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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Mid-day talker: A sneaking suspicion that Flip will coach Wolves again

Posted by: Michael Rand under Wolves news Updated: April 21, 2014 - 2:07 PM

Do not confuse this with a scoop, a report or even a particularly #HotSportsTake.

We base this primarily off of nothing more than intuition and today's news conference announcing Rick Adelman will no longer coach the Wolves.

But it is our belief that the next coach of the Timberwolves will be Flip Saunders.

It is our sense that Flip really wants to coach this team. It is instructive that when asked about it today, Flip didn't rule it out. It's hard to imagine a high-profile outsider taking a look at the Wolves' roster, with Kevin Love possibly gone after a year or even traded this summer, and think of it as a great situation. It's also hard to imagine the Wolves taking a chance on an up-and-comer if they do keep Love around because that would mean they are dedicated to trying to win immediately.

Enter Flip. He's already here. He has a track record. It just makes sense.

Our guess is that nothing happens until after the NBA finals in early June. Sometime in the few weeks between then and the NBA draft, the Wolves make announcement that Flip will add "coach" to a job description that already includes team president.

Maybe we're wrong. Maybe a college coach like Fred Hoiberg will make the leap. But our gut right now is telling us the most successful coach in franchise history will also be the next coach in franchise history.

Monday (Patient Twins hitters getting rewarded) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand under Twins fans Updated: April 21, 2014 - 9:14 AM

The Twins' collective approach at the plate this season doesn't always make for the most aesthetically pleasing brand of baseball, but through 18 games -- one-ninth of the season -- it's hard to argue with the results.

Minnesota is among the top-10 teams in MLB  in strikeouts, having whiffed 162 times this season. That's exactly nine per game, putting them on a pace for 1,458 this season -- even more than the 1,430 they had a season ago.

But when you go to a lot of deep counts and take a lot of pitches, you are also going to walk a lot (hopefully). The Twins were seventh in that category a year ago. This year, they lead MLB in walks with 96, and those walks have helped the offense average close to 5.5 runs per game -- putting them very near the top in all of baseball after many of us thought this would be an historically bad offense.

The sample size is still small, but it gets larger by the day. The Twins had eight more walks against the Royals on Sunday, helping them score eight runs to even their record at 9-9. Three of their runs yesterday were directly linked to walks.

The Twins have done pretty well with runners in scoring position, hitting .253 this season to rank 10th in MLB. But that's not such an absurdly high number to think it's unsustainable.

If Minnesota can keep taking free passes, maybe their offense will be better than we imagined.

Patrick Roy likes to pull his goalie early, but not usually that early

Posted by: Michael Rand under NHL news Updated: April 18, 2014 - 2:08 PM

 

Avs coach Patrick Roy turned some heads Thursday when, down 4-3, he decided to pull goalie Semyon Varlamov with 3:01 remaining. Conventional wisdom usually leads coaches to pull the goalie with about 60-90 seconds remaining in a one-goal game. Of course, conventional wisdom is wrong ... and Roy's gamble ended up paying off, though the degree to which the early pull aided a goal with 14 seconds left can be debated.

 

In any event, Roy is known around the league for pulling his goalie earlier than most. But Thursday's move was even earlier than usual. SB Nation has a great breakdown with a chart of all the times Roy pulled the goalie this year. The key takeaway:

In one-goal games it was typically around two minutes to play in the regular season, but as you can see on the table above his decision to pull Varlamov on Thursday with three minutes to play was by far the earliest he has done it this season in a one-goal game. Before that, the earliest he had pulled a goalie in a one-goal game was with 2:31 to play against St. Louis on March 8.

As such, if the Wild is holding a close lead late in another game this series, don't be surprised if Roy employs a similar tactic.

Mid-day talker: Twins catchers worst in MLB at framing pitches in 2014

Posted by: Michael Rand under Professional baseball, Twins fans Updated: April 18, 2014 - 12:46 PM

The Twins are above .500 through 15 games. That's good! They are getting a ton of unexpected contributions on offense (Chris Colabello and Jason Kubel leading that charge), their starting pitching has been at least contributing in a lot of games lately and they have been aggressive on the bases in key situations.

But despite dispatching Ryan Doumit in the offseason, who was one of the worst pitch-framers in MLB from 2008-2013, the Twins are still lagging seriously behind in that department.

In fact, according to Baseball Prospectus, they are dead last (H/T Jeremy Nygaard from Twins Daily for the link on Twitter).

BP tracks this with what it calls a "Regressed Probabilistic Model" of framing (RPM for short). In brief, RPM works by calculating the combined probability (and associated run value) that each pitch will be called a strike; summing those probabilities (and run values) across opportunities; attributing those values to a player (catcher or pitcher); and regressing "career" values to the mean.

So far this season, Twins catchers -- primarily Kurt Suzuki -- are the worst in MLB at essentially stealing strikes ... or, if you prefer, getting borderline pitches called strikes instead of balls. The calculations from BP say this has cost the Twins at least four runs already this year.

The Yankees, by contrast, are at the top of the food chain when it comes to gaining "extra" strikes on borderline calls. That has gained the Yankees more than six runs, per the site.

That sounds like a lot of runs so early in the season, but it is conceivable when you think about it. Let's say a 2-1 borderline pitch is called a ball instead of a strike. Using the larger sample size of 2013, Twins pitchers had a whopping 1.093 OPS against them after a count went to 3-1. But they had an OPS of just .659 against them after a count went to 2-2. Not every borderline call matters. But we can see how enough of them matter to add up to a significant number of runs.

Friday (Can Wild come back from gut punch?) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand under Wild coaching Updated: April 18, 2014 - 9:34 AM

 

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

Eleven years ago, we were in Vancouver for Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals between the Wild and Canucks -- part of Star Tribune team coverage after the Wild stunned the Avalanche in seven games in the opening round.

 

Minnesota took a 3-2 lead deep into that game, only to surrender the tying goal with less than 2 seconds remaining. We can still picture colleague Chip Scoggins firing his pen clear across the press box in frustration over what it meant to our deadlines.

The Wild went on to lose the game 4-3, and most of us thought it was a death blow. How do you come back from nearly stealing Game 1 on the road to taking a gut punch like that?

Well, 11 years ago the answer was this: reamin composed and win Game 2. Remain resilient and eventually win the series in seven games.

It helped, of course, that Vancouver had Dan Cloutier in net. Minnesota scored 16 goals in the final three games of the series, aided by the struggling Canucks netminder.

This year's Avalanche goalie, Semyon Varlamov, is no Cloutier. But he did exhibit some Cloutier-like tendencies in Game 1 last night -- an eerily similar gut punch to the one Minnesota took 11 years ago in Vancouver, with the Avs tying the game in the waning seconds before winning in OT. How does the Wild respond this time around? The same way it did back then.

Game 2 becomes critical. Resiliency becomes the name of the game. Minnesota needs to somehow look past the disappointment of how things transpired Thursday and see the game for what it was: eliminate one mistake (either Jared Spurgeon or Kyle Brodziak's failed clears, which led to third-period goals); get one bounce to go their way (an extra couple of feet on the empty-net attempt or a half-inch toward the inside of the post on Jason Pominville's OT clank); get one huge save (Ilya Bryzgalov sure looked like he had robbed that goal late in regulation before the lamp went on) ... and the game was theirs.

If the Wild can turn those woulda coulda shouldas into positives, and realize that with a duplicated effort Game 2 is available for the taking, this can be a series.

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