Saturday, November 16, 2013

Twins Should Steer Clear of Matt Garza

Rumors emerged yesterday that the Twins were in pursuit of Matt Garza, and that Garza was open to a return to the Twin Cities. Most fans natural reaction to the news was positive I'm sure, as was mine at first. The Twins starting pitchers have been horrible over the past few seasons, and adding a very good veteran in Garza seems like it would only help the team. Unfortunately, a deeper look into Garza's numbers over the last few seasons suggests otherwise.

There's no denying Garza has been slightly above average over the last three seasons, despite dealing with some injury issues and not throwing 200 innings or more since 2010. FanGraphs pegged Garza's WAR as 2.2 this past season, just 1.1 the season prior and 4.9 in his last mostly healthy season in 2011. The Twins starters, of course, were likely below replacement level over the last few seasons, so Garza's addition would likely increase the team's wins by even more than his WAR suggests. If the Twins were close to contending and needed to shore up their rotation to get past the Yankees in the playoffs (circa 2004), signing Garza would make a lot of sense.

Twins fans likely don't want to hear about money issues being a reason the team shouldn't target a big name, but with Garza it's the truth. He seems likely to sign a 4 or even 5 year deal, and while early projections of $20MM seem far too high, 5 years and $75MM seems within reach. Paying $15 million a year for five years for a pitcher who will turn 30-years-old before the beginning of next season is a huge commitment for a team like Minnesota. Once his health concerns are considered as well, the reward doesn't seem to outweigh the risk. 

At $15MM a year, Garza would need to average a WAR of 3.0 per season each year of his contract to earn his money. He failed to reach that benchmark in each of the last two seasons, and while an increase in innings would help his WAR considerably, expecting more than 170 innings out of Garza would be silly.

I'm not sold on the idea that he will struggle in the AL, as some suggest, because he struggled in a few starts with Texas after being traded. The sample size was simply far too small to gather any real conclusions about that. My best guess is that over the next five seasons Garza will have just one season in which he throws over 200 innings, and that will also be the only season that he earns his salary. Pitchers with a history of arm issues don't tend to pitch well into their mid 30's. For a team like Minnesota who is likely not going to contend in 2014 regardless, it makes no sense to spend big money for a long time on a starter who is already showing signs of declining. If Josh Johnson signs a one year deal to try to get back to his old self, the Twins would be foolish not to target him. Despite Garza's better pitching over the last two seasons, Johnson would require far less of a commitment, which is very important to a rebuilding team. If Garza gets hurt again and his skills fall off considerably, the Twins will have wasted more than 15% of their payroll on a pitcher who was never likely to be more than a #3 starter by the time the team is ready to contend anyway. 
It's definitely nice to see the Twins targeting some big name pitchers, and as frustrating as their starters have been to watch over the last few years, the need is clear. I'd just prefer the team wait for a better crop of free agent starters to go on a spending spree, or that they at least wait until they're closer to contention to target a 30-year-old injury riddled starter. As a Twins fan, we've seen countless players leave over the years because we simply couldn't afford them; here's to hoping Matt Garza stays a former Twin because his demands are, as always, too high for the Twins.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Fantasy Football Preview: First Round Rookie Receivers

Today's post is written by Fan Duel is a great fantasy sports website with both free and paid games available, making it the perfect site for your fantasy football needs. They were kind enough to take a look at the fantasy impact of the receivers that were taken in the first round of April's draft. That includes Vikings first rounder Cordarelle Patterson. Without further ado, here's's post:

The 2013 NFL Draft lacked a lot of elite talent at skill positions, but there were a few who figure to play major roles for their respective teams. A total of three wide receivers went in the first round, but it seems as though early on, Tavon Austin is the only one receiving a lot of attention. Here is a look at how all three will do from a fantasy perspective in 2013.

Tavon Austin

The #8 overall pick, Austin figures to make an impact right away as he will team up with Sam Bradford on the turf in St. Louis. At West Virginia, Austin was nearly unstoppable in the Big XII. His elusiveness should really thrive on turf, although his small stature does scare some people due to the risk of injury.

Overall, Austin should get at least a few touches a game. Somewhere between 800-1000 yards is reasonable, with maybe a handful of touchdowns. He has big play capability, so he is always a threat to go off in fantasy football. This should put him towards the bottom of the top 30 wide receivers available.

DeAndre Hopkins

For the last few seasons, the Houston Texans have been unable to find a true #2 receiver to work opposite of Andre Johnson. Hopkins is young, but he could very easily fill that role right away. Unfortunately for him, the Texans do love to run the ball, so he might not get as many touches as a normal #2 receiver.

He is known for having great hands and enough toughness to go over the middle in the NFL, so expect him to get some targets from Matt Schaub. Truth be told, he should have over 500 yards receiving this season, but do not expect much over that. This puts him in the 45-50 range for wide receivers overall as far as drafting him.

Cordarrelle Patterson

Coming into the draft, Patterson was considered a project. That hasn’t really changed, despite the Minnesota Vikings needing some help at wide receiver. Greg Jennings is a solid #1 for them, but it is a toss up after that. While Patterson has all the tools to be great, he needs to run routes better and be more disciplined overall. He’s simply too risky to draft at this point, but watch him on the waiver wire. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Royce White, We ALL Want You Gone

First, and foremost, it's important to note that mental health issues in this country should not be taken lightly, especially in light of the multiple school shootings over the last 18 months. But when people use it as an excuse for every mistake in their life, it gets to be a bit much.

Royce White has been dealing with off-the-court issues since he enrolled in the University of Minnesota as a freshman in 2010. At that point, White had yet to be diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, but he was already showing poor judgment in his early days as a freshman. Any time one would spot White on campus, he'd have an entourage of people following him around. And I don't mean 3 of his closest friends like in the HBO show; no, he'd have packs of girls, and some random guy friends just trailing him wherever he went. Royce White was the ticket to get in to all the good parties, so the entourage kept growing  

Eventually, White or one of White's "friends" stole laptops from dorm rooms, and White refused to cooperate with local authorities. White insisted he was innocent and the authorities were "out to get him" although the police insisted they had reason to believe White knew something about the laptop thefts. As a top recruit in the country who's future earnings were directly tied to his basketball talents, surrounding yourself with a bunch of fame-grabbing 19-year-old kids isn't the best way to stay out of trouble. But he was a college freshman, who had been thrown into the spotlight because of his high recruit ranking. He's hardly the first kid to make a mistake his first semester or two on a college campus, and he certainly won't be the last.

After the laptop debacle led to an indefinite suspension White decided to announce his "retirement" from the game of basketball with a YouTube video. White is fairly well spoken, although he'll often accidentally misuse a big word to look more intelligent. It's easy to understand why people like him; he's an amazing talent on a basketball court, and when he's engaged and focused he seems to be very charming. However, White continues to create problems when they really aren't there. He eventually transferred to Iowa State and kept playing.

Royce White's fear of flying has been well documented, and teams knew about it before the draft. The Rockets even went as far as specifically asking White if it would be an issue, since pro athletes need to be able to fly to travel from game to game. White insisted it wouldn't be an issue in pre-draft interviews, and then of course after the Rockets drafted him it was White's biggest issue. He wanted to be able to take a bus to some of the team's games, and while the Rockets agreed at first, they couldn't seem to agree on just how it would work. The stalemate undoubtedly angered the Rockets front office. Eventually, though, they did come to an agreement for his travel. The Rockets wanted White to play some games in the D League, though. All of the Rockets rookies had already played games there, so asking White to do it wasn't out of the ordinary at all. Royce's conditioning was also terrible, so playing in a few D League games would hypothetically allow him to get his conditioning back in a low-stress environment. 

Coincidentally, (or not), just days after the Rockets informed White they wanted him to report to their Rio Valley D League team, White suddenly wasn't happy with the way the Rockets were going to take care of his mental health and travel. He insisted the team allow him his own doctor, because he believed the team doctors didn't have his best interests at heart. Again, are you kidding? Look, I'm not naive enough to believe that all team doctors in every pro sport are always ethical and honest. I imagine there is a doctor or trainer or possibly several who are just like the one in Any Given Sunday, lying to players when he feels it's necessary.

That said, White wants special treatment. While it's not ridiculous for him to ask, it is ridiculous for him to feel he's entitled to his own doctor. Again, being an NBA player is a privilege. If the team grants you your own doctor, where does it end? Do you need to eat a specific kind of food for breakfast? Do you need to run less sprints in practice so you don't get upset? Giving someone special treatment is always risky, especially when the team already has qualified individuals on staff to help Royce White and make daily checkups on his situation. It's not like the Rockets put White in a straight jacket and sent him to the loony bin; they've been trying to work with him all season to get him back into shape and just simply playing basketball.

White attempted to portray the Rockets as an organization that didn't care about the mental health of their players, and while some fans may have taken the bait, I certainly didn't. If Royce White wants to be a professional basketball player, he has to overcome his fear of flying. Asking someone to fly with their team is not out of the ordinary, obviously, and if White is unable to overcome his fear of flying, that means he needs to find a new career path. There are plenty of careers in which people never have to fly, and if White's mental health issues are so severe that he can't even get on a plane, chances are he's not going to deal with the day-to-day grind that an NBA player deals with all season long.

White's been on a crusade against the NBA and the Rockets, insisting that they "just want him gone." Get a desk job, or go back to school, get a degree, and do something to help other mentally ill people. White isn't "entitled" to being an NBA player like he seems to believe. He isn't fighting for civil rights, and while he continues to insist he's doing this for everyone with mental health issues, the fact is he's not, even if he thinks he is.

I ask this question honestly: How many of you know more about generalized anxiety disorder today than you did two years ago? My guess is very few people, and the ones who have learned more in the past two have likely done so for their own reasons, not because of Royce White's silly crusade. The biggest problem White seems to have is that he can't comprehend that the NBA and the Houston Rockets don't need to cater to him. He's the employee, he's replaceable; if he doesn't want to stay in shape, doesn't want to play in the D League, and doesn't want to fly, it seems pretty simple to me: Retire.

Go away. Get out of the spotlight. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is supposed to give White "irrational fears" of every day things, such as paying bills, flying, taking care of loved ones, etc. In other words, White just gets MORE stressed out about the same kinds of things every normal human gets stressed out about. Very few people enjoy flying--although the hassle of airport security is more of an issue than the plane crashing, as White seems to be afraid of. Nobody enjoys paying bills, and everyone worries about their loved ones. I don't doubt that White's mental health issues makes these slightly stressful topics a huge deal to him in that moment.

Of course, the reason White's crusade has bothered me so much is mainly because he seems to use his Generalized Anxiety Disorder as a crutch far too often, like the travel arrangements he couldn't agree on with Houston.

I've seen people mention Royce White's fall as "sad" but I just can't get on board with that feeling. White has brought most of the issues in his past upon himself, and now when he doesn't get what he wants from an NBA team, he cites his mental health issues and tries to portray the team that drafted him with plans to pay him millions of dollars as an organization that doesn't care about his health. It's ludicrous. 

Expect the Rockets to waive White this off-season, and when he doesn't get any calls, he'll insist he's being black balled because of his mental health issues. In reality, nobody has any interest in a rookie who's earned nothing walking into the building acting like he's the second coming of Kevin Garnett.

Hopefully White can find a career path that allows him to keep his issues under control, and I think he likely will. However, it's very clear today that Royce White should not be an NBA player, because quite frankly, it's not doing any good to his "mental health." Maybe another YouTube video would suffice for the retirement.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Flip Saunders Not The Gophers Answer

With the Gophers' basketball team collapsing in conference play for what seems like the fifth straight year under Tubby Smith, the whispers are growing that the Gophers are going to need to move on from Tubby this off-season. While I think that's unlikely, if it does happen, I'm here to ask that you as fans don't beg, borrow and deal for Flip Saunders to become the next head coach. He'll be a bigger failure than Tubby.

I covered the local recruiting issues that have haunted Tubby since he was hired, and those who are in favor of Flip Saunders taking over the reins seem convinced he'd do a better job of keeping the in-state talent, well, in-state. Because Saunders played at the U and coached the Timberwolves, fans just assume his connection to the state would result in better in-state recruiting. Even if Saunders does manage to keep more in-state recruits than Tubby, they still need to be coached properly and developed.

Saunders time in the NBA began in 1995, the same year the Timberwolves selected a skinny high schooler named Kevin Garnett. Does Saunders deserve credit for helping develop the greatest player in Timberwolves history? Certainly. However, "developing" someone like KG, who was an athletic freak, an incredibly hard worker and likely the most competitive person in the organization, likely didn't take a lot of skill. The Wolves failed to develop a single first rounder into a real star type player over the rest of Flip's tenure, including the inability to correctly manage Stephon Marbury. Saunders also was never able to broker peace between KG and Wally Sczerbiak during Wally's tenure in Minnesota, as it was widely reported he and Garnett didn't get along. The Timberwolves version of Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent.

Saunders did win for three seasons in Detroit after being fired by the Timberwolves, but he took over a dynasty that had already been built. The Pistons lost three straight Eastern Conference Finals series with Saunders on the bench. Flip then struggled mightily in Washington, even encouraging management to trade the 5th overall pick in the 2009 draft (which became Ricky Rubio) for Mike Miller and Randy Foye, because Saunders wanted "veterans" to make a run at the playoffs.

Saunders biggest strength as a coach seems to be letting his players play the game. He doesn't constantly micro manage every possession, and he seemed to give his players a long leash if they were going through a tough stretch. Those strengths may translate well to the college game, but unfortunately as Tubby has reminded us fans plenty over the last five years, a head coach that understands the X's and O's is just as important as anything else. While recruiting gets all the attention, Tubby's inability to create plays out of timeouts, the team's complete unpreparedness to attack any kind of zone defense, and his odd substitution patterns has cost the team dearly over the last few seasons. Saunders offense in the NBA was very jump shot happy, which means Saunders would need to successfully recruit good shooters on a consistent basis, something nobody's been able to do at the U of M in decades.

The team needs a great X's and O's coach who can recruit well or delegate the recruiting to a highly paid and highly regarded recruiting coordinator, because developing players and keeping players from transferring is also a big part of getting a team into contention, and Tubby Smith has failed miserably on both accounts. Saunders may be a "players coach" which would likely help keep recruits from transferring, but his X's and O's from the bench left a lot to be desired in the NBA.

Saunders NBA past at first glance would seem to be a solid recruiting tool, but in all honesty it's a very small positive for a recruit. Saunders last winning season with the Wolves was in 2004, and a team headlined by KG gave Saunders a lot of national publicity. His last year in Detroit was the 07-08 season, in which the team won 59 games. However, as mentioned earlier, the ECF series loss kept national publicity somewhat low until he was fired. My point is simply that the players Saunders would be recruiting would have been 8 years old or younger when Saunders was being praised in the 03-04 Western Conference Finals. For most recruits, they won't remember Saunders as the old Wolves coach, or the old Pistons coach, and most won't even remember he coached a terrible Wizards team for a few year recently. He'll simply be the Minnesota Gophers basketball coach, and for someone who's not great at the "coaching" part of the game, it'd be a silly hire.

Fire Tubby. Don't Hire Flip. I don't care what else happens.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Today's Thoughts

How pretty it is, the first games of the year.

Today's random sports thoughts, as Major League Baseball gets underway again:

- It's ridiculous that "Bullets" was considered too offensive of a nickname for Washington D.C.'s basketball team, but the districts football team doesn't find "Redskins" offensive. Only in DC, I suppose.

- The Atlanta Hawks should've simply taken the best deal that was offered for Josh Smith. I'm sure they believe someone will give a first round pick or two for Smith in a sign and trade (Smith gets more money this way) and while it's possible, a Kris Humphries/Marshon Brooks/First Round Pick combination is a lot better than one or two mid-to-late first round picks in my mind.

- It'll be interesting to see who runs the fastest 40 time at this year's NFL draft combine this weekend. Expect it to be a defensive back.

- In regards to the Houston-Sacramento NBA trade, people seem shocked that the Kings made this deal. They clearly gave up more talent, and really only saved money for this season. Why would they do that? It's really actually quite simple. The Maloofs have already agreed to sell the team, as everyone knows, to Seattle businessmen. Even if Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson is able to find someone to keep the team in Sacramento, the Maloofs will still be selling the team. So the only savings they care about are for this season, obviously. They saved something like $4.3MM this season by making the trade; they get back Patrick Patterson to save face a little bit, and even if Thomas Robinson explodes in Houston to become the next Chris Webber, why do the Maloofs care? They won't own an NBA team anymore. This trade was done by the Maloofs, and don't let anyone convince you otherwise.

- Hopefully the trade allows Cole Aldrich to be given a real chance at some playing time, as he's played well in stretches. As an upcoming free agent, hopefully he can use this trade as a chance to showcase himself for another team this summer.

- Even with the Gophers basketball team's collapse of late, they still have a very high chance of making the NCAA tournament. They'll likely lose to Indiana at home on Tuesday, but three favorable games to end the season could see the team finish 21-10 overall and 9-9 in the country's best conference, which would be good for their usual one and done NCAA tournament approach.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Terry Ryan, Ron Gardenhire and Rebuilding

After addressing the Timberwolves, Gophers basketball, and the Vikings in the three previous days, today we'll be addressing* the Minnesota Twins, who after a great decade run from 2001-2010 have really struggled lately.

*It's purely a coincidence that this became sort of a "State of Minnesota sports" the same week the "State of the Union" address occurred, but then again maybe it's just my subconscious.

The Twins followed up their 63-99 season in 2011 with an almost equally as bad 66-96 record this past season. Despite the team's struggles the past two seasons, the team's future appears to be bright thanks to a highly regarded farm system that Terry Ryan has helped rebuild in a very short period of time.

This off-season saw the Twins finally target high upside, hard throwing starting pitching prospects for the first time in a long while. The Twins wisely traded from a position of strength when trading both Denard Span and Ben Revere. Aaron Hicks seems unlikely to make the team out of Spring Training, mainly because the Twins should wisely delay his service time to ensure an extra season of control by promoting him in late May or possibly early June.

Trading Ben Revere was something I was entirely on board with, mainly because Revere seems like a poor man's Juan Pierre, which is obviously nothing to be proud of. Revere had a good season last year, but with no power and little patience, as well as the league's worst throwing arm among outfielders, he's simply not a consistent starter in this league. His base stealing was good last year, and he added value with it undoubtedly. However, the Twins were wise to move Revere now, as his production is likely to decrease rather than increase.

Revere hit .294/.333/.342 last season in 124 games, and stole 40 bases in 49 attempts. For a 24-year-old outfielder it was a good season. However, Revere's batting average on balls in play last season was .325, compared to just .289 between 2010 and 2011. Of course, it's possible that Revere is improving, and will sustain that high BABip. The league average BABip in 2012 was .297, although Revere's speed, contact rate and bunting should make his BABip higher than the league average in his prime in my opinion. Of course, even if Revere drops to .310 on balls in play, he'll still be above league average but should expect a decline in his .294/.333/.342 line because he won't be getting as lucky as he did last season. The power will never come, and drawing walks seems unlikely for someone an opposing pitcher will never need to be afraid of.

In other words, the Twins woud have done well to get just Vance Worley for Revere, but Terry Ryan was also able to acquire Trevor May in the deal with Philadelphia.

Over the last two seasons, Worley has made 44 starts and thrown 264 innings. He's posted a 3.60 ERA and  a record of 17-12. While Worley's not overpowering, he has managed a respectable 7.7 K/9 in his big league career. Last season his K/9 dropped while his H/9 increased, which could suggest his stuff has gotten worse. However, since Worley is just 25 years old and hasn't dealt with any major injuries recently, that seems unlikely. The changes are likely attributable to, simply, bad luck. And while that may seem like an excuse, it's not. Opposing hitters managed to hit .351 on balls in play against Worley last season, which means more bloopers were falling in and more ground balls were finding seams. It's likely not a coincidence that the Phillies defense was below average as well. Worley won't be a number one starter, but he should be a solid #3 or #4 starter who the Twins control for three more seasons, at least. He's a good pitcher and a good acquisition. He should outproduce Ben Revere by himself.

Trevor May was a highly regarded prospect heading into the 2012 season, but he struggled a bit in AA, posting a 4.87 ERA in 150 innings. May has had control issues at every level, but his strikeout numbers have been very impressive so the control issues weren't a huge concern. His strikeout rate dropped to 9.1 in 2012, down from well over 11, although that's expected as he faces more experienced players. May was 22 years old in 2012, while the average hitter was 24.5 and the average pitcher was almost 25. May's ERA was almost a run over the league average, his BB rate was about a walk higher per 9 innings than league average, but he also averaged almost 2 K/9 more than league average. May allowed 22 home runs after allowing just 31 over his first three minor league seasons. Again, it's hard to know if that's simply bad luck or if May's going to continue to get knocked around as he gets to higher levels. However, as someone who was well under the league average age, and who had a track record of success at every other minor league stop, May's home runs and ERA are just as likely flukes as they are proof he's a bust. His stuff is clearly outstanding to rack up the strikeouts he has, but he'll need to learn to harness it more effectively to improve both his BB/9 and HR/9 rate. 

Terry Ryan deserves a ton of credit for the Ben Revere trade, even before any of the players play another game. What about the Denard Span trade?

The differing values placed on Denard Span and Ben Revere shows the financial aspect of trade value. Span's contract is certainly team friendly, as he makes $4.75MM in 2013, $6MM in 2014 and a team option in 2015 for $9MM. Revere, though, has just over 1 year of service time. He will make the league minimum, or very close to it, for both 2013 and 2014. The Phillies then control Revere for his three arbitration years, which will likely cost about $9MM or $10MM total barring some unforeseen breakout performance. That means the Phillies get 5 years of Ben Revere at a total cost of about $11MM, while the Nationals are getting 3 years out of Denard Span for $19.75MM. Span is clearly a better player at this point, but the years of control and salaries meant the Twins were able to actually get more in return for an inferior player. Don't let anyone tell you it's not about the money. It's always about the money.

The Twins received starting pitching prospect Alex Meyer from the Nationals for Span. Meyer was the former 23rd overall pick selected out of Kentucky, and he's been great in his short pro career. He's torn up the lower minors, as expected, but unlike Trevor May, Meyer has been about the same age as his competition, if not older, which makes his stats less noteworthy. Him excelling is better than him struggling, of course. His stuff is reportedly great, including a mid to high 90's fastball, so the high strikeout rates aren't necessarily going to disappear as Meyer moves up the minor league ladder. The Twins seem likely to start Meyer out in AA, and if all goes well I'd expect a possible mid-season promotion to AAA to try and get him ready for opening day 2014. A more realistic target date might be June of 2014, but we'll see how this year goes first. 

While I think the Twins could've gotten more for Span, it's clear the team's scouts think very highly of Meyer. I would imagine they project him as a number 1 starter in the future, at which point trading Span makes perfect sense. Ryan deserves praise as well for targeting hard throwing pitching prospects as opposed to the soft throwing pitchers of Twins' past.

I expect the Twins to bad in 2013, but not as bad as they have been. A 71 or 72 win season seems like a low guess, assuming everyone stays healthy, but that's a big assumption so I'll say the Twins win 71 games. 

Will that be enough to get Ron Gardenhire fired? I'm not sure. Despite Gardy's inability to grasp late inning concepts, I think he's a decent manager. He has the players respect, he's not terrible with the media, and well that's about it. I don't think very highly of baseball managers outside of a select few. Gardy is about middle of the pack in my opinion, so if the team wants to fire him after another terrible season, that's just fine. If they want to extend him because prior to three horrible seasons he led a great stretch for almost a decade, that's just fine too. I'm pretty indifferent when it comes to Ron Gardenhire.

Thanks to the trades this off-season and solid draft picks and international signings over the last few seasons, the team's rebuilding effort might result in an even better core than the successful teams of the early 2000's. The organization has elite offensive upside coupled with a handful of high upside starting pitchers and another top 5 pick this coming June. While the 90's (or the Royals) showed us that rebuilding can be a pain in the ass for years, the Twins seem to be on the right track thanks in large part to Terry Ryan moving back into the GM role. So, as always, blame Bill Smith.

Cot's Baseball Contracts was used for all salary data, all the credit to them.

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