Thursday, April 28, 2011

Wednesday Wonderings

A few quick, random thoughts while watching Francisco Liriano throw batting practice.

-  Apparently Peyton Hillis is the cover boy for the next Madden and even weirder, he ended up the cover boy by winning a tournament against a bunch of other players which fans voted on.  What?  How can Peyton freaking Hillis win a popularity contest?  The only people who would vote for Peyton Hillis are Browns fans, racists, people who won their fantasy league because of him, and racists who won their fantasy league because of them.  I can see him beating Mike Vick (the guy he beat in the finals) because some people love dogs a little too much (and some people hate black people), but winning a whole tournament?  I'm baffled.  The only tournament Hillis should win is a tournament of people I know the least about.

-  I know nobody pays attention the National League, but if you have you may have noticed that the Padres are possibly the worst offensive team in history - dead last in runs scored in the majors (just one less than the Twins - oy!) and last in runs per game.  Bad enough that Orlando Hudson is their number three hitter, and bad enough to have scored just 8 total runs in their last seven games.  It's a fantastic example of why wins are an awful way to measure a pitcher because Dustin Moseley has started five games and compiled an ERA of 1.99 (2nd in the NL) and a WHIP of 1.11 (14th) and yet he's 0-3.  That's because in his five starts the Padres have won 5-3 (and didn't win until the 13th inning), 2-1, 1-0, 4-0, and 2-0.  That's one run they've scored in the his last four starts.  I know idiots like Bert Blyleven will talk about pitching to the game situation, but there's a reason he's won the big stupid idiot of the year award seventeen times.  I assume.

-  Eric Hacker with back-to-back bases loaded walks.  That's not easy to do.  Good thing they signed him to a major league deal, especially since he hadn't pitched in the majors since 2009 and probably would have taken a minor league offer.  It's like if you're trying to lure a fatty into your van, you don't need to offer a t-bone steak because the fatty will climb on in for an Arby's junior roast beef.  It's just common sense.

-  Hold on to your panties, ladies, and hold on to your hearts, boys, because the third coming of Jesus is coming back on Tuesday.   Yep, Big Sexy, Evan Longoria has started re-habbing and is scheduled to join the team on Tuesday.  Although I'm sure his rehab isn't like normal people rehab.  Probably a lot more banging chicks.

-  Have you ever read Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne?  Let me save you some time:  don't.  I figured it would be at least entertaining because hey, it's got dinosaurs so what the hell.  But I'm 90% of the way through, other than a short Ichthyosaur vs. Plesiosaur (how sweet would that movie be) fight, and some Mastodons in the distance the dinosaurs have been non-existant.  So far it's basically been a cartoon character, a mute, and a whiny narrator wandering around in a cave.  Hell, there is more time spent on geology than dinosaurology.  Big disappointment so far.  Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World is infinitely better.

- Finally, the NFL draft is tomorrow, and although I usually make fun of people who take football too seriously and though the whole move to primetime last year was ridiculous, I ended up watching and actually enjoyed it.  I won't be watching this year, however, because I will be making my slow-pitch softball pitching debut (weather permitting).  Which probably means I will either walk 20 guys or end up with a broken face.  Maybe both.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Wagering on Baseball

Since I post frequently on betting on baseball, my friends over at asked if they could make a guest post here on the blog.  Since I'm always willing to help out a friend and some of you burgeoning degenerates could use some pointers, here we go...

Wagering on Baseball

If you are an avid sports fan who also enjoys putting a little extra importance on a game or your favorite baseball team, then check out how wagering on baseball can be of enjoyment to you.

The first thing you want to note when looking to place wagers on a baseball game or team, is to assure that it is legal and you are abiding by any and all gambling laws that apply to your local area, state, and country. After doing a little research into the gambling restrictions, limitations, and other impeding laws that would apply to you, you can go about the legal process of wagering on baseball by either making bets in your local area, or by going online. When going online you may also come across other gambling games such as internet roulette; with these games as well you want to assure you are abiding by all legally imposed laws.

With the advent of the internet, there has been a multitude of betting and gambling methods like
casino bonus that have been made available to all people from all regions of the world, and when it comes to sports betting, wagering on baseball is a large chunk of the spring portion of that genre. Within the internet is also the best online casinos to choose from that hold a multitude of gambling games and sports betting. When looking to wager on baseball you can find more reliability with a reputable source in your local area, but you can find a much more extensive amount of methods to place wagers, as well as virtually no limits to the amount you place online.

When wagering on baseball online, you want to first assure that you have a stable internet connection that will allow you to make a simple unhindered bet without having to worry about losing out on a game due to time constraints with a slow connection. After you have a stable internet connection and a connection source, you can go ahead and find a website that you can utilize to make your wagers. When looking for a website you may come across other gambling methods and pop-ups that advertise
online casino games, but if you are looking to stick with baseball you can continue by going through a search engine results and checking the legitimacy of each and every possibility you are considering to use.

After checking the legitimacy of the website you are going to use, you can go ahead and place your online bet by entering in your method of payment and electronically signing off on any legal documents that are required, assuring again that you are wagering within the law of your region.

Overall if you are a fan of baseball and are looking to put a little extra excitement into the games, or on your favorite team, then check out how wagering on baseball can benefit you. 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Monday's Musings

I promise that I plan to get back to doing the week in review type posts every Monday, but Easter weekend was hectic as all hell and by the time I finally got to sit down on a stupid computer it was late Sunday and I just didn't have the energy or care enough to slap together something.  Plus, that wouldn't live up to the fine tradition I've started here of high quality postings every single time.  I couldn't possibly betray you that way, gentle reader, so I just didn't type up anything.  Instead I'll just put together my thoughts into this evening's post.  Just like this:

-  Tip o' the ole cap to our buddy Grandslam for bringing this to my attention, but guess how much money Kyle Lohse is going to make this year.  Go ahead, guess.  You're way low.  It's $12 million.  Nope, not in his career, but this year alone Lohse will make $12 mother-effing million dollars.  And in 2009 and 2010 combined he made about $16 million to deliver right around a combined 200 below-average innings to the Cardinals.  This, my friends, would be why you don't suddenly throw a 4-year, $41 million extension at a pitcher with a history of mediocrity simply because he has one slighly above average season, especially when advanced metrics can tell you, if you take the time to put down the binoculars and game worn miniature scorebook pencil, that he was a little bit lucky and you can fully expect him to regress back to the same mediocre pitcher.

Now Lohse is off to a 3-1 start and coming off a gem of a 2-hit shutout against Washington (WASHINGTON!!), and has a low ERA and WHIP, but honestly you don't need advanced metrics to tell you he's not that good (note:  he's been very, very lucky so far).  He's an average pitcher at best who has just enough of a live arm that he's going to jump up and give you a good start or two here or there - he did it for the Twins, he did it for the Phillies, and he's done it before for these very same Cardinals.  But guess what?  There's not a chance in hell he's worth $12 million.

Want to know the best part?  When they extended him they also gave him a full no-trade clause.  L-O-freaking-L.  Who's running this team, McHale?  I'm expecting another extension any day.

-  And since we are on the subject of former Twins' pitcher who define mediocrity (or worse) guess who currently has a no-hitter through five innings against the Yankees?  Phil freaking Humber.  I know there's no way this can last more than another batter or two, but could there possibly be a bigger kick in the nuts?  Player acquired for former superstar who the team couldn't afford to keep who washes out pitches a no-hitter for a hated division rival against the old team's arch nemisis that's bounced them from the playoffs the last three times they've been there?  Honestly, the only way you could possibly make this worse is to have it be a playoff game.  But yeah, this will do.  Ouch.

- Greivis Vasquez plays a meaningful role for the Grizzlies?  I had no idea (but I guess why would I when it pertains to the Memphis NBA team).  I've been watching this game for about four game minutes and he's hit two buckets as well as a three-pointer.  I think he might be MVP.

-   Humber now through six.  Still hitless.  If he can get through the seventh (Granderson, Texeira, A-Rod) he'll have a chance.  Of course, that still lives Cano.  Wait.  I got it.  He's going get all the way to the last out, which will be Jeter.  Jeter will break it up. All announcers/journalists everywhere will collectively mess their shorts to race to their typewriters to write up an article about how tough he is and his intangibles.  One journalist will out-crazy them all by writing about how he believes "some part of Jeter really didn't want to break that up, because he knew what a great story it was, but he's such a competitor that the though of lying down never crossed his mind."  Book it.

-  I just realized A.J. Burnett is on the other side of this, and he's only allowed 2 hits and one run.  This is like bizarro-world.  There must be a five-hundred mile per hour wind blowing in, the infield grass must be three times longer than normal, and whoever is umping home plate obviously is calling everything a strike tonight.  That has to be it, no?

-  Moment of silence of Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, who died nine years ago today.  You may remember her as the crazy as shit broad from TLC who burned down Andre Rison's house, but what you might not remember is that Andre Rison died exactly four years ago today.  Creepy, right?  But I should mention that I actually have no idea if Andre Rison is dead or alive, and if he is dead he probably didn't die on this date.  But he could have, and that's creepy.

-  I just read that a judge or something lifted the NFL lockout.  I'm not going to lie to you.  I have no idea what this means.  All I know is I want scab players in at least one NFL game.  Come on.  Tell me you don't want to see Adam Weber throw a TD pass to some 33-year old slob who was selling cars or schlepping concrete last year.  How much fun would it be to go through the rosters and see guys you remember as the third WR on Michigan in 2002 and be all like, "Ronald Bellamy!  I remember that guy!  He's a fag!"  Seriously, it would be like Christmas.

-  A-Rod breaks up the no-hitter with one down in the 7th.  I feel both relieved and saddened at the same time.

-  That Joe Mauer/Troy Polamolu commercial creeps me out.

-  I know what you're wondering.  You're wondering what's going on with the NBDL right now.  Well I'll tell you.  They've reached the finals (which is a best of three affair) and the Iowa Energy are up on the Rio Grande Valley Vipers after taking game one by a score of 123-109.  Iowa was led by Curtis "The Curt Man" Stinson who notched a triple-double (29-10-10).  Also apparently Stinson was MVP of the D-League.  How proud of that would you be?  I'd say it's kind of like getting into Harvard and getting a communications degree.  I mean, it's better than slinging crack or living off welfare, but even so you gotta feel like you didn't quite get everything out of life that you maybe should have.

-  I don't know how anybody could root for the San Antonio Spurs.  You have the world's most boring superstar surrounded by a bunch of commies and some ooh la la frenchman who probably smells like Drakkar.  Gross.

-  Speaking of Drakkar, Memphis is about to be up 3-1 on the Spurs tonight and I can't help but a feel a bit of a pang of jealousy.  I know this would be their first playoff series win ever, and they picked up their first playoff win ever earlier, and I also know the Wolves did have that nice run the conference finals, but Memphis being successful when the Wolves are in the pooper makes me, and baby jesus, cry.  How can Zach Randolph become a leader?  How can a backcourt of O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley, and Tony Allen do, well, anything?  And the Wolves are not just worse, but significantly worse.  That feels like a place to end.  Plus I have to go stab myself in the temple with a crossbow quarrel, but before I go I want to leave with this piece of wisdom...."The eyes are the groin of the head."

-  Wait, I just realized I didn't even put a picture in here. So here's a pic of Alison Brie. Top 10, easy.  Should also drive some traffic because cash money ya'll.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Thursday Things

Random thoughts on a Thursday evening, as I sit here with a couple of Coors Light tallboys.  No, I'm not abandoning your precious 6 things format, but I can't sit here just married to it, night after night.  I'm sorry I'm not like you and can't just have the same thing over and over, night after night.  Some of us need a little variety.  A little newness.  So settle down.

By the way, I have Friday off.  Do you? 


-  I'm sitting here watching Alexi Casilla flail away haplessly at yet another pitch, it strikes me that this Casilla/Tolbert combo must be one of the absolute worst offensive double-play combos of all time.  So let's play around with baseball-reference.

Casilla's career OPS+ is 68.  Tolbert's is 72.  According to BR, there have been 134 seasons where a player had an OPS+ of 72 or less while playing 2b 75% of the time and acquiring 500 plate appearances, and using those same parameters we come up with 238 shortstops.  The question is, did any of those 2b's play with an of those SS's, or, if they hit at their career averages, do the Twins have the worst offensive double play combination in history?

I'll save you some suspense.  I found 16 teams where the SS and 2B both had an OPS+ of 72 or worse, so the Casilla/Tolbert combination is only one of the 16 worst in history - not THE worst.  BUT.  14 of those come from pre-1980 teams.  Back when nobody even gave a crap if your middle infield could even hit the ball out of the infield as long as they could field their position well.  Since 1980, only two teams (2003 Dodgers with Alex Cora (67) and Cesar Izturis (60) and the 2007 Giants with Ray Durham (64) and Omar Vizquel (60)) had a worse hitting middle infield than the Twins.  So yes, in case anybody asks you can feel comfortable telling them this Twins combo is the third worst since 1980.  Comforting.

-  Speaking of shitty baseball players I'm really sick of Austin Jackson, who is on my fantasy team.  The guy has zero plate discipline and apparently almost zero ability to actually make contact when he swings.  Now I'm not against strikeouts per se, despite their being fascist, but when you have a player who strikes out a ton you expect to get a little bit of power along with it.  Not so with Mr. Jackson, who struck out 170 times last year while countering with just four home runs (and this year he's at 24 to 1).  Bizarre, right?  Let's check Mr. Baseball-Reference again.

Prior to Jackson last year, the fewest home runs hit by a player with 170 strikeouts or more was 13 by Jose Hernandez in 2003.  Next fewest was Mark Bellhorn with 17 in 2004, then Curtis Granderson's 19 in 2006.  The fewest home runs by a player with 160 strikeouts was Mickey Tettleton with 15 in 1990.  150 strikeouts was Delino DeShields with 10 in 1991.  In fact, the most strikeouts by a player with 4 or less home runs was Michael Bourn, who struck out 140 times with just 3 home runs in 2009.  Simply put, Jackson is about to become the world's greatest strikeout artist with no power, because he's going to pretty much repeat last season's numbers.  Only 8 players have ever hit five or less home runs while striking out at least 125 times, including that illustrious firecracker Vince Coleman, and only Gary Pettis has done it twice.  Can Jackson match the feat of Gary George Pettis?  It's exciting, isn't it?

-  I'm pretty sure if there's a heaven, at least one of the main rivers is made up of Buffalo Wild Wing's Spicy Garlic sauce.  Not their version of the Nile or the Amazon or the Mississippi, because those are probably reserved for booze, but maybe like the Congo or the Mekong.

-  Former Twin Kyle Lohse pitched a hell of a game today, specifically a 2-hit shutout.  I was going to write more about it but really who the hell cares?  He's a completely average pitcher who occasionally has moments of brilliance, like today, just like he was 10 years ago or whatever on the Twins and just like ten million other pitchers in the major leagues.  God he's so boring.  He's like the pitcher version of a MASH episode.

-  Jesus christ is Parks and Recreation funny.  Community is awfully good too, but there's nothing better than Parks and Rec right now.  It's knock it out of the park funny every time.  I think the five funniest characters in tv history are Ron Swanson, April Ludgate, Tom Haverford, Rob Lowe's character, and Bill Haverchuck.  Four of them are from Parks and Rec.  And Andy Dwyer is a runner-up, and we haven't even gotten to comedic genius Amy Poehler yet.  Really, if you're not watching this show you're a god damn idiot.

- How does Chris Bosh only get 6 rebounds in 41 minutes?  Both Wade and LeBron grabbed more rebounds than him, when really his biggest role on that team should be "rebound getter guy."  Ugh.  He's so lame.

-  ohmygodohmygodohmygod you guys I am so freaking excited right now.  Mrs. W just showed me a video (settle down, pervs) of a movie coming out this summer from SyFy called Swamp Shark about, well, a shark in a swamp.  It stars D.B. "shoeless joe" Sweeney and Kristy "hotter than fire or at least I used to be" Swanson (who was also in Red Water which I desperately want to blog but is apparently never ever ever replayed on tv even though it had Coolio as an evil mastermind in it) which is simply an awesome pairing of two awesome people.  I don't know if I could come up with a better male and female lead for a crappy SyFy shark movie.  I'm like Jessie Spano on caffeine pills right now.  Here's the trailer but I want to warn you - you're going to end up with a boner.

Also I think we should all think of Kristy Swanson like this:
And pay no attention to any pictures of her from the last few years because hey, sometimes life gets in the way of being hot.  I'm sure she'll bring her A game for Swamp Shark.  I mean, she'd have to in order to beat out all the other actresses who were no doubt clamoring for that role.

-  So I came up with this formula to calculate how likely a player is to get a hit in any given at-bat against a pitcher and using that info can calculate games where a  player is particularly unlikely to get a hit and then wager on such, usually at a 2-to-1 payout or so if they don't.  I have to tell you it's nerve-wracking, especially when some dickhole (F you Melky Cabrera and Dan Uggla) is hitless all game and then gets one in the ninth.  Like right now I just watched a relatively meaningless Ryan Howard at-bat, but because I have him to get NO hit at +170 I was riveted, even though it's the 4th inning.  It's good, and it's bad.

-  Speaking of gambling, here are my season futures this year:
  • Jayson Werth OVER 21.5 home runs
  • Joakim Soria OVER 34.5 saves
  • Mark Reynolds OVER 30.5 home runs
  • Nelson Cruz OVER 27.5 home runs
  • Jayson Heyward UNDER 23.5 home runs
  • Adam Dunn OVER 35.5 home runs
  • Ryan Zimmerman OVER 26.5 home runs
  • Carlos Pena OVER 27.5 home runs
  • Jose Bautista OVER 29.5 home runs
  • Shin Soo Choo OVER 156.5 hits
  • Justin Verlander OVER 15.5 wins
  • Joe Mauer OVER 164.5 hits
  • Ichiro OVER 197.5 hits
  • Josh Johnson OVER 13.5 wins
  • David Price OVER 15.5 wins
  • Clayton Kershaw OVER 13.5 wins
  • Clay Buchholz OVER 14.5 wins
  • Troy Tulowitzki OVER 28.5 home runs
  • Phillies UNDER 96.5 wins
  • Marlins OVER 82.5 wins
  • Red Sox UNDER 96.5 wins
  • Cubs OVER 82.5 wins
  • A's OVER 83.5 wins
  • Orioles UNDER 77.5 wins
What?  No, YOU have a problem.

-  Oh crap I guess I should mention something here about Colton Iverson transferring to Colorado State.  So here, "Colton Iverson is transferring to Colorado State."  I can't think of anything else to write.  I'd rather have him here than there, but if you were to ask me if I care I'm not entirely sure I could even muster a "meh."  Maybe just a "m".  

-  I know Christina Aguilera has put on some weight lately, but I have to be honest with you - all the reports of her becoming a total drunk mess have me bumping her up in my rankings, extra weight or not.

-  You know what's a great snack mix?  Corn nuts and soy nuts.  Outstanding.  Throw some sunflower seeds in there and you have a little bit of heaven.

-  Finally, I started reading Sid Hartman's latest column on, and I just can't resist.  Let's break this down a little bit, Sid's writings in bold.

The Vikings seem to have a strong interest in securing a veteran quarterback once the NFL lockout ends.
I'm not entirely certain, but the fact that the QBs on the roster are Joe Webb, Patrick Ramsey, and Rhett Bomar make it seem like they may need somebody else
It also might be possible the Vikings and Redskins have had some conversations about a deal for 34-year-old quarterback Donovan McNabb, who definitely won't be a member of his current team once play resumes.
I'm definitely not saying anything with any certainty but possibly maybe it could be in the realm of existence that the Vikings have talked to the Redskins about Donovan McNabb.  I think I read that somewhere.
Of course, no deals can be made while the lockout is in progress, but I don't know if there is any rule against the clubs talking about making a deal.
I don't know if there are any rules against it, and this paper for some reason has a strict policy against looking things up or even asking someone who might know the answer.  Of course, to do either of those things I'd have to figure out this computating machine or the communication device on my desk.
One reason why McNabb might be the veteran quarterback the team will sign is because Vikings coach Leslie Frazier is personally familiar with McNabb. Frazier was a defensive assistant with the Eagles from 1999 to 2002, when McNabb was in his prime.
Way back in 2002, back when the Patriots were a Super Bowl underdog, the New Jersey Nets made the NBA Finals, the Indiana Hoosiers made the Final Four, and Mike Tyson still held a championship belt.  But I'm assuming with Frazier being on board, McNabb should be about the same player he was back then.
Last season, Shanahan's first year as the Redskins coach, McNabb played in 13 games, completed 275 of 472 passes for 3,377 yards, a 58.3 completion percentage and an average of 7.2 yards per attempt. He threw for 14 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and a 77.1 passer rating.
AAAh numbers!  What are you, some kind of nerd?  Sports aren't played by computers or numbers or stats, they're played by people.  And Donovan McNabb is a people.
The big problem might be McNabb's contract, which calls for the Redskins to pick up McNabb's $10 million option if he is on the Redskins' 53-man roster the day after the first regular-season game. McNabb's base salary for the 2011 season, if it is played, is reported to be $2.5 million, but jumps to $12.75 million in 2012.
My head hurts.
I'm sure the Vikings would not deal for McNabb unless they could redo his contract. They are not going to pay that kind of money to a 34-year-old quarterback who is at the tail end of his career.
Sounds like a dare.
ESPN correspondent Adam Schefter wrote on Twitter on Saturday that he "believes McNabb would like to play for the Vikings" next year.
What's twitter?  Is that on the computationalator?
No doubt the plan is to sign a veteran quarterback, draft another and try to develop Joe Webb into the future starter.
What happened to all this "I'm not entirely certain" talk?  Now we've moved to no doubt?
Jerry Kill continues to coach the Gophers football team without a contract. Apparently University of Minnesota lawyers and Kill's agent can't agree on some of the clauses in the contract.
And I absolutely refuse to expound on this further.  I know stuff and you don't.  Neener neener neener.
Basketball coach Tubby Smith's lawyers still are trying to reach an agreement on an extension. Baseball coach John Anderson, who won the Big Ten title a year ago and advanced to the NCAA tournament, is operating on his old contract without any new negotiations taking place.
This is the part where I don't know where I am and forgot what I'm supposed to be writing about.  Since I just re-read the thing about the Gopher football coach, I'm just going to mention the only other two Gopher coaches whose names I remember.
Former Twins shortstop Orlando Cabrera is one of the big reasons for the Cleveland Indians' early success and first-place standing in the American League Central entering Wednesday's games. The 36-year-old is hitting .262, and his 11 RBI is second on the team. He's also hit two home runs this season after hitting five in all of 2009 for the Twins and four for Cincinnati last year. 
He's hitting .257, has walked all of twice in 72 plate appearances, and outside of those two precious home runs has one extra base hit.  His OPS+ of 86 actually says he's been a significantly below average hitter this year, equivalent to what Michael Cuddyer has done for the Twins so far this year (pre-tonight's home run).  But keep clinging to those 11 RBI, which are more a product of hitting behind Travis Hafner, Carlos Santana, and Michael Brantley - all of whom can't stop getting on base.  And how dare he hit more home runs for Cleveland than for the Twins.  He'll never work in this town again.
... Jon Rauch, who the Twins declined to keep after the 2010 season and instead signed a $3.5 million deal with Toronto, is 1-1 with a 2.35 ERA and three saves for the Blue Jays.
He also has a 5/4 strikeout-to-walk ratio and an insanely lucky BABIP.  He sucks.  And is lucky.
Another pair of relievers the Twins let go last winter are doing well with their new teams. Jesse Crain has been fantastic for the Chicago White Sox, posting an 0-1 record and a 1.93 ERA in 9 1/3 innings pitched, with 11 strikeouts and only two walks. 
And has been a huge part of two bullpen meltdowns that lead to Sox's losses.
Former Twins utility player Nick Punto appeared in his first game of the season for the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday, taking a walk as a pinch hitter in the sixth inning. Punto had been on the disabled list because of a sports hernia.
A real tough-guy, hard-nosed, gritty, hustley, gamer injury probably suffered by sliding into first base.
 ... J.J. Hardy, who was hurt a great deal in his one season with the Twins last year, has been placed on the 15-day disabled list by the Baltimore Orioles because of a muscle strain. Hardy was off to a somewhat slow start for the Orioles, hitting .200 (3-for-15) through six games, but all three hits were doubles.
Not a gamer.  Pussy.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Everyone from Kentucky is Going Pro

This started out as another six things post, but I got kind of bored and drunk and so I'm just going to make it a Kentucky-related post, since there's such demand for Kentucky related news on this blog.  Really though, what do you want me to do, write an entire post about how bad the Twins suck?  I already did that.

Everyone from Kentucky is going pro.  Well not everyone, but three starters:  point guard Brandon Knight, power forward Terrence Jones, and small forward DeAndre Liggins (who was nice enough to make me some cash).   With so many other top of the draft talents opting to stay in school it makes a lot of sense for both Knight and Jones to make the jump, assuming they aren't concerned about the lockout because they have both become lottery locks with Knight having a shot at the top 5 and Jones top 10 depending on individual workouts and all that other jazz NBA general managers do that is mostly unnecessary.  All you have to do is watch them to know they're both physical freaks, Knight has more polish, neither is going to do much in his rookie year, and Knight's tweenerish status makes him much more bust likely, but Jones is slightly crazy so he's a risk too.  In a year where the top 10 picks could include a white boy from Utah who doesn't play any defense and can't function without the ball as well as 3-4 Euros, what are you gonna do?  Gotta pick somebody.

Liggins, on the other hand, is a bit of a curious case considering he averaged just 8.6 points and 4 rebs per game, his best trait is his defense, and he isn't the physical specimen the other two are.  He's currently projected as a late second-round pick at best so I'm guessing this is more of a "test the waters/get GM feedback" type of situation and Liggins will be back at Kentucky next year - assuming he's been going to class, which at Kentucky is no given.  Actually at Kentucky it probably wouldn't matter anyway since they're just a bunch of cheating cheaters with King Cheater in charge.

6 Very Important Things from Last Night - 04.19.2011

1.  The Twins got rolled 11-0 by the hapless Orioles.  I only watched half of this one because it was apparent very early that the Twins had no shot, but from what I saw Pavano was all over the place.  That's bad for anybody unless you're a guy like Carlos Marmol who throws 99mph and has no idea where it's going but nobody can hit it anyway, but for Pavano to miss his spots means it's going to be a rough night.  Not only by falling behind in counts and walking guys (3 walks and just 60% strikes) but because when he misses by a little bit his 89mph fastball goes from a well placed tough to hit pitch to an easy to drive pitch, and Pavano was run after four and two-thirds after allowing 8 hits and 7 runs.  Naturally, the Twins were unable to score, a consistent problem not helped by the absence of Mauer, Morneau, and Delmoney from the lineup.

Maybe the most discouraging part of last night's festivities, however, was Joe Nathan getting rocked again, giving up a couple of hits and a 3-run home run to Vlad Guerrero in his inning of work, which means he's now given up 7 runs in his last three times out, with at least two runs coming in each game.  It's pretty clear he's not all the way back from injury, and his fastball is clocked consistently 2-3 miles per hour slower than it was in his prime, making him essentially Nick Blackburn but who doesn't know how to pitch like he has a noodle arm.  I don't know what you do with him - could he do a minor league assignment? - but he's not good right now, and he just needs more time.  I guess we'll have to rely on Cappsy.  Get ready for some brutal emotional swings, fans.

2.  Carmelo Anthony could almost do it himself but Jared Jeffries and Bill Walker fucked it all up.  Chauncey Billups is out with an injury and Amare Stoudamire was only able to play a half before getting knocked out due to back spasms, and the Knicks opponent was the Celtics one of the best defensive teams in the league.  The stage was set for Melo to channel Bernard King and elevate the Knicks to victory and he damn near pulled it off, scoring 42 points and grabbing 17 rebounds (and dishing 6 assists).  Unfortunately Bill Walker couldn't hit a shot all game, going 0-11 from the floor, and eventually Boston realized Carmelo had no help and they started double-teaming him before he even had the ball.  Remarkable.  This defensive strategy resulted in Jared Jeffries having to make a play on the two biggest possessions of the game for the Knicks, and you can imagine how that went.  If you're imagining it was like watching Gardy try to figure out a Rubik's Cube, you're not far off. 

3.  Sticking with the NBA, I thought ESPN said Atlanta had the guys to stop Dwight Howard?  In fact, I know they did because in my preview on here I said Atlanta couldn't deal with Howard and Snacks emailed me to say that ESPN said that the Hawks' Jason Collins and Zaza Pachulia would be able to handle him.  Wrong, idiots.  33 points and 19 rebounds last night in the Magic's Game 2 win following up his 46-19 in game 1 - a Magic loss.  It's actually interesting because it's become clear that Atlanta is simply going to single cover Howard - and let him destroy them - and concentrate all their defensive efforts on shutting down Orlando's jumpshooters, which is basically the entire rest of the team. 

That strategy worked brilliantly in Game 1, the Hawks big win, with Jameer Nelson the only non-Howard player to have a good shooting game with Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu, JJ Redick, Ryan Anderson, and Jason Richardson shooting a combined 2-14 from three.  In Game 2 it almost worked again with Orlando shooting 5-23 from three as a team but this time the Magic played good enough defense to get the win.  What seemed to be a boring series in the beginning has suddenly become interesting based on the Hawks' strategy.  Or at least as interesting as any series involving the boring as hell Hawks could ever be.

4.  Josh Johnson is unhittable.  Maybe it's because he's in the NL, or maybe it's because he's on a small market team, or maybe it's simply because nobody cares about the Marlins, but Josh Johnson is one of the best pitchers in baseball and I'm not sure how many people know it.  Last night he tossed seven scoreless innings against Pittsburgh, allowing just two hits and striking out nine, and the only notable thing about it was how un-notable it really was - this is the norm for this nerd.  His season stats are now at 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA, a WHIP of 0.59, and a strikeout per inning.  Looking at his career arc it reads like a big-time pitcher - good rookie year (5th in ROY), two injury plagued seasons, then a comeback year where he was an all-star, followed last year by his 2.30 ERA and fifth place finish in the Cy Young balloting.  The guy may look like a slightly less nerdy Davis Love III, but he's an absolute super star.  I wonder if he'll end up on the Yankees or the Red Sox.

5.  Penn State is going to be even worse than you thought.  Not that there was a whole lot of optimistic feelings towards Penn State's 2011-2012 basketball season with Talor Battle, Jeff Brooks, Andrew Jones, and David Jackson all graduating (that's four of their top five scorers and top four rebounders), but one of the few rays of hope has now been crushed with the news that Taran Buie is transferring/has been kicked out.  It's not a surprise given that Buie was suspended from the team twice for various violations, but it's still a kick in the junk since he was one of the highest rated recruits in many, many years at Penn State.  Not to mention this leaves them with Tim Frazier and a bunch of guys who never played, and it's not like either Jones or Jackson should have been hard to beat out for playing time since they are severely flawed players, so those guys coming back are probably even worse than Colton Iverson (for reals).  Should be fun to watch a team whose only good player's #1 skill is distributing the basketball play with a bunch of teammates who couldn't score on a date with your sister.

6.  The Vikings schedule (if there's a season) was announced last night.  But let's be honest, if you get excited about this you are a retard, and you're probably a big fan of mayo sandwiches, think Nickelback and Hinder "fuckin' rock", consider Borat to be quality cinema, and name Olive Garden as your favorite "fancy" restaurant.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

6 Very Important Things from Last Night

Remember last year there was that very exciting 2-week or so period where I was writing daily posts so you worker drones would have something to do while you drink your coffee at your desk every morning?   And then my stupid second baby was born and that all went right out the window?  Well, I'm bringing it back.  Daily posts, either regular type posts or, if I don't have anything I'm thinking about writing about, I'll do it in this "6 things" list format.  Starting today and going until I get bored or lazy.

1. Drew Butera is my hero.  Mauer schmauer, who needs 'em?  The Twinks won their second straight, beating the Orioles 5-3 last night and giving Francisco Liriano his first win of the season.  Matt Capps tried to blow the game in the ninth by giving up a crushed home run to Luke Scott, but it turns out when you're up by three no matter how long of a home run you give up it's still only worth one point.

The real story of the game, however, was "no hit" Butera who went 2-4 with a career high three RBI, two coming on a big double in the second to give the Twins the lead, and the last one coming in the ninth, helping to give the Twins in a little insurance, something they will always need since they have the world's worst bullpen.  So a multi-hit game with three RBI, clutch hits, zero stolen bases by Baltimore probably because they were too afraid to run on his cannon arm, and such an outstanding ability to all a game that he made Francisco Liriano, Jose Mijares, and Jim Hoey all good, and Matt Capps only allowed one run which I assume is a season best?  I think this might be the Joe Mauer we always wanted, and without all the little baby injuries and "viruses."  With the DH spot already locked up I think it's time we start exploring trading him before it's too late.  I'll have to have a post later this week looking at what the Twins might be able to get for Mauer.  Stay tuned.

2.  Harrison Barnes is coming back.  Yep, Barnes, a consensus top-3 pick in the NBA draft, will be returning to North Carolina for his sophomore hoops season.  The effect of this is two-fold.  First, with John Henson and Tyler Zeller also staying in school plus the additions of James McAdoo (Rivals #8 overall player nationally and a guy who is just going to be ridiculous), P.J. Hairston (#14 nationally), and Desmond Hubert(#15 Center), the Tar Heels are going to be the prohibitive favorite to win the National Title (although if Kendall Marshall gets hurt it's over for them - he's the single most important player in college basketball next year).  The second, and more Minnesota-centric, effect is that this year's NBA draft is going to completely suck.  With Barnes, Baylor's Perry Jones, and Ohio State's Jared Sullinger all staying in school the only real blue-chippers are Arizona's Derrick Williams and Duke's Kyrie Irving.  We've all been here before.  Pencil the Wolves in for the third pick.  And of course with next year shaping up to be one of the deepest and best classes in recent memory the Wolves have already traded their pick.  Oof.

3.  This guy who was almost a Twin can really hit the ball.  And he's a shortstop.  You may remember the name Jed Lowrie, because he was part of the package the Red Sox offered the Twins for Johan Santana way back when.  The full offer was Lowrie, Jon freaking Lester, Justin Masterson, and Coco Crisp.  Lowrie is currently hitting .516 with 2 home runs after going 4-5 with a dinger today in the Red Sox 9-0 thumping of Toronto, and would be leading the league in average with just a few more plate appearances (not to mention he'd be tied for the team lead in homers if he was a Twin) and is starting to look like a potential franchise type shortstop.

Which means that with a different decision, Johan could have netted the Twins a possible franchise shortstop, a #1/#2 type starter, a potential #3/#4 type starter (depending on your opinion of Masterson), and another outfielder who could have been a trade chip, made someone else a trade chip, or at a minimum might have stopped the Twins from picking up Cuddy Bear's option which pays him $11 fucking million this year to hit singles.  Instead, they ended up netting out with two crappy relievers the Orioles didn't want (yes Hoey looked ok last night) and a pitching prospect who lost velocity and can't get out of double-A.  I know hindsight is 20/20, and I know that according to prospect rankings the trade with the Mets looked about on par with the Sox trade, but god damn it does it rankle me every time I see Lowrie or Lester do well.  Imagine how much better this team would be if that was the trade they made.  I'm going to go light something on fire.   

4.  Use up that $2.27 million signing bonus already?  In what can only be described as "totally fucking bizarre", Cincinnati Reds second year pitcher Mike Leake was arrested for stealing $60 worth of shirts from Macy's.  I totally don't get it because first of all Leake's signing bonus a year and a half ago was $2.27 million.  Second, he is making $425 million this year.  Third, he stole six shirts whose total cost was $59.98, or under 10 bucks a piece.  Fourth, the guy is a total stud and is soon, within the next couple few years, going to end up signing a nice big contract.  Fifth, what the fuck?   And finally, these are apparently the brand of shirts he was stealing.  What the hell?  You're telling me you can't just go down to ragstock or the salvation army and get the same thing for like a buck a piece?

Only two possible explanations here.  First, Leake must be a huge pothead and was just confused. like Smokey after he ate too much corn.  If I may be allowed to generalize and stereotype, Leake has surfer hair and went to Arizona State, so I'll assume he's not unfamiliar with the herb.  Plus he went straight to the pros from the minors so he hasn't really had any time to "grow-up" or "be poor", if you will.  The second possibility is that Macy's is somehow infested with a demon that causes athletes to steal even when it's the dumbest thing they could possibly do.  Is it possible that Royce White was really innocent and it was just some evil force that made him try to steal those pants and push that old man?  Maybe Fred Hoiberg is a secret Choctaw shaman who was able to recognize that Royce was good at heart and was just possessed, cast out the demon, and is now ready to reap the rewards of an All-American season.  Stupid Baptist Tubby.  I bet if they had hired Archambeau he'd be all over this.

5.  Look out, world.  Here comes Pricey.  Tampa's David Price burst onto the scene in the 2008 playoffs, had a decent rookie year, then last year finished second in the Cy Young balloting, so his slow start this year was a bit puzzling.  Well you can stop worrying so much, because he completely shut down the Sox last night, going 8 shut-out innings, allowing just four hits and striking out nine.  That's the Price I'm talkin' about.  Plus he did it to the White Sox, the most evil team in the history of evil, even worse than the Nazis or Packers.  Does this make David Price some kind of Angel or maybe God?  But in November of 2007 the owner dude changed the team name from Devil Rays to Rays, just three short months after they drafted and signed Price.  Coincidence?  You tell me, Robert Stack.  You tell me.

6.  The Pacers almost did it again.  For the second straight game the Pacers looked like they might be in position to steal a win in Chicago, and for the second straight game Derrick Rose said "No soup for you."  Seriously, this guy is ridiculous and completely unguardable.  When it gets down to it in the fourth Chicago justs shifts into the "give Rose the ball and everybody get out of the way" offense and he gets to the rim and either finishes, gets fouled, or finds an open teammate - and nobody on the Pacers can keep him out of the lane.  Last night he scored 14 of his 36 in the fourth quarter, similar to Game 1 when he scored 9 of his 37 in the quarter and came up with the game's biggest play on an assist to Kyle Korver for a three to give the Bulls the lead.  Completely ridiculous.  This is just like watching me play at the Y - completely unstoppable.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Happy Birthday Wonderbaby!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY WONDERBABYTM!!! Those of you who have been with this blog for a long time might even remember her being born.  In any case, I've posted pictures of her here and there, and have maybe included a story or two, but really I just can't believe she's three years old already.   She's the smartest, prettiest, and most athletic three-year old in her preschool (that's not just bragging, the teachers have told us such), and I love every minute I get to spend with her, even when she's throwing tantrums because she wants candy or making me watch Shrek or Toy Story for the 8 billionth time.  Here's the latest picture of the world's most perfect child:


Lastly, for those who know some of the characters who frequent this blog, I want you to know that Dawger, Snake, and Bogart are all huge jerks.  Thank you and good night.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Because I can't possibly bring myself to write or even comment on the complete breakdown the Twins displayed tonight I'm going to need to find something else to write about as an outlet for my rage because, let's face it, if Mrs. W goes to the doctor for pain medication after falling down the stairs again some questions are going to be asked.  Since I know iff there's one thing everyone in the world cares about it's the NBA Playoffs (which start Saturday), so let's break these matchups down.  Not super in depth or anything because I'm actually not all that NBA smart, believe it or not, and I don't know much but I know I love you and that may be all I need to know.


#1 Chicago Bulls vs. #8 Indiana Pacers:  First off I'm completely stunned that the Pacers made the playoffs.  I had no idea this kind of thing had happened.  I thought they simply transformed from the thug life of Stephen Jackson, the craziest son of a bitch in all of sports, and Ron Artest into the blinding whiteness of Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy, and Tyler Hansbrough and that was that.  But apparently having Darren Collison and Danny Granger, despite the presence of Roy Hibbert, is enough to get you into the NBA Playoffs.  Where they will get destroyed by the Bulls.  Chicago in 4.

#4 Orlando Magic vs. #5 Atlanta Hawks:  This is a total mis-match because there are four good teams in the East, of which Orlando is one of them and Atlanta is not.  And who is going to stop Dwight Howard?  Al Horford?  Please.  The Hawks only chance is if Howard does that thing where he just seems not all that interested in dominating and just kind of stands around while Jameer and Redick and Penny chuck up threes all day.  Even if that happens, Orlando is probably still the favorite.  Magic in five.

#2 Miami Heat vs. #7 Philadelphia 76ers:   The Heat are vulnerable for sure, partially because I still think they're going to struggle a bit, alpha dog wise, and LeBron has essentially proven to be the Rory McIlroy of NBA playoffs, but there are a couple reasons that upset won't happen here.  The first is Dwayne Wade, who is still the type of player who can single-handedly win a series, and the second reason is that Philly's leading scorer, rebounder, and shot-blocker is Elton freaking Brand.  Somebody like Jodie Meeks or Lou Williams or even Jrue Holiday could heat up and scare 'em, and that'll probably happen in a game or two, but I don't think the Sixers can really threaten Miami.  Heat in five.

#3 Boston Celtics vs. #6 New York Knicks.  This is the match-up where I see an upset brewing.  Just having playoff basketball at Madison Square Garden is going to give them a huge jolt (don't forget that at its heart New York is a basketball town), Carmelo and Amare are going to get theirs, and the Celtics really haven't been the same since they traded Kendrick Perkins.  If the Knicks can get anybody to step up and be their third scorer (Billups or Fields seem the most likely) they will knock off the Celtics.  Which is good because I'm really sick of these dorks and Boston fans deserve to have something bad happen to them.  Knicks in six (Knicks +300 to win the series is an oustanding value bet).


#1 San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies.  Nice to see Memphis in the playoffs, proving that was once an apparent basketball wasteland can revive itself and become a semi-promising playoff team.  Of course, they aren't saddled with a regime that didn't hire their new coach before a draft where they had two top picks, then took two point guards with those picks, and then hired a coach who is committed to running an offense that not only doesn't emphasize a point guard but actively ignores the position.  Great job, a-holes.  Anyway Memphis is probably going to be a little feisty (Zach Randolph is at least 50/50 to start a minor scuffle), but they won't be able to seriously scare San Antonio.  Spurs in six.

#4 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Denver Nuggets.  This doesn't feel like a 4/5 matchup - at all.  It feels more like a team with no stars taking on a team that is on the verge of becoming a groin grabbingly good team.  Denver's best player is probably Ray Felton, who is a nice player and all, but he'd be like the third or fourth wheel on OKC, and thanks to the Perkins trade the Thunder are now perfectly constructed to make a run at the title this year, especially if James Harden plays with his head out of his ass.  These guys are only -220 to win this series, when I'm thinking they should be more like -400 or -500.  Good bet.

#2 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #7 New Orleans Hornets.  The latest Kobe "controversy" shouldn't matter to the team, just as it shouldn't matter to anybody else because honestly you people are just looking for something to get upset about.   If you want to be upset about anything, try dealing with people who try to make small talk all day long.  Seriously, if someone at your work is offering free food and you don't really know them, either quickly and quietly grab the food and be on your way or just pass on it all together, don't decide to make chit-chat so you feel better about being a fatty because honestly it just makes my skin crawl when you make me talk to you about absolutely nothing.  And this happens all the time.  I've got the creepy crawlies going up my back just thinking about it.  Lakers in six.

#3 Dallas Mavericks vs. #6 Portland Trail Blazers.  The Blazers are shaping up to be a pretty popular upset pick because of the matchup (nobody on Dallas can handle Aldridge), and to be honest I took Portland for a little bit because the odds are decent at +180, but I think Dallas takes this one.  First of all, as much trouble as the Mavs are going to have with Aldridge, nobody seems to be mentioning how much of a match-up problem Dirk is.  Maybe it's because he's always a match-up problem and has been for like 15 years or maybe it's because he seems like such a dork, but he should have an oustanding series.  Secondly, one of other big reasons the Blazers are a popular pick is that they've been "rejuvenated" by Gerald Wallace.  What?  This guy sucks and has simply been putting up good stats on bad teams because nobody who plays gives enough of a shit to guard him because they know his team sucks.  Now he's suddenly going to carry a team to a playoff upset?  Sorry, but no.  Mavs in seven.

It all gets started Monday, and I highly recommend watching.  I don't watch much NBA during the season on account of it being stupid, but the playoffs are whole different animal and I'm honestly like a drunken monkey with a fistful of Chuck E. Cheese tokens waiting for it.  If you have a chance at any point, check it out, particularly if you used to love the NBA but now hate it.  It's very good.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Who sucks, why, and what can we expect? (hitters edition)

There's a lot of things wrong with the Twins' offense so far, clearly, and since I'm prone to overreaction I'm basically in full on panic mode.  Ok, not really.  But the Twins have definitely sucked.  Perhaps we should look into this.

Let me warn you right here:  if you think discussions about swing rates and ground ball ratios are boring you should just check out now because we're going to dig into this on a player-by-player basis.  If K-rate, chase percentage, and BABIP are things you either don't understand, are scared of, or just plain hate you should leave at just go look at boobies.  Now for the rest of you poindexters who stuck around, let's get out our abaci and our protractors and hunker down in mom's basement and see what we see.  All stats as of April 12, pre-game time.  All nerd stats from fangraphs.

Joe Mauer (.233/.303/.267) - No real secret here, but his numbers are low because his Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) is low, but that's because he's hitting almost exclusively ground balls so far this year.  His 80% ground ball rate is the highest in all of baseball, while his 4.0% line drive rate puts him at 209th out of 213 players who qualify for the batting title.

His swing rates, contact rates, and walk rates are generally around his career averages so it doesn't appear anything has changed as far as his approach, which is good, but there is one interesting anomaly.  Of the pitches thrown to him so far this year, 14.8% of them have been curveballs which is almost double what he's seen in his career, and that's the pitch he has the most trouble with according to the numbers (other than a cutter which you don't see as often).  Could just be a weird blip due to early season pitching match-ups, but could be the league has identified something.  It's probably meaningless, but it's worth watching.

Justin Morneau (.258/.303/.355) - Interesting to note that he's not hitting with power (his current ISO - which measures power without regard to batting average - would be bar far the lowest of his career) and he's also not striking out at all - just  once this year with one of the lowest K% in the entire league.  He's also not walking at anywhere near his usual pace.  This can be traced to the fact that he's making contact nearly every time he swings the bat - currently at 87.5% contact rate, a career high and 10% higher than his career average.

The real issue, though, is how often he's making contact when he chases - 85.0%, up from 68.1% last year.  He's seeing fewer pitches in the zone, and although he is chasing less than last year when he does chase he's making contact far more often, and unless you're Kirby Puckett, Yogi Berra, or Vlad Guerrero it's much harder to make solid contact when you're going after a bad pitch.  I haven't noticed if he's taking weaker swings at bad pitches simply to make contact, but it's something I'll be watching.  I suspect he just needs to get back to unleashing on every swing - his misses will go up, but so will his power and his walks.  That's what the Twins need.  Assuming his brain is working ok and will allow that to happen.

Delmon Young (.188/.212/.219) - Similar to Mauer he's not getting any hits because he's not hitting any line drives, just 8.0% so far.  Dissimilar to Mauer his balls in play aren't limited to grounders because he's hitting both fly balls and ground balls, but none of the GBs are getting through and none of the FBs are going anywhere, thus the lack of both hits and power.  Despite his swing and contact rates remaining relatively similar to last year he's actually striking out more and walking less, which I didn't think was possible.  Of note is that out of every five pitches Young sees only two of them are in the strike zone.  Pitchers know he'll chase so they aren't giving him anything to hit.  If his approach doesn't change it's going to be a tough year.

Denard Span (.286/.342/.400) - maybe the only player on the entire roster who hasn't been an offensive disappointment.  Worth noting is that is walk rate is just 7.9%, down from last year which was down from the year prior and down from the year prior.  Bizarrely, as the years have gone by he seems to be seeing more pitches in the strike zone, but swinging at fewer strikes and more balls with his swing % at balls outside the zone at a career high.  His numbers have the potential to get even better if he can recapture some of his plate patience he showed earlier in his career because the balls he does hit he's hitting much better and much harder.  Perhaps that's what he needs to break through the "slightly above average lead-off hitter" he's been for his career.  Also needed:  less getting picked off.

Danny Valencia (.194/.265/.290) -  Nothing in Valencia's numbers suggests any kind of regression from last year.  His swing and contact rates are similar and if anything he's showing improved plate patience.  His line drive, ground ball, and fly ball rates are also all right where you'd expect.  The only big difference is a huge drop in BABIP from .345 last year to .200 this year.  While .345 means he was a little bit lucky last year, the .200 (with the rest of the numbers basically the same) means he's been tremendously unlucky this year.  No worries about Valencia, he's going to be fine. 

Jason Kubel (.300/.323/.367) -  The .300 average looks nice but there are some pretty big red flags here.  First, his BABIP is .391 even though his line drive rate is currently at a career low mark of 17.4% - that's a whole lot of luck coming into play.  Second, the complete lack of power is disturbing, as are the zero walks.

Two things Kubel has always been able to bring to the table, even when struggling, are his power and his plate patience and now they're both gone?  His double tonight is just his third this year and he's still looking for that first home run.  Based on his career averages he should have triple the XBH by now.  And the walks?  He's been solidly right at a 10% or so walk rate his whole career, and now nothing?  He's being extra aggressive for some reason this year with rises in his swing rates at both balls in the zone and out of it and it's translating into no walks.  I don't know why he's suddenly trying to become Delmon Young, but this shit better stop or I'm burning my Kubel shirt.  Don't change who you are when it's (at least sort of) working.

Mike Cuddyer (.107/.194/.107) -  He's 3-3 tonight with three singles so that will help the average number at least.  That's not all that concerning because with a BABIP of just .136 you know his average is going to come up significantly, but I'm not so sure what's going on with the slap hitting nancy routine.  His contact rates are mostly similar, so it's not that he's changed his approach, but for some reason he's swinging about 7% less on balls in the strike zone, and making contact about 2% less that usual.  It's almost as if while Kubel is getting more aggressive and getting away from his strength, Cuddyer is trying to be more patient which goes away from his.

Similar to Mauer, he's seen a huge increase in curve balls so far this year (from 8.2% career average to 16.2% this year) which leads me to believe this whole curve ball thing is nothing more than statistical noise due to seeing a higher percentage than average of curve ball pitchers so far, but it's worth noting that, again similar to Mauer, Cuddy always struggles against curves, so maybe things turn around when pitch mixes return to more standard levels.

The one impressive thing about his season is no matter how shitty it is, Cuddy has managed to keep his streak of being quoted in every single Twins article ever since he arrived in the big leagues intact.  Seriously, every article.  Guy's a bigger media whore than Chuck Sheen.

Jim Thome (.167/.250/.444) -  It doesn't really matter to me what the numbers would say about Thome, I'm not going to worry about him unless I start seeing signs of aging, like not being able to catch up to a fastball or not being able to sustain an erection.  At this point his 9.1% line drive rate and 63.5% fly ball rate are both really awful numbers and are leading to his piss poor BABIP of .200.  He's not punishing fast balls the way he usually does, but really right now he's not punishing anything (except that pitch from poor Jerry Blevins) so we really don't have enough data.  Kept a sharp eye on which pitches Thome is hitting hard to know what to expect the rest of the year, like the 80 mph change he just hit off Tim Collins for a single, that's the kind of pitch an old man who can't catch up to a fastball will crush.  Not saying that's him, but it's something to watch.

Alexi Casilla (.167/.211/.278) -  His BABIP is just .200, which would make you think his performance is bound to get better just due to luck, but he doesn't walk (ever), he has no power (ever), and, get ready for this one.....he hasn't hit a single line drive all year.  Basically all he does is bound the ball into the ground and hope to god he finds a hole (not dissimilar to Chuck Sheen) or hits the ball so shittily he can use his alleged speed to get on base.  I guess.  I don't know.  I don't even get this guy.  I think I'd rather have Punto back.  Or Denny Hocking.  Or Jeff Reboulet.  At least he had a mustache.  I'm tired and drunk.

And that's the end. I think what we can really take out of this is that this team sucks.  Or, this team has seen a lot of curveballs and they can't hit them.  Of the starters they've faced Ivan Nova, A.J. Burnett, Gio Gonzalez, Brett Anderson, and Brandon McCarthy are all big curve guys, with Burnett, Gonzalez, and McCarthy among the league leaders in % of pitches thrown that are curves.  I'm not sure what that means.  Probably something.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Week in Review 04.11.2011

Do you want to know what's really, really awesome?  The burgers at The Blue Door Pub.  There's only seating for about 25 people in the entire place so even at 6pm on a Friday night when most of the going out public is in Minneapolis following the Twins' home opener the wait was still an hour to get a table for four, but it was totally worth it. 

We tried a variety of their burgers, from The Frenchy (stuffed with caramelized onions and swiss cheese and served with au jus) to the Cajun (stuffed with pepper jack and diced jalapenos) to the Luau (stuffed with mozzarella and Canadian Bacon and topped with grilled pineapple and a sweet chili lime sauce) and they were all awesome, as were the fish tacos, tator tots, and deep fried pickles.  Add in an awesome selection of beer on tap and it might be my favorite restaurant ever.  Of course, seeing as how long it takes to get seated I don't know if I'll be going very often but I really can't recommend it highly enough.  Go there.


1.  The Masters.  Now that, my friends, was a freaking awesome golf tournament.  Really it had everything you could want:  Tiger making a Sunday charge, the best of the young guns (McIlroy) and the most underrated (Day), vets who had won majors before (Ogilvy, Cabrera) and who were still looking for their first (Choi), two guys trying to drop out of contention for the best player never to win a major (Donald, Scott), and and the next in the line of South African studs (Schwartzel).  Most importantly, outside of McIlroy's implosion, which happened early enough to not affect the enjoyment of the back 9, and fades from Bo Van Pelt and Choi on the back, everybody brought their A-game down the stretch.  Donald's chip, Day's putts at 17 and 18, Scott's tee shot at 16, or any of Schwartzel's birdies from 15-18 could have been a signature moment, but this year's year's tournament was just stuffed with 'em, and was so competitive 8 different players had at least a share of the lead on the back nine on Sunday.  Just insane.  Such an awesome tournament, I can only hope the other three majors come close.

2.  Edwin Jackson.  Well shit.  When the Sox were trying to maneuver to acquire Adam Dunn last year, the thought was they got Jackson from Arizona simply because they knew the Nationals were sweet on him and they would use him to try to facilitate a trade for Dunn.  When the trade never materialized, it was awesome because it looked like they screwed themselves.  Unfortunately for all those who hate the White Sox (which is everyone in the world outside Chicago and prisons) it looks like Jackson may be a keeper all by himself.  His 8 inning, 4 hit, 1 walk, 13 strikeout performance against Tampa puts him at 2-0 for the year with a 1.93 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, and 20-5 Ks to BBs.  He looks like he might actually be good and that's unfortunate because the team of evil deserves to have nothing good happen to them, ever.

3.  Alex Gordon.  It's taken forever, a bunch of false starts, a few really poor seasons, and a position change, but maybe, just maybe, Alex Gordon - former #2 overall pick in 2005 - has arrived.  He's been in the majors since 2007 (with a few trips to AAA sprinkled in) and managed just a .244/.328/.405 over that time with about 1 HR ever 40 at-bats and twice as many strikeouts as walks, and he threw in shitty defense to round it out.  Basically the kid was looking like a monster bust.  This year, however, things may be looking up.  He's currently hitting at a .357/.400/.548 while leading the league in hit and playing a passable left field.  He's also showing some power, at least compared to his previous years, and has cut down a bit on the strikeouts.  I'm not saying he's arrived, but he's finally looking like a competent player.  Which brings the Royals total to 3.

4.  Ty Lawson.  It's not often I write about the NBA in the regular season.  I pay attention in the playoffs, of course, because playoff NBA basketball is one of the most entertaining and skillful displays in any sport at any time, but the regular season is nearly as boring as the WNBA or your average Gopher men's home game.  That being said, occasionally something happens that is so inexplicable and/or bizarre that I need to mention it, and that's why this part here with Ty Lawson is here.  Lawson is a great penetrator and distributor and is fast as hell but going back to his days at North Carolina it's always been known as a terrible shooter.  But naturally everything changes and gets flipped on its head when the Wolves are involved, and Lawson hit 10 of 11 three-pointers.  That's 10 of 11 threes, including his first 10 (an NBA record) on his way to 37 points (a career high).  Lawson's previous career high for three pointers hit in a game was three.  THREE!  God the basketball in this town sucks. 

5.  Trevor Plouffe.  I don't know if he's the middle infield answer (more on Casilla later), but he's certainly showing he might be ready by destroying AAA pitching thus far this season.  Rochester kicked off their year on Thursday and Plouffe started slowly going 0-4, but he's followed that up by going 3-5 with a double and a homer, 3-5 with a walk, a double and two homers, and 2-4 with a walk, bringing his early season line to .444/.500/1.056.  Simply put, so far he's been completely on fire.  Some may say it's early still and the Twins should wait and not bring him up yet, but those people are the same idiots who stare at a fire in the corner and wait until the entire house is ablaze before reacting.  Come on Bill Smith, don't let the house burn down.  We need some Plouffe.


1.  Alexi Casilla.  I'm sorry, but this guy is not a shortstop and not a starting caliber bat at any position, possibly including National League pitcher.  I'm not even sure he can throw the ball from the hole all the way to first, and just how many times this year are we going to see him dive to stop a ball, get up, and not get the guy or not even bother throwing the ball?  Just don't even bother stopping the ball if you can't throw anybody out.  And don't even get me started with the bat - he's just terrible.  The worst part is that he's actually the best option right now, because the only other player who can play short on the major league roster is Matt Tolbert and we all know what a giant piece of crap he is.  Honest to god, can we get Plouffe up here please?  Maybe he's the answer and maybe he isn't, but at least he's got potential and brings hope to the position.  Every time they read off the Twins lineup and say Casilla's or Tolbert's name a little piece of me dies inside.

2.  Matt Thornton.  I don't know why you'd bother giving the closer to anyone else when you have the nastiness that is Chris Sale - who might have the best stuff of any pitcher in the league - but for some reason the White Sox decided to roll with Thornton.  He repaid that trust by going 0-2 in save opportunities this week, blowing the first against Kansas City (after they scored 3 runs on Joakim Soria to almost steal the game) and then followed that up by getting absolutely bombed for four hits and five runs against Tampa.  The good news for the Sox, and bad news for all White Sox haters which I assume is everyone, is that they look like they may have moved the closer duties over to the unhittable Chris Sale, who picked up the save on Saturday (although he did give up a run).  Hopefully, for the children and America, they stick with Thornton.

3.  Tampa Rays.  I know Evan Longoria is important - not just to the Rays but to all of Major League Baseball, the world, the safety of our nation, and the love in my heart - but it's pretty sad how Tampa has basically just given up after his injury.  A pathetic 1-8 start to the year, and it's been even uglier than that.  They currently rank dead last in the majors in runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage and in the bottom six in ERA, quality starts, and batting average against.  Only B.J. Upton is hitting the ball remotely well and he leads the team in basically every batting stat, while the starting pitching has been atrocious and is backed up by a pretty poorly performing bullpen.  This is really, really ugly.  Who knew Longoria had this kind of effect on the entire team?  Pretty clear he's the AL MVP at this point.  

4.  Austin Jackson.  I like Austin Jackson.  He's fast, a good fielder, and he can hit the ball with power and average - at least in theory - but he's been brutal this year.  He's hitting just .184 this year (with an OBP of .244 and SLG of .289), but that's not even the most troubling part.  That would be his impressive 14 strikeouts in just 38 at-bats, a pace that would leave him at 228 Ks for the year if he reaches the 618 at-bats he had last year - a new single-season record.  Although I feel pretty safe saying that if he doesn't start getting some hits he'll be logging some of those ABs down on the farm.  He's a free swinger and is always going to strike out a lot (and never really bothers to walk), but he needs to produce when he does put the ball in play, as he did last year.  The weird thing is that his contact rate isn't even that bad at 76.5% (Carlos Pena is at 58.5% - worst in the majors) and you can have plenty of success even if you swing and miss frequently (Nelson Cruz is at 64.2%), but when he does hit the ball he's making terrible contact (4.3% line drives vs. 52.2% fly balls).  Things are not lining up well for Mr. Jackson to turn it around.  And yes, he's on our fantasy team.  Joy.  

5.  UND Fighting Sue.  I don't know anything about hockey and to be honest don't even completely understand most of their crazy rules, but I know gambling and I know the Sue were a huge favorite at -220 (meaning you'd have to bet $220 to win $100 - that's a huge favorite) so I know that them losing to Michigan was a pretty epic chocke job.  I'll let Snake elaborate further:
"I would like to take this first sentence to thank the Michigan Wolverines for doing gods work and beating the prairie scrubs from the University of North Dakota   
Certain things can be expected every spring in the midwest.  Robins return, the snow melts, flowers bloom and coach Hakstol and the University of North Dakota lose in fantastic fashion in the NCAA tournament.  Of course nothing changed this year.  Coach Hak brought the best team in the country into a frozen four field filled with mediocre teams.  Instead of walking through the field they got shutout 2-0 by a Michigan team who played a walk-on goalie and lost to the gophers 3-1 this year.  This was a choke job of epic proportions.  Vegas had the Sioux at -250 to win it all while Michigan was +175, UMD was +450 (which bogart cashed) and Notre Dame was +500.  
So basically UND losing on Thursday was a bigger upset than Russia losing to the USA in 1980 olympics.  Only this was better because the majority of TRUE americans hate North Dakota more than those Red bastards from the USSR.  As usual, UND fans took the loss with class and dignity!"

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Has the Mexicutioner been Mexicuted?

You may remember this award winning post from last year where I pointed out Zack Greinke wasn't nearly the same pitcher as the previous Cy Young winning year and how I showed by digging deeper into the numbers than just wins, ERA, and WHIP that he was clearly off.  Some people called me an idiot, but you may recall he finished out the year with significantly worse numbers than the year prior, as I predicted.  Now I must turn my attention to another pitcher who has caught my worrying eye, coincidentally another Royal, in Joakim Soria.

Soria has been a fullly dominant closer for the past three years, never posting an ERA over 2.12 or a WHIP above 1.13 while saving an average of 38 games and striking out more than a batter per inning.  He started out the season pitching in 4 of their first 5 games, going 4 total innings and allowing just two hits and no runs while picking up a win and a save.  All sounds great.  But the number that really stood out to me was he had just one strikeout.  For a pitcher who averaged over at least one per inning in his career this looking like a minor red flag - maybe simple variance could account for it - but it was something I meant to look into.  Then came yesterday, when Soria entered the game with the Royals up 6-3 on the White Sox and after getting two ground outs allowed four hits and four runs to blow the save.  Worrisome from a guy like him.  I don't know where to find this info but I'm willing to bet he's rarely if ever blown a 3-run save.

Looking at ERA and WHIP would be meaningless here since our sample size of just five innings is so small and he has that monster of a blow-up on his resume, so like Greinke last year, let's look a little deeper.

Checking out his profile page at Fangraphs one thing immediately stands out:  velocity.  Soria's fastball has always been at 91-92mph throughout his career, this year it's at 89.6mph, over 2mph slower than last year and as we've seen with Nick Blackburn if your fastball is under 90 you can't miss or that thing is getting pounded, and it's even worse when that fastball is your best pitch as in Soria's case.

Due, at least in part, to that change in velocity he's also getting hitters to chase balls out of the zone far less and missing fewer bats.  Last year batters swung at 30.3% of his pitches that were outside the zone, this year that number is far lower at just 21.7%.  That 30.3% number ranked him in the top third of relievers last year, while that 21.7% number would put him dead last if it held up the entire year.

Obviously it's easier for batters to hit the ball hard if it's in the strike zone, so if you can't get them to chase you need them to miss - something Soria isn't doing this year either.  Overall contact rate on balls swung at is up, from 75.8% in his career to 84.2% this year, while the % of strikes he throws that are swinging strikes is way down (from 11.0% to 2.6%).

Finally, let's look at his approach.  Perhaps due to that drop in velocity he's relying far less on his fastball.  In his career he's thrown the heater 72.6% of the time, but this year he's thrown it just 55%, increasingly relying on his slider and his changeup, throwing both at more than double his career frequency.  Unfortunately for his career if you rank the effectiveness of his pitches it goes fastball, curveball (although it was bad last season), slider, change-up.

Basically Soria has lost velocity on his best pitch and is throwing his lesser pitches more often, causing batters to chase less and make more and better contact on the balls they do swing at which are more consistently in the zone.  Ouch.  And although regression to the mean works both ways and suggests he's going to get better, the changes detailed above coupled with a completely reasonable .316 BABIP make me think that this may not be a regression to the mean case - we may be at the mean already.

I hope not.  I like the guy, he's fun to watch, and he's on our fantasy team.  But I'm worried.