Saturday, April 22, 2006

Links of the Weekend 4/22/06

by Intern Sharkey

Still reeling from the loss of my first round pick, it’s time for some serious linkage.

We’ll start with the bad news. Our on-base machine came up lame the other day, as you might have heard. Things don’t appear overly serious, but he didn’t play yesterday against the Champs. L-Rod should be fine in the short term, but with Castillo’s history of leg troubles, this will be one to watch closely.

It appears the one of the Nicks is none too pleased with how the Skip used the bullpen in the finale against the Angels. It’s a common sentiment among the statistical community that managing bullpens around the save is foolish, and Baseball Prospectus has a stat, Leverage that measures the importance of a situation, the idea being that a team should bring in its best reliever in high-Leverage situations, regardless of whether it’s the 7th or 9th.

But not everyone loves stats as much as I do; I wonder if things like this are part of the reason why.

Speaking of stats, KENtastic is keeping a running tally of Bill-James-style Win Shares (each win share is equal to 1/3 of a win, the idea being that we can calculate just how many wins individual players produce over a season) for the Home Nine this year. His update through the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of Orange County of California of the United States of North America of Planet Earth series is here.

If you’re not checking Will Young’s Win Probability Graphs, you’re missing out. More about Win Probability here and here.

On the business side of things, Forbes released its list of the values of every Major League team; a certain team that I seem to remember taking two out of three from becomes the first MLB squad to crack the billion-with-a-b mark.

And finally, the good news on the stadium front. The House Tax Committee defeated the referendum requirement by the narrowest of narrow votes, 15-13. Maybe soon, Shane will get some real sleep.

Two more with the Champs this weekend; enjoy the hardball.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Links of the Day for 4/21/06

by Pseudofool

Torii Hunter this, Torii Hunter that. Yankees. Angels. Twelve million option. A sold house. Tim Dierkes has had an awful lot to say about how the “Hunter Situation”might shake out. If you think about it, the Twins would have a lot of chits (Hunter, White, Castillo, Stewart, Radke, Lohse) if they fall out of contention. I know, I know - too much fantasy baseball.

SoCal thinks that Crain’s struggles are overblown, while over at Jewscott’s Head, he thinks people who are confident in that left side of the infield are overreacting. Personally I find any analysis this early in the season is always a little overwrought.

Non Sequitur Moments:

  • ranks the Twins 10th, ranks the Twins at 17th, and ranks the Twins at 11th, for a grand total of 38th place, which means absolutely nothing.

  • Batista’s BB to HR total has reached 5 to 2, which is pretty unexpected. And he’s hitting fourth, oh my.

  • And who says Gardenhire isn’t prophetic—well, maybe he isn’t but really, he is awfully poetic.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

What I Learned Today...

by Twins Geek (kinda)

This month I've been reading Baseball in Minnesota: The Definitive History by Stew Thornley, and there are some great stories in it.

If anybody knows any good biographies about Rube Waddell, the Hall-of-Fame pitcher, I'd be fascinated to hear about it. After you read this, you will be too.

Waddell was one of the best southpaws in the first half of the 20th century. But in those days, it wasn’t uncommon for successful players to spend their time in the minors as their skills deteriorated. That may have been especially true of a character like Waddell. They don’t make ‘em like this anymore, folks. From Stew's book:

“Rube Waddell pitched for the Millers in 1911 and 1912, compiling records of 20-17 and 12-6, respectively. Waddell had led the American League in strikeouts from 1902 through 1907 while pitching for the Philadelphia Athletics. During that time, the southpaw also resisted attempts by manager Connie Mack to keep his mind on baseball.

According to Lee Allen in his book The American League Story, Waddell could find much more that pitching to occupy his time:

Consider merely a few of the things that happened to him in one year alone, 1903: He began that year sleeping in a firehouse at Camden, New Jersey and ended it tending bar in a saloon in Wheeling, West Virginia. In between those events, he won 29 games for the Philadelphia Athletics (even though he didn’t bother to hang around to the final month of the season), played left end for the Business Men’s Rugby Football Club of Grand Rapids, Michigan, toured the nation in a melodrama called “The Stain of Guilt,” courted, married and became separated from May Wynne Skinner of Lynn Massachusetts, saved a woman from drowning, accidentally shot a friend through the hand, and was bitten by a lion.

Even though Waddell had worn out his welcome with the Connie Mack and later with the St. Louis Browns, he created remarkably few, if any problems for Joe Cantillon and the Millers. In 1912, the management of the Minneapolis team reportedly promised Waddell $200 if he remained sober all season.

That year during spring training at Hickman, Kentucky, Waddell was one of the hardest workers in helping the residents try to save the local levee during a flood. And when the levee broke, Waddell “did heroic service in helping the panic-stricken citizens to safety.” It was also reported that while in Hickman, Waddell spent many hours trying to train three wild geese to skip rope.”

This guy makes Lew Ford look like Emily Post.

(Actually, there is something I'd pay money to see - Lew trying to look like Emily Post. Not as much as I'd pay to see geese jumping rope, though.)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

On Swings And Misses

by Twins Geek

The following is an excerpt from the Dugout Splinters for the Twins-Angels series, included in GameDay.

The Twins have seen slow starts that are comparable to what poor Rondell White is going through, including one very recently. Last year, Corky Miller snuck his way onto the 25-man roster, had twelve major league at-bats with the Twins, and no hits. He left the Twins last year as the non-pitcher with the most at-bats to never get a hit. The same record for the Twins/Senators franchise belongs to Ike Davis whose futility extended to 14 at-bats over 8 games as a 24-year-old in 1919. He did finally get a major league hit, but it took awhile. Five years later he made it back to the show with the White Sox and played for them for two years.

White, Miller, and Davis are blessed compared to George Foss and Bill Andruss. Foss had seven at-bats with the Senators in 1921 in four games as a 24-year-old. He never had another at-bat. Andruss was called up in 1931 and also had no hits in seven at-bats, though he did have an RBI. He waited six years to get back to the majors, and finally did, with the Phillies. He made it into three games, had two at-bats – and still didn’t get a hit.

Unlike Andruss, White has his hit, it just seems like it was six years ago. But White differs from these other guys in a more important way. Rondell White is a really, really good hitter. Over thirteen years, he’s had almost 1500 hits and 187 home runs. While it isn’t unusual for a 34-year-old’s production to decline, it’s important to note that this 34-year-old hit .313 just last year.

That kind of history should count for something, and on Ron Gardenhire’s lineup card, it has. He has kept White in the cleanup spot even though White is hitting .085. Gardenhire recognized the reality of the situation. White isn’t a bad hitter. White is a good hitter who is hitting badly. He is in a slump.

Twins fans haven’t been quite so understanding, especially when they booed him loudly in his last couple of games versus the Yankees. Of course, fans aren’t supposed to be understanding. Fan is short for fanatic. The crazy people that will drop 100 bucks on a night at the ballpark may not want to look at the big picture. That’s someone else’s job.

It would be nice if that someone else included the media. While White’s start has been covered almost every way possible, the one angle that hasn’t been emphasized is that White isn’t some 30-year-old rookie that may or may not be able to handle the pressure. He’s Rondell friggin White, and there are 5000+ data points that tell you he’s going to smack that ball around on a regular basis when he gets his head back on straight. Suggesting Ruben Sierra or Lew Ford should replace him in the middle of the lineup might pay dividends one night, but it ignores the next 24 weeks. Not to mention the dozen years that preceded this one.

So what should the Twins do with White? Whatever they think is going to help him. If they think keeping him the cleanup spot will help him get pitches he can handle, they should do that. If they think moving him down in the order will release some pressure, they should do that. If they think playing him in the outfield … well, let’s not get crazy. If one is going to trust White’s history of hitting, one should also trust White’s injury history.

Whatever they do, White has earned the chances he’s received, and has earned plenty more. We’re overreacting to this stretch of 47 at-bats because it’s the only 47 at-bats of his that we ever really cared about. It seems the Twins understand that. We might be happier if we did too.

Links of the Day 4/20/06

by Snarky

It was a slow day in the twin's blogosphere, today. Perhaps were are in recovery from the loss on Tuesday, or Gardy's dramatic reenactment of his favorite commercial.

We know what Gardy thought about the officiating last night, but what about an unbiased opinion? How about two opposing opinions? Will Young agrees with Gardy, while the TwinsJunkie opposes.

I could clearly see from my view in the home run porch, that the ump was terrible. Although, I may have been distracted by the obnoxious St. John's student behind me screaming profanity's at Chone Figgins all night. If you (section 141, row 12, seat 20) are reading this, please read this.

The Bat Team gives 10 ways that yesterday's game could have been worse.

Nate Silver at ESPN has rated the 50 most valuable players and two twins landed in the top ten.What, no Batista?

On the twins official site, a story that gives us those warm feelings all over again for Torii. Okay, we forgive you about those comments from last week.

Also, don't forget to go to the public debate about the ballpark on Thursday.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Links of the Day 4/19/06

by Intern Jimmy

Because It Was That Good: Wisdom preaches not to dwell on the past, but I'm still having trouble wiping the smile from my face in the aftermath of Saturday's magical triumph. The Dome was transformed into an April playoff atmosphere, putting its inherent home field advantage to good use. Young bucks Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau stepped into the spotlight to deliver crucial hits, a developing situation that foretells better things to come. First ballot HOFer Mariano Rivera was thwarted at what he does best. And did I mention these good times all came at the expense of the dastardly Yankees? Umm, can I have sprinkles, whipped cream and a cherry with that victory order? That’s not too much? Twinsriffic!

The M&M Mashers (Or Is It The J&J Jackers?): Speaking of those twenty-something stars in the making, the secret is out about Morneau’s recent success at the plate. Turns out the heavy lumber the Canadian was swinging was better suited for Paul Bunyan. Since switching to Mauer’s lighter bat, Morneau has been on a tear, both with hits and broken bats.

"[Mauer] hasn't broken a bat yet this year, and I've broken six of them," Morneau said. "But he said as long as I keep getting hits with them, I can keep using 'em."

This leads to the logical question- why doesn’t Rondell test Mauer’s magical bats? It’s not like he could do worse, as Brad Zellar articulates.

Headline of the Year Entry: I know the season is still very wet behind the ears, but the New York Times took the prize this weekend for the unintentionally funniest headline with "Yanks Stop Road Woes With Homers and Wang." Since the NYTimes requires a login (it’s still free), I'll include this gem from the story.

"Calmly and with barely a moment of thought, Yankees Manager Joe Torre considered the question as he sat in the visitors' dugout early Sunday afternoon: Had he ever been as agitated about a loss in April as he was about Saturday night's 6-5 defeat? Torre said he could not remember, and even if he could, what difference would it make? The Yankees had more pressing things to deal with Sunday, like trying to win a game on the road, an elusive notion during the first two weeks of the season."

Even though BRadke released the Darth Vader choke hold applied to the Bronx Bombers, it's still nice to see the Evil Empire squirming in their stripes.

Catching Up With…J.C. Romero: This week’s heavenly matchup with the Halos marks the first trip back to the Twin Cities for once reliable set-up ace J.C. Romero. The lefty’s departure for sunnier siestas was ushered in due to frequent quibbles with Gardenhire about his usage, or lack thereof. Gardy can hardly be faulted since Romero’s numbers were slowly eroding ever since his breakout 2002 season. Last year, Romero posted his lowest K production since 2001. He also inexplicably forgot how to pitch to lefties, surrendering an outrageous .261 BAA for left-handed batters. Now he shores up the Angels bullpen as the lone lefty slinger. So far, so good on the season. As of Tuesday, he has pitched 4.2 scoreless innings with 1 win, 5 K’s and 2 hits. I’d say it’s time to welcome him back with a reminder of why he left.

Fun With Video Games: Don’t ask how long it took to painstakingly create or how many times reset was punched. Just jump in Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine and listen to baseball history as it unfolds before your eyes in RBI Baseball fashion. Fascinating stuff. This throws the door wide open for people with too much time on their hands. Will this spill over into other classic games? When will the Ten Yard Fight and Blades of Steel re-enactments pop up? Most importantly, who do we contact about recreating Game 6, 1991 WS?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Daily Links for 4/18/06

by Intern Thomas

  • Well folks, it seems we’re finally going to find out whether or not the stadium deal is going to go down. Alright, fine, that’s not true. I’m guessing that short of the two things that shall not be named happening to the franchise, there will always be some kind of stadium deal in the works (note that neither of those things are actually building a new stadium. I like to consider myself an optimist, but I’m not crazy). The current one, however, is nearing its conclusion and the House Tax Committee is holding hearings on it. Dave St. Peters, the President of the Twins, has been emailing various Twins bloggers to help rally support. Shane, of Greet Machine, has all the info, as well as a cynical, yet realistic take on what you’re likely to see if you make it out to the Oak Grove Middle School auditorium in Bloomington on Thursday, April 20 at 6 p.m. to hear the opposition testimony (and which, if you support the stadium, the Twins would like you to attend wearing Twins gear).

  • If you made it out to the games this weekend, you probably heard some boos after Rondell White’s “at bats”. Personally, I don’t mind that people are choosing to voice their unhappiness that the Twins cleanup hitter is currently batting under .100 and has a .206 OPS. Third Base Line, however, thinks that Twins fans need a refresher course in fan etiquette. Her main point: only heckle the other team. And keep it clean. If you need some ideas, you can find it at the Heckle Depot a site created to help uncreative hecklers everywhere.

  • And while it might seem like it, as Aaron Gleeman points out at the Hardball Times, Rondell White is not, in fact, the worst hitter ever--Ski Mello is, though, if we’re lucky, we’ll get to see Neifi Perez claim that title this year.

  • It’s not often that Major League Baseball does a good job with something new, but I have to say, as a happy user (I’ve managed to avoid the problems others have) that MLB has done a great job embracing the internet. And their latest idea is pure genius: FREE customizable email addresses. And yes, I’m as surprised as you are that MLB isn’t charging anything. That being said, being able to have as your email address is pretty sweet.

Angels Dugout Splinters

The following is an excerpt from the upcoming Dugout Splinters for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, which is included in GameDay.

What’s Not Working
At the top of the list is the insanely long name - or maybe it’s working after all. The inclusion last year of “Los Angeles” was more than just a marketing move. It was a direct challenge to the little brother/big brother relationship that the Angels and Dodgers have had in the nation’s second most populous city. The Angels aren’t just the more recent of the two to win a championship. They’ve been consistently competitive for the last five years, and are poised to continue that trend with an ambitious owner, solid management, and a stocked farm system. Meanwhile, the Dodgers fired their manager, then fired their general manager because they couldn’t agree on a new manager, and then reversed his organizational philosophy. Make no mistake; the turmoil in the Dodgers this year is a direct result of the success (and the ambition) of the Angels.

Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez left Sunday’s game with a hamstring cramp. He’s listed as day-to-day, and uber-setup man Scott Shields will likely close if he has any problems during this series.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Links of the Day for 4/17/06

powered by Intern Sam

  • Hockey fans in this state have gotten used to the reaction of the Canadian press every time the Wild manage to beat a team from Up North – it runs something along the lines of “that’s not hockey, the trap should be banned, Lemaire has ruined the sport, they’re so boring that our team was lulled to sleep, waaaaaaahhh.” Standard stuff at this point, and it’s no coincidence that the whining always comes loudest from Vancouver, where the Canucks seem to have frequent trouble with The Cult Of Jacques.

    So why bring up that particular bunch of sour grapes on a baseball site, on a weekend in which the Twins finally earned a measure of respect from the mighty Yankee empire? Well, because of this. And this. Annnnnnd this. That, kids, is what you call a New York hat trick – all three tabloids whining in unison about not getting the calls. And lest you think this was a one-night bitch session, here’s how the NYC papers covered Friday’s Twin win.

    Yup, you read it here first – Ed Montague is a one-man Yankee-wrecking crew, and he’s clearly either blind, retarded, or on the Minnesota payroll. Returning to reality: were some of Montague’s calls questionable this weekend? Sure, particularly the Castillo no-swing in the 9th inning on Saturday. But if the New York beat writers were actually interested in umpire quality (rather than in endlessly whacking beehives with sticks, which tends to be what passes for sports journalism in Gotham) they would also have noted that Jerry Layne’s bizarrely shaped and wildly inconsistent strike zone almost cost the Twins their ninth-inning comeback, that Posada’s tag of Morneau on Saturday was as phantom-like as Mauer’s tag of Posada on Friday, and that there is no team that benefits more from “superstar” calls than the Bombers.

  • Having grown up in small-town Pennsylvania (well within range of radio signals from both Philly and New York,) Intern Sam is all too familiar with the demented ravings of Yankees radio voice John Sterling. You know Sterling – he’s the bleating cementhead behind “Annnnd the Yankees win! THUH-UH-UH-UH-UH-UH-UH-UH Yankees winnnn!” He does this every time they win. And they win a lot.

    Intern Sam spent his childhood assuming that New Yorkers must like this sort of foolishness, but this was before he moved to Minnesota and was informed that John Gordon had somehow managed to hold down a play-by-play job here for the better part of two decades despite the fact that nobody likes him and he can’t pronounce the word “Ibanez.” Anyway, it turns out that Sterling is regarded with some disdain in the Big Apple, and one of the Post’s veteran snipers laid into him this weekend for a couple of blown calls in the Twins series.

  • The PiPress’s baseball writers had an interesting conversation about MLB’s George Mitchell-led investigation into steroid use by Barry Bon… um, we mean, by any number of major leaguers who may or may not be threatening to break a beloved home run record. Jason Williams and Gordon Wittenmeyer agree that there isn’t much of a chance that the players are about to start ratting each other out to Mitchell, but GW believes that “anything that keeps the hammer down on this issue is important right now.” He may be right, but with Friday’s revelation that a second grand jury is now hearing evidence that Bonds perjured himself during the BALCO investigation, we tend to agree with Will Leitch over at Deadspin, who fears that “we’re really starting to veer dangerously toward ‘We Will Take Him Down At Any Cost’ territory.”

  • Lost in the tumult surrounding Saturday’s dramatic comeback win was the increasingly damaging presence of Rondell White in the cleanup spot. In case you missed the game, Joe Mauer had the bat taken out of his hands twice in key situations, because Joe Torre (who is a fairly observant guy) knew he had the equivalent of the pitcher’s spot in the order due up next. White obliged Torre with a routine fly-out to center, and an awful-looking strikeout. (He also looked helpless with men on second and third and nobody out in the bottom of the ninth, when merely putting the ball in play would likely have tied the game.)

    Despite White’s total ineptitude at the plate, Gardenhire has trotted him out in the cleanup spot for all twelve games the Twins have played, and in Sunday’s blowout loss (in which White went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts,) the crowd began to turn on him early. The booing reached a cascade by White's final at-bat, which is probably a good thing, simply because it puts pressure on Gardenhire to do something, anything, to alleviate the problem. There’s plenty of statistical evidence saying that batting orders don’t matter, but the simple fact is that White is now so bad that he’s costing Joe Mauer at-bats, and that cannot be allowed to continue if the Twins’ want their newfound offensive prowess to last. There might not be a need to bench him completely, but there is no longer any justification for putting his termite-infested bat anywhere but the bottom of the order. (Nope, there wasn’t a link anywhere in that rant. We’re just sayin’...)

  • Seth Stohs has the latest on the status of the Twins’ ballpark proposal – the next hurdle is the House Tax Committee, chaired by the Shoreview Republican known around the Capitol as “Dr. No,” and as you might expect, the good doctor has a crafty plan rather transparently designed to highlight public opposition to the Hennepin County sales tax. The Twins are pleading for fan support to counter the Krinkie offensive.

  • Finally, continuing our series of links to local sports columnists who dazzle us with the blindingly obvious before pounding us over the head with brazen leaps of logic, ol’ Sid has been doing some thinking, and has come to the considered conclusion that Joe Torre is a pretty good baseball manager, and that most of his success is due to the endless patience and unwavering support of Sid’s close personal friend, George Steinbrenner. We’d like to share our favorite sentence of the column, but we just can’t decide between the simply preposterous (“I don't know of anybody more loyal than one Mr. Steinbrenner”) and the grammatically impenetrable (“To nobody's knowledge, [Torre] hasn't received a brain implant since he joined the Yankees, and he was just as smart a baseball manager then as he is now,”) so we’ll just leave y’all to sort through the swamp of Hartman’s prose on your own time. Have a good week…