Monday, April 25, 2011

2011 NFL Mock Draft: 3.0

This is my last mock before the draft on Thursday. No trades.

1. Carolina Panthers - QB Cam Newton, Auburn

2. Denver Broncos - DT Marcel Dareus, Alabama

3. Buffalo Bills - DE/OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M

4. Cincinnati Bengals - WR AJ Green, Georgia

5. Arizona Cardinals - QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri

6. Cleveland Browns - WR Julio Jones, Alabama

7. San Francisco 49ers - CB Patrick Peterson, LSU

8. Tennessee Titans - DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina

9. Dallas Cowboys - OT Tyron Smith, USC

10. Washington Redskins - QB Jake Locker, Washington

11. Houston Texans - DE JJ Watt, Wisconsin

12. Minnesota Vikings - DT Nick Fairley, Auburn

13. Detroit Lions - CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska

14. St. Louis Rams - DT Corey Liuget, Illinois

15. Miami Dolphins - OG/C Mike Pouncey, Florida

16. Jacksonville Jaguars - DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue

17. New England Patriots - DE Cameron Jordan, Cal

18. San Diego Chargers - DT/DE Muhammed Wilkerson, Temple

19. New York Giants - OT Anthony Castanzo, Boston College

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - DE De'Quan Bowers, Clemson

21. Kansas City Chiefs - DT Phil Taylor, Baylor

22. Indianapolis Colts - OT Nate Solder, Colorado

23. Philadelphia Eagles - OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin

24. New Orleans Saints - OLB Akeem Ayers, UCLA

25. Seattle Seahawks - CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado

26. Baltimore Ravens - DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State

27. Atlanta Falcons - DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa

28. New England Patriots - RB Mark Ingram, Alabama

29. Chicago Bears - OT Derrek Sherrod, Mississippi State

30. New York Jets - OLB Justin Houston, Georgia

31. Pittsburgh Steelers - CB Brandon Harris, Miami

32. Green Bay Packers - OLB Brooks Reed, Arizona

Thursday, April 21, 2011

2011 NFL Mock Draft 2.0 w/ trades

Explanations for Top 12 w/ trades.

1. Carolina Panthers - QB Cam Newton, Auburn
The fact that Auburn ran such a simple offense is worrisome, but if Newton is willing to put in the time to learn the tendencies of the NFL, he should be special. Hard to pass up so much potential with the top pick in the draft.

2. Denver Broncos - DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama

Supposed can't miss prospect. Should be stud from day one. We'll see if he can live up to the hype; he could be a huge part of a Broncos turn-around season.

3. Buffalo Bills - QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri

Buddy Nix has been oddly very positive about Gabbert every time someone mentions him. The more I hear Nix talk, the more it seems like the Bills really want to draft Gabbert. Most teams throw out smokescreens at this time of year, but Nix strikes me as someone who doesn't care about a smokescreen. We'll see.

4. Cincinnati Bengals - WR AJ Green, Georgia

I think the Bengals are hoping to draft Gabbert themselves, but are looking extremely hard at Andy Dalton because they fear the Bills will take Gabbert ahead of them. AJ Green is the best playmaker in the draft on the offensive side of the ball, so he's still a great pick for Cincy.

5. Arizona Cardinals - DE/OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M

Probably the dream scenario for the Cardinals brass, as I doubt the entire front office would be in agreement on either of the possible quarterbacks. Tough to pass on Patrick Petersen, but Miller fills a more glaring need and ranks at least in the same tier of prospects.

**TRADE: Cleveland trades #6 overall and #102 overall to Houston for #11 overall and #43 overall

6. Houston Texans - CB Patrick Petersen, LSU
The Texans get their man, an instant starter from day one with potential to one day be the best corner in football. Cleveland was targeting AJ Green, but when he went off the board to Cincinnati, the Browns decided to move back and hopefully get Julio Jones at 11.

7. San Francisco 49ers - DT Nick Fairley, Auburn

Fairley has character and motor concerns, but the talent is far too high to pass up here as a player that fills a need and is probably the best player still on the board. Fairley was dominant this past season for Auburn and could be an impact player from day one.

8. Tennessee Titans - DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina

Great pro day workouts solidified Quinn as one of the draft's best athletes, and Tennessee likely will be elated to land Quinn at this point. They'll also look hard at Da'Quan Bowers, but ultimately I think his injury concerns will be too great.

9. Dallas Cowboys - OT Tyron Smith, USC

I've heard "the Cowboys don't draft offensive tackles in the first round, so they're not taking Smith at 9" from a lot of people. Fortunately, though, Smith is such a perfect fit for a team in dire need of an offensive tackle that there's really no way they'll pass on him unless something crazy like Cam Newton falling to 9 happens.

10. Washington Redskins - QB Jake Locker, Washington

Way too early for Locker, who I think will be the bust of busts from this draft, but Mike Shanahan is reportedly enamored with him. Of course all reports at this time need to be taken with a grain of salt, but remember by the time the 2006 draft rolled around several people correctly predicted that Jay Cutler was Shanahan's target. They took him at #11 overall. If Shanahan likes Locker, there's little doubt he'll be the pick at 10.

11. Cleveland Browns - WR Julio Jones, Alabama

After missing out on AJ Green Cleveland gets a lot of value to move down five spots to #11 and still end up with the player they would have drafted at #6. Jones is a huge playmaker with great speed and he should give the Browns a dynamic offensive weapon to pair with Peyton Hillis immediately.

**TRADE: Minnesota trades #12 overall and #139 overall to Tampa Bay for #20 overall and #51 overall.

12. Tampa Bay - DE De'Quan Bowers, Clemson
Bowers had the potential to go in the top 3 of this draft before his knee injury, but if a team thinks his knee will ultimately be fine there's little doubt that he has a lot of value as the #12 pick. Tampa Bay is happy to move up and take a chance on someone they probably have in the top 5 on their board.

13. Detroit Lions - CB Prince Akumara, Nebraska
14. St. Louis Rams - DT Corey Liuget, Illinois
15. Miami Dolphins - OG/C Mike Pouncey, Florida
16. Jacksonville Jaguars - DE JJ Watt, Wisconsin
17. New England Patriots (Via Oakland) - DE Aldon Smith, Missouri
18. San Diego Chargers - DT/DE Muhammed Wilkerson, Temple
19. New York Giants - OT Anthony Castanzo, Boston College
20. Minnesota Vikings - QB Ryan Mallett, Arkansas
21. Kansas City Chiefs - DT Phil Taylor, Baylor
22. Indianapolis Colts - OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
23. Philadelphia Eagles - OT Nate Solder, Colorado
24. New Orleans Saints - DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
25. Seattle Seahawks - DE Cameron Jordan, Cal
26. Baltimore Ravens - CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado
27. Atlanta Falcons - OT Derrek Sherrod, Mississippi State
28. New England Patriots - HB Mark Ingram, Alabama
29. Chicago Bears - DT Marvin Austin, North Carolina
30. New York Jets - DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State
31. Pittsburgh Steelers - CB/S Aaron Williams, Texas
32. Green Bay Packers - OLB Akeem Ayers, UCLA

Monday, April 18, 2011

2011 NFL Mock Draft 1.0

Update: 2.0 can be found here.

I'll be doing at least one more before the draft on April 28, and hopefully that will have explanations of each pick.

1. Carolina Panthers - QB Cam Newton, Auburn

2. Denver Broncos - DT Marcell Dareus, Alabama

3. Buffalo Bills - DE/OLB Von Miller, Texas A&M

4. Cincinnati Bengals - QB Blaine Gabbert, Missouri

5. Arizona Cardinals - CB Patrick Peterson, LSU

6. Cleveland Browns - WR AJ Green, Georgia

7. San Francisco 49ers - DT Nick Fairley, Auburn

8. Tennessee Titans - DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina

9. Dallas Cowboys - OT Tyron Smith, USC

10. Washington Redskins - WR Julio Jones, Alabama

11. Houston Texans - DE JJ Watt, Wisconsin

12. Minnesota Vikings - CB Prince Amukamara, Nebraska

13. Detroit Lions - DE Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson

14. St. Louis Rams - DT Corey Liuget, Illinois

15. Miami Dolphins - RB Mark Ingram, Alabama

16. Jacksonville Jaguars - DE Aldon Smith, Missouri

17. New England Patriots (Via Oakland) - DE Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue

18. San Diego Chargers - DT/DE Muhammed Wilkerson, Temple

19. New York Giants - OG/C Mike Pouncey, Florida

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - DE Cameron Jordan, Cal

21. Kansas City Chiefs - DT Phil Taylor, Baylor

22. Indianapolis Colts - OT Anthony Castanzo, Boston College

23. Philadelphia Eagles - OT Nate Solder, Colorado

24. New Orleans Saints - DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa

25. Seattle Seahawks - QB Jake Locker, Washington

26. Baltimore Ravens - CB Jimmy Smith, Colorado

27. Atlanta Falcons - OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin

28. New England Patriots - OT Derrek Sherrod, Mississippi State

29. Chicago Bears - OT/OG Benjamin Ijalana, Villanova

30. New York Jets - DE Cameron Heyward, Ohio State

31. Pittsburgh Steelers - CB/S Aaron Williams, Texas

32. Green Bay Packers - OLB Akeem Ayers, UCLA

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Blame Bill Smith

The Twins are off to an embarrassing 4-10 start, their best player is on the DL until at least the end of April, Joe Nathan has looked mortal since returning from Tommy John surgery, they are hitting .234/.284/.310 as a team, and the team's ERA is 4.61. They have been outscored 67-41. Needless to say, the first 14 games of the season have not gone the way the Twins or their fans wanted. Luckily, there are still 148 games to go and plenty of games against their AL Central counterparts, so throwing in the towel this early in the season would be ridiculous.

However, anyone who took the time this off-season to actually look at the moves the team was making was capable of realizing that the team seemed poised to take a step back in 2011. Even if we were to assume Justin Morneau and Joe Nathan bounced back from the concussion and Tommy John surgery, respectively, to become all-star caliber players again, the team still made a lot of silly decisions this off-season. Some of these I complained about all off-season as well, but here's all the simple mistakes Bill Smith and company made last off-season that were obvious mistakes at the time.

Giving away JJ Hardy for two minor league relievers was bad enough, but giving the starting job to Alexi Casilla was indefensible. Trading Jose Morales to Colorado for a marginal prospect was also silly, because he was a better option to back up Mauer than Drew Butera and now that Mauer is injured the team is starting a career .214/.296/.317 MINOR LEAGUE hitter. Yes, he has a .613 OPS for his minor league career, yet he's starting at catcher for the Twins for at least the next two weeks. Unless he can somehow turn every single pitch into a strike and throw out every base runner, his defense is extremely overrated and his offense is going to absolutely kill a lineup that's already struggling mightily.

Refusing to find a decent utility infielder, someone who could potentially replace Alexi Casilla when he was still struggling in May, looks even more foolish now. Matt Tolbert has no business being on a major league roster but instead of being a AAA utility man he's instead getting occasional starts at both shortstop and second base in the big leagues.  Even signing someone like Cristian Guzman, who's defense at shortstop is absolutely brutal now, would have been a better decision than keeping Tolbert on the roster.

Yes, Ron Gardenhire makes mistakes as a manager and he's far from a great manager. But there's not much he could do differently with the current roster that Bill Smith and company have put together for this season. In the 8th inning of yesterday's game, the Twins had Matt Tolbert, Drew Butera and Alexi Casilla in the game. Those are three players who really have no business being on a major league roster, although I wouldn't argue with someone who thinks Casilla could be a decent utility man.

So rather than blaming Joe Nathan, Matt Capps or Ron Gardenhire for yesterday's blown lead, just remember that Bill Smith made mistake after mistake this off-season, he traded Wilson Ramos for Matt Capps last July, and the team has absolutely no prospects that project as above average players at either shortstop or second base.

It's incredibly frustrating as a fan when I can literally sit in front of my computer, look up stats, and project what moves are likely not going to work. It's so simple to do, and regardless of how you feel about stats, facts are facts and there's a reason teams like Tampa Bay were able to compete with Boston and New York with a payroll about five times as low. Luck certainly plays a part in building a team, but constantly making trades and signings that are clearly bad decisions are going to catch up to you eventually.

After a depressing year for Minnesota sports, it's unfortunate that the Twins front-office made enough incorrect moves to turn a 94-win division champion into a likely 80-win team that will finish third. But hey, at least the Yankees won't sweep them out of the playoffs this year.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Joe Mauer is a Catcher

Ever since Joe Mauer had the cartilage in his knee replaced with "fake cartilage" during the 2004 season, it seems everyone and their mother has wondered aloud when Joe Mauer would switch positions. At the time, it was a perfectly understandable reaction; Mauer was one of the first players to get the fake cartilage inserted in his knee, and the assumption was that eventually that fake cartilage would wear down and Mauer would no longer be able to catch.

Now, two weeks into the 2011 season, the Twins have been forced to place Mauer on the DL for something called "bilateral leg weakness." So, naturally, the articles wondering when Mauer will be moved to a different position have sprung up again.

The main argument for moving Mauer to a different position seems to be that he simply gets beat up too much behind the plate and paying him $23MM a year for the next seven years (after this one) is extremely risky if he's going to continue to get hurt.

Unfortunately, paying Mauer $23MM a year really only makes sense if he continues to play a premium defensive position. As great as Mauer's 2009 season was in which he hit .365/.444/.587, at this point it looks like an outlier rather than a sign of things to come. Mauer's career line of .326/.406/.479 is probably a better predictor of the future, and while that slash line is impressive the fact is an .885 OPS from, say, a corner outfielder just isn't as impressive as it is from a catcher.

The league average OPS for catchers last year was .686, which was the league's second worst OPS by position, ahead of only shortstops (.669). If Mauer moves to third base, which seems to be the most suggested position, he would still be well above average. The league average OPS for third baseman last year was .729, so Mauer's .885 OPS would be about 15% above the league average. A few people have suggested over the last few days that Mauer is more likely to move to one of the corner outfield spots, because both Jason Kubel and Michael Cuddyer are free agents and Delmon Young is likely going to make more than $7MM a year next year in arbitration.

The average left-fielder last year posted a .768 OPS, and the average right-fielder posted a .791 OPS, so Mauer would be about 10% above the league average if he moved to a corner outfield position. That's obviously good production, but is it worth paying someone $23MM a year for 7 years to out-produce the league average by only 10%?

One may argue that Mauer would actually be more valuable in left field, because the assumption is that he would play more as a LF than he does as a catcher. While that is true, because left fielders play more games in a 162 game season than catchers, the assumption that Mauer misses more games than an average catcher is simply wrong.

Since 2005, Mauer has played in 130 games or more in five of six seasons, and played in 109 the lone season he failed to reach the 130 game threshold. He's averaged 134 games per season over that time frame.

For comparison's sake, Brian McCann is largely considered one of the elite catchers in baseball. I don't recall reading anything over the last few years about McCann needing to switch positions. Since 2006, when McCann became the Braves full-time catcher, he's averaged 139 games a season, never playing more than 145 games in any one season.

Despite Mauer's seemingly constant injuries, the fact is he's played in nearly as many games over the last five years as most catchers in baseball. As a catcher performing 20% over the league average with gold-glove caliber defense, Mauer is absolutely worth $23MM a year. It's likely that Mauer's knees will force him to switch positions eventually, but for the Twins to get fair value out of the $184MM contract, he'll likely need to spend at least four or five more years behind the plate.

Until Mauer suffers an injury that literally does not allow him to catch on a consistent basis, though, can we please stop all of this discussion about him switching positions? He's the best catcher in baseball and he has a chance to go down in history as one of the top three catchers in the history of the game. This most recent injury is definitely worrisome, but not enough to start the talk of switching his position. Joe Mauer is a catcher, plain and simple.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Playing the Odds

Last night, the Twins defeated the Kansas City Royals 4-3 in 10 innings. During the 9th inning, the Twins faced what TV announcer Dick Bremer called a "difficult decision." The game was tied at 3 in the bottom of the 9th, and Danny Valencia had led the inning off with a walk. Obviously, the decision that Bremer was referring to was whether or not the team should bunt Luke Hughes, because everyone knew Jim Thome was going to pinch hit for Alexi Casilla, who was on deck. The assumption of course was if the Twins did successfully bunt Valencia to second base, Thome would be intentionally walked, and the top of the order would be coming up with one out and runners on first and second. The tough decision was if the team was willing to let KC take the bat out of Thome's hands by walking him. My initital assumption was that bunting was the wrong decision, and Gardenhire did things correctly.

Ultimately, Gardenhire decided to let Luke Hughes swing away. I've mentioned here countless times that I don't like sacrifice bunting, because giving up an out to move a runner one base is almost always a poor decision, unless that base is third to home. Statistically, teams score more often with a runner on first and no outs than with a runner on second and 1 out, so it was the right decision. But not because it allowed Thome to hit; an intentional walk is statistically more beneficial for the offensive team than the defensive team.*

*That seems obvious, considering you are giving an opponent a free base, but despite intentional walks usually hurting a team more than they don't, managers continue to use them to try to get out of dire situations. An intentional walk is no different than a hail mary in football, but most managers either don't realize this or refuse to admit it.

While Gardenhire's decision to let Hughes swing away likely made NO DIFFERENCE on what happened during the inning (Thome singled to center and Span came up with 1 out and runners on first and second, anyways) what got me thinking was if bunting in that situation may have been the right idea, considering a successful sacrifice would have obviously guaranteed runners on first and second with just 1 out. I wondered if the fact that the bunt would almost certainly be followed by an intentional walk might actually make bunting the right choice--basically, is giving up an out worth ADDING a baserunner?

So I looked it up. The answer, based on thousands upon thousands of stats, is that a team will score 0.95 runs per inning when they have a man on first base with no outs. They will score 0.72 runs with a runner on second and 1 out. But with runners on first and second and one out, a team will score an average of 0.98 runs per inning. So, while sacrificing a runner from first to second moves the teams chances of scoring down nearly 20%, bunting Hughes with the assumed intentional walk to Thome would have actually increased the team's chance of scoring, although only by about 3%.

So, ultimately, based on statistics, Gardy made the wrong decision. The team won anyways, and the difference between 0.95 runs and 0.98 runs is incredibly small, even over 162 games. This does not mean "statistics are useless" as I'm sure at least some of you reading this are shouting at your computers (or at least inside your head) but let me explain myself.

I like to compare the baseball season to playing blackjack. When you play blackjack, the house is always at an advantage. This is because the casinos are trying to make money, so of course the odds will be in their favor. Unless you're counting cards, you will always be a statistical underdog against the dealer; that's just the way the game is set up. However, there are specific things players should do in specific situations that can increase their odds. There are too many to name, but a common mistake made by blackjack players is what they do if they have a 12 and the dealer is showing a 2. Without knowing the count or anything else, the average player will have a positive result about 50% of the time if they hit their 12 against a dealer's 2. The other 50% of the time they will have a negative result. Anyone who understands blackjack well will tell you, quite honestly, what you do with a 12 against a 2 doesn't matter--all that matters is what you do one time is what you do every time. So if you hit your 12 against the 2 and bust, don't let it stop you from hitting it again. As long as you always do the same thing, over time it will always even out.

So, why not try to guess every time and do better than 50%? Because unless you're somehow 'randomly' guessing each choice evenly, you're likely going to lose more often than you would sticking to one strategy. For example, say you hit 70% of the time and stay 30% of the time. If it's 50-50, as it will be over time, you're going to lose 20% more of the time then you should. It really is that simple; unfortunately, so many people don't understand this part of blackjack and that is why you see so many upset gamblers storming away from tables when you sit down and have no idea what you're doing.

This is no different in baseball. It is a 162-game season. Unlike in the NFL where a hot five game stretch can carry someone's stats for an entire season, we know that over 162 games baseball players stats are likely going to come in close to what we've seen in previous years. Joe Mauer is hitting .233/.303/.267 right now, but I would feel safe guessing that by the end of the season he's very close to .325/.405/.480. That's based off of more than five seasons worth of stats that suggest Joe Mauer is a far better player than his early start this year.

So while a simple decision that Gardenhire made in the 9th inning last night ultimately had no effect on the result of the game, over the course of a full season, if Gardenhire continues to make the wrong decision it will eventually add up. I said that the difference between 0.95 runs and 0.98 runs per situation makes little difference, even over a 162 game season, which is true. However, choosing to bunt Alexi Casilla later in the year to move a runner from first to second, without an intentional walk happening behind it, is going to cost the team about 1/4 of a run each time he does it. If the team sacrifice bunts 100 times this season, they will ultimately be giving up 25 runs for the year based on the statistics that have been calculated over the last hundred years.

If a manager is going to be making these kinds of decisions on a daily basis, much like a professional blackjack player, shouldn't the manager know all the odds of each situation? If bunting and an intentional walk will improve the team's chances of scoring, shouldn't a manager do it every time? Sure, it's not going to work out every time. There will be times Gardenhire will bunt Casilla, and Span or Mauer will rip a base hit to score the runner and the Twins will take the lead or tie the game or win the game. That's the equivalent of staying on 16 when the dealer is showing a face card; statistically you have a much better chance to win if you hit, even though you will likely bust. Over time, hitting on 16 against a face card will do you more good than standing on 16 will do. That's how I think of the sacrifice bunt. Sometimes it will work out as planned and the manager will be praised and the commentators will talk about how the Twins just "do all the little things." But what won't be understood is that the manager actually hurt the team by sacrificing--unless of course he knew an intentional walk would follow.

The great thing about statistics is that they don't lie and they don't play favorites. The numbers are what they are; people can try to discredit them and argue with them, but the stats aren't biased. They aren't emotionally attached to Nick Punto or Matt Tolbert the way Ron Gardenhire seems to be, and that's why the stats suggest Punto is nothing more than a utility player and Matt Tolbert should be a AAA utlity player, for example.

So next time, just bunt Hughes. It made no difference tonight, but it might in the future, and as we all know, every single game matters. I don't think my heart can handle another game 163, so let's just give the team the best chance to win in every scenario. Gardy, if you need a copy of "The Book" by Tom Tango... I'll gladly lend you mine. But you'll need to buy a kindle first. And if you ever sit down at my blackjack table, I will get up, immediately. Although I'm sure I'd stick around to watch.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Twins Win, Sky Not Falling

Minnesota Twins baseball is back. Despite getting blown out 13-3 and then 6-1 in their first two games of the season, it's still a joy to watch baseball again. The Twins did manage to take the series finale, which means they are heading to New York at 1-2. (Insert the generic "they will be leaving Yankee Stadium 1-6" joke here.) Some thoughts from the first series of the season:

- Those of you who are getting all worked up about early season results, remember that there are 162 games. If you were to get the first two questions wrong on a 150 question exam, I don't think you'd immediately assume you were going to fail the test. Every game matters, as we saw in 2008 and 2009 when the Twins went to a 1-game playoff. But ultimately the first series of the year is not going to make a huge difference on a team's season, as long as they don't suffer a crippling injury. The sky is not falling, yet.

- The Twins played the Blue Jays 9 times last year, and finished 3-6 against them. If they were to play them 9 times again in 2011 (they play less this year, 6 times), they'd be on pace to finish 3-6 against them again. The Twins won 94 games last season despite struggling to beat Toronto, so an early season series loss isn't the end of the world.

- When the Twins decided to trade JJ Hardy and let Orlando Hudson leave via free agency, I said the team's infield defense was likely going to suffer because they replaced two elite defensive players with two unknowns in Alexi Casilla and Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Sure enough, the very first batter of the season Carl Pavano faced hit a ground ball in the hole that was certainly a fairly difficult play for Casilla. He made a solid play on the ball but Jays speedster Rajai Davis beat the throw. I saw JJ Hardy make that play over and over last year, though, and considering how low Pavano's K/9 has fallen to, he needs great defense behind him. It's a small sample size, of course, but it seems clear Casilla can't make the same kind of plays consistently that JJ Hardy did.

- Tsuyoshi Nishioka didn't have the best debut. After admitting he was nervous during pre-game warmups, he struggled at the plate and in the field. After Pavano had picked off Rajai Davis, Nishioka botched the run down and allowed Davis to scamper back to first. Then with two outs and a runner on second, Nishioka missed a ground ball up the middle off the tip of his glove. The play looked difficult, but for a major league second baseman it's a pretty routine play and it's a play I think he will make many times over the course of his contract. Despite his early struggles, he's not as bad as he's looked. He's also not as good as some people think he will be, and stardom is very very unlikely, but if he can just be a solid player he'll be an asset for this team.

- Francisco Liriano will be fine.

- It's great to see Denard Span start out hitting well after his early struggles last season seemed to linger for months. If he can be as good in the lead-off hole as he was in 2008 and 2009, the Twins could certainly win 90+ games again. We're all hoping that's the case.


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