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5/12/12

Why Baseball Is Magic


The Following is by Leslie Branch a Featured Writer:

Why Baseball is Magic

Baseball is magic because nothing is ever as it seems. For example, let’s say you have your light-hitting (but great fielding) shortstop up at the plate. It’s 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh in favor of the other team, but the inning's lead-off batter just took a 3-1 fastball high and away for ball four. In such a close game, bunting the runner over to second is probably the safest move. However, you know that a reliever coming onto the hill to start off an inning is prone to some control problems at first; moreover, he will start fastballs right over the plate to get some strikes. A pitch to hit is probably on its way in the next two pitches, and the particular player at the plate is just money when it comes to picking up base hits in the later innings of a close game. It’s the kind of intangible that permeates the whole game: The knowledge that at any moment, something unlikely, amazing, quirky, or gritty – or all of the above – is bound to happen.

The pitch comes and sure enough it’s a fastball out over the plate. The experienced shortstop does not try to do too much with the pitch, but hits it soundly the other way into right-center field, allowing the leadoff walk to get to third. The aggressive move paid off: Now your team has runners on first and third with no outs, rather than one out and a man on second.

Everyone has their own take on an issue, their own preference with a certain guy at the plate. The person sitting next to you may have had a completely different preference, preferring to keep a cool head about things and play the numbers. He thinks a man hitting .210 is always going to lay down the bunt in that situation. The alternative to letting him swing away is a ground ball double play; then you would be left with two outs and nobody on. If we needed a run badly enough to go against the odds, at least wait until the bottom of the eighth or ninth.

You can see the point. A baseball game can have hundreds of potential circumstances on the field, let alone all of the intangibles provided by the six inches between every baseball player's ears. You could even study baseball in a college course: The rituals of the players in light of that which they cannot control or the relationship between a team and its community.

Another aspect of the magic of baseball is that the athletes are truly the best in the world. Baseball is the kind of sport where, in order to put it all together and put together a Hall of Fame career, the player must master many aspects that involve different traits. Obviously is the physical aspect of the game –durability, power, arm strength, and technique. However, there is the mental aspect of the game as well –one's baseball IQ so to speak, when to shade over to left-center field when a certain player is up to bat, how to deal with the inevitable slump or injury and come back stronger.

When a player can put skillfully put together baseball's mental aspect with rare physical gifts, it is magical to watch.

Sources

Sociology 101 (2012)
Baseball is Magic (2012)

Profiles of the Top 22 Pitchers for the 2012 MLB Draft: Jake Barrett


With the Twins having a severe need for pitching in the organization as well as six picks among the top 100, it is certain that more than one of those picks (and probably the second overall pick) will be used to draft a pitcher.  To this respect, I am presenting profiles of the top 22 pitching prospects for the 2012 MLB draft. I will be presenting these alphabetically, and at the end I will rank them.  I will be doing about one a day and I will finish before the June 4th draft day.

You can find all the profiles (in reverse alphabetical order) as they are presented here.I will start with RJ Alvarez and end with Kyle Zimmer.  Each profile with contain a bit of background information and statistics, a mini scouting report and videos and photos.

Profile 3: Jake Barrett

Profile/Stats: 

Jake Dalton Barrett is a junior at Arizona State University and a three-year player there. He is from Mesa, AZ and went to Desert Ridge High School. He is listed at 6'3" and 230 lbs. Was born on July 22, 1991 in Upland, California He throws Right handed. He was a third round selection (99th overall) of the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2009 Major League Baseball draft, but did not sign. In his freshman year he was a reliever and moved to the rotation in his sophomore season before returning to the pen this season as the closer. In his current season he appeared in 25 games, pitched 27 innings and is 1-4 (9 saves) with a 1.67 ERA, 7 BB and 32 strikeouts allowing a .181 opponent batting average. Last summer in the Cape Cod league he had a 1.62 ERA, 52 IP, striking out 41 and walking 13. His best collegiate season was in 2011 when he went 9-5 in 103 IP, walked 40 and struck out 109, allowing a .211 OBA.

Mini Scouting Report: 

His fastball averages around 92-93 mph with occasional bursts at 96-97 with good movement at the lower speeds. It is a plus pitch but needs work with command. He has a plus slider in the mid 80s which can get up to 88 mph. He has an above average change up that sits in the low 80s. In high school he used to throw a slow curve and a splitter, which he abandoned. His delivery used to be fairly violent and used to fall off towards the first base side, but has been improved. Still is a maximum effort delivery. He reminds some people of Boof Bonser on the mound.

Videos/Photos: 

The following 3 videos show the evolution of Jake Barrett as a pitcher:


Here is a video from his freshman season:




 Here is a scouting video of Jake Barrett from his sophomore season:






Here is a three minute video of Barrett Pitching in a game in the current season:




5/11/12

Profiles of the Top 22 Pitchers for the 2012 MLB Draft: Mark Appel

With the Twins having a severe need for pitching in the organization as well as six picks among the top 100, it is certain that more than one of those picks (and probably the second overall pick) will be used to draft a pitcher.  To this respect, I am presenting profiles of the top 22 pitching prospects for the 2012 MLB draft.

I will be presenting these alphabetically, and at the end I will rank them.  I will be doing about one a day and I will finish before the June 4th draft day. You can find all the profiles (in reverse alphabetical order) as they are presented here.  I will start with RJ Alvarez and end with Kyle Zimmer.  Each profile with contain a bit of background information and statistics, a mini scouting report and videos and photos.

Profile 2: Mark Appel

Profile/Stats: 


Mark Appel is a junior at Stanford University and a three-year player there.  He is from Houston, TX and went to Monte Vista High School.  He is listed at 6'6" and 200 lbs.  He throws Right handed.  He was drafted in the 15th round out of High School by the Detroit Tigers but he did not sign. Was a Two-year letterman in basketball and baseball. In his current season he started 11 games and is 7-1 (86 IP) with a 2.72 ERA, 20 BB and 85 strikeouts allowing a .226 opponent batting average.  Last summer, playing with Team USA, in 9 IP as a reliever (4 games) and an one game starter he had a 5.00 ERA striking out 11 and walking 2; in the Cape Cod league he had a 1.35 ERA, 20 IP, striking out 25 and walking 3.

Mini Scouting Report:

His fastball averages around 94-95 mph with occasional busts at 97-99 and he has excellent command.  It is a plus fastball.  His change up is a  circle change and sits around 82-83 mph and is a borderline plus pitch.  He is throwing a tight slider in the low 80s, which is a work in process and is working on a cutter that sits on the low 90s and touches up to 93 and so far has a nice side to side movement.  He is throwing from a three-quarters position and his height allows for a tight downward plane.  Mark Appel has been mentioned as one of the top picks on this draft and there are a lot written about him and most baseball fans who are following the draft know who he is. Here is a great analysis from Hardball Times, which is worth reading.  It analyzes his mechanics and discusses whether or not he should be a top pick.

Videos/Photos:

Here is a five minute scouting video from his Team USA pitching last summer:




and a 12 minute scouting video from the cape code league last sumemr:



Here is a current interview video, talking about himself:



and here is an interview last year, talking about his pitching:

5/10/12

Profiles of the Top 22 Pitchers for the 2012 MLB Draft: RJ Alvarez

With the Twins having a severe need for pitching in the organization as well as six picks among the top 100, it is certain that more than one of those picks (and probably the second overall pick) will be used to draft a pitcher.  To this respect, I am presenting profiles of the top 22 pitching prospects for the 2012 MLB draft.

I will be presenting these alphabetically, and at the end I will rank them.  I will be doing about one a day and I will finish before the June 4th draft day. You can find all the profiles (in reverse alphabetical order) as they are presented here.  I will start with RJ Alvarez and end with Kyle Zimmer.  Each profile with contain a bit of background information and statistics, a mini scouting report and videos and photos.

RJ Alvarez

Profile/Stats:

RJ Alvarez is a junior in Florida Atlantic University and a three-year player there.  He is from Royal Palm Beach FL and went to Cardinal Newman High School.  He was a first team all conference in both his junior and senior high school seasons and an all area selection in his senior season.  He begun his collegiate career in the pen as a Freshman, but quickly moved to the rotation.  He is listed as 6'1" and 180 lbs.  He throws right handed.  In his current season he is used in the pen and is 5-0 in 20 appearances (31.2 IP) with a 0.57 ERA, 9 BB and 42 strikeouts allowing a .156 opponent batting average.  Last summer in the Cape Cod league, as a starter, he had a 1.40 ERA, 25.2 IP, striking out 33 and walking 9, allowing only 14 Hits (.181 OBA)

Mini Scouting Report:

His fastball averages around 94 with occasional busts at 96-97 and he has good command.  His change up is a  plus pitch and his curve ball is developing.  His delivery is effortless and somewhat deceptive.  He is throwing from a three-quarters position.


Videos/Photos:

A fan video of Alvarez at the Cape Code league Last summer:



A scouting video from the same time frame:


A recent profile of him as a draft prospect:






5/8/12

Random Tuesday Twins Thoughts and Tidbits

Here is this week's installment:
  • With Jayson Werth out at least 3 months, the Twins have a perfect opportunity to see what they can get from the contending Nationals for Denard Span.
  • Alexi Casilla did turn the corner (Big time) with the glove. He has been by far the Twins' best fielder, using a couple of different measurements: Defensive Runs Saved above average with 8 (second best is Span with 5) and UZR with 5 (second best, Span, has 1.8). It is too early, but if he keeps it up (and hits a bit better so he can justify keep playing) he is a gold glove dark horse.
  • And speaking of Alexi Casilla, the Manager of the Millennium, decided to bench him for Jamey Carroll (a lesser player this season both with the bat and on the field) and delayed the the appearance of the Twins' future middleinfield. Apparently Alexi Casilla is day to day with a sore throwing shoulder
  • Jared Burton leads the Twins with a crazy 0.455 WHIP. Do not expect it to last because his BABIP is an equally crazy 0.045.
  • Speaking of BABIP, of the Twins' starters not named Pavano, Jason Marquis has the lowest BABIP with .320, which indicated that luck has a role in the Twins' SP woes. Now it better turn around fast.
  • Sean Burroughs was Designated for Assignment a week ago to make room for Drew Butera. Here is a picture of Sean's traveling buddy.
  • Twins' middle infield (and OF recently) prospect AJ Petersen is writing about a minor leaguer's off day
  • Former Twins' pitching prospect Dan Osterbrock is having surgery today to fix what was not fixed in his shoulder in his previous operation.
  • Looks like either Jim Pohlad is a huge Brian Dozier fan or a statement is about to be made based on this
  • Fun factoid: Eight out of the twelve pitchers on the Beloit Snappers' roster are throwing left-handed while all fourteen position players (including Nate Robers who is on the 7-day Disabled List) are throwing right-handed (including the 3 who are batting left-handed and the single switch-hitter JaDamion Williams.)
  • Good to see the average age in the Twins' minor league teams (esp. in Rochester where that was not true recently) is right about League Average. Here are the numbers. Rochester: Hitters: 27.1, Pitchers: 26.5 (International League: Hitters: 27.4 Pitchers: 27.5) New Britain: Hitters: Pitchers: 25.3 (Eastern League: 24.5 Hitters: Pitchers: 25) Fort Myers: Hitters: 22.5 Pitchers: 23.2 (Florida State League: Hitters: 22.7Pitchers: 22.9) Beloit: Hitters: 21.7 Pitchers: 22.3 (Midwest League: Hitters: 21.5 Pitchers: 21.9)
  • The Twins' product of the week, is the Ron Gardenhire Bobblehead that was given to the Minnesota Twins' season ticket holders in 2009.
The parting shot today is of Brian Dozier in honor of his MLB debut yesterday







As always you can find all the Random Tuesday Twins Thoughts and Tidbits Posts here, in reverse chronological order.

5/7/12

The Twins middle infield of the future opens tonight

Tonight will be the premiere in the big leagues of Twins' infielder Brian Dozier.   Dozier was the Twins' 8th round draft pick in 2009 out of the University of Southern Mississippi.  He signed right away so he had time to play pro ball in 2009.  He quickly moved through the Twins' system, playing for both rookie level teams in 2009, both A-level teams in 2010, starting in Fort Myers in 2011 and ending up in New Britain and then in the Arizona Fall league.

He was invited in the Spring Training as a non-roster invitee this year (where he was one of the last Twins' cuts) and started the season in Rochester.  He was added to the 40-man roster today.  Even though he has not hit well in Rochester so far (.276/.339/.371, 199 PA) the Twins are encouraged by his 2011 New Britain (.318/.384/.502 7 HR, 22 2B, 7 3B, 351 PA) and Arizona Fall League (.296/.358/.454. 3 HR, 8 2B, 120 PA) numbers to call him up early this season.  It is worth mentioning that with the Fall League, Brian Dozier has a full season in 2011, playing in 153 games and having 689 plate appearances.

He will likely replace Jamey Carroll (who will assume a utility role filling in at all infield positions but at 1B) as the starting shortstop.  He was batting at the number 2 spot in Rochester most of this season, so he might replace Carroll there also.  However it is more likely that Joe Mauer will be at the number 2 spot and Dozier will slide lower in the line up.  Brian wore uniform number 77 during Spring Training but was assigned number 20 today.

The 25 year old Brian Dozier will team up with the 27 year old Alexi Casilla as the Twins' double play combination.  Hopefully Twins' fans will look at scenes like this often this season and for many seasons to come: