Friday, August 28, 2015

Is Eddie Rosario, like, Good?

As you are probably aware, the Twins are fighting for a playoff spot while at the same time showing us a glimpse of their future with a whole lot of younger players up and making contributions.  One of these is Eddie Rosario, who has used a good mix of hitting, fielding, and base running to end up ranked 4th on the team in WAR.  You may now be asking yourself why I would question if he is, like, good in that case.  Well, unfortunately there are some red flags.  They might not necessarily mean much or call him out as a fluke, but there are some things to worry about.

Rosario has put up a slash line of .274/.296/.452 so far this season.  Two of those numbers are respectable, but that awful OBP is bad enough to drag his OPS down to almost exactly the league average.  That's his red flag #1 - horrendous strike zone management.

He has 87 strikeouts this season against just 11 walks, which is pretty staggering.  His walk rate of 3.2% is the 6th worst in baseball among batters with at least 300 plate appearances, while his strikeout rate of 25.1% is the 34th worst.  The spread of nearly 22 percentage points is monstrous.  I could only find a few instances of other players with a similar spread, and they were either slap hitters (Chris Owings) or only ended up with that kind of spread because they strike out an absolute ridiculous amount (Randal Grichuk).  The good news is that both his rates are worse than what he put up in his minor league career so although he's always going to be a free swinger these extremes may just be growing pains.

His swing rate is the worst on the team (outside of Oswaldo Arcia), but his contact rates are ok - not great, but ok.  Interestingly it turns out major league teams aren't dumb, because less than half the pitches he sees are inside the strike zone and his percentage is the lowest on the team other than Kennys Vargas and Jorge Polanco.  Basically teams are throwing him bad pitches, he's swinging at those pitches, and he's missing those pitches.  Until he reigns in his hacking a bit that'll continue, and although you can have success being a free swinger it's much more difficult when you aren't getting anything to hit.  Keep an eye on this.

His second red flag, although not as big of one in my opinion, is his BABIP of .347, a generally unsustainable number.  Unlike last year's fluke Danny Santana, however, it's not that huge of an outlier based on his past.  His minor league BABIPs were almost always over .300 and he put up a few seasons in the .350 range, so though .347 is probably high it's not ridiculously high.  His line drive percentage isn't great and he pops up too much, but he has an excellent hard hit percentage which can help account for a greater than it should be BABIP.

Overall, Rosario is going to be a quality player.  The value he adds with his defense alone makes him a plus player, and advanced metrics (and the eye test) mark him as an excellent fielder both in terms of range and arm.  He's fast and a good base runner (base runs mark him as 2nd on the team behind Brian Dozier at things like taking the extra base) and his stolen base mark should get better with more experience.  How good he's going to be is going to depend on his bat, and that's going to depend on learning a bit more plate discipline.  I think he'll adjust in Year 2+, and he's going to be a fixture in the outfield for a long time.

Or at least I hope.  Wow.  Optimism.  Feels weird.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What the Hell are the Twins gonna do at Shortstop?

The Twins hit the back stretch of the season, somewhat limping and hovering around .500 and 2.5 games back of the second Wild Card spot.  There are two ways to look at this season.  The first is that the team overachieved and could never have sustained their early season success, but a .500ish year and semi-meaningful games with an outside shot at a surprise playoff appearance a year ahead of schedule (a .500 would clear their Vegas over/under on wins by 12 games) is pretty damn neato.  The second is to say that the Twins were running away with the division and collapsed, and the season is a failure.  Obviously, the first way is correct and the second way is for morons.

The other success of this season is you can see the future starting to take shape.  Not so much the pitching side which has too many questions for even me to try to answer, but the position players?  It's happening.

There's little doubt that the opening day outfield next year will be Byron Buxton, Aaron Hicks, and Eddie Rosario (and that should be a damn good fielding unit).  Miguel Sano will have third locked down, and Brian Dozier is going to be at second for a while.  1B/DH is going to be some combination of Joe Mauer, because we're stuck with him, Trevor Plouffe, if they keep him around - he has value and they control him for two more years but he's getting spendy, and Kennys Vargas, if he remembers how to hit.  Ideally Oswaldo Arcia does the same and becomes the fourth outfielder with some DH time as well.  Catcher goes to Kurt Suzuki unfortunately for another year, and then the hope is either Josmil Pinto or Chris Herrmann step up.  It's a nice solid start to team.  But what the hell are they gonna do at shortstop?

They have three current options - Danny Santana, Eduardo Escobar, and Eduardo Nunez.  They're all young and under team control so they'll probably get plenty of chances, but I don't see a full time shortstop here anywhere.  Santana flashed a solid rookie year, finishing 7th in AL Rookie of the Year voting, but had all the warning signs of a fluke which came to fruition this year.  In his 256 plate appearances in the majors this year he OPSed just .541, 3rd worst in all the majors, and rocked a 66-5 strikeout to walk ratio.  I covered Escobar here, coming to the conclusion that his upside, last year, was adequate at best, and his downside, this year, is a crappy utility guy.  Nunez seems to have moved into the starters role by default, but there's nothing there to suggest he's anything other than a replacement level utility guy, which he has been for his six big league seasons.

So what's next?  Look at any Twins' top prospect list and you'll see two names, and only two names - Nick Gordon and Jorge Polanco.  Gordon was picked just last year out of high school so he's probably not going to be ready until 2018 at the earliest, so it's Polanco or bust.  And I'm really not sure how to feel about that.

He's certainly looked good in his limited time in the majors, slashing .313/.450/.500 with 4 walks and 3 strikeouts in 20 plate appearances and Fangraphs has him as a better than average defensive shortstop.  All positive signs.  His career line of .288/.349/.406 in the minors is alright, but more impressive is his 269 strikeouts to 182 walks, which shows that unlike a lot of shortstops he's not a complete hacker up there.

So what's the problem?  No power at all.  Zero.  None.  That .406 slugging over his minor league career would be one of the lower numbers in the majors this year, and if you look at his ISO, which strips out a high average influencing from influencing slugging, he's put up Ben Revere type numbers each of the last two seasons, only without the speed.

I'm not saying he's terrible or can't develop into more of an all around player.  He hit very well in rookie and A ball, with some power, and he's only 21 and already at AAA with two flashes in the big leagues and he's pretty much hit for a high average everywhere.  I'm fully rooting for him, it's just amazing to me that all the eggs have to be in this basket, but there's nobody else.  Levi Michael was supposed to be the shortstop of the future, but he was drafted out of college in 2011 and is still stuck at AA so I don't think we can really count on him any more, especially since he has less power than Polanco.

Considering the free agent market looks pretty bare at the position for the next couple years we should all be huge Jorge Polanco fans and hope he gets to the majors, for good, sooner rather than later.  Help us, Jorge Polanco, you're our only hope.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Is Eduardo Escobar, like, good?

I was hoping the Twins would do something at the trade deadline, and they did.  I was hoping they'd get bullpen help, and they did.  So I suppose I'm happy with what they did.  They couldn't really have done much more without gutting the future, and considering their performance since the trade deadline it looks like an every better decision to mostly stand pat.  I was hoping they'd find a way to upgrade shortstop, but the two instant starters who may have been available are both expensive and have question marks (Jose Reyes and Starlin Castro) so whatevs.  With Danny Santana back in the minors, it looks like Eduardo Escobar is the new shortstop, and may be for a while considering there's no readily available replacement unless Santana turns it around.  So is Eduardo Escobar, like, good?

Current slash line:  .239/.270/.380.  Yikes.  Down considerably from last year's decent .275/.315/.406.  His OPS of .651 ranks him 19th in the majors among shortstops with at least 250 plate appearances - better than I would have guessed (and better than Castro).  Considering Santana ranked dead last, that's manageable.  Both his walk and strikeout rates are career worsts this year, and this approach change probably also accounts for his dip in BABIP from a career number .308 to .294 (it was .336 last year) and his line drive rate has plummeted from 24% to 17.8%.  Both numbers are considerably worse than his career numbers, so we can hope he's just having a bad year.

One thing I've always liked about his bat is he's got some pop compared to your average shortstop.  He ranks 8th in ISO (slg-avg) among shortstops with 250+ PAs, and that number has increased each of the last two years.  He's also 16th in extra base hits, despite having a hundred plate appearances fewer than almost every shortstop ahead of him.  Overall, he's a complete free swinger who refuses to walk and has a little bit of pop for his position.  He's only 26, so his bat probably gets a passing grade, though it would be nice if he could revert back to last year's version.

He's a horrendous base stealer.  He's gone 6 for 12 in his career and 2 for 5 this year, and it's probably best for everyone at this point if he just stops doing it.  Though that would probably give Dan Gladden a heart attack.  Seriously you ever listen to this guy on the radio?  He's completely obsessed with the running game.  It's maddening.  Speaking of, Escobar is a pretty good base runner outside of not being able to steal base if a small child was catching.  Well, actually this year he rates dead average, but last year he was slightly goodish.  This is according to UBR at Fangraphs which takes note of such things as going from 1st to 3rd on a single or scoring from 1st on a double and stuff like that.  Makes sense.  Yet another regression from Escobar.

Last season, Escobar's fielding (at shortstop) was above average according to Ultimate Zone Rating.  This year, however, like everything else it's plummeted to terrible.  Granted defensive metrics aren't perfect, but considering he's on pace to make about 40% more errors than last season I can buy it.  This year his UZR ranks 36th out of 40 shortstops with at least 210 innings played at SS (just ahead of Danny Santana).  Last year he ranked 14th.

So what do we have?  A player who would have been a competent starter last season who has been pretty rough this year.  Add it all up and he's gone from 2.5 WAR last year down to -0.7 this year.  Considering Santana is -1.2 he's an upgrade, but a disappointment at the same time.  Last year WAR put him as the #14 shortstop in the majors.  This year he's at the bottom, ahead of only Santana and Castro.  Yuck.

Considering he's 26 years old and under team control through 2018 there's considerable reason for the Twins to hope he can be the new shortstop of the future.  Not to mention the free agent market for shortstops is garbage.  Last year he looked like he had a chance.  This year, however?  No, he's not good.  Hopefully they don't rush Jorge Polanco.

Guest post: Minnesota Vikings 2015 Preview

All things considered, the Minnesota Vikings had a slightly above-average season in 2014. They didn't make the playoffs, but they weren't absolutely embarrassing either. Some wondered if they were going to be able to win games without Adrian Peterson and using a rookie quarterback. Now that Peterson is back and the quarterback is more mature, can they start to think playoffs?

The Green Bay Packers are still the best team in the NFC North, but Minnesota is starting to feel a bit more confident in general. They know that the offense could be the best in quite some time for them, and it all starts with Peterson getting back on the field. People are still drafting him very highly in fantasy football mockdraft set ups despite the fact he played in just one game last year. Many are thinking he will come back refreshed since he was able to get some time off. There are some concerns about distractions and possible hatred shown towards him on the road, but players have to deal with that all the time.

Teddy Bridgewater made very nice strides during the 2014 season. It was unknown just how good he would be as a rookie for Minnesota, but the coaching staff definitely feels like they have their franchise guy for years to come. With Peterson back, that should only open things up for him more.

On defense, this team made great strides last year, so building on that is going to put them in playoff discussion. Mike Zimmer took a team over that gave up a lot of points, especially through the air, and actually made them a slightly above average unit. They aren’t perfect, but the offense won’t be forced to put up 30 points a week to win.

The schedule looks tough on paper, but Minnesota should still improve on 7-9 from a year ago. Winning one more game shows improvement, but winning two or more games puts them in the playoff discussion. They might not be getting a lot of attention right now, but they are a team to watch.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Best Gophers of the Tubby Era: #25-21.

Throughout the summer I'll be writing up each of the 34 players who played for the University of Minnesota under Tubby Smith.  Why Tubby?  Because it's the most recent era that's over.  If this goes well perhaps I'll go back and do Monson as well.  I'll be looking at any player who played at Minnesota under Tubby at some point, even if it was just a year.  And I will be considering their entire Gopher career, so guys who started under Monson or finished under Pitino will have their whole career considered, but anyone who transferred in or out is only evaluated on their Gopher stats.  With me?  Here we go:

#34 to #31 can be found here.
#26-#30 can be found here.

25.  TRAVIS BUSCH (2007-2009).
-  I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking he should be higher based solely on his heart and his hustle and his grit.  Maybe so.  But grit and a can do it attitude can only get you so far - like a career total of 132 points in a gopher uniform.  I know you've talked yourself into remembering him as an impact player in his second year, but the fact of the matter is he only averaged 3.7 points per game that season.  I think he had a handful of good games in a row or something at one point.  Also, and I forgot this and only remembered when I was perusing my Busch archives, the team flat out decided not to renew his scholarship after his junior year.  So that's something.

24.  DEVRON BOSTICK (2008-2010).
-  Ranks up there with Antoine Broxsie as one of the most disappointing Gophers in my lifetime.  I remember reading up on him after the Gophers signed him out of JuCo and thinking damn he sounds good.  A polished scorer with two years of JuCo experience?  I figured him to come in and be instant offense at worst.  Never happened.  He averaged just 3.7 points per game in his Gopher career, and played less than 10 minutes per game his senior year.  Course, that'll happen when you shoot just 43%.  He had games where he started to look like he was putting it together, and he could certainly be a smooth offensive player at times, but time ran out before he could put it all together.

23.  CHIP ARMELIN (2010-2012).
-  Another disappointing Gopher, and other than Busch this whole post could just be labeled "The Disappointments", Armelin also never quite managed to put it all together.  He averaged 4.5 points per game in 12.5 minutes per game in his two years here, and although he certainly had some serious athletic ability it never really manifested itself.  He didn't put up good rebounding numbers, he wasn't a great defender, and he shot just 42%. He blossomed in his senior year after transferring to Mississippi State, but like I said, that means nothing here.  I initially had him below Bostick, but I forgot how ineffective Bostick actually was.  Armelin outscored him by 132 points, out-rebounded him by 32, and out-assisted him by 10.

22.  OTO OSENIEKS (2011-2014).
-  Another guy who never quite put it all together.  Oto had a weird career, culminating in a career ending injury until the Gophers needed another big guy and then suddenly he could play again.  His willingness to help the team is commendable, and he was maybe is a coach or grad assistant or something so that's great, but he also averaged just 3.5 points per game in his 3-year Gopher career and was a pretty god awful rebounder despite being 6-8.  I always liked Oto, and I really wanted him to succeed since it seemed to me everyone was a bit too hard on him.  Somehow, my want never made it so.

21.  PAUL CARTER (2008-2010).
-  Carter played just two years for the Gophers before transferring to UIC to be closer to his sick sister, but he ranks this highly because he's actually good.  He had the most points and second most rebounds of any player ranked so far despite just the two seasons.  Carter really made some strides between his first and second seasons and could have been a potential star, and he blossomed quite a bit once he enrolled at UIC.  It was a bummer when he left, and I'll always remember his huge block in the big comeback win in Madison which, by the way, I was in attendance for.  After the game and then after the bar we went to some pizza place and there was some punk kid there who moved our stuff and was sitting in our seat and he wouldn't move and wouldn't even look at us or acknowledge us in any way so Dawger slapped the pizza out of his stupid mouth and then we got kicked out.  Still got to take our pizza with us though.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Best Gophers of the Tubby Era: #26-30

Throughout the summer I'll be writing up each of the 34 players who played for the University of Minnesota under Tubby Smith.  Why Tubby?  Because it's the most recent era that's over.  If this goes well perhaps I'll go back and do Monson as well.  I'll be looking at any player who played at Minnesota under Tubby at some point, even if it was just a year.  And I will be considering their entire Gopher career, so guys who started under Monson or finished under Pitino will have their whole career considered, but anyone who transferred in or out is only evaluated on their Gopher stats.  With me?  Here we go:

#34 to #31 can be found here.

30.  JUSTIN COBBS (2009-2010).
-  He had a completely acceptable freshman year backing up Al Nolen, averaging 2 pts and 1 assist per game in about 11 minutes, and he looked like he'd end up being a quality player.  He did, ending his playing days with career averages of 11.3 points and 4.2 assists per game including points per game averages over 15 each of his last two seasons.  The only problem is his last three years all happened at Cal after Cobbs transferred out following his first season here.  His overall career would rank him significantly higher on this list, but with only 363 of his career minutes coming as a Gopher he has to land here.

29.  KENDAL SHELL (2011-2015).
-  Significantly less minutes in his Gopher career than even Cobbs with just 86 in his four years, I put Shell here because he's just been a good Gopher - no not playing wise but you know what I mean.  There's something endearing about a guy willing to walk-on for four straight years (I know he got a stray scholarship or something at some point but the point stands).  Did you know he wore three different jersey numbers in his time as a Gopher?  Basketball Reference says, and Google Images confirms, that he wore 34, 2, and 12.  Like, last season Nate Mason came in and wanted 2, so Shell shifted to 12.  I assume the same thing happened with the switch from 34 to 2, though I can't come up with who wore 34 recently.  Probably because I'm a little drunk.  Anyway, Kendal Shell was a good soldier for four years, and I'd love to put him higher.  With 17 career points, however, I cannot.

28.  JONATHAN WILLIAMS (2004-2009).  
-  The longest tenured of anybody on this list with 5 years spent in the maroon and gold, he actually has better total numbers than a lot of people who will be ranked above him but that's a product of those five years.  He played in 107 games but never averaged more than 3 points or rebounds per game.  Basketball Reference doesn't have his minutes stats for some reason, but he finished his career with under two field goal attempts per game so it's safe to say he didn't get a lot of run (I'm struggling to clearly remember him at all).  I went back in my archives to see what I said about him and he's been tagged five times in posts.  They're, uh, not good.  I found this:

The Ugly: Jon Williams. Forced to play a lot of minutes by Tollackson's foul trouble and Wisconsin's size, and now has me praying Sampson and Iverson can play immediately. Williams was 0-5 shooting, and somehow it was even uglier than that. All five misses were from inside 3 feet, including a missed dunk. He's completely overmatched in the Big Ten, and I don't know if he's fixable at this point. 

So there you go.  

27.  KEVIN PAYTON (2006-2009).
-  He just never developed.  I remember he was a 3-star, and at 6-6 when he was forced to play point he did it well and I was optimistic.  That was silly.  He never averaged more than the 2.2 points and 2.5 assists per game that he did as a freshman, and his numbers just kind of, trend down until he did nothing his junior year and then flat out quit playing basketball.  Still have no idea what happened here.

26.   ANDRE INGRAM (2011-2013).
-  A Minnesota kid who came to the Gophers after two years at JuCo I always liked Ingram (to be clear, it has nothing to do with him being a Minnesota kid who came home because I'm not one of those types).  He just seemed like he was trying really hard.  Unfortunately he just wasn't very good, ending up with career averages of 1.8 points and 1.7 rebounds per game. I've wrote on this blog many times that Andre Ingram was a really intriguing sophomore.  Unfortunately he was a senior.  And the NCAA has pretty strict rules around eligibility.  Fascists.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Best Gophers of the Tubby Era: #34-31

Throughout the summer I'll be writing up each of the 34 players who played for the University of Minnesota under Tubby Smith.  Why Tubby?  Because it's the most recent era that's over.  If this goes well perhaps I'll go back and do Monson as well.  I'll be looking at any player who played at Minnesota under Tubby at some point, even if it was just a year.  And I will be considering their entire Gopher career, so guys who started under Monson or finished under Pitino will have their whole career considered, but anyone who transferred in or out is only evaluated on their Gopher stats.  With me?  Here we go:

34.  DOMINIQUE DAWSON (2010-2011).
-  This is the one guy I actually don't remember, perhaps because he only played in 10 games in his career totaling just 23 minutes.  Unfortunately he only managed four shot attempts and missed them all, and since he never got to the line he ended his Gopher career with 0 total points.  Following the 2011 season Dawson transferred to Division II Kentucky-Wesleyan where he averaged 9.5 points and 6.5 rebounds his senior year.  Good for him.

33.  BRYANT ALLEN (2009-2010).
-  I remember Allen, though maybe only because he was going to be a two sport star.  Unfortunately he totaled just 7 points on the basketball court (and 21 receptions on the football field) in his brief time as a Gopher.  He would then transfer to Illinois State in a recently completed trade for Reggie Lynch and Zach Lofton and drop football to concentrate on hoops.  He averaged 8.3 points per game for the Redbirds across two seasons, then was dismissed from the team because of drugs.  Well, being arrested for drugs.

32.  WALLY ELLENSON (2012-2014).
-  He has better stats than a few guys who I'm ranking above him but that's mostly because of his playing time coming from his family using his younger, better brother to hold the coaches hostage.  He played in 9 games in both of his seasons here and was terrible.  He flashed an insane amount of athleticism to be sure, but shot just 31% for his career on his way to a total of 34 points, mostly because he absolutely loved to shoot and did not care one little bit if he, or anyone else, was open.  He also only managed one career steal despite being one of the most athletic guys on the court every time he stepped out there.  Basically he was terrible, a chucker, and a whiner with a over involved meddling family and a complete waste of a scholarship.  He's at Marquette now and regains eligibility next season so that should be fun.  I wish I could rank him lower.

31.  CHRIS HALVORSEN (2011-2013).
-  I only sort of remember Halvorsen, kind of like if you go to a fourth of July cookout at your wife's friends and one of her friend's husband is there and you get introduced and you make a note that he's the douche wearing his sunglasses backwards.  He's a Minnesota kid from Henry Sibley who originally played at Valparaiso before transferring back to walk-on for the Gophers in a move that seems backwards.  He didn't play much for the Crusaders so maybe he decided well whatevs, I'd rather sit the bench for the home team which is kind of nice.  Played two years and in 16 games totaling 31 minutes, scoring a total of five points.  Seems like a good guy.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

2015 NBA Draft Thoughts - First Round.

Thoughts on every round 1 pick.  Some of this was written live, some way later since my kids are spastic morons.  Will do some round 2 commentary tomorrow.  Or some other time.  Some time soon probably.  Leave me alone.

1.1 - WOLVES - Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky.  Love it.  Brilliant pick.  Here is where I gave my initial thoughts on Towns vs. Okafor, and it became more and more obvious through workouts and Towns would be the pick.  I'm just damn glad Flip didn't screw it up.

1.2 LAKERS - D'Angelo Russell, Ohio State.  If Towns didn't exist I would have been all over Russell.  I really, really like this guy and it wouldn't surprise me if he ends up being the best player from this draft (with Towns a close second, of course).  I'm not sure how he'll work next to Kobe since they both are ball dominant types, but to be honest I'm not sure how anybody works next to Kobe at this point.  Dude's insane.  Free agency should be interesting.

1.3 PHILLY - Jahlil Okafor, Duke.  God it would have been so awesome if the Sixers took another project like Porzingis.  I don't know if Okafor and Embiid can play together, but I don't know what's up with Embiid anyway, and based on conventional wisdom he's the best player available.  I'm pretty sure if you had told Sixer fans they'd get Okafor back in mid-season they'd be thrilled.  They still probably should be and Nerlens Noel is a great pairing with him since he can help erase a lot of defensive problems.

1.4 KNICKS - Kristaps Porzingis, Foreign. I just love that this was the Knicks' pick since they're so trainwrecky already.  Not that this Porzingis guy is necessarily a train wreck.  Everyone raves about him as a different type of Euro player (which we've heard before) so maybe he'll be awesome, but he's also a project and a year or two away from a meaningful impact.  I'm sure Melo is thrilled.  Plus they could really use a PG.  No idea why they didn't go with Mudiay but whatevs.

1.5 ORLANDO - Mario Hezonja, Foreign.  One the one hand, they say this guy is the one player in this year's draft who could win both a slam dunk and a 3-point contenst.  On the other hand, they just compared him to J.R. Smith.  Hopefully for the Magic his head is screwed on a bit straighter.  I read somewhere he's a seriously cocky mofo, so who knows.  They say he can shoot the lights out, and when three of your key rebuilding pieces are Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton, and Victor Oladipo well, you need some shooting.

1.6 KINGS - Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky.  Twitter and the internet hated this pick, and it was somewhat surprising considering WCS was reported to have some foot issues that had absolute no effect on him last year, but I like it.  The NBA big whigs are starting to figure out things like defense are pretty important and he's a monster on that end, and immediately.  Offense is a bit problematic, but with DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay on that team I'm not sure how many shots are available anyway, and at least he can dunk well.

1.7 NUGGETS - Emmanuel Mudiay, China.  Was thought at one point to possibly be going as highly as top 3, a surprising slide and a good pick for the Nuggets who have apparently made basically everyone available and are going into full tear it down mode.  Mudiay, who I still have questions about simply because I've never seen him play, makes it easier to trade Ty Lawson, their most valuable trade chip.  I'm kind of surprised they didn't move him already.

1.8 PISTONS - Stanley Johnson, Arizona.  Behind Towns and Russell, Johnson is my third favorite player in this draft.  Watching him at Arizona he was so athletic and was able to dominate at times without even looking like he was trying.  The game just comes so easy to him, and he's got plenty of size and skill.

1.9 HORNETS - Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin.  Well, Jordan is Jordan.  Reports came out that he fell in love with Kaminsky in his workout, and despite already having Spencer Hawes on the roster (who is maybe Kaminsky's best case scenario) as well as Cody Zeller and a possible super talent like Justice Winslow dropping in their lap, they go with the Tank.  I don't know.  It's hard to see Kaminsky developing into a dominant force or anything.  I just hate lottery picks with limited upside.  Doesn't make sense to me.

1.10 HEAT - Justice Winslow, Duke.  A nice little steal for Miami here.  I don't know why he slid, especially since there was a little talk about him possibly being a top 3 guy at one point after he showed off in the NCAA Tournament, but the Heat pretty much had to take him.  If Hassan Whiteside is legit their lineup of Dragic/Wade/Winslow/Bosh/Whiteside is pretty good if everyone stays healthy.  Which they wouldn't with that group, but it'd be pretty solid if they did.

1.11 PACERS - Myles Turner, Texas.  I think Turner was like the #2 recruit coming into last season so he's got boatloads of potential.  He may not exactly have lived up to it last season but you have to remember his coach was Rick Barnes who probably would have taken Kentucky to the NIT title last year.  I wasn't expecting to hear his name this early for some reason, but I think I just read that David West opted out so it makes sense.  Might sprinkle a little rookie of the year futures money on him.  If he's ready the playing time will be there.

1.12 JAZZ - Trey Lyles, Kentucky.  I was a bit surprised by this one since the Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert front court seems really solid with the back court quite a bit shakier (I thought Booker should have been the pick).  Then again, the Jazz are working on becoming a defensively awesome team and Lyles should be able to block some shots.  They were pretty much in best player available mode since they were awesome the second half of last year and have their rebuilt lineup pretty much in place so I suppose they think he's the best player available.

1.13 SUNS - Devin Booker, Kentucky.  I like Booker here.  Probably the best shooter in the draft (besides Towns of course).  Despite having a bunch of guard types they don't have anyone you would classify first as a shooter so Booker gives them that added dimension.

1.14 THUNDER - Cameron Payne, Murray State.  I only saw one Murray State game this year so I can't really comment intelligently on Payne.  I am, however, surprised a bit they went point guard instead of big man considering who they have, but maybe they think Mitch McGary is going to be a player.  I myself do not.  All I know is they shipped out Jeremy Lamb for Luke Ridnour and then drafted another PG.  Weird pick.

1.15 WIZARDS - Kelly Oubre, Kansas.  Yeah not getting it.  The Wiz also gave up two 2nd round picks to move up here.  Bradley Beal and Otto Porter are both pretty young and seemingly have the wing positions on lock down now that Porter remembered how to play basketball.  I get that sometimes it makes sense to go best player available and stuff, but I don't know that Oubre is that.  My least favorite pick so far.

1.16 CELTICS - Terry Rozier, Louisville.  I like Rozier, but I'm always a bit leery of a prospect who rises up the draft boards based on workouts, going from the 2nd round to the mid-first.  It's just like the WR who put up mediocre production in college, kills the combine, and shoots into the first round.  Seems like those bust more than usual. Not to mention Rozier is a point guard who plays great defense, rebounds really well, and has an iffy jumper - the exact description of Marcus Smart.  Weird pick.

1.17 BUCKS - Rashad Vaughn, UNLV.  Much higher than I thought he'd go, but Vaughn always had kind of had more of an NBA game than a college game anyway, and he made it pretty clear his goal was 1-and-done so good for him.  Milwaukee seems like they're doing that thing where you collect as many interchangeable parts as you can, and Vaughn fits in.  Also like that with Dekker on the board the Bucks don't fall into the trap of going for the hometown kid (not a rip on the Tyus trade because that made tons of sense - Vaughn fits here so much better than Dekker).

1.18 ROCKETS - Sam Dekker, Wisconsin.  It never even occurred to me but this is a perfect fit.  They lost Chandler Parsons, and although Trevor Ariza was a capable replacement I think Dekker is an even better choice since, like Parsons, Dekker is far more white than Ariza.  Really, I always thought Dekker would be better in a more uptempo role, and this fits.  One of the better player-to-team matches in the draft so far.

1.19 KNICKS - Jerian Grant, Notre Dame.  Wow the Knicks actually did something smart.  I mentioned above they need a PG (sorry Jose Calderon) and they traded Tim Hardaway (now expendable with last year's emergence of Langston Galloway) for the most ready to contribute PG in the draft in Grant.  So they drafted one guy who is maybe two seasons away and one guy who is ready to play right now.  That's so Knicks.

1.20 RAPTORS - Delon Wright, Utah.  Well this is who I wanted the Wolves to get with that first pick in round 2.  I was talking with Snacks today and there was all that talk of the Wolves packaging their two #2s to move back into the first for Tyus Jones, and I said I'd rather have Grant, and he said might as well keep the picks and get Wright and use the second one on a euro stash guy or something.  That all made sense.  But now Wright and Grant are both gone and Tyus is a pretty big tier above any other point guard left, maybe the trade makes sense (spoiler:  they do it.  radio is going to be horrible tomorrow).

1.21 MAVERICKS - Justin Anderson, Virginia.  Everyone's favorite late first round sleeper, including Grandslam's which I knew because he's sent me at least 3 texts about him tonight.  With Monta Ellis and Rajon Rondo peaced out they need some guard play because otherwise they're rolling J.J. Barea and Devin Harris out there.  Anderson could be just fine in the long run, but man these guys better be players for a guard in free agency.  Gross.

1.22 BULLS - Bobby Portis, Arkansas.  They have Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah so this is another pick that doesn't make a ton of sense from a fit sense, but Portis is a monster of an athlete.  Depending on how NBA-ready he is (debateable) he could give Chicago some real freedom to move Gibson, who everyone always seems to want, in a trade.  Plus his athleticism and defense are big strengths and could fit in well with Chicago's defensive oriented philosophy, which is what I would say if they still had Tom Tibedoux.  There's no way that's spelled correctly.

1.23 BLAZERS - Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona.  Well he can defend his ass off.  With Nic Batum now gone (and I can't believe they're losing LaMarcus Aldridge, wow) Jefferson can pretty much slide right in and do a poor man's approximation on the wing.  He's a pretty horrendous shooter, however, so the change will be noticeable.  Man, poor Portland.  They're gonna be in rough shape next year.  Though I guess with Aldridge bouncing that gives them a bunch of money to chase Love or somebody like that.

1.24 WOLVES - Tyus Jones, Duke.  I like the trade if they really wanted a back-up for Ricky Rubio which it seems like they did from everything reported and makes a lot of sense since I think Zack LaVine's long term future is brighter as a shooting guard.  The only thing I hate about this is you're going to get a ton of vocal rubes loving it since he's from Minnesota and a ton of vocal rubes hating it since he left to go to Duke.  Seriously, the radio is going to be brutal tomorrow.  Especially PA.  He's so dumb.  If you like him promise me you'll stop reading this blog because I hate you.

1.25 GRIZZLIES - Jarell Martin, LSU.  Monster athlete and I like it.  Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are both still excellent players but they're both sorta ground bound, and Martin is the complete opposite.  Back-up bigs are Jon Leuer and Kosta Koufos, so Martin is them going in a totally different direction with their bigs.  Plus if I remember right he's a bit feisty which means he'll fit right in.  I think.  That's the current narrative on them, at least.

1.26 SPURS - Nikola Milutinov, Foreign.  Normally taking a Euro dork late is a pretty wasted move, but since this is the Spurs I irrationally find myself assuming it's a great pick.  Of course, I thought they got a steal last year with UCLA's Kyle Anderson and he played less than 400 minutes last year (he might have been hurt or something, I don't know but he didn't play much).  Also if you click on ESPN's scouting report for this guy it says he lacks a great motor and is a little soft.  That really doesn't sound like Pop's kinda guy.

1.27 LAKERS - Larry Nance Jr., Wyoming.  I said Martin is a monster athlete but Nance makes Martin look like you.  He played at Wyoming and struggled with a bunch of injuries so he never really got a lot of attention in college, but the name means something and seriously he's a great athlete - assuming he's all the way back from like 4 ACL tears or whatever.

1.28 CELTICS - R.J. Hunter, Georgia State.  I wonder if he would have been picked this high if he hadn't had the NCAA Tournament he had, but whatevs dude is pretty talented.  Celtics with another guard is a bit weird, but at least this one can shoot.  They now have Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, Phil Pressey, Avery Bradley, James Young, R.J. Hunter, and Terry Rozier.  That's like, way too many guards.  Between their draft and the rumors earlier tonight that they were shopping Marcus Smart, I think they're shopping Marcus Smart.  Maybe the Wolves can trade Tyus for him?

1.29 NETS - Chris McCullough, Syracuse.  You're probably like who? and that makes sense.  He was a highly touted, highly regarded recruit before he destroyed his knee and he entered the draft anyway which normally I'd say dude what? but he got the guaranteed cash so good for him.  If you recall, the Nets have basically traded every pick they have for the foreseeable future, so at 29 you either go with a less touted prospect or shoot for the stars.  McCullough is a shoot for the stars pick and although it probably won't work out it makes total sense for a team with no way to build a future.

1.30 WARRIORS - Kevon Looney, UCLA.  Like this guy a lot an a great pick for the champs.  I read they have an option on Marreese Speights and now they can cut him loose and save some cash, and David Lee is even easier to move, though I don't know what they have to send along with him and his $15 million contract.  Course I seem to almost always love a lot of the end of the 1st round picks for good teams, and how many of them actually work out?  Like 3?  Ever?

There's your first round.  Really like the Wolves draft (and NOT because Tyus is from Minnesota, I would have preferred Grant but I like getting a PG).  Here's your depth chart right now:

PG:  Rubio/Jones
SG:  Martin/LaVine
SF:  Wiggins/Muhammad
PF:  Towns/Garnett
C:  Pekovic/Dieng

Seems fun.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Hey Some Sports Stuff Happened

Some of you who still actually read this blog have noticed I haven't posted in a while.  Mostly because I was driving across the country to Utah with my wife and two idiot kids.  We covered more than 2,500 miles and traveled in Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Utah over the last 15 days, spending nights in 3 different hotel rooms and 2 different condos.  We saw Mount Rushmore, the black hills (freaking gorgeous), a bunch of cool Mountains and stuff, swam in 3 different pools, saw some dinosaurs, a moose, a bunch of antelope, and more cows and horses than you could ever want.  We drove through a true ghost town (like, a bunch of buildings and nobody living there), Deadwood (Billy the Kid died there), went through the world's biggest drug store (Wall Drug in Wall, SD) and a town with a sign advertising population 15.  I drank vodka tonics out of a sports bottle at the pool, boxed wine out of a paper cup in a pitch black hotel room while the kids slept, and snuck beer in the garage at a mormon birthday party. 

Best of all, my kids got to spend time with their grandparents and spent 9 full days with their cousins who are about the same age and whose mom is their mom's sister and best friend and they loved every minute of it.  There were many tears when we left, and my daughter vowed to be pen pals with her cousin while my son wailed "but we can't leave cousin Ike is my best friend!!!!"  I dreaded doing this before we started (even though I knew it was something we should do). Yes, there were moments where it got difficult (like when the bridge in Wyoming was washed out and we had to back track 50 miles, or when the road in Wyoming was washed out and we had to go out of our way by about 130 miles), but the kids held on and were troopers despite a couple 12 hour days in the car and it was a fantastic trip all around.  We will definitely do it again in a few years.  And I'm going to dread every moment leading up to it.

Any way, there was some sports stuff that happened.  Also Wyoming can go right to hell.

-  The big news is that Gopher commit Jarvis Johnson will not be medically cleared to play for the Gophers due to his heart condition.  This on the heels of another commit, Jonathan Nwankwo, not getting clearance to play due to some indeterminate academic issue.  So what the hell is going on here?  This isn't the first time the basketball team has run into issues with the admissions office - recall Djuan Piper or Gaston Diedhiou, just in the last year.  Honestly I'm pretty tired of it.

I get that the University of Minnesota is among the top academic schools in the country - US News ranked it #71 in its Top Academic Universities in the nation list - and that's cool.  I mean, I like seeing the U up there on that list, much better than being someone like UNLV who received a "Rank not Published" because they were so bad.  The problem is, if you want to be an athletically relevant school sometimes you have to bend the rules a bit.  Duke ranks #5, but William Avery, who seemed like a complete dope, got in there because he could ball.  USC ranks #22 and I'm pretty sure O.J. Mayo is a moron.  Georgetown ranks #20 and they let in Kenny Brunner, who ended up trying to kill somebody with a god damn samurai sword.

Look, I'm not an idiot.  If there's a danger to Jarvis, and unacceptable danger, then sure, hold him out, of course.  The kid's safety is paramount here so I'm not necessarily bashing this decision, just the overall state of the admissions department which seems to constantly be at odds with the basketball program.  I know you can't let in some degenerate who can't read, but Nwankwo landed at VCU, which may not have the lofty academic status of the U but it still ranked in the top 200.  Come on already.  The Gopher athletic program will never rise to top tier status if the rest of the University actively works to hold it down.  Admitting some borderline or slightly worse than borderline students who can ball the fuck out isn't going to put a black eye on the school.  This program is cursed, and the tight ass admissions people sure as hell aren't helping.

And, if you'll allow me to be human for a moment, this has to just suck for Jarvis.  The kid just had his dream pulled out from underneath him. Despite the report that he and his family were kind of blindsided by this it doesn't appear at this time that he's looking to transfer.  That makes me think there's some legit shit going on here and not some kind of conspiracy - nobody wants another Hank Gathers situation.  This is really the wrong issue to start railing on the U's admissions department because this one might make sense, it's just the latest in a series of setbacks so it's a little bit of burnout here.  Ugh.  Just sick of it.

-  The Twins started their regression with a 2-9 stretch, but have bounced back with a 3-1 stretch and still sit at 37-31 and second place in the AL Central.  I pretty much expect this kind of thing.  Most likely they'll play around .500 ball the rest of the year and end up staying in contention for a Wild Card berth and things will stay interesting.  I'm pretty excited about that, though it's a negative also.  If the Twins hang around in contention it means guys who should probably be trading this year, especially Trevor Plouffe since his value is probably at an all-time high right now, won't be.  

Hey I like Plouffe, I'm a big fan and my kid has some big giant face thing of his.  But his numbers are better than how he's actually playing and it's unlikely a 29 year old suddenly hit his peak, he's a free agent after this year, and the best prospect in the system other than Buxton is a 3B.  He's prime trade material.  Not to mention Mike Pelfrey, who they better not resign/extend because he is terrible no matter what his fluky ERA is.  

Of course, it's intoxicating to think about the playoffs, too.  If they can just get in, anything can happen.  Who knows how this shakes out, the Twins could end up buyers or sellers, but most likely they'll stand pat and that's probably the right move.  Of course, when you're about to get a pitcher like Ervin Santana back that's as good as making a trade anyway.

Some other Twin things:

-  Byron Buxton is here!  He picked up his third career hit today, but that 2-20 start wasn't exactly encouraging especially since other prospects on his level have produced so far this year (Kris Bryant, Joey Gallo, Carlos Correa).  With all the traveling and stuff I've only seen one of his at-bats and he looked fine (despite striking out) so it's hard to know if he's overmatched right now or if it's just bad luck so far, but we can look into some nerd stats to get an idea.  

First thing that stands out is a BABIP of .143.  Essentially no matter how much a batter may be struggling that is completely non-sustainable (the lowest BABIP for anyone in 2014 was .231 by Brian McCann).  His strikeout rate is a kind of scary 33%, but it's not all that surprising considering he's been around 25% his first year at each level.  His 7.7% line drive rate and 21.4% hard hit rate both suggest he's making terrible contact when he does hit the ball, however, and that's not good.  His swing rate is a little high and his contact rate a little low, but nothing too concerning.  

There's plenty to like here still.  His speed and defense give him value even when his bat might not, and I have to believe his bat will come around simply because he's always hit and also because I have to believe it.  Give him time.  Nothing to panic about.  Right?

-  I'm pretty bummed about Danny Santana.  I know the .405 BABIP pegged him as pretty much an automatic regression candidate, but he had a really good line drive rate so I thought you know, maybe.  But the line drive rate has gone down, the K rate has gone up, and the walk rate has completely disappeared leading to an embarrassing .525 OPS, second worst in the majors among hitters with at least 185 PAs.  Couple that with Eduardo Escobar's hot start and sending him down was pretty much a no brainer.  Escobar's cooled off now, however, and Santana is crushing at Rochester (.370/.412/.543) so he'll be back up, and hopefully he'll be all straightened out.

-  I don't know if anyone has noticed, and by that I mean I think everyone has noticed, but Joe Mauer has been worth -0.5 WAR this season, meaning he's worse than replacement level.  Meaning you take some shlub like Chris Colabello or Chris Parmelee or whoever the equivalent would be right now in AAA and plug him in and he'd give you more than Mauer.  Mauer, who is currently getting paid $23 million to completely suck at an offensively premium position.  His slugging and OPS are both the worst in the American League among first basemen with enough at bats to qualify for the batting title, which means he's playing one of the most traditional power positions without supplying any power (or anything offensively, really).  

His walk rate has slipped to a career worst as well, so you can't even point to his OBP (a pedestrian .329, 70 points or so lower than his career number) and say "well, at least he's getting on base."  His "soft contact" percentage is the worst it's ever been, and he's already popped up in the infield twice this year.  You can say that doesn't sound like much, and in some cases it isn't, but from 2011-2014 he only popped up a total of two times - not a misprint.  

I don't know where to go from here.  He's making $23 million per year through 2018 so he's impossible to trade unless you include something extremely premium or pick up a lot of his salary, which is pointless.  The only way he's remotely tradeable is if he ups his production level, which seems unlikely since his 2009 season, the one which got him that big contract, was a complete outlier.  His 28 homers that year were more than double his next best year.  His batting average was nearly 40 points better than his second best year.  His ISO was 60 points higher, his WAR over 2 wins better than any other year in his career, and his HR/FB was almost double any other season.  Just a complete fluke.

At this point, as frequent commenter and long time reader RGHrbek mentioned in the comments, he's blocking Kennys Vargas, who needs at-bats.  He could end up blocking Plouffe or Miguel Sano's move to first, and by taking up one of the 1B/DH spots he's also blocking Josmil Pinto's development.  Seriously, if you could only have two of the three out of Vargas, Mauer, and Plouffe, don't you take Vargas and Plouffe?  Mauer needs to be traded just to free up playing time for the younger dudes, but he's completely untradeable so here we are.  Hopefully he can turn it around and give the team a little average and on base skills if nothing else.  Oh and he's completely horrid defensively too, don't forget.  Neat stuff.

-  If you have kids go see Inside Out.  It was pretty awesome.

Yeah that'll do for now.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Welcome Aboard, Davonte Fitzgerald (and a look at an underrated reason the Twins are good)

Just a little Gophers and Twins update, since they rule.

-  The Gophers closed out the 2015 recruiting class, again, by picking up 6-7 forward Davonte Fitzgerald, a transfer from Texas A&M.  Fitzgerald, a sophomore, will sit out 2015-2016 and will have two years of eligibility remaining.  It seems a lot of people hate this signing.  Let's look at why so I can tell you why you're wrong.

1.  Taking a player from TAMU is taking a player from a crappy team/conference.  The SEC has been down lately, sure, and Texas A&M hasn't made the NCAA tournament since 2011.  Some of this argument makes some sense.  But recall, prior to missing the tournament in 2012 the Aggies had gotten invited six years in a row and their down years coincided with Mark Turgeon's jump to Maryland.  Billy Kennedy has the program rising with an NIT bid last season and a CIT bid the year before.  Now they're poised to take a pretty big jump with the #6 ranked recruiting class in the country coming in per ESPN and they're also returning their top 3 scorers from last year.  Texas A&M isn't a juggernaut or a blue blood, but I'd be hard pressed to claim Minnesota is a better program.

2.  He wasn't very good.  Mainly this is from people who see he averaged 3.5 points per game as as sophomore and are like omg this guy blows lol.  What they miss, of course, is he averaged 7.3 ppg in just 15 minutes per game as a freshman and basically played the second unit instant offense role - until he tore his ACL in February.  He came back last year and the season was pretty much a loss, which is why his average points per game was down by half.  After averaging 16 minutes per game as a freshman he only reached that mark six times all last season.  If you're the type who thinks that's probably because he suddenly sucked, well, you're probably an idiot.  By the time he gets to see the court for the Gophers he'll be over two years clear of that injury.  That's probably good, because he was good.

Coming out of high school Fitzgerald was a Top 200 player with offers from Clemson, Georgia, Florida State, and Temple along with TAMU.  His scouting reports described him as long and athletic, bouncy, slasher who can also hit the three, can play at both ends, and a national sleeper.  Post injury and transfer announcement the other teams after him with the Gophers included UCONN, Cal, and Arizona State.  I'm pretty sure he's still good, or at least has potential.

3.  The Gophers needed a big guy.  This is true, of course, but I need a blowjob from Kate Upton as well and I don't see that happening.  The cards didn't align for whatever reason on Pitino getting an immediately eligible big in here, but I don't see why Fitzgerald is a bad thing.  Pitino seems to be collecting athletic wings who can defend and play multiple positions and those kind of teams generally do quite well.  Yeah, I'd feel much better with any kind of established post dude and I have a feeling this is going to be kind of a lost year, but 2016-2017 with Reggie Lynch eligible could be a huge year.  Fitzgerald and Jordan Murphy could potentially play some PF, not to mention Gaston Diedhiou and Bakary Konate and, oh yeah, Charles Buggs is here too.  Treat 2015 as a building year.  Be excited for 2016.  That's also Pitino's first year with all his own players, so it better be a good one.

4.  He shoots to much.  A little nervous about this one.  Frehsman year he had a 32.7% shot percentage with a 43.8 eFG.  Sophomore year he had a 27.7% shot percentage with a 41.6 eFG.  Add in a basically non-existent assist rate and you're looking at a flat our chucker.  Either he needs to take it down a notch, or he everyone else needs to be good enough that he can play the Malik Smith-like gunner role where you put him in and if he's hot you let him roll and if he's not you sit him down.  Hoping he gets his bombing under control, but this seems like the one real legit beef here.

Plenty of question marks yeah, but I see a lot of good things here too.  Really depends on if he's recovered from his injury, and with over 2 years clear he should be.  I know he doesn't help for 2015 and the team could have used a big, but I'm pretty sure Pitino has a plan. Again, 2016.  That's our year.  That's it.  Circle it.  We goin' Sizzla.

-  And the Twins.  What can we say about the Twins?  Tied for first in the AL Central, 10 games over .500.  This rules, and is a full year ahead of schedule.  There are some obvious reasons why the Twins are overachieving - Brian Dozier is still awesome, Torii Hunter has shown zero dropoff at age 39, Trevor Plouffe is having a career year so far, Kyle Gibson may be becoming an ace, and Mike Pelfrey is pitching out of his mind.  Along with all these there's one piece of the game where the Twins have shown major improvement - they've become an average defensive outfield.

That may not sound like much, but it is.  Using Ultimate Zone Rating (and yes, no defensive metric is perfect but this one looks good, i.e. the Royals rank 1st of all outfields), the Twins ranked second to last in 2014, third to last in 2013, and third to last in 2012.  This year they rank 16th.

If you want to break it down, the Twins outfield defense, not taking into account pitching, hitting, infield fielding, or anything else has cost the team 0.9 runs against average this year.  That's nothing.  In 2014, outfield defense cost the team 36 runs, in 2013 it was 35 runs, and in 2012 it was 21.  The nerds say 9 runs is equal to one win, so basically the team has gone from costing itself 4 wins due to outfield defense alone to being on pace to cost themselves to about a third of a win (though this number is bound to get worse once Oswaldo Arcia gets back).  It's hard to reconcile what that really means, but the difference in a 4.0 WAR to a 0.35 WAR is the difference between Miguel Cabrera's hitting ability and Kurt Suzuki's hitting ability in 2014.  It's a pretty big deal!

Last year Arcia and Jason Kubel were absolute butchers and Josh Willingham wasn't much better.  Nobody was very good at all, with only Sam Fuld grading out well.  Basically that defense was where fly balls went to live.  This season Arcia has still been bad, Eduardo Escobar shaky out there (no surprise either), and for all Jordan Schafer's speed he's been the worst fielder on the team, but there's lots of good news.  Eddie Rosario has been pretty much average, but Aaron Hicks has made a big leap forward from last season, and Shane Robinson has been elite (top 10 in MLB, no joke).

Look man, there are a billion reasons to not buy into the Twins.  Those articles are all over the internet and you can't go to a sports website without tripping over one.  And I'm not saying I'm 100% on board yet either, but I'm getting close.  Lots of fluky things about this team that could go away in a hurry, but outfield defense isn't one of them.  As Deep Blue Something once said, "Well at least that's, the one thing we've got."