Feels like I haven't done one of these in a while, but in honor of baseball really getting going I figure I probably should. But since I also didn't get started on this until 8pm on Sunday night, let's cut the chit-chat and just get down to business. This isn't some romantic vacation on an island in some kind of awesome sweetwith rose petals and a jacuzzi with Luther Van Dross playing in the background, sweetheart.
WHO WAS AWESOME
1. Josh Willingham. There are actually more positive Twins' things I could report on that I would have expected given that the team is 2-7 right now, but the #1 is clearly Willingham (let's not call him Willie, ok, it's super more annoying than any of the other -y nicknames) smacking the ball all over everywhere. He leads the AL in home runs with four and has a hit in every single game this year and he's not getting lucky either - he's crushing the ball. He leads the AL in OBP, slugging, and OPS. It's at the point now where he hasn't hit a homer in the last three games and I'm wondering what's wrong. With his bat humming, Denard Span with three multi-hit games already, and Liam Hendriks looking surprisingly feisty there are some decent signs of life here. None of it will matter if Mauer and Morneau don't start hitting, the bullpen continues to refuse to get anybody out, and the starting pitching is mostly awful, but I'm looking for anything to latch on to here. Plus, as a point in his favor, Mrs. W has quite the raging lady boner for Mr. Willingham, so that's a point in his favor.
2. Matt Kemp. So much for all that "slumping the year after a contract year" nonsense. He had a career year last year, batting .324 and coming one home run shy of notching a 40-40 year and then signed a nice fat 8-year deal that is suddenly looking like it might be a bargain for LA. Kemp currently leads the majors in batting average (.487), OBP (.523), slugging (1.023), OPS (1.548), home runs (6), RBI (16), runs (13), and hits (19). He has one fewer home run than Justin Morneau has hits, with Mauer having just two more. I don't know if he's back with Aaliyah or not back with Aaliyah or dating Bobby Brown or whatever, but it's doesn't really matter - I think Matt Kemp is officially the best player in baseball, other than Clete Thomas of course.
3. Barry Zito. What' more unexpected than Zito's complete game shutout in his first start this year? How about him following that up with another quality start and now sits with a 1.13 ERA and a 0.69 WHIP. The change? He's abandoned his 84mph fastball, throwing only about a third of the time compared to over 50% most of his career, and starting throwing a slider with regularity. Because he still has an 84mph fastball I doubt he can keep this up, particularly once players figure out that slider, but a starting rotation of Lincecum-Cain (1-hitter this week)-Bumgarner-Vogelsong-Zito would damn hard to touch. If, you know, Lincecum didn't completely suck now - more on that later.
4. UCLA Bruins. So I guess all the "UCLA won't be able to recruit anymore after that story on Howland/Reeves Nelson" is just so much bullshit, because they certainly didn't have any trouble this signing period. The Bruins grabbed Shabazz Muhammad, the #1 recruit in the country according to Rivals and #2 according to ESPN, who now joins Kyle Anderson (#3/#5) and Jordan Adams (#62/#41) in giving UCLA ESPN's #3 class in the country, which would be #2 if Nerlens Noel had picked anywhere other than Kentucky. Even more interesting, big man Tony Parker (#27/#26) is still out there and won't make his decision known until Friday, but it's thought to be down to UCLA (Tony's choice) or Georgia (Mom's choice) with Duke, Ohio State, and Kansas still officially in the mix. If Parker picks UCLA the Bruins likely become the #1 class in the country and vault back into a national power. So nice try Reeves, but you can't bring down a juggernaut. Unless you're in a snow speeder and you use your tow cable, but even then you probably lose your co-pilot. Poor Dak. My favorite part of the story though is that Muhammad's sister, Asia, is a pro on the women's tennis tour. She's ranked #386 on the tour with career earnings of $80k, yet she has a shoe deal with Adidas. Adidas, who sponsors UCLA hoops. Funny world, eh?
5. Chip Armelin. He wasn't awesome nor did he suck this week, but I need a spot to write about him so I'm sticking him here, seeing as how he's transferring and everything. I've always liked Chip and thought his instant offense off the bench was important, as well as the fact that out of everybody on the team he seemed to be the only one who had confidence in his own offensive game and was willing to look for his own shot (although Coleman and Dre Hollins got there in the end). In a normal offseason I would be really bummed about losing him, but if the choice is Armelin or Mbakwe you go Mbakwe every single time. The reality was with Mbakwe back and Rodney not doing anything stupid you had a scholarship problem and somebody was going to have to leave. There were 3 choices who wouldn't majorly kill the team - Armelin, Ahanmisi, and Ingram. Because Ingram was going to be a senior and it's likely not many D-I schools would take Ahanmisi (or Ingram for that matter) I had always anticipated Armelin would be gone, and it sucks but was inevitable. I wish him nothing but luck, and I fully expect him to end up averaging 15+ per game for somebody. Seems like in these cases the player always ends up back in his home state and there's no shortage of schools in Louisiana. So whoever - La Tech, Tulane, or even somewhere else like Texas or Arkansas or somewhere in that vicinity (my prediction) they're getting a good one. I'll definitely miss that crazy ass lefty jumper no matter how much or little space he had to get it off, and there was nobody who was less shy about taking a heat check. Godspeed, Chipper. Godspeed.
1. Matt Capps. Thanks to Snacks for point this out to me, but when Cappsy tried like to hell to blow that save on Thursday against the Angels (you know, when the Angels went single-single-single to start the inning but came up one inning short) do you realize out of 23 pitches he threw 21 of them were fastballs? And, as we know, this isn't Jonathan Papelbon or Aroldis Chapman throwing smoke, it's Matt effing Capps and his 92 mph noodle-arm heater. He's always been over-reliant on that mediocre fastball, but most years he's thrown it around 75% of the time and this year he's at 83%, which isn't good considering he's about 2mph slower than he was in his "glory" days with the Pirates. The best part? As his fastball has gotten slower his change-up has gotten faster and there is now just a 5mph gap between the two (where it should be about 10). The worst part? I can't think of a single reliever on the Twins' roster I'd trust more than Capps, because for all p=Twins, trust=null. Ha ha, nerd talk.
2. Yeonis Cespedes. If you pay too much attention to stuff like this, you remember people talking about the A's could/should start Cespedes in the minors because the level of competition in his Cuban league was more like double A here and also because Oakland sucks and weren't going to be competing for anything except next year's number 1 pick. Well the A's said fuck that noise and threw him into the starting lineup where he started out with a bang, hitting 3 homers in his first four games. Since then he's gone 3-20 and struck out eight times (and has now struck out in every game but one with 6 multi-K games). Now, he can still crush (of his seven hits, five of them are for extra-bases) and he has a good eye for the zone (4 walks this year - not great but not bad) so he'll probably end up being a solid player, and that's all I can say because I haven't even come close to watching Oakland this year, except for when I almost got up for those games in Japan but then didn't.
3. Tim Lincecum. I think it's like super possible Wiley Wiggins (aka Mitch Kramer) finally did the thing where he kills the real Tim Lincecum and then takes over his body and his life and bangs his wife and spends his money and smokes his dope and all, and I say that because maybe the most unhittable pitcher in baseball over the last several seasons has now gotten lit up by Arizona and Colorado and now has the highest ERA in the majors (12.91) and a sky high WHIP (2.22), which sounds more Wiley Wiggins-y than Lincecum-y. Plus I also say that because if I was Wiley Wiggins that's exactly what I would do.
4. Charlotte Bobcats. I have no idea how I didn't know this already, but Charlotte is like, historically bad. They have seven wins this year. Seven! And they won their first game of the year, so they've won six since December. They're currently in the midst of a 16-game losing streak, and it's not even their first 16-game losing streak this year. Their most recent loss came on Sunday, 94-82 to the Celtics in a game where Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett all sat out, leaving both Brandon Bass and Avery Bradley to score 22 points. They haven't scored 100 or more in a non-OT game since March 17th, allowing their opponents to reach 100+ twelve times. D.J. White starts for them. Byron Mullens gets serious run. This could pretty much go on forever. They're like, the Minnesota Twins of the NBA.
5. Justin Smoak. Sigh. Come on dude, you're killing me. I've always had a crush on Smoak, as evidenced by the six entries (now 7) on this blog that have his name as a label despite him having a pretty non-descript career thus far and not being a Twin nor being in their division, but seriously dude WTF? He's awful. He's just awful. In four partial seasons he's never hit better than .239, and yes batting average isn't the end-all-be-all but he's also never OBP'd better than .323 or slugged better than .407, so he can't hit for power or average and doesn't walk - basically the opposite of his minor league career. This year might be the worst, as so far he's hitting at Puntonian levels with an average under .200, an OBP under .250, and a slugging percentage under .300 - for reals. Ouch. He's still young and he might end up ok, but at this point I dropped in our fantasy league for Daniel Murphy. Daniel effing Murphy. Or maybe David. The one who plays for the Mets. Gross.
One other thing is that the wife and I rewatched Malibu Shark Attack this weekend and it reminded me how much fun it is/was to watch crappy shark movies and blog about them, and I haven't done that in forever. So I'm going to try to do it soon. Stay tuned.