Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Twins Week in Review: July 19th-July 26th

Three Reasons to be Happy
1. Santana
Santana collected three hits on Wednesday and hit a homer on Thursday to keep his hot streak going from before he went on the DL. I'm really excited for Santana, he's by far the most exciting Twin to watch. I can't wait to see him in years to come.
2. The trade deadline
The Twins traded Morales back to Seattle Thursday for relief pitcher Stephen Pryor. Good move. The Twins clearly aren't contending this year. Don't be surprised if Willingham is the next to go. The more veterans to go, the more opportunities young players get. While I'm not sure if they're going to do this, I would trade Suzuki. It would tempting to resign him, seeing how big of strides the team has made this year, but If I were a gambling man, I would say he isn't going to match his production. He's a 30 year old catcher whose batting average is .253 if you don't count this year. I have a feeling he'll decline.
3. The bullpen
Obviously you have Perkins, then Fein has slowly turned into a really good set up man, after a rough start Burton is doing better, Thielbar has a 2.25 ERA this month, and Duensing has been excellent. Just like last year, they have a great bullpen on a bad team, and also like last year they're going to refuse to trade any of these relievers even though they're really easy to obtain if you need them in a pennant race, which they'll be in sooner if they can get prospects for their veteran relievers.
Three Reasons to be Frustrated
1. Bad managing
The game has passed Gardy up. A few days ago, against the White Sox, it was the seventh inning, the score was 4-2, there was a man on first, Fuld was up, none out, and Gardy made the decision to have him bunt. Classic overmanaging move, which he does a lot. He uses pinch runners way too often. It's time to make a change.
2. The pitching
  Right now their lowest starter's ERA is 4.10, Gibson's had a really tough month, Hughes's reverting back to the Yankees version of himself, Nolasco's injured and even before that his permanent first name had been, "That bum" (as in, "Oh, that bum Nolasco's pitching.)
3. The slip back into irrelevance
After this awful stretch the Twins are right back where they started at the beginning of the season: Not close to contending, and in the bottom ten. But this is still a good step forward, they were half decent for a lot longer this year than last year. But now it's over. This is sad. I need to move on and make fun of somebody else to make myself feel better.
The Dan Gladden Stupidity Moment of the Week
In Which we look at something moronic Dan Gladden said while announcing Twins games
Against the White Sox, Correia was pitching well, prompting Danny to mention that "He's given them a chance to stay in the game and done just that." Let's analyze that quote. Saying that he's given them a chance to stay in the game implies that he's done that. Whatever. You wouldn't actually expect Danny to know something like that would you? It's just another screwed up line for the league's least qualified broadcaster.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Stupidity and Illogicality of Baseball's Unwritten Rules

     By now you've probably heard of Colby Lewis's rant about Colby Rasmus's bunt. According to him, that's not, "how the game should be played," If that's true, and most players think that way, let's review when you can't bunt. 1) To break up a no hitter,  2) With a big lead, and 3) when it's the fifth inning of a close game. Let's take a further look at what an idiot Lewis is. Why does the defense have the right to swing their third baseman around behind second base but the hitter isn't allowed to outsmart them by putting the ball where they aren't positioned? While we're on this subject, let's tackle some of the other unwritten rules.
     Here's a player who makes me want to puke: Brian McCann. Watch this clip and get back to me.
     Ok, you're back? Good. Think about the situation, a 20 year old pitcher just hit his first career homer, naturally he's going to be excited, it's his last game of the year, he means a ton to the organization and it's a pretty special moment. But then Mr. God's gift to baseball, Brian McCann is frustrated that Fernandez looked at the ball for a few seconds and ruins one of the few fun moments in Miami.
      Another notable situation of this coming up is in last year's NLCS when Yasiel Puig watched his triple off of Adam Wainwright and then fist pumped his way into third base. It was one of the most fun moments of last year's playoffs for me just because Puig's joy showed us that even with all the huge contracts and sponsors this is still a game at heart. Teammate Adrian Gonzalez followed it up with a double and was equally excited at second base.
      The Cards, however, had a different idea of what their reactions meant. Instead of appreciating the fact that a player still hasn't had the personality nailed out of him by the MLB, they got mad, with Wainwright saying he "didn't see Puig but saw Gonzalez doing some Mickey Mouse stuff at second base," Hey Adam, last time I checked the year was two thousand something. Humans haven't been replaced by robots yet. People still have emotions. If Adam Wainwright can't deal with that he should just lock himself in a room and never talk to anybody.
     If we want to go even farther back we can look at the Dallas Braden-A-Rod incident when Braden reportedly told A-Rod "Don't step on my mound," I didn't think it was a big deal at the time and still don't today. But it brings me to another point, of how our perceptions of an athlete changes our reactions of things that happen. If Derek Jeter opted out of his contract during the World Series, would we care? If we found out that Ivan Rodriguez had two paintings of himself as a centaur, would we care? (Oh, yeah, he practically does.) If David Ortiz had stepped on the mound while going to first base would we care? Something to think about.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

MLB Midseason Awards

Before we start, just in case you didn't see it, my recap of the All Star Weekend is here.
Mike Trout
At last, the stat geeks and average fans can agree: Mike Trout is the best player on the planet and should win MVP. If you're old school, you can appreciate that he's hitting .310 with 22 round trippers. If you're new school, you'll be happy with the fact that he's leading the league in OPS+ and has 5.5 WAR. The last few years he's been not getting votes for playing on bad Angels teams. That's all been put to rest with the Angels right in the thick of it all and Miguel Cabrera having an "off" year. (Note the quotation marks.)
Andrew McCutchen
With all the attention in the National League going to Troy Tulowitzki, Cutch is quietly putting up another monster season, trumping his 2013 campaign in almost every statistical category. Even though Tulo has the gaudy numbers I'm drawn away by his home and road batting averages (.417 at home vs. .265 on the road) Meanwhile, McCutchen is hitting .324/.420/.575 while playing his usual great defense in center for a team he's single handedly keeping in the race.
Nick Swisher
There are few things worse than a first baseman making 15 million dollars and giving you .208/.288/.348 splits. When he's doing it for a team trying to stay in contention it's even worse. That's one of the specifications of my LVP ballot. The player has to be on at least a decent team because all the awful players on bad teams don't stand out. The team as a whole is just bad.
Dan Uggla
Dan Uggla is to the LVP trophy what Jerry West is to the NBA logo: A player and a symbol always associated with each other. I even considered calling this "The Dan Uggla LVP Award" before deciding the ultimate gesture would be giving him another LVP to add to his trophy case. Obviously he's a terrible player. Then you factor in his 13 million dollar a year salary so the Braves can't get rid of him. If you add all of that up, it's like the Braves have a 24 man roster because their 25th guy is useless.
AL Cy Young
Felix Hernandez
I'm not going to say "King Felix is living up to his nickname" in this paragraph because people say that way too often. Although if I did say that I would be correct because he's currently leading the AL in ERA, FIP, WHIP and some other stats that don't involve capital letters.
NL Cy Young
Clayton Kershaw
Yeah, I know Wainwright's thrown more innings and is better in some statistical areas, but just look at these numbers. He's striking out almost ten batters for every one he's walked and allowing one homer every two games along with his miniscule ERA of 1.78. But this season goes beyond stats for Kershaw. Everybody will remember this year just for his flat out dominance, scoreless innings streak, and no hitter. In other words, this year belongs to him.
AL Rookie of the Year
Jose Abreu
Up until a few weeks ago, despite the historic season Abreu was losing this battle to Masahiro Tanaka. But with Tanaka on the shelf there isn't anyone who can come close to challenging Abreu is this category. Now all he needs is a good nickname. I personally like "The Cuban Crusher" but that's just my opinion.
NL Rookie of the Year
Billy Hamilton
As I've written earlier, Hamilton is one of my favorite players in the league just because of his mind blowing speed. At first he was just a gimmick, but now that he's starting to put it all together, man, I'm glad I'm not the fan of a team in the NL Central.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Recap of All Star Weekend

One of the most hectic weekends in Minnesota sports history just wrapped up. Here's a recap of all of my experiences.
Futures Game
This is one of the few events I actually went to. I got there at about 1:50 even though the gates didn't open until two with my annoyingly early arriving friend Charlie. This was by far the best experience. None of the players there were older than about 24 and they all seemed to just be enjoying themselves. As a Twins fan, a couple things stood out. I got to see Meyer pitch for the first time; he seems to need a little more developing. The talent is clearly there. He maxed out at 97 MPH but was mostly hitting around 95 or 96. But from the limited look I had at him he seems to need to gain more control. I was also surprised at the amount of relatives there. The ones I counted were Corey Seager, (Kyle Seager's brother) Gabriel Guerrero (Vlad's nephew) and Edwin Escobar (Cousin of Alcides Escobar.) One last thought: I was really impressed with Marlins pitching prospect Domingo German. He threw a 96 mile per hour heater, which he would couple with and 82 mile per hour changeup. Being in the Marlins organization, I can't wait to see the 1-2 punch he has with Jose Fernandez on some other team in a few years.
Home Run Derby
I never thought I'd be so entertained by watching guys take batting practice. A big factor of it was just the fact that it was here. Half the fun was watching the introductions and seeing Morneau get a standing ovation. I don't have much more to say about this other than I can watch Giancarlo Stanton hit homers all day.
The Parade
The parade started at one, but I arrived there at 11 with my annoyingly early arriving brother and nephew. (are you sensing a theme here?) But like last time, it was worth it.We were right up on the fence and we could see all the players and what they were doing from Fernando Rodney doing his shoot the moon pose or whatever the hell that's supposed to be to Yasiel Puig dancing to Adam Jones carrying a man purse. Some of the players would walk over to the fence and begin signing autographs. At the beginning it was pretty slow. All the players who signed looked hesitant, like they didn't know if they were allowed to do it. I could even see Jones asking some important looking guy in a suit before he signed for about eight people. Jeter was the first person to sign near our section. He went down the line, signed my nephew's ball, looked at the ball my brother was holding out, looked up at his face, saw he was wearing a Red Sox hat, and kept going. At least that's my brother's story, and he's the same guy who predicted Cano would win the derby until finding out in the middle of the first round he wasn't there, changing his pick to Cespedes and trying to make it seem like he had him all along. As I've said before, I don't hate Derek Jeter. Everything I've read about him makes him seem like great guy to be around and if you watch him play he's clearly revered by his peers. All I hate is how over covered he's been and how it seems like some requirement that we bow down to him and kiss his feet. Anyway, moving back to the parade after that Jeter related tangent, (Don't worry It's the first of multiple) in the middle the flood gates opened. The first player to come over was Josh Harrison, who had one of those, "Wow, I'm in the All Star game. Hey, that's really cool they want my autograph" looks on him. In the half hour after that, Madison Baumgarner, Tyson Ross, Huston Street, Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rizzo, Julio Teheran  and, my favorite, Andrew McCutchen all came over. Cutch is my favorite non-Twin in the league right now. Everything about him, from his dreadlocks to the effortless way he tracks down balls in the outfield screams "stud." When you watch the Pirates play you never forget who the best player on the team is.
The Actual Game
     For the most part, the game was great. Fantastic. Watching it on the TV the entire time I couldn't believe it was actually being played here in Minneapolis. Then Suzuki and Perkins came in and I almost got chills. Here's what I didn't like: After the final out, the camera immediately cut to Jeter and stayed there for the next 30 seconds. No comments on how the hometown boy had closed it out, or about Mike Trout's double and triple or Miggy's homer. Even during the game, half an inning never went by without somebody bringing up Jeter. I won't say anything more on this subject other than this: When was the last time announcers praised a player for almost making a great play? Now that I have all of the negative stuff out of the way, let me make sure you don't get the wrong idea about this. Even just watching the game on TV, it was still a huge experience. A few hours before the game even started Minneapolis still had a buzz around it. The entire weekend was one of the best experiences of my life and I'm already counting down the 20 to 30 years until it comes back.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The All-Time, All-Year All Star Team

For this post, I really wanted to do something involving the All-Star Game, so I stole an idea from Grantland writer Bill Simmons, with the premise of, aliens come down to earth, blow everything up, and challenge us to a basketball game for control of the universe. The Aliens have a time machine and we can go back to any year to get a player and bring him to the future to play against the aliens. I'm applying that idea to baseball. There are a few rules though.
  • I'm avoiding anyone from before 1920, before the game changed. It's just too hard to project how someone like Christy Mathewson or Honus Wagner would have done in current times. They probably be fine, but I'd rather not take the risk with the universe at stake.
  • Remember, this isn't just a collection of players, it's a team, so if you put someone like Barry Bonds or Ty Cobb on the team you have to deal with the headache too.

Pitching Rotation

’64 Sandy Koufax

 19-5, 1.74 ERA, 0.928 WHIP
For me, by far the most disappointing aspect of Koufax's arm problems was that he never got to pitch in 1968. They would have rewritten quite a few records. I can say that with complete certainty. In the years leading up to '68, Koufax's numbers trump Bob Gibson by quite a bit. Here they are from 1964 to 1966
Koufax: 72-22 1.85 ERA
Gibson: 60-36 2.85 ERA
Yeah. That's how good Sandy Koufax was.

’78 Ron Guidry

25-3, 1.74 ERA, 0.964 WHIP 201 Ks
Guidry's one of the most confusing pitchers of all time. This was just his second full season and he dominated everybody. The next year he lead the league in ERA again before posting and 3.66 ERA the rest of his career. To put that in perspective, that would be like Kershaw having his two great seasons in 2011 and 2012 before pitching nine more years in which he's just an average pitcher when he should be nearing the heights of his powers.  Regardless of the rest of his career, Louisiana Lightening gets the nod here. 

’85 Dwight Gooden

24-4, 1.53 ERA, 0.965 WHIP 268 Ks
In the 80s, when cocaine was all the rage, two victims stand out: Len Bias and Dwight Gooden. His 1985 season is the biggest reminder of how good he could have been if he had stayed clean.

                                                                    ’95 Greg Maddux

19-2 1.36 ERA 0.811 WHIP 
Maddux's peak season happened right in the middle of the steroid era. If he can handle Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa he can handle some aliens.

’00 Pedro Martinez

18-6, 1.74 ERA, 0.0737 WHIP
This is part of an absurdly good stretch from 1997 to 2003 in which he went 118-36 with a 2.20 ERA and an ERA+ of 213. In other words, he was 113% better than the average pitcher during that stretch. Another stat to make you stare at the computer in shock for the next five to ten minutes. In those seasons Pedro also allowed 344 earned runs while striking out 1761 batters. So for every run he allowed he struck out about five guys. Not a bad ratio.

’03 Eric Gagne

55 SVs, 1.20 ERA 37 Hits Allowed

’90 Dennis Eckersley

48 SVs, 0.62 ERA, 0.641 WHIP

’08 Mariano Rivera

39 SVs, 1.40 ERA, 0.665 WHIP

’81 Rollie Fingers

28 SVs, 1.04 ERA, 0.872 WHIP

'81 Goose Gossage
20 SVs, 0.77 ERA 0.771 WHIP

’71 Tom Seaver

20-10, 1.76 ERA, 0.946 WHIP

We are not blowing a lead in the late innings. See the bottom for details.

Starting Catcher: ’09 Joe Mauer

.365, 28 HRs, 96 RBI

Backup: ’97 Mike Piazza

.326, 40 HRs, 124 RBI
No, I'm not just doing this because I'm a homer. Mauer won a gold glove that year while Piazza is known as one of the worst fielding catchers of all time. I read Piazza's book Long Shot, and he doesn't exactly seem like the type of guy to be particularly enthusiastic about being a backup. If he refuses, we can just say to him, "Ok, Mike, then don't come. I'm sure 1970 Johnny Bench would jump at the opportunity to play behind Mauer. Meanwhile, you can explain to all of your friends why you passed up the opportunity to come to the future," I bet he joins.

Starting First Baseman: ’32 Jimmie Foxx

.364, 58 HRs, 169 RBI

Backup: ’34 Lou Gehrig

.363, 49 HRs, 165 RBI
Foxx gets the ever so slight edge. His batting average was one point higher, he had four more RBIs and hit nine more homers. Foxx would take home the triple crown the next season despite having better numbers in 1932. That leads to my favorite piece of trivia of all time. That season someone in both leagues won the triple crown, and they both played in Philadelphia. The Phillies Chuck Klein was the other. You can add that to list of "things that would cause ESPN to not talk about anything else for the next 24 hours."

Starting Second Baseman: ’24 Rogers Hornsby

.424, 24 HRs, 94 RBI
Hornsby owns my favorite Baseball Reference page of all time. Seriously, look at all the bold in this thing. That's just to give you and idea of how far ahead of his time Hornsby was.

Starting Third Baseman: ‘13 Miguel Cabrera

.348, 44 HRs, 137 RBI

Backup: ’80 George Brett

.390, 24 HRs, 118 RBI
Brett and Cabrera are really similar players. Obviously Cabrera has more power while Brett is a better pure hitter, but both are eerily consistent and scare the living daylights out of you in late innings. 

Starting Shortstop: ’96 Alex Rodriguez

.358, 36 HRs, 123 RBI

Backup: ’87 Ozzie Smith
.303, 4.82 Range Factor per game
Yeah, I know what I said about putting jerks on the team, but there just isn't any shortstop coming close to A-Rod's level of talent besides Wagner. Jeter, Nomar, Ripken and Banks can't hold a candle to that season. Also, I'm doing everything I can to make sure A-Rod is as little as a distraction as possible. To avoid the media circus, after they all assemble in the future I'm bringing them to live and practice in the late 40s where Williams is the only player they would recognize. No friends or family will be allowed so nobody beats the crap out of him for hitting on his wife. As for Smith, I'm just bringing him in as a defensive replacement and pinch runner.

Other Backup/Pinch Runner: ’62 Maury Wills

.299, 104 SBs

One of the more underrated speedster seasons. No, he didn’t have as many steals as Brock or Henderson in their record setting years, but look at these numbers.

Brock: 118/151 .781 SB%

Henderson: 130/172 .755 SB%

Wills: 104/117 .888 SB%

Wills didn’t have as many steals, but he was over 10% more efficient than Henderson or Brock.

Starting Left Fielder: ’41 Ted Williams

.406, 37 HRs, 120 RBI

I considered ’02 Barry Bonds for this spot but thought better of it. While he did have a fantastic season, we can’t afford to have any A-Holes on this team. Barry would do nothing but sulk about hitting sixth in the batting order and annoy all of his teammates. With him out, Williams is the obvious choice.

Starting Center Fielder: ’57 Willie Mays
.333, 35 HRs, 38 SBs

Backup: ’30 Hack Wilson

.356, 56 HRs, 191 RBI
I considered a bunch of different Mays models before deciding on this one. There's plenty of slugging on this team but we need more table setters. I also had to bump Wilson out of the starting role after I realized the outfield would cover about 30 feet total with the Williams-Wilson-Ruth trio.

Starting Right Fielder: ’23 Babe Ruth

.393, 41 HRs, 131 RBI
Ruth would gain the most out of playing for this team assuming we have a few weeks to practice. With that going for us we can put the Babe through a rigorous workout schedule to make him even more of a force. No matter what he'll be a good guy to have in the clubhouse, maybe he'd even get Hornsby to smile once.

Just Missed the Cut

’13 Mike Trout

.323, 27 HRs, .432 OBP

‘09 Albert Pujols

.327, 47 HRs, 124 RBI

’13 Andrelton Simmons

.248, 17 HRs, .981 Fielding Percentage

’70 Johnny Bench

.293, 45 HRs, 148 RBI

’56 Mickey Mantle

.353, 52 HRs, 130 RBI

How I'd Play 'em
A team this good doesn't need a lot of managing, so for that reason I'll take 1970 Earl Weaver as my manager, the best at not over managing. Let's when we ask Weaver to come to the future he's too busy and goes off on a swearing tirade before we sprint back into the time machine and I have to manage them, (hey, we already have aliens invading and challenging us to a baseball game, can things really get any weirder?) Here's how it would go.
  • My lineup would be
  • If a pitcher gets knocked around in the first four or five innings I'm bringing in Seaver as a long man.
  • If a starter's doing well I'm sticking with him as long as possible but if I have to take him out my late inning relief is Rivera in the seventh, Gagne in the eighth, and Eck slamming the door shut. 
  • In the ninth inning of games that this superteam is leading, I'm putting in Smith for Rodriguez and Brett for Cabrera
  • Wills will pinch run for anybody except Mays with less than two outs in close games in the seventh inning on.
  • Ruth is my emergency pitcher in case a game goes 20 innings.
Bring on the aliens!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Complainathon Vol. III

     Before we start, I'm going to complain about how I'll be in San Diego for a wedding this weekend without access to a computer so I can't write anything. While we're at it, here's a pretty big myth going around, so let me clarify. Soccer isn't taking off in America. Is it just me, or is everybody doing the same thing we did four years ago?
     Another thing that annoys me: Literally everything about Derek Jeter. Ok, go ahead, talk about his "class" and "professionalism" and how he "plays the game the right way" I'll concede those points. He seems like a genuinely nice guy. Here's what isn't: An all-star. Feel free to try to convince me otherwise. When someone tries to tell me he should be an all-star it usually goes something like this.
Person I'm talking to: Derek Jeter should be an all-star!
Me: No he shouldn't.
PITT: But it's his last season!
Me: And your point is....?
PITT: That is my point.
Me: So you think just because he's had a great career he should make the team, ignoring the fact that his slash line is currently .271/.325/.329.
PITT (eyes watering up): Yes, but he has such dignity, and class. He's.... The Captain.
Ok, I made up the last line, but all the others are true. While we're on Jeter, let's look at probably the two most iconic plays in his career.
     The first one I'm talking about is the dive. Of course, the only still picture you ever see is this. But does that one image really tell the whole story? Not if you actually look at the play. The picture you always see is him going into the seats, implying that he dove in to catch the ball. And if everyone makes such a big deal out of it, he must have done something spectacular, right? Nope. Don't get me wrong, it's a really good play, or as Dick Bremer would call it, "a fine running grab" And if he had been paying attention to it we would have forgotten about it later. But instead, he takes three full steps and one weird mini step, and trips over the wall. Slightly different than how Yankees fans paint it.
     How about the flip? Now there's a great play, from him cutting the ball off all the way until....wait. Giambi should have been safe. Look at the 40 second mark of this clip and look at when Posada tags him. He gets him on the knee after he's crossed the plate. Why don't we think of this as a bad call and instead an amazing play?
PITT: Because he's... The Captain.
Me: Hey, where'd you come from?
PITT: I'm one of the people the Steinbrenners hired to talk up Jeter to prove to society that not all Yankees are jerks.
Me: That explains a lot.