Laughing through the Pain: Hitters & AARP

A year ago I offered an alternative statistic for measuring player worth--not in wins/losses, but in the far more useful field of entertaining the fan base: Amusement Above Replacement Player (AARP) for short. The statistic is measured in five key categories on a scale of -2 to +2, 
  • Play 
  • Nickname:
  • Physical Traits: 
  • Personality/Demeanor:
  • Oddities: 
When added up, these statistics gives us a total AARP somewhere between -10 and +10. 

Last year, the AARP statistic revealed that while the Twins could hit, they couldn't really inspire much to interest the general public. Beyond Joe Mauer there just weren't many other people of note, Brian Dozier's break out season aside. A year older and wiser, it's worth wondering who if anyone has been able to grab attention and interest of the masses.

Again regular statistics don't always do it justice, but there's reason for optimism for Twins fans, especially when it comes to the offensive side of the ball.

Josmil Pinto--Last year's promising start was tempered by the fact he neither got regular playing time, nor did he get to stay with the team all year. But on the plus side, I'm now convinced that "Josmi-and-the-Pussycats" is going to be the next great Saturday Morning Cartoon.
AARP: 1.6 (Up +0.6 from last year)

Eduardo Nunez--Having been saved from the Yankees, Nunez has a little redemption/comeback story about him, but is never as interesting, curious or good as other players AARP: 0.2 

Chris Colabello--The plucky, scrappy narrative story line remains a fan favorite and even though he will likely never get better than the one magical month that one magical month makes him special. AARP: 0.9 

Aaron Hicks--It seems like there are two camps on Aaron Hicks, those who will never forgive him for disappointing them the first time, and those who will need at least two seasons of great play before they learn to love again AARP: 0.6

Kennys Vargas--The big bopping Rookie who actually has more than a single month under his belt, Vargas is definitely encouraging irrational optimism with his Ortiz-esque appearance, Ortiz-esque interview style and Ortiz-esque moon shots. Even his nascent nickname's ("Li'l Papi", "Bam-Bam", etc) are winners. AARP: 3.4

Chris Parmelee--Parmelee is the forlorn example of where the Twins were for so many years: neither amazingly talented nor totally without promise and featuring nearly no personality at all. AARP: 0.3 (Same as last year)

Oswaldo Arcia--"Ar-see-ya" (or "Waldo" as I prefer to call him) keeps earning loyalists. The streaky power he has flashed for two years promises to make Target Field's faithful stand up and cheer every time he crushes one when it counts (seeing his standing-o back in May was proof of that), and the unpredictabilty of his mohawk has entrenched him as a local landmark. AARP: 3.1 (Up +1.6 from last year--gains in playing (though not defensively), nicknames, and physical appearance)

Danny Santana--I sadly left behind my cable subscription right around the time Danny Santana became a fixture in the Twins line-ups but I have remained consistently impressed by his positivity and energy despite being consistently played out of position by Twins management. Whether or not he ever gets a chance at shortstop "Dan-San" or "Dan-the-Man" has a sizable leash from Twins fans. AARP: 2.3

Eduardo Escobar--Brad Swanson began the Eddie 500 campaign in the spring and I was happy to join in the fun, little did we know that we were witnessing something even better: the emergence of "Nick Punto 2.0". For both that nickname and his play, I salute you Eduardo Escobar! AARP: 2.5

Gratuitous Plouffe Bash
Kurt Suzuki--The man who was supposed to be a back-up, then a place holder for Josmil Pinto, just never went away. Between the clutch hitting, the positive community involvement, the unique Hawaiian background, and--now--the long-term contract, Suzuki's lovable, but perhaps a little early in his peak. AARP: 2.9

Joe Mauer--The Chairman (all praises to his name) continues to be mildly amusing to those of us who know him best, but right now it looks like he's trying to keep up on the field and has slipped below the level of nationally recognized superstar. AARP: 4.8 (Down -0.4 in field performance)

Trevor Plouffe--The joy of shouting "Trevor!" in my best Neville Longbottom impression has risen dramatically this year, and the head smacking stupidity of his play at third base has decreased. Combine those two factors and you have a far more AARP: 1.8 (Up +1.4 thanks to on-field performance and wider variety of nicknames)

Yeah Diamondcentric
did it better
Brian Dozier--The biggest surprise of last year continued his flair for great hitting, highlight-reel-fielding, impressive hair, and a true good-ol-boy southern charm. He's not the face of the franchise like Mauer is, but he is a tremendous asset and widely appreciated both on the field and in the community. AARP: 4.2 (Up +0.5 with wider appreciation of nickname, and off field personality)

Last year's break down of the offense showed one elite player (AARP Greater than 5.0, Mauer) and one local favorite (AARP Between 2.0 and 4.9, Dozier). This year while Mauer's not a nationally elite name any more, the core of the team seems solidly in place. With Santana, Escobar, Suzuki, Arcia, Vargas, Dozier, Mauer (plus Glen Perkins and Phil Hughes on the mound) creating a rather likable, if not world-beating core of the team, the Twins have much larger set of players who fans can form an attachment to. 

Of course many other writers will point out the folly in forming an attachment to players whose greatest value is on the trade market, but hey, if you wanted genuine analysis of player value, you wouldn't be reading this article about a totally made up and arbitrary statistic.

If you'd be interested in more "shouting", "yelling", "making things up" then I eagerly encourage you to post in comments or suggest other directions for the postings.


Laughing through the Pain: Another Way to Look at Pitching in 2014

A year ago I offered an alternative statistic for measuring player worth--not in wins/losses, but in the far more useful field of entertaining the fan base: Amusement Above Replacement Player (AARP) for short. The statistic is measured in five key categories on a scale of -2 to +2,
  • Play: 
  • Nickname:
  • Physical Traits: 
  • Personality/Demeanor:
  • Oddities: 
When added up, these statistics gives us a total AARP somewhere between -10 and +10.

Last year, even by the totally made up AARP statistic, the Twins Pitchers were an abysmal crew to watch, the four most notable starters (Vance Worley, Liam Hendricks, Kevin Correia and Samuel Deduno) registered a total 3.9, and none of them will factor for the Twins going forward. While the relievers were more consistently positive, there was some upheaveal there too.

So how did the Twins pitchers fare this year?

Well, on the field, still not great, but AARP doesn't just measure on the field performance it measures off the field personality and general likeab-ility/fan value, and in that category there are both some sizable gains and some serious problems going into next year.

Pitcher AARP (by Innings pitched)

Still trying to popularize You Make Me Feel Like "Duensing"
Brian Duensing--I have a soft spot for Dozier (what with the similar majors in college and the appreciation for the near impossible job he had starting an elimination playoff game). But the days of the "Duenslinger" shirts at Target Field are pretty far gone, and his peripheral numbers dropped significantly. AARP: 0.5 (Down -0.1 from last year, play didn't help, off field work did)

Glen Perkins--Perk remains the jolt of life in the Twins bullpen, the local guy who engages with friends and foes alike. While an injury down the stretch cost him the end of the season (and the team a couple of games) he did have possibly the best moment of the year when he and Kurt Suzuki closed out the All-Star Game AARP: 3.6 (Up +1.2 with gains in every category--even nicknames are easier to go with now)

Casey Fien--Increasingly the Twins most reliable set-up man, which is a double-edged sword. Nice, appreciated but by no means interesting. If he grew a Snidely Wiplash mustache my nickname of "Dastardly Fien" would be easier to make popular. AARP: 0.6

Jared Burton--There was once a time when Jared Burton and Glen Perkins were dueling for the hearts and minds of Twins fans in the race to remove Matt Capps. Now he's just kind of there... AARP: -0.2

Anthony Swarzak--We'll always love the "Swarzak" Duck quack, especially as he returns to the spot starter role that suits him so well. And while FIP suggests he's better than his ERA, his soft tossing no strike out mentality continues to remind fans of the things they never liked in Twins pitching gone by.  AARP: 1.1 (Up +0.5 for both the play and greater appreciation of the "Swarzak!" Quack)

The Old Nolasco Propaganda
Ricky Nolasco--at the start of the season I saw Ricky Nolasco's twitter feed as a sign that he was going to be an energizing force for the team. Instead he turned into both exciting and confusing, less exclamation mark than Interrobang (‽). Though on the plus side, that's his new nickname as far as I'm concerned. AARP: 1.2

Kyle Gibson--Yes, Kyle Gibson has the second most innings pitched in Twins territory this year. And while he was certainly serviceable, he was by no means the most amazing thing on the mound. And while tolerable is a step up for Twins pitchers, it's a long way from exciting. AARP: 0.7

Phil Hughes--Ahh Phil Hughes, for every amazing, dumbfounding, refusing to walk a batter performance that Phil Hughes had this year, he also had a "meh" post game quotation to go with it. And while we love any body who can set a pitching record in a Twins uniform (or at least a good record), we'd love a little more personality (we cannot confirm claims he mocked Brian Duensing on Twitter, but can confirm that he has a good enough personality to wear a silly mustache and honestly admit his own failings). AARP: 2.6

By the lofty standards of AARP you need something above a 5.0 to be a nationally relevant player, and no Twins pitcher is anywhere close to that. BUT, Glen Perkins and Phil Hughes make for a solid combination every fifth day, and if Ricky Nolasco does in fact start using the Interrobang on a daily basis we may be in business.

Tomorrow I'll post thoughts on the hitters, but in the mean time:

Wonder how the AARP stat got started? Want to give your own AARP numbers or question my methods? ...leave a note in comments, or just yell at your computer screen really loudly...I can totally hear it.


An Unconventional Pick for the Next Twins Manager

Here's the truth. Both of us peanuts love Ron Gardenhire. We know that we're in the minority there...especially after the last four years...but c'mon, he looks like a little garden gnome. He's ADORABLE!
Seriously though, thank you for the support you provided and the lack of lawsuits you threw our way Gardy. You're a cool dude.

But now our attention turns to the real focus of the hour. Who will replace Gardy on the top of the Twins dugout step?

Maybe without the glove...
Right now the fan base seems split into two camps:
1--Someone in house who can carry on the "Twins Way" and maintain the loyal, disciplined, do the little things right mentality that helped Kelly and Gardenhire lead the Twins to seven more postseasons than they ever had before. (More postseason berths helped that too.)
2--Someone from outside the organization who can provide a fresh perspective, a new way of doing things and maybe, just maybe, EVEN MORE POST SEASON WINS!!

But why not split the difference and choose someone who has been loyal and integrated in the Twins for the last fifty-or-so years, AND is not yet part of the organization? Someone who knows "The Twins Way" AND can approach problems in a way that no manager has ever done before?

That's why my pick to be the next Twins manager is...MY MOM!!

Yes, I think my mother should be the next Twins manager and before you scoff, allow me to deliver the following points in her favor.

  • She's a life-long Twins fan, a former member of the knot-hole gang in Bloomington, homer-hanky waver from Montana, and loyal knitter/shouter from her current home in Minneapolis.
  • She has over three decades of experience tending to unruly boys who don't know what's best for them
  • She's an excellent cook (so the Pohlad's can save on wasteful post game spreads in lieu of post game potlucks!)
  • She has better nicknames for players than most managers do, and can lead rally-chants like "Mientkiewicz, Mientkiewicz, Make me a Sandwich!"...which will be particularly useful if Douggie M. is her Bench coach.
  • She is wise enough to tell players after critical errors: "Don't do that!" in the kind of stern, but loving tone that players will definitely respond to.
  • She speaks French which is kind of like Spanish...
  • She knows enough social media to engage with fans, but not so much that she would get distracted (unlike Ozzie Guillen)
  • I'm sorry, I'm sure you're nice people
    But No...just No.
  • Hiring her would give young female fans something to aspire and relate to OTHER than being a Fox Sports North Girl.
  • She's a state championship knitter, which would be killer at charity auctions and events ("Bid on this award winning sweater from the Twins manager")
  • She's an excellent Mezzo-Soprano, so our national anthems will forever be on pitch!
  • She's working to understand SABR-metric statistics, but still appreciates a good RBI.
I know that many will prefer to debate the merits of Manny Acta versus Terry Steinbach, and others will say that managers don't make much difference anyway...but I don't care. I'm fully on board with this.



The Great Twins Scotch Bet: WE HAVE A WINNER!!

And that winner...is me. Yay for me!

Yes, all you loyal readers out there (which blogger seems to think is in the 1,000 range and I know is much closer to the 1.000 range), I have won something, because the Twins (in turn) won something!

With their victory last night over the Detroit Tigers I have triumphed over both my wife (and fellow blogger) and my father-in-law to accurately predict that the Twins would win about 70-71 games this year
YAY! Someone we've never met has won a prize for doing nothing
more than making a slightly more accurate guess than other people!
Clearly, the Twins did this to thank me for my years of selfless blogging on their behalf. My positive attitude and enthusiasm. Still, it was a team effort, with a host of victories being tallied courtesy of a surprisingly strong Eduardo Escobar (justifying the love I gave him back when he used Grease as his walk up music), an unusually potent second baseman, a bullpen that didn't struggle until recently, and Phil Hughes' New Years resolution to give up walking people.

However, clearly the most important person was me, which is why I've been saying that "I" won, rather than "we" won. Although, to be true to myself, it seems only right that I offer the Twins a sip of my scotch. So come on over, Ricky Nolasco! Come on over, Oswaldo Arcia! Come on over, Kyle Gibson and Anthony Swarzak, Ryan Pressley and Brian Duensing, Kurt Suzuki and Trevor Plouffe, Danny Santana, and Kennys Vargas (assuming you're actually old enough to drink), you can even come on over, Joe Mauer: The Drinks are on Me! (Or more accurately, my wife and father-in-law who graciously don't see this as bragging!)

And now the only question is--Balvenie Portwood, or Laphroig 25?


The Great Twins Scotch Bet: Pt. 4 Down the Stretch They Come

"We're helping Scruffy win
a scotch!!"
It shouldn't be too much a surprise what's going on...after all, I can't seem to find time to write anything but this form piece. But in case you're allergic to scrolling down, here's this week's update in the Heavenly Peanuts Scotch Bet (2014 Edition)

Coming down to the last week of the season the Twins stand at 66 and 89, on pace for 69 wins, which is to say dangerously close for the purposes of our bet.

First, it's time to admit again that my father-in-law (known affectionately here as "The Gouger" to protect his true identity from shareholders) has been eliminated yet again. His prediction of 75 or more wins was still too optimistic for the Minnesota Twins to deliver on. However there are two of us left and here's how it shakes out.

If the Twins win 3 games or less, Stinky [my beloved, Peat-addicted wife] wins
If the Twins win 4 games or more, I win [and will likely settle for an excellent, though possibly mellower and more Sherry-tastic scotch]

While running a 14 K Saturday, Stinky expressed her feeling that perhaps this year would be my year. Then of course the Twins dropped back to back games to the Indians and left us very much unsettled about the week ahead.

The final three home games of the season will pit the Twins against the Arizona Diamondbacks, one of exactly three teams with a worse record than the Twins. (They've played the other two (Texas and Colorado) as well and have a cumulative record of 4-6...yes...we even lose to the losers.) Then they go on the road for four against the Detroit Tigers, who have surprisingly struggled against the Twins this season. (In fact, the Twins only have winning records against five teams: the Padres, White Sox, Blue Jays and Mariners.)

Remember when you wore this
ugly D-Back-ish jersey and were
awesome Kyle? We do...
So, what will it take for me to get my wife to buy me a drink? A 4-3 stretch, which--coincidentally--is exactly the stretch the Twins just completed this last week. They'll send their best pitchers up against the Diamondbacks (assuming a slightly less than terrible Ricky Nolasco now counts as one of our best)...and it will be particularly important for Kyle Gibson to bounce back with a good final start. Trevor May and some sacrificial lamb (in lieu of Tommy Milone) will likely get pounded by the Tigers in the first two games in Detroit, and if that allows the Tigers to rest players up for the playoffs Nolasco and Gibson might just save my proverbial bacon.

God Speed and Good Whisky to you Twins Pitchers...we're all going to need it.


The Great Twins Scotch Bet: Part 3, That Sinking Feeling

Hint...it's not looking good.
Backstory: Each year, my wife, father-in-law and I place a small wager on the Twins final record. The victor gets a glass of excellent scotch, the losers get to pay for it.

It's been about 10 games since my last update (give or take a double header), and with just two weeks to go in the season, it seems like I ought to check in and see how things are looking.

Gouger's Bet: 75-87 or better
Smelly's (my) Bet: 70-92 to 74-88
Stinky's Bet: 69-93 or worse

2014 Twins 63-86...on pace for 68 Wins
Here's how the Twins need to fare in their last 13 games for us each to win

If the Twins win 6 games or less, Stinky wins
If the Twins win 7-11 games, I win
If the Twins win 12 or more games, Gouger wins.

Me watching the bullpen
I truly admire my father-in-law. He genuinely thinks that the Twins have a shot every year, he is genuinely disappointed every time they fail to live up to his expectations, and he is genuinely happy to buy us scotch.

I, however, feel utterly dumbfounded. I mean...really...my first update post, 22 games ago, had the Twins in need of just 13 wins to make me happy...here we are, about three weeks later, and they haven't even gotten to half of that total. We aren't battling the most dangerous teams in the world, and yet we are getting kicked in the nuts as consistently as a peanut farmer at a mule pen.

It's half full...I swear!
It's half-full!!!
Forget who we play for the next week, the big question is, do I have any chance at all?

The Twins are returning home for the next 9 games, this week that includes six games against the Tigers and Indians, both of whom are in the thick of the Central Division title race. 

While the Twins have had some success against the Tigers this year, even I can't delude myself into thinking that we can get more than a win against them this week...after all, we aren't playing the Tigers from July with the Twins from May, and then there's the whupping Cleveland foisted upon us this past week...which makes me even more dour.
My best chance is for the Twins to sweep the Diamondbacks next week (one of the few teams even more woebegone than we are) and squeak a couple wins this week...but I'm not hopeful...


The Great Twins Scotch Bet, Part 2: 1 out of 3 ain't Bad

Thank You Delmon...Thank you
As the Twins celebrate the workers of the world by beating the crab-cake consuming, wanna-be Lords of the American League, Baltimore Orioles (in a game punctuated by Joe Mauer exploiting Delmon Young's defense like the cold blooded despot that he is), it's time to check back in on our annual scotch bet.

Yes, it's been 10 games since my last update which means that we are now down to just 25 games left in this season and this year's scotch bet. So where do we stand?

Gouger's Bet: 75-87 or better
Smelly's (my) Bet: 70-92 to 74-88
Stinky's Bet: 69-93 or worse

2014 Twins 60-77...on pace for 71 Wins

Yes, I'm still, marginally ahead here...thank you very much Chairman Mauer for absolutely annihilating Orioles pitching today, and no thanks to you bullpen for beginning the overworked implosion that you have so rightfully earned.

Here's how the Twins need to fare in their last 25 games for us each to win

If the Twins win 9 games or less, Stinky wins
If the Twins win 10-14 games, I win
If the Twins win 15 or more games, Gouger wins.

Things are looking up...get it? Get it?
Now, you can start to see the challenge here...my father-in-law needs the Twins to post a winning record over the final month of the season, in the heat of a playoff race, at a time when the bullpen is exhausted, the starting pitching is inconsistent and the opponents are desperate not to have any bad losses.

Good thing he's such an optimist.

So...Who do we play for the next 10 games? Chicago at home for 2, the Angels at home for 4, the Indians on the road for 3, and one spare game in Chicago.
Who has the edge? Call me crazy, but I'll say me. The Twins have a winning record against exactly one team left on their schedule...and it's the White Sox. If they grab two of those three and one from the Indians, they'll be in a good place for the next set of ten (featuring more White Sox, more Indians, and the surprisingly Twins-averse Tigers). Provided that the Angels don't crush our souls, I could well be on my way to sweet, sweet scotch.
Welcome back, Gulf of Tonkin
What matters most this week? It has to be the bullpen. With the offense by turns effective and exhausted, and the starting pitching in "Gibson, Hughes, prepare to lose" mode, it rests on the increasingly underrested bullpen arms to save the day. So here's hoping that Logan Darnell, Lester Oliveros, Michael Tonkin and AJ Achter are up to the challenge.