Thursday, February 18, 2010

Baseball's Happy Lexicon

With apologies to Franklin Pierce Adams

This shortest of phrases makes our hearts soar
Pitchers and catchers report
With driveways unshoveled and lower backs sore
Pitchers and catchers report
Still bitter that this year the Yankees are kings
We yearn for the vengeance a new season brings
Like Hornsby we stare out the window for spring
Pitchers and catchers report

Four tiny words and hope’s candle’s lit
Pitchers and catchers report
Words shorter than Punto (who gets after it)
Pitchers and catchers report
A winter spent searching for MLB rumors
Praying that Bill Smith makes a big move or
signs our boy Joe. Can’t spring come any sooner?
Pitchers and catchers report

Sunday they’ll gather and Gardy will praise
Pitchers and catchers report
his cherry extract and Hardy’s slick plays
Pitcher and catchers report
Delmon will swing at a wormburning pitch
Justin will smile cuz the pitcher’s his bitch
While Nathan does something bizarre with his lips
Pitchers and catchers report

Finally you take your turn as poet
Pitchers and catchers report
Channel your winter frustration and show it
Pitchers and catchers report
The comments below are a great place to bleat
Two tens and three ‘levens provide you the beat
(But add words wherever, if like me you cheat)
Pitchers and catchers report

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Stats Attack: Kansas City Royals

Yesterday I gave some advice to some new bloggers. "Take risks," I said. "Try stuff, " I said. "The beauty of a blog is that you have nothing to lose," I said.

Then I blow a pretty good night on trying something new, get about halfway done and I'm not particularly happy with that half. Great. If you think I'm not publishing the damn thing, you've got another thing coming.

Recently I saw a copy of another independent program and scorecard from Seattle called Grand Salami. In the middle of it, they have two pages about the teams the Mariners will play that month, one of which is text and the other one is a stats page with a lot of notes written in. I wondered if that stats page might be something I could come up with regularly when the Twins play opposing team in a big series. How hard could it be?

Answer: if you want to do it the way I want to do it, it's a pain. I don't want the basic stats. I want to see OPS, and I want it against lefties and righties. I want ages. I want defensive metrics like UZR/150 and I really want WPA. Ideally I'd also like to see how players did against specific players from the Twins.

There isn't a site that has all those stats in a fairly easy way to grab them. I could probably design a db to grab a bunch of extracts and get close, but that sure ain't happening tonight. So I grabbed a few of them, typed them in and then started on the notes.

Turns out, the notes aren't too easy either. First, without a pdf converter on my PC, there wasn't a great program to go about doing the graphics. Then, I found out that I lacked space to explain some of the stats the way I probably should, like WPA. And since I ended up doing it in MS-Paint, fixing errors was damn near impossible.

Anyway, here is the first stab at it. I was hoping I could put an actual file into my blog someplace, like in a rich text field, but it looks like I'm limited to a .jpg. too. So it'll probably be too small. Mostly this whole entry is a test to see if I click on it if it will get big enough to read.

We'll see. Good night. Feedback is welcome.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Housekeeping and a Surprise

One of the challenges bloggers face is not having time to read very many other blogs. We either write or we read, and so we write. That's unfortunate for the us, but it's really a bummer for the newer bloggers. Many of them deserve attention and links but don't get them because the rest of us just don't have time to check in on them on a daily basis.

After checking out the various entries on Friday for Nick Punto Day, I'm pretty sure that there has never been more talent writing about the Twins than there is today. And a lot of them should be more front-and-center than they are.

A few years back we tried to address that in a small way. We created as a place where all Twins bloggers could have their posts featured, provided we had their RSS feed. You'll also see the same compilation on the right-hand side of this blog. If you have a Twins blog that you don't think is listed in it, please let me know (in the comments is fine) and we (or rather Tom Genrich, who is really the caretaker of the site) will add it.

Anyway, one such new blogger is Topper Anton of Curve for a Strike who is is a talented writer and film professional living in New York despite being only 10 years old. Or at least I assume he's only 10 years old, because he was born the same year I graduated high school, and I'm pretty sure that wasn't more than 10 years ago. Give or take 15 years.

Anyway, Topper is taking on this problem of calling attention to bloggers in a different way. This offseason he's been running a series called "Twins Bloggers: Get to Know 'Em". If you swing by his site you'll find all kinds of profiles for all kinds of Twins bloggers, and today's entry is mine.

I wrote it a week or so ago and thanks to brain damage from my misspent youth, I already remember almost none of it. Which means I'm partially terrified of what I might have written, but also very curious as to what I had to say. Hopefully it won't disappoint.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Remembering R.D.

Since 1986, when Tom Kelly took over the Twins, it seems like the Twins have generally had decent bullpens (with the recent exception of 2008). But Kelly was hired at about the same time as "closer" Ron Davis was traded away. Coincidence?

Not to Twins fans who watched this team in the 80s it wasn't.

I don't remember a lot about teams in the mid-80s, and I'm pretty sure that's a defense mechanism. But I still shudder slightly at the words "Ron Davis." I vaguely remember working in kitchen of Big Boy on France, listening to the game, and feeling like I'd been kicked in the stomach, night after night.

I thought of this today while doing a little research on those mid-80s teams. The core of the 1987 team was put together during the early 80s, and by 1984 they were in the pennant race up until the final few games. Of course, they lost those final few games, including one in which they led 10-0. Guess who failed to close them out?

But there was still plenty of optimism starting the 1985 season. Instead the Twins struggled out of the gate, and manager Billy Gardner (who had coached the team since 1981) was fired in late June. The Twins record at that time was 27-35, and a lot of that had to do with Davis and the bullpen. Up until Gardner being fired, Davis had six saves versus five losses. Bringing him into a game was like flipping a coin.

For whatever reason, his performance improved significantly under new manager Ray Miller. He saved an additional 19 games and didn't blow a save again until late September. Similarly, the Twins also played better, tallying a .500 record under Miller and finishing in fourth place with a 77-85 record. Davis would save his really fantastic meltdowns for the next year, which I'm looking forward to researching the same way I look forward to remembering my last proctology exam.

Looking back at that core of players and the damage the bullpen did, I wonder if the Twins of 1985 and 1986 couldn't have been contenders those years too. I wonder if the bullpen didn't mask how good a team this really was, leading to the magic of 1987.