Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Goodbye Tim's Sports Blog, Hello Rocky Mountain Jazz and Twinkie Baseball

The inevitable has happened. This blog has been split in two. This should motivate me to post more, and each site will be easier to be focused. There aren't hundreds of Twins/Jazz fans out there you know. For Twins fans, they won't have to wade through Jazz analysis they don't want to read. And for Jazz fans, they won't have to look at my Twins thoughts they don't want to see. You can see my Utah Jazz blog at rockymtnjazz.blogspot.com and my Minnesota Twins blog at twinkiebaseball.blogspot.com. I'll see you there.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

What can't Mauer do?

Joe Mauer has accepted the invitation to participate in the home run derby. Admit it, you'll be surprised if he doesn't win. Here is a Yahoo article about Mauer being great at everything he does. My favorite part is the bowling story.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Why Bringing Back Paul Millsap Doesn't Make Sense

It seems like almost everyone is in love with Paul Millsap and can't stand Carlos Boozer. Sometimes it just boggles my mind how biased the fans can be. If Boozer misses a game, fans will get mad at him for being fragile and not toughing it out. If Millsap misses a game, the fans love him more for it, because he is a "hustle" player.

I can understand why fans would get mad at Boozer for his comments last December about "getting a raise." I was upset as well. But we all say dumb things. Sometimes I say really dumb things. Get over it, it is a part of life. It doesn't make him a worse basketball player.

Enough about off the court nonsense. I'd like to take a look at where it really matters: on the court.

First, I'd like to take a look at Millsap's last 37 games of last season. That is almost half a season. After January 25, Millsap had only 7 double-doubles in 37 games. He scored 2o+ points only once in those 37 games. He had 10+ rebounds in only 8 of those 37 games. He had 2+ blocks in 8 of those 37 games.

Boozer came back on the 3rd to last game in February. If you look at the minutes they got, they are both in the low to mid 30's a game. In Boozer's last 23 games (keep in mind he never really got back to full strength), he scored 20+ points in 7 of those 23 games, had 10+ rebounds in 13 of those 23 games, and had a double-double in 13 of those 23 games.

Millsap is the best backup power forward in the game, but he would be one of the worst starting power forwards in the game. People forget that he has usually played against other team's backups, not their starters. Plus there is also the issue that teams didn't scout and prepare for him much when he was a backup. As a starter people noticed his weaknesses and prepared for him, hence the not so impressive 2nd half numbers.

I saw a lot of things I really didn't like with Millsap in the 2nd half of the season. He looked tired and overmatched. I don't know if he is ready to play 40 minutes a night for 82 games + playoffs. He is very small for a power forward. He isn't the inside presence that Boozer is, and that has a lot of bad ramifications for the Jazz. Boozer makes it easier for Okur and Korver to spread the floor and also makes it easier for Brewer to play inside by the rim. Millsap also isn't the offensive player Boozer is, and I'm pretty sure that he never will be. Boozer is one of the top 3 offensive power forwards in the game. And the Jazz need Boozer's offense badly. He is someone you can rely on every night, and you can't say that about Okur or Kirilenko and probably not Millsap.

So sigining Millsap is a luxury, not a necessity, and while maybe, perhaps, there is a chance that someday he might be a starting power forward that makes you an elite championship contender he isn't that guy right now. Boozer is. Boozer makes you elite and puts you into championship contention right now. In fact with Boozer and Okur in the middle, you have perhaps the best PF/C combination in the game. I really can't think of any other PF/C of another team that is better than those two right now. Not Bynum and Gasol (Bynum needs to develop), not anybody. I know they aren't great on defense but that is where Kosta Koufus steps in along with the guy who should be the new backup power forward, Andrei Kirilenko. That is another topic for another day, but the irony is that the Jazz already have a guy on the team who makes a better extra power forward than Millsap the guy they are intent on bringing back.

Friday, June 26, 2009

2009 Utah Jazz Draft Review

Virginia Commonwealth University senior point guard Eric Maynor was the Utah Jazz first round draft pick last night. Utah also took 6-foot-10 Bosnian center Goran Suton of Michigan State at No. 50 in the second round.

Of course you always want to draft the best player available but going into the draft I wanted the Jazz to try and address one of three areas: A backup point guard, a backup power forward to replace Boozer or Millsap, and a backup small forward to replace Matt Harpring. Looks like they tried to address two of those areas.

I give the Jazz an A- grade in selecting Eric Maynor. There never seems to be much talent to choose from outside the lottery and that was especially the case this year. But this year there did seem to be an abundance of point guards. Hey I'm just glad that they picked Maynor before the Timberwolves snatched up all the point guards for themselves. Seriously when was the last time a team picked three point guards in the first round?

Anyways, about Maynor, he sounds like he is a true point guard. He's always been a point guard, he's not converted from a shooting guard, like a Ronnie Price. He is a winner. He is skinny and could put on some more weight. He is very lucky that he can learn from Deron Williams from the start of his career. The Jazz rarely have had a quality backup point guard, and they'd love to see Maynor be able to be the new Howard Eisley for the Jazz.

There are two revealing things I have heard the past couple days. One was Jerry Sloan talking about how Maynor will be a nice #3 point guard this year behind Williams and Ronnie Price. Price, may I remind you, is a free agent. Looks like the Jazz know who they want to backup Williams next year. I'm glad they will have Price and Maynor as backups, that means they won't be wasting lots of precious money on an expensive veteran backup point guard. Really if Price resigns, I think the Jazz have the best point guard situation in the league.

The other interesting thing that has come out is that Maynor's dad came very close to making it to the NBA. He was about to sign with the Chicago Bulls, but he was cut by the coach, who just happened to be named Jerry Sloan. Apparently Sloan doesn't remember that and nobody in the Jazz organization knew that Maynor's dad was cut by Sloan until after they had selected Maynor. I don't know how that plays into this. I hope it doesn't make anything awkward. Maybe it makes Maynor work harder to impress Sloan. If anything it just shows how old Sloan is getting.

As for Suton, I haven't heard much. He has a nice outside shot for a big guy. The Jazz have probably had better luck in the second round than the first so I should research more about him. Looks intriguing though.

All in all it was a bizarre day with Shaq and Vince getting traded and the whole draft being overshadowed by the death of Michael Jackson.

I give the Jazz an A- this year for the draft. They did what they could with their position. I don't know as much about these guys but I will cut they some slack because they have been one of the top 5 drafting teams since 2005. They've gotten Williams, Miles, Brewer, Millsap, and Koufos through the draft lately and who knows maybe even Fesenko will turn out to be good.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Joe Mauer on Sports Illustrated cover

SI Article

Mauer makes his second Sports Illustrated cover. It is a good read.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Milton Bradley, entertainer

http://minnesota.twins.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?mid=200906125009239&c_id=min Do yourself a favor and look at today's Twins/Cubs game highlights. With one, repeat one out, Mauer was at-bat with Harris and Punto on 1st and 3rd. He hit a fly ball to Bradley, who caught it, posed for a few seconds then threw the ball into the stands. Classic. One of the funniest baseball moments I've ever seen. To make things better in the inning before he lost Kubel's fly ball in the sun and missed the catch then two batters later he tried to make a diving catch of Cuddyer's sinking fly but missed it as well.

"I almost kind of laughed when I saw him throw the ball into the stands," Harris said.

"That's life," Milton Bradley said. "These people have high expectations. I have high expectations for myself. I never made a mistake like that in my life. Sue me.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Punto on DL, Casilla called up

The words "Punto" and "DL" go good together. And I've always liked Alexi Casilla. So I'm glad to see that after tonight's game that Casilla was called up to replace Nick Punto who was placed on the DL.

I've always been extremely opposed to Nick Punto taking up a roster spot. The reason is that his bat belongs nowhere near the big leagues. In 2006 he received 472 at bats, and hit .210/.291/.271, good enough for one of the worst offensive seasons ever for a player with that many at-bats. So far this season he has been even worse in 123 at-bats. He is "hitting" .187/.290/.211. It's never good to see a batting average below .200, it's worse to see an on-base percentage below .300, and it's even worse when you have that low of an on-base percentage and have a slugging percentage nearly .80 lower than the on-base percentage. Oh, did I mention that he only has 3 extra base hits this season?

Ok I admit Alexi Casilla was terrible with the Twins earlier this year. But it seems like he has been getting back on track at AAA Rochester with a much better line of .316/.353/.392. He was a huge piece for the Twins last year and we need another boost from him again so that we actually get something from the middle infield.

It sounds like Casilla will take over second base and Brendan Harris will be the shortstop with Matt Tolbert the backup. It's about time Tolbert be forced into a backup position, it is where he belongs. If Casilla can turn things around and Harris can hold off Punto and Tolbert for the last starting infield spot (not likely with Gardenhire's sickening love for Punto and Tolbert) then the Twins lineup will be very solid:

LF Denard Span
C Joe Mauer
1B Justin Morneau
RF Michael Cuddyer
DH Jason Kubel
3B Joe Crede
SS Brendan Harris
CF Carlos Gomez
2B Alexi Casilla

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Danny Valencia, 3B of the future

Today, we will be taking a look at Twins prospect Danny Valencia, a third baseman.  The Twins are set at catcher, 1B, DH, and the outfield for the next few years.  The Twins biggest area of need in the future is the infield, especially the left side. Their current 3B, Joe Crede, is signed only for this year.  The Twins however have hope for 3B in the future, because of Danny Valencia.  

Valencia is currently in AA with the New Britain Rock Cats.  He is 24 years old.  The Twins acquired him with their 19th round pick in the 2006 draft.  He played in college at Miami.  He has been great with the glove and the bat throughout his minor league career.  Last year in A ball, he hit .336/.402/.518 (avg./OBP/slugg.) with 19 doubles, 5 homers, and 44 RBI in just 220 at-bats before getting called up to AA.  There he had 18 doubles, 10 homers, and 32 RBI.  

He is almost always listed as one of the Twins top 5 prospects, and is probably regarded as the top hitting prospect out of the Twins upper two minor league teams.  This year he is still in AA, and he has 5 homers, 4 triples, and 9 doubles in 124 at-bats, while hitting .339/.432/.597.  That is a 1.028 OPS, which is very very good.  And he is great on defense as well.  

I'd project he will move up to AAA Rochester by the all-star break.  He might get a September callup with the Twins, and I'd expect Danny Valencia to be the Twins 3B starting in 2010.  I don't know if he will be an all-star, but he should be a great bat and a great defensive 3B, and one of the better overall players on the Twins.  I'd project him to hit 15-20 homers a year, with 30+ doubles, and a batting average around .295 in the majors.  It seems as though the Twins have finally found a good long term solution at 3B, something they've been lacking since Corey Koskie left them in 2004.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Anthony Swarzak pitched a great major league debut for the Twins. I'll take 7 innings and 0 runs anytime. Swarzak is the first Twin pitcher in history to pitch 7 shutout innings in their first major league start. That is very impressive. I'm sure he won't be in the rotation when Perkins returns, but he might be sent to the bullpen. It is nice knowing that there is another quality young starting pitcher available if needed. I wonder if the Twins would ever trade one of their young starting pitchers... I'd trade Perkins or Blackburn for a great young shortstop or second baseman, but not a third baseman. Even though Joe Crede is only signed for this year, I'm not worried about the future of third base for the Twins. Their top prospect in the upper levels of the minors is 3B Danny Valencia. He is killing the ball at AA right now, and I'm sure I'll do an article on him in the next few days...

The other story of the game was Joe Mauer, hitting his 9th home run of the year, matching his home run total from last year in just 21 games. No doubt, this guy has been the best hitter in baseball this month. It sure is fun to see him hitting .429, getting on-base .516% of the time and slugging .844. Those are just sick numbers! He's on pace for 60 homers and 185 RBI's. I know he's not likely to keep that pace up for the whole season, but if he did, he would have the greatest non-steroid offensive season of all-time. At his pace he could hit over .400, break Roger Maris pre-steroid HR mark of 61, and win the triple crown. I know that is extremely unlikely and premature, but it is fun to dream. And the kid is just 26.

It has been great to see Michael Cuddyer return to form. The guy is just locked in. Hits for the cycle last night, and now is second on the team with 30 RBI. Plus 7 homers. It has been great to have a right-handed power bat in the lineup, especially since Delmon Young isn't developing the power we'd hoped to have seen from him at this point.

At this point Mauer and Morneau have to be the best 1-2 punch in the majors. And Span, Mauer, Morneau, Kubel, and Cuddyer form a nice little offensive juggernaut. And Crede is not a bad guy to have at #6 with his seven homers. Now if the bottom third of the lineup would just start hitting, the Twins would have an amazing lineup all the way through. But it needs to start with Delmon Young. He should return to the lineup today, and I hope he starts heating up now. He usually starts off the season slowly, so hopefully he is past that now.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Twins destroy White Sox 20-1

I think the box score speaks for itself today. Joe Mauer has a ridiculous 1.319 OPS. Not to mention 8 home runs in 19 games. If he keeps this pace up, he will be the AL MVP. Also, Michael Cuddaver seems to have woken up and he is on track to have a season similar to his remarkable 2006 year.

The batting order seems like a silly thing to talk about while the pitching on this team has been so horrendous. But we'll do so anyways. The biggest problem with Gardy's batting order has been the #2 spot. Probably 90% or more of the at-bats there this season have been filled by the likes of Alexi Casilla and Matt Tolbert, who were both hitting under the Mendoza line. This is obviously not what you want from your #2 hitter. You want someone who gets on base at a 35 or 40 percent clip, so that the heart of your order has runs to drive in. A little speed/good baserunning skills is a good thing to have as well. This is probably the perfect spot to slot in Joe Mauer. (Although now that he is hammering homers every other day, he is a great #3 hitter as well.) Gardenhire might have figured that out today, and he plugged Mauer into the #2 spot, and just like magic the Twins go off for 20 runs. Now of course nobody scores 20 runs a game, but I think it would help the offense run a little better. Here is my preferred lineup to maximize run scoring potential:

CF Span
C Mauer
1B Morneau
DH Kubel
RF Cuddyer
3B Crede
LF Young
2B Tolbert
SS Harris

I chose Harris over Tolbert in the 9th spot because they both see roughly the same amount of at-bats, but I think it's preferrable to have your worst hitter in the 8th spot rather than the 9th. The reason is that the 9th guy isn't that far away from your power hitters, so why would you want an automatic out 2 batters before Mauer, Morneau, and Kubel come up?

Another decent reason to shift up Mauer, Morneau, and Kubel up one spot is that they will receive a slight increase of at-bats, being a little closer to the top of the order.

Anyways, batting orders are largely overrated, but there are a few things you can easily avoid that can plague your lineup. Perhaps Gardenhire has figured out that one of them is don't place an automatic out in the lineup right before your best hitters come to bat.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Breslow gone. Swarzak called up.

Today the Twins announced that Craig Breslow has been claimed off waivers by Oakland.  Anthony Swarzak has been called up to replace Breslow on the roster.  Swarzak will be the Twins starting pitcher on Saturday against the Brewers.  He should get a couple of starts while Perkins is on the DL.  If he impresses, he might be put in the bullpen when Perkins comes back (which should be in 15 days.)  

Delmon Young returns this weekend and I'm sure Jose Morales will be sent back down to AAA Rochester when Young returns.  Besides that move, I'd expect the next move will be to get rid of Luis Ayala.  I still can't understand why the Twins thought he'd be a good sign.  He was in the horrid Mets bullpen last year and was cut and was then on the Nationals.  I don't know about you but I don't really want to see a cast-off from the Nationals playing on my team.  I'd imagine the next guy to be called up would be relief pitcher Bobby Keppel.  He is the other pitcher in AAA Rochester's bullpen that has pitched great this year.  Hopefully though the Twins will call up Rob Delaney and Anthony Slama, or at least promote them to AAA.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Projected HR Totals

From ESPN statistics, here are what their projected home run totals are for the Twins:

52 - Joe Mauer
50 - Justin Morneau
27 - Joe Crede
22 - Jason Kubel
17 - Michael Cuddyer
11 - Brendan Harris
8 - Denard Span
8 - Brian Buscher
6 - Delmon Young
0 - Carlos Gomez
0 - Nick Punto
0 - Matt Tolbert
0 - Mike Redmond

And time to redo my predictions:
Justin Morneau - 38
Joe Mauer - 34
Jason Kubel - 26
Joe Crede - 22
Michael Cuddyer - 18
Delmon Young - 13
Carlos Gomez - 10
Brendan Harris - 9
Denard Span - 7
Brian Buscher - 6
Alexi Casilla - 4
Nick Punto - 1
Matt Tolbert - 1
Mike Redmond - 0

Perkins on DL. Henn called up. Who else might be coming up?

Glen Perkins has been horrible over his past few starts, especially last night, and now we know why. Perkins told people after the game that he had been dealing with soreness in his elbow for a while. I still don't understand why players (mainly pitchers) try to play through pain, as they only end up hurting themselves and the team. No good ever comes from keeping an injury hidden, and trying to fight through it. Right Liriano and Neshek? They learned that lesson the hard way by getting Tommy John surgery, let's hope Perkins situation isn't as serious.

Lefty reliever Sean Henn was called up from AAA ball to take Perkins place on the roster. Henn is deserving, for in 15 games this year he has a 1.13 ERA with 6 saves. He has 17 hits and walked ten, but has struck out 32 in just 24 innings.

Calling Henn up should help bolster the bullpen, but it still forces the Twins to make a decision on who will take Perkins place in the rotation while he is injured. I see three options: R. A. Dickey, Anthony Swarzak, and Kevin Mulvey.

We know about Dickey, the knuckleballer, who is currently in the bullpen. He'd probably give you 5 to 7 innings while giving up 4 or 5 runs. Nothing spectacular, but he'd eat some innings. One problem is that if you use him as your starter, then you lose your long relief arm in the bullpen.

If I were the Twins GM, I would call up Anthony Swarzak. Swarzak was a 2nd round pick in 2004. He is pitching very well in AAA this year, and is probably the Twins best pitching prospect right now. He has made 7 starts so far this year. In 44 innings he has given up 11 walks, 40 hits, while striking out 32. He has a 2.25 ERA. For those of you who care about win-loss record (you shouldn't) he is 2-3. He also went 5-0 at AAA at the end of last season. I would love to see Swarzak in a Twins uniform this weekend. But if they don't choose Dickey or Swarzak, they might choose Kevin Mulvey.

Kevin Mulvey was a pitcher the Twins acquired in the Johan Santana trade. The Twins might like to bring him up to show that they did get some good value from the Santana trade (but if they really felt like doing that, they would be playing Carlos Gomez every day.) Mulvey has a 4.15 ERA in 34.2 innings so far. He has a better strikeout rate than Swarzak so far, he has 31 K's. But he has given up 19 walks and 34 hits. Clearly Swarzak has had the better year so far.

Who might be sent down or released? Catcher Jose Morales would be a top candidate. Other candidates would be Luis Ayala and Craig Breslow. I would release Luis Ayala, in my mind he has been the worst bullpen pitcher so far. Jesse Crain wouldn't be too far behind those guys, but I doubt the Twins would get rid of him so fast. Only Nathan, Mijares, and Guerrier are to be trusted at this point.

Who are the other top bullpen pitchers that the Twins could call up? They have two amazing relievers in AA, Anthony Slama and Rob Delaney. Slama has a 1.69 ERA, in 21.1 innings he he has a 33-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio while allowing just 13 hits. He hasn't given up a run in five straight appearances. Delaney has a 2.22 ERA in 28.1 innings with a 31-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He also hasn't given up a run in five straight appearances. Sick of seeing relievers give up homers late in games? These two have given up just two in 49.2 innings.

The thing that drives many Twins fans crazy is that they are only in AA, despite dominating every level they've pitched at. They should be in AAA at least by now. Slama spent all of last season at A ball despite posting some of the most incredible pitching stats you will see. The Twins are moving these two along much too slowly and now it is hurting them. Hopefully with Henn going to the Twins, one of Slama or Delaney will be promoted to AAA. These two hopefully will be great bullpen options for the Twins in a month or two. And next year the bullpen should look much better with Nathan, Neshek, Mijares, Slama, and Delaney in it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Mauer Pauer

First off, if you haven't seen the replay of Joe Mauer's 9th inning play yesterday, do yourself a favor and go check it out. It's currently the primary video at minnesotatwins.com I'm pretty sure that Mauer is the only catcher who could have done that and it will go down as one of his best defensive plays.

Anyways about this Mauer guy. 6 home runs already?! He is already 2/3 of the way to his total last year (9) despite only having 56 at-bats, and is on pace to hit 56 home runs and 148 RBI for the season. Will he keep it up? Not likely. But I don't think he will regress to be just a 10-15 HR guy. I think he is evolving into a player that hits home runs somewhere in the 20's and 30's. It's tough to say at this point of course. But adding power to his game certainly isn't out of the question. Oh, did I mention that he is hitting .429, with an on-base percentage of .529 and slugging .804! Ridiculous! The guy would be leading the league in virtually every offensive category if he only had enough at-bats.

The Twins must lock this guy up. Everyone knows that his contract goes through 2010. I can't even imagine the market for him if he ever becomes a free-agent. It doesn't help that the Yankees and Red Sox catchers are old and beat up. He'd be able to sign one of, if not the biggest contracts ever. I'm sure the Twins will lock him up before then, and Mauer will want to stay in his hometown state. But I'd sign him to a 7 or 8 year deal asap. His price is already skyrocketing.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A look at the Jazz Offseason pt. 2

At locker room cleanout yesterday, everyone made it clear that they wanted to stay with the Jazz next year.  That might just be talk but it does make me wonder if this team will change a huge amount or not.  Sloan said that they are just one good player away from the Finals.  I really like this team and I'd rather see them try to make just a couple improvements instead of blowing up the whole team.  Chemistry is important, and it's hard to just throw a bunch of new guys together and expect them to win.  

What the Jazz really could use is someone just dumping a good player on them without having to give up anything of much value (like Pau Gasol going to the Lakers).  That isn't likely but the Jazz have shown to be adept at trading unwanted pieces for valuable players (see Derek Fisher and Kyle Korver).  

Luckily the Jazz do have some players that could be traded.  Matt Harpring jumps to mind, as he has a $6.5 million expiring contract, and those will be all the rage this season as everyone will want to have money for the crazy 2010 free agent class.  Andrei Kirilenko has a salary that nobody covets, but a few teams would like to have him(Golden State Warriors.)  CJ Miles best years are ahead of him, you'll have him for 3 years at a rate that won't kill you, so some team might want to take a chance on him (Oklahoma City Thunder).  And the Jazz have an interesting little draft pick that could end up being extremely valuable (New York Knicks 2010 1st round draft pick.)

Who might be the missing piece(s) of the Jazz puzzle?  You'll have to wait for the answer.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A look at the Jazz Offseason pt. 1

Jazz players with a contract for 2009/2010 season (6): Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko, Matt Harpring, Ronnie Brewer, CJ Miles, and Kosta Koufos.

Players who can opt out (3): Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur, and Kyle Korver

Restricted free-agent (1): Paul Millsap

Team option (1) : Kyrylo Fesenko

Unrestricted free-agents (4): Brevin Knight, Jarron Collins, Ronnie Price, Morris Almond

Note: Jazz also have NY Knicks unprotected 2010 first round draft pick.

Areas where the Jazz need improvement:
Defense. PF/C with some great defense is very much needed.
Toughness. Who is tough besides Harpring? Maybe Millsap, Williams, and Price.
Points/outside shooting from the SF/SG positions.
Players who can win on the road, and who don't give up big leads.
Another player who can create his own shots besides Williams.
A solid backup point guard.

These are some of the things the Jazz brass has to think about this offseason. Maybe it was a good thing they lost in the first round so they have extra time to prepare?

The only thing the Jazz don't have to worry about is the starting point guard. I'm a little opposed to blowing this whole team up, because had they not had all those crazy injuries, I'm pretty sure they would have made it to the Western Conference Finals this year. But even if the current team was healthy and playing well together they still had some problems.

There is a lot to talk about, but for tonight we will just guess at who will be back for next year. Almond is definitely gone. I'm thinking Korver and Okur will not opt out. I think Knight will be gone, but Price will stay if he's willing to sign a small contract. Collins will probably be gone, and since Fesenko can't play in the D-League next year, I think the Jazz will stop their silly experiment with him. And now we come to the big question. Millsap, or Boozer. The only team with cap space that looks like a decent team to play for is Detroit, and so I think we will not lose both Boozer and Millsap, but I'd be shocked if we could afford both of them. But I really have no idea which of those two will be wearing a Jazz uniform next season.

So if the Jazz don't make a trade this offseason (Note: I am pretty sure they will), here are ten players who will be back with the Jazz: Deron Williams, Memo Okur, Andrei Kirilenko, Kyle Korver, Matt Harpring, Ronnie Brewer, CJ Miles, Kosta Koufos, Ronnie Price, and either Boozer or Millsap.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


The Twins ERA is not a pretty thing.  If you don't count Jose Mijares (who has only pitched in one game), then only Glen Perkins and Joe Nathan have an ERA below 5.00.  That includes all starters and bullpen pitchers.  Sick.  The total ERA for the team is 6.03.  

Another disturbing stat:  The Twins have the worst run differential in the majors.  They have already been outscored by 31 runs.  How are they 7-9!?  With that kind of run difference, I'd expect only 2 or 3 wins so far.  

We need Joe Mauer!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The value of Joe Mauer

Sounds like Joe Mauer will return soon, May 1 would be a good bet.  The Twins haven't been spectacular thus far, but they could have done a lot worse than 7-7 without Joe Mauer.  Perhaps the absence of Joe Mauer has made people realize just how valuable he is to the Twins.  He is the heart of the Twins offense and defense.  Mauer is perhaps more valuable to his team than any other player in all of baseball.  He is simply irreplaceable.  Catchers who get on base 40% of the time and who have gold-glove defense and who throw base stealers out 40% of the time, don't grow on trees.  I don't think Mike Redmond and Jose Morales have thrown out a single base stealer this year. 

Justin Morneau has already won an MVP and finished second another time, so it's safe to say that many consider Morneau as the Twins MVP.  But Joe Mauer should have won the MVP both those years.  The problem is that he isn't a 30 HR hitter and his RBI numbers don't look pretty.  But he is always in the top 3 in on-base percentage, he takes extremely good at-bats, and he's the only American League catcher to win a batting title (and he's done it twice!) .  Honestly, Joe Mauer has a great shot of not only making it to the Hall of Fame, but as being the best catcher ever.

I'm not sure how much of an effect a catcher has on how a pitcher pitches, but it will be interesting to see if the pitching improves with Mauer back behind the plate.

Joe Mauer is signed through 2010, and I am hoping the Twins will give him a contract extension before he becomes a free-agent.  I'm sure the Twins would pay him gobs of money (which they should have due to a new ballpark), because he is the face of the franchise and he is Minnesotan.  He practically is Mr. Minnesota.  But I'd hate to see what would happen if he did reach free agency and the Yankees or Red Sox offered him a 7 year contract which would pay him $25 million a year...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Jason Kubel - Twins Cleanup Hitter

Wow I just watched another incredible Twins victory! They might not have a lot of wins so far this season but they have already had 3 incredibly memorable ones.

Tonight Jason Kubel hit for the cycle and hit a grand slam HR to complete the cycle in the 8th and put the Twins up 11-9. That was exciting! Kubel was an extremely well-regarded prospect, some saying he was as great of a hitter as Mauer and Morneau, plus he played good outfield defense. But a knee injury a few years ago in the fall really hurt him and the next few years he regained strength but never really got back to his old level. People have been picking him to breakout for a few years now, and this might be the year it happens. I hope he is the everyday DH from here on out. Mauer and Morneau are the two best hitters and Kubel and Span are easily the next two best. I wonder how much longer people will pitch to Morneau to get to Kubel (which is what happened before the grand slam.) I think Morneau will start to see better pitches and he too will have better numbers. When Mauer gets back I'd love to see the top 4 of the batting order go Span/Mauer/Morneau/Kubel. I think batting orders are overrated but I do think it is important to get your best players more at-bats than anybody else and sticking them at the top of the order is the best way to do it. Plus Span and Mauer get on-base around 40% of the time, which creates excellent RBI opportunities for Kubel and Morneau.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

10 reasons why to be more optimistic about the Jazz

Such negativity abounds in Utah!  The woeful Jazz face the mighty Lakers in the first round and nobody thinks the series will last longer than 5 games.  I would agree that it doesn't look too promising, but come on I always find things to be optimistic in for my teams.  Here are some things that I find optimism in:

1.  Deron Williams.  When there's  D-Will, there's a way.  Does anybody doubt this guy is going to get 30+ points, 15+ assists every game?  This guy loves the playoffs and elevates his game to a whole new level in the postseason.  

2.  Last years series was closer than people realize.  We lost by 11 points in game 1, 10, in game 2, 7 in game 5, and 3 in game 6.  Plus we beat these guys in the regular season already as well.  I'm not predicting the series yet, but I'd be a little surprised if the Jazz were swept.

3.  If the Jazz manage to steal game 1 (or game 2) the Lakers will be feeling extreme pressure and all the Jazz would have to do is win out at home, which is what they are best at.

4.  I know they are not playing well together right now, but who says that couldn't change with 
just one game?

5.  Many of these guys might be wanting to get raises in the summer.  Beating the Lakers would sure look nice on a resume.

6.  If you ignore their recent slide, the Jazz are the best 8th seed I can remember.

7.  No back-to-back games.  The Jazz had one of the best records in the league when playing a game with a day of rest.

8.  Matt Harpring will cause more frusteration for Kobe than he's used to.

9.  Remember when Williams was hurt this year, and after he initially came back it took him a few weeks or months to get back to normal, but all of a sudden he clicked and was amazing?  I present to you Carlos Boozer...

10.  Hopefully the Jazz players remember Larry Miller and all he did for them and that alone helps to fuel their desire to win this year in the playoffs.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Utah Jazz 2010 Lottery Pick

No I'm not talking about the Jazz own draft pick being in the lottery next season, although it feels like that's where they're headed.  I'm talking about the Knicks pick that we get next year.  We'll use this seasons records/standings to predict where the Knicks will end up.  Currently, the Knicks have the 8th worst record in the NBA.  I'd say their record wouldn't get better or much worse next season.  Looking at the teams below them, I'd say the Wizards and the Thunder will be much better next season, I'd even put the Timberwolves in that group.  Perhaps one (or two) of the Clippers or Grizzlies or Warriors perform better next season.  Obviously some teams will be injured like the Wizards were this season and they might fall below the Knicks, but if that doesn't happen, I'd predict the Jazz will get no worse than a top seven draft pick, with a decent shot at #1, #2, or #3!  And we all know what happened the last time the Jazz had a pick so high...  Deron Williams, you might just be getting a superstar teammate in 2010.

Ranking the Twins position players

Note: These rankings take into account offense AND defense. These aren't necessarily based off numbers. This is how I'd rank their value for the next few months:

1. Mauer - Arguably more valuable to the Twins than any other player is to his team in the majors.
2. Morneau - I'd hate to imagine where the Twins would be without his bat.
3. Span - Gets on base at a great rate, has gold glove defense at all three outfield positions.
4. Kubel - Has great bat, but Span's defense is much better.
5. Cuddyer - The next five could be ranked in almost any order. Cuddyer is a nice right-handed bat with a great arm.
6. Crede - Superb defense, with some nice pop in the bat, although he could get on base at a better clip.
7. Casilla - Has developed into a superb #2 hitter, and I love his range at 2B, although he still makes silly mistakes.
8. Gomez - If his new plate approach develops him into a more patient hitter and he develops a bit more power, he easily cracks into the top five, as he is already the best defensive outfielder in the majors.
9. Young - Don't know where to stick this guy. I'd love to stick him at #3 on this list as that is where his potential is. Still is very young for the majors, we'll see how this season turns out.
10. Punto - He is better than I give him credit for, defense is great, although very over-rated.
11. Harris - Decent bat, can play all over the infield, although not very well.
12. Redmond - One of the best backup catchers in the majors hands-down.
13. Buscher - I really like his bat, his defense is likely why the Twins signed Crede.

MLB Power Rankings

After one week of play:

1. Marlins
2. Braves
3. Cardinals
4. Blue Jays
5. Padres
6. Mariners
7. Cubs
8. Orioles
9. Dodgers
10. Tigers
11. Yankees
12. Mets
13. Angels
14. White Sox
15. Rays
16. Phillies
17. Royals
18. Rockies
19. Twins
20. Rangers
21. Reds
22. A's
23. Red Sox
24. Milwaukee
25. San Francisco
26. Pirates
27. Arizona
28. Indians
29. Astros
30. Nationals

And in other news, at their current paces, Denard Span will have 139 RBI at seasons end, Morneau will hit 46 HR and have 162 RBI, Francisco Liriano will be 0-46.

Ladies and gentlemen, the first week of baseball!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Predicting home run totals

Last season the Twins only hit 111 home runs while their opponents hit 183 against them. Only two players on the Twins hit more than 20(Morneau and Kubel) and only one more hit in double digits (Young). That said, I believe the Twins will show much more power this year. Getting Cuddyer back is one reason, adding Joe Crede is another. A full season for players like Denard Span and Alexi Casilla should help their numbers. Getting better/older/wiser should mean improvements for Carlos Gomez and Delmon Young. Getting LASIK-eye surgery and talking to Harmon Killebrew should hopefully lead to improved totals for Justin Morneau(not to mention better protection for him in the lineup.)

Here is my predicted home run totals for the Twins:
Justin Morneau - 34
Jason Kubel - 30
Joe Crede - 24
Michael Cuddyer - 22
Delmon Young - 21
Carlos Gomez - 16
Denard Span - 13
Alexi Casilla - 12
Joe Mauer - 12 (If Mauer hit for 25-30 HR a year, he'd be the best catcher in history)
Brendan Harris - 6
Brian Buscher - 6
Nick Punto - 2
Mike Redmond - 0

Chances are at the end of the season, I'll look silly for those predictions. The Twins never hit for that much power. But this year just feels a little different...

Monday, April 6, 2009

Thoughts on Stockton, Sloan

I'm sure you have all heard by now that John Stockton and Jerry Sloan will be inducted to the Hall of Fame this year. A few quick thoughts:

-Jerry Sloan has to be the first coach inducted into the Hall of Fame without ever winning Coach of the Year. Seriously, how did this happen?? It just goes to show that some of the postseason awards are a little silly.

-I find it quite ironic that Stockton (and Sloan) won't be the highlight of this years Hall of Fame class. The shadow of the man they could never quite escape looms over them again this year: Jordan.

-Couldn't they just bump Malone up a year so he could enter with Stockton and Sloan this year? Or let Jordan be the only inductee this year out of respect to how untouchable and important he is to the NBA, and at the same time letting Malone go in with Stockton/Sloan next year? It just feels funny to have Stockton and Sloan separated from Malone.

-Two years ago it seemed weird that the Jazz had only one player in the Hall of Fame, Pete Maravich. But by next year they will have increased that number to five, with Dantley, Stockton, Sloan, and Malone joining Maravich.

-The Salt Lake Tribune has been ranking all the Jazz players in history from worst to first. They are down to their top 10, and here is how I'd rank the players that they haven't ranked yet:
  1. Karl Malone
  2. John Stockton
  3. Pete Maravich
  4. Adrian Dantley
  5. Deron Williams
  6. Jeff Hornacek
  7. Carlos Boozer
  8. Mark Eaton
  9. Darrell Griffith
  10. Rickey Green

Baseball 2009 Predictions

Final standings:


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

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

Los Angeles Angels
Oakland A’s
Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners


CY YOUNG: Francisco Liriano
MVP: Justin Morneau
ROY: Matt Wieters


New York Mets
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves
Florida Marlins
Washington Nationals

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

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

MVP: Albert Pujols
CY YOUNG: Johan Santana
ROY: Cameron Maybin



And some Twins predictions:

HR: Morneau 34
BA: Mauer .319
RBI: Morneau 127
SB: Gomez 55

Worst BA: Punto .245

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

Liriano will stay healthy
Mauer and Gomez will win gold gloves, while Crede, Span and Punto will receive consideration
Mauer, Morneau, Nathan, and Liriano will be all-stars
Crede will be one of the top five hitters on Twins
At least one of Crede, Young, and Cuddyer will hit over 20 HR
Twins will have one of the top 3 defensive teams in baseball
Slowey, Baker, and Liriano will all receive some Cy Young votes
Kubel will hit around 30 HR
Crain will be the 8th inning guy this season

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Other NBA teams players I like and don't like

Some players I like to see succeed:
LeBron James
Dwight Howard
Dwayne Wade
Amare Stoudamire
Ray Allen
Kevin Durant
Mo Williams

Random sampling of some players I am indifferent about:
Shaq O'Neal
Danny Granger
Chris Bosh
Kevin Martin
David West
Vince Carter
Rashard Lewis
Devin Harris
Richard Jefferson
Richard Hamilton

Some of the players I can't stand:
Kobe Bryant
Tim Duncan
Chris Paul
Manu Ginobili
Pau Gasol
Stephen Jackson
Baron Davis
Josh Smith
Tony Parker
Lamar Odom
Yao Ming
Tracy McGrady
Carmelo Anthony
Derrick Rose
Chris Anderson
Luis Scola

Sunday, March 8, 2009

11 game win streak

The Jazz knocked off the Raptors today for their 11th straight win. Which reminds me, weren't the Raptors the 10th game in my 10 game prediction? Why yes they were. I don't want to pat myself on the back too much but I am guessing that anybody who read this post thought I was crazy. Maybe I was but holy smokes they won all 10 of them like I predicted and are riding an 11 game winning streak, sit atop the northwest division, and currently have the 4th seed. Go Jazz!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Yao thinks he's 6'9

Best moment of the Jazz win over the Rockets:

Memo Okur was guarding Yao Ming and he tied up the ball so the officials called a jump ball. When the ref threw it up in the air, the 7 foot 6 Yao shoved the 6 foot 11 Memo with both hands and then jumped to knock the ball to his waiting teammate. The refs of course called a foul on Yao and awarded the Jazz possession of the basketball. Yao is 7 inches taller than Memo but it looks like he thinks that isn't enough of an advantage to win a jump ball!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Great article about Larry Miller by Phil Miller

Phil Miller used to cover the Jazz before moving to Minnesota to cover the Twins. I guess I'm not the only one who sees the similarities between the Jazz and Twins. Anyways it is another good perspective on the amazing life of LHM.


Friday, February 20, 2009

Larry H. Miller

I guess today's news wasn't a complete shock, since Larry had been undergoing severe health problems as of late. But I was under the impression that he was on the road back to good health after having his legs amputated. I don't know what to write, especially what to write that hasn't already been written by others in these past few hours. I'm happy he's free from the pain he surely must have been experiencing. I just feel a little empty inside. He has meant so much to the state of Utah. Few people have done as much as Mr. Miller did to improve Utah. He will be greatly missed. It really would be fantastic for the Jazz to win the title this year for Larry H. Miller. Make it happen Sloan!

More good luck for the Jazz

Some more positives for the Jazz that have happened over the past couple of days:

1. Amare Stoudamire's eye injury will keep him out for 8 weeks. In my mind, this guarantees a playoff spot for the Jazz. The Suns looked like they were going to have a big second half of the season comeback after scoring 282 points in 2 games, but this is a huge crippling blow to the Suns.

2. As for teams ahead of the Jazz, Manu Ginobili will be out for 3 weeks. The Jazz are currently 5 games behind the Spurs. I think the Spurs will survive, but the Jazz could jump to be just a couple games back from them.

3. Did Houston waive a white flag yesterday in trading their starting point guard to the Magic? Rafer Alston is gone, and while their backup point guard is better than most, the Rockets just lost their starting backcourt this week. The Jazz are only a game and a half behind Houston. They should pull ahead of them when all is said and done.

4. New Orleans got back Tyson Chandler after the Thunder declined the trade because Chandler didn't pass a physical. Well maybe he is somewhat hurt, but it has to be awkward going back to the Hornets. "So, no hard feelings, right Tyson?" The Jazz are only a game and a half behing the Hornets and they play them at home on Saturday.

5. The Jazz were the biggest winners in the trade deadline. No western conference playoff contender gained a valuable piece through a trade. No team will improve like the Jazz will as they get back 2 Olympians/all-stars in Carlos Boozer and Andrei Kirilenko.

6. The Jazz just beat the Lakers and the Celtics, the two best teams in the league, in one week, even without Carlos Boozer. When healthy, and when they want to, the Jazz can beat anybody.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Finally some luck for the Jazz

Here are a few things that have happened over the past couple of days that have been good for the Jazz:

1. The Hornets trade away Tyson Chandler to the Thunder. They might make the playoffs but surely the Jazz will finish ahead of them in the seeding and if by chance they meet in the playoffs, the Jazz would dominate them.

2. By taking on Chandler's contract, the Thunder now don't have a ridiculous amount of money to throw at Paul Millsap this summer.

3. The Heat trade for Jermaine O'Neal and are definitely not able to sign Carlos Boozer this offseason (or Millsap for that matter.)

4. Tracy McGrady is out for the season because he needs surgery. Well, maybe this one isn't as big, he hasn't been that effective and it's not like he ever led Houston out of the 1st round anyways.

5. Andrei Kirilenko returned to the Jazz last night and played very well in limited action. He returned much sooner than I expected, for a while I feared he'd be gone until the playoffs rolled around.

6. Carlos Boozer had a shoot-around practice before last night's game and looked fine. He didn't favor a leg and did most of his patented moves at 70% speed. I wouldn't be surprised if he returns for the next game vs Boston on national television.

Things are looking up for the Jazz!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Why the Twins should sign Crede

The Twins have been mentioned in connection with 3B Joe Crede. I'm hoping the Twins sign Crede and here is why. Of course the Twins would survive without him and they have Buscher and Harris who can play 3B. But Crede would give the Twins better defense at 3B and he would allow Harris to back-up Casilla and Punto should one of them slump or get hurt. Crede would also add a nice right-handed bat with home run power. Crede was an all-star last year, and he also hit 30 HR in '06. Sure he's been hurt but he's willing to take a one year deal, and so even if he is a bust, he wouldn't hurt the Twins, who have cash to burn. It sounds like if the Twins want Crede, they can have him, as their main competetor, the San Francisco Giants, have dropped out of the running.
Check out the potential lineup with Crede in it:
CF Span
2B Casilla
C Mauer
1B Morneau
3B Crede
LF Cuddyer
DH Kubel
RF Young
SS Harris

Make it happen Bill Smith.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Jazz looking primed to go on a run

The Jazz are going into the all-star break on a high note, after defeating the Lakers. Now, they will get some much needed rest. Millsap stands to benefit the most from the time off. Hopefully all will heal completely from their sores and bruises. Currently, it sounds like Kirilenko will be back for the next game, while Boozer hopes to be back soon after that. Here is my prediction for the next 10 games:

Feb 17 vs Memphis Win
Feb 19 vs Boston Win
Feb 21 vs New Orleans Win
Feb 23 vs Atlanta Win
Feb 25 @ Minnesota Win
Feb 28 vs Sacramento Win
Mar 1 @ Golden State Win
Mar 4 vs Houston Win
Mar 6 vs Denver Win
Mar 8 @ Toronto Win

Yes, I am predicting a 10 game win streak. The Jazz play 7 of those at home, and the three road games are against weak teams (which often spells doom for the Jazz). Maybe I should have learned from my last prediction to set the bar low and be happy when they do better than expected. But the Jazz need to make a run, and it's feeling like that time is coming now. But these predictions are only on the condition that Millsap comes back from the break at full strength, that AK comes back vs Memphis, and that Boozer comes back by the 2nd or 3rd game.

Here is how I'd rank those games in terms of difficulty for the Jazz:
1. vs Boston (if they beat LA, why not Boston?)
2. vs Denver (lots of pressure for the Jazz to win if they want to catch up)
3. @ Golden State (they already dominated us at their place this year)
4. vs Houston
5. vs Atlanta
6. @ Toronto
7. vs New Orleans (we always beat them at home)
8. @ Minnesota (would be higher if they hadn't lost Jefferson)
9. vs Sacramento
10. vs Memphis

I'm feeling confident for a lot of reasons. Williams is playing insanely good, probably as good as he ever has played. Millsap was playing amazing before his injuries, and he couldn't heal because he kept playing through them. A week of rest should revitalize him. Getting AK back is huge, he already says he has no pain.

And getting Boozer back will be just as big, it will boost the Jazz confidence, and return everyone to their normal roles. Everyone will benefit from Boozer getting back in the starting lineup. Miles won't have as much pressure on him, Williams and Okur won't have to carry the team every night, Korver should get more open looks, Millsap can dominate against other teams benches and can play with Boozer, Williams gets his favorite target back, Brewer can drive inside more, etc.

The sleeping (or better said, injured) giant has awoken. The Jazz are back. And you gotta love it baby!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Karl Malone as TNT Studio Analysist

Some random thoughts after the Jazz trounced the Mavs at home, 115-87.

-Boozer is planning to return February 17 vs Memphis, the first game after the all-star break.

-Kirilenko is planning to return right after the all-star break as well.

-No matter what trades happen before the break, no rivals in the West will be getting 2 all-stars to join their team like the Jazz are in getting back Kirilenko and Boozer.

-If what Boozer says is true, then the Jazz only have 3 more games without him, tonight at Sacramento, Sunday at Golden State, and Wednesday against the Lakers.

-The Jazz could actually end up making a deep run into the playoffs. If other teams start suffering injuries like the Jazz have had, like if a Gasol, CP3, Duncan, Roy, etc. goes down while the Jazz stay healthy, I like our chances. That likely won't happen but apparently this season anything can happen.

-Williams is back. His crossover when he broke Terry's ankles was just sick. I'll take 34 points and 12 assists any night.

-I'd also like to see Korver start. He was fantastic tonight. I think he is less pressured to provide instant offense when he is with the starting 5 rather than the bench. He is also a great rebounder. CJ might be better coming off the bench. He wouldn't feel as scrutinized, or as easy of a target if the Jazz don't start off well. Make this change happen Jerry.

- Karl Malone wasn't too shabby in the TNT studio. I was hoping he woulnd't embarass himself and he didn't. Malone talked about Lamar Odom too much, but it was neat to see him speak of Stockton and Hornacek in reverent tones. He claimed he didn't play with a lot of great players. Ostertag didn't count? Anyways I wouldn't mind seeing Malone doing more of that stuff, or being more involved with the NBA.

- The Jazz played one of their best games of the season. Maybe they knew Malone was watching. Malone claims he helped bring Millsap to Utah. Millsap has much of Malones game, but his personality is more like Stockton's.

-Malone says the thing that impresses him about the Jazz this season is that they don't complain about the injuries they just keep on playing and trying their best. If the Jazz did somehow end up winning the title this season it would be a great story and example of not ever giving up and pressing forward no matter that happens.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Five year value of Jazz players

This season has been painful to think about. I know all the current Jazz players won't be on the team for the next five years, but this is how I'd rank the value of their contributions to the Jazz if they were to stay with them for the next five years.

15. Jarron Collins - He is done after this season. Is of no value to any team in the future.
14. Matt Harpring -He has the skill, but not the health. Likely will retire after next season.
13. Morris Almond - He could be higher on this list, but needs to improve on overall game.
12. Ronnie Price - Price would be more valuable if he were a true PG. He is small for a SG, but he sure is athletic.
11. Brevin Knight - Knight is getting old. He is a good backup PG who doesn't turn the ball over but who can't shoot. You know what you are getting from him.
10. Kyrylo Fesenko - This guy has some potential, and a lot of size.
9. Kyle Korver - Is already declining, his value looks to be going way down unless he can start shooting lights-out again.
8. CJ Miles - This guy could be higher if he can consistently tap into all the potential he has. For the forseeable future, he just isn't consistent and he doesn't hustle.
7. Ronnie Brewer - If he can be consistent he will be a star for the Jazz. He has pretty much got a manhandle on the SG position, but that may change with the Jazz 2010 lottery pick that they get from the Knicks.
6. Kosta Koufos - This guy reminds me of Millsap his rookie season, only he plays center and some mean defense. He can score too.
5. Andrei Kirilenko - It will be interesting to see what teams are willing to pay this guy when his max-contract runs out.
4. Memo Okur - The money man has one of the most unique skill sets for a guy his size. Only rivaled by Dirk. He still has some great years left in him.
3. Paul Millsap - You could probably flip Boozer and Millsap in a few seasons if Millsap keeps improving the way he is.
2. Carlos Boozer - Fans may hate him, but the Jazz haven't been the same without him this season. He is the best ambidixterous guy I know, and he is a two-time Olympian/all-star.
1. Deron Williams - Who else were you expecting?

Why the Jazz are in trouble without Kirilenko

Some thoughts on the state of the Jazz while AK goes under the knife today.

This is from David Locke, he of Locked on Sports. I did not do the following research.
"With AK the offense scores 105.6 points per game. Without him they only score 96.3 points per game.
With AK the defense allows 98.7 ppg. Without AK the defense allows 103.6 ppg.

Make sure you follow this. The average score of a Jazz game with AK this year has been 105.6 to 98.7. That is a differential of 7 that makes them the 5th best team in the NBA with AK.

In games when he has not played, the Jazz have been outscored 103.6 to 96.3 or a differential of -7.3. That makes the 4th worst team in the NBA, without AK. So without Kirilenko, they are a 21-22 win team level. That is a team that wins only 25% of their games."

That scares me. So Boozer is out 'till after the all-star break. Getting him back will be huge. AK should be back a week after him, it sounds like. So here is how I envision the Jazz games going until then:
1/30 Oklahoma City W
1/31 @Portland L
2/2 Charlotte W
2/5 Dallas L
2/6 @Sacramento L (The Jazz are only 1-10 on back-to-backs this year)
2/8 @Golden State L
2/11 LA Lakers L
==ALL-STAR BREAK== (hopefully Boozer will be back)
2/17 Memphis W
2/19 Boston L
2/21 New Orleans L
2/23 Atlanta L
2/25 @Minnesota L
2/28 Sacramento W
(Kirilenko back?)
23 games left.

That is only 4-9. I'd imagine that'd put the Jazz at least 5 games back from the 8th seed. So that leaves them 23 games to make up 5 games in the playoffs, and that only gives them the 8th seed, which means a first round exit to the Lakers.

It seems like the Jazz have been without at least 2 of their 5 best players practically every game this season. No team is going to be able to win missing 2 of your stars. You have to play practically perfect to win under such a situation. Missing one of your two best players is trying enough, and you will lose a lot of games just due to that. Now without Boozer and AK, if Memo is off, or Millsap is off, or Williams is having an off-night, then the team will not win. The Jazz still have a shot to make it into the playoffs if Boozer and Kirilenko heal fast, but they are sure cutting it close.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Why the Minnesota Twins will be the 2009 AL Central Champs

I could write about how bad the Jazz will be while Boozer and Kirilenko are out, but I don't want to write it and you don't want to read it. All these injuries that the Jazz are having is making me look forward to baseball opening day even more.

You can bet that there will be much more Twins player-by-player analysis/projections/outlooks on this blog as opening day approaches. For now we will take a quick glance at why the Twins have as good a shot as anybody to win the AL Central this year.

1. They won't have any innings pitched by Livan Hernandez. Those innings will be taken over by a full season of a healthy, confident Francisco Liriano, who looks to win his first AL Cy Young. The rest of the young rotation stays the same, a rotation that was responsible for much of the 2008 success.

2. No at-bats from Craig Monroe, Mike Lamb, or Adam Everett. Those guys were black-holes last season. The Twins haven't signed a big bat, but Jason Kubel, Brian Buscher, and Brendan Harris will likely put up better numbers than those other three did last year.

3. The bullpen should be better this year. Again they haven't brought anybody new, but Jose Mijares should take over the 8th inning role nicely, setting up for one of the best closers in the game, Joe Nathan. Jesse Crain is one more year removed from that cuff surgery and he should be better, and Boof Bonser could be a force in the bullpen now that he is getting adjusted to not starting.

4. They will have a full season from Michael Cuddyer and Denard Span. Span was a key cog for the 2nd half of 2008. Cuddyer was the valuable cleanup hitter for the great 2006 year.

5. Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez will be one year older and wiser too. These guys were two of the youngest players in the majors last year. Young especially should be much better this year. They will only get better with time, and could turn into big-time stars.

6. Out of the other competetors only the Indians got better. The White Sox traded or didn't resign a lot of key guys from their team. The Tigers are old. The Indians won't have Sabathia this year, Cliff Lee won't repeat the success he had from last season, they did sign and trade for guys like DeRosa and Kerry Wood, but they lost others like Casey Blake.

7. They re-signed Nick Punto. Ok that one is a joke. But the Twins are so young, and most these guys will get better. Not too many of them have hit their prime yet. It should be an exciting season, as long as injuries don't ravage them. But a blow to Joe Mauer, or Justin Morneau, or a couple of staff members like Kevin Slowey and Scott Baker and all bets are off. I hope I didn't just jinx them.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Boozer gone, Millsap gone, Okur gone?

This season has been worse than anybody could have realistically imagined. And the harmful effects of this season could end up hurting the Jazz even more after the final buzzer of the season has sounded. Lets face it, Carlos Boozer would be crazy to opt out of his contract after this season. Who is going to be able to pay him more than he is making right now? Portland can't now, Miami is saying they don't want to. No playoff team has the money to sign Boozer in the off-season. And even if they could, would they? I would be afraid to sign a guy who just had a bad knee injury.

This is how it could possibly hurt the Jazz this off-season: Memo opts out and signs with another team. Millsap signs a big contract with another team, too big for the Jazz to sign him for, because Boozer decided to not opt out, and the Jazz are still on the hook for his money. Then Boozer has a big year and he leaves the Jazz after his final contract year. For the 2010-2011 team the Jazz could end up without Memo, Boozer, AND Millsap. I know that might sound crazy and a little-farfetched but this season has been just as crazy and unpredictable. Of course the 2010 offseason will be loaded with top-notch free-agents, and teams are already slashing payroll so they can afford someone like LeBron James, or Amare. So if Boozer and Memo and Millsap were gone by then, sure the Jazz would have money, but we know how big free-agents like to come to play for Utah. Plus the Jazz have the Knicks first-round draft pick in 2010 so the Jazz could end up with a young top-3 pick and with a top-notch free-agent to play with Deron.

I'm sure the Jazz brass have considered this and other problems that will happen over the next couple of years and I'm sure they have a plan. They are one of the better front offices in the NBA. Let's just hope they don't let all our talent slip away.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The All-Mormon Basketball Team

The list of Mormons who have done well in basketball is not as impressive as those who have done well in football or baseball, but there are a few who have done well at the professional level:

Danny Ainge - Remembered for the most famous play in BYU basketball history. He also played in the NBA with the Boston Celtics.

Thurl Bailey - He played for the Utah Jazz and several other NBA teams.

Tom Chambers - Was a key offensive part of the Phoenix Suns in the late '80s and early 90's. He played for the Jazz for a couple seasons as well.

Kresimir Cosic - He played for BYU and then returned to Yugoslavia where he was a four time olympian and he got a silver medal in 1968 and a gold in 1980. He was a national hero in Yugoslavia.

Shawn Bradley - Played for BYU. Drafted 2nd overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in 1993. Many thought he was soft and a bust, but he was a great shot blocker.

Owner - Larry H. Miller Saved the Jazz from leaving Utah and has owned a team that has been one of the winningest teams in the NBA since he took over, including two trips to the NBA finals.

General Manager - Danny Ainge. Ainge is the current Boston Celtics GM. He was thought of being a poor general manager until last season, when he brought in Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett and the Celtics ended up winning the NBA championship.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Jerry Sloan = Coach of the Year

This is another year where Jerry Sloan deserves the coach of the year award. What he has done with the lineup and team is remarkable considering the injuries the Jazz have had so far. Williams, Boozer, Kirilenko, Harpring, Okur, Brewer, Millsap, Korver, Knight, Miles, and probably others that I can't remember have all missed games due to injury. Yet the Jazz are 25-18, they are 17-4 at home, 17-7 against Western Conference teams, and are just 4 games back from being in 2nd place. If the Jazz had everyone healthy for the whole season and had this record, then the season would have been a disaster. But Jerry has held down the fort and has used Utah's depth to its advantage. A healthy Boozer coming back in February makes me think that the Jazz will leapfrog all the way to #2 seed in the West, win the division, and join the ranks of the Lakers, Celtics, Cavs, and Magic as the elite teams in the NBA. Most coaches in Jerry's position would have likely given up on the season and let his players do whatever but not Jerry. He refuses to quit and has everyone shaking their heads that the Jazz are still even in the playoff hunt. He should have received several COY awards and this season is the perfect chance for voters to repent.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Grading the Jazz at midseason

Deron Williams >> B+. It is difficult to be too hard on Williams performance so far. Only recently has he appeared to be at full strength. The last four games he has averaged 26 points and 12 assists. He is the heart and soul of the Jazz and he will have a monster 2nd half.

Carlos Boozer >> Incomplete. Boozer put up good numbers but has only played 12 games so far this season. Unless he is a beast when he comes back, I don't think he will opt out of his contract after all.

Memo Okur >> B. He is scoring 3 more points a game and getting an extra rebound a game more from last season. He has really been good in the first half over the past few games.

Paul Millsap >> A. Millsap has been the MVP of the Jazz thus far. He has almost doubled his numbers from last year while only playing 10 more minutes a game. He will definitely be the top priority for the Jazz in the offseason. The Jazz want and need him to stay.

Andrei Kirilenko >> B+. He cooled off after a hot start to the season. I'd like to see him cut down on his 3-pointer attempts. He is only 11-46 from beyond the arc this season. Hornacek, what have you done to him??

Ronnie Brewer >> B-. His numbers are very similar to last seasons except his FG% is down from 56% to 48% this season. His biggest problem is his consistency.

CJ Miles >> B-. He can score, but not much else. He really needs more consistency, and needs to work on his overall game if he wants to keep his starting spot.

Kyle Korver >> C+. He has been struggling a bit this season due to his wrist injury. Hopefully he will be able to shoot a little better the rest of the season because for a 3 point specialist he hasn't been amazing (38%).

Brevin Knight >> B. He has been a solid backup for Deron. His minutes keep getting reduced as Williams gets to full strength so he will likely only play 10-15 minutes a game from here on out.

Matt Harpring >> C-. He has been recovering from a bad ankle infection. The Jazz have really missed his old production from the bench, but hopefully he will improve for the second half of the season.

Ronnie Price >> B. Nobody has been jerked around as much as Ronnie has this season. He has started a lot and not played in most the games he has appeared in. But he has admirably dealt with his uncertain role.

Morris Almond >> D. He hasn't done much this season, appearing in only 21 games, mainly in garbage time. He quickly lost his 2nd quarter minutes he was getting due to being unproductive. If his shot is not falling he is worthless on the floor. Maybe the Jazz were right in not picking up his option for next season.

Kosta Koufos >> A-. This guy has been better than anybody thought he would be this season. He's played 13 minutes a game and played in 35 games already. That is a rarity for a rookie in Jerry Sloan's system. The last rookie who got that much playing time and praise from Sloan as a rookie? Jerry Sloan. He could be the defensive center we have needed.

Jarron Collins >> D. He has only played in 7 games the whole season while recovering from a golf cart injury.

Kyrylo Fesenko >> C+. Hasn't earned much playing time but he did have a couple of very impressive games that showed flashes of his potential, especially his game fs Yao Ming and the Rockets.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Turkish Delight

Last night belonged to Memo. 43 points baby. It really looked like he was going to score 50 but he only scored two points in the 4th quarter. 43 points is a career high for Okur and the most for a Jazz player since Karl Malone had 44 in 1998. When Memo is on, he is our most deadly offensive force. There are not a lot of players his size with his skill set. Dirk comes to mind but not a whole lot of others. Anyways Memo has carried us the past few games, especially early on. And viola! the Jazz have a nice little win streak going.

Ronnie Price has played nicely the past few games. When CJ comes back I would be surprised to see him get much playing time. I think Price has stolen CJ's starting job for a while. The difference in the first quarter for the Jazz the past couple of games has been undeniable. Before, the Jazz were always down 10-15 points after the first quarter, and I think CJ and his lack of effort was a big part of it. Now that Price has been putting in his energy in the first quarter the difference has been undeniable. Here is my starting 5 hustle team for the Jazz: Kosta Koufos, Paul Millsap, Andrei Kirilenko, Ronnie Price, Deron Williams.

Monday, January 12, 2009

SLC Dunk: solid Jazz blog

I read several sports blogs on a daily basis. And I'd like to talk about a few of them over the next few days. I'll start more with the Jazz blogs because the Twins blogs seem to be quiet as of late. First up: SLC Dunk. Here is their site: http://www.slcdunk.com/ This is probably the best independent Jazz blog. When I say independent I am excluding the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News Jazz blogs, (the ones with the inside sources.) SLC Dunk is definitely the most frequently updated Jazz blog. And it isn't just mundane posting, they don't post just for the sake of posting. Anyways if you want good thoughts on the Jazz, head on over. Plus today they linked to my blog, specifically the one about Millsap being a contender for the all-star game. That was a nice surprise. Here is the entry.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Jazz beat the Pistons (again)

I can't remember the last time the Jazz lost to the Pistons. I think even in the year that the Pistons won the title the Jazz swept the season series with them. The only negative about the game is that Paul Millsap lost his double-double streak, although he would have gotten the necessary stats if he had gotten some playing time in the 4th quarter.

If the Jazz ever make it to the NBA Finals the team I would hope they would face is the Detroit Pistons. Here is the ideal playoff run for the Jazz: 1st round vs Houston Rockets, 2nd round vs Phoenix Suns, Western Finals vs New Orleans Hornets, NBA Finals vs Detroit Pistons. We would probably win the series 4-2, 4-2, 4-1, and 4-0 respectively. An easy road. But not the road we are likely to face.

Hey look who has the spot right below us in the Western Conference, it's the Minnesota Timberwolves!

To close I have to give some love to the Memphis Grizzlies for hurting the Blazers by signing Darius Miles, thus forcing the Blazers to pay the luxury tax this season and be on the hook $9 million more next season. No big free-agent signing in the offseason for the Blazers. Thank you Grizz!

Hot Rod

Which person has been affiliated with the Jazz longer than anybody else? Hot Rod Hundley. He's probably one of the better, definitely one of the most unique play-by-play announcers. I sometimes forget about him ever since the Jazz made the switch to having the radio broadcast be apart from the tv one. Here are some of my favorite Hod Rod-isms:

"With a gentle push, and a mild arc, the old cowhide globe hits home."

"Leapin' leaner."



"Frozen rope."

"Belt-high dribble."

"You gotta love it, baby!"

And my favorite: "The young rookie."

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Millsap could be an all-star

I think a new MVP of the Jazz season has emerged: Paul Millsap. And he is getting everybody's attention. He might even make the all-star game, despite not being on the ballot. I think he is averaging something like 19 points, 11 rebounds, 1.5 steals, and 1.5 blocks since being a starter. Williams was probably really mad at Boozer when he announced he would opt out of his contract after this season, but I think Williams is calming down after playing with Millsap for a while.

"He's doing all the right things," Williams said. "There's some big decisions this summer with him. We definitely want him back. He's playing so great for us right now at both ends of the floor. I like playing with him."

Now it is time to see what the Jazz would do of the offseason started today.

Right now I'd imagine the Jazz resign Millsap at whatever cost, they let Boozer go, Okur and Korver probably don't opt out of their contracts. They probably would like to keep Price and Knight if they aren't too expensive, they would definitely resign one of them so that they keep a backup point guard who knows the system. I think Almond is a goner after this season as is Collins. It is tough to say one way or the other about Fesenko. If they have any money left they go after a decent SF. The trump card here is the 2010 NY Knicks first round draft pick which could be very high and which could replace one season later a big hole if more than one of Boozer/Okur/Millsap left. This is how I envision the Jazz team next season:

PG Deron Williams Brevin Knight Ronnie Price
SG Ronnie Brewer Kyle Korver
SF Andrei Kirilenko CJ Miles Matt Harpring
PF Paul Millsap Free Agent
C Memo Okur Kosta Koufos Kyrylo Fesenko

Salaries (in millions)
AK - $16.5
Williams - $13.8
Millsap - $9
Memo - $9
Harpring - $6.5
Korver - $5
Miles - $3.7
Brewer - $2.7
Knight - $2
Price - $1.5
Koufos - $1.2
Fesenko - $0.9


Tomorrow the Jazz find out if they are going to be NBA Title contenders, or contenders for a lower seed in the playoffs. Why? Carlos Boozer is having surgery tomorrow. It is as simple as that. There is not much more that needs to be said.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Williams and the Jazz blow out Paul and the Hornets

The Jazz with Williams now have 9 wins versus the Hornets 2 with Williams and Paul playing head to head. Sure people will argue that Paul is better than Williams but head to head there is no doubt who the better player is. Sure Paul had more points tonight (Williams was battling the flu) but the point guard isn't supposed to lead his team in scoring every night, he is supposed to get his teammates the ball and get them involved. Williams usually shuts down Paul, tonight Paul had his best stats vs Williams, but the Jazz still blew out the Hornets. I would love to see the Jazz play the Hornets in the playoffs. We play better against them than any other Western power. By the way Millsap just keeps getting better and better. 27 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal. Carlos who?

Hot Rod Hundley called his 3,000 game tonight and the stars really aligned for him. Not only did the Jazz play against New Orleans but DirectTV stopped showing KJZZ tonight so he probably had a lot more people than normal listening to him on the radio.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Jazz vs Warriors

I always like it when the Jazz play the Warriors. Everyone always gets great stats. Millsap picked up his 18th straight double-double. Koufos scored 11 points. Williams had 25 pts. 15 assists. Williams looks like he is at full strength now. I am sure excited to see him school Chris Paul on Wednesday when the Hornets come to the Energy Solutions Arena. The Jazz seem to always beat the Warriors and they always play well against the Hornets. I think D-Will has only lost something like 2 games to Chris Paul and the Hornets. D-Will has to be upset about Chris Paul getting all the attention and we know how Williams plays when he is upset and how Williams destroys Paul when they play each other.

Twins owner Carl Pohlad died

Carl Pohlad, the Twins owner died yesterday at age 93. I was not very pleased with him when he tried to get the Twins deleted from the league although he was likely very frustrated with the inability to get a new stadium built. People have labeled him cheap but he did sign Puckett to the biggest MLB contract ever at that point in time, and supposedly he never has told management that they couldn't spend money on someone. He was a deeply loyal man, and under his ownership the Twins won 2 World Series. It was frusterating watching the Twins have a low payroll and constantly lose players to free agency while Pohlad was one of the richest 25 men in America, but I don't know what goes on behind the scenes. It is interesting to see how people feel about Pohlad now that he is gone.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Projected 2009 value of Twins roster

It looks like the Twins are content to go into 2009 with virtually the same team that they had in 2008. I can't necessarily disagree with the decision. Bill Smith has not shown to have much talent in signing free-agents or making good trades. In his first year at the helm he signed Mike Lamb, Adam Everett, and Livan Hernandez, and traded for Craig Monroe, Delmon Young, Brendan Harris, and Carlos Gomez, while giving up Johan Santana, Matt Garza, and Jason Bartlett. It is not crazy to think that the Twins would have made the World Series if he hadn't made those moves. The Twins clear strength is in drafting/developing players, especially pitching, and trading for other teams minor-leaguers such as Santana, Liriano, Bartlett, Casilla, etc.

Also it seems that the Twins would like to improve at 3B or SS or their bullpen but teams asking prices have been too high. Would you give up Denard Span and Kevin Slowey plus a good prospect just for Rockies 3B Garrett Atkins? I wouldn't. Would you give up Francisco Liriano and Delmon Young for one year of Mariners 3B Adrian Beltre? I wouldn't. It seems the Twins have been looking for help, but the other teams want a ridiculous amount of talent from the Twins. And remember the Twins have one of the youngest teams in the majors. Think about all the young stars that emerged last season. The future is bright and without further ado I'd like to rank from most valuable to least valuable I think each player will be to the Twins in 2009, the final year of the Metrodome.

Joe Mauer
Francisco Liriano
Justin Morneau
Scott Baker
Joe Nathan
Kevin Slowey
Denard Span
Delmon Young
Jason Kubel
Nick Blackburn
Michael Cuddyer
Glen Perkins
Jose Mijares
Carlos Gomez
Boof Bonser
Brendan Harris
Nick Punto
Brian Buscher
Craig Breslow
Jesse Crain
Mike Redmond
Matt Guerrier
Matt Tolbert
Jason Pridie
Phil Humber

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Millsap to return

Steve Luhm of the Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that Paul Millsap participated in practice and will be ready to go tomorrow night in the game at the Lakers. He will have to wear a brace but he doesn't think it will bother him too much. Jarron Collins will also be available for the game tomorrow. Needless to say if the Jazz beat the Lakers at the Staples Center it will be the biggest win of the season so far, and having Millsap back will be a huge help. Surely Boozer isn't milking his injury and he doesn't want to have surgery but perhaps he could get some tips from Millsap on staying healthy, playing through pain, and returning quickly from an injury.

One other note, Millsap actually extended his double-double streak to 16 games while he was injured. It stopped at 15 games but the NBA figured out that he actually got 10 rebounds in his last game, not 9 like had been recorded, so he is up to 16 games. John Stockton has the record for most consecutive double-doubles at 18 games. Millsap's streak is also the longest since Kevin Garnett's streak in 2006. Millsap is a huge part of this team, maybe even it's MVP so far. He has scored more points than anybody else for the Jazz this season.

Looking back at the 1999 NBA Draft

2009 marks the 10th anniversary of the 1999 NBA Draft. I've always liked to go back and look at old drafts and see who were the biggest busts, the biggest steals, and who were some of the first picks. Here was how the 1999 draft ended up.

Top 10:
1. Elton Brand - Chicago Bulls
2. Steve Francis - Vancouver Grizzlies
3. Baron Davis - Charlotte Hornets
4. Lamar Odom - LA Clippers
5. Jonathan Bender - Toronto Raptors
6. Wally Szczerbiak - Minnesota Timberwolves
7. Richard Hamilton - Washington Wizards
8. Andre Miller - Cleveland Cavaliers
9. Shawn Marion - Phoenix Suns
10. Jason Terry - Golden State Warriors

Other notable picks:
13. Corey Maggette - Seattle Supersonics
16. Ron Artest - Chicago Bulls
18. James Posey - Denver Nuggetts
24. Andrei Kirilenko - Utah Jazz
57. Manu Ginobili - San Antonio Spurs

Jazz picks:
19. Quincy Lewis
24. Andrei Kirilenko
28. Scott Padgett
58. Eddie Lucas

This is one of the better draft classes the NBA has had. 9 all-stars is not too shabby. The Jazz and the Spurs definitely got the two steals of the draft. The top 10 is rock solid, and Bender would have been a great player as well if not for injuries.

And here is how I think the draft would look like in a do-over:
Brand, Ginobili, Kirilenko, Davis, Marion, Artest, Hamilton, Terry, Francis, Odom, Miller, Maggette, Szczerbiak, Posey.

Comparing two Jazz Teams

Well it is now over 10 years since John Stockton sent the Utah Jazz to the NBA Finals. Many have compared the current team to the one back then. Here is ranking the 1998 players to the current players from most similar to least similar.

Jerry Sloan - Jerry Sloan
Jeff Hornacek - Kyle Korver
Adam Keefe - Matt Harpring
Bryon Russell - Andrei Kirilenko
William Cunningham - Jarron Collins
Troy Hudson - Ronnie Price
Antoine Carr - Paul Millsap
Chris Morris - CJ Miles
John Stockton - Deron Williams
Shandon Anderson - Ronnie Brewer
Howard Eisley - Brevin Knight
Karl Malone - Carlos Boozer
Greg Foster - Kosta Koufos
Jacque Vaughn - Morris Almond
Greg Ostertag - Memo Okur

Yes I'd have to say if you match the '98 players to their '08 counterparts, then Ostertag and Okur are definitely the most different. Imagine the '98 team with Ostertag shooting like Okur.