Saturday, October 29, 2011

NFL Picks: Week 8

Last Week: 5-7-1
Overall: 41-53-8

The Herman Cain special:

Tennessee (-9) over Indianapolis
Houston (-9) over Jacksonville
San Francisco (-9) over Cleveland

I'm calling these games the "Herman Cain 9-9-9 I don't know what the hell is going to happen" games, because the spreads seem ridiculously high in all 3. But I'm going with the favorites. Tennessee is fresh off a 34-point walloping against a Texans team that hadn't been all that impressive up to that point. The Colts are fresh off a 55-point walloping against a very good Saints team, but still, 55 points? 

I'm taking Tennessee because the Colts suck. It's that simple. But what's happened to Chris Johnson this season has been incredibly surprising. Nobody expected his holdout to make a huge difference in his performance, and while there's a chance the holdout is what's hurting him, it's much more likely the missed off-season workouts due to the lockout have hurt him more. He's running poorly. My theory? Remember that show that used to be on the Disney channel, years ago, called "The Jersey?" The main characters could put on an old jersey and be that player for a game, a play, etc. I'm convinced some kid found a jersey like that and he's been Chris Johnson for every game this season. How else could you explain a 2.9 average? DeMarco Murray ran for 253 yards last week. Chris Johnson has ran for 268 yards ALL SEASON. But I'm taking the Titans, because, yes, the Colts are that bad.

I don't think Houston is as good as their 41-7 drubbing of the Titans last week, but I also don't think the Jaguars deserve a whole lot of credit for the way the Ravens played last week. Andre Johnson still won't play this week, but even without him I think Arian Foster and company will have plenty of fire power to cover a nine point spread. I can't believe I'm taking Alex Smith -9, but when he's playing a Browns offense that has looked bad, thanks in part because of below average play from Colt McCoy, a blowout is certainly possible for the 5-1 49ers.

The "Suck for Luck" sweepstakes:

Carolina (-3.5) over Minnesota
New Orleans (-13.5) over St. Louis
New York Giants (-9.5) over Miami
Arizona (+12.5) over Baltimore

The Vikings, Rams, Dolphins and Cardinals all remain viable candidates for the number one overall pick. Of course, the previously mentioned Indianapolis Colts arguably hold the poll position as this point in the season, but all four of these teams will have a chance this week to show they, too, can be incredibly bad for a whole season.

Cam Newton should shred an injured, suspended and porous Vikings pass defense at home. Drew Brees and company should cruise past the Rams without issue, especially if the Cowboys were able to beat the Rams so easily last week. The Dolphins players may not like the "Suck for Luck" talk, but I fully expect them to prove again this week that Andrew Luck is really the only player that can turn them around quickly. I think Arizona will get a surprisingly good game from Kevin Kolb, and while I'm not going to go as far as to predict an upset, I do think the Cardinals will keep the game close enough late to help me cover.

"They gave all that money to who? What idiots...we were for doubting them."
Buffalo (-5.5) over Washington
San Diego (-3.5) over Kansas City

The Chiefs traded a second round pick in the 2009 draft for Matt Cassel, and then gave him a six-year, $63MM extension. Cassel was coming off an 11-5 season with the Patriots, a QB rating just under 90, almost 4,000 yards passing and 21 touchdowns to 11 interceptions. In his first season in Kansas City Cassel looked like a terrible acquisition, completing just 55% of his passes, throwing the same number of interceptions as touchdowns (16) and posting a QB rating of 69.9.  However, last season Cassel was great, throwing 27 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions while completing an improved 58% of his passes. His completion percentage this season is at 63.5%, and although his QB rating is just above 80, he's been very good in 3 of the last 4 games. I think he'll play average this week but Philip Rivers will finally have a monster game and lead the Chargers to victory.

Ryan Fitzpatrick was a seventh round pick by the Rams in 2005. A lot has been made of his intelligence, because he went to Harvard, but my favorite story is that he scored a 48 on his wonderlic test at the NFL combine before he was drafted, and he completed the test in 9 minutes. NINE minutes. Ridiculous. After a few seasons with St. Louis and the Bengals the Bills signed Fitzpatrick prior to the 2009 season. After posting a 69.7 QB rating in 10 games in 2009, nobody expected too much from him in the future. Then Trent Edwards was benched early in the 2010 season, and since then Fitzpatrick has played well. He posted a QB rating of 81.8 last year in 13 games, and while that's hardly spectacular, it's at least average. He's been much better this season, though, as his QB rating is a stellar 95.7 through 6 games. Cassel is starting to prove that he was worth the money the Chiefs spent; hopefully for the Bills they'll get similar production from Fitzpatrick over the next few seasons. I fully expect him to continue to play well, but maybe not as well as he has thus far.

The Delmon Youngs of Week 8:

Detroit (-3) over Denver
Philadelphia (-3.5) over Dallas

These teams have all received a lot of media hype over the last 7 weeks, but continue to under perform despite their "potential" just like Delmon Young.

Other than Denver, all of these teams are not only hoping to make the playoffs, but to make some noise once they get there. The Lions have lost back-to-back games after starting 5-0, and if they go into Denver and lose to Tim Tebow and the Broncos, the hype machine surrounding Detroit might start to quiet down. This a huge game for them to show they are for real. As far as the Eagles, this is probably their last chance to prove that they are in fact a contender, because if they lose to Dallas and fall to 2-5 they might as well just accept the fact that this isn't their year. The Cowboys could potentially bounce back from a loss this week, but a win could potentially eliminate a divisional foe. It's a big game.

The AFC Championship Preview:

New England (-3) over Pittsburgh

I'd be very surprised if it's not these two teams playing in the AFC Championship game in January. Look for Brady and the Pats to win a shootout with Roethlisberger and the Steelers this time.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Examining World Series Game 6's

As I was watching some of the pre-game World Series coverage on ESPN, Karl Ravech said "You don't get a lot of game 6's." As if game 6 was a rare occurrence in the World Series. My first thought was that Ravech had to be wrong; I would bet at least half of World Series have had a game 6 in the history of baseball.

The first World Series was held in 1903, but that was a best of 9 series. The next World Series was held in 1905, and from 1905 through 1918 the World Series was a best of 7 series. Between 1905-1918, 6 of the series went to at least 6 games. Then, in 1919, baseball decided to go back to a best of 9 series like they had used in the first World Series, in an attempt to generate more interest and more revenue. After three seasons of this the powers that be deemed a 7 game series more appropriate, and that's the format that's been used since. There was no World Series played in the strike-shortened 1994 season. Here's the official numbers on the World Series' that have gone to game 6 in history:

1905-1918: 6/14 series had a game 6
1922-2010: 52/88 series had a game 6

That means that among 102 World Series that were of the best-of-seven format, 58 of them have gone to at least 6 games. That's a remarkable 57% of the series, and it's happened over 100 years, so it's difficult to say it's a random fluke. Karl Ravech's comment that "You don't get a lot of game 6's" was clearly wrong. I like Ravech and don't mean to criticize him, but it shows that the way analysts and announcers try to hype games up is more important than what is actually said. By making game 6's seem rare, it makes the situation seem bigger. Ravech isn't trying to purposely mislead the viewer; if anything he's trying to mislead himself because he's so invested in the game itself. He may not care who wins, but he's spent days and nights covering baseball for the past 7 months, so this game is huge to him.

What's more surprising is recent history. Maybe that's what misled Ravech into thinking that we don't see a lot of game 6's; from 2004-2010 there's been just one World Series that went to six games, and that was in 2009 when the Yankees beat the Phillies in 6. It's almost certain that this is just an example of a small-sample size creating a fluke in the data, but it's interesting nonetheless. So despite the experts best efforts to prove that game 6 was indeed a "big sports moment" and something that doesn't happen all that often, the fact is you're going to see a game 6 two out of every four years on average, so if Rangers-Cardinals isn't your cup of tea, you can probably just wait until next year and watch two different teams in a game 6. You have about a 57% chance.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

2012 NFL Mock Draft 2.0

The Suck for Luck campaign remains open in more than a few cities, but Miami and Indianapolis seem to be in a race for it. With almost half the season over, here's my second mock draft. The draft order is based on current records; if teams have the same record I just used my judgement on who I think is worse. Explanations for top 10.

1. Indianapolis Colts 0-7 -  Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

This would be a no brainer, even if Manning does come back from his possibly career ending neck injury. Luck could sit behind Manning for a year or two or three and the Colts would be fine. Luck might not like that idea, though, and despite a friendly relationship with Manning I could easily see a situation in which Luck decides to go back to school AGAIN, unless the Colts agree beforehand to trade the pick or Manning is injured. He's not going to want to sit on the bench for another three years, no matter who he'd be backing up. Things could get very interesting this off-season.

2. Miami Dolphins 0-6 - Landry Jones, QB, Oklahoma

Regardless of what pick the Dolphins end up with, they'll almost certainly be drafting the best quarterback available. Jones seems to get knocked for having a somewhat long release, but he his arm strength is well above average and his accuracy is elite. Jones isn't quite on the level Luck is, but that doesn't mean Jones won't be special.

3. St. Louis Rams 0-6 - Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

Blackmon is clearly the best receiver in the draft, and experts have said he's a better prospect coming out of Oklahoma State than Dez Bryant was. I'm not sure if that's because Bryant missed basically a full year or because Blackmon is truly special, but he's looked great thus far in the college season. The Rams have looked terrible offensively almost all season, and even with their recent trade for Brandon Lloyd and a Blackmon-Lloyd combination could help the Rams turn things around in a hurry with Sam Bradford throwing the football.

4. Minnesota Vikings 1-6 - Matt Kalil, OT, USC

While Vikings fans would undoubtedly rather see the team get someone like Blackmon to improve the receiving core but in reality getting Kalil would be a perfect scenario for this team. After releasing an average Bryant McKinnie and replacing him with a below average Charlie Johnson the team clearly needs to upgrade it's left tackle position, and there's a decent chance moving Johnson back inside to right guard could really improve the offensive lines play. With Ponder, Harvin and Peterson, an improved offensive line could give the Vikings a solid offensive core to build around.

5. Arizona Cardinals 1-5 - Jonathon Martin, OT, Stanford

It's no secret that Levi Brown has been struggling for the Cardinals. While Kevin Kolb has looked shaky and some fans may want to see a possible franchise QB drafted, there's almost no way the Cardinals give up on Kolb just one season after giving up what they did. Martin is a safe bet to be a very good pro, at least, and there's a chance that Kolb could thrive behind an improved offensive line.

6. Jacksonville Jaguars 2-5 - Alshon Jeffery, WR, South Carolina

Blaine Gabbert hasn't really shown a whole lot of improvement yet, but he's clearly going to get every chance to succeed over the next few years. A good start to Gabbert working out for the Jaguars would be to draft a number one receiver he can throw the ball too. The Jaguars receiving core is among the worst in football, and they could really use a big play threat to at least keep the defense honest. Jeffery could be that player.

7. Carolina Panthers 2-5 - Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

Cam Newton has played better than almost anyone expected this early in his career. He appears well on his way to becoming a superstar in the near future, and if the Panthers can correctly build a team around him they could be a really good team for a long time. The Panthers defense has been terrible this season, and while Quinton Coples would be tempting here to improve the team's pass rush, Claiborne fills a more glaring need and is still an elite prospect.

8. Seattle Seahawks 2-4 - Matt Barkley, QB, USC

When your quarterbacks consist of Tarvaris Jackson, Charlie Whitehurst and Josh Portis (who?) it's clear you need to draft a franchise QB. Barkley has the experience in a pro-style offense, although that didn't help Jimmy Clausen nearly as much as people thought it would. Barkley has a lot of tools and if nothing else will give a Seahawks fan base a reason to be excited. After blowing the third overall pick in 2009 on Aaron Curry, who they traded to Oakland for a late round draft pick last week, the Seahawks really can't afford to miss on another top 10 pick, especially at the quarterback position. But this is a pick they need to make.

9. Denver Broncos 2-4 - Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

Obviously people like to point to the DeAngelo Williams-Jonathon Stewart combination that John Fox coached in Carolina as proof that Fox loves to pound the ball. Richardson is a big, bruising running back with big play potential, and while the Broncos still have Willis McGahee playing well, a McGahee-Richardson duo would make sense for a year or two. Unless Knowshon Moreno shines over the next few weeks while McGahee is hurt, there's really no way the Broncos will bring him next year.

10. Philadelphia Eagles 2-4 - Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

The Eagles have struggled with mental mistakes and turnovers all season, but it's not a big secret that their offensive line hasn't played very well. Michael Vick is getting hit often, and if the team does continue to play as poorly as they have through the first half of the season, it will be a no-brainer to pick an offensive lineman with this high of a pick. Reiff has been outstanding this year for Iowa and there's at least a chance that he could become the best lineman in the draft.

11. Kansas City Chiefs 3-3 - Quinton Coples, DE, UNC
12. Cleveland Browns 3-3 - Luke Kuelchy, ILB, Boston College
13. Tennessee Titans 3-3 - Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame
14. Washington Redskins 3-3 - Robert Griffin, QB, Baylor
15. Dallas Cowboys 3-3 - Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
16. Cleveland Browns (Via Atlanta Falcons 4-3) - Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson
17. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 4-3 - Janoris Jenkins, CB, Northern Alabama
18. Chicago Bears 4-3 - David DeCastro, OG, Stanford
19. Cincinnati Bengals (Via Oakland Raiders 4-3) - Ronnell Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma
20. Houston Texans 4-3 - Cordy Glenn, OT/OG, Georgia
21. New York Jets 4-3 - Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State
22. Cincinnati Bengals 4-2 - Jeff Fuller, WR, Texas A&M
23. Buffalo Bills 4-2 - Manti Te'o, ILB, Notre Dame
24. Baltimore Ravens 4-2 - Alfonzo Denard, CB, Nebraska
25. New York Giants 4-2 - Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State
26. San Diego Chargers 4-2 - Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
27. Detroit Lions 5-2 - Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina
28. New England Patriots (Via New Orleans Saints 5-2) - Alameda Ta'amu, DT, Washington
29. Pittsburgh Steelers 5-2 - Jared Crick, DE, Nebraska
30. San Francisco 49ers 5-1 - Kelechi Osemele, OT/G, Iowa State
31. New England Patriots 5-1 - Mark Barron, FS, Alabama
32. Green Bay Packers 7-0 - Melvin Ingram, DE, South Carolina

Feel free to sound off in the comments.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bernard Berrian Experiment Comes to an End

Flashback to March 2008. Randy Moss and Bernard Berrian were considered the top two wide receivers available in free agency. Moss was going to be 31 years old, but coming off a season in which he caught 23 touchdowns, breaking Jerry Rice's record.* Moss' season totals (98 receptions, 1,498 yards, 23 TDs) were fantastic, and he looked capable of being at the top of his game for at least another two seasons, if not more. Of course, there were the whispers that Moss would be a problem in other places, wouldn't work hard if the team wasn't good, and for those reasons the Patriots were always assumed to be the favorites to re-sign Moss. They did, for 3 years and $27MM on March 3.

*Rice had 22 touchdowns in 12 games during the strike shortened 1987 season. That's insane.

Unfortunately for Vikings fans, the Vikings chose to target Bernard Berrian over Randy Moss. Berrian was 27 at the time, three years younger than Moss, which meant a long-term commitment made more sense strictly from an age perspective. In 2007, Berrian caught 71 passes for 951 yards and 5 touchdowns. Solid numbers, certainly, but in his first three seasons combined Berrian had caught just 79 passes total. The Vikings rewarded Berrian's great 2007 season by giving him a six-year $42MM contract on March 1. Yes, they chose to pay $7MM a year for a receiver that didn't eclipse 1,000 yards receiving in any of his first four seasons WITH RANDY MOSS STILL A FREE AGENT. Sure, the Bears quarterbacks were pretty bad, but great receivers tend to get 1,000 yards regardless of who's throwing them the football.

Berrian ultimately made $23MM over his first three seasons in Minnesota, and while he did have a career high 964 yards receiving in 2008, he produced basically nothing over the last three seasons. After renegotiating his contract this year down to just $1.9MM, that means the Vikings paid Berrian $24.9MM for slightly over three seasons. Making matters worse, Berrian's struggles early last season led the Vikings to trade a third-round pick (which became Ryan Mallett) to New England for none other than... Randy Moss. The Vikings paid Moss about $2MM for 3 weeks of play before waiving him.

The Patriots paid Moss about $20MM for just over 2 years of production from him. The Vikings paid Moss and Berrian a combined $27MM for about 3.5 years of production. The Patriots paid just under $10MM a year, but in 36 games Moss produced 161 catches, 2,413 yards and 27 touchdowns. The Vikings paid a little over $7.5MM a year, but got a combined 151 catches, 2,079 yards and 13 touchdowns in 55 games.

Strictly from a cost-effective standpoint, it gets worse. The Patriots got 4.5 catches, 67 yards and 1.33 touchdowns per game, while paying $1.8MM for that production. The Vikings got 2.7 catches, 37.8 yards and 0.2 touchdowns per game while paying about $500K per game for that. Of course, the Vikings also gave up a third round pick. That could have become a cheap, key core player for the future if drafted correctly, even if the team wouldn't have used the pick to select Ryan Mallett like the Patriots did.

That means by signing Bernard Berrian over Randy Moss in 2008 not only did they choose the less effective player, they also sacrificed a future draft pick to try to make up for the mistake, only to waive him four games later. Poor decision making can prove costly, and it's a shame that the Vikings didn't choose the more productive player in 2008. They would have saved everyone a lot of trouble, especially themselves.

Friday, October 21, 2011

NFL Picks: Week 7

Sorry for the lack of updates this week, should get back to a more normal schedule next week. Picks, without comment, for this week:

Overall: 36-46-7
Last Week: 5-6-2

Home team in Bold

Chicago (-1) over Tampa Bay
Washington (+2.5) over Carolina
San Diego (-2) over New York Jets
Cleveland (-3) over Seattle
Houston (+3) over Tennessee
Denver (+1.5) over Miami
Detroit (-3.5) over Atlanta
Oakland (-5) over Kansas City
Pittsburgh (-4) over Arizona
St Louis (+13) over Dallas
Green Bay (-9) over Minnesota
New Orleans (-14) over Indianapolis
Baltimore (-7.5) over Jacksonville

Saturday, October 15, 2011

NFL Picks: Week 6

Last Week: 7-5-1
Overall: 31-40-5

Picks for this week: Home team in Bold

Green Bay (-14) over St. Louis
Jacksonville (+12.5) over Pittsburgh
Washington (+3) over Philadelphia
San Francisco (+4) over Detroit
Carolina (+3.5) over Atlanta
Indianapolis (+6.5) over Cincinnati
New York Giants (-3) over Buffalo
Houston (+7) over Baltimore
Oakland (-7) over Cleveland
Dallas (+6) over New England
New Orleans (-6) over Tampa Bay
Minnesota (+3) over Chicago
New York Jets (-7) over Miami

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Reviewing my Fantasy Baseball Predictions

Back in March, before the season began, I wrote an article for So Much Sports with 25 predictions for the upcoming fantasy baseball season. Let's see how I did:

1. Manny Ramirez will hit at least 30 home runs.
Whoops. He probably would have hit the 30 home runs had he not been caught, but what a fool he is.
Prediction: Wrong
2. Derek Jeter will be worse in 2011 than he was in 2010.
Jeter hit .270/.340/.370 in 2010, while the league as a whole hit .260/.327/.407. He hit .297/.355/.388 this year, while the league as a whole hit .258/.323/.408. So yeah, Jeter made me look silly.
Prediction: Wrong
3. Josh Beckett will post an ERA over 6 in April.
Beckett went 2-1 with a 2.65 ERA in April. Oh for three so far.
Prediction: Wrong
4. Josh Beckett will finish with 15+ wins and a sub 4 ERA.
He finished 13-7 with a 2.89 ERA.
Prediction: Half-Right
5. BJ Upton will not ‘figure it all out.’
BJ hit .243/.331/.449, which is solid for a center fielder but certainly not the level most expected from him at this point in his career.
Prediction: Right
6. Justin Upton will.
.289/.369/.529 with 31 home runs and 21 steals as a 23-year old? I think it's safe to say the younger Upton "figured it out" this year.
Prediction: Right
7. Jason Heyward and Buster Posey will prove last year wasn’t a fluke in a big way.
Heyward in 2010: .277/.393/.456
Heyward in 2011: .227/.319/.389
Posey in 2010: .305/.357/.505 in 108 games.
Posey in 2011: .284/.368/.389 in 45 games prior to his injury.
Prediction: Wrong and Wrong
8. Jose Reyes will steal 40+ bases, but be disappointing in general.
Reyes hit .337/.384/.493, won the NL batting title and stole 39 bases. I was wrong in every aspect.
Prediction: Wrong and Wrong
9. Chase Utley will finish with less than 100 at-bats this season.
He got almost 400. Oops.
Prediction: Wrong
10. Justin Morneau will finish with over 500 at-bats.
Injuries plagued him yet again and he got just under 300 at-bats. At this point, it's not even a sure thing Morneau will have another 500 at-bats in his career.
Prediction: Wrong
11. Joe Mauer will hit 20+ home runs.
He hit 3. He got boo'ed. I should get boo'ed.
Prediction: Wrong
12. Colby Rasmus, Gordon Beckham, Starlin Castro and Madison Bumgarner will all exceed expectations.
Rasmus got traded and saw his OPS drop more than 150 points from 2010. 
Beckham hit .230/.296/.337. 
Castro hit .307/.341/.432 as a 21-year-old. 
Madison Bumgarner went 13-13 with a 3.21 ERA.
Prediction: Wrong, Wrong, Right, Right
13. Rickie Weeks will again get injured and miss at least a month.
Weeks hurt his ankle in late July and played in just 118 games this year.
Prediction: Right
14. Grady Sizemore will be a top 20 fantasy outfielder by the end of the season.
He played in just 71 games and hit .224/.285/.422. Way off.
Prediction: Wrong
15. Ichiro will win the batting title.
Age looks like it's starting to catch up to him. He hit just .272 this year, the first time he's failed to hit .300 since coming to the states.
Prediction: Wrong
16. Adam Dunn will lead all of baseball in home runs.
Prediction: Laughably Wrong
17. Nyjer Morgan will lead all of baseball in steals.
He stole 13 bases. Michael Bourn led baseball with 61.
Prediction: Wrong
18. Roy Oswalt will lead all of baseball in wins.
Oswalt went 9-10 with a 3.69 ERA. Justin Verlander won 24 games.
Prediction: Wrong
19. Jonathon Papelbon will lead all of baseball in saves.
Paps finished with 31 saves, while Tigers closer Jose Valverde led the league with 49.
Prediction: Wrong
20. Carlos Pena will hit over .250 with 30+ home runs.
He hit .225 with 28 home runs.
Prediction: Wrong and Wrong
21. Jose Bautista will hit half as many home runs as last year.
I thought he'd hit 27. He hit 43.
Prediction: Wrong
22. Carlos Santana will be a top 3 fantasy catcher at this time next season.
Santana ranks #1 on the early 2012 rankings on ESPN.
Prediction: Right
23. Miguel Cabrera will narrowly miss out on the Triple Crown.
He hit .344 and won the AL batting title but he finished just 10th in home runs and 6th in RBI, so he didn't "narrowly" miss it.
Prediction: Wrong
24. Mike Stanton will hit 40 home runs.
He hit 34.
Prediction: Wrong
25. Matt Wieters being called “Mauer with Power” will look even more ridiculous at the end of the season than it does now.
He hit 22 home runs, so there is definitely power, but his overall line of .262/.328/.450 while good is not quite the level people expected. This prediction was kind of vague and generally a bad one to make; there's not really any way to gauge if it was right or wrong.
Prediction: Dumb
I admit these predictions were more "bold" predictions than things I expected to happen, but I felt all were possible. I only got 6 predictions correct, but I did manage to finish second in my fantasy league this year. I'll take it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Some Thoughts on the NBA Lockout, ESPN's TQR, Rick Reilly and LeBron James

I've had quite a few things in the sports world lately that I've wanted to write about on here... but I can't seem to turn any of them into long enough posts to make them all individual posts. Solution? One post, with a bunch of random sports thoughts. Here goes:

  •  The NBA Lockout is a mess. While the players certainly aren't to blame, the owners do in fact have almost all of the leverage. The owners obviously were able to become NBA owners because they had other, more successful businesses that made them even more money. From a strictly monetary standpoint, NBA players are at a major disadvantage because while most make some money from endorsements it's nowhere close to the salary they get for one year of playing. So, while the players' are offering to take less money than they got in the last deal (the players are willing to go from earning 57% of the pie to 53%) the owners really have no reason to cave until they get the 50-50 split they apparently crave. Also, a memo to NBA players: Tweeting "Stand United" and "Let Us Play" is not going to have an effect AT ALL, so please stop filling my timeline with it. Thanks.

  • ESPN made a huge deal about their new quarterback stat they developed this off-season, called "Total Quarterback Rating." In theory it seemed to be at least a decent idea, but when ESPN continued to shove it down all of our throats I was annoyed and had little interest in actually taking it seriously. Now that Tim Tebow's second half this past week rated higher than Aaron Rodgers game, it's clear the "new stat" is a complete joke. Tebow completed 4 of 10 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown, and he ran six times for 38 yards and a touchdown. Rodgers was 26-39 with 396 yards and two touchdowns. Neither player turned the ball over. Seriously, what would you rather get from your quarterback? 395 total yards and 2 touchdowns, or 117 yards and 2 touchdowns? That's what I thought. 

  • Rick Reilly is among the worst sportswriters in the country. Sure, he's won numerous awards, has his own column on ESPN's website, gets some cameo appearances on Sportscenter, and he used to have his own back page column for Sports Illustrated. Sadly, this is not a case of Reilly deserving all of these accolades. Sure, he was great for a while at SI, and his back page column was often times the first thing I would read while sitting in the waiting room at my orthodontist years ago. But he's no longer worthy of even being read. After Monday Night's Lions-Bears game, in which Bears quarterback Jay Cutler got absolutely no protection, Reilly for some reason brought up a "Justin Bieber prom date" while discussing Cutler's protection issues. There's no reason someone on ESPN, let alone someone who's as old as Reilly is, should be trying to make pop culture references. He's not funny anymore, his writing has gradually gotten worse somehow (and he usually writes about things that have been written about by everyone else a few weeks earlier, like his article on Andrew Luck), and his appearances on TV make me want to punch him in the face. I can't be the only one.

  • Lastly, people need to stop talking about LeBron James possibly playing in the NFL. First, despite LeBron's athletic gifts, he hasn't played football since high school and would certainly take more than a few weeks to learn an NFL playbook. Setting that aside, there's no way any team would be willing to give LeBron more than a minimum contract, and there's no way LeBron James is risking his $100MM+ remaining on his current NBA contract to play for $300K in the NFL for a few months. None of it makes sense, and the fact that ESPN is trying to make it a story is embarrassing.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Why the Twins Won't Regret Trading Delmon Young

Since the Major League Baseball playoffs began it seems, the talking heads on TBS and ESPN and MLB Network and whatever other channels show highlights these days have been raving about what a great acquisition Delmon Young has been. It's amazing how a good showing over a 5-game series can have more of an impact on these talking-heads opinions than, say, I don't know, five full season's worth of at-bats?

First, let's look at these "expert" claims that Young was a great acquisition. After hitting .266/.305/.357 (.662 OPS) in 84 games with the Twins this season, it was clear that the team had no reason to bring Young back next season. For comparison's sake, Nick Punto is a career .249/.325/.327 hitter, which is a .652 OPS. Getting that kind of production from a slick-fielding middle infielder would still be slightly below average; getting it from a defensive liability in a corner OF position is a net negative for the team.

Now, after the trade, Young hit .278/.298/.458 for Detroit in 40 games. That's an improved .756 OPS, and it actually was above average in a down year for offense. The average American League left-fielder hit .251/.311/.393 this past season, which is an OPS of just .704. Young was just under 8% better than the league average outfielder after the trade. So, yes, I suppose the acquisition was a solid move for the short-term. That said, his defense in left field went from ranking slightly above average at the time of the trade (3.5 UZR/150) to below average by the end year (-3.7 UZR/150) means his defense was atrocious in Detroit, which makes his above average offense less valuable. Young's combined line between Minnesota and Detroit was .268/.302/.393, which means he was still below-average offensively over the full season, and his defense also rated below average. So what does all that mean?

It means that despite Young's big home runs in the American League Division Series, he's not a good bet long-term. He's not even a good bet for next season, which is why I'm glad he's doing well in the playoffs. That should result in Detroit spending far more money than they should on Delmon, and hopefully they try to lock him up long-term. Young's making $7MM this season and has one more year of arbitration, so while the Twins would have released him to avoid paying the money, Detroit pretty clearly will not. They could go to arbitration with Young, basically giving him a 1-year deal while they see what they have, which would probably cost them about $10MM. If they want to lock him up long-term, it'd probably still cost about $10MM a year, just for a 4 or 5 year period instead of 1. The long-term deal would be ideal for us Twins fans, because of Young's track record.

Everyone loves to talk about how "young" (no pun intended) Delmon is, and as far as "time on earth" is concerned, yes, Young is "young." But as far as Major League experience is concerned, Delmon is a seasoned veteran. He has basically six full seasons to his name, and despite being a #1 overall pick and having loads of raw power, Young's plate discipline remains among the league's worst. His career .288/.321/.428 line in almost 3,000 at bats is a great baseline for what can be expected of Young in the future. Once a player has that many at bats, it's very rare to see them break-out and have a monster season, at least since they cracked down on the use of steroids. Young hasn't gradually improved each season, so expecting him to outperform his numbers from 2011 by a large margin is silly. Sure, there's a chance Young could match his performance during the last 40 games of the season, as his OPS in Detroit wasn't that much higher than his career mark. Regardless, at this point, Young is basically who he's been for the last 6+ seasons. A free-swinging defensive liability with some pop.

Young's defense has also been poor over the course of his career, as his average UZR/150 for his career in LF is -14.0. That means if he plays 150 games next year, and hits .288/.321/.428 with a -14.0 UZR/150, he'll likely be about 2 runs below average if the offensive drought from left fielder across the league continues. If the league average left-fielder improves next season, Young would be even less valuable.

The Twins may not have gotten two future major league players when they traded Young, and it might be difficult as Twins fans to see Young thriving against the Yankees after struggling against them as a Twin, but the fact remains Bill Smith and company deserve a lot of credit for cutting bait on Young when they could, getting some value back, and even better, they sent his average offense and below average defense to a division rival. Even if Cole Nelson and Lester Olivares become nothing more than organizational depth, this Delmon trade may be the best move Bill Smith makes during his entire tenure as GM. For once, addition by subtraction is actually true.

Friday, October 7, 2011

NFL Picks: Week 5

Make sure to check out yesterday's trivia contest, prizes may still be available.

Last Week: 5-11
Overall: 24-35-4

As always, home team in Bold

Kansas City (+2.5) over Indianapolis

This game has as much appeal to me as watching the Lynx. (None) However, the Chiefs managed to beat the Vikings last week, while the Colts can't even decide on a starting QB. Painter seems to be getting a lot of credit for keeping the Colts in the game last week against Tampa Bay, but he completed just 13 of 30 passes.

Matt Cassel doesn't do a whole lot for me, either, but he's a little more established. The Chiefs are not a good team, but I do think they're slightly better off than the Colts at this point. Quarterback is a necessity in this league.

Final Score: Kansas City 27, Indianapolis 21

Arizona (+3) over Minnesota

Donovan McNabb has nothing left. Only the most optimistic Vikings fans think McNabb will turn things around, but if anyone has watched this team over the last four weeks they've seen McNabb consistently throw balls at open receivers ankles, to the wrong shoulder, and his deep balls down the sideline always end up uncatchable out of bounds. It's time to throw Ponder to the wolves and see what he can do, but Frazier clearly isn't ready to do that.

Kevin Kolb hasn't been nearly as good as Cardinals fans had hoped, but he's still been solid at times and the matchup this week is a good one. The Vikings pass rush has been great at times (mostly in the first half) but the pass defense is brutal and Antoine Winfield looks unlikely to play with a neck injury. Winfield's not a lockdown corner by any means, but he's leaps and bounds better than whichever young corner replaces him. Look for former Holy Angels standout Larry Fitzgerald to have a monster game in his hometown.

Final Score: Arizona 24, Minnesota 14

Buffalo (+3) over Philadelphia

These are the kinds of games that can make or break your bank account, if you so choose. Buffalo has, to this point, exceeded expectations. Expected to be a bottom-feeding team yet again, the Bills are off to a 3-1 start and have played very good football. The Eagles are the polar opposite, high expectations and their currently sitting in the cellar in their division.

So, do you trust your preseason assumptions or what you've seen through the first four weeks? The Eagles haven't played bad as much as they've played stupid, as penalties at terrible times have really hurt them in close games. However, the offense just doesn't seem quite as explosive as last season, and the defense has looked lost at times.

I think Ryan Fitzpatrick will continue the Cinderella season for the Bills, defeating the Eagles in a high-scoring but close game.

Final Score: Buffalo 38, Philadelphia 33

Oakland (+6) over Houston

I was surprised this spread was so high, considering Andre Johnson isn't playing. The Texans offensive line is very good, and Arian Foster is certainly capable of carrying the offense as long as he needs to, but having Andre Johnson on the outside drawing double teams is a huge advantage for any offense. Texans quarterback Matt Schaub is going to have a tough time throwing the football this week, in my opinion.

Also, Darren McFadden is simply too good at this point. I think the game should at least remain close as long as McFadden does what he has done all season, and runs all over the Texans defense. Even if the Texans manage to win this game, it should be a run-heavy affair and therefore I expect the game to be closer than 6 points either way.

Final Score: Oakland 24, Houston 20

New Orleans (-6.5) over Carolina

I'm starting to come around on Cam Newton, a few weeks later than everyone else, but until he can cut down on the drive-crumbling interceptions I refuse to be completely sold. Now, that's not really fair to Newton, because almost every rookie makes a lot of mistakes; it's a part of learning the job, and not many rookie QB's throw for the kind of yards Newton has week in and week out.

That said, he's not ready to beat Drew Brees yet, and I think you'll see the Saints cruise in this one. This has the makings of one of those 400-yard days for Brees with 3 or 4 touchdowns in a rout.

Final Score: New Orleans 39, Carolina 17

Jacksonville (-2.5) over Cincinnati

As a Maurice Jones-Drew fantasy owner, I'm hoping he can have a monster day and carry the Jaguars over the Bengals. Rookie quarterback Blaine Gabbert has shown promise at times, so if the Jags can get a big game from MJD, Gabbert should be able to make enough plays to win the game.

The Bengals are going to be inconsistent all season, which is to be expected with a rookie QB and rookie WR, although both have looked solid to this point. The looming Cedric Benson suspension doesn't help matters, but he will play this week as he appeals it. I just don't think the Bengals will do enough to win this game.

Final Score: Jacksonville 28, Cincinnati 21

Pittsburgh (-3) over Tennessee

Chris Johnson has looked terrible through the first four weeks of the season. It seems obvious that his extended holdout has had an effect on his early season production. With Titans receiver Kenny Britt out for the season, the Titans are going to need a much improved CJ if they want to have a chance to win games for the rest of the season.

While the Steelers are averaging well over 100 yards a game on the ground this year, that doesn't seem like a statistic that can last a whole season, especially for a team like Pittsburgh. I suppose if there was a week for Chris Johnson to break out, this would be as good of an opportunity as any, but I think Pittsburgh's defense will come to play and Ben Roethlisberger will make enough throws to give the Steelers the win.

Final Score: Pittsburgh 31, Tennessee 24

New York Giants (-9.5) over Seattle

For the rest of the season, whoever's playing Seattle likely will be my pick for the week, regardless of the spread. I think Tarvaris Jackson is that bad. He's shown some ability with his legs, just like he always did in Minnesota, but his inaccuracy and constant mental mistakes hurt the team far more than his legs help. It's amazing he's still starting in this league.

Look for the Giants defense to put a lot of pressure on Jackson and force a few turnovers, and if Eli Manning can take care of the ball, the Giants should win in a landslide.

Final Score: New York Giants 27, Seattle 10

Tampa Bay (+3) over San Francisco

San Francisco has been a pleasant surprise, sitting at 3-1 after four weeks. Playing in the abysmal NFC West means the Niners probably only need to win five more games to win the division. They are the odds on favorites to win the division, but I just can't put my faith in a banged up Frank Gore, a banged up receiving core and Alex Smith.

Josh Freeman is due for a big breakout game, and while the 49ers defense has played well all season, I think Freeman could be in line for a monster game through the air if the 49ers can manage to keep the game close throughout.

Final Score: Tampa Bay 27, San Francisco 22

New England (+9) over New York Jets

I'm most interested in seeing the Wes Welker-Darrelle Revis matchup, because Welker doesn't "look the part" as far as elite receivers are concerned. He's not going to outjump anyone, and while he's fast and runs good routes, he's probably not the best at either of those things either. That said, he has a knack for getting open, and Tom Brady clearly has put a lot of trust in him to make plays for that offense, so it will be interesting to see if Revis can shut down Welker, who's on pace to break both the receptions and yards records set by receivers in a single season.

Final Score: New England 35, New York Jets 24

San Diego (-4) over Denver

Kyle Orton is 3-13 in his last 16 starts for the Denver Broncos. Even if that isn't entirely his fault, isn't it clear that the team ISN'T WINNING GAMES WITH KYLE ORTON AT QUARTERBACK. Even if the front-office doesn't want to look like they're caving to the fans pleas to see Tim Tebow for an extended period of time, give Brady Quinn a shot then. Orton is not the future, and he's not doing anything this season that suggest he's going to help the 1-3 Broncos turn their season around and make the playoffs. It's time to think about the future.

Final Score: San Diego 23, Denver 17

Green Bay (-6) over Atlanta

Green Bay is the best team in football. I hate writing that, but they are. Aaron Rodgers proved again this week that he's a professional, and doesn't get involved in cat fights with has-beens, but what Brett Favre said this week was ridiculous. I won't repeat the whole situation here because it's been covered quite a bit over the last few days, but Favre just needs to disappear from the spotlight. His time has passed. Let the kid enjoy his time, although Brett's obviously nervous that Rodgers, not himself, will go down as the greatest Packers QB of all-time.

Final Score: Green Bay 38, Atlanta 28

Detroit (-5.5) over Chicago

The Lions hype is beginning to get out of control, and I think a 3 or 4 game losing streak is in the near future for them. However, the Bears offensive line is brutal, Jay Cutler still makes terrible decisions, the team's best receiver (Knox) sees less playing time than he should, and the team's best offensive player (Forte) is getting low-balled in contract negotiations and isn't happy with his situation. It's getting ugly in Chicago, and after a Monday Night whooping in Detroit, it's going to get even uglier.

Final Score: Detroit 31, Chicago 14

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Trivia Rules and Giveaway

- There will be two different questions posted. However, each question results in the same prize, so if you know the answer to both please only answer one of the questions. It makes no sense to send the same person two of the same DVDs.
- The first correct answer to each question is the winner. You must post the answer in the comments, and leave an e-mail address so I can contact you.
- Each winner will receive a free Baseball's Greatest Games 1991 Game 7 World Series DVD.
- Both are compliments of A&E Home Entertainment
- If you aren't comfortable giving me an address to mail the prize to, don't participate

Again, A big thanks to Suzanne Dobson over at A&E Home Entertainment for helping put this together. The DVD is great.

Make sure you guys check out as well, there's tickets, merchandise and other items available daily.

Now, for the questions:

Question 1: Who is the only Twins pitcher to ever win the "Pitching Triple Crown" (Leading League in Wins, Strikeouts and ERA)?

Question 2: Which former Twin holds the record for most sacrifices in a single game in team history?

One is easy, one should be more difficult. Best of luck.

Fixing the Twins: Part II

Part I can be found here

When we last left off, we had concluded that the Twins would have about $28MM to spend to find 8 players:

Starting SS
Starting OF
Platoon OF
Possible DH
3 Relievers
1 Closer

Now, with Chris Parmelee hitting well in September (.355/.443/.592 in 21 games after hitting .287/.366/.436 in 142 games in AA) the team doesn't necessarily need to find starters in RF, LF and at DH. However, Parmelee's minor league track record would suggest that the Twins should plan to use him off the bench at 3 or 4 different positions (1B, LF, RF, DH) and get him somewhere close to 300 at bats barring injury rather than a full season's worth of at bats. Obviously he won't continue to hit .355/.443/.592 for the rest of his career, but his hot September is certainly worthy of a bench spot and depending on the budget he may be forced to start.

If we can fill these 8 needs and still have some budget room leftover, replacing Drew Butera with a catcher that has some offensive upside is also important, in the event Joe Mauer suffers another injury or can't catch as often as he has in the past.

My first suggestion is for the team to re-sign Joe Nathan. He shouldn't be too expensive because of his age (37 in November) and production last season (4.84 ERA, 45 innings). However, he looked improved as the season wore on, and he's probably the best bet the team has to find a marquee closer on their current budget.

**Sign Joe Nathan for $3.75MM per year/2 years.**

That would give the team $24MM to fill 3 relief spots, and possibly find 4 offensive starters.

Shortstop is obviously a huge need, and while Nishioka was terrible in his debut season he could end up as a very good utility player. So finding a starting shortstop hopefully would allow the Twins to move Nishioka into a utility role and keep Matt Tolbert as far away from this team as possible.

Therefore, my second suggestion is for the team to try to sign shortstop Ramon Santiago. Santiago hit just .260/.311/.384, but the average American League shortstop hit .266/.321/.386. That means Santiago is about average offensively, if he hits like he did in 2011, but since 2008 he's averaged a .266/.335/.374 line which would put him exactly average. His value, however, comes from his defense. He was slightly above average this past season playing most of his games at second base, posting a UZR/150 of 3.8. The real value would come from playing him at shortstop, though, where his UZR/150 was 10.6 this past season in limited duty. The small sample size isn't a worry, though, because the year before he played almost exclusively at shortstop and posted an even better UZR/150 of 16.1.

Detroit may want to re-sign him, but if the money is too high I think the Tigers will back away. Santiago has a chance to be an above-average shortstop for the next two to three seasons, so it's worth the risk to give him a solid contract.

**Sign SS Ramon Santiago for $3.5MM per year/3 years**

Giving $10.5MM to Ramon Santiago may seem like a mistake, but the team could possibly work that third year into a vesting option or a team option with a smaller buyout. Even if it was strictly $10.5MM over three years, though, it would give the Twins immediate help up the middle defensively and his offensive isn't bad enough to negate his defensive value.

That would leave the team with $20.5MM for the remaining six spots.

It's worth mentioning that the Twins will have in-house options for the bullpen slots as well, between Jeff Manship, Anthony Slama, Carlos Gutierrez and possibly a few others. However, it's nice to have depth, and outside of Gutierrez none of the other in-house options bring really any upside. It'd be wise to just sign a few veterans with recent success to fill out the bullpen, if possible. Also, it's possible the team could draft a reliever or two in the Rule V draft, but most Rule V picks have little to no impact for the teams that draft them so that's probably not a great tool to use to improve a weak bullpen.

My third suggestion is for the team to sign Mike Gonzalez. He's a fairly big name as far as relievers go, so there's at least a chance his price tag could be exorbitant, but after posting ERA's of 4.01 in 2009 and 4.39 this year, the days of a huge payday are probably gone. That said, he's not going to be dirt cheap either, but he's an established left-hander that allows the Twins to avoid using Jose Mijares in every single lefty-lefty late inning situation.

**Sign Mike Gonzalez for $3MM per year/2 years**

That would leave the team with about $17.5MM to spend while needing to find two outfielders, a DH and two relievers. The Twins likely will plan on Ben Revere starting alongside Denard Span if both are healthy, although I think that's a mistake, and since this is what I would do, the goal is to find a starting LF and starting RF, relegating Revere and Parmelee to bench spots.

Juan Cruz was once a top starting pitching prospect, and a few years back he was one of the premiere set up men in the game. Injuries and ineffectiveness have hurt him some over the last few years, but this past season he posted a 3.88 ERA in just under 50 innings. If he can cut down on his high amount of walks (28) he could be even better next season. He shouldn't be too costly, either.

**Sign Juan Cruz for $2.5MM per year/2 years**

This would leave the team $15MM under budget. $15MM to find 3 offensive starters and one more reliever is going to be difficult, but we'll try.

David DeJesus was, for years, the player most recognizable with the Kansas City Royals. During an extremely tough stretch for Royals fans, DeJesus had been really one of the few consistent bright spots. From 2003-2010, while in Kansas City, DeJesus hit .289/.360/.427 while playing gold-glove caliber defense most years. This past season in Oakland, DeJesus bat basically disappeared. He hit just .240/.323/.376, but his defense remained stellar. He spent most of his time in right field, and his UZR/150 was a very good 14.6.

DeJesus is only one year removed from his best offensive season, when he hit .318/.384/.443, so it seems a bit premature to say he's for sure past his prime. If he can find a middle ground between his 2010 and 2011 seasons while keeping his elite defense, he could be one of the best signings of the off-season. Also, because he's coming off of such a poor offensive season, he'll likely be looking to sign a one-year deal to re-establish himself before hitting the market again in 2012.

**Sign David DeJesus for $5MM per year/1 year**

That leaves us with $10MM to spend. I'd still prefer to leave about $2MM to find a solid backup catcher, so it'd be nice to fill the final 3 spots (MR, DH, LF) with $8MM or so in spending. We'll see.

With Ben Revere and Parmelee both being young players that need at-bats, it's not imperative to bring in a clear cut starter to pair with DeJesus and Span. A revolving door between Parmelee, Revere and a free agent outfielder that can mash left-handed pitching (because both Revere and Parmelee bat left-handed) would likely be fairly productive.

**Sign Juan Rivera for $1.5MM/1 year**

Rivera is a career .289/.335/.495 hitter against left-handed pitching and hit .289/.349/.456 against them this past season. He also has rated well above-average in the past as a defensive left-fielder, and he was above average this past season in limited time in both right and left field. He shouldn't cost too much money and he's the perfect compliment that the Twins should have to an otherwise lefty-heavy outfield.

That leaves the budget at $8.5MM to sign a DH, a MR and possibly a backup catcher.

I realize Bill Smith said earlier this week that it was "unlikely" the team would bring back Jim Thome, but that doesn't mean it would be a mistake. It's unfortunate, because the team likely won't be able to find the same bang for their buck from other free agents, and if Thome does indeed play another season he'd almost certainly be open to a return to Minnesota.

**Sign DH Jim Thome for $3MM/1 year**

Now, clearly, the team would have enough money to fill their final bullpen spot as well as find an upgrade over Drew Butera behind the plate when Mauer is unavailable. With $5.5MM to spend, money won't be a major issue. However, convincing a solid veteran catcher to sign in Minnesota over other places will probably be difficult, because most catching situations in baseball are less settled than the Twins. Sure, Mauer has injury concerns, but there's also a chance he could remain healthy all year. If that were to happen, the backup would likely play 40 games at most.

For that reason, the team is going to have to target a catcher with some offensive upside but hasn't done much in the last few years to deserve a starting spot. For me, that guy is Kelly Shoppach. He hasn't hit well in a few years. Over his last two seasons, he's played 150 games and has a rather putrid .185/.285/.340 line. He has managed to hit 16 home runs over that time, but he's struck out 150 times compared to just 39 walks, which explains the sub-.200 average. He was a much better hitter while still in Cleveland, and there's at least a chance he could see that production return in the future. He did throw out 41% of base stealers this year, and he'd still be an upgrade over Butera even if he matched his .185/.285/.340 line from the last two years. That's how bad Butera is.

**Sign Kelly Shoppach for $1.5MM/1 year**

So, with just one roster spot left, and about $4MM to spend on a reliever, there's really no issue with the budget. I'd suggest the team sign Todd Coffey to fill the last bullpen role. He had one bad season in 2010 sandwiched between an impressive 2009 and solid 2011, so he might get some decent money. However, it shouldn't be anything outrageous, so it should be within our budget. The only concern is giving another multi-year deal to a veteran reliever, but he should be solid for at least two seasons.

**Sign Todd Coffey for $2.5MM per year/3 years**

If the team were to make all of these signings, here's how the roster would look as well as the payroll:

The $5.75MM for Nathan includes the $2MM buyout. Keep in mind that Casilla, Liriano, Slowey, Perkins and Mijares are all arbitration eligible, so there's a chance the payroll could be a tad higher, but if the budget is indeed between $105-$108MM I can't imagine my guesses being off on those five players by more than $3MM total. The team should come in under $108MM regardless with this roster.

While the team would still lack an elite starting pitcher, the fact is it's difficult to acquire very good starting pitchers. CJ Wilson is a free agent and would certainly be the team's best starter, but he's going to get $17-$20MM a year and that's just too far out of the Twins budget at this point. Even as a fairly high spending team, they still have their limitations. Improving the infield and outfield defense, as I've suggested above, will improve the starting pitching because of the "pitch-to-contact" mantra the Twins love. Also, there's at least a chance that the Francisco Liriano of 2010 comes back, and if that happens he's going to be better than any player the Twins could acquire anyways.

I'm not sure that my proposed roster would give this team a certain AL Central division championship, but I do believe that team is in a lot better shape than the current one, and with a few breaks that team could definitely contend again, as soon as 2012. Also, watching Cuddyer and Kubel sign elsewhere will give the Twins three high draft picks to go along with #2 overall, which could make a solid farm system spectacular. Despite a poor 2011, the future doesn't look too bleak. As Twins fans, we've been spoiled over the years with how often the team is in contention, and it can be easy to forget that most teams don't turn things around in one season. Let's hope our Twinkies can.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fixing the Twins: Part I

After one of the worst seasons in Twins history, it's no secret that the team has a lot of work ahead of them this off-season if they want to return to the top of the American League central division. With a few key players possibly headed for free agency and others dealing with constant injury issues, this is going to be a huge off-season for Bill Smith and company to turn things around.

How can they do that? First, it's necessary to look at how much money the team is likely to spend. Last season, the Twins spent close to $115MM on their payroll, which was obviously a franchise record. Team owner Jim Pohlad said earlier this week in an interview with the Star Tribune's Lavelle E. Neal that the team's payroll  "is going to come down naturally because it exceeded where we wanted it, but it's not going to be slashed." Reading between the lines, that would seem to suggest that the payroll will fall in the neighborhood of $105MM-$108MM. I'll just peg the Twins expected payroll at $106.5MM for the sake of a set budget.

Now, let's take a look at how much money the Twins will have to spend and where they may need to upgrade. Here's a look at the team's current salary obligations for 2012:

Casilla, Liriano, Slowey, Perkins and Mijares are all arbitration eligible, and their salaries for 2012 represent my best guess at what they would get through the arbitration process. Joe Nathan will be bought out for $2MM, which is the entire sum of the "buyouts" area, because it's either that or pay him $12.5MM for 2012. They'll try to bring him back, but for much cheaper.

Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer and Matt Capps are all free agents, and I'm assuming the Twins will non-tender Jason Repko and Phil Dumatrait rather than keep them on the roster. Kubel is likely to qualify as Type-B free agent, while Cuddyer and Capps look likely to be Type A's. Capps is almost certainly not going to get an arbitration offer if he's a Type-A, because he's coming off an average season and he made $7.5MM last year. He'll be lucky to get that over two years on the open market, so an arbitration offer would result in Capps accepting and the team paying him close to $10MM for one year. Cuddyer, on the other hand, seems like a lock to get offered arbitration because of how much the Twins organization loves him. Cuddyer's value is higher than a one-year, $12MM or so contract, as he's likely going to sign for multiple years. I guessed that he would sign for 3 years/$30MM a few weeks ago. I think Cuddyer would easily decline arbitration and hope to sign a long-term deal.

Here's how the depth chart would look with those 17 players:

C: Joe Mauer, Drew Butera
1B: Justin Morneau
2B: Alexi Casilla
SS: Tsuyoshi Nishioka
3B: Danny Valencia
OF: Chris Parmelee, Denard Span, Ben Revere
SP: Carl Pavano, Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano, Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey
MR: Brian Duensing, Jose Mijares, Glen Perkins

With about $28MM to spend, the Twins will need to upgrade multiple positions. If we are to assume the Twins will once again go with a 12-man pitching staff, then the team would need 3 more relievers, one closer, two infielders, and two outfielders. Of course, if the team decides to bring back Jim Thome again, then the Twins would only sign one infielder or one outfielder. In Part II, I'll take a look at the players the team should target. But keep in mind the team needs to fill 8 positions with $28MM, and at least 2 of those players will need to be starting caliber players.

Part II is now finished. It can be found here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I'll be giving away 2 1991 game 7 DVD's, compliments of A&E Home Entertainment again. It will be two different trivia questions; I'll post them on Thursday at 12 PM central time, so be sure to check back.


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