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.

1 comment:

rghrbek said...

Grantland had a good article on idiots who got MVP votes, but had a -WAR.

Guess who's the number one candidate this year?