to those two dudes, I'm not crazy).  He's clearly starting to get noticed, and I'm getting the distinct whiff of a sleeper coming off of him.  I'm not really enamored with a guy named Landry, but I'm very interested in what happens with this guy - Gopher or not.

SF Danjel Purifoy (#54, #11 SF).  Purifoy is the top rated player the Gophers are still in on, although it sounds like it might be tough to get him out of the South East as he lists Auburn, Alabama, and Georgia as his top schools.  Minnesota seemed to mentioned in conjunction with him quite a bit a few months back, but may have dropped off his radar as they weren't mentioned in his most recent interview I found.  It's too bad if that's the case, as Purifoy sounds like an already polished slasher and finisher and a top flight defender and rebounder.  His only real weakness is lack of a jump shot, but Pitino's system needs the athletic slashers to set up the shooters so he'd be perfect.  Of course, he recently transferred to Hargrave Military Academy which was either the plan all along or what he needed to do after getting kicked off his high school team for ditching spring practices.  Since he's not likely to become a Gopher, I choose to believe this is a red flag.  I reserve the right to change my mind if things change.

SF/PF Nate Grimes (#131, #26 SF).  Grimes is a bit raw, which makes his high rating all the much more impressive, who relies mainly on raw athleticism for his buckets, and I don't necessarily mean that as a negative.  He's an amazing athlete who can get to the rim with his quickness, and a great jumper so he can score on put backs.  He can also hit a jump shot now and again, but his perimeter game needs work and he's limited in post-up situations as well.  Put it altogether, and you have an exceptional athlete with tons of room to grow - a guy you'd really, really like to have.  The Gophers primary competition is Mountain West and mid-major coast schools with New Mexico and San Diego State the top dogs, so you'd think the Gophers should at least be in the running here.  The unfortunate (for the Gophers) thing I read is that he's planning on waiting until the late signing period to pick a school, which means if his game blossoms he's going to start garnering interest from a lot more top level programs.

PF Alex Illikainen (#103, #24 PF).  As much as I said I'd love the Gophers to get Jarvis, this is the guy I really want.  He's perfect.  A stretch four who can shoot the lights out and run the floor, but has enough to work on (post game, strength) that the true power programs haven't come sniffing around, he's also from Grand Rapids and although the Gophers may struggle keeping city kids home they've always had good success with out state kids, which is a plus.  Illikainen just transferred to Brewster Academy, a basketball factory prep school on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire (NEW HAMPSHIRE! - no I'm not making the Lake Winnipesaukee thing up), although I don't think that really means much in terms of is intentions.  Potentially playing against better competition and dominating could get him on more high profile programs' radars and it's always tougher to stay home when you have top programs flirting with you, so, as usual, the sooner they can lock him up the better.  Right now Creighton, Iowa State, and Cal are the Gophers' biggest competition, and I think they can win him there.  Pay attention to the offer list on this guy.

PF Ed Morrow (#122, #26 PF).  Another Pitino style foward, Morrow has the size to play PF but the game to play SF.  Though the reports say he needs to still work on his jumper, they also say he excels at the face up game and attacking the basket and should be an excellent defender.  It's an uphill battle, however, with Nebraska holding a pretty strong lead.  Not only have they "been recruiting him the longest" according to him, but both of his parents were Cornhuskers.  Morrow recently announced he'll be visiting Nebraska and Iowa coming up (the Hawkeyes also earned his praise as being involved with him for a while), which leaves 3 more visits open so hopefully the Gophers can worm their way in there and make him realize how badly both Nebraska and Iowa suck as places to live.  Or at least that's my impression after driving through both of them.  Good enough for me.

PF/C Jonathan Nwankwo (#212, #50 PF).  Of everyone on this list, this guy feels like the most likely to be a Gopher.   He just cut his list to Minnesota, Temple, Rice, Tennessee, Fordham, and Seton Hall, and is in the process of setting up official visits to see the Gophers on September 4th and Tennessee on October 11th, and has already visited Fordham (unofficially) and Seton Hall (several times unofficially).  I get a good feeling about Nwankwo because I've seen a couple of places where his handlers have stressed academics, and although all the schools on his list are pretty good academically the Gophers are behind only Rice and Fordham, neither of which have any kind of basketball program, if we're being honest.  Temple, Tennessee, and Seton Hall all could make argument as to the best basketball program on his list, but all rank a good way behind Minnesota academically.  Nwankwo would be a pretty solid get with a Big Ten ready body with good athletic ability and a chance to be a plus rebounder and defender the minute he steps on campus.  He's got some work to do on the offensive end, but if everything goes according to plan they won't need a lot of scoring from him.

Let's hope everything goes according to plan.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Welcome Aboard, Tommy Milone!

You know what's awesome?  Getting a serviceable, if back of the rotation, starting pitcher in exchange for a completely expendable outfielder you signed off waivers for nothing.  In a complete coincidence to what I just posted, the Twins picked up Tommy Milone today in exchange for Sam Fuld in a trade with the A's, the team who waived Fuld earlier this year.  But Oakland needed another outfielder after trading Yeonis Cespedes, and had more starters than one team needs after acquiring Jon Lester, Jeff Samardzjia, and Jason Hammel in trades, so off Milone went and the Twins were the lucky recipient.

Don't get me wrong, Milone is probably not going to win a Cy Young any time soon, but he's made 78 career starts, been in Oakland's rotation for the past 3 years, and has put up an ERA of 3.84, a WHIP of 1.26, and a FIP of 4.13 - solid #4 starter numbers on a contending team.  The big knock on him is he doesn't throw very hard (average velocity 86.5mph on his fastball) and as a result doesn't strike anyone out (5.7 K/9 this season), and he's an extreme fly ball pitcher.  Those K numbers, however, fit in right with the rest of the starters, and Phil Hughes is also an extreme fly ball pitcher and playing in a pitcher's park like Target Field has worked out for him for the most part.  He's a solid pitcher, and he's under team control through 2017.  Really, a quality acquisition by the Twins, especially since they had to give up just Fuld.

Not that Fuld is worthless - he's not or Billy Beane wouldn't want him - he's just not going to be a part of the Twins future as contenders, whenever that may be (hopefully 2016) and as such was expendable.  He's a serviceable hitter with a keen batting eye who can run well and is an excellent fielder.  He should serve the A's well as a fourth outfielder/pinch runner/defensive replacement type, but the Twins really had no need for him.  Plus maybe this means Aaron Hicks gets another chance.  You guys know he's going to be a superstar, right?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Two Fake Sharks for the Price of One (A DWG Live Movie Blog)

Sup dudes.  Been a long time since we've watched a stupid movie.  Since I refuse to watch Sharknado 2 because it's a blatant cash grab that's intentionally stupid, I'll fill that void by watching something on Netflix.  And not just any something, but something called Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark.  If you think this is the stupidest sounding movie you've ever heard of, well, it is.  Let's rock and roll anyway.

-  I would give you the synopsis of the movie here, but I don't think the title left any great mysteries.

-  We're starting in Egypt.  Maybe there's a giant shark encased in a pyramid or something.  Don't tell me one of these movies wouldn't jump all over that idea.

-  This boat is towing part of a glacier.  Is that a thing?  Then the glacier breaks and a giant shark broke free and it appears to be the size of a house.  I'm guessing this is the titular Mega Shark.  It then flipped its tail which sent the boat flying into the desert where it hit the Sphinx and knocked its head off.  I'm already regretting my decision to watch this.

-  All sea traffic and air traffic has been suspended in the whole world because of the shark.  That seems a bit drastic.

-  The UN "is working on a weapon to combat the giant shark."  I bet I know what it is, and I bet I'm going to hate my life for the next hour and a half.

-  And boom.  Mecha Shark, piloted by hot blonde scientist who used to be on Law and Order and speaks in a total monotone.  So we're six minutes in and we already have our sharks.  What's left to do?  Oh, right.  They probably battle for an hour and 24 minutes.  This was a really bad idea.

-  Mecha Shark just got attacked by two giant squids, which don't eat sharks, wouldn't attack a hunk of metal that didn't smell like food, and don't attack in pairs.  So we got that going for us.  Mecha Shark wins by the blonde lady switching to either "Eel Skin" or "Seal Skin" and something changed on the outside of the shark sub and the two squid went flying away.  I was going to rewind to figure out what she said but since neither makes even a lick of sense I figured why bother.

-  Mecha shark has torpedos.  Feels like cheating.

-  Ooh, there's a new version of the shark sub that hasn't had it's artificial intelligence program installed or had sea trials done, but the guy in charge says they have to get moving because "that thing killed my brother, and I don't like to lose" and hot blonde is like "let's go" and her husband is like "wait no" but she does it any way.  Women.

-  Lobster boat captain steals a line from Jaws, "Harbor master going to have a heart attack when sees what we brung him" which is probably meant as an homage but screw this movie.  Then the megalodon ate the boat.  Good.  Screw those guys.

-  Husband guy is going to known as Hootie.

-  Wait how was their a lobster boat on the water when all sea traffic has been banned?  Anarchy.

-  Holy shit Debbie Gibson!  Debbie Gibson!  I'm going to have to look up if she's playing the same character from that other movie or that other one, but she's definitely playing a scientist who must informed the Navy that the meg wouldn't be going anywhere without a mate so they're going to be dealing with one horny shark.  Yeah that happened.

-  It's a pretty fancy sub.  Looks like shark but it's all computer-y inside.  Too bad it's going to get raped.

-  Ooh the two sharks found each other.  First encounter.  This is like when Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man meet after level 2.

-  Robo Shark just hit real shark with a tracking tag.  Is that shark foreplay?

-  I can't figure out what happened here.  Some other sub, not the shark sub, was there and fired a torpedo at the real shark and hit it.  Then a torpedo started flying the other way and it hit that sub and it died.  I am not nearly drunk enough to not be able to figure this out if it made sense, so I'm going to assume it didn't make sense.  I also spent WAY to much time rewinding, which is just prolonging how far the end of this movie is.

-  So Debbie Gibson is playing the same character from Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus, who was different from her character in Mega Python vs. Gatoroid.  She's got a ton of range.

-  Admiral guy, "I had friends on that sub."  This guy is really hung up on his friends dying.  What a pussy.  I still have no idea what happened to blow that sub up.  I'm going to assume the shark swallowed the torpedo and then barfed it back up at the sub.  Makes as much sense as whatever their actual explanation is.

-  OMG hot blonde lady pilot with the baritone has a bottle of vodka in her travel bag.  Like I wasn't already in love.

-  This megalodon is hyper aggressive.  It just ate an oil platform.  Because that's what sharks do, you see, eat things that in no way resemble their natural prey.  Nature's serial killers, that's what I always say.

-  One hour left.

-  Ok so remember how the sub didn't do "pressure tests" or whatever?  Well they just did this horrible scene where the pressure started affecting the systems and everyone was worried it would sink.  Luckily everything worked out ok and they docked it and started fixing the problem.  Ha ha just kidding after everything seemed regular again they started chumming to attract the meg again.

-  Now there's an oil leak.  This movie is moving at 100 miles per hour, but it's terrible.  Like putting an asian woman in a race car.

-  Some plane had a fuel emergency and needed to divert to some island that was in "restricted air space."  Naturally the meg jumped out of the water to try to eat it because that makes sense since a shark that just de-froze from a glacier would know that planes = food, but even better the shark sub followed it up into the air and bumped it off course like some kind of fancy hockey goalie guy so the plane was safe.  That was one of the dumbest things I've ever seen, and even worse I can picture two SyFy executives high fiving about it.

-  Megs mad about not getting eat a bunch of metal and fuel, so it attacks the shark sub, which fires a torpedo at it, which then gets slapped away by the Meg with its tail (this must be what happened early and totally makes sense because this is the kind of thing sharks do all the time in real life).  And it hits some aircraft carrier that was there and everyone dies.  I bet that admiral guy had friends on that boat.

-  This real shark is a lot more bitey than that fake shark.

-  Ok so the real shark was riding the fake share like rubbing up on its side and stuff (probably horny) and the monotone chick decided to remedy this by firing a torpedo into an underwater mountain which makes lots of rocks and stuff fall.  Those rocks and stuff sank the sub and knocked out the communications equipment.  And I'm guessing missed the real shark since there are 45 minutes left of this crap.

-  Wait it only knocked out the communications for 3 minutes.  This movie is horrible.

-  I bet the admiral had friends on that shark sub.

-  Totally horrible throw-away scene about launching fighter jets top gun style.  I wish could write more but honestly there's no way to do it justice.

-  Somehow that artificial intelligence program that's park of shark sub got the shark sub working again even though hot blonde who speaks in a monotone is still unconscious.  That AI thing almost has to turn evil at some point, right?  Isn't that the whole point of putting an AI program in a movie?

-  You want to know why this shark is attacking aircraft carriers like it's doing right now?  Because of the high frequency emitters.  Damn those commercial airplanes for testing their high frequency emitters.

-  So then the aircraft carrier currently under attack turns off it's high frequency emitters or whatever and then the shark jumps on top of the carrier and breaks it in half.  I don't know.  Shit's gotten really weird.

-  Blonde girl is still knocked out, according to the admiral the "only two other pilots who can pilot that sub were on that aircraft carrier and are now dead" (probably friends of his) and the AI program is agitating to go out on it's own.  That can't be good.  Everyone knows you can't trust machines.  My oven burns me every chance it gets.

-  Oh.  My.  God.  They let the AI program take the shark sub out by itself.  And get this.  IT HASN'T BEEN DEBUGGED.  David Kahn must be in charge over there.

-   The sharks are fighting and it looks as dumb as you'd think.  I still haven't figured out why this dumbass fish is attacking a robot.  I know the horny theory, but I'm pretty sure you need pheremones or something like that.  Or at least high frequency emitters.

-  Blondie is now pouring the vodka down the drain (which makes my heart hurt).  So that plot point never had anything to do with anything.  She never took a drink.  It never came up in conversation.  I feel like they're just toying with me.

-  37 minutes to go!

-  Debbie's back!

-  She knows where the Meg is heading, which seems like something they don't need to know since it seems to follow the shark sub like it's stuck in the friend zone.  He's heading towards Sydney, Australia because millions of years ago it was a Megalodon breeding ground.  I guess he really is horny.

-  Text from Snacks, "I get so bored watching most of these breaking bad episodes."  What's the procedure for disowning a brother?  Or murder?

-  Jesus another aircraft carrier.  And remember those fighter jets from before I referenced?  Either nothing happened with them or I wasn't paying enough attention and missed it.  Both equally likely.

-  AI program questioning its masters.  WHO COULD HAVE SEEN THIS COMING?

-  They need to get the sub there because if the meg shows up and there are no females it's going to be pissed.  I don't really think sharks have the capacity to get pissed, but even better they're evacuating Sydney.  The city.  Not the harbor, the city.  On land.  The people on land have to evacuate because a horny shark is in the water.  On land.  The people on land.  Because of a shark.

-  Shark showed up.  Did that thing again where it jumps in the air and lands on an aircraft carrier and it explodes.  Maybe it thought the ship was a female shark and it was going for some kind of fancy pile driver move.  I don't know.  I need to invent a new word for this movie.

-  Some lady can't find her daughter during the evacuation so blond monotone lady is going to help find her.  Nice work mom.

-  Shark just rammed the Sydney Opera House.  Probably on account of the high frequency flutes.  Or horny.  I had friends in that opera house.

-  Blonde lady found the kid who is now running away from her.  I would too.  She's clearly some kind of robot with all the monotone and stuff.

-  Once again, Debbie Gibson makes the point that the shark is horny and won't leave without a mate.  So basically the AI is going to decide to become a real shark and then it and the actual real shark and going to swim off into the sunset to go screw, right?  25 minutes!

-  Wait so now the metal shark (in full rogue, ignoring it's human masters, not responding to computer commands mode) jumped onto the remains of the opera house.  This movie is worse than Hitler.

-  Ok so there are two robot sharks now.  One must be the earlier model from the beginning of the movie.  I don't know.  I clearly missed something.  Maybe that would be the key to making this movie not horrible.  I'm terrible at movies.

-  Holy crap the rogue sub shark thing apparently has an "amphibious mode" and it just went all transformers on the bit (while ignoring its human masters) and it now has tank treads for feet and it's now rolling through the streets of Sydney eating stuff.  I apologize for making fun of the whole "city evacuation" thing earlier.  Clearly the admiral saw this coming.

-  For some reason blondie and Hootie have that kid from earlier, who is supposed to be six years old but is like 5 feet tall.  The mom isn't there and since she said "I'm not leaving without my daughter" I assume she's dead now.  Way to go Hootie.  First you ruin music, now this.

-  Everything's on fire.  I have no idea.

-  Debbie Gibson's plan is to get tank sub shark back in the water and then the meg will think it's a mate.  That's the whole plan.  Maybe a real shark humping a mechanical shark will make them both die.  That seems to be her plan.  Pretty hot in those playboy pics back when though.

-  They found the mom.  Another plot point that really went nowhere.  This is like shakespeare.

-  OMG you guys the shark sub has high frequency emitters on board!  Blonde lady can trigger them if she just can get on board the tank shark sub thing.  Which she did by jumping in its mouth.  Honest to god, I've watched some really bad movies, but I just don't even.

-  Man nothing went right for the Navy.  Not since Beau Morgan spurned them for Air Force has the Navy faced such a disaster.

-  Admiral guy is dropping depth charges on the real shark.  I feel like people really aren't communicating effectively here.

-  Speaking of Admiral, he just started firing a hand gun at the shark.  Fucking brilliant.  Guess what the shark did?  Yep, it jumped on the aircraft carrier (AGAIN!) which caused to explode.  The admiral had a lot of himself on that boat.

-  I will say the CGI shark actually looks better than anything else I've seen out of these shitty movies throughout the years.  I think that's where the budget for plot and writing and directing and choreography went.

-  All the Navy planes and stuff are shooting missiles at sub shark, which currently contains blonde lady.  Hootie's not happy.  Those two sentences make me hate my blog.

-  I rewound this twice to get it right, but the reason the AI malfunctioned is because of a "the system was hijacked my a drone mode overlay."  When I was younger I would have looked this up to figure out if it was a real thing, but at this point I"m going to assume it's not.  Much like all the rest of this scene where they throw out fancy words like "I need you to empty the jump stores."  Jump stores can't be a thing right?  At least not a computer thing.  I mean maybe you could go to a jump store and get fancy shoes like Reebok pumps or a trampoline or something, but it's can't be computer related.

-  I'm sure there was a reason for this but the real shark bit the fake shark and they both exploded and I admit to not knowing why but everything bad is dead.  This movie gave me glaucoma.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Adios, Kendrys. We hardly knew ya.

The Twins got the ball rolling today, trading Kendrys Morales, one of the three guys I said absolutely must be traded at this deadline, to the Seattle Mariners for middle reliever Stephen Pryor.

Morales was a bit of a weird signing by the Twins, grabbing him mid-season after his "you have to give up your #1 pick if you sign him status" had expired for $7 million.  It didn't make a ton of sense to me because the Twins don't really throw around that kind of money, they already had a glut of slow DH/1B/corner OF types, and signing someone like Morales seemed like the kind of move a team on the verge of the playoffs would make, which the Twins clearly weren't.  Then again, at the time I said it makes sense to see if he can move the needle on your offense at all, and if not hope you can flip him at the deadline, so all-in-all a good signing.

Naturally Morales didn't really cooperate.  After a hot start he's now hitting .234/.259/.325, by the far the worst season of his career (you probably don't remember this, but back in 2009 he finished 5th in AL MVP voting).  He's never OPSed below .785 in a full season, yet is at .584 this year with just one home run in 162 plate appearances.  He's basically been a disaster at the plate, walking at about half his career rate while popping up twice as often, and combined with poor defense he's actually played at a level below replacement level this year.  Obviously this kind of performance torpedoed his value in the trade market, but the Twins were at least able to get back a young, capable reliever who is somewhat proven and under their control through 2018.

Seattle drafted Pryor as a reliever in the 5th round of the 2010 draft, and although he was never at the top of any of their prospect ratings on the lists I saw he usually fell somewhere in the teens.  He was a definite strikeout pitcher in the low minors, appearing in the closer role and putting up K/9 numbers in the 14s and 15s.  Those numbers dipped as his competition level increased, but remained respectably around 10, however his walks went up to a concerning level.  In 2013 he got hit with a couple of injuries and ended up only throwing 11 innings between the majors and minors, and has spent most of this season at AAA, with a little bit of time in AA and one appearance of 1.2 innings in the majors (against the Twins).

In 31 innings at Tacoma (AAA) he struck out 27 and walked 18, a horrible ratio, which helped lead to a 1.42 WHIP and 4.65 ERA.  Really though that's not the point because he's clearly a different pitcher since the injuries.  His fastball in 2012 averaged 96.3 mph.  His fastball this year, his first back from the injury, averaged just 91.7 mph.  That is a major, major drop.  I realize his 1.2 innings in the majors this year is a teeny tiny sample size, but he did throw 23 fastballs so it's not completely insignificant either, and the reduction in strikeouts in the minors, just 7.8 per nine this year, backs it up.

So the Twins traded Morales for a bit of a gamble, a bit of a reclamation project, but one with significant upside.  If he returns to his pre-injury form he has closer potential, perhaps even as Glen Perkins replacement when he gets too expensive.  If he never recovers, all you've lost is a couple months of a player who you weren't going to re-sign anyway, and who wasn't that good this season any way.  Would have been nice if Morales would have actually, you know, hit this year and the Twins could have nabbed a mid-level type of prospect at least, but this is a worthwhile gamble, for sure.  Now let's hurry up and trade Josh Willingham to the Royals for Christian Binford, Kurt Suzuki to the Orioles for Mike Wright and Drew Dosch, and Jared Burton to the Blue Jays for L.B. Dantzler.

It's going to be awesome if any of those trades actually happen.

FUN FACT:  Remember in 2012 when Seattle pitched that weird no-hitter with six pitchers being involved?  Kevin Millwood started and pitched 6 no hit innings, but then hurt his groin and couldn't continue so six relievers came on and closed out with a combined 3 more no hit innings.  Those relievers were Charlie Furbush (tee hee), Lucas Luetge, Brandon League, Tom Wilhelmsen, and............Stephen Pryor.  Yep, our Stephen Pryor.  He pitched two thirds of inning, walking two guys before getting a strikeout to close out the seventh.

And he got the win.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Welcome aboard, Kevin Dorsey!

Well that happened quick.  Last week, Kevin Dorsey (the #97 ranked player and #17 PG according to 247sports industry composite ranking) came out and said he was down to Minnesota, Maryland, and Nebraska.  All the experts said he was a Maryland lean.  Then on Monday I got an email tipping me off to the fact that in all the excitement that was my nephew's 2nd birthday party on Saturday I missed that Dorsey chose the Gophers.  So welcome aboard Kevin Dorsey, a great start to the class of 2015 for Richard Pitino.

Dorsey is a great get, not just because, depending on who you ask, he could be the highest rated Minnesota recruit since Royce White and top rated pure PG in a super long time, but also because he continues a trend of Pitino grabbing players who fit the system he wants to run, but this time with a little more pedigree to go with it.  Dorsey is a lightning quick, can get into the lane in a flash, passes well, and is already a great defender.  Sounds about right.

It sounds like he's not exactly going to set the world on fire with his jump shooting at this point, but he's known as a great finisher around the rim, and Nate Mason and Zach Lofton should be able to shoot well enough along with whoever else comes in 2015.  It's worth trading shooting for all the other skills he brings to the table, and if he ends up somewhere between an Al Nolen and a Rajon Rondo we should all be pretty happy.

With, I think, 4 scholarships available for 2015, getting a quick early signing from a highly regarded player is a good step in the right direction.  Jarvis Johnson, the highly rated and talented De La Salle point guard, is still in play as Pitino pushes the idea of creating a Russ Smith/Peyton Siva or Shabazz Napier/Ryan Boatright kind of back court - you know, the guards for the last two National Champions.  Getting Johnson, Alex Illikainen, and Chris Clarke would be an absolutely amazing class.  Clarke is quickly rising up recruiting rankings, however, so hopefully the Gophers can grab a quick commitment before more heavy hitters get involved.

Plenty of other back-up plans out there as well, and rather than rehash everything you can read this terrific round-up from the Gopher Report.  Should be a fun summer, and suddenly there's a lot more optimism in the air.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Twins and the Trade Deadline

We're nearly at the all-star break, which means we're a fair way past the first half of the season but everyone's required to refer to it as the first half anyway.  It's also a good time to look back on what has transpired thus far and what I hope to see in the 2nd half, mainly because that's what everyone does at the all-star break.  The most exciting part of the second half for a non-contending team is the trade deadline, so here's what the Twins should be looking to do:

First off, the Twins are not contending for the Wild Card, so put that out of your silly little head right now.  They are currently 9.5 out of the second Wild Card spot with six teams either ahead of tied with them.  It's not happening, no matter how optimistic Dan Gladden wants you to be.  In that case, the Twins need to be ready and willing to sell off anybody and everybody who isn't a clear part of their future plans.  That means everybody outside of Joe Mauer (untradeable in any case), Brian Dozier, Danny Santana, Oswaldo Arcia, Kyle Gibson, and probably Eduardo Escobar (just in case he's actually good) should be available for the right trade, and yes I'm including Glen Perkins.

Perkins is an elite level closer - yes elite - who is having the unluckiest year of his career (career high BABIP and career low LOB%) and is still putting up good numbers including a career best K/9 and BB/9.  Considering he'll make just about $17 million through 2017 with a team option for $6.5 mil in 2018, he's an extremely valuable commodity - assuming you can find a team who overvalues relief pitching.  The Twins won't be a contender until at least 2016 in my opinion, so if you can get a monster offer for Perkins you have two more seasons to develop a new closer.  The Tigers, Jays, Yankees, and Angels all rank in the bottom 10 in the majors in bullpen ERA and all have deep pockets and are known to make splashy moves when deemed necessary.  It's probably worth making a phone call, or at least answering the phone.

The other player I'd consider tradeable, but only for a great offer is Phil Hughes.  Not because I think he's suddenly become Cy Young, but because you do need to field a full rotation next season and with any luck they find a way to unload Ricky Nolasco and Kevin Correia for.......something.  Hughes has looked rejuvenated this year, and there's enough behind his numbers to at least suggest this isn't a fluke.  He's signed to a very affordable deal ($8m per) and is signed through 2016, so if the Twins hold on to him they'll have him through that first season where I'm hoping they're competing for a playoff spot (2016).

The only other guy I would even consider holding out and passing on trading if you don't get a really good offer is Trevor Plouffe.  It's pretty clear who he is at this point - a .240ish hitter with good pop, decent plate discipline, and decent defense at 3B - not a monster asset but a pretty decent player.  Considering he's under team control through 2017 and is making just $2.4m he's a pretty good value, so there's no reason to rush on him.  That being said, with Miguel Sano theoretically on the way and hopefully entrenched at third by 2016, he's not a necessary cog so any above market trade offer should be jumped on.

Literally everyone else is eminently tradeable, although most either have an unwieldy contract (Nolasco) or are just plain old too crappy to be considered desirable by anyone (everyone else).  Two guys who should hold enough value who absolutely need to be traded are Josh Willingham and Kurt Suzuki.  Willingham is a free agent after this season and it's doubtful the Twins will resign him, so come trade deadline dangle him out there and take whatever the top offer is - there's absolutely zero reason for Willingham to finish the season on the Twins' roster.

Suzuki is a bit more complicated, given that he's having a career year, made the All-Star team, and seems so much like Gardy's kind of guy it's actually painful.  On the other hand, he's on a one year deal and some of his numbers look pretty fluky.  Suzuki could be an ideal fill-in for a contending team needing catching help, whether just for depth or because of an injury, and Suzuki has hit well enough this year that he could offer help at DH or simply pinch hitting as well.  The Orioles lead the AL East but have very little at catcher now that they've lost Matt Wieters, while they're getting chased by Toronto who has gotten nothing this year from the position.  The Dodgers are another potential trade partner considering Drew Butera leads all Dodger catchers in plate appearances this season.

In the bullpen there's probably some potential to move Jared Burton, Casey Fien, and Brian Duensing.  Burton is putting up career worst numbers but should have enough of a track record to garner some interest from a pitching starved quasi-contender.  He's on the hook for a $3.6m team option next year with a buyout of just $200k, so it's not like any team would be making a major investment to acquire him. Fien is putting up his third straight solid season and is under team control all the way through 2018 so I could see holding on to him - maybe he's the future closer if they get a overwhelming offer for Perkins and actually pull the trigger.  Duensing has pretty much established who he is at this point, but his ERA is at his career low even if his peripherals aren't any better than usual and he's been very good against lefties in his career so he could draw some interest.  Hopefully.

Simply put, the Twins aren't going anywhere for at least another season and they have enough trade chips here that they should make this next month pretty interesting - SHOULD.  Willingham and Suzuki really should be traded and if the management likes them that much they'll have the opportunity to bring them back a la Rick Aguilera.  At least one out of Burton and Duensing should be traded, and there are other guys who could draw interest including blockbuster potential with Perkins.  It should be fun leading up to the trade deadline.  Yet somehow I get the feeling it will be all anticipation with no pay-off.  Again.  At some point this organization needs to realize they aren't developing players like they used to, and get more aggressive with trades and free agency (to be fair we did see a little of this last offseason) in order to get back to being competitive.  Or just keep missing the playoffs.

[EDIT:  Just realized I somehow completely forgot Kendrys Morales.  Absolutely needs to be traded.  Hopefully he gets hot again.]