Monday, March 31, 2008

Meet the Jose Reyes of the American League

Watching the game tonight made me realize that Carlos Gomez is really going to be a special player. In fact Francisco Liriano better look out because if Gomez keeps up the way he's been playing in spring training and the game tonight then he could take over the title of my favorite baseball player.

Gomez had 2 SB (including one where it was a pitchout and he still beat the throw) and double, a single (by a perfect bunt) and a walk. That is one good opening night. Carlos Gomez is going to be amazing!

Baseball is Back!

Some quick predictions for the new baseball season:

Final standings:


Boston Red Sox
Tampa Bay Rays
New York Yankees
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles

Detroit Tigers
Minnesota Twins
Cleveland Indians
Chicago White Sox
Kansas City Royals

Los Angeles Angels
Seattle Mariners
Oakland A’s
Texas Rangers


CY YOUNG: Francisco Liriano
MVP: Miguel Cabrera
ROY: Evan Longoria


New York Mets
Atlanta Braves
Piladelphia Phillies
Washington Nationals
Florida Marlins

Chicago Cubs
Milwaukee Brewers
St. Louis Cardinals
Cincinnati Reds
Houston Astros
Pittsburgh Pirates

Arizona Diamondbacks
Los Angeles Dodgers
Colorado Rockies
San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants

MVP: Johan Santana
CY YOUNG: Johan Santana
ROY: Kosuke Fukudome



And some Twins predictions:

HR: Morneau 45
BA: Mauer .339
RBI: Young 121
SB: Gomez 65

Worst BA: Punto .189

Wins: Liriano 18
SO: Liriano 234
ERA: Liriano 2.39
Saves: Nathan 40

Liriano will stay healthy
Gomez will lead AL in stolen bases
Everett and Mauer will win gold gloves
Mauer, Morneau and Natha will be all-stars
Lamb will be one of the top five hitters on Twins
Gomez, Cuddyer, and Young will be 1-2-3 in outfield assists.
Kubel will finally have that breakout year and hit 20 HR
Mauer will finally develop power and hit around 20 HR
Twins will have more wins than last year

And my final prediction:
Most of the above predictions will be wrong at the end of the year.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Best Jazz Players Of All-Time

1-Karl Malone: Malone was the MVP twice, he is the second leading scorer in NBA history, and he is arguably the greatest power forward ever. Plus he talks about himself in third person. Malone and Stockton led the Jazz to their only twi NBA finals’ appearances. Malone loved to hammer dunk it early in his career and later on in his career he developed an unstoppable 20 foot fade away jumper. Malone was an amazing defender as well. Also he was perhaps the most durable player in Jazz history. He missed more games due to suspensions than to injury.

1-John Stockton: How can you pick #1 between Stockton and Malone? I sure can’t. Stockton is the NBA’s all-time assists and steals leader and nobody will ever break his records. He helped make Utah one of the most consistently best teams in the 1990’s. He was also an outstanding defender. Most Jazz fans consider him to be the best point guard of all-time.

3-Adrian Dantley: Perhaps one of the most underrated stars of the NBA. He was a fantastic scorer. He shot 56% field goals for the Jazz and he even averaged more than 30 points a game for four seasons. He leads the Jazz all-time with his 29.6 point per game average.

4-Pete Maravich: Piston Pete Maravich was the Jazz first real star. He was a three-time all star and he was the first Jazz player to have his number retired. The only Jazz man in the Hall of Fame (but not for long.)

5-Mark Eaton: Mark Eaton was one of the tallest players to ever play for the Utah Jazz at a whopping 7 foot 4 inches. He set the record for blocks in a season for the NBA (456). Not much of a scorer but an amazing rebounder and defender.

6-Darrell Griffith: He was a great scorer for the Utah Jazz. He averaged over 20 points per game for five seasons. He was perhaps the best three point threat that the Jazz ever had. Nicknamed Dr. Dunkenstein.

7-Jeff Hornacek: Jeff Hornacek was acquired from Philadelphia for Jeff Malone. Hornacek was the best free-throw shooter and a great outside shooter as well. A great team player and role model.

8-Deron Williams - The best young point guard in the league. He was the main factor in the Jazz run to the Western Conference Finals last year. He just wants to win and he can single handedly take over the game when he needs to. An amazing scorer who could lead the NBA in scoring if he wanted to and a great passer plus a decent defender. Poses the best threat of anyone to move to #1 on the list and a pair of NBA titles would do just that.

9-Carlos Boozer - Williams and Boozer are like the new Stockton and Malone. Boozer is one of the best offensive players in the league and an amazing rebounder. He is very clutch and he is deadly with his left hand as well. The biggest knock against him is that he is not a very good defender. Could move up very high on this list as well with an NBA title or two.

10-Andrei Kirilenko: AK47 is one of the best all-around players in the league. His shot blocking and overall defense has made him into a great tool for Jerry Sloan. Kirilenko is also the first non center to lead the Jazz in shot blocking. Kirilenko can score when needed, he is a great free-throw shooter and is improving his 3-point shot.

Just missed the cut:
Jeff Malone
Thurl Bailey
Mehmet Okur
Rickey Green
Bryon Russell
David Benoit
Matt Harpring

Felton Spencer and Greg Ostertag (kidding!)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Liriano To Start in Minor Leagues

LaVelle E. Neal III from the Star Tribune reports:

The Twins are very pleased with Francisco Liriano’s progress over his past two outings but feel he still needs a couple more starts. So they optioned him to Class A Fort Myers on Friday, which allows righthander Nick Blackburn to make the Opening Day rotation.

Liriano, who has struck out 12 batters over his last nine innings, will start for Fort Myers on Thursday. It actually helps him some because his wife, who is pregnant, will have labor induced on Friday.

Liriano then will join Class AAA Rochester for a start. Liriano should be able to sharpen his pitches over these outings and have the stamina to throw 100 in a game. He’s then expected to join the Twins on their road trip to Chicago, Kansas City and Detroit.

The Twins rotation against the Angels is as follows

Monday, Mar. 31: Livan Hernandez vs. Jared Weaver

Tuesday, Apr. 1: Boof Bonser vs Jon Garland

Wednesday, Apr. 2: Nick Blackburn vs Joe Saunders

Thursday, Apr. 3: Kevin Slowey vs Ervin Santana

and Scott Baker will pitch the first game of the series with Kansas City on Apr. 4 if all goes well Sunday.

Play of the Spring

This was probably the best play of the spring so far. It happened during Wednesday's game.

Elliot Johnson led off the third by trying to bunt down the first-base line. He kept it close to the line and it rolled down close to the bag. Morneau went to cover the bag and Hernandez moved his considerable bulk over toward the ball. Seeing that he wouldn't be able to scoop it up in time to get Johnson, Hernandez instead kicked the ball, right on the toe, and it went straight into Morneau's glove.

Your average, everyday 1-3 putout. Unbelievable.

Jason Bartlett said:
That was awesome. Usually you'd see that and you'd get mad about it, but it was so amazing that everybody in our dugout was taking their hat off and just bowing to him. To kick it and to hit it in the air right at Morneau's glove is impossible, but he did it. Any other first baseman, it probably would have hit off their knee or something, but Morneau, with that hockey instinct, kick save and he got it in the glove.
Justin Morneau added: "Usually that's no goal in hockey, kicking it in."

Monday, March 24, 2008

Roster Moves

The following players were optioned to Rochester today:
RHP Phil Humber
OF Denard Span
OF Jason Pridie
IF Brian Buscher

All four of these guys had a decent chance at making the team. With both Span and Pridie being sent down this means that Carlos Gomez won the center field position. Gomez definitely is the most talented out of the three. Pridie, Span, and Gomez all had great springs. I wouldn’t have minded seeing Span being the CF for the first two months to delay free agency for Gomez for another year. Denard Span really has to be depressed today. Ever since he was drafted he had been heralded as the guy to replace Torii Hunter and now it appears that he will never get a shot at it.

Basically it boiled down to that Gomez could make a difference on the team right now. He’s really picked up his play over the past couple of weeks. In 15 games he has 10 steals, 1 HR, 4 doubles, 2 triples, and 12 runs while batting .286. Over a full season that projects to 108 steals, 11 HR, 65 doubles, 32 triples, and 194 runs. That is pretty darn good, although not a good projection from such a small sample size. It has been a long time since anybody has stolen more than 100 bases in one season. This dude is going to be a fantastic player. He will turn lots of singles into doubles, and he scores almost every time he gets on base due to his speed. Carlos Gomez is the most exciting everyday Twins player in a long time.

So the 13 position players are set. Here they are:
C - Joe Mauer
Backup C - Mike Redmond
1B - Justin Morneau
2B - Brendan Harris
SS - Adam Everett
3B - Mike Lamb
Backup IF - Nick Punto
Backup IF - Matt Tolbert
LF - Delmon Young
CF - Carlos Gomez
RF - Michael Cuddyer
Backup OF - Craig Monroe
DH - Jason Kubel

Indications are that Francisco Liriano might start off in the minors to get him up to full speed. Here are the 12 pitchers to start the season:

SP Livan Hernandez
SP Scott Baker
SP Boof Bonser
SP Kevin Slowey
SP Nick Blackburn

CL Joe Nathan
RP Pat Neshek
RP Matt Guerrier
RP Dennys Reyes
RP Jesse Crain
RP Juan Rincon
RP Brian Bass

Now Liriano might make the team, that decision hasn’t been made. If he does the Blackburn will be sent down.

Opening Day is next week when the Twins host Torii Hunter and the Los Angeles Angels.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday Notes

-For all you depressed Cougar fans out there, don't say I didn't warn you. You should be smarter than to expect a first-round win.

-The Jazz looked terrible last night. I think the Lakers just moved to #1 on my teams the Jazz don't want to face in the playoffs list. They won the series 3-1 and they are the first team to beat Utah at home this year. And they did so in a convincing manner. I think Kobe gets up for the Jazz games, he gets riled up over the Jazz booing his ex-Jazz teammates (Malone and Fisher.)

-I don't know how the Twins can take Denard Span over Carlos Gomez for the CF job this season. Ok Span has a better On-Base Percentage but Gomez could end up being the most exciting Twins player ever. The dude already has 9 steals in spring training, a home run, two triples and three doubles. I am starting to wonder how many bases this guy could steal in a whole season. His on-base percentage isn't the best but he scores almost every time he gets on base.

-Boston definitely is my pick to win it all this year after beating Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston all in a row on the road this week. Sure, they have the best record because they play in the East, but they would probably have the best record if they played in the West.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

It could be a long season...

So I guess thought that the Twins would automatically lose. And I always thought that if you scored 4 runs and they other team had 2 it was counted as a win...

BYU and the NCAA Tournament

I am one of the biggest sports optimists you can meet. Every year I think the Jazz will win it all, and practically every year I think that the Twins will make the playoffs and win it all. But sometimes I am a realist. So to all you BYU fans out there: don't worry, BYU will lose in the first round once again. I called the loss to UNLV in the MWC championship and now I'm calling the loss to the A&M Aggies.

Trust me, every year when BYU was in the NCAA tornament I'd fill out my tournament bracket and somehow convince myself that BYU was going to win it all and I'd pencil them in. The Cougars would always totally mess up my bracket! Even last year I was thinking that they would beat Xavier then they could somehow pull off a massive upset of Ohio State, and then BAM! they'd be in the sweet sixteen baby! This year I don't even care, I know they will loose. In fact I never remember the Cougars getting out of the first round. Maybe they did once... Don't get me wrong I'd love to see the Cougars advance but folks I just don't see it happening. Maybe if they'd actually get higher than the 8th or 9th seed...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Stockton and Malone

The Jazz have two big holes: they don't have a defensive stopper in the middle and they don't have a great back-up point guard. Ronnie Price is alright but Deron Williams is having to play way too many minutes. The Jazz have as good of a shot as anybody at winning a championship this year, especially if they obtain home-court advantage in the Western Conference Playoffs.

It is a shame that Malone and Stockton didn't win a title. You know they only retired a few years ago. If Michael Jordan made a comeback (twice) why can't Stockton and Malone. I guarantee Malone would still be the most fit player in the NBA. Stockton probably still plays some games and he kept himself in excellent condition as well. I think the problem is that you can't add players at this point of the year if they want to play in the playoffs so of course this wouldn't work. But imagine Stockton coming in to spell Deron Williams for 10-15 minutes a game. Malone could easily provide 20-30 minutes, and could even play most the game if Memo or Boozer got in early foul trouble. He would shut down players in the inside. Plus Malone could tutor Boozer and teach him how to defend and Stockton could teach Williams all the little aspects of the game that can be so important. You cut Hart and Collins, add Malone and Stockton and you get a championship ring for everyone. I'd add Hornacek to the list but he said he couldn't make it down the court more than twice with his terrible knees. This would all be fun to watch but of course it will never happen.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Jazz at Celtics

Big game tonight for the Jazz. They play the Boston Celtics, who possess the league's best record. Boston was the last team to beat the Jazz at Energy Solutions Area. Tonight the game is in Boston, where the Celtics have won 11 in a row. One would think that the Jazz are big underdogs tonight, and you are right. But remember that the Jazz play to the level of their competition, and they probably want revenge for the last game vs the Celtics. Plus the Celtics might be looking ahead as they must face all three Texas teams next week plus New Orleans. I smell a Jazz victory.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Looking at the Johan Santana Trade: Carlos Gomez

Carlos Gomez
Center Field
Born: 12/85
Bats: Right

2005 A- 539 .275 .331 .376 8 27 32 88
2006 AA 486 .281 .350 .423 7 39 27 97
2007 AAA 157 .286 .363 .414 2 12 15 23
MLB 139 .232 .288 .304 2 5 8 27

Carlos Gomez was signed out of the Dominican Republic as a 16-year-old in 2002. Last year he was the NL’s youngest player. He struggled, hitting just .232 with an on-base percentage of .288 and a slugging percentage of .304 in 58 games, and missed about two months with a broken left hand. Those numbers shouldn’t be too concerning as he was just 21.

In 156 games between Double-A and Triple-A, Gomez hit .282 with a .354 on-base percentage and a slugging percentage of .421 with nine homers, 51 total extra-base hits, 58 steals, and a 120-to-42 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Those are great numbers for someone his age playing at such a high level. His biggest weakness is that he lacks plate discipline. Gomez has more power potential than most speedy players. If Gomez can hit for power and average he will be a tremendous player because he is the fastest player in baseball.

Gomez also is an excellent defensive center fielder. He has great range and a tremendous arm. The Twins will have the best outfield arms in the majors with him, Delmon Young, and Michael Cuddyer. Gomez could quickly make fans forget about Torii Hunter but he likely won’t be amazing this year, and could use a few more months in AAA.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Playoff Implications

Believe it or not tonight's game (Jazz at Milwaukee Bucks) has playoff implications for both teams. Milwaukee currently has a 23-41 record, good enough for 17 games out of the #8 seed in the West. But luckily for the Bucks, they play in the East. They are only 3 games out of the #8 seed in the East. The Bucks are trying to catch Atlanta for that final playoff spot in the weakstern conference.

What to do with Joe Nathan

The save statistic is one of the worst statistics in baseball, up there with a win or loss for a pitcher, batting average, errors, and RBI. But that is another topic for another day. Today we’ll be examining Joe Nathan.

Lets look at a better statistic. It is called Win Probability Added (WPA). It measures how much a player does to help his team win games. It comes from a list of probabilities from 30 years of MLB history. All situations are listed with a percentage of times that their team in that situation won. Example: if a team goes into the bottom of the eighth down a run they only have a 23% chance to win. So each player earns points by how much they help their team. If you are the leadoff batter and you get on base your team now has 31% chance to win. The batter gets 8 points difference and the opposing pitcher gets -8 points. Lets say the next batter hits into a double play then all of a sudden the team’s chances drop to 13% and he gets -18 points, while the pitcher gets 18 points.

So the leader in WPA over the last four years has been Joe Nathan. Yup he ranks higher than Johan Santana, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, and Michael Cuddyer. He ranks higher because as the game ends every at-bat because a lot more valuable. Every time he goes in and gets a save he gets 13 points. 13% of the time a pitcher fails to do that. Nathan earns all those points because if he blows the lead then he loses about 87 points, and that will wipe out a lot of good innings.

Maybe we haven’t realized just how good Joe Nathan has been. Over the last four years he’s been the best closer in Twins history. He’s been in the all-star game, he’s finished in the top 5 of the Cy Young twice. He’s gone 19-8, with an ERA of 1.62, 2.70, 1.58 and 1.88 over those four years. And he’s accumulated 160 saves. Basically he’s been the best closer in baseball over the past 4 years.

The problem is that the closer market has gone crazy last year. Nathan is in his last year of the current contract with the Twins and he can test the market next year. So the Twins have a few options. They could sign him to a long term deal now, they can trade him now, they can trade him at the trade deadline, or they can let him walk after this season. Judging by the current contracts given to closers like a $46 million 4 year contract to Francisco Corder or even Eric Gagne earning $10 million this year, Nathan could command a lot more than that. The Twins could afford it, but I don’t think it is wise as they are not huge contenders right now and they shouldn’t pay $17 million a year for someone who pitches 70 innings a year. My pick is to trade him at the trade deadline to a team who is desperate for a top of the line closer and get two top prospects in return. It just wouldn’t be wise for a low budget team that is trying to be contenders in 2010 to pay that amount of money to a closer, especially when the Twins are excellent at making a top-notch bullpen. Pat Neshek would be an excellent closer should the Twins decide to part with Nathan.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Looking at the Johan Santana Trade: Deolis Guerra

Deolis Guerra
Born: 4/89
Throws: Right

2006 A- 17 17 2.20 81.2 59 3 64 37
2007 A+ 21 20 4.01 89.2 80 9 66 25

Deolis Guerra was signed out of Venezuela for a $700,000 bonus as a 16-year-old in 2005. He is a stocky, 6-foot-5 right-hander who wont be 21 until the middle of 2010. He had his debut shortly after his 17th birthday and started his first game at high Single-A last season before turning 18. He was the lone teenage pitcher in the entire league and the average hitter he faced was 23 years old. His numbers plus the age difference is very impressive.

Since his 2006 debut, Guerra has a 3.27 ERA, 135-to-65 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and a .228 opponent's batting average in 178.2 innings. Those numbers are fantastic for someone who's faced advanced competition at such a young age. It is very understandable why the Twins wanted him as one of the centerpieces in the Johan Santana trade.

Guerra can throw in the mid-90s. and being so large and young he should be able to develop a big-time fastball. Guerra's changeup is reportedly his best pitch. Guerra has the highest ceiling as anyone in the Twins system. He could end up the Santana trade look great if he turns out the way people think he might. But young pitchers face numerous obstacles and are far from a sure thing. If Guerra turns out to be nothing then more pressure is on Carlos Gomez and one of Kevin Mulvey or Philip Humber to meet expectations for the Twins to have received a good haul in the Santana trade.

Monday, March 10, 2008

I hope Jerry Sloan didn't see this...

Finishing Strong

Lets take a look at Utah’s last 6 games and see why the Jazz must win as much as they can right now:
Apr. Fri 04 vs San Antonio
Tue 08 @ New Orleans
Thu 10 @ Dallas
Sat 12 vs Denver
Mon 14 vs Houston
Wed 16 @ San Antonio

The one positive I see is that if by that last game San Antonio has it’s playoff seed finalized, the Jazz will have the best shot they’ve had in a while to win a game in San Antonio.

Here is how the Jazz have fared against Western Conference playoff contenders:

Golden State 3-0 Remaining: 0
Denver 2-1 Remaining: 1
Phoenix 2-1 Remaining: 0
Dallas 2-1 Remaining: 1
New Orleans 2-1 Remaining: 1
San Antonio 1-1 Remaining: 2
Houston 1-1 Remaining: 1
L.A. Lakers 1-2 Remaining: 1

Overall 14-8 Remaining: 7

That’s not too shabby. They’ve won 2 season series, they are winning 3 more, and they are tied for 2 more. The Jazz could end up winning all the series except for tying one, or they could end up losing 3 series and tying 3 series. It’s in their hands.

Here’s the Jazz remaining schedule minus those 6 games:

Tue 11 @ Chicago
Wed 12 @ Milwaukee
Fri 14 @ Boston
Sat 15 @ New Jersey
Mon 17 vs Toronto
Thu 20 vs LA Lakers
Sat 22 vs Seattle
Tue 25 vs Charlotte
Fri 28 vs LA Clippers
Sun 30 @ Minnesota
Mon 31 vs Washington

The Jazz better go at least 8-3 over that stretch. These final 17 games will be make or brake for the Jazz. They could clinch home court advantage in the Western Conference playoffs, thus clearing a path to Finals. Or they could completely miss the playoffs. I’m sure Coach Sloan realizes this and will have the Jazz prepared.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Confident Carlos Gomez

The Minnesota Twins are left without a center fielder after Torii Hunter left via free agency. There are 3 possible replacements: Denard Span, and two players the Twins brought in from trades: the Dominican Carlos Gomez and Jason Pridie. The three are competing during spring training to see who will be the Twins starting center fielder. You wouldn’t think that there is a competition after talking to Carlos Gomez.

A reporter asked Gomez how he thought he could play in the Metrodome:

“If Torii Hunter can catch the ball there, why can’t I catch it there?”

But wait, there’s more.

“They don’t have no speed like me. I know I can help this team. Especially when I hit ahead of Morneau and the catcher and the other guy.”

He’s referring to some catcher named Joe Mauer and another guy named Michael Cuddyer.

“They will all have more RBIs,”

Gomez gets his speed from his dad:

“My dad was fast,” Gomez said. “When I was a kid and I worked out with my older friends, they all worked out so hard for their running. I do nothing. They say, ‘Why are you so fast when you don’t do nothing?’ I tell them that my dad was fast.”

On Friday Gomez had two hits, including a triple, two runs, and a stolen base.

After the game, Twins beat reporter told him it seemed like he was in the pitchers’ heads.

“That’s good,” he said in that cool voice. “When the pitcher thinks only about the leadoff hitter, he doesn’t think about the other guys. Like Morneau — probably this year, he has a better year. Because [the pitcher] thinks more Gomez, Gomez — first base. He has to be quicker [to home plate], and he throws more fastballs to the catcher.

“You know, he’s scared to throw breaking balls, and I steal second easy.

“And now I’m at second. Whatever base hit, I score.

“They’re scared when I am on the base. They have to think too much, throw a lot of [pitch outs] to throw me out.

“Mauer probably hits second in the lineup. He’s got good patience, and he kill this league this year.”

Friday, March 7, 2008

Return of Liriano

Today, Francisco Liriano pitched in his first game since 2006. He pitched 1.2 innings, gave up 2 hits and one walk and struck out Manny Ramirez. He was only throwing 90 MHP. He was limited to a pitch count of 40, hence being taken out after only 1.2 innings. It was a very successful debut. The goal was to get Liriano in a game situation, face MLB hitters, and most importantly, stay healthy. He did all of the above while not giving up any runs. You will be hearing a lot about Francisco Liriano on this blog. He is my favorite player, due to many reasons. He was the best pitcher in baseball when he was healthy in 2006, even better than Johan Santana. And he is from San Cristobal, Dominican Republic, a city I lived in for almost five months in 2006. He is a big hero in the DR. When I was there every game he pitched in was on national TV. He now has a couple of fellow Dominicans on the team with speedsters Carlos Gomez and Alexi Casilla.

If Liriano can return to form, he will more make up for the loss of Santana. Here’s why: Liriano is very similar to Santana. Santana has the games best changeup, but the Twins pitching coach said that Liriano’s is very similar to Santana’s. But the thing that makes Liriano better is his slider, which everyone says is the best slider they’ve ever seen. A Twin and an ex-Twin agree. Joe Mauer says Liriano has the best stuff he’s ever caught, and Hunter says if he had to chose between Liriano and Santana (assuming they were the same age) he would take Liriano because he has all the nasty pitches Santana has, but he also has the best slider in baseball.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

2008 NBA Playoffs

I thought it would be interesting to rank the Western Conference playoff contenders from the best to the worst matchups for the Jazz.

Golden State: The Jazz dominated them last year in the playoffs and have scored 123 points on average against them this season beating the Warriors all three times.

New Orleans: The Jazz are 2-1 against them this season. Williams seems to really play well against Christ Paul. Paul has only beaten the Jazz twice.

Phoenix: Utah has played well against Phoenix as they usually do with small-ball teams. The Jazz usually overpower those type of teams inside with Boozer. Shaq is too old to help and Amare and Nash are the worst defenders in the league.

Houston: Now that the Rockets won’t have Yao Ming for the playoffs the Jazz should be able to beat them out in a 7 game series, like last year.

Denver: These two always get physical against each other. But the Jazz are more disciplined and more clutch.

Dallas: Jason Kidd is no match for Deron Williams, as evidenced by William’s 17 point 20 assist game against the Mavs. This series could go either way.

L. A. Lakers: The Jazz won’t be able to slow down Kobe at all. Their game at the Staples Center in December was terrible. This would be a tough series to win.

San Antonio. The Jazz haven’t won at the Spurs place since 1999. Ginobili always kills the Jazz. Utah lost to them 4 games to 1 in the Western Conference Finals last year and the Jazz would be lucky to be able to beat them this year.

Ideally the Jazz would face New Orleans in the first round, then Golden State, then Phoenix in the Western Conference Finals. Then they would beat the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals. I honestly can’t remember the last time when the Pistons beat the Jazz.

Unfortunately the Jazz probably won’t be that lucky. To get to the Finals they will most likely have to beat either the Lakers or the Spurs. I’m not so sure the Jazz will.

The key this year will be getting as much home court advantage as possible. The Jazz haven’t lost at Energy Solutions Arena since December and have the best home record in the NBA, only losing 3 games this season. Having been at ESA last year during the playoffs I know firsthand how loud it can get there. It’s tough to imagine the Jazz losing more than one game at home in a series. But, for example, if we have to play San Antonio in the playoffs with the Spurs having home-court advantage, the Jazz would definitely lose the series. Who said the regular season doesn’t matter??

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Morris Almond and Kyrylo Fesenko

What are the Jazz going to do with these two great rookies they have playing in Orem in the D-League? Morris Almond is leading the league in scoring, and he tied the league record with 51 points in one game a few months back, and then a few weeks later he broke his own record with 53 points. He is a great scorer, a great shooting guard. I don’t know how his defense is honestly because I haven’t been able to see him that much. I really need to go to some Utah Flash games, especially since they are so close. Almond was a great draft choice, but just what are the Jazz going to do with him? He is log jammed behind Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, and even C. J. Miles. All three of those guys are quality shooting guards. Lets be realistic. The Jazz can’t keep all four of these guys. I’d say out of the four, Korver is staying because he is a fan favorite and he’s the best three point shooter and free throw shooter on the team. Even Jeff Hornacek things that Korver is a better shooter than he ever was as the Salt Lake Tribune reports:

Kyle Korver knocked down 31 of 34 three-pointers in one of the shooting drills Hornacek had put himself through for years as a player.

"He can shoot better than I can,'' said Hornacek, a 40.3 percent career three-point shooter whose No. 14 was retired by the Jazz in November 2002. "He can light it up." Watching Korver go through the drill, Hornacek said, "I was like, 'Holy crap.' "

But Almond seems to be more like Korver than Brewer and Miles, which lessens his value to the team. Brewer is having a breakout season and provides great defense and a great slashing and inside game. Miles is a good shooter and plays a good all-round game as well. He is also very young. In fact I think both Brewer and Miles are younger than Almond. But my guess is Miles will be the first to go. Korver is locked up until the end of 2011. Miles can sign with any team this year. It will be interesting to see how this all turns out, but Morris Almond can’t be ignored by the Jazz for much longer than after this season.

Now Fesenko should step in and take over Collins role after his contract is up next season. Fesenko will be a beast and the inside presence the Jazz have been looking for since Mark Eaton. He is still raw but that is what the D-League is for. With Okur, Fesenko, Boozer, Millsap, and Kirilenko the Jazz will have one of the very best front lines in the whole NBA. Hen isn’t as for sure as Almond is but Fesenko has tons of potential. I’m excited to watch the future of these two “young rookies” as Hot Rod would say.

Boy, the Jazz done well with their draft the past few years. Williams in 2005, Millsap and Brewer in 2006 and Almond and Fesenko in 2007. It is good to see this after a few interesting draft years with such winners like Kris Humphries, Kirk Snyder, Curtis Borchardt, Raul Lopez, etc.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Tim’s Minnesota Twins Top Prospects

1. Carlos Gomez, CF ETA: 2008

A prospect the Twins received in the Johan Santana trade. He is the best all-around athlete in the Twins system now. He is the fastest runner in the Twins organization if not the major leagues. He has power to hit a lot of double and a good number of home runs. He has a cannon arm and is an excellent defender. He is still very raw but will likely be the Twins opening day starting center fielder and leadoff hitter if he has a solid spring training.

2. Deolis Guerra, RHP ETA: 2010-2011

He is somewhat similar to Gomez, a player received from the Mets who has tons of potential but is still somewhat raw. He is from Venezuela and is only 18 years old. He has a huge body frame and has the potential to be an ace and be the Twins #2 starter behind Francisco Liriano.

3. Tyler Robertson, LHP ETA: 2010

6-5, 225 pound, 19 year old lefty. He has three solid different pitches. Last year he struck out 123 batters in 102 innings in A ball. Hitters hit just .227 off of him. He had an ERA of 2.29 and looks to be a top of the rotation starter. Should start the year in AA ball.

4. Anthony Swarzak, RHP ETA: 2009
Anthony Swarzak is a young right-hander in AA. He has hit 95 mph on the radar gun and his curveball is his out pitch and his changeup gives him plenty of strikeouts as well. .Swarzak was the fifth of six pitchers the Twins selected in the first three rounds of the 2004 draft, but he has emerged as one of their top prospects. He has the potential to be a #2 starting pitcher.

5. Ben Revere, CF ETA: 2011
The Twins first round draft choice in 2007. Baseball America said he was the fastest player in the draft. He had a great first year in the minor leagues, with 10 triples and 21 steals in 50 games, to go along with a .388 on-base percentage and a .461 slugging percentage. One problem is that he is unlikely to develop home run power.

6. Jeff Manship, RHP ETA: 2010
The Twins took him in the 14th round of the draft, in 2006. Manship posted a 1.26 ERA in his 14-inning pro debut. Last year he dominated low Single-A with a 1.51 ERA and 77-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 77.2 innings. He was then promoted to high Single-A and had a 3.15 ERA there. So Manship had a hugely successful first full season. He doesn’t have overpowering stuff but he should be at least a mid-rotation starter.

7. Kevin Mulvey, RHP ETA: 2008
Acquired from the Mets in the Santana trade. Was the Mets Minor League Pitcher of the Year. He has modest strikeout numbers, but is very good at keeping the ball in the park. He’s just given up 5 home runs in 173 innings. Should develop into a solid #3 or #4 starting pitcher.

8. Trevor Plouffe, SS ETA: 2009

The Twins first round draft pick in 2004. He struggled at low Single-A and high Single-A over the first two seasons. Despite this, the Twins put him in AA as a 20 year old. He had the best year of his career with 9 home runs and 48 extra-base hits. His 37 doubles ranked third in the league. Plouffe has been pushed through the minors quickly, but he is just 21 and he is headed in the right direction.

9. Chris Parmalee RF ETA: 2011-2012

Drafted by the Twins with the 20th overall pick in the 2006 draft. He had a great first pro season with a .369 on-base percentage and a .532 slugging percentage. He had a disappointing last season, and he struck out in 27 percent of his plate appearances. He did rank in the league’s top 10 in homers. He looks like he will develop into a major power threat, since he has 23 homers, 63 extra-base hits in just 184 games as a teenager. But he needs to improve his .249 batting average and 193 strikeouts to be a potential impact bat.

10. Wilson Ramos C ETA: 2011-2012

The Twins signed Ramos of Venezuela as a 16-year-old in 2004. Wilson Ramos made his pro debut at rookie-ball in 2006 and hit .286 with three homers and 16 total extra-base hits, in 46 games. Last year he had a great season and adjusting for his age, level of competition, defensive position, and offensive environment, Ramos' performance was the best of any position player in the Twins' minor-league system. It is tough to say how well Ramos will do in the future because he is a teenage catcher. But Ramos has hit .290 through his first 119 games and has thrown out 41% of basestealers. It looks like he could develop some power as well. If he does reach the majors, he possesses the greatest threat to consider moving Joe Mauer from catcher to 3B.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Looking at the Johan Santana trade: Philip Humber

Philip Humber
Starting Pitcher
Throws: Right
Age: 25

2005 A+ 14 14 4.99 70.1 74 6 65 18
2006 A+ 7 7 2.37 38.0 24 4 36 9
AA 6 6 2.88 34.1 25 4 36 10
2007 AAA 25 25 4.27 139.0 129 21 120 44

Humber was selected by the Mets with the third overall pick in the 2004 draft. Humber pitched just 15 starts into his pro career when he suffered a major arm injury, so he had to have Tommy John elbow surgery in mid-2005.

He pitched again the next year, he had a 2.83 ERA, 79-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio, and .199 opponent's batting average in 76.1 innings between high Single-A and Double-A. The problem was that his fastball lost a lot of it’s velocity and it hurt him a lot the next year. Humber had a 4.27 ERA in 25 starts at Triple-A, striking out just 120 batters in 139 innings while giving up 21 homers.

It seems that Humber will be a mid-rotation starter, not the ace the Mets thought they were drafting. He has an excellent curveball but his fastball no longer overpowers hitters. Humber was one of four players the Twins received for Santana, although he was once considered untouchable. His stock has fallen, and I doubt he could end up being the ace everyone thought he could be. In fact he might end up in the bullpen if he doesn’t pan out as a starter, since the Twins have tons of pitching prospects who should be ready soon. But being in the bullpen he still could be valuable, and the Twins always produce one of the best bullpens in the majors. So Humber might be the least valuable player the Twins received in the Santana trade. Had they made this trade two or three years ago he would have been the best player in the package but his stock has dropped a bit.

Looking at the Johan Santana trade: Kevin Mulvey

Kevin Mulvey
Starting Pitcher
Throws: Right
Age: 22

2007 AA 26 26 3.32 151.2 145 4 110 43

Mulvey was selected by the Mets in the second round of the 2006 draft, Mulvey went right to Double-A after signing with the Mets and had a 1.35 ERA in three starts. Last year in AA, Mulvey had a 3.32 ERA and 110-to-43 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 151.2 innings. Mulvey was chosen as the Mets organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

He should be ready to join the Twins this year. He projects to be a mid-rotation starter, although he doesn’t have great strikeout totals. He keeps the ball in the park, hitters only have hit five homers off of him in 173 innings. Mulvey is very effective against right-handed batters, they only hit .224 off of him with a .275 slugging % and 274 OPS.

I like Mulvey a lot. He is probably the most overlooked player received in exchange for Johan Santana. Phil Humber has the biggest name, Deolis Guerra has the most upside, but Mulvey might end up being the best pitcher that the Twins received in exchange for Johan Santana. He could fill the #3 or #4 slot in the rotation for a while.

Will the Twins be better this year??

To answer this question we will look at how I expect the 2008 player’s improvement or lack thereof vs the 2007 player. The measurement is just level of improvement at that position with 1 being 2008 has a decent improvement over 2007, 3 being really big improvement, and 4 being enormous. Obviously -4 would be an enormous downgrade from 2007 to 2008. Enjoy.

2007 C Joe Mauer vs 2008 C Joe Mauer. +2
2007 1B Justin Morneau vs 2008 Justin Morneau +2
2007 2B Luis Castillo vs 2008 Brendan Harris +1
2007 SS Jason Bartlett vs 2008 SS Adam Everett 0
2007 3B Nick Punto vs 2008 3B Mike Lamb +4
2007 LF Jason Tyner vs 2008 LF Delmon Young +4
2007 CF Torii Hunter vs 2008 CF Carlos Gomez? -4
2007 RF Michael Cuddyer vs 2008 Michael Cuddyer 0
2007 DH Rondell White vs 2008 DH Jason Kubel +3

Total lineup improvement +12
2007 C Mike Redmond vs 2008 C Mike Redmond 0
2007 INF Nick Punto vs 2008 INF Nick Punto +1 (could he get any worse?!)
2007 INF Luis Rodriguez vs 2008 INF Brian Buscher +1
2007 OF Lew Ford vs 2008 OF Craig Monroe +1
2007 INF Garrett Jones vs 2008 INF Garrett Jones 0
Total bench improvement +3
Total offensive improvement +15

Starting Pitching
2007 SP Johan Santana vs 2008 SP Francisco Liriano 0
2007 SP Matt Garza vs 2008 SP Kevin Slowey -1
2007 SP Carlos Silva vs 2008 SP Livan Hernandez -2
2007 SP Scott Baker vs 208 SP Scott Baker +1
2007 SP Boof Bonser vs 2008 SP Boof Bonser +3

Total Starting Pitching improvement : +1

2007 CL Joe Nathan vs 2008 CL Joe Nathan 0
2007 RP Pat Neshek vs 2008 RP Pat Neshek 0
2007 RP Matt Gurrier vs 2008 RP Matt Guerrier -1
2007 RP Jesse Crain vs 2008 RP Jesse Crain +2
2007 RP Dennys Reyes vs 2008 RP Dennys Reyes +2
2007 RP Juan Rincon vs 2008 RP Juan Rincon +2
Total Bullpen Improvement: +5
Total Pitching Improvement: +6

Total Improvement overall +21

That is pretty good. I project that on the 25 man roster, an average of 21 Twins will have a decent improvement over last year’s players. This is me probably just being too optimistic but stranger things have happened. Look at 2006, almost all the Twins had their best year so far. Of course other teams got substantially better and you don’t have to look outside of the Twins’ division. Detroit will have the scariest lineup in the major leagues and we will get to face them plenty this season. The bottom line is this. The Twins just lost their best pitcher ever in Johan Santana and some dude named Torii Hunter in the offseason, hence many are writing the Twins off as rebuilding project aimed to get good in 2010 for their new ballpark. Just don’t be surprised if the “rebuilding” Twins have a better record in 2008 than they did in 2007.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Spring Training and 2008

The Twins started spring training yesterday. They lost 6-1 to the Reds, but hey it is just spring training. Francisco Liriano finally arrived to camp on Wednesday as well. It makes one wonder how the Twins would have done in 2007 (and for the playoffs in 2006) with a healthy Liriano. Boy am I excited to watch him this year. He is my current favorite athlete, right in front of Deron Williams. The Twins had a very disappointing season last year, especially considering how they had the Cy Young winner, the MVP, the batting champ, the best closer in the game, one of the best center fielders in the game. But other than that they didn’t have a lot. And the stars all had down years except for Hunter. So there is reason to believe that they will be better in 2008 than in 2007, despite the losses of Santana, Hunter, and Silva. Here are five players that will have a better year than last.

Jason Kubel - he will finally have his breakout season. He was once regarded about as high of a prospect as Mauer and Morneau. He should cement himself as the Twins DH for the long term.

Joe Mauer - he wasn’t at full strength last year, look for him to improve power numbers to 15-20 HR and be in the thick of the batting title race.

Boof Bonser - was great towards the end of 2006. He then put on a lot of weight and had a lot of problems in 2007. He dropped 25 pounds in the offseason and he should be better in 2008.

Justin Morneau - the 2006 AL MVP had a great first half of 2007. He slumped big time in the second half, after having a few injuries. Look for him to put up numbers similar to his 2006 season.

Dennys Reyes - The dude was unhittable in 2006 but had a terrible 2007. For some reason he is great one year, terrible the next, great the next, then terrible. 2008 lands on the good year of his crazy cycle of success.