The End.

Since I started this blog over two and a half years ago, I’ve really enjoyed some of the things it brought me. First and foremost of those was the opportunity to interact with other Twins fans and bloggers. And, unfortunately, that’s what I’ll miss most about this blog: the platform it gave me to engage the conversation in more than 140 characters and in more depth than I could in the comments section of other blogs. This is, in all likelihood, the last post on Call to the ‘Pen (and yes, I’m insisting on using the apostrophe all the way to the bitter end).

When I published the first post on Call to the ‘Pen, a diatribe about why I dislike Manny Ramirez, I had just finished my first year of law school. I was working as a research assistant for a professor who mostly wanted me to update her website. I had been married for just over 11 months and had lived in the DC area for the same amount of time. I couldn’t believe Al Franken was seriously running for Senate. But most importantly, I though I had something somewhat important to say about the Twins.

Some things don’t change, though. I’m still married, but now I know that my wife has the patience of a saint to put up with a law student and then an unemployed lawyer. I’m out here in DC for at least a while longer. I’m still a huge Twins fan. I still can’t believe Al Franken is a Senator. But in a good way.

Most of that has changed now. I graduated from Georgetown Law in May 2010, and passed the Virginia bar exam just about two months later. I’ve struggled through the job market; I’m on my third job since then, and even it will end in September.  I’m currently employed as a law clerk, and I work an average of 12 hours a day. I don’t update any websites anymore. I have a dog, which prompted a couple posts. I don’t have any more free time; I haven’t watched a full Twins game yet this season. I didn’t make it up to Baltimore when the Twins were there. But, most importantly for the purposes of this site, I don’t feel like I have anything important to add to the Twins discussion.

There are a few things that led to the decision to shut down the blog. I’ll lay them out below in pleasing bullet-point format:

  • I haven’t posted since last August 9, and at no point during that time did I feel like I wanted to post.
  • I feel like somehow the Twins blogosphere has gotten more petty, more jerky. I don’t know if I’ve had anything to do with that, but I’ve definitely had it affect me.
  • I have a wife and a dog that I like a whole lot, and I see little enough of them without feeling like I need to watch a baseball game so I can either write or tweet about it later.
  • No time – I haven’t set a lineup on either of my fantasy teams in two weeks; I haven’t done much of anything for fun in nearly as long.
  • The Twins, as a team, have done a whole lot of things to piss me off in the last six months, not the least of which was the recent release of Pat Neshek. While I haven’t stopped liking the Twins and the recent month of poor play isn’t a driving factor in my decision (Hell, I’ve been working so many hours I don’t have the slightest idea what their record is or who’s pitching on a given day), I don’t feel much desire to invest in a team that seems to be motivated to get rid of every player I enjoy watching (starting with Craig Breslow a year ago). Petty, but true.

So, that’s that. I will miss the times this blog has brought me, as well as the great people it put me in contact with. I’ll miss messing with the interwebs, like I did regarding the great Joe Mauer’s Beard escapade a season ago, and I’ll almost miss the constant hate mail I got from people whenever I (constructively) criticized Joe Nathan or Joesus himself. But all good things must come to an end.

I’ll still be around, and, who knows, maybe I’ll kidnap someone and take over their blog for a day guest post somewhere else if I feel I have something to say, but this is the end for this blog.

I’ll still be on Twitter and Facebook, but don’t be shocked if my Twitter handle changes at some point in the future because I won’t have the connection with this blog anymore. If anyone I’ve interacted with over the years of this blog’s existence is ever in the DC area, consider this a standing invitation to get together for dinner or a drink.

So, thanks, everyone. Thanks for accepting me into your community, and pretending my half-baked ideas had some merit, even though I flat-out refused to engage in real statistical analysis. Thanks for the comments, the criticism, and 30,000 visitors, most from people I have never met. Thanks, basically, for being awesome.

Peace out… and Win Twins.

Will the AL Wild Card come from the Central?

(This post is partially in response to a challenge from my good friend Jake that I would not be able to write about anything substantive in less than 1,000 words. Let’s see if I succeed. The word count starts after this parenthetical. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook if you like – I’m always open to comments and critique!)

Will the AL Wild Card come from the Central?

No.

Oh, fine, I’ll get into it a little bit more, but I’ll still beat that 1,000 word challenge. I was listening to ESPN Radio about a half an hour ago here in the DC ‘burbs, and they asked a commentator (whose name I cannot recall, despite trying) what their pick for the wild card will be. To be clear, the question was almost certainly a roundabout way to get the guest to give an opinion on who would win the AL East (as it has been long-opined that the Yankees and Rays will, in some form, share the AL East title and the Wild Card). However, to my mild (okay, more than mild) surprise, the guest responded: “The Chicago White Sox.”*

*The sound you just heard? My head exploding.

So, here I am for a little bit of reality therapy. The Twins are not going to be the AL Wild Card. The White Sox are not going to be the AL Wild Card. The AL Wild Card is going to be either the Yankees or the Rays (sorry, Red Sox, but I’m sticking a fork in you now). Because my stock in trade is not in making bold statements without backing them up, at least a little bit, my reasoning follows.

First, let’s look at what the brilliant minds over at Baseball Prospectus have to say about this (note, the report I worked from was generated on Sun., Aug. 8, at 7:15pm. This means the result of the Yankees-Red Sox game was at least four hours too late to be included. Wait, who am I kidding? It would have been five hours. The Yankees and Red Sox play that slowly.). I put together the following spreadsheet, which simply states the percent chance that a team would reach the post-season as the Wild Card, based on 1 million simulations of the rest of the season. The first model is based solely on the results of the season so far, the second is adjusted by PECOTA, the model developed by stats genius Nate Silver, and finally, the third is adjusted based on an ELO ratings system (if you don’t know what an ELO ratings system is, Silver explains in this old post). So, what do the Baseball Prospectus people, all of whom are smarter than me, posit? The results are striking:

All Numbers © 2010 Prospectus Entertainment Ventures

Wow. Even I can tell you the Wild Card winner is going to come from the AL East. In all three models, there is a greater than 90% chance it will (91.72612% under the first model, 97.36387% under PECOTA, and 92.64992% under ELO), with an average of a 93.91330% chance. Wow. That seems pretty conclusive to me, right? Well, let’s play that game for a second. Based on that, I calculated* the odds of a non-AL East team getting the Wild card:

*My 10th-grade Accelerated Algebra teacher taught me to always show my work. So there it is.

So, odds are just over 16.5 to 1  that a non-AL East team will take the Wild Card. By doing some brutally simple (and inaccurate) math, I can posit that the Twins have something like 35 to 1 odds, and the White Sox approximately 60 to 1 odds.

Now, 35 to 1 doesn’t sound so bad, when you look at the above numbers, but it is a similar number to what Australian Steven Bradbury (40 to 1) was facing in his attempt to become the first gold medalist from the Southern Hemisphere to win a gold medal in the 2002 Olympic short track speed skating, and the first Aussie to win a Winter Olympic Gold. He won, so that should give the Central’s second-place finisher hope, right? Not really; it took the following events to occur:

  • The disqualification of the second-place skater in his qualifying heat, which allowed him to move into the semi-finals.
  • In his semifinal, he was in last place on the last lap when three of the four other skaters crashed, allowing him to finish a distant second place.
  • In the final, he was far behind the field when this happened:

I can’t really think of a more unlikely event. It took an act of the judges, an act of God, and the deliberate trip of Apolo Ohno by the Chinese skater for Bradbury to take the Gold.

Based on the numbers, the odds of the Twins (or White Sox, or any other team) taking advantage of the Wild Card playoff berth are extremely low.

Second, other than the Yankees and possibly the Rangers, no other team in the majors looks quite as good as the Rays right now. The Twins had a terrible June, and since the break they have dominated the cellar-dwellers, while only barely managing a split with the Rays. The Rays, on the other hand, have looked pretty darn good all year. I say that with some trepidation, because right now the Rays have two of their starters going to see the doctor for shoulder ailments, but they are also almost uniquely able to fill the holes, with stellar minor leaguers, including Jeremy Hellickson, who was most recently seen shutting down the Twins last Monday. Their outfield and infield defense are better, their starters are better, and their bench and system are deeper. The Twins have the edge in lineup strength and the bullpen (with the possible exception of Matty “Two-Face” Guerrier and the minor-leaguer-of-the-week), but their starting pitching can be very suspect, especially with a potential Kevin Slowey elbow problem.

The Twins’ best shot to make the playoffs is to

overtake the White Sox. In theory, that shouldn’t be too hard to do. The White Sox lineup still makes me cringe, but not with fear. Gordon Beckham just hit the DL. The Twins should easily win the AL Central.

And that, including this postscript, is 999 words. I win.

The Coming Outfield Logjam

Note – A slightly different version of this post appeared on Fan Friday at TwinsMVB.com a couple months ago.

One of the strangest things about the roster this season is the absolute paucity of outfielders on both the 25-man (active) roster and the 40-man roster. The current outfielders on these rosters consist of the following: ‘elmon Young, Denard Span, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Repko, and a reanimated corpse. Er, Jason Kubel (you can’t fault me, he plays the outfield a bit like a zombie). That’s both the beginning and the end of the list. In theory, Nick Punto, Alexi Casilla, and/or Matt Tolbert (if and when he is in the bigs) are the secondary back-up outfielders. This notion is offensive to me, and I sure hope it is to people reading as well.

Of those “outfielders” on the roster, Jason Kubel is not an outfielder. He’s a DH that keeps getting pressed into OF duties because Gardy is incapable of not starting Jim Thome three games out of five and Gardy doesn’t trust ‘elmon. Michael Cuddyer’s ideal role is probably that of part-time outfielder and part-time right-handed platoon designated hitter. It’s hard to express how bad he’s been in the outfield the last few years according to UZR, which we now know was not an artifact of the baggie, as he turned in far superior numbers in the ‘Dome than on the road. ‘elmon Young is also beginning to look like his range in LF is simply not going to improve, regardless of his weight loss and slightly increased speed. He needs to be moved to RF ASAP (especially given the powerful arm we’ve witnessed), or else there’s a decent chance he’ll also trend toward being a part-time DH part-time OF. Denard Span is a great lead-off hitter, but his defense in center-field is suspect at best, as the last few series have pointed out. His arm is simply not strong enough to be a great centerfielder either. The big problem pointed out in this paragraph? There are simply not enough DH slots to go around, especially given the presence of Thome, who Gardy is driven to play three or four times a week, regardless of the painful obviousness of his reduced bat speed.

So, we really have about a sum total of 2½ outfielders on the roster right now, when you factor in the fact that Span is legit, and the others are partial outfielders. So what options are there right now? Well, in AAA, the Twins have currently stashed veterans Jacque Jones and Jason Repko, both of whom are playing pretty well, but are not good enough to take away the day jobs of the current outfielders. One of them would be a great backup outfielder on the 25-man roster, but given that neither are on the 40-man roster and the Twins have as of yet refused to make a move on the 40-man to accommodate the outstanding Anthony Slama, don’t hold your breath. (Note: Since this post was originally written, Slama was called up and Repko was added to the roster. Who knows what will happen w/r/t Repko when Matt Tolbert and/or Orlando Hudson come off the DL?)

So, that’s the current outfield situation. It’s certainly not ideal, and the Twins’ flyball pitchers have certainly been punished with the lack of outfield defense. But this is a forward-looking piece. The Twins have a wealth of great outfield prospects, several of which are nearing their major-league debuts in the next couple years. In fact, there’s a good chance we’ll have a major outfield logjam in the coming years! So, let’s look at the future!

  • Michael Cuddyer is under contract through 2011, as the Twins exercised his option for the 2011 series last off-season. I think the Twins will likely make a perfunctory move at re-signing him, so as not to anger the casual fans, who generally love Cuddyer, but will let him walk in the end.
  • ‘elmon Young has either one or two arbitration years remaining.
  • Jason Kubel is in the final year of a two-year deal, but there is a team option for $5.25 million for 2011.
  • Denard Span just signed a five-year contract. He’ll be here for a while.

Here are the up-and-comers. I’m only looking at the players that have a legitimate chance of being long-term starters for the Twins, so players like Jacque Jones, Jason Repko, and Jason Pridie. Those guys are at best backups at this point, with the possible  exception of Repko:

  • Aaron Hicks – The near-consensus number one prospect in the Twins system is currently playing in the Low-A Midwest League for the Beloit Snappers. He might be the best defensive centerfielder in the system, and has an incredible arm that was honed from years of throwing 95-mph fastballs. Can you say, “Position player pitching?” That said, he is only 21, and still has a long way to go. The earliest we’ll probably see him on the big club, barring a raft of injuries or an explosion in his numbers, is September 2012 or sometime in 2013. He is seen as a Torii Hunter/Kirby Puckett type player, and is likely the Twins next long-term center-fielder.
  • Ben Revere – Revere is a top-five Twins prospect, depending on how much stock you put in the dismal reports of his defense. Revere is really, really fast, but his arm is suspect, and he uses his speed to compensate for the fact that he takes some incredibly strange routes to get to the ball (remind you of anyone? GoGo (minus the arm strength)?) That said, Revere might be the best hitter in the Twins system. He has little power, but he hits for an insane average; he flirted with hitting .400 in 2008, and even though his triple-slash stats declined in 2009, that is to be expect in the (extremely) pitcher-friendly atmosphere of the 2009 Florida State League. Right now Revere is in AA New Britain, and might be the most likely call-up in the event of a serious injury to Denard Span. The problem with Revere is his lack of power and arm strength. He may not have the arm strength to play in CF long-term, but doesn’t have the power to take a corner outfield role (but then again, the Twins have put little stock in the traditional hitting requirements for corner positions; for cripes’ sake, Punto is STILL playing 2B).
  • Angel Morales – When Morales was drafted in 2007, he was seen by many to be a light-hitting outfielder with incredible speed and great defense. To the surprise of many, including yours truly, he turned into possibly the best power prospect the Twins have had since Jason Kubel. Morales will be in Class A Fort Myers this season, and should stay there all year. We could see him in a Minnesota Twins uniform as soon as 2012 if he continues at his current pace, and manages to curb his (excessive) strikeout rate. A constant comparison I have heard is Carlos Beltran, and if he continues, he could be the next great Puerto Rican MLB player.
  • Rene Tosoni – The MVP of last year’s Futures Game follows Justin Morneau in the Twins’ Canadian ranks. Tosoni is arguably the most complete and ready player of the ones I’ll mention here, but he also probably doesn’t have a long-term role with the Twins, due to the high level of competition on this list. I’d be surprised if we don’t see Tosoni this season at some point, most likely in September. He’s a definite candidate to be added to the 40-man roster at some near point in the future. Tosoni has trouble with left-handed pitching, and could be a very good number 2, 5, or 6 hitter in the future against righties. I fully expect Tosoni to be traded in the next two years, and he could yield a decent position player or a good pitching prospect in return. That said, you never know.
  • Joe Benson – The last prospect I’ll look at today is Benson. I don’t know as much about Benson, but many people rank him as the third-best outfield prospect in the Twins system after Aaron Hicks and Angel Morales, due to Revere’s problems. Revere has very good on-base numbers, and isn’t a slouch in the power department. We could see him in 2012, if he isn’t traded or doesn’t get injured (like he did after breaking his hand/wrist after punching a concrete wall in 2009).

So where does the outfield go in the future? Here are my guesses, and I’d sure be interested to see what you all think in the comments (in the order of LF, CF, and RF):

2010: ‘elmon Young, Denard Span, Michael Cuddyer

2011: Denard Span, Ben Revere, Michael Cuddyer (I think Young gets traded this off-season for something long-term at 2B or 3B).

2012: Denard Span, Ben Revere, Angel Morales

2013: Denard Span, Aaron Hicks, Angel Morales (Revere traded).

Any further out is impossible to predict. What do you think?

Please Help if You Can

I tweeted about this a minute ago, but I wanted to make a post here too.

Over the 4th of July weekend, a medical research clinic in New York closed its doors and left over 120 beagles and 55 primates that had been used for experiments behind the locked doors, to starve and dehydrate. Beagles are used for medical research because they are patient, docile, and won’t protest when people do all nature of terrible things to them.

Fortunately, a few former employees of the company rescued the pups from the facility, and several rescue groups got together to take care of the animals. These poor things had never been outside, seen the sky, felt the grass, or even interacted with another dog or person (other than the scientists experimenting on them). Here’s the heart-warming and -wrenching video from that day:

I’m a sarcastic, cynical son-of-a-gun 99 times out of 100, but this is one thing that really gets me. I have a beagle, my brother has a beagle, and my sister has two beagles. Every time I watch the video, it kills me; hits me in that small unprotected spot. If you have a few dollars to spare to help save these or any other pet in a shelter, please consider it. These places do wonderful work, and they can’t get by without help from people like us. Here’s a couple places that I know could really benefit from your loose change.

The place that rescued these beagles: Pets Alive

The shelter where my wife and I found our Kasey: Lost Dog and Cat Rescue

If you have a local shelter that you’d like to add to this list, leave it in the comments and I’ll add it to this list.

And for the scientists and corporate big shots who decided the best way to wrap up their business was to  just leave the beagles to starve and dehydrate to death? There’s a special place in hell.

UPDATE: I decided to add a picture of my beagle, just because she’s the best.

On Blog Plagiarism and Your Rights

Note: This particular entry contains rambly talk about law-ish stuff. I am not a member of a bar yet, and do not warrant that I am a lawyer in any professional sense. Do not construe any of the below as legal advice, ever. Go talk to a real lawyer if you are interested. All that said, I am a law school graduate and have strong opinions about the law, so buyer beware and all that nonsense.

This is where I briefly surface from thinking about the law and passing the bar exam to write you all a love letter about… law. This is VERY important for those of us that are bloggers, and for anyone else that publishes anything that is meaningful to them on the internet (or anywhere else, for that matter).

As someone who just completed a very difficult course of study, I am pretty proud of myself, and have very little sympathy for those who cheat, lie, or plagiarize to get through their schooling or everyday lives. That said, I’m also very interested in the legal implications for those people that plagiarize and get caught. If you’re in college, you get an F on the paper and probably the class. If you’re in Law School, your degree is in severe jeopardy – I know, I was plagiarized early in law school by someone in my class, and we were both treated as plagiarists until I could produce evidence that I was the plagiarizee and he was the plagiarizor – and you will likely get a letter forwarded from your school to any bar that you plan to sit for. I’ve heard of master’s degrees being wholly revoked, as late as 20 years after the fact, and supervising faculty being recommended for termination. In the workplace, journalists are regularly fired for plagiarism, and newspapers and other bodies often sue for copyright violations.

Why do I bring this up? Well, this site right here was “scraped” at some point over the last four months, by a blog I had never heard of (and I imagine most of you will not have heard of), and I discovered it a few days ago. It was not a Twins blog. It wasn’t even really a baseball blog. However, it lifted effectively my entire previews of the season for the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox (among other posts) and re-posted them without attribution or permission. This is by definition “scraping,” which is web-speak for wholesale reproduction of copyrighted/original work.

So, let me proceed to tell you my story in the manner of a law school class. Just imagine the bolded questions being asked by an old, bearded, scary-as-hell professor who’s standing in front of a class that is just you… and your 129 closest friends. Then imagine he calls your name to answer the questions. All of them. Without looking at your notes or textbook.

Welcome to Georgetown Law. Hope you enjoy your stay.

Without further ado: my quick-and-dirty primer on plagiarism for the bloggers among us.

Okay, you’ve been plagiarized. Big freaking whoop. Shouldn’t you be grateful that people are reading your work and liking it enough to reproduce it?

Not hardly. There is a time and a place for feeling flattered, and it certainly isn’t at a time when your work is being appropriated by someone else. I hate to break it to you, but they couldn’t care less about you or what you wrote. They just think they can make a few extra pennies from ads or a few extra page-views out of your work. No thought at all is given to you.

But wait, Mr. Olson, you’re just a blogger. No one cares if your work is ripped off. Why do you?

First, not true. Bloggers are authors, and while very few of us have transformed our bloggy ways into a career path, many of us make a few dollars a month with text links or beer money from Google AdSense. We’re not traditional journalists in the traditional sense of the word, but what we write is still copyrighted, whether we register it or not.

That, and all bloggers feel an incredible sense of ownership of what they have written. I put about four-six hours into each of the season previews that was scraped, and I didn’t even have to do any fancy numbers work on them, like many bloggers do. Also, while I don’t plan to ever attempt to try to make money on this blog (tried that once, and it turned into a pain in the butt), I sure don’t want anyone else to make money off my work if I can’t.

All selfishness aside, though, I don’t have a big corporate logo at the top of this page. I don’t have the backing of an august organization with the reputation of the Boston Globe, or Slate, or Fox News (hah – I just implied Fox News had a reputation for something other than doody) behind me when I write, and if I did, that little poop joke might just have gotten me fired. But seriously, all bloggers like myself and many of the others in the Twins blogosphere, particularly the successful ones, have to offer is our integrity and our personal reputation on the subjects we write about. I don’t want my work to be re-posted on a page where it will appear beside huge “Get Free Viagra” and “Find a Sexxx Friend” ads. I may make poop jokes, but at least I’ll stand behind them. That’s the reason I don’t run ads anymore – I don’t want anyone to think I’m standing behind anything other than my own writing.

Okay, getting off topic here. In a real law school class, by now the professor would have interr-

But what about Fair Use, Mr. Olson? Doesn’t that sort of foul your argument?

Actually, no, it doesn’t. The idea behind fair use is that in order to properly comment on something first appearing somewhere else or to provide background for your work, sometimes you need to republish brief excerpts of those earlier works. Not whole articles, mind you, but reasonably short excerpts, always with credit. I follow the three paragraph rule: three paragraphs is presumptively Fair Use, so long as there are more than three paragraphs in the article (if not, use just a sentence or two, or just link).

Wholesale reproduction of articles or passages (especially without providing analysis or comment) is never acceptable without permission and credit. Don’t do it. You’ll get in trouble real fast.

Quick breakdown – to properly use the fair use exception to copyright law, here’s what you’ve gotta do: first, identify the source, including both the author (if listed) and the website, book, etc. that the quote came from; second, make sure that there is no outright prohibition on doing so (hint: never never never never quote the AP – quote the NY Times’ or WaPo’s republication of their stories. AP will send you a bill for $10-30 for use of the quote, along with a cease-and-desist letter); third, if it’s an online source, it’s common courtesy to provide a link, though it’s not required by Fair Use terms; fourth and finally, make sure that from reading your work you can tell what the quote is and what is your own work. That’s it! It’s easy, so you have no excuse for messing it up, ever again.

Alright, Mr. Olson, smartypants*, what do you do if your website gets scraped or plagiarized? *I make no representations that a law professor has ever uttered the word “smartypants.”

There are several things you should do. You have a choice, however, as to how to respond. First, you can send a measured, reasoned response, asking them to take it down or give you credit for your work. This can be accomplished by email, phone, comment on their blog, anything. Second, you can send a pissy and ranty email to their listed email address, and find out that it is owned by someone else entirely.*

*Sorry again, Mr. Richards, and thanks for understanding.

If you either don’t get a response or if you do get a response that refuses to comply with your requests, then it gets fun. If you do make a significant amount of money off your page, talk to a lawyer. They’ll usually give free consultations, if they think there’s money to be had. If not, then you can proceed with some stealth warfare.

First, determine whether they use an ad-placing service, like Google AdSense. If you can provide definitive proof (like a copy of the work in question, published on an earlier date) that your site was plagiarized or scraped by the holder of the AdSense account, Google will usually suspend or cancel the account. I recommend it, it worked in my case.

Second, try to determine who actually hosts their page. In the case of a non-blogger/wordpress site, plug their URL into this site, and it will tell you who their host is. Because they are violating copyright law, and doing it on the host’s servers, the host is usually pretty receptive to copyright complaints. If they do have a WordPress site, like the one in my case, life is easy: WordPress has a suspension/cancellation policy for violation of the terms of use, which prohibit copyright violations. The website that scraped me no longer exists as a result. I’m not clear on Blogger/Blogspot/tumblr’s rule’s on this point, but I imagine they do something similar.

Finally, if none of these works or you are feeling particularly vindictive, especially if you make your living from your page, contact a lawyer, who would be more than pleased to accept a small fee from you in exchange for sending a cease-and-desist letter, and possibly suing in the right case.

Do whatever makes you feel good. However, a few “do nots”:

  • Do not swear or threaten them. Not only is it counterproductive, it looks really bad if you do decide to go to court at a later date.
  • Do not threaten them. It’s important enough to mention twice.
  • Do not threaten them. And a third time.
  • Don’t overreact. If you send them a polite-yet-curt email asking them to knock it off, and they do, don’t go on and do the other stuff I listed above, or you may get yourself in some hot water.
  • Most of all, don’t write an 1900-word post on your blog about it. People might think that you’re a little self-centered. ;)

Okay, class is over. A few concluding non-law-related remarks -

  • My heartfelt thanks for the Facebook birthday wishes and congratulations on graduation. I really appreciate the camaraderie and friendship that so many of us
  • I am growing increasingly disenchanted with Twitter. I can’t even stomach being on during a game anymore. If you’re one of the people that is making my time less happy, knock it off, please. Criticism is helpful and good and all, but negativity for the sake of negativity and personal attacks get old. Really fast. I refer you to this for a better explanation of why.
  • Finally, if you’ve messaged me on facebook or twitter or sent me an email, I’m sorry for not getting back to you in a timely fashion. I’ll try to catch up this week, but studying for the bar is not conducive at all to keeping up with obligations.
  • New posts will hopefully return soon!

Nicknames

I’ve been prompted on Twitter recently (follow me at @calltothepen) to explain some of the nicknames that I have for the varying Twins players. Some are standard and used by the majority of fans, others, well, not so much. These are my nicknames, except where attributed to someone else. Direct all hate to me. For a more exhaustive version of this list, check out K-bro’s nicknames page.

Hitters:

Joe Mauer – Joesus (not sure if I came up with this one or I picked it up off Twitter – came from a time when I was barely conscious even when not in bed). Derivative of the long-term nickname “Baby Jesus,” which I thought was not nearly humorous enough for me. He used to be nicknamed 4-6-3, in honor of the style of GIDP he was (and occasionally still is) so prone to.

Justin Morneau – Mountie – not original, but don’t know where it came from either. My special twist? It usually appears on Twitter somewhere near the hashtag: #AllYourMapleSyrupAreBelongToUs

Jason Kubel – The Dude (from the guys over at The WGOM). Taken from the cult hit movie, The Big Lebowski. Because, well, he abides:

The resemblance is uncanny, no? Right down to the crooked v-neck.

Delmon Young – ‘elmon. My derivative of a WGOM classic, _elm_n, from 2008 and 2009, when he had neither offense nor defense. However, now that he’s lost the weight, he seems to be slowly growing a D. We’ll see how long it lasts.

Michael Cuddyer – I use several, but my favorite is Cuddly, which is a derivative of the normal “Cuddy.” I got this one from one of my undergrad classmates, who brought a sign to a game that said “I want to get Cuddly-er with Cuddyer.”

J.J. Hardy – At this point, I’ve started calling him Crede. Because he’s hurt. all. the. time.

Nick Punto - I don’t give him a nickname. He doesn’t deserve it most of the time.

Denard Span – Spantastic. Spantom of the Opera. I like them both, but don’t use them enough.

Orlando Hudson – “The” Orlando Hudson. Hudson’s normal nickname is “The O-Dog,” which I refuse to call him, because it’s a stupid and overused nickname (let’s be honest, every team has a player that is “something-Dog.”). However, he’s pretty darn good, so I let him keep his “the.”

Pitchers

Kevin Slowey – This is my own nickname, and it dates back to his first call-up in 2007, when he was 5-0 and then got sent down, because every number was terrible but wins. At the time, I had a long, involved joke involving shooting oneself in the foot, but I can’t remember it now. Then, in 2008, in response to an ESPN announcer using it again, I wrote this piece, which was basically a play off the fact that Slowey, even though he lacks any kind of great stuff, was utterly fearless as he hurled, unlike Scott Baker, who looked to the bullpen every time he got in trouble. Since then, he’s regressed back to the shoot-self-in-foot kind of gunslinger.

Scott Baker – Timmy (multiple sources). For two reasons. First, it’s because I thought he looked like a “Timmy.” Then, I found out his legal name is Timothy Scott Baker. Turns out I’m prescient.

Francisco Liriano – F-Bomb (multiple sources), because it works so damn well, whether he’s winning or losing.

Carl Pavano – Darn. I got nothing here. He’s just… boring. Nothing really jumps out at me.

Nick Blackburn – For a long time, I called him “Blackbeard,” like everyone else. However, I decided earlier this season that it was too obvious (and getting overused), so I changed to “Pirate Nick.”

Jose Mijares – Senor Meatball (multiple sources, personally I was introduced to it by thrylos98). Because it seems to be his job to serve them up.

Pat Neshek – Sideshow Pat (I think this was a Bat-Girl nickname originally).

Joe Nathan – Twitch. Because he’s unable to stand still for a second. Ever. Whether he’s on the mound or not.

Jon Rauch – Neck Tat. Self Evident.

Let me know if I missed anyone!

Happy ‘elmon Young Day!

Happy ‘elmon Young day! Today is brought to you by the letters D and O, the numbers -17.9 (his career UZR) and .23 (his career BB/K), and the creator of both Nick Punto Day and ‘elmon Young Day, Andrew Kneeland. A little background:

On February 12, Twins bloggers across the country (well, mostly in the midwest, but a few ex-pats, such as myself, made it a national event) held “Nick Punto Day,” in which we celebrated (and denigrated) the player that most of us love to hate. Or hate to love. Or, if you’re Karlee of OMGMnTwins, love to love and love even more to destroy anyone who hates. Now, three months later, Andrew has decided (and many agree) that given the mixed feelings most of us hold about ‘elmon (apostrophe to be explained in a minute), a similar day to feel out the strengths (not fielding) and weaknesses (fielding) of our dear left fielder. This is an entry in that series. So, dear reader, bear with me, this’ll be a long one. I’ve got a lot to say about ‘elmon. But even I doubt that the feelings of the fans can be adequately expressed in mere words.

‘elmon was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays on November 28, 2007 for one-time starting pitching phenom Matt Garza, starting shortstop Jason Bartlett, and minor league reliever Eduardo Morlan. The Twins also received Brendan Harris and Jason Pridie in the trade. On first blush, it seems like an even trade. Two uber-prospects – Garza and Young (who had been runner-up to Dustin Pedroia in 2007, his 21-year-old season) – two decent non-star shortstops (Bartlett and Harris), and two (would prove to be minor league-only) other players (Pridie and Morlan) all changed hands. This blog didn’t exist back then, so unlike other blogs, I cannot link to an old post raving about how great the trade was for the Twins. Thank God for that. That would be embarrassing.

I’ll be honest, though, even though it pains me. At the time I was thrilled. I was a fan who had never bought into Matt Garza, despite his impressive stats in the minors and during his solid-but-not-spectacular short 2006 stint in the Show. The main thing I can remember from back then was Garza refusing to throw his breaking pitches in the minor leagues, while the coaches insisted he not throw his (very good) fastball every pitch. That refusal led to Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey getting a 2007 call-up before him. This made Garza bitter, and he struggled through the 2007 season, even though he ended with a good 3.47 ERA (which outperformed his 4.18 FIP – likely due to good infield defense). There were games where he would literally stalk out to the mound, and he ended the year with a 5-7 record.

Count me among those that wondered, once Bill Smith was promoted to replace Terry Ryan as the Twins manager, whether Garza, who had been one of Ryan’s “babies,” was on his way out. And so he was, just a few months later. Let me talk for just a second about those other involved players. Jason Bartlett went on to have a couple very good years in Tampa Bay (including being undeservedly voted team MVP in their World Series appearance in 2008). Bartlett is a good defensive shortstop who hits for a decent-to-good average with little power. In a pre-Hardy world, doesn’t that look good? He was exchanged (in effect) for Brendan Harris, a bad defensive shortstop who had hit 12 homers for Tampa Bay in 2007. He became a part-time player with little upside the very next season, when he was supplanted at shortstop by first Adam Everett and then later Nick Punto, and was placed at second base, where he was eventually replaced by Alexi Casilla. Sigh. Today, he’s a role player, who gets more playing time than he deserves. The Twins also received Jason Pridie, who has only played a couple of games in the majors, giving up Eduardo Morlan, who was substituted at the last minute for Juan Rincon. Morlan was my major reason for disliking the trade when it happened, because he was one of our top relievers in the minors. However, he hurt his shoulder (I think) and has not risen above AA, which is the level he was at when the trade came down.

So, what was my first reaction to the trade? “Ugh, shouldn’t Bill Smith be working on trading Santana, rather than trading for an outfielder?” Yep, that was it. Sure, I was sad to see Morlan go, and rather pleased to see an outfielder who could hit for power coming over. Especially one that was heralded as an “excellent defensive outfielder with an extremely strong arm.” I’ll refrain from linking to who said that one, because I don’t believe in cruel and unusual punishment.

Prior to the Twins trading for him, the only time I had really heard of Young, other than having a casual awareness of his rookie-of-the year runner-up season, was due to his longstanding behavioral problems. In AA he once was suspended for three games for bumping an umpire.  The icing on the suspension cake (mmmmm, cake) occurred when he was playing in AAA Durham. ‘elmon was struck out on a called third strike, and hung around to argue it. So the umpire ejected him. On his way to the dugout, Young turned around and threw his bat at the umpire; it hit him on the chest. The next day, ‘elmon said, through his agent, that he didn’t actually mean to hit the umpire with the bat. Somehow, that didn’t satisfy the International League authorities, and he was suspended indefinitely, which was later reduced to 50 games. The whole affair was caught on video, which, if I did the embed thing right, is located below.

The incident was enough to prompt the famous (and retired) BatGirl to create a Lego story about his arrival in Minnesota (by the way, running a google search for “bat girl” returns several extremely frightening results). Young continued his behavioral problems with the Rays in 2006 and 2007, and managed to wear out his welcome in just over one season in the bigs: he made nearly all his teammates in Tampa Bay hate him both on and off the field. However, he hit a bunch of homers, and projected to hit more in the future, which was enough to make the Twins want/need him. However, the behavioral problems did not go away once he arrived in the Twins organization. Multiple sources reported that he was refusing to take any guidance from the Twins’ coaching staff and would only listen to his father’s hitting advice. He apparently was aggravating the other outfielders due to his reluctance to chase down balls hit into the gaps and balls that were foul but in play. Of course, that turns out to be caused mostly by the fact that he was unable to run at any decent clip.

So, how good on defense was this “excellent defensive outfielder with an extremely strong arm?” Well, terrible. His UZR for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (they hadn’t yet changed their name) was -7.5, which is bad, but not epically bad. His next seasons were epically bad, though, as he turned in a -19.5 UZR in 2008 (in 152 games) and a -14.4 UZR in 108 games in 2008, which works out to a UZR/150 of -22.9. True, his arm was strong, but he never got to the ball, so what did we, the fans, care if he actually threw it? He made a total of 15 outfield assists in those two years. He couldn’t range forward or backward, and God help us all if he had to dive for it. He somehow managed to give Prince Fielder his first inside-the-park home run after diving for and missing the ball, badly (sorry for no video, MLB took down all the copies I could find). This lack of “D” (defense) is why, when I write out his name, I write it ‘elmon. See? No D. (This is borrowed from the fine fellows over at The WGOM).

His bat has somehow been very bad, while being good. He hit .290 and .284 his first two seasons with the Twins, and looks to be doing something similar this season. He has not been fast, as he stole 14 bases in 2008, and only two last season. His on-base percentage has been lacking, as he has struck out five times for every walk. So, let’s look at some graphs, shall we? This is all from the fine folks at Fangraphs. The first graph is of Delmon’s batting average over time.

It’s clearly trending downwards, though it is still above average (barely). Hopefully it rebounds. Graph 2: on-base percentage (just for kicks, compared to Mauer, Mr. OBP, and Cuddyer).

Below average, which is a trick, given that his batting average has been above average. It comes from all those strikeouts and so few walks. Graph 3: BB%.

Not so great, except for this season, which we can (probably) expect to revert to the mean.

So, what’s the takeaway from this overly long look at ‘elmon? Well, it’s tough to say, at least for someone as statistically inept as I am. However it’s worth noting that Delmon is still very young. He has had a lot of attitude and behavioral problems, but those seem to be working themselves out as he’s grown up. Last year, he was forced to deal with an event no one should have to deal with: the death of his mother from cancer. Then, at the end of the season, he turned it on and started performing much better. He lost 30 lbs over the off-season, which I think has sent a message to a lot of people, myself included: he does care. It’s an acknowledgment of the problems he’s had, and there has been a real change this season. He’s running out ground balls (and beating some out, now that he’s lighter and faster). He’s getting to more balls in the outfield (and still looking ugly while he’s doing it).

But I think I have more hope for ‘elmon than I did last year. When he lost the weight, it seems he also lost the attitude, which seemed to have been weighing him down more than the weight itself was. He has, I think for the first time, a real shot to NOT go the same direction that his brother, Dimitri, famously took, or that Milton Bradley seems dead set on taking now. I think he just might make it. And if he does, he still might just make that trade look pretty damn skippy.

(Follow me on Twitter at @calltothepen, and while you’re there, check out the tag for Delmon Young day: #DelmonYoungDay to see what else has been written).

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