Michael Rand started RandBall with hopes that he could convince the world to love jumpsuits as much as he does. So far, he's only succeeded in using the word "redacted" a lot. He welcomes suggestions, news tips, links of pure genius, and pictures of pets in Halloween costumes here, though he already knows he will regret that last part.

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Posts about Twins game coverage

Monday (Twins making plays at the plate a confusing adventure) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated: April 25, 2011 - 9:27 AM

Coaching third base and being a baserunner trying to decide whether to try to score/take an extra base have to be considered among the toughest judgment calls in baseball -- and, when they fail, the easiest things to criticize. How many times have we hollered at a base coach for getting a guy thrown out or for a player getting nabbed trying to grab an extra base? Or, on the other hand, torn our hair out when a throw comes in well off-line, while the runner sits cautiously back at the previous base?

It's an imperfect science. There are game situations that make risks or cautious plays smarter "baseball plays," of course. Down by a bunch and trying to create a big inning? Hold up. Runner on second, two outs, sharp single to left, lower part of the order coming up? Send him if he has a chance and hope for the best.

All this said, the Twins seemed to be suffering from dysfunction when it came to a few decisions around the third base bag over the past couple of days. On Saturday, Jason Repko rounded third, received what looked to be mixed signals form third base coach Steve Liddle -- we saw a wave in and a stop sign at various points -- barreled through and scored on a close play. On Sunday, Alexi Casilla physically did a head turn to look at the play in right field, touched third and ran through a very clear stop sign by Liddle and was thrown out by several steps. Later in the same inning, Justin Morneau made the third out at home after getting the arm crank from Liddle followed by a quaint little push-down motion that we're still trying to figure out. (The latter two highlights you can see right here, including a quick bit of Liddle's hand motion).

Liddle, of course, is new to the third base coaching role with the Twins after swapping spots with Scott Ullger, who is now the bench coach. No offense to Ullger, but he drew the ire of plenty of Twins fans over the years with his third base coaching techniques. We should be willing to cut Liddle some slack as he works to fine-tune his craft. However, you can be sure the adventures at third base over the past couple of days -- by the coach and the runners -- would have led to even more outrage had the Twins not won both games. In particular, imagine if yesterday's game had finished 3-2 after two early runners were nailed at home? In short, if the Twins are going to continue to trumpet doing the little things right, this is another little thing they must improve upon in the early part of the season -- lest it become a big thing when it matters most.

Guest post: Behind the Stats Curtain with Brandon. This week -- FIP in baseball

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated: February 18, 2011 - 2:46 PM

Behind the Stats Curtain

In which Brandon from World of B introduces and explains complicated-seeming statistics in an effort to enlighten the masses that have neither the time nor inclination to do so themselves. Apologies to the hard-core statheads who will likely be offended by the occasional over-simplifications.
 
Featured stat: FIP
 
What does it mean?
 
 
What does it measure?
 
Let us start with BABIP. See, a long time ago, deep in the bowels of some mother’s basement, a hardcore nerd came across a brilliantly simple thesis: pitchers can’t control a whole lot of what happens once a ball is put in play. At that point, it’s up to his defense.
 
People freaked out and were like “nah, can’t be true” but he did a bunch of research and was all “check it. True, bros.” The stat he created, BABIP (batting average of balls in play) showed that terrible pitchers and all-timers alike have wildly divergent season-by-season numbers. Line drives can be caught, 9-hoppers can find holes, bloopers fall in. For the most part, pitchers have zero control over the amount of hits they surrender.
 
Building off that, FIP attempts to measure a pitcher’s worth within the three factors he has 100% control over: walks, strikeouts and home runs. League average FIP, like ERA, is around 4.30.
 
Not like I care, but how is the number equated?
 
According to Hardball Times, “The formula is (HR*13+(BB+HBP-IBB)*3-K*2)/IP, plus a league-specific factor (usually around 3.2) to round out the number to an equivalent ERA number.”
 
Don’t worry about the calculation. Trust that the geeks who created and tinkered with it spent a lot more time perfecting the formula than the 1.5 seconds you just spent questioning it.
 
Can it measure heart?
 
Goodness no, not even close. Like pretty much 99.1%* of baseball, heart, passion, hustle and want-to have nothing to do with winning games.
 
*I came up with that percentage by adding up the amount of positive plays that are the result of pure hustle (extra bases taken when outfielders were being lazy, sprinting to first on the off-chance the fielder bobbles the ball, reaching first after a strikeout/wild pitch), subtracting the plays that hustle actually does harm (sliding into first, getting thrown out trying to take an extra base) and dividing by total number of plays in a given season. The result: 99.1%. Simple math, people.
 
Will it make me question my heroes?
 
Occasionally. For instance, did you know our own Francisco Liriano was 3rd in the league in FIP last year? His ERA was almost a full run higher, which means he was terribly unlucky. To sum up: many Twins fans have spent the offseason whining about the lack of an ace on a pitching staff that owns one of the best pitchers in the league. Let’s focus our gripes elsewhere, folks. Might I suggest the outfield defense that makes all our pitchers’ ERAs higher than they deserve?
 
Beyond the plight of Franny, a quick glance at the rest of the FIP leaderboard features the best pitchers in the league at the top. For the most part, everyone you already thought was awesome is awesome.
 
Should I tell my dad about it?
 
You’ll get about nine seconds into an explanation of FIP before your dad interrupts you to report that you are out of his will. You may be able to convince a few of your more progressive friends of FIP’s worth, but other than that you might want to keep this one to yourself and use it for fantasy baseball purposes.
 
Is it widely used/accepted?
 
Only in nerd-circles. John Kruk has never heard of it and Joe Morgan just lashed out at the Starbucks barista standing before him simply because I wrote this, though he has no idea why. (Neither does the barista, but she’s used to this sort of mystery tantrum from Joe.)
 
How valuable is it?
 
Very valuable. FIP has been proven to be a much better indicator of future performance of ERA, which, now that you think about it: duh, right?
 
Bonus stat! There is another number called “xFIP” that replaces the pitcher’s home run rate with the league average, the belief being that home runs are many times more luck-based that you’d think (park factors, wind, etc). If an xFIP is lower than FIP, that means the pitcher was giving up an inordinate amount of taters, which will likely regress to the mean soon. Fun fact: xFIP predicts future ERA better than any other stat.
 
What can FIP tell me about the Twins’ 2011 season?
 
Barring injuries, the starting staff looks solid. Liriano was outstanding last season, and though Pavano had the prettier ERA, Baker and Slowey pitched just as effectively. Duensing and his 3.85 FIP deserve to be penciled in to the 5th spot, and if that happens, all five of the Twins starters had a lower-than-league-average FIP in 2010. Can ‘t ask for much more than that.
 
As for relievers, I don’t want to talk about it.
 
***
 
Final grade: A-

Weekend Links with Jon Marthaler: A bounceback year for Scott Baker?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated: February 5, 2011 - 10:56 AM

Jon Marthaler bakes up a batch of delicious links just for you. Other times, you can find him here and here.

--------------

Happy Super Bowl Saturday! When I was a kid, today was the day for "Oh look, the pregame show is on!" jokes. I suspect that if you check out the comics page of the newspaper, one or two of today's strips may make this reference. These jokes are similar to any and all jokes made about there being too many college bowl games, in that the very same jokes have been made for decades, and yet still people won't quit. The truth is that any joke about "too much football" is clearly ludicrous, because the Pro Bowl - by all accounts, the single worst football game televised at any time during the year, including the Pop Warner championships - drew the most viewers it's had in eleven years, and got better ratings than the average rating for the World Series.

With that in mind, then, on with the links!

*We start with an update on the ever-more unbelievable saga of St. Paul native Dean Johnson, who ran the local Thunder into deep debt and eventually out of business. He popped up a few months ago, riding in to "save" FC Liege in Belgium. Brian Quarstad at Inside Minnesota Soccer has the story of what happened next, which sounds like something from "60 Minutes." It's a fascinating read. In a train-wrecky sort of way.

*Parker Hageman has some theories on why Scott Baker got hit so hard last year - as well as the graphs and video captures to back them up. He's also got some reasons for optimism, as well. Great stuff from Hageman.

*Every time the Vikes Geek writes about the Vikings' stadium campain, I sit up and take notice. This edition's key quote: "The Vikings' claim [about their financial woes], while true, tells not even one-tenth of the revenue story for the team." Just a reminder: the Vikings make plenty of money, but not as much as they maybe could, and that is why they want the public to spend an enormous amount on a stadium.

*And finally: Nick Nelson points out that, if Joe Nathan hits his goals of pitching six or seven more years, he could well be on the road to a very, very exclusive club.

That'll do it for me. Enjoy the warm weather today; if you're like me, your brain has now shifted into "spring is right around the corner! WHOOOO!" mode. Which makes it even worse when the temperature drops back below zero, like it will this week. February: a month for depression.

Mid-day talker: Hit batsmen will haunt (the White Sox)

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated: September 17, 2010 - 12:39 PM

 

A while back, when the Twins were struggling mightily and the White Sox were in control of the AL Central, commenter Clarence Swamptown advocated a good ol' fashioned brawl as a way to shake things up. Hit a few guys. Let them know you're there!

 

The visceral part of us didn't think he was entirely wrong.

But as the past few games -- with the roles dramatically reversed -- have shown us, there is a consequence to blatant machismo. Namely, that it tends to put a man on base. And, in the case of the White Sox, it can come back to haunt in a big way.

Chicago came into the series with the Twins desperate. They also came in with very few hit batsmen as a staff (they have 31 now, the lowest total in the AL and the second-lowest total in all of baseball).

As pointed out by Twins Radio Network maven Kris "Kraig Applecherry" Atteberry -- he's awesome with stats and general knowledge, and we don't just say that because our taste for high-calorie, low-population density breakfast establishments happens to coincide -- three of those HBPs from the Whities came in the recently series against the Twins. There was one in each game. Each time, it led off an inning. And each time, it led to a multi-run inning.

Tuesday: Delmon Young, after homering earlier in the game, is plunked to start the seventh with the Twins trailing 3-2. The Twins score twice to take the lead and end up winning the pivotal first game 9-3.

Wednesday: Michael Cuddyer, leading off the sixth, is hit by Gavin Floyd. The Twins, leading 3-0 at the time, boost their lead that inning to 6-0 and win handily again, 9-3.

Thursday: Cuddyer, after Paul Konerko is scarily hit in the face, is plunked leading off the second. The Twins turn a 0-0 game into a 3-0 lead, never trail again, and essentially finish off the Sox.

We're not saying the Sox pitchers hit all three on purpose, but two of them at least -- it could be argued -- were likely statements. The ultimate statement, however, was that they were giving the Twins a free base runner who scored a run in every case and led to eight total runs over three crucial innings.

Bravado is nice. Winning is nicer.

TFD: A game story from someone who didn't watch the Twins game

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated: August 5, 2010 - 5:06 PM

Rocket called not too long ago wondering exactly what the heck happened in the Twins game. Apparently from the bits and pieces he was picking up, the Twins blew the game, which was almost accurate.

He was talking, though, to the wrong person. Well, sort of. See, we didn't see any of the game. At least not on TV. We're working a later day in the office, and we had one of those moments of paralysis around 11:20 a.m. where we couldn't decide whether we were going to go to the gym and run 7 miles so we could watch part of the Twins game or run 7 miles outside. We eventually packed a bag and set out for the club. But upon stepping outside, we realized it was completely glorious outside. We had just assumed it was ridiculously hot, like the rest of the week has been. Then we got in the car and heard it was 4-0 Twins already. The rationale at that point: they would either cruise from there, or they would do something so maddening we wouldn't want to see it. So we literally turned around after two blocks, parked the car, brought our stuff upstairs, and went outside for the run.

By the time we got back, showered and checked the score, it was around 1 p.m. and the Twins were up 6-0 in the 8th inning. Perfect, we thought. Didn't miss a thing. We did an interview from home for a story for later in the week. We ate lunch. At around 1:30, we checked again. It was 6-6. We furiously checked GameCast for the history of what happened. We left it there for the duration.

And that is how we were able to tell Rocket that Kevin Slowey was cruising until the eighth. Even when he left, the lead was reasonably safe. But then the whole Ron Mahay/Jason Bartlett thing happened. We might have mentioned Ron Gardenhire at the same time. We might have given each of those three men an unprintable middle name in the retelling of the story of the 8th inning. ... And then you will never see a stranger sight on GameCast than watching the little "ball" go straight up in the air (cursing the whole time, mind you), then seeing the Twins' scoreboard flip from 6 to 7 ... then seeing Jason Kubel credited with an infield single that somehow sent Delmon Young to third base. But we were able to piece it all together later on Twitter. It hit the catwalk. Of course.

And Rocket is lucky. Because somehow, through all the swears, the story apparently made sense to him.

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