Tuesday, November 1, 2005
NFL "EXPERT" Picks
Q&A with Aaron Gleeman
Good Morning everyone! Be sure to check back to yesterday's posting and take the time to enter my New Carew Contest, sponsored by GuardDog Watches. It's easy to get entered, so check it out.
Well, it is Tuesday, which means that we have another Question and Answer segment with someone related in some way to the Twins. This week, our guest isn't a player, coach or even technically a media person. Everyone who knows anything about baseball blogging knows who Aaron Gleeman is. I have stated numerous times that It was the Twins Geek and Aaron's Baseball Blog that made me want to blog. Now The Geek is gone from the blogging world, but fortunately for us all, Aaron is still around, and he can be found in a number of different places. His knowledge of the game of baseball on so many levels is incredible, and his ability to put together a very interesting article using any number of statistical metrics is simply amazing. I am down to reading about 3 or 4 blogs every morning, and Aaron's is definitely on any short list.
So today, I am thrilled to post a Question and Answer session with Aaron Gleeman. I am sure that you will enjoy it and be incredibly impressed by everything he is active in! If you have any comments for me or Mr. Gleeman, please e-mail me, and I will try to answer your questions or forward them on to him. Also, after reading the Q&A, be sure to check out all his sites and send him a quick e-mail to say hello, and be sure to thank him for all of the insight and entertainment he provides!
Let the Questions Begin!
SethSpeaks: When was the very first Aaron's Baseball Blog entry?Aaron: The first thing I wrote was back on August 1, 2002. It was about Marlins pitcher A.J. Burnett and his heavy workload. I basically said to watch out for a future arm injury, and then shortly after that he actually hurt his arm and had to have surgery.
The second thing I ever wrote was, sadly, about how well David Ortiz had hit in July ... for the Twins.SethSpeaks: What made you decide to do it?Aaron: Basically, I was home for the summer and looking for an outlet for my writing. I have always wanted to write about sports for a living, and the good people at the Minnesota Daily wouldn't have me. I figured, at the very least, it would be good practice.SethSpeaks: What were your goals at the time? I mean, I can't imagine that you thought you would get to the status that you have reached now?Aaron: I didn't really have any goals at the time. I more or less thought it would be cool to get some sort of an audience (maybe 50 people) and write about stuff for a little while. I wanted to write every day and no one would hire me to do so, so I found my own place.SethSpeaks: You also were one of the leads in getting The Hardball Times site going? What was the process that led to getting that site started.Aaron: Matthew Namee (Bill James' former assistant) and I became friends and one day decided it would be cool to start up a new baseball site with a bunch of good writers from around the internet. We recruited some of our favorite writers (Dave Studeman, Ben Jacobs, Larry Mahnken, Steve Treder, Craig Burley were all in the original group) and THT was launched on March 15, 2004.SethSpeaks: The 2006 version of The Hardball Times book will likely be available soon. I loved last year's version and look forward to the new one. What can we expect from it? Anything new?Aaron: We self-published last year's version and it included a lot of "Best Of" material from the site. This year's THT Annual will include 100% new material and is being published by ACTA Sports (the same people who do the Bill James Handbook, among other books).We are fortunate to have some very good writers for the book, beyond the regular THT staff. Guys like Bill James, Rob Neyer, John Dewan, Jon Weisman, Matt Welch, Alex Belth, Dave Cameron, J.C. Bradbury, and Maury Brown.SethSpeaks: You also write daily for FoxSports.com fantasy sports. What is your role there, and how did that opportunity come about?Aaron: FoxSports.com has a partnership with Rotoworld.com, where they syndicate a lot of Rotoworld's material on their site. So I have sort of a duel role with both places. During the baseball season I did the morning news coverage every day and then wrote a "Daily Dose" column six days a week, breaking down the top stories and their fantasy impact. Now that it's football season, I'm doing NFL news five days a week, with a football "Daily Dose" column on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.SethSpeaks: You also write for Rotoworld and Insider Baseball. What is your role with each and how did those chances happen?Aaron: Both opportunities came via my blog. Basically, someone at each place read my blog regularly, had a job opening, and thought I would be good for the job. My gig with InsiderBaseball.com lasts through the baseball season and I focus on covering minor-league prospects.SethSpeaks: I struggle with one website, and you've got by lines all over the place! I have to ask... how do you have time to do all of this?Aaron: Well, I'm done with school, so this stuff is officially my job. It's a little tough, and I'd definitely like to stop stretching myself so thin at some point.SethSpeaks: what is a typical day in the life of Aaron Gleeman? You must prioritize well?Aaron: Amazingly, I wake up at seven every morning. I do the Rotoworld/Fox Sports news stuff for about three hours, and then write my "Daily Dose" column. Then I usually answer some e-mails, have a little lunch, and get to work on my blog or THT writing. Then at night I work on editing and coordinating articles that are scheduled to appear on THT the next day. It's just about the opposite of glamorous, but it beats a lot of other jobs.SethSpeaks: What is your background as far as playing baseball? Were you any good? What positions did you play?Aaron: I played until I was about 15 or so. And I stunk. I played second base, mostly, and was a pretty good defender. But I hit with almost zero power. I bet I had about four extra-base hits in my entire career. My calling card was a bloop single into right field (which means I didn't have any power AND I was late on a lot of pitches).SethSpeaks: Who have some of your favorite players been as you've grown up in Minnesota?Aaron: I liked Kirby a lot, like everyone. And obviously I'm a big Johan fan. I also took a liking to Shane Mack, Matthew LeCroy, Bobby Kielty, and Matt Lawton. And Torii Hunter, although he is becoming a bit of a jerk in his old age.SethSpeaks: I have to ask this, and it may seem like a strange question. Can you just sit down and enjoy a baseball game on TV? I know with me, I find myself over-analyzing every decision, pitch, swing, take.Aaron: I watch a ton of baseball, so yeah. But I do find myself taking notes a lot or seeing something and thinking, "I should write about this for tomorrow."SethSpeaks: Are you finding any time to play any Texas Hold 'Em these days, or does that have to be put on the backburner at this point of the year?Aaron: I haven't been playing much poker lately. It takes up too much time, especially with all the book prep that needed (and still needs) to be done. I still watch it on TV whenever I can find it and play occasionally (more live than online, of late).SethSpeaks: I know you participate in fantasy sports. How many teams and how many different sports to you participate in? What is it about fantasy sports that captures us all?Aaron: I just drafted my fantasy basketball team Sunday, actually. I ended up with Tracy McGrady as the ninth pick and took zero Timberwolves. And my fantasy football team is 7-1, despite having Culpepper at QB. Now I am going to be left choosing between Aaron Brooks and Brad Johnson, which is just gross.For baseball, I love to play Diamond-Mind more so than typical roto leagues. I am in two Diamond-Mind keeper leagues, and just won the World Series in one. I think a lot of baseball fans dream of being a GM, and running a team in a keeper league comes about as close to that as most of us will ever get.SethSpeaks: Who are some of your favorite writers to read on a daily or weekly basis?Aaron: Bill Simmons is my favorite writer. I also like Eric Neel, Rob Neyer, Alan Schwarz, Peter Gammons, Ken Rosenthal, John Hollinger, Len Pasquerelli, Dayn Perry. And of course there are about two dozen blogs I check on a daily basis, including this one.SethSpeaks: If you're a GM, which five or six statistics do you think that you would use to describe a hitter (without factoring in salary which obviously can not be done in the real world)?Aaron: The stuff I look at with hitters are batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, strikeout-to-walk ratio, and Isolated Power. With those five things, you can get a pretty full picture of someone's ability. And then I also look at the position the player plays (which impacts how valuable he is to a team offensively, in a roundabout way) and what sort of ballparks he has called home.SethSpeaks: Same question, but what about for a pitcher?Aaron: For pitchers I check out a lot of the same stuff. Batting average against, OBP against, SLG against, etc. And strikeouts are big, along with walks. And again, the ballparks involved, because that puts everything in context.SethSpeaks: Here are some names, in ten to twenty words, let us know what your feeling is about them being on the Twins opening day roster in 2005:Aaron:a.) Torii Hunter - If they can get a young hitter or two for him, they should do it. Also, he should shut up.b.) Francisco Liriano - The expectations are probably too high, but he's going to be a stud.c.) Scott Baker - Very impressive this year and looks to be a reliable #3 starter-type for quite a while.d.) Bill Mueller - I have warmed to the possibility of him playing third base in 2006, as long as he's reasonably priced. Nice, solid player who gets on base.e.) Kevin Youklis - I'd rather have him than Mueller because of age and cost, but I have a feeling the Red Sox want to keep him at 3B.f.) Paul Konerko - Had a great year and a great postseason, but he's going to be paid more than he's worth as a free agent. Take a look at his numbers away from hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular; they aren't very good at all.g.) Corey Koskie - I was sad to see Koskie go, but considering the year he had with poor hitting and injuries, Terry Ryan made the right call. I always thought he was a very underrated player for the Twins.h.) Doug Mientkiewicz - If this were, say, the 1920, Dougie would be one of baseball's biggest stars. Instead, he'll be searching for a gig this offseason.i.) Alfonso Soriano - Another guy who will probably be paid more than he's worth. Considering the salaries I expect them to get, I'd much rather go after Mueller.j.) Kevin Millar - Ick. I really hope Terry Ryan stays away. Mediocre offense, poor defense ... the Twins can do a lot better.k.) Shannon Stewart - How he plays in 2006 is going to have a huge impact on the Twins' ability to win 90 games again. I fear that he is at the point where age and injuries have taken him down a peg as a player.SethSpeaks: What is the biggest positive for the Twins heading into the 2006 season? Can this team compete with just a few offseason moves?Aaron: The biggest positive is the pitching. It figures to be extremely good once again in 2006 and the best part is that most of the staff is very young. They had half of a championship-caliber team in 2005 and it figures to get better in 2006 and beyond. A problem -- whether it is the lineup, the rotation, the defense, or the bullpen -- can always be fixed with just a few moves. The question is whether the Twins can make those moves, considering their budget restraints.SethSpeaks: Billy Beane - genius, or just able to develop and acquire good pitching?Aaron: I would hesitate to call him a genius, but he is clearly one of the game's best GMs. He puts together a contending team in a tough division every year, despite having a low payroll.SethSpeaks: Paul DePodesta - Why didn't that experiment work?Aaron: I think it had an awful lot to do with the Dodgers' ownership. The idea that DePodesta was a failure despite only two seasons on the job (one in which the Dodgers made the playoffs) seems odd to me. They stunk this year, but they also had a ridiculous number of injuries. Giving up on a GM after what was essentially one offseason on the job is silly. How many GMs are given season after season to build a winning team, despite poor results? A lot. If the White Sox treated Kenny Williams the same as the Dodgers treated DePodesta, we'd probably have a different champion.SethSpeaks: How tired of the whole steroid and performance-enhancing drug story are you?Aaron: I was tired of it from Day 1. I rarely read about it and never write about it.SethSpeaks: What is the best part about writing for you?Aaron: Definitely the interaction with an audience. The idea that people are reading my thoughts on a subject is rewarding in itself, and it also keeps me going on days when I don't feel like writing anything.SethSpeaks: what is the worst part about all of this writing?Aaron: The interaction with the audience. :) 99% of the time e-mails and comments are great, but that 1% is tough to take sometimes.SethSpeaks: What is the strangest e-mail you have received regarding your site?Aaron: Wow, I get a lot of weird ones. It's tough to narrow it down. People get very emotional about things they read on blogs, which I guess we should take as a compliment.SethSpeaks: Where did you get the Waffle Crapper idea from for your site?Aaron: That term is from Adam Carolla, who I believe is one of the 2-3 funniest people alive. I do a "Link-O-Rama" entry on Fridays, where I basically just link to a bunch of interesting stuff I stumbled across during the week. I often link to pictures or stories related to attractive women, so I decided to put them under the heading of "The Week in Waffle Crappers." Apparently some people aren't thrilled with the term.
(SETH NOTE - I think it's hilarious!)SethSpeaks: Who comprises your current Hot Actress list as of today?Aaron: Based little on actual acting ability, I'd say:1) Elisha Cuthbert2) Jessica Alba3) Jessica BielSethSpeaks: Do you have any specific goals now that you're obviously an established blogger and a name in this genre? Where do you want to go with all of this??Aaron: My only goal is keep being able to make money doing something I love, which is writing about sports. I don't need to be rich or famous or anything like that; I just need to pay the bills by telling people what I think about Luis Rivas. So far so good.SethSpeaks: Have you had any experiences in the last few years that you're happy about that would not have happened if not for all of this? Experiences where you just shake your head and say, "It's so worth it!"Aaron: Definitely. I've met so many people -- both online and in real life -- solely because of my blog and other writing gigs. I never thought I'd be working on a book or writing for a big-time website like FoxSports or doing magazine work by the time I was 23. Starting up the blog is one of the better moves I've ever made.
SethSpeaks: OK, right now you're 74-41 in our weekly NFL "Expert" Picks contest... Do you think you're still in it? What will it take to win it all?Aaron: It's tough, because a lot of us end up picking the same winners each week, since we're not going on the point spread. So there are really only 4-5 games on the schedule each week where you can make up ground. I probably need to stop picking the Packers and Eagles at some point.SethSpeaks: Any final thoughts for Twins fans or readers of these blogs? The floor is yours.Aaron: For everyone reading this right now, I really hope you appreciate the time and energy Seth puts into this site. It's a labor of love, for sure, but it's still labor. If you come here every day and like what you see, think about dropping him an e-mail occasionally to let him know that. Getting a nice note from a reader while he's working on a 5,000-word recap of the Timberwolves' loss to the Nuggets might just make his day.Oh, and go buy The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2006 ... please!
Aaron, thank you very, very much for taking the time to answer all of these questions so honestly. I know that I check your site daily, sometimes a couple of times. I appreciate all of the work and time you put into your job(s).
Do you have any thoughts or questions for Aaron Gleeman or me? If so, please feel free to e-mail me.
If you would like to read any previous Q&A's, here is a checklist:
10/25/05 - Q&A with Mark Sheldon (Twins Beat Reporter for MLB.com)
10/18/05 - Q&A with Kevin Slowey (another top pitching prospect, Twins 2nd round pick in 2005)
10/11/05 - Q&A with Wes Holtsclaw (local writer for the Elizabethton Twins)
10/5/05 - Q&A with Eli Tintor (Minnesota-native, catching prospect who played 2005 in E-Town)
7/28/05 - Q&A with Jim Mandelaro (local writer for the Rochester Red Wings)
2/28/05 - Q&A with Pat Neshek (Minnesota-native, reliever prospect who played 2005 at New Britain)
1/27/05 - Q&A with Stick and Ball Guy (one of the best bloggers out there!)
12/17/04 - Q&A with Alexander Smit (Holland-native, pitching prospect spent 2005 between Beloit and E-Town)
5/28/04 - Q&A with CJ Nitkowski (big league pitcher, spent Spring Training 2005 with the Twins)
04/19/04 - Q&A with Jim Souhan (Star-Tribune Baseball Writer, now a columnist)
Well, to be certain, the people at UW-Stout are thrilled that the Twins named their alumnus Joe Vavra as hitting coach.
Martha Stewart thought that she was going to fire The Donald on the first episode of The Apprentice: Martha Stewart. Guess not!
When I went to lunch yesterday, I was listening to XM Radio's Home Plate channel. They were discussing how it was imminent that GM Theo Epstein was about to sign a three year deal to remain in the same capacity with the team. Then when I was driving home from work, listening to the same channel. By that time, they were reporting that Epstein was not going to come back. He said, "I gave my entire heart and soul to the organization. During the process leading up to today's decision, I came to the conclusion that I can no longer do so. In the end, my choice is the right one not only for me but for the Red Sox." You have to assume that he really struggled with this decision and must be doing it for good reasons because the team reportedly offered him a three year deal at $1.5 million each year. Peter Gammons reported that, although this was Epstein's dream job, it may have just been too much for anyone to do for more than a few years. Why? Paraphrasing Gammons, the Red Sox GM job is a 15 hour a day job with another five hours of PR. That could only have intensified since he brought the city its first world series in 87 years in 2004! Good for him, but I fully expect that after a year or so out, he will be back and ready to help another team contend!
Yesterday, the Twins honored Francisco Liriano and David Winfree as their Minor League pitcher and player of the years. Liriano was the obvious choice for the top pitcher. However, I was very happy to see Winfree get the nod for the player of the year. I think sometimes with Matt Moses a step ahead of him at 3B, Winfree often gets overlooked. However, he can flat-out hit, and this year he knocked in over 100 runs for Beloit.
Mark Sheldon also reported last week that Denard Span is doing well of late in Arizona, as his batting average went from .208 to to .284 in 10 games. Then, on Saturday he went 3-3, and yesterday he was 1-3 (with a stolen base, his fifth) and now his average is up to .320.
A great source for information on the Winter Leagues is On Deck Baseball, a site that reviews prospects. Daily, they are giving updates of the games in Arizona, Venezuela and the Dominican Republic. A few Twins prospects made the report yesterday. "CF Josh Rabe (Twins) went 3-for-4 with a double, a run scored, and an RBI and 1B Danny Matienzo (Twins) was 4-for-5 with a double, a tater (3), and 2 RBIs while RHP Willie Eyre (Twins) allowed 2 runs -- one earned -- and 4 hits in 7 innings pitched to notch his 2nd win, as Aragua bumped off La Guaira, 4-2. Rabe places 3rd in the VWL in batting (.391). Matienzo has 9 RBIs in 12 games despite hitting just .209. Eyre places 2nd in the VWL in ERA with a 1.04 mark. He's yielded just 11 hits and 3 walks in 17.1 innings pitched." From the day before: "RHP J.D. Durbin (Twins) punched out 5 batters in 5 innings of 3-run ball while CF Josh Rabe (Twins) went 2-for-5 with a triple and 2 RBIs in Aragua's 6-5 road win over Caracas. Durbin has now K'ed 10 batters in 8.1 innings of work. His ERA is 4.32. Rabe is hitting .357 with 11 walks in 11 games."
From the Strib:"Daunte Culpepper’s season is officially over, and when he will return remains uncertain."
Culpepper had damage to his ACL, MCL and PCL. I have to wonder how similar this injury is to the Twins' Jason Kubel. Remember that he tore three parts of his knee last year in Arizona. It is just over a year later now, and he is still not at 100% and the team is hopeful he will be ready in Spring Training. So, lets just say that Culpepper is ready in a year, midseason of next season. And that would be probably wishful thinking. That is pretty negative for Vikings fans. Even Daunte's detractors have to admit that this is a huge blow to the Vikings!
Oh the things that people will write about! Poor Kordell!
If you have any thoughts on any of this, please e-mail me.
Just a few thoughts heading into Wednesday night's Wolves season opener.
As much as I have little hope for the Wolves in the 2005-06 season, I do have to admit that I am a little excited.
Of course, the key to the Wolves is always Kevin Garnett. He has been limited in exhibition games by Dwayne Casey and by some lingering injuries. Hopefully he will be able to overcome those injuries during the season.
The other key to me is going to be the play of Wally Szczerbiak. And to me, that has very little to do with him. It is the responsibility of the others to make sure that he gets 15-18 shots a game. If he gets that, he will again average 20 points a game. Wally claims to be ready for the responsibility, and I have no doubt he'll be up for the challenge!
Marko Jaric is going to be a star-caliber player for the Wolves. He will likely be the starting point guard but could play at least three other positions.
Trenton Hassell will start at the 2-guard, and hopefully this year he will return to playing some real defense.
And Michael Olowokandi gives us hope only from the perspective that he is playing for another NBA contract this season.
Troy Hudson will try to stay healthy, and he will also try to regain his ability to have a positive offensive streak again! We have to hope he doesn't warrant SBG's nickname for him again this year, the nickname being THUD. (get it, instead of T-Hud!) If he plays any defense for Coach Casey, it may be the first time in his career. Hudson, due to injury through much of training camp, will likely start the season as the Wolves #3 point guard.
Eddie Griffin will try to be consistent over the full season this year. Last year, he started out great and was very valuable, but then he really struggled. He'll knock down some threes, but it would be nice to see him play inside a little bit more. He is excellent on defense though.
Rashad McCants will likely be that Instant Offense guy off the bench. The Wolves first round pick can score, no doubt, but will he play any defense?
Richie Frahm takes over the Fred Hoiberg role on the team, hopefully knocking down a bunch of long-range jumpers. Hoiberg, you recall, had heart surgery in the off-season.
Mark Madsen will provide, well, Mark Madsen caliber things to the team. That means not much in numbers, but an attitude that is inspirational to his teammates and makes him a crowd favorite.
Nikoloz Tskitishvili is a 7-footer who is very athletic and could so some things if he is given minutes. He is very athletic and talented, but he has had little opportunity in the NBA because he was, and still is, just 22 years old. He will probably be the 10th or 11th man, so I wouldn't expect huge things from him, at least not consistently.
Anthony Carter will be technically the #3 point guard. However, with Jaric's ability to play multiple positions, I think that Carter could get plenty of playing time. His defense and ability to run an offense make him an excellent guy off the bench. We also now know that before a game, he eats pizza and then takes a nap! Interesting!
The Wolves will send center Dwayne Jones and guard Bracey Wright to their NBDL affiliate in Florida.
You may have realized that I left out one roster spot. That is true. At this time yesterday, the Wolves had given that roster spot to Ndudi Ebi, basically because of his cost. However, last night, the Wolves made a trade with the Detroit Pistons to acquire Richard Dupree for a 2nd round pick. Dupree played in about half of the games last year for the Chicago Bulls. He will likely get a few minutes at the 2 and 3 positions. This is probably a good trade for the Wolves, even if Dupree only plays a few minutes in half of the team's games. Truth be told, the team has not used their 2nd round picks wisely anyway. To make room for Dupree, the Wolves waived Ebi who is still owed another $800,000 by the team. I think it is fair to call him a bad 1st round pick for Kevin McHale.
So, what is my prediction for the Wolves? I don't think that they are a playoff team, and they will struggle many nights. However, they are not a horrible team about 8 or 9 deep. They will be able to win some games just because Kevin Garnett wills them to it. And they will win a few games because Wally will be lights out! And they will put together some really great team games. I do believe that the Wolves will finish just below .500 which will probably place them 10th or 11th in the Western Conference, just outside the playoffs.
If you have any thoughts on the Wolves in 2005-06, e-mail me. Thanks!
NFL "EXPERT" PICKS
With the Jeff Reed field goal inside of the final two minutes, the Steelers got the win last night. All twelve of our panelists got the game right, and it became official that with a record of 11-3, Will Young and Melissa Lien tied for the Week 8 title! And yes, I sure did finish all alone in last place this week! And Cory Hepola pulled to within one game of leader Trevor Born. For more on our panel or our picks, check out the NFL "Expert" Picks page here. And be sure to check back on Friday for our Week 9 picks.
Final Standings Total Week 8 Over All Name Site
L Win% W L Win % Trevor Born Twins Junkie 9 5 64.3% 80 36 69.0% Cory Hepola KTVH-TV Sports 10 4 71.4% 79 37 68.1% Mike Brasel Fantasy FB Guru 9 5 64.3% 77 39 66.4% SethSpeaks Panel 9 3 75.0% 74 36 67.3% Seth Stohs SethSpeaks.net 8 6 57.1% 75 41 64.7% Aaron Gleeman Aaron's BB Blog 9 5 64.3% 75 41 64.7% Brent Hanson BrentNet 10 4 71.4% 71 45 61.2% Stick & Ball Guy Stick & Ball Guy 10 4 71.4% 71 45 61.2% Melissa Lien SethSpeaks.net 11 3 78.6% 71 45 61.2% Will Young Will's Twins Blog 11 3 78.6% 70 46 60.3% Ben Jacobs Hardball Times 10 4 71.4% 69 47 59.5% Kevin Slowey Twins Pitching Prospect 9 5 64.3% 66 50 56.9% Grant Balfour Twins Relief Pitcher 9 5 64.3% 61 55 52.6%
And on that note, I will call it a day. I certainly hope that you have found the Q&A with Aaron Gleeman interesting and well worth reading. Remember, I will be back tomorrow with a new Guest writer answering the Why Baseball query. If you're interested in participating, please let me know. If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me.
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