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.

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!

Into the Off Day…

So, it’s been a while. I’m under a fair amount of stress right now, so let’s use some soothing bullet points to put me at ease…

  • Let me tell you, finishing off a law school career is pretty hard work. I only have about 40 more pages to write before next Monday (May 3rd) so that I can graduate, so I can almost guarantee that this will be the final post of a decent length until then. I’m working on three papers: one is a really simple and easy reflection memo on my internship in DC Superior Court; the second involves suggestions on how to implement the Omnibus DC Voting Bill for the 2010 elections; and the third is the beast, a 20-page paper on standing requirements, which are what must be met before one can sue. Overall, not too bad (considering I ended up writing a somewhat controversial 68-pager on the teaching of evolution over creationism in schools last year), but the time frame will make it very difficult. Wish me luck! If I succeed, I’ll graduate. If not, well, I’ll hope for an extension!
  • Friday’s game was an interesting one for me. I had missed the two prior days’ games due to work and going to the Nationals games. Both, by the way were terrible to watch. Livan Hernandez was pretty impressive Thursday, but still pulled off the loss against Cy Jimenez. He was exactly the guy he was in 2008, which still makes me cringe, but I’m happy he’s still finding success. However, Friday’s game got nasty on Twitter. When David DeJesus (I think) hit a home run that just barely went over the fence (as was apparent on replay but not on first viewing), Michael Cuddyer did not seem to hustle at all to return the ball to the infield. The problem? The ump called the ball in play, which led to DeJesus getting an inside-the-park home run as Cuddyer meandered back to the ball, which was resting at the base of the fence. Now, I know Cuddyer likely saw the ball go over his head, and the ump’s call would have been overturned on instant replay, but the slow walk Cuddyer took incensed many of those on Twitter that day. Our reward for being critical of Cuddyer for (apparently) not hustling (as is the Minnesota Twins way, of course)? This Tweet, by a respected and widely-followed Twins blogger (name removed because I have not spoken with him directly):

    This Tweet was quickly followed up by:

    Really?

    Now, as everyone who reads my writing or tweets knows, I am all about the snark and the sarcasm, but there is a line that stops short of accusing someone of “not being a fan” or “not being a true fan.” The first tweet crossed that line, and the second Tweet was just a reminder. As of now, I find myself an “alleged” Twins fan in the eyes of at least one (for those not familiar with the legal term of art “alleged,” it means roughly “something that has been declared true, but that certainly hasn’t been proven.”) influential blogger. Frankly, it pissed me off, and I sure hope it pissed off others. I really have one sports rule, and that rule is to NEVER accuse someone of not being a fan. Here’s where I shout out to my fellow blogger Fanatic Jack, who tends to have a negative outlook on the team, and frequently gets accused of all sorts of nasty things because of it. Jack, we rarely agree, but I know you are a true fan, and I urge everyone else to read his work at Fanatic Jack Talks Twins, as he does have a lot of good analysis to go along with is (often merited) pessimism.

  • So, that dour note behind us, it appears that Joe Mauer hasn’t shaved in a while, which is leading to a resurgent case of Joe Mauer’s Beard! I unfortunately don’t have a very good capture of it, but here is what I got. It is still a long way from the luscious specimen that we had at the beginning of ST, but it’s a start. Now if only Denard Span would follow Joe’s lead and grow back HIS Man-Beard. I promise he’ll stop it with the suckage as soon as he does.
  • The Twins have now won six straight series without managing to sweep a single one. Color me unconcerned. So long as the Twins are winning 2/3+ of their games, I won’t start to fret. Eventually, the Twins will discover their missing clutchiness and they’ll start scoring about three more runs per game than they are now.
  • I want to marry the Twins offense, but A) my wife would not approve, and B) it’s not legal to marry groups of sports players in Virginia (or Minnesota). So, I guess I’ll just have to deal with pining from a distance.
  • Topper Anton was nice enough to offer me a place in his “Twins Bloggers: Get to Know ‘Em” series, and commences to say nice things about me that I really don’t deserve, as I recently discovered that I have a horrible pottymouth while watching baseball: at the Thursday Nats game, there was a whole family, including little kids sitting right in front of me. The Nats are a horrible team, and I really don’t love them that much, but I found myself biting my lip far too much. Sorry, Mom! :S Anyway, go check out my Get-to-Know-’Em if you want to know more about me (or if you are looking for good blackmail fodder).
  • Because of the back-up of games, I’ll give a Stud/Dud for today’s game only.
  • The Stud: Justin Morneau. Justin absolutely destroyed a pitch in the second inning for a two-run homer, and he has really been flashing the leather recently at second base. Mark Texeira he is not, but he’s still impressive.
  • The Dud: clearly, today’s dud was Kevin Slowey. This is not to say that he pitched poorly (which he did: he couldn’t locate around the corners of the plate, and when that goes, so goes Slowey’s whole game), but the main reason is that he couldn’t make it far into the Sixth Inning on the day after every pitcher but Alex Burnett was used. It turned out not to matter, as Ron Mahay and Burny (starting to like that kid a lot) easily cleaned up the final 2 2/3 innings, but it was something the Twins really needed that Slowey failed to provide.
  • Courtesy Wikipedia (click to visit page). The Hip Flexors.

    Nick Punto‘s groin is apparently just fine (which is more info than I needed to know today), but because he is still experiencing pain in that oh-so-sensitive area, the docs are looking into a possible hip flexor injury. If you didn’t know, and I didn’t, the hip flexors are any of about ten moving parts that make your hip joint work properly. I put the Wikipedia diagram on the right (credit goes to Wiki user Beth Ohara). Click on the image to go to the Wikipedia page for more info. If, as LaVelle seemed to fear in his tweet, hip flexor surgery is required, Punto could be done for the year, as Royals utility player Josh “Booger” Fields (nickname bestowed by WhiteSoxBlog) decided to do today. Ironically, as I tweeted earlier, if Punto has surgery and misses the rest of the season, the odds of him being with the Twins next year go up significantly: the hip injury will reduce his defensive value, which means all his value. The Twins were going to decline his $5 million option for next year (or so I certainly hope), and this makes it much more likely he’d accept a cheap “make-g00d” deal back with the Twins as a utility infielder. Luke Hughes got his roster spot, and I would really like to see him get a couple starts.

  • In other injury news, Clay Condrey had a setback, and there is no timetable for when he resumes throwing.
  • Tomorrow is an off day. Hallelujah.
  • Tuesday, the Twins will pitch the rearmed F-Bomb against Justin Verlander. In terms of my hopes for the Twins, I certainly hope Francisco Liriano is as good as he’s been. In the interest of my fantasy team, however, I want Verlander to strike out 10 Twins through five innings and leave a game tied 0-0, so the Twins can come back and destroy the Tiger bullpen. Life is much more complicated when my fantasy players face the Twins.

I feel better after all those bullets. Cheers!

2010 Twins Projections

The 2010 season starts for the Minnesota Twins starts in just three or four days, depending on when I actually get this stupid thing finished and published (internet connection being funky tonight). Josh Johnson, last week, challenged Twins Bloggers to make a series of predictions about the season. He also provided a suggested list of predictions. However, because I am contrary, I will do his, and also some of my own. So… (drumroll, please), your 2010 Minnesota Twins Season Predictions!


Twins MVP:

My first, gut instinct was to say that the Twins MVP will be the obvious answer: The 23-million-dollar man. However, on further thought (and further beverages), I’m tempted to say the MVP will be Drew Butera, just to be horribly contrary. This is a tougher decision than I originally thought. I think that it will be a close battle, but I think that in the end ORLANDO HUDSON‘s ability to make us forget about the sinkhole that had been second base and the 2-hole in the lineup will make him the most valuable player of the year, especially given that we pretty much expect great seasons from Mauer, Morneau, Span, Cuddyer, etc. If I had to pic a runner-up, it would be Denard Span.
Twins’ Top Pitcher:

Again, I was sorely tempted to pick the contrarian pick: Clay Condrey. However, that isn’t my ‘onest answer, and my bangers and mash wouldn’t sit quite right having left a whopper like that standing. I think it will be close indeed, but SCOTT BAKER will emerge from the pack as the most valuable Twins pitcher.
Twins’ Best Rookie:

Interestingly enough, the only true rookie breaking camp with the Twins this season is Drew Butera, and he won’t be with the Twins for more than a month or two. Therefore, it’ll be a midseason call-up. I think the Twins rookie of the year will be ANTHONY SLAMA, who will break into the majors after one of the current bullpen members forgets how to throw strikes. That said, he won’t have much competition, as Danny Valencia won’t arrive until August or September, and we won’t see any other rookies without a rash of injuries.
Twins’ Most improved Player:

As much as I dump on him from day to day, DELMON YOUNG is the clear choice for most improved. I think this is the year that Delmon finds his swing and his power, and though he won’t get any more selective, more of those first-pitch fouls will end up in play, and more will land in the left-field stands than in any of his past seasons. Runner up: Francisco Liriano.
Bold Twins Predictions:

  1. Pat Neshek either ends the season with the most saves or gets injured by June and never really comes back.
  2. Delmon Young receives more than 50 walks and hits more than 20 home runs.
  3. Clay Condrey finds a steady role in the middle innings and excels, while Guerrier struggles after being initially forced into a closer role he isn’t suited for, until he returns to being a very good set-up man.
  4. We learn that Chris Cates, pocket-sized second baseman, was abducted and eaten by Jose Mijares; his leprechaun nature caused Mijares’ blurry vision.
  5. At least three Twins players adopt the Great Gazoo helmet:

AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Twins Keys to Success:

1. Liriano and Slowey need to have strong, bounce-back years from their injury/ineffectiveness-shortened years last year. If these two can’t make it happen, there’s trouble ahead.

2. The starters need to go deep into the games. This is a pretty good ‘Pen on paper (like what I did there?), but remember that Jose Mijares has battled ineffectiveness, Pat Neshek and Jesse Crain are just one or fewer seasons removed from surgery, and Jon Rauch has more intimidation factor than raw stuff. The ‘Pen will be solid, but it WILL break down if it averages more than 16 or so innings a week.

3. Mauer and Morneau need to chill the …. out. Mauer has shown that he is injury prone, and Morneau is just one more end-of-season injury/collapse from me wanting considerably less ‘neau.

Predicted Standings and Playoff Berths:

A.L. East

  1. Boston Red Sox (division winner)
  2. New York Yankees (WC)
  3. Tampa Bay Rays
  4. Baltimore Orioles
  5. Toronto Blue Jays

A.L. Central

  1. Minnesota Twins (division winner)
  2. Chicago White Sox
  3. Detroit Tigers
  4. Kansas City Royals
  5. Cleveland Indians

A.L. West

  1. California Angels (division winner) (I refuse to call them Anaheim or Los Angeles)
  2. Texas Rangers
  3. Seattle Mariners
  4. Oakland Athletics

Division Series:

  • Twins def. Yankees, 3-2
  • Red Sox def. Angels, 3-0

LCS:

  • Red Sox Def. Twins 4-3

N.L. East (I won’t give numbers for the National League)

  1. Atlanta Braves (division winner)
  2. Philadelphia Phillies
  3. Florida/Miami Marlins
  4. Washington Nationals
  5. New York Mets

N.L. Central

  1. St. Louis Cardinals (Division Winner)
  2. Milwaukee Brewers (Wild Card)
  3. Cincinnati Reds
  4. Pittsburgh Pirates
  5. Chicago Cubs
  6. Houston Astros

N.L. West

  1. Colorado Rockies (division winner)
  2. San Francisco Giants
  3. Arizona Diamondbacks
  4. Los Angeles Dodgers
  5. San Diego Padres

Division Series:

  • Colorado def. St. Louis (3-1)
  • Atlanta def. Milwaukee (3-2)

LCS:

  • Atlanta def. Colorado (4-2)

World Series:

  • Atlanta def. Red Sox (4-2)

Other MLB Predictions:

  • AL MVP: Joe Mauer – the voters just can’t quit him.
  • NL MVP: Hanley Ramirez – If not for Pujols’ unfortunate injury…
  • AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez – The King has returned.
  • NL Cy Young: Doc Halladay – The NL worked out better for him than the AL did for Peavy.
  • A.L. Rookie of the Year: Brian Matusz – this will be popular, but people still won’t say his name right.
  • NL Rookie of the Year: Jason Heyward – Almost too easy.
  • AL Comeback Player of the Year: Pat Neshek
  • NL Comeback Player of the Year: David Wright

Will Carroll is Smarter than Me

Sure, it wasn’t in the best light, but I take what I can get. Anyway, in the early morning hours of March 31, I had a long discussion with Will Carroll, aka @injuryexpert, on Twitter. The subject was on the recovery time for Jose Morales, with differing levels of performance. The conclusion? I’ll let you read it for yourself. He made a mention of our conversation in his “Under the Knife” Column for Baseball Prospectus (subscription only, unfortunately). I’ll let you read the two sentences or so for yourself:

I had a nice chat with @calltothepen on Twitter about Jose Morales. He’s a replaceable backup catcher, so his starting the year on the DL is never going to be that big a deal. Sure the wrist injury will sap his power and might have some effect on his throws, but the Twins have other options at the position and Joe Mauer gets most of the time there anyway. Sometimes a team’s fan base will obsess over little things and while I don’t mean to demean fandom or Morales, it’s barely worth the pixels to discuss it.

Will eliminates the entire debate around Ramos vs. Morales vs. Butera in three sentences, while reminding us how dumb the argument was in the first place. And that’s why he’s so smart.

Ramos v. Butera: I have the Answer!

IT DOESN’T MATTER!

Whoever wins the backup catcher job until Jose Morales comes back, either Wilson Ramos or Drew Butera, will be in the majors for a max of two months, if we are really looking on the gloomiest possible side.

During that time, Joe Mauer will be the starting catcher probably 8-9 days of 10. Figuring on 3 at-bats per start, that means that whoever backs up Joe will get, well, 49-55 at bats per start. Lets add in another 20 at-bats to be really charitable, to include pinch-hitting. That gives us, say, 72 at-bats. Sound good?

This is an image. Amazing how simple they get.

Let’s also assume, just for the sake of argument, that Ramos would be worth the same amount per at-bat as Joe Mauer (which is a ridiculous assumption, but I’m being generous). Joe is projected to be 7.3 WAR this year by CHONE, in about 595 at-bats. So, let’s play those numbers a bit. By doing a simple comparison, Ramos’ bat would be worth .88 WAR in those 72 at-bats. Let’s round it up, again, being charitable and including defense, to 1 WAR. To be clear, this is making the assumption that Ramos will be a better catcher/hitter than JOE FRICKING MAUER. (For the record, CHONE puts Ramos at .6 WAR in 370 PAs. Where are they getting this number of PAs? No way the backup catcher appearance gets 250 at-bats all season.)

Chuck Norris doesn't even care.

So, lets assume the opposite for Butera, and assume that he’ll be worth the same as the WORST catcher in the league. Rod Barajas was the worst catcher that got 400 PAs last season (415), racking up a .6 WAR. So, lets do the math, and we get .1 WAR for Butera. Again, with Butera’s defensive skill, we’ll round it up a bit, to .2 WAR, the same adjustment I made for Ramos. (In fairness, CHONE has Butera at -.5 over 272 at-bats, God knowing how he’ll get those 272 at-bats. But when I scale it down to 72 at-bats, it works out to just about -.1. So, still, really close to where I got).

So, being as charitable as I think I can be, the difference is .8 wins. If the Twins end up having their season decided by .8 wins for 1/3 of a season of a backup catcher that is not Jose Morales, who, in fairness projects to be worth .9 WAR by CHONE this season in 353 PAs (where the hell are they getting these PA numbers?).

So, to recap. Joe = 7.3 WAR. Based on two months of backup, Ramos would be worth 1.0 WAR (which I think is more than generous). Over the same period, Butera would be worth .1 WAR by my metric (which is admittedly crude, and I’m sure people will jump all over me for it), but -1 WAR by CHONE. So let’s take CHONE’s number.

Assuming Wilson Ramos is a better hitter than Joe Mauer during his limited at-bats, he would be worth 1.1 WAR over Butera. If, with all the changes the Twins have made this season, that’s what the division comes down to, the Twins will have had much, much bigger problems.

Others have put together takes on this, including Seth, who puts forth a highly unlikely scenario that would make it worth it to bring Ramos up. Taylor urges that Ramos be brought up. A great message-board discussion of the issue can be found here. TwinsTerritory has a poll up.

My vote, as everyone can probably tell by now, is that it simply doesn’t matter, so we should bring up Butera, because it would be better not to hurt Ramos’ development in the majors when his presence wouldn’t make that enormous of a difference anyway.

EDIT: Okay, so I figured out that the PA numbers from CHONE are based on minor-league at-bats. Which just seems to reinforce my point…

Review: Minnesota Twins 2010 Prospect Handbook, by Seth Stohs

I’ll come right out and admit it – I have a bit of a soft spot for Seth Stohs. Seth is the person who inspired me to begin blogging in the summer of 2008 (man, that seems a long time ago). Seth is not only the most knowledgeable person I have encountered on the Twins farm system and prospects, he’s also the most relentlessly positive Twins blogger I have met. Let’s face it, I’m a huge cynic. I’ve always had a problem seeing the bright side of things, both with the Twins and with life more generally. Thank God for my wife, who constantly reminds me that things are not as bad as they seem. I think Seth fills that role in the Twins Blogosphere, not just for me, but for everyone that reads his work and occasionally needs a boost up.

So, I thought it was more than appropriate to use the 100th post on this blog to review his second annual Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook.

When I ordered the 2010 Prospect Handbook, I expected much the same thing from last year. Not that that’s a bad thing – last year’s handbook was probably the most read book in my library until the new one came out. It was indispensable when putting together this year’s prospect list – probably the source I used most short of baseball-reference.com.

But this year’s handbook is a whole different kind of animal. Last year’s book was a useful resource, but it didn’t really become something that I’d look at just for the fun of it. This one exceeds my expectations on that front, which are admittedly high (I normally read police and suspense fiction). But despite it all, the thing that gets me the most is that “Seth,” the blogger and Twins/minor league fanatic we all know from his blog, tweets, and podcasts,  comes through on every page.

But who’s Seth, and why do we want him coming through on each page? As Kelly Thesier of MLB.com wrote in her introduction, “[h]e knows the Twins minor league system perhaps better than anyone who isn’t a member of the Twins front office staff, and I trust that anyone who reads this book will have a much better understanding of the club’s future.” I would disagree with Kelly on one thing, though: I’d wager that he knows the Twins system better than many members of the Twins FO staff.

*Disclaimer – I have never met Seth. I have never spoken to Seth. I have never even appeared on the same podcast as Seth. But, like so many others, I feel like I know Seth through his prolific writing and podcasts.

The Handbook is a great source for everything you had ever wanted to know about the Twins minor league system. It has over 150 individual summaries – one for each of some of the best and most interesting prospects in the Twins system, encompassing the best that the Twins have to offer in years going forward, at least until the next draft and the next. Seth gives information about each prospect, their abilities, their strengths, their weaknesses, injury risks, and what they have to do to succeed in the Twins organization.

One of the best things about Seth’s work are the volume and quantity of player interviews he gets (oh, to have the contacts he has). In On the Cusp, a story about highly touted prospect Danny Valencia, he shows off the best of his work. “I feel my defense has gotten better every year. I still have work to do and I will continue to work hard at it. Not everyone is Joe Crede.” Seth points out a weakness, but also shows us why our expectations might make that molehill into a mountain.

There are also areas that I personally have rarely thought about in the Prospect Handbook. I know nothing about the Dominican Summer League. Well, Seth gives his top five prospects from the Twins team in that league. I know next to nothing about the international scouting game. Seth, well, has that covered. And at the same time, he writes in a way that someone like me, who is functionally illiterate when it comes to stats (I know what’s good and bad, but I don’t know why or how they’re calculated), can follow and get a good feeling for why such a statistic is useful and descriptive.

All of that can be found in this 125-page tome. However, there is one thing missing that I found surprising – Seth doesn’t have the statistical detachment that is so common on blogs and in other prospect publications. Where one author might talk about xFIP, Seth mentions that Andrei Lobanov might have the chance to be only the sixth Russian-born major leaguer. Where another author might relentlessly criticize a player for not living up to his potential, Seth writes that Chris Parmelee spent another “building year.” When another blogger might get discouraged at one player’s lack of plate discipline, Seth is able to find a positive in the numbers.

But mostly, you can tell from the words on the page that Seth cares about the minor leaguers. Not just as many people care about the product put out on the field by developing, but professional athletes. But also about the players as people. He knows that Wang-Wei Lin’s brother plays in the Boston organization. He knows that Bobby Lanigan can have trouble controlling his emotions when things aren’t going for him. He knows what kind of person many players are off the field. And he doesn’t just know: in his writing, it’s evident that he cares.

It’s refreshing. And this world could deal with more of it.

So, really, if you’re reading this blog right now, if you own Twin season tickets (or just plan to go to a few games), or even if you hang out on the East Coast and never get to see the Twins in person because they are ALWAYS playing the orioles during finals (sorry, I’m projecting a bit here), you owe it to yourself to get the Minnesota Twins 2010 Prospect Handbook.

Seth Stohs blogs at http://www.sethspeaks.net and http://talkintwinsbball.wordpress.com. He also runs a weekly podcast and another episode of The Show, which he hosts with TJ DeSantis. The Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook can be purchased by visiting his website, from bbotw.com, and even on Amazon.

Around the Division: The Tigers Realize their Mistake

This is the first in a series of four, each focusing on the Twins’ division opponents this year. Though the Twins looks like it might be the Twins’ to lose, there is a lot more that any dedicated Twins fan should know, and it’s my job to try to help you out with that. As always, follow me at @calltothepen on Twitter and subscribe to updates of this page via the link on the sidebar!

The Detroit Tigers have been a mystery for the last few years. Few teams have been so hyped, then so derided, then so doubted, then so resurgent. Last year the Tigers nearly made the playoffs, and would have if not for the Twins’ desperate late-season charge and a slight fade of their own. This year, though the blogocracy seems to be united in the belief that the Tigers are rebuilding, and that they won’t do much to challenge the Twins, though they could theoretically end in second place in the division.

So, let’s take a look at the Tigers, below the fold.

Continue reading

A Contrarian View of the Mauer Contract

Since Joe Mauer signed his massive, unprecedentedly large contract with the Twins last weekend, Twins fans and Twins bloggers have seemingly forgotten (or at least blocked out) complaints we have had for the last few months. The national media has gotten into the act as well, and suddenly Mauer represents the great hope that a middle-market team could compete with the Yankees and an example of parity in the Major Leagues.

The whitewashing of this contract needs to stop, right now.

The fact that Joe Mauer signed the fourth-largest contract of all time and the largest contract not offered by the Yankees or a crazy person is not a reason to call him a good guy. Is it nice he decided to stay in Minnesota? Of course. Is it great that he’s always been more receptive to fans than the average player? Sure. Is it nice that he teared up in his press conference? Of COURSE. But none of those things indicate that he signed the contract because he is a good guy or that signing the contract makes him a good guy.

Let’s remember for a minute the sheer size of this contract. Joe will be making $23 million dollars a year. For eight years. To play BASEBALL. Now, I’m in my last year of law school. If the legal market recovers, I can look forward to making a nice salary if I go to work for a law firm (which I’m not going to do, but hang with me for the time being). Let’s round it up to $200,000, which is near the upper limit of what lawyers Joe’s age would make. Even at that nearly absurd salary level, it would take 115 years to make Joe’s salary.For someone who makes a more normal salary, say, $35,000, congratulations, Joe will earn more in 2011 than you would earn in 657 years. So let’s ditch the meme about how Joe is a good guy for taking less than he could have in free agency.

I also doubt that he’d have gotten that much, except from the Twins. People have been throwing around numbers like $30 million or so for months. But that money would not be over 8 years, it might be for six. The most I could possibly see Joe getting in free agency over eight years would be $25 million from the Yankees or the Twins. Let’s be honest, the Twins would be forced to join the bidding war if Joe hit free agency. The Red Sox wouldn’t have joined. They have Victor Martinez, who by all reports is enjoying his time in Boston, and wouldn’t have cost them more than $10 million per year for three or (maybe) four years plus an option. The Dodgers have shown no interest in spending big money this season, and with the impending ugly divorce of the team’s owners, it seems like there would not be the money in the Dodgers’ future to be a player in the Mauer scenario. The Angels have Mike Napoli, and plenty of options that don’t cost $25 million.

So that leaves the Twins, who have no choice but to bid on Mauer, for reasons I’ll explain in a bit, and the Yankees, who are newly on a budget under the Steinbrenner son and Brian Not-as-much-Cashman. Would they have gone to $25 million for eight years? I don’t know, maybe. Their rivalry with the Red Sox wouldn’t have been pushing them, so they would have had considerably less motivation to go there. So let’s assume Mauer could have gotten $25 million, a fact of which I am not at all assured. That means he would have made $16 million more over the course of the contract. Which leads to a meta-question: when your $23 million annual salary would let you buy nearly anything you could ever want, does adding $2 million or so a year really make a difference?

So did Mauer end up signing for a discount, for functionally less than he would have gotten in New York? No, probably not: his cost of living, oh-so-important in economics, would be nearly double in or around NYC.

So, please, for the love of God, let’s stop pretending that Joe’s signing of the fourth-largest contract in history demonstrates that he’s a nice guy or that he is doing a nice favor for Minnesota.

In  fact, he might have done exactly the opposite. Everyone remembers that famous, insane contract offered to Alex Rodriguez by Texas, right? Texas, which at the time had a payroll of just over $47 million, offered A-Rod a contract of $252 million over 10 years. The media went off it’s collective nut about how suddenly the playing field was even due to the huge, unprecedented contract being offered by a middle-market team. But the contract crippled the Rangers. They lasted exactly two years with a payroll over $100 million, and then had to start cutting players and were forced to trade A-Rod to the Yankees, and had to keep paying a portion of his salary just to get rid of him. The Rangers so overpaid A-Rod that they couldn’t surround him with decent players, and were bad teams those years.

That was 2001, and the economics of baseball have changed since then. Contracts have gotten larger, revenues have gone up. Last year the Twins’ payroll was $65.3 million or so, not including the partial seasons of Pavano and O-Cab. This year, it is already at $105 million. Next year, with Mauer’s salary added in and assuming all else remains constant (assuming no one gets a raise in arbitration, for example), payroll will be at $116.5 million. Sure, a couple contracts may or may not come off the books (namely Pavano), but raises for other players will probably eat up that money and more. This will be in the second season at Target field, after the novelty of the new stadium has worn off and the joy over Mauer’s contract will have dimmed.

So, the question I ask you: who leaves the Twins so they can afford Mauer? Is it Justin Morneau? Jason Kubel? Scott Baker? Joe Nathan will almost certainly go after 2011. Possibly all of the above? The Twins cannot and should not assume that revenues will rise that much. They WILL be forced to make pay cuts. In a sense that might be good, because there’s a lot of good minor league talent almost ready. However, there is NOTHING that assures me in all that I have researched that Mauer’s contract won’t cripple the team’s ability to get good free agents, which they didn’t do in the first place. In 2012 or 2013, I would expect the Twins to be around $100 million or slightly below, which means that the payroll will be $23 for Mauer and $77 for everyone else. Does that sound like a winning team to you?

At the same time, I can’t fault the Twins’ front office too much for making the offer. The fans and the bloggers and the national media and the rest of baseball, eager to stop the flow of the best talent to NY, basically mandated that they had to get the contract done. They knew that the season and the new stadium would be tarnished without a Mauer contract. They knew that Fanatic Jack‘s shouts of “cheap, cheap, cheap” would ring from far more mouths than they did this off-season. They knew that Minnesota’s anger at the team would be palpable and unavoidable. So they made an offer, and offer Joe accepted.

Joe Mauer is a professional who made a savvy business decision that maximized his own value. That doesn’t make him a good or a bad guy. What will make him a good guy is if he continues to be a class act to fans, a good guy in the locker room, and the continued epitome of “Minnesota nice.” It sure doesn’t make him a bad guy, because the Twins made the offer to Mauer and had the power to go a different direction.

There are two things I know five days after the contract: One, the Twins are soaking up all the risk and were quite possibly stupid for offering such a large contract even though there is no real way to predict revenues past 2011; and Two, Joe Mauer signed a contract for the most money he could get.

I repeat, that doesn’t make him a bad guy.

But lay off the stories praising him for signing the contract.

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