Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

New Year's Resolutions

Paul Molitor: Figure out what to do with the pitching staff
Right now, the contenders for the five starting rotation spots are Kyle Gibson, Phil Hughes, Tommy Milone, Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco, Tyler Duffy, Jose Berrios and Tyler May. We can assume that Gibson, Hughes and Santana will make it. That leaves two spots for five guys. I'm a big fan of Duffy, he pitched very well down the stretch last season, posting a 3.10 ERA. However, unlike some guys who start out great, advanced stats say it wasn't just a flash in the pan. His FIP was 3.24, along with a respectable 2.65 strikeout per walk ratio, good enough for 47th in the league among starters had he qualified. I'd put him in the fourth spot until he loses it. For the last two, I would go with anyone but Nolasco. He was badly overpaid from the start, and isn't in the plans for the future. It would be better in the short and long term for Milone (quietly productive all last season), Berrios or May to take those spots.
Twins fans: Stop being jerks to Joe Mauer
Joe Mauer had one of the best seasons for a catcher in the history of the game in 2009. He continued to be productive through 2012 and most of 2013 before some bad luck and just being past his prime slowed him down. Even then, he's been an above average on-base guy, posting an OBP of .348 in the last two years when he's been "bad". Also, you can complain about the contract all you want, but I think some of you mindless Mauer haters don't even seem to notice it's down to three years at this point, and above all, why do you care about his contract? Unless you're a member of the Pohlad family, you're not paying for it, so why do care? Yeah, it makes him untradeable but that doesn't matter because it's only for another two years before the contract's expiring.
Norv Turner: Get Cordarrele Patterson more involved in the offense
Bill Musgrave was a horrible offensive coordinator but at least he knew how to get Patterson involved in the offense. Patterson isn't a very good route runner, but in Musgrave's offense he didn't need to be a Stefon Diggs-like deep threat, he got the ball on a lot of screens and reverses. Right now one of the fastest and most talented guys on the team is being wasted doing nothing but returning kickoffs. That needs to change.
Sam Mitchell: Stop the LaVine at point guard experiment
While he's incredibly athletic, Zach LaVine doesn't have a great sense of the game playing his natural shooting guard, much less learning a new position. The Wolves are so much more efficient with Rubio running the point and LaVine on the wing. Mitchell should stop trying to force LaVine at point guard and let Tyus Jones get experience backing up Rubio.
Dan Gladden: Resign
Michael Cuddyer: Replace Gladden as Cory Provus's partner
Let's make this happen.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

More Offseason Moves

Phillies get: Mark Appel, Harold Arauz, Thomas Eshelman, Vince Velasquez, Brett Oberholtzer
Astros get: Ken Giles, Jonathan Arauz
With the Braves pulling a highway robbery on the Diamondbacks, this deal isn't getting enough credit for being lopsided. Ken Giles is a dominant reliever, but relievers are never worth the kind of package the Astros sent to Philadelphia. It's that simple. Even though he's struggled, Mark Appel was a number one overall pick just a few years ago, and Thomas Eshelman and Harold Arauz are both solid prospects. Every year there's a glut of relievers available at the trade deadline, it's completely unnecessary to blow so much on one good one.                            
Ben Zobrist to the Cubs
After being underrated, then overrated from being called underrated so often, Zobrist isn't anything right now. Just a solid, versatile player who can get on base and contribute to any team.
Jason Heyward to the Cubs
There's a lot to like about this move for both sides, including the 2-3-4 combination of Heyward, Rizzo and Bryant, delusional Cardinals fans being unable to comprehend the idea of anyone not wanting to be in St. Louis and calling Heyward a "traitor" even though he was only there for one season, the fact that Heyward's only 26, and the flexibility the Cubs now have in the outfield.
Johnny Cueto to the Giants
It was looking like Cueto was going to cost himself a lot of money in the second half of the year with the Royals. Then the playoffs happened, and he proved he can still pitch like the Cincinnati version of himself. I like this fit with the Giants, their massive park will help out Cueto, a terrific bounce-back candidate.
Diamondbacks get: Shelby Miller, Gabe Speier
Braves get: Dansby Swanson, Ender Inciarte, Aaron Blair
When I first heard about this move, I pictured the negotiations happening like one of the Hangover movies. I pictured Braves GM John Coppolella taking D-Backs GM Dave Stewart to a bar, followed by Stewart blacking out and waking up the next morning to find out he traded Swanson and Inciarte for Shelby freaking Miller. Miller's a solid, young pitcher, but that's it. He isn't worth gutting your farm system for. From the Braves' perspective, this is an absolute pillaging. They just made off with a 21-year-old shortstop with superstar potential along with the underrated Inciarte (.303/.338/.408 with 21 stolen bases last year). In a year where they weren't going to contend anyway, they are well set up for the future.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Offseason Moves

David Price to the Red Sox
I have two uncles, an aunt and two cousins who live in Boston. They get very defensive if you compare the Red Sox to the Yankees as far as spending money goes. But I don't care because that's who they've become. Every year in free agency they just throw a ton of money at whoever they can without thinking about how they'll actually fit in. Last year they signed Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, even though they played the same position and they had to move Hanley to left field. Now they're signing an excellent, reliable pitcher for seven years and 217 million and have nobody to put around him. Aside from 2013, their last five years have been an absolute garbage can fire in Boston. That 2013 season was the one year they didn't spend a ton of money in the offseason. They signed Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, Shane Victorino and Koji Uehara to relatively small contracts. It worked because they all had a specific role, and the Sox have gotten away from that recently. This is ending badly.
Nori Aoki to the Mariners
Aoki's been one of the most underrated players in the league since he was with Milwaukee, batting a career .287/.353/.386 and averaging 20 stolen bases per year. While he's never had much power, the Mariners don't need a lot of firepower. They need someone to get on for Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager. And Aoki can do that.
Jordan Zimmermann to the Tigers
Zimmermann had a slightly underwhelming season with the Nats last year, so 110 million seems like a bit much, but he still had an ERA of 3.66. At the very least he's a solid number two starter, a number one if he rebounds.
Mike Pelfrey to the Tigers
I have to seriously question the fact that anyone in the Tigers' front office watched Mike Pelfrey more than once ever. The Twins took a risk on him in 2013 with a one year deal. He was terrible. For some bizarre reason, Terry Ryan gave him a two year extension, which worked out about how you would expect it to. It wasn't just that Pelfrey was horrible, it was how he was horrible. Nobody wasted more run support than Pelfrey, who apparently felt it was sporting to allow the opposing team to score right after the Twins had a big inning and the Tigers gave this man TWO YEARS. As a Twins fan, nothing makes me happier than knowing Mike Pelfrey is pitching for someone else in the AL Central.
Zack Greinke to the Diamondbacks
After getting rejected by Johnny Cueto, the D-Backs weren't discouraged, frying an even better fish. Greinke will now bring some pitching to a team with a quietly terrific lineup led by Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock. $207 million is a lot of money to pay, but given what the Red Sox gave Price and how close the team is to contending, this is a good deal.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Philly's Bizarre Strategy

     Things are looking good as a Timberwolves fan. Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns have reinvigorated the franchise. Right now they're 7-8 after going 16-66 last year. Contrast that with the Philadelphia 76ers. At the moment they're 0-16. Last year they started off 0-17 en route to a 18-64 season. It's all because of GM Sam Presti's radical strategy of bottoming out for a high pick to potentially get a franchise player. It's a good strategy in theory, the more top picks you have the more likely you are to get a great player, but history says it just doesn't work.
     The draft started in 1950, and since then the worst five teams were the '12 Bobcats, '73 Sixers, '93 Mavericks, '98 Nuggets and '87 Clippers. The Bobcats ended up with the number two overall pick and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. They've made the playoffs once since then as an eight seed in 2014 when they were swept by the Heat. The Sixers were rewarded for they're abysmal season in '73 with Doug Collins. 'Nuff said. They went on to make the playoffs four years later but mainly because they acquired Julius Erving. After the Mavericks went 11-71 in 1998 they didn't end up with Chris Webber, who went number one that year, but Jamal Mashburn. They would make the playoffs eight years later The Nuggets chose Raef LaFrentz, the Clippers took Reggie Williams. I could go on and on. My point is just being terrible doesn't work.
     Need some more evidence? The top ten leaders in the NBA's average draft position is eighth overall. Yeah, it includes a few number one picks, most were outside the top five.
     Obviously the ultimately goal for any franchise in any sport is to win a championship. If the Sixers are planning on doing that it will have been in a pretty uncommon way. Last year's champs, the Warriors best player was the seventh pick in his draft. (exactly one pick after Jonny Flynn. Damn you David Kahn) They took their second best player 11th. They took their third best player 35th. The finals MVP was an offseason acquisition. Before the Warriors the Spurs were champions. They had the first pick in 1997 when they took Tim Duncan and haven't picked in the lottery since then. Before that the Heat rode LeBron, Wade and Bosh to two straight Championships. Going back to 2011, the Mavericks beat the Heat. The Mavs hadn't drafted in the lottery in ten years. The two years before that the Lakers won with Kobe Bryant, who had been there since 1996 and Pau Gasol, who they had gotten in a lopsided trade with Memphis. If you want to go farther back than that, the Celtics won in 2008 after trading for Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen.
     In one paragraph I just went back to 2008, using a few minutes of sloppy research and a bunch of thoughts of the top of my head to point out how every champion was formed. They all had one thing in common: they were built on more than just drafting. So Sam Presti can keep dealing away every tangible asset for more picks, but the Sixers could have the most desolate future of anyone in the league.
Oh yeah, I forgot about you Brooklyn Nets.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Signing an Asian Prospect, Attempt Number Two

     As you've likely heard by now, the Twins have won the rights to negotiate with Korean star Byung-ho Park with a bid of $12.85 million. This is the second time, the Twins have won the rights to an Asian player, the first being the infamous Tsuyoshi Nishioka. The Twins signed the highly touted Japanese middle infielder on December 16, 2010 and released him on September 28, 2012. Between those dates he hit .215/.267/.236. He also had a WAR of -2.4. In other words, you and I contributed more to the Twins than he did in that span. Go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back.
     I spent the day researching Park and found out several things. 1. He flips his bat after almost every homer. This will irritate the crap out of Brian McCann when Park comes to the big leagues. Needless to say, this is a good thing.* 2. It is incredibly fun to watch someone hit homers and throw his bat as far as he can all while a very excited man screams in Korean in the background. 3. As for how he actually plays, it's hard to tell from just highlights, but there were several times he demonstrated the ability to hit the ball hard the other way. He can also field pretty well for someone his size (6'1", 236) so I wouldn't be surprised if Mauer played more DH this year.
*After I wrote that it came out that Park won't be flipping his bat in the majors. Disappointing.
     A few days after getting the rights to Park the Twins traded Hicks to the Yankees. It was a fine deal for both teams, the Twins ended up with catcher John Ryan Murphy. Murphy should help the Twins' abysmal catching situation, with Kurt Suzuki batting .240/.296/314 last year. Murphy, a former second round draft pick, batted .277 last year in 67 games in 2015. Those two will likely begin the season platooning behind the plate but I could the job gradually becoming more and more Murphy's as the season progresses.
     While I like that Terry Ryan's addressing the catching problem, I'm going to miss Hicks. All of last year I wanted to see the outfield combination of Rosario-Buxton-Hicks. All three of them can fly and have powerful arms. Now it's looking like Sano will be put in one of the corner outfield spots with Rosario filling the other and Buxton in center. That's not an awful idea, Sano's young and athletic enough that I think he can handle the outfield, I just have two major problems with it.
     The first is how much the outfield defense will suffer replacing Hicks with Sano. I mentioned above how much ground the Rosario-Buxton-Hicks trio could cover, and the Royals have taught us how underrated it is having three good fielders in the grass. More importantly, Hanley Ramirez and the Red Sox have taught us how miserable it can be having an inept corner outfielder. While Sano will almost certainly be better than Hanley, we won't know for sure if he can make the adjustment until the season starts.
    My second issue is that who they traded. After the Twins acquired the rights to Park, it became clear Hicks, Plouffe, or Rosario would have to go. I love Trevor Plouffe, he's a fine player and has turned himself into a reliable hitter and decent fielder in the last few years, but this is the best we're going to see from Plouffe. He's been in the league for five years and he 29 years old. The Twins had a nice surprise year last season but they're still a few years from contending. And Plouffe will never be anything but solid, hitting around .240 with homerun numbers in the low 20s and a lot of doubles.
     Meanwhile Hicks is only 25 years old and had a breakout season last year, hitting .256/.323/.398 and a red-hot stretch in July when he hit .346/.424/.577. More importantly, Hicks has two elite skills that Plouffe lacks. One is fielding. Plouffe has improved at third base throughout his career but he'll never be Manny Machado there. Hicks on the other had has always been a terrific fielder, posting a UZR of 2.4 last year. The other skill Hicks has is speed, last year he was 13-16 on stolen bases. Plouffe has less than 13 stolen bases in his career.
     The Twins made one good move, which lead to an extremely questionable one. We'll see how this plays out.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Free Agency Preview

Zack Greinke
David Price
There isn't a ton to say about these guys. They're both great, and they're both going to get a ton of money this offseason. For Price, all signs are pointing to him signing with the Cubs. As for Greinke, I would be very surprised if he did anything but the stay with the Dodgers. For the most part, I'm against giving pitchers big contracts. They almost always end badly. That said, if they sign with the Cubs and Dodgers respectively, it won't be too bad because those are both teams who have chances to make the playoffs during their time there. Bottom line: If you have a roster with a chance to go all the way soon, go ahead and sign him, if not, don't. It will end badly.
Johnny Cueto
Cueto self-destructed during the last half of the season, but because of two good starts in the playoffs, he's going to get paid like none of that happened. As ridiculous as that sounds, it's still a good gamble. He's only 29 and his time with the Royals could have been just a hiccup. As I mentioned, above, it's rarely a good idea to sign a pitcher to a long contract, but teams may have no choice for him. He'll get a big deal from someone contending.
Mike Pelfrey
His performance the last few years makes him an ideal fit for the Yomuri Giants of the Nippon Baseball League in Japan.
Jordan Zimmermann
Much like everyone else on the Nats, Zimmermann had an underwhelming season last year, going 13-10 with a 3.66 ERA. That said, even if he never comes back to his 2014 form, he's a reliable number two or three starter for any team looking for a starter but doesn't want to spend a ton of money, like Baltimore.
Matt Wieters
Wieters will never fulfill the expectations people had for him as a rookie, but he's a solid bat from the catching position if he's healthy, batting a career .258/.320/.422. The Twins have been rumored to be interested in getting him, needing somebody after Kurt Suzuki's disastrous season. Wieters excels in Suzuki's biggest weakness (and there are a lot of them) which is throwing out runners. Wieters threw out 31% last year, which would've been eighth in the league if he had qualified. I wouldn't be surprised if he got around three years for 31 million.
Chris Davis
After and unprecedented 53 homer season in 2013 and the follow up year from hell, we have a pretty good idea of who he is. He'll give you power, walks and not a lot else.
Yoenis Cespedes
The second half MVP is drawing interest from the Giants and Angels among others. He's a candidate to get 200 million.
Denard Span
Span was on of the reasons the Nationals disappointed so much last year, injuries forced him to play just 61 games. He was steady in those, however, batting .301/.365/.431. The Mets are supposedly interested in him. If he goes there he'll likely get something like the 4 year $60 Million deal they gave Curtis Granderson.
Dexter Fowler
Fowler is an interesting case. Along with having one of the best names in the league, he's flown under the radar for several years now, as a leadoff hitter and speed threat for several horrible Rockies and one Astros team. That changed this year when he was the catalyst for the power-hitting Cubs. He'll be 30 next year, so he should be good for the next few years.
Jason Heyward
Heyward's been in the league so long it's easy to forget he's only 26. Up until last year he was underperforming, always playing solid, but being capable of doing so much more. Last year he received whatever treatment the Cardinals give all of their players and became the guy he's been teasing us with since 2010: The statistician's best friend who draws a ton of walks, steal bases and cover a ton of ground in center field. I'd argue that he has the most value of anyone in this class.
Justin Upton
If I were a GM, there would be several rules I'd have for myself which I would make sure never to break. These are things like "don't sign a pitcher for longer than four years unless you absolutely have to" and "Don't give up on your prospects too soon". I mention this because another one of them would be "never sign or trade for a member of the Upton family under any circumstances". The are unrelentingly inconsistent, sign them and they will disappoint. Some sucker will give Justin 100 million. I'm betting on the Nationals. After a season from hell last year, Mike Rizzo is going to be making some big move this offseason, and they've got the money for it.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Observations Before Game Four

The Mets have looked overwhelmed
Last night's victory notwithstanding, the Royals have just overpowered the Mets so far. It's weird to say that considering the Mets are an Alex Gordon homer from being up 2-1 right now, but game two showed exactly why the Royals are up in this series. They saw 142 pitches and swung and missed six of them, they went 5-12 with runners in scoring position and Johnny Cueto, who's been pitching more like Mike Pelfrey than the guy he was on the Reds, gave up just two Lucas Duda singles en route the first World Series complete game since Jack Morris on 1991. I've been saying Royals in five since the beginning, and I'm sticking with that.
The Royals are the standard of how to build a contender
I mean, not counting the 20 or so years of futility before they got good. I mean going back to 2006, when Dayton Moore got the job as GM in Kansas City. Part of the reason this team is so good is because Moore knew what type of team to construct and stuck to the plan. KC had already taken Alex Gordon with the second overall pick the year before.
After whiffing on Luke Hochevar with the number one overall in 2006. Moore chose Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer numbers two and three in 2007 and 2008 respectively. In 2009, Zack Greinke had an ERA of 2.16 and won the Cy Young. Unfortunately, the Royals were still terrible and after the 2010 campaign he requested a trade. Moore dealt him to the Brewers for a group of players including Alcides Escobar and Lorenzo Cain. Then he laid low and let everyone develop until this year, when he traded for Cueto and Ben Zobrist. Now they're two games from being champions. Well done, Mr. Moore.
Bartolo Colon pitching makes the world a better place
But you already knew that.
The power outage in game one was actually great
After there was a power outage in Fox's truck, we were sent to MLB International's feed of the game, with Matt Vasgersian and John Smoltz as the announcers. That inning and a half was terrific. They were a lot more relaxed than the Fox  guys, Vasgersian just said what was happening, while Smoltz gave some pretty good analysis. Then Fox decided their viewers couldn't go fifteen minutes without hearing Joe Buck and Harold Reynolds and moved them into the MLB International area.
That was annoying. For as long as I can remember, Joe Buck has irritated the crap out of me. From the holier than thou reaction to Randy Moss mooning the Lambeau Field crowd to going out of his way to mention it when a pitcher has a no-hitter going to him not even attempting to be objective when his beloved Cardinals are playing. Reynolds is a good choice for a color guy in theory, he's charismatic and funny. Until he starts analyzing and says absolutely nothing of value. That leaves Tom Verducci. He's good, but can rarely get a word in with Reynolds saying the first thing that crosses his mind after every pitch.
David Wright deserves this
In a lot of ways he's the Met's version of Joe Mauer. Wright had his breakout year in 2005 when he was 22, Mauer a year later as a 23-year-old. They both had rough, injury filled years in 2011but still looked like easy future hall-of-famers before their production sloped downward quickly in 2014. They've both dealt with some unfair criticism from the over expecting local media. But last night, when Wright launched that homer into the left field seats, none of that mattered. He had been the face of the franchise for ten years and he had finally proved himself.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Thoughts on the Royals and Blue Jays, But Mostly the Royals

     Tonight is the most important game in the playoffs so far. It may seem weird to say that when three of the four divisional series went the maximum five games, but this feels like a game seven. No team has even allowed the other to tie up the series at 3-3 after being up 3-1 and gone on to win game seven. Regardless of your opinions of whether momentum exists, that's just what's happened.
     Besides, there' more at stake here than just a game. This is David Price's chance to prove that he can pitch in the postseason, John Gibbons quest to break the record for most pointless pitching changes in one series and the Royals chance to thumb their collective noses at all stat nerds all around the country.
     That last point is why I like Kansas City so much. They don't hit a lot of homers, they don't walk very often, their pitchers don't strike guys out, yet they pull games out with the same formula every time: score a few runs early by hitting singles and stealing as many bases as possible. Then play great defense until they can hand it off to the bullpen in the seventh inning. They're the only team except for maybe the Cardinals who could have gone through the debacle that was Johnny Cueto while barely allowing it to affect their season after the trade deadline this year.
     The Blue Jays are the polar opposite in styles of play. They're built on guys hitting bombs, leading the league with 232 homers this year. While the Royals win by outlasting their opponent, the Jays crush, pillage and destroy their opponents with both their lineup and dominant starting rotation. And that's why this series is so much fun. The contrasting styles make anything possible.
     Back to the Royals. What I mentioned in two paragraphs ago all goes into the Cardinals-esque way they've been playing this year. I'm still bitter about how Kendrys Morales looked six levels beyond washed-up last year with the Twins and suddenly he's getting clutch playoff hits with the Royals this year. There is never a situation where they're out of a game.
     In fact, the eighth inning in game four against the Astros was the best representative of their season. Down 6-2 with Will Harris pitching and the following happens: Rios singles, Escobar singles, Zobrist singles, Cain singles, driving in Rios, Hosmer singles, Zobrist, Morales reaches on a tough error by Carlos Correa and two more score. Suddenly in the matter of about 15 minutes the game's tied.
     But it was what happened next that was the most amazing. After a Moustakas strikeout, Drew Butera came up. Butera is the definition of an all-field no-hit catcher. He started his career on the Twins and was basically that kid in little league who struck out every time he came to the plate. His career batting line is .185/.245/.266. He has 22 more career strikeouts than hits. What I'm trying to say is that he's really horrible.
     Watching the game, I was expecting what I'm guessing lots of Twins fans were. A three pitch strikeout. But something weird happened. He took three balls and fouled off about nine more before drawing a tough, demoralizing walk. It turned out to be important, too as the next batter, Gordon grounded out, scoring Hosmer.
     That's what's weird about the Royals, and that's why I'm taking them tonight to go to the World Series.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Beginning of the Playoffs

Observations from the First Few Days
Jake Arrieta isn't human
But we already knew that. The wildcard dominance just reaffirmed it. In the second half, hitters hit .184/.204/.205 off of him scoring 12 runs. In 107.3 innings. That comes out to one run for every nine innings he pitched. If you're looking for someone to pull a Madison Baumgarner this year, he's the odds on favorite, and no one else is close.
Managers getting too cute
This isn't really specific to these playoffs but managers just seem to be trying too every year in the postseason, mainly while managing their bullpen. Last year Ned Yost inexplicably decided to put Yordano Ventura in the seventh inning of the wildcard playoff against the A's in 2014. This year, in game one of the Blue Jays-Rangers series Jeff Bannister pulled Yovani Gallardo after five innings in which he gave up two runs on 79 pitches. Yeah, you read that right. While Gallardo wasn't exactly cruising there's no reason to pull him just because he had given up one run the inning before. While it makes sense to be more careful in October, all the pitchers could be working for three weeks. It's just a nonsensical strategy.
Someone needs to give everyone on the Pirates a hug
Three years, three one game crapshoots in the playoffs and two frustrating exits. To put it bluntly: the playoff system is stupid. there is no reason for a one game playoff in a sport with as long of a season as baseball other than to make money and get some cheap excitement. This isn't fair to the Pirates, who have averaged 93 wins a season and deserve better than some gimmicky cry for attention from the MLB. That's been the rant. Now back to the regularly scheduled column.
Injury Report
Carlos Gomez: A strained intercostal has relegated Gomez to pinch running duties the first two games of the ALDS. He's been just as entertaining as usual, getting picked off in game two and drawing multiple throws in the first game. The Astros are being pretty noncommittal about his status but I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the lineup in game three.
Adrian Beltre: After straining his back, Beltre missed half of game one of the Rangers-Blue Jays series and all of the second game. The Rangers are saying he's day-to-day, so with the day off my guess is that he plays in game three.
Players to watch
In two sentences or less
George Springer
He's 6'3" 215 pounds and goes all-out on every pitch, like Bryce Harper of a few years ago.
Yoenis Cespedes
Could become a god in Queens if he leads the Mets to the World Series.
Clayton Kershaw
Kershaw is under arguably more pressure this October than any other player. He's melted down in the postseason two straight years and needs to do well to shed the reputation as a choker.
UPDATE: Kershaw wasn't dominant, but pitched decently, going 6 and 2/3 innings and allowing three runs, although he ran into some trouble in the seventh inning in the Dodgers loss to the Mets on last night. The jury's still out.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Breaking Down the Wildcard Race

The race for the second AL wildcard is coming down to the wire. Right now the Astros are clinging to a two game lead over and Twins and two and a half over the Angels. Here's a full breakdown of who will win.
Starting pitching
Its Gibson-Hughes-Santana-Duffy-Pelfrey for the Twins (and eventually Milone in for one of those guys when he comes back) vs. Richards-Shoemaker-Weaver-Heaney-Santiago with the Angels and Keuchel-McCullers-Kazmir-McHugh-Hernandez for Houston. We can rule the Twins out right away, although Gibson's having an underrated season and Duffy's been solid so far. I'll go with the Astros. Starters 3-5 are pretty similar for both teams, but Keuchel and McCullers are way better than anything the Angels can throw at you.
Edge: Astros
The Astros have a brand of baseball unlike any other team in the league: hit the ball as far as you can and don't worry about anything else. They have hit the second most homers in the league at 209, behind only the Blue Jays and are also second in strikeout percentage, whiffing 23% of the time. Obviously Mike Trout gives the Halos a massive boost, but they have no chance against a deep Houston lineup.
Edge: Astros
Once again, the most obvious answer here is "not the Twins". The Astros, on the other hand have been no less than dominant. Led by Pat Neshek, Will Harris and Luke Gregerson, they've struck out over nine batters per nine innings, en route to a 3.20 ERA, good for third in the American league.
Edge: Astros
Even with Jose Altuve and Carlos Gomez, the Astros have no chance here because of their style of play. The Twins have the potential to be Royals-esque in the outfield with Hicks, Buxton and Rosario, but right now with Hunter in right field it's the Angels. Trout moves like a gazelle in center field, and David Freese is a solid fielding third baseman.
Edge: Angels
This one's a push. None of the teams can anyone who can make a real difference from behind the plate. Although the Twins can use Buxton as a pinch runner or defensive sub late in the game.
Edge: Twins
It should be the Astros. On paper, they're the best. They have the most talent, they've been the best all year, and yet somehow, they're not. Why that is is a column for later, but they're just faltering for whatever reason. I feel like the Twins are still a year away, so that leaves the Angels. They're red-hot right now during a perfect part of their schedule, it's theirs for the taking.
Edge: Angels

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Vikings Preview

     I figured I needed a break from the first scoreboard watching I've done in years with the Twins and obsessing about how the Rangers are doing so here's a look at the Vikings for this upcoming season.
Most important players
3. Adrian Peterson
We all know what we're getting from AD. 1,300-1,600 yards, 10 TDs and a lot of defenders run over. Of all the reasons I'm hopeful about this season, Peterson being a part of my life on Sundays is one of the biggest. Best of all, he seems to think he's been slighted in some way. He plays best with something to prove. It can just be our little secret that all the offseason issues were his fault.
2. Matt Kalil
The big offensive tackle had a tremendously disappointing season last year, allowing 13 sacks. If he can rebound that will be huge for Teddy's development. In fact, that can go to the entire offensive line. Rookie out of Pitt T.J. Clemmings will fill in for the injured Phil Loadholt, which is something I'm slightly less concerned about. As I alluded to a few sentences ago, the biggest problem last year was the pass protection. Teddy was sacked 39 times last year in 13 games. Loadholt's a good run blocker and that's about it. He can't pass protect and if I had a nickel for every time he killed a drive with a stupid penalty I'd be a very rich person. Here's to Clemmings taking over after this year.
1. Teddy Bridgewater
I can barely write coherent thought about Teddy because I'm so excited. For the first time in the last ten years, the Vikings have a quarterback of the present and future. He threw for 2919 yards last year with 14 touchdowns and a completion percentage of 64.4. It's only going up from here.
Defense Situation
The biggest weakness on D last year for the Vikings was the secondary. And while the abominable Robert Blanton is still in a strong safety, they could potentially have three above average defensive backs in Harrison Smith, Xavier Rhodes and rookie Trae Waynes. Waynes is the X-factor here. He had an uneven preseason, but if he can play up to his potential, combined with a solid line led by Brian Robison and Everson Griffin this can be a dangerous unit.
Best case scenario
Teddy flourishes in his second year, Peterson plays like he usually does, the offensive line holds up and the defense is stingy. Vikes go 11-5 to make the playoffs.
Worst case scenario
Peterson deals with injuries throughout the season, the offensive line doesn't have it and Teddy never has enough time to throw. The defense is decent but continually gives up long drives in the last two minutes of games. They go 6-10 and miss the playoffs again,
I'll go with 10-6, snagging  a wildcard before losing in the first round.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Breaking Down the Contenders for the AL Wildcard

     There are some certainties in the American league right now. One is that the Royals will win the Central. Another is that either the Blue Jays or Yankees will take the East with the other claiming the first wildcard. The second wildcard is where things get interesting. Five teams (Rangers, Twins, Angels, Orioles and Rays) are within three games of that spot*. Here's a look at them.
*At least at the time I started writing this. Since then the Orioles have gone into a massive slump and almost fallen out of contention
Texas Rangers
Why they'll make it
The Rangers deserve a break at some point. They lost the World Series two years in a row this decade, coming one strike away twice in 2011 against the Cardinals. The next year they lost in the one game playoff and haven't been back since. Then last year they were favored in the West, when a miserable rash of injuries hit either knocking out or impairing Prince Fielder, Shin-Soo Choo and Derek Holland. Then at the beginning of this year, Yu Darvish had to have Tommy John surgery, shelving him all season. Going beyond karmic reasons, their rotation now boasts one of the top combination of 1-2-3 starters in the league with Cole Hamels, Yovani Gallardo and Colby Lewis. Prince Fielder has come back from his injury to hit .316/.380/.474 with 17 homers. Mitch Moreland is having an unusually good season, Adrian Beltre has had his usual solid season.
Why they won't
Since coming to the Lone Star State, Hamels has posted a decent ERA of 3.89, but his FIP is lagging behind at 4.21, implying he's been getting somewhat lucky. Those balls being put in play hard could find holes at any time. Hopefully for Texas that time won't be during a crucial game in late September.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Why they'll make it
I don't know, maybe because they have the best overall player of this generation and one of the greatest first basemen of all time.
Why they won't
The rest of the roster. Outside Trout and Pujols, C.J. Cron and Kole Calhoun are the only other active players in the lineup with an OPS+ over 100. Overall they make up an offense that's last in the AL in park adjusted offense. The pitching hasn't much better. Two fifths of their rotation are Jared Weaver and Matt Shoemaker, each sporting ERAs above four. As the Twins are proving right now with Mike "I've sucked my entire career and still suckered Ryan into giving me a two year extension" Pelfrey and Ervin "Somehow I contributed more while suspended" Santana*, it's hard to win when your offense has to score al least five runs twice a week, especially this offense.
*I wrote that before Sunday night's gem against the Astros. We'll see how it works out.
Baltimore Orioles
Why they'll make it
Manny Machado has had a breakout year, batting .289/.355/.496 out of the leadoff spot. Their suspect starting rotation has been helped by a dominant bullpen, led by Zach Britton, Brad Brach and Darren O'Day, all of whom have ERAs under 2.70 and are striking out at least ten batters per nine innings.
Why they won't
The O's are already on their way out. They've lost ten of their last 11, which, from the Twins perspective is good, (four game sweep in Baltimore) and infuriating. (Damn it, Orioles would it kill you to beat the Rangers once so taking 2/3 from the Astros isn't a complete waste?) Much of the slump can be chalked up to a lack of hitting. In those ten losses, the Orioles haven't scored more than three runs in any of those games. Particularly slumping are the guys with the highest expectations. Adam Jones is hitting .245/.275/.408 in the last two weeks. Machado's hitting .204/.271/.296, and Chris Davis has a line of .178/.288/.289 with over three times as many strikeouts (25) as hits (8).
Tampa Bay Rays
Why they'll make it
Kevin Kiermaier has developed into one of more underrated players in the game, swatting a league leading 12 triples while also leading all center fielders in defensive runs saved with 35. That helps out an excellent pitching staff. Led by Chris Archer they all have ERAs under four.
Why they won't
As good as their pitching is, the Rays might not have enough hitting to keep up. Logan Forsythe is leading the team in batting at .281 and nobody's hitting more than 15 homers. If they make it it'll be with a lot of 1-0 and 2-1 games.
Minnesota Twins
Why they'll make it
Young talent. Eddie Rosario is raw, but is hitting .272 and has a cannon in the outfield. Byron Buxton, the future, the five tool stud who's supposed to own the game someday, hasn't done as well. But that's ok. Two things to remember with Buck and his near impossible to achieve expectations. 1) He's 21 years old. 2) We have to be patient. It took Aaron Hicks over three years before he figured it out. But none of that matters right now because of Miguel Sano. The powerful righty is hitting .287/.398/.591 and showing unprecedented patience. The biggest difference between Sano and Buxton is how Sano lays off breaking balls in the dirt. Buxton swings through them just like Rosario, Vargas, Arcia and a lot of young hitters. The future's in good hands.
Why they won't
Any stat nerd will tell you that the Twins are getting lucky this year because of their high batting average with runners in scoring position. Also, their rotation is atrocious. Take Sano out of the lineup and it becomes horribly stagnant and there's a nagging feeling that they just aren't that good. But they just keep winning.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Problem with The Yankees

     In 2010, the Twins were playing outside for the first time since 1982. They also had one of the best teams of the decade. Joe Mauer wasn't hitting for power like he had been the year before, but he still hit .327 from the catcher position. Delmon Young had enjoyed a breakout year, hitting  .298/.333/.493 with 21 homers. Also, 25 year old third baseman Danny Valencia came up in early June and raked, hitting .311/.351/.448 en route to finishing third in Rookie of the Year balloting. The rotation wasn't fantastic but was steady, anchored by Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano. They finished the year 94-68.
     They faced the Yankees in the ALDS. They were swept. The Yankees somehow managed to combine hopelessness and painfully destroying the Twins at the same time. This wasn't the first time the Yankees knocked the Twins out of the playoffs, in fact, the feeling was becoming all too familiar. Since 2003, the Twins were 2-12 against the Yankees in the playoffs. The regular season was and has been no better. Since '03, the Twins are 26-62 against the Evil Empire, good for a .333 winning percentage.
     The bizarre part about the Twins Big Apple adversity is that the Twins are a vastly different team than others that couldn't crack the Yankees. Nobody on the team currently was here in 2003, and Mauer and Duensing are the only ones who were on the 2010 squad.
     Much of the Twins struggles has been the inability to get A-Rod out. It's surreal how much he owns the Twins. In 143 regular season games against the Twins, he's logged 546 at-bats and hit .317 with 50 homers. He also has a 1.033 OPS, which would be the third highest of his career if it happened throughout a season.
     When he hit his grand slam last night, not only did it not surprise me, but I would have been surprised if hadn't gotten an extra base hit. I couldn't find splits against a specific team but I'm sure if I had I would have seen A-Rod is hitting approximately .853 in the seventh inning or later with runners in scoring position.
     They also were never able to hit Mariano Rivera. In 72.2 innings pitched against the Twins, the reliever struck out 69 while allowing 45 hits, including just two homers.
      Maybe it's as simple as the Twins can't play the Yankees. Really specific stats are hard to find unless you have an in with the Elias Sports Bureau, so this is completely anecdotal, when the Twins take the lead, regardless of inning, the Yankees get one right back, their next time at bat. That could be from anything, like nerves, knowing that they haven't taken a series from the Evil Empire since 2001, or the Steinbrenners have a grudge against the Pohlads and send A-Rod's cousin into their clubhouse before every game to spike the Gatorade or... pretty much anything. Sometimes I hate being a Twins fan.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Inevitable Twins Collapse

     In 2001, the Minnesota Twins were a team on the rise. After going 69-93 the previous year under Tom Kelly, they had improved vastly under new manager Ron Gardenhire and a young core of players including Torii Hunter, Jacque Jones, Christian Guzman, Brad Radke, Matt Lawton and a 22 year old relief pitcher named Johan Santana. They started out 56-33 before fading in the second half, ultimately winning 85 games and missing the playoffs. But it didn't matter that they didn't make it. They had set up a good foundation for the future. They went on to win the Central the next three years with much of the same group.
     I bring up that '01 team because the Twins probably aren't going to make the playoffs this year. And that's ok. They weren't supposed to be good this year, and just the fact that they're near .500 right now is a success. Going into the season 78 so-called experts at ESPN made their predictions. Zero had the Twins winning the central. Just about all had them finishing last.
     While it's frustrating that the Twins have seemingly forgotten how to pitch, hit or do anything remotely competently, that wasn't for this year. We're still in the developmental stages of this team.
     We'll get a closer look at Buxton later this month and Sano has already proven he can hit in the big leagues. As he gets more at-bats he'll cut down on the strikeouts but he already looks comfortable at the plate. He lays off breaking balls in the dirt which most 22 year olds swing through like Arcia, Vargas, and Buxton.
     Hicks has vastly improved. After two miserable seasons to begin his career he seems to have finally figured it out, batting .285/.342/.425 and covering more ground in center field than Charles Barkley at a buffet.
      Eddie Rosario has looked very comfortable as well. I could go on for awhile just about his sheer awesomeness but I'll keep it short. He looks more like a rookie than Sano, but his flashes of brilliance are better than anyone else's. His eight triples are one away from Tony Oliva's franchise record for a rookie. There are times where he looks lackadaisical in the outfield and overpowered at the plate, but there's enough there to be optimistic.
     Of course, it hasn't been all good. Phil Hughes has plunged back toward mediocrity. Kennys Vargas and Danny Santana both disappointed after promising rookie seasons and Oswaldo Arcia got Wally Pipped by Rosario. But the good far outweighs the bad.
     They also have a loaded farm system, headlined by Jose Berrios, Nick Gordon and Jorge Polanco. They could've cashed in any one of those assets, but as I've said before, this wasn't their year. It doesn't make sense to trade anyone when they might not even be a wild card. 
     With the Twins falling out of the race after Toronto, Houston and Kansas City loaded up at the deadline, it's easy to criticize Terry Ryan, but by waiting now, they have the chance to be one of the best teams in the league in just a year or two, which is a lot better than selling the farm for maybe a one game playoff.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Winners and Losers from the Trade Deadline

Winner: Blue Jays
We'll start with the obvious one. They acquired the best overall player on the trade market and still had enough assets to snag one of the top pitchers. Losing Daniel Norris will hurt, but losing him is worth gaining David Price, especially after going all in with Tulowitzki.
Loser: Padres
While A.J. Preller's offseason bombed, he did end up with some good assets so the Padres could set up for the future for the 800th time in Justin Upton, Joakin Benoit and Craig Kimbrel. The got rid of none of them. Now they'll be stuck in the middle of nowhere, with a big league roster not good enough to make the playoffs and a mediocre farm system.
Winner: Astros
Obviously getting Carlos Gomez was huge. He'll continue the 'Stros slow integration of speed and finesse into a lineup full of slow power hitters. Scott Kazmir was an underrated addition. He isn't punching guys out like he used to in Tampa Bay, but he's still been effective using his breaking pitches more often. Houston needed another arm to go with Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers and didn't have to pay too much for Kazmir.
Loser: Angels
I understand that the Halos needed an outfielder with Matt Joyce hitting under the Mendoza line, but Shane Victorino isn't someone who will be a difference maker. That move got even more confusing when they dealt for David Dejesus. In the last two years, Victorino's played 66 games in which he's hit .251/.306/.333 including a ghastly .231/.310/.279 line this year. He's merely an average fielder, so it's curious as to what value he brings to the table.
Winner: Mets
Yes, the Mets are doing well, on and off the field, no the apocalypse isn't any time soon. Snagging Yoenis Cespedes was a savvy move. I thought giving up Zack Wheeler was a little too much for Carlos Gomez, but they only gave up one top prospect for Cespedes, who will give them an imposing bat in the middle of the lineup.
Loser: Dodgers
The Dodgers were the most hyped team going into the deadline. They ended up with Mat Latos and Mike Morse among others, which is a fine haul, but they had the inside track on getting Hamels or Price and couldn't capitalize.
Winner: Yoenis Cespedes's real estate agent
Cespedes just went to his fourth city since last July. Whoever's getting him settled in these places is making a lot of money. Fast.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Trade Deadline Recap

Blue Jays-Rockies
Blue Jays get:
Troy Tulowitzki, LaTroy Hawkins
Rockies get:
Jose Reyes,Miguel Castro, Jeff Hoffman, Jesus Tinoco
This is a tough deal to judge right now because there's a decent chance the Rockies turn around and flip Reyes in a different trade. Unloading a star like Tulo is always difficult, but the Rockies did pretty well here. The main piece of this trade is Hoffman, a stud pitching prospects who possesses a fastball in the high 90s. Castro struggled in his brief time with the big league club earlier this year, posting a 4.38 ERA, but he's only 20 years old and was the number five ranked prospect in the Jays organization. Like I said before, Reyes is likely on his way out, so they'll get more assets for him.
As well as Colorado did in this trade, the Blue Jays just got the best shortstop in baseball. Enough said. On the other hand, they still have serious problems to address, particularly in the pitching staff. Sorry, getting the real life Benjamin Button LaTroy Hawkins doesn't count. Toronto has a collective ERA of 4.07, good for eighth worst in the league. It's weird that they didn't try to use the same package for someone like Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto. On the other hand the Tulo-Donaldson-Bautista-Encarnacion middle of the lineup is going to be crazy good. If they can outslug other teams it won't matter.
Winner: Blue Jays
Royals get:
Johnny Cueto
Reds get:
Brandon Finnegan, John Lamb, Cody Reed
This deal's a no-brainer for the Royals, needing a pitcher with Yordano Ventura failing to build on his encouraging 2014 season and Jason Vargas injured. Cueto will post even better numbers than his 2.68 ERA in Kansas City, teaming up with Lorenzo Cain and the rest of their defensive juggernaut. The Reds continue to rebuild. Finnegan's a former first-rounder who has a 2.96 ERA this year, and got some big-game experience in the playoffs last year, despite being inconsistent. He'll start in Triple-A Louisville for now. Lamb is a former top prospect who's path to the majors was derailed by Tommy John surgery in 2011. However although he's lost velocity, he's managed to be consistently solid since then.
A's get:
Sean Manaea, Aaron Brooks
Royals get:
Ben Zobrist
First of all, I'd like to congratulate Billy Beane for trading top shortstop prospect Daniel Robertson for two pitchers who are average and slightly above average respectively. This is a solid trade for Kansas City, Zobrist will start out in left field for Alex Gordon then when he comes back they'll be able to use him all around the diamond, possibly at second base for Omar Infante. There's nothing noteworthy about the A's side of the deal. Manaea and Brooks are both solid pitching prospects, but that's about it.
A's get:
Jacob Nottingham, Daniel Mengden
Astros get:
Scott Kazmir
I love this move for the Astros. They desperately needed another starter to go with Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers, and while Kazmir isn't a sexy choice like Cole Hamels, he gets the job done. His ERA is 2.38 this year, best in his career. It's a pretty good deal for Oakland as well. Mengden is an excellent catching prospect, he's the main part of the deal, while Nottingham projects to be at least a decent reliever.
Analysis on the rest of the deals coming soon

Friday, July 17, 2015

Midseason Outlooks

Red Sox
     The Sox seem to be switching off between great and absolute train wrecks. Unfortunately they've been stuck in the train wreck for about a year and a half now. After Ben Cherington tried to create the greatest fantasy baseball team ever in free agency, things have gone south. Hanley's looked lost in the outfield, and the stats back that one up. He's cost the Red Sox 16 runs this year in the field. The pitching isn't helping either. After whiffing on Jon Lester in the offseason, the Red Sox took gambles on Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson and Wade Miley, all of whom are sporting ERAs over 4.70. You can't even blame that on Fenway park either. Miley has the lowest FIP, which adjust for park and fielding, among them at 3.95. And I'm not even going to mention Rusney Castillo, the Cuban signee who's hitting .230/.260/.284 with one homer in the first year of his seven year, 72 million dollar contract.
     Even with all that going on, the Red Sox are somehow just 6.5 games out of first place in a weak AL East. That said, I'm still not sure they're going to be buyers at the trade deadline. They have the prospect depth to make a deal for Johnny Cueto or Cole Hamels but don't seem to want to part with enough players to make the deal. As of early May it was reported that Boston was refusing to part with Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart in the deal. It makes sense. Betts has been one of the few bright spots in the Sox season, batting .277/.328/.464 and displaying a cannon of an arm in center field with six assists. The Red Sox should sit back, accept this isn't their year, pick up some pitching in the offseason, and look toward next year.
     Hey, we're on a run of teams that made a splash in the offseason and are now having massively underwhelming seasons. Unlike the Red Sox, their future looks bleak. Really bleak. They don't have many assets like the Red Sox after they sold the farm for Matt Kemp, who has hit .250/.291/.382 and played his usual miserable defense, ravaged after a variety of injuries. In the trade they gave up Yasmani Grandal, who appeared in his first All-Star Game Tuesday and has become one of the best backstops in the National League. They also dealt pitcher Jesse Hahn to Oakland for Derek Norris, who rode a BABIP wave to an All-Star appearance in 2014 slowing down and hitting .245 in the second half. This year he's been much closer to that second half version of himself, batting .233/.279/.407. James Shields, has struggled as well, posting an ERA of 4.01 in a pitchers ballpark. Even worse, he's in the first year of a five year contract. They also have Melvin, formerly known as B.J. Upton. That's all I'll say on that matter.
Watching the Astros is like seeing a team full of Dave Kingmans. Featuring guys like Evan Gattis, (.241 15 homers) and Chris Carter (.185 15 homers as well) they lead the league in round-trippers with 124, but also strikeout rate at 24.7%. As a team they're hitting .240, which is by far the lowest among teams above .500, but none of that matters if they just outslug their opponents, which they need to do. They have a good bullpen, but beyond Dallas Kuechel, the rotation is subpar, although stud prospect Lance McCullers has done well in his brief stint with the team so far. Number two overall pick in 2012 draft Carlos Correa has also done well, teaming up with Jose Altuve to add some desperately needed speed to a slow, slugging lineup.
     The Phillies just have to wait right now. Ryan Howard's mammoth contract comes off the books after the 2017 season. Chase Utley's salary goes down next year. Cole Hamels is on his way out. Carlos Ruiz's ridiculous contract is done after 2017... There are so many awful contracts on this team I'm surprised Melvin Upton hasn't somehow ended up on the team. There is light at the end of the tunnel though. They'll get a small army for Cole Hamels in a few weeks and probably something for Jonathan Papelbon. Reliever Ken Giles is having another great year after finishing fourth in Rookie of the Year voting last year. Also, Philly called up top third base prospect Maikel Franco, who's hit .284 with 10 homers in 55 games. There getting there. Just very slowly.
     These Tigers' pitching isn't as good as it's been in years past, but the lineup is as fearsome as ever. Even with Miggy injured, the middle of the lineup is Kinsler-Martinez-Cespedes-Martinez which is absolutely terrifying when they're coming up in a big spot. Throw Cabrera in there and they'll score a lot of runs. The problem is the pitching. David Price has been his usual dominant, but the rest of the rotation doesn't have a single guy with an ERA under 4.3, headlined by the disastrous duo of Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene who have ERAs of 4.53 and 6.32 respectively.
     For the first time in a long time, the Tigers seem mortal. 2011 Justin Verlander is long gone, and Victor Martinez is clearly on the decline. If they don't get some pitching soon, they'll miss the playoffs for the first time since 2010. If they do get pitching, this five year stretch of Tiger dominance will continue into October... again.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Midseason Awards

MVP: Mike Trout
This was tough. Manny Machado, Josh Donaldson and Trout are the three main contenders. Of those three, Machado isn't on the same level as Donaldson and Trout. He's having an excellent season, he's just not there yet. Now it's down to Trout and Donaldson, they have nearly identical batting averages, .305 for Trout and .302 for Donaldson. Donaldson is a slightly better fielder, saving 9 runs with his glove compared to Trout's 2 but I eventually went with Trout because his plate discipline sets him apart. He's drawn 13 more walks this season en route to a on base percentage that's 39 points higher than Donaldson's.
LVP: Pablo Sandoval
This could have gone to plenty of Red Sox, but I'm going with Panda because he's been worse offensively than Hanley, hitting a paltry .267/.310/.391. Also, Hanley's train wreck in left field has overshadowed Sandoval's usual atrocious fielding at third base.
Cy Young: Chris Archer
Somehow Cy Young managed to be almost as close as MVP. Archer, Dallas Keuchel, Chris Sale and Sonny Gray are all deserving candidates. Ultimately I decided that Archer has been better this year. Slightly. He doesn't lead the league in any meaningful categories, but he's just been steady. Sale's received a lot of attention for his strikeout record, but he's still struggled at times. Archer has only given up more than three earned runs three times this year. Almost every time out he's given the Rays a chance to win. There's nothing more you can ask from a pitcher than that.
Rookie of the Year: Incomplete
It's impossible to predict the ROY at this point. Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers and Miguel Sano have all done well in short stretches this year, but no one's emerged from the pack or played long enough to distinguish himself so far.
MVP: Bryce Harper
The NL's quite a bit easier. While Paul Goldschmidt's gaudy .349/.466/.618 batting line looks good, Harper has somehow been even better, hitting .343/.471/.709 and a more premium position. Harper's Nationals will also make the playoffs barring a huge second half collapse, while the Diamondbacks are struggling to stay at .500. If that wasn't enough, Harper wears stirrups. And stirrups are awesome.
LVP: Matt Kemp
After the Padres gave up a small army for Kemp in the offseason, he has not delivered, to say the least. He does lead the league in one category; unfortunately for the Friars that's games played. At the plate he's hitting .242/.281/.367 and he's been even worse in the field. So far this year he's cost the Padres 12 runs with his glove.
Cy Young: Max Scherzer
Scherzer is having a tremendous year despite being just 9-7. Explain that one to me morons who think Clayton Kershaw is a victim of outdated stats.* Anyway, Scherzer has been even better in Washington than he was in Detroit, sporting a 2.12 ERA and an unreal 10.21 strikeout to walk ratio.
*Kershaw's win loss record has nothing to do with his all star omission. There are plenty of guys who don't have great win loss records like Scherzer, the aforementioned Chris Archer (9-6), or Shelby Miller (5-4). Kershaw was left off the roster because of the unrealistic standard he set for himself in the last few years. We had become so unaccustomed to him being good but not amazing people assumed he was having a bad year.  
Rookie of the Year: Joc Pederson
It feels a little weird to be choosing a .231 hitter for Rookie of the Year, but Pederson has been great in just about every other area. He's a fantastic defender with two defensive runs saved this year, and his hitting numbers have been skewed due to him playing half his games in the cavernous Dodger Stadium. While he is prone to the big whiff (101 strikeouts on the season) I can't penalize him for that because he main competitor, Kris Bryant has almost as many with 95.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Ascent of Brian Dozier

     On August 8th, 2012, Brian Dozier went 0-4 in a loss to the Tampa Bay Rays. It was typical of Dozier who had struggled almost the entire time since coming to the big leagues in early May, batting just .234/.271/.332. He was sent down to Triple-A after the game.
     Lots of people figured he be heard from again, not because he had been so awful that he would never be called up again, but because there have been hundreds of guys like him in every organization: Pedestrian prospects who can't make it in the big leagues. After he spent the rest of the year in the minors, something weird happened: Dozier went into spring training as the favorite for starting second baseman. Alexi Casilla had held the position the year before while Dozier was at shortstop. The season began with Dozier on board as the second baseman when something even weirder happened: Dozier did well. He wasn't spectacular by any means but he was good enough that nobody questioned his job security. He finished the year with a batting line of .244/.312/.414 and 18 homers.
     Dozier was even better the next year, being more selective at the plate, improving his walk rate by over 4%. He also became just the sixth Twin to have at least 20 homers and 20 steals in the same season. Now, in 2015, Dozier's is one of the top second basemen in the league and is likely to make his first all-star team. That begs the question: what changed?
     Dozier's hitting for more power this year than any other season of his career by far. His .529 slugging percentage is not only a career high but over 100 points higher than his second highest mark of .416. In fact, he's on pace to set career highs in homers, RBI and doubles as well. Yes, I'm completely aware that he was on pace for 36 homers at the all star break last year, but just because he cooled off in 2014 doesn't necessarily mean he will this year.
     All the power numbers can be attributed to the fact that he's just hitting the ball harder this year. His 33.1 hard hit rate is a career high and ranks second among all second basemen.
     Whenever someone makes big improvements in the hitting department, a lot of times it can be credited with the player being a smarter hitter. He's not just concentrating on hitting homers, he's just putting the bat on the ball and using all fields. Dozier's doing the exact opposite. He's pulled 65.3% of balls this year, a career high. He's also being more aggressive, swinging at 44% of all pitches, up from 38.3% of last year. While his on base percentage has gone down slightly because of that, and he's striking out more often it has brought up his average up 26 points.
     Unfortunately for the Twins, Dozier's power surge has coincided with him batting leadoff, keeping him from driving in many runs. But while the numbers say he should be hitting in the middle of the lineup, there's a case to be made for keeping him in the leadoff spot so he can keep his routine. Also, Dan Gladden likes it when he hits leadoff homers so he can bring up the Twins all time leadoff home run leaders and talk about himself more. So there's that to consider as well. It's a tough decision with no right answer.
     He's one of the best second basemen in the league (and I didn't even mention his fielding) and had a bizarre journey getting there. Now he'll likely be an All Star. All after his miserable play as a 25 year old rookie. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Lottery Mock Draft

1. Minnesota Timberwolves
Karl-Anthony Towns
Consider this a wishful pick. I think they'll take Okafor because Flip seems enamored with him, but for good luck I'll put Towns here. I hope I eventually look like a fool by writing this last week, either by the Wolves taking Towns or Okafor being better than advertised. I laid out what I think about both of them in that column.
2. Los Angeles Lakers
Jahlil Okafor, C Duke
See above.
3. Philadelphia 76ers
D'Angelo Russell
Maybe I'm biased because I'm a Minnesota fan who watched Russell destroy the Gophers this year, but I can't see Russell not succeeding. He's  a below average defender, but his versatility on offense is what makes him special. He's a natural scorer from the two guard but can distribute from the point if you need him to. He's a safe pick.
4. New York Knicks
Kristaps Porzingis
Almost every year there's a foreigner who shoots up draft boards and the general public believes it because nobody's seen him play. From Dante Exum to Jan Vesely to Yi Jianlian all the way back to Darko.  All I've seen of Porzingis are highlight videos. He seems to have a good shooting stroke, and the potential is definitely there. At worst I think he's a solid stretch four for a decent team.
5. Orlando Magic
Justise Winslow
I couldn't be a bigger Winslow fan. He's a freak athlete, tenacious defender and is just good enough of a shooter to stay afloat in the league. Now there's a chance a team takes Mudiay over him? Winslow's the best wing in the draft and has the athleticism to make in impact right away in the NBA. After him the talent levels off.
6. Sacramento Kings
Emmanuel Mudiay
Mudiay is the one of the few guys in the lottery I would stay away from. We've seen too many large point guards in the league who can't shoot a lick struggle, like Michael Carter-Williams and Dante Exum. The league's going in a direction where everybody is more skilled. I don't see Mudiay fitting in anywhere.
7. Denver Nuggets
Willy Cauley-Stein
This seems like a good fit for WCS. After the Josh Smith debacle I don't think the Pistons are interested in another big man who can't shoot, especially with Andre Drummond fill the position, and I don't see how he fits in with DeMarcus Cousins in Sacramento if they keep him. The Nuggets will get a reliable rim protector in a slot where they need to snag the best player since they're rebuilding with Ty Lawson's impending exit.
8. Detroit Pistons
Mario Henzoja
Another high risk high reward foreigner. Regardless of where on the spectrum Henzoja falls he'll be entertaining. He's among the most cocky players in the draft, even occasionally going out of his way to dunk on opponents when a layup would have done. He'll add some spark to a stagnant Detroit offense.
9. Charlotte Hornets
Cameron Payne
I'm always skeptical of players at small colleges who lit up poor competition and saw their stock rise because of workouts. It just doesn't add up. Why would a team value what someone did in a controlled environment over, I don't know, maybe actual games? Oh yeah, because half of all GMs are morons. I forgot about that. Payne's stock has been rising faster than tides during global warming recently mainly because of that. He can score, but he did it on a Murray State team that needed him to carry a heavy load. I'm not sure he can do adjust in the NBA.
10. Miami Heat
Stanley Johnson
After four straight gambles, we have a safe pick. Johnson's a physical wing who will play well opposite to Dwyane Wade. The bigger, more athletic Johnson can help hide Wade on defense and provide a little scoring. I could see the Heat being a playoff team in the putrid east next year with the Dragic-Wade-Johnson-Bosh-Whiteside combination.
11. Indiana Pacers
Myles Turner
The enigmatic Turner had one up and down season under Rick Barnes in Texas after being a top recruit at the beginning of the season. His shooting ability and rim protection make him a safe pick; at the very least he'll be a solid role player, but he needs to add strength so he can't be pushed around as easily under the basket to be anything more than that.
12. Utah Jazz
Kelly Oubre
I love this pick for the Jazz. There were questions about his work ethic at Kansas. I don't see that happening in Utah. If he dedicates himself he can be one of the best players in the draft, and there's no better place for that to happen than Salt Lake City.
13. Phoenix Suns
Devin Booker
Perfect pick here. The Suns need a shooter and Booker is just that. Even though they traded Goran Dragic, they're not completely rebuilding because of the promising core of Eric Bledsoe, Markieff Morris and Alex Len. Booker can stretch the defense and open things up for Len down low.
Oklahoma City Thunder
14. Frank Kaminsky
As strange as it seems for a team that nearly made the playoffs last year, the Thunder have a lot of holes to fill outside Westbrook and Durant. Kaminsky and Trey Lyles look like the best players available here, but they don't need a four in Lyles since they already have Serge Ibaka. Even though he was the main man at Wisconsin, Kaminsky can fit in in any situation, whether he needs to score or not.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Future is Here

     I don't usually write about single events. To me, one thing happening just isn't enough to write a column worth reading. On most topics, there just isn't enough substance to get a full column out of it. But I had to write something about Byron Buxton today.
     He's the most important player to come through the Twins system in a long time. Not just because of his immense talent, but because of what he symbolizes: A new era, hope, playoff contention. Since he was drafted he's been the Twins version of Jack Reacher. Few people in the area have seen him in person, he's discussed in reverential tones, and all anybody knows about him is that he's great. Now he's here, and we'll see if he's for real.
     I don't know if it's just the Timberwolves fan side of me scarred from the Jonny Flynn/Wesley Matthews/ Derrick Williams debacles that makes me think this or if it's all Twins fans, but I'm terrified he'll be a disappointment. He's supposed to be the savior. He has to be the savior. We've spent too much time hearing about him, how he'll lead us to the World Series for him to be a bust.
     All this was racing through my mind just before the game started. I pledged to do two things: Number one was to remember that he's a rookie, he'll have bad at bats, swing at bad pitches, make mental errors. Willie Mays started his career 1-26, these things happen. Two was similar to one. It was to temper my expectations. Don't think of him as the next Andrew McCutchen, be patient and have fun watching him develop. This is supposed to be fun, right?
     As the Twins came to bat to start the game they showed the starting lineup. I was relieved to see Buxton hitting ninth. In retrospect, that was Gardy's biggest mistake with Hicks. He put too much pressure on him too early in the season and his career by hitting him leadoff right away. Anyway the Twins scored two in the first, batting six so we know Buxton will hit in the second. Hughes retired the side in the second, the anticipation was building. I'd be lying if I said I knew what Robinson and Escobar did in their respective at-bats. This was all about Buxton, with cell phone cameras making that weird clicking sound, he walked up to the plate.
     He struck out on four pitches.
     That was awkward. He looked like a classic rookie, the final pitch being a breaking ball he swung at in the dirt, right out of the Arcia playbook. His next at-bat was much better, with an 0-2 count he lashed one to third base, forcing Joey Gallo to make a nice pick on it. He still nearly beat it out. Later he struck out on the same pitch he had before, before failing to get a bunt down in his final appearance.
     The failed bunt did give us the chance to see him run the bases, which was by far the most exciting Buxton related moment of the game. While lots of guys on the team could have scored on Rosario's double off the wall, Buxton flew around the bases. There's no other way to describe it.
     Despite going 0-4, I'm hesitantly optimistic about Buxton this season. He looked great on his groundout and seemed to get more comfortable as the game went on. He's very mature and isn't the type to let the attention get to his head. We'll have to see how this plays out. Whatever happens, it'll be interesting.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Thoughts on Okafor, Towns, and Flip

     I wasn't able to watch the NBA draft lottery. I found out the Wolves had gotten the number one pick about an hour after it was announced. I was thrilled. I even did a full fist pump after seeing it. I remained happy for approximately one hour before finding out the news. There are thirty GMs in the National Basketball Association; exactly one of them is leaning towards Okafor. His name is Flip Saunders.

     It's taking all the power I have not to launch into a "WHY US????" rant, but I'll just lay out the facts. Okafor is a better post scorer than Towns. Towns is a better defender, shooter, rebounder, free throw shooter has more upside, and would clearly rather be here than Okafor, who has been indirectly saying he wants to go to Los Angeles since the lottery. Towns is one of the most athletic guys in the draft and would fit in much better with what the Wolves are trying to do by stockpiling versatile athletes who can wreak havoc on the defensive end.

     The biggest weakness of the Timberwolves last season (and there were many) was the inability to protect the rim. Opponents shot 57.9% there last season, worst mark in the league. Towns is likely the second best shot blocker in the field, behind his former Kentucky teammate Willy Cauley-Stein. On the other hand, rim protection and defense overall is Okafor's weakness. Add in the fact that Towns is friends with Wiggins, it's like the basketball gods said, "Hey let's create the perfect center for the Timberwolves". Instead they're going to take Okafor, an excellent offensive player who can't defend the chair I'm sitting in. Last year his defensive issues were protected and somewhat covered up by teammate Amile Jefferson. We’ll come back to this point later.

     In case you haven't noticed. I abandoned the whole facts thing a while ago. Obviously the defense comment is an exaggeration, but remember, Okafor was absolutely destroyed by Frank Kaminsky in the national championship game in March.

In case you don't remember, Duke was a lot better when he was on the bench against Wisconsin in March. With 16:50 left in the game, Kamisnky drew a foul on Okafor, his third, and made both free throws. Jahlil went to the bench after that. The Blue Satans then outscored Wisconsin 15-11 until the 9:18 mark, when they brought Okafor back into the game. The Badgers first possession goes to Kaminsky on the block, who does his weird spin move right to the basket, where he makes the layup and draws another foul. Okafor exits once again. It didn't end up mattering because Duke won, but the point is that Duke couldn’t defend well enough with Okafor and Kaminsky on the floor and Wisconsin took advantage of that. I'm not saying that always has or will be the case, but it’s concerning, especially if he goes to the Wolves, who don’t have someone who can block shots. He’ll spend a lot of games being abused by the likes of Dwight Howard, Tyson Chandler, Marc Gasol, Al Horford, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.

 I’m not saying Okafor is a guaranteed bust, even if it seems like I have been throughout this column. He’s the most polished offensive big man in a very long time, and can thrive in the right system, but the Wolves don’t have that. They have an identity with Wiggins and Lavine. The teams with the next three picks, (Los Angeles, Philadelphia and New York) are starting completely from scratch. Philadelphia would be an ideal fit. Joel Embiid has the range to stretch the floor and create spacing for Okafor down low, and the athleticism to protect him defensively, like what Amile Jefferson was able to do for much of last year.

            All year people have been trying to turn the Okafor vs. Towns argument into what the Andrew Wiggins vs. Jabari Parker debate was last year: The dilemma of choosing someone who’s great right now or a guy with upside. That needs to stop. While critiquing Okafor’s game I only touched on Towns at the beginning. That’s because his game is simple. He can do anything on the court, shooting, athleticism, defense, and it’s disrespectful to his ability to call a guy that good already an "upside guy". He’s the safe pick. Flip just needs to realize that.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Aramis Ramirez Appreciation Column

     Quick, who's the most underrated third baseman of the last fifteen years? You said Adrian Beltre without blinking, didn't you? It has to be him. He's the best fielding third baseman since Brooks Robinson, he has 2650 career hits and nobody pays any attention to him! Wait, what's that? He's finished in the top 15 in MVP voting six time in his career? And lots of people consider him a future hall of famer? Oh. Maybe he's worn out his welcome in the underrated player house. If you want a truly underrated third baseman, look no further than Aramis Ramirez.
     He's probably not headed to Cooperstown like Beltre, but just for fun, let's compare him to all the other third basemen who have played since he's first joined the Pirates in 1998. Of all those players, he ranks third in homers with 374. The only people he's behind are Beltre and Chipper Jones. He's also second in slugging percentage behind only Jones. He's also done all this playing in mainly pitchers' ballparks. Miller Park is advantageous toward hitters, but he's only played four years there, while he spent the other 14 in pitchers fields Wrigley Field and PNC Park.
     What's more impressive is how he manages to get the bat on the ball even while hitting those homers. Of the top 27 home run hitting third basemen during his career, Ramirez has the second lowest strikeout rate at 13.9%.
     While Ramirez isn't known for his fielding, he's been about average his entire career. He led the league in fielding percentage twice and finished in the top five of range factor per game three times. Just those accomplishments make him better than contemporaries Troy Glaus and Chipper Jones.
     Ramirez became underrated because he doesn't have a calling card. He rarely does anything amazingly but is just steady. A typical year for Ramirez since he started playing regularly in 2000 is .274/.346/.503 line with 24 homers. He's only had one great season in his career, in 2012 when he hit .300/.360/.540 with 27 round-trippers and an absurd 50 doubles. Of course, nobody noticed because it happened in Milwaukee where the Brewers finished 83-79 and the biggest story was Ryan Braun winning MVP.
     That's another theme of Ramirez's career: Either being on mediocre teams or overshadowed. Of his eighteen seasons, he's spent 10 of them in either Pittsburgh or Milwaukee. While the other nine were in Chicago, he still never got the attention he deserved, either being on terrible teams or good teams where he was overshadowed by Derrek Lee. Here's my advice to any baseball fan: Try to watch a few Brewers games this year. You can appreciate Ramirez before he's gone.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Taking a Look at the Twins Hot Streak

     A good word to describe the Twins season a week into it would be miserable. Actually, that can't even describe it. It's more like numbness. The season had barely begun and it was already over. Ervin Santana was suspended, Torii suddenly looked like a 70-year-old man, Mike Pelfrey and Ricky Nolasco both had large roles on the team, the advanced stat guys were smugly declaring Danny Santana's 2014 campaign a product of BABIP. Then suddenly, they turned it all around, scoring runs keeping their opponents from scoring, two things that have been noticeably absent from the team the last few years.
     The biggest surprise this season has been Mike Pelfrey, who has been nothing short of atrocious his entire Twins career. This year has been slightly different. In 27 innings pitched, Pelfrey has a 2.63 ERA. Part of that is the fact that he's getting outs at important times. That may sound like a generic statement, but the stats back it up. His left on base percentage is 83.3%, over 20% more than last year. He's also throwing his split-fingered fastball 11.5% more often, creating 12.4% more groundballs than last season
     Pelfrey's one of the few players whose main improvement is from last year to this year, most of the players are doing well after miserable beginnings to the season. Most notably doing better than they were at the start are Danny Santana and Torii Hunter. The duo had a Drungo Hazewood-like beginning of the season: 2-28 with nine strikeouts. In May they're hitting .452. Hunter, in particular is on a tear. He's hit safely in eight of his last nine games, hitting .368 during that stretch
     The biggest question with this 11-3 run is is it sustainable? For much of it, the answer's no. During all this the Twins have scored 6.7 runs per game, something they obviously can't keep up over the season. On the other hand, while I'm skeptical Pelfrey can keep this up, their rotation will improve when Molitor inevitably gives Nolasco the ax either because he sucks or Ervin Santana coming back, followed by Nolasco complaining about it, trying to figure out why a team wouldn't start a guy with an ERA of 9.00, and replaces him with Milone, who was pretty good before he inexplicably got sent down to Rochester last week.
     The Twins have a decent chance at continuing this. Obviously not the seven runs a game or winning 11 out every 11 games, but they'll be competitive. I haven't even mentioned Eddie Rosario yet, and the impact he'll have, or the fact that Vargas is just waking up right now. Whatever happens,  We already know this: It'll be better or at the very least more interesting than last year.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Twins Week in Review: April 20-26

Three Reasons to be Optimistic
1. Pelfrey
No, that isn't a typo. For the first time since this blog began, Mr. Mike Pelfrey is on the optimism section of the Week in Review. Of course, his seven inning shutout performance means nothing for the future, but it's nice to be occasionally reminded that he's capable of being decent once every two years.
2. Gradual Improvement
After the miserable first week of the season, things have gradually gotten better. Hunter, Plouffe and Santana didn't have anywhere to go but up, and Hughes seems to be returning to form (more on him in a few paragraphs) and Mauer's been doing pretty well all season.
3. Molitor
After spending the last decade plus with Gardenhire, Molitor's aggressiveness and knowledge is a breath of fresh air. He platoons way more often than Gardy and has smartly been sitting Santana against righties. He's also been more willing to try different things. Yesterday he was talking about batting Mauer leadoff, something that makes sense when you think about it; He's consistently on base, which is the most important quality in a leadoff hitter, and has a low slugging percentage, so he isn't a very good fit in the middle of the lineup. If Gardy were still here he'd never consider it just because he always felt the need to have a quick middle infielder or infielder leading off, no matter how little sense it made in every other area.
Three Reasons to be Frustrated
1. Arcia
Arcia's pretty easy to figure out. He swings out of his shoes every at bat and if he gets something to hit he destroys it, and if he doesn't, he strikes out. His discipline has been even worse this year as it was the last few. His O-Swing percentage* has gone up from last year's already terrible mark of 38.1% to 43.8%. The result of that's been a .195/.261/.268 line this year. I hope he gets it going because there's no one more fun to watch on the team than him when he has it going.
*That's the percentage of pitches he swings at outside the strike zone
2. Buxton and Sano 
Both are off to terrible starts in AA Chattanooga, Buxton starting with .200/.254/.364 and Sano with .173/.317/.385. It was expected that they would start out slowly after their injury riddled seasons last year. It's only April, we'll see how they progress.
3. Fielding
Right now, there is exactly one above average fielder who regularly plays for the Twins: Dozier. Everyone else is somewhere between average and horrible. It makes the pitchers look even worse than they usually are.
Stat of the Week
That's Hunter's average with two strikes this year. It's also the highest average on the team. That should give you a pretty good idea of how the Twins offense has been so far this year.
Question of the Week
What's up with Hughes?
After a breakout season last year, Hughes has struggled this year, leading the league in both losses and hits allowed. Even his first good start of the year a few day ago in Seattle came in a ballpark built for pitchers. Of course, since Hughes is a fly ball pitcher it's difficult for him to succeed with the slow as molasses Arcia-Schafer/Robinson-Hunter combination in the outfield. Hughes will eventually return somewhat to form and possibly do even better if Molitor makes some changes.
Dan Gladden Stupidity Moment of the Week
In which we look at something moronic Dan Gladden said while announcing Twins games this week
I'm cheating here and using one from two weeks ago, but this is too good not to use. Against the Royals, Mauer was coming up with guys on first and second when Danny said, "The Royals walked Mauer earlier in the game even though first base was open." Take a look at that quote again. First, he's seems surprised that they walked Mauer, then he answers his own question while talking about why it was surprising. Brilliant!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Stupidity and Illogicality of Evaluating Quarterbacks in the Draft

     This summer, I wrote a column called "The Stupidity and Illogicality of Baseball's Unwritten Rules", basically making fun of people getting mad at others bunting against shifts, watching homers and every other thing Brian McCann wouldn't like. While thinking about the upcoming NFL draft, it occurred to me there's another stupid and illogical thing going on, slightly more important than baseball players getting mad about stuff, and that's the way NFL teams evaluate quarterback prospects.
     The first blunder teams constantly make is their obsession over pro days, combines and measurements, valuing them over, well, you know, actually how good a quarterback is. Just ask the numbskulls who decided that Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert would be better players than Andy Dalton, someone who was statistically better than those guys in college. The only quality they had on him was height, Dalton was 6'2", Locker 6'3" and Gabbert 6'5". Need any more assurances? Well too bad 'cause I'm giving them to you anyway. The next year, the first four QBs taken were Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden, three of whom were at least 6'3". Meanwhile 5'11" Russell Wilson was taken in the third round. I bet you'll never guess who the only guy with a Super Bowl ring is.
     That's only the measuring side of the combine. I haven't even mentioned how a player can greatly improve his stock by making decent throws in a controlled environment which apparently means more than a college career. Blake Bortles over Teddy Bridgewater* anyone?
*Knock on wood
     It may feel like I'm beating a dead horse here talking about how combine things mean nothing but this is such a strange phenomenon to me. Not only is it nonsensical, but there's no history of it ever working. If you look at the most successful quarterback so far from the last six drafts, all of them were either bypassed because of their height or were chosen mainly because of their college performance, with Teddy Bridgewater, Mike Glennon (by default), Russell Wilson, the aforementioned Andy Dalton,** Sam Bradford (once again by default), and Matthew Stafford. It's a little too early to tell if Bridgewater was the right pick, but it's shaping up that way, and Andrew Luck could easily blow Wilson out of the water someday, but there are still the guys I mentioned above who Wilson's better than.
**Some people would say Cam Newton's been better, but since you'll see pigs flying next to the ice capped mountains of hell before I don't defend a fellow ginger here's my response. Dalton's been more consistent since they got into the league, and you can't play the "He can't win in the playoffs" card if Newton's only win came against Ryan Lindley.
     All this brings me to the Jameis Winston vs. Marcus Mariota debate. I've been in the Mariota bandwagon for awhile, partly because I think he'll be a good player in the NFL, partly because I wouldn't touch Winston with a ten foot pole. In college, Winston had his terrific 2013 year, then came crashing down to earth in 2014, throwing for just 3907 yards with 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. Meanwhile, Mariota improved every year he was at Oregon, topping Winston's Heisman season last year by throwing for 4454 yards with 42 touchdowns and a miniscule 4 interceptions. Just based off my personal philosophy, (or, as I like to call it, the philosophy that has a history of working) Mariota fits the bill.
     I haven't even mentioned Winston's off the field antics yet. Most scouts and evaluators chalk it up to "character issues". I'm sorry, but two shoplifting incidents and a sexual assault aren't just "character issues", he's a downright headcase. Now if you're a GM, do you really want to pass up on the best quarterback in college football, for someone who looks better on paper and has slightly more upside, but could easily crash and burn? And after the seven month Johnny Manziel Debacle are you really ready to take the risk on someone even crazier than him? Just take Mariota. He's the safer pick.