Another mock and some good points about QBs

Tom Reed has a pair of articles regarding the Browns in the NFL Draft, which is coming up this Thursday (I will be elsewhere and will miss the first round, sadly).

First, Reed offers his view of the first round. He assumes the Browns don’t trade up for Mariota (which I do think is unlikely). He has them taking DT Danny Shelton with the first pick and a WR I never heard of, Breshad Perriman with the second first rounder. I’m becoming a believer about Shelton; we need to stop the run, as I said in my schedule preview. Perriman, based on Reed’s assessment, seems like a bad call — we already had a tall receiver who had issues dropping the ball. I agree we need help out of the receiver position; I don’t agree that we should take the first tall guy we can, even if he is fast. We need a more complete and polished package at receiver to help out whomever the QB happens to be. If Shelton drops to #19, that would solve our problems neatly.

His other article discusses Mariota in the context of recently drafted QBs. His primary point is about the spread offense, and how it doesn’t really work in the pro game. He sums up his argument with this gem:

The majority of the NFL’s best quarterbacks in 2009 – Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers – remain its best quarterbacks today. The only young ones demonstrating any consistency are Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson, products of pro-style college programs.

I think Reed is overstating it, as some other QBs have at least been decent (like Nick Foles, Colin Kaepernick, Ryan Tannehill, RGIII when healthy, even Alex Smith). If your benchmark is truly elite, I’d have to agree, but you don’t need super elite QBs to win either. He closes the article by suggesting that this natural offensive deficiency is only going to get worse, so it makes sense for Cleveland to trade up and grab Mariota now if they think he’s the guy (although he argued in the first article that they ought to wait and grab Bryce Perry in a later round.) I’ve pretty consistently rejected the idea of selling the future for a QB: Cleveland is more than a QB away, and we still don’t know if Manziel has value. A late round pick, maybe, but unless Mariota drops to #12, let someone else take him.

Another Hall of Fame to complain about! Yay!

As I learned from the AV Club, Video Games are getting their very own Hall of Fame (as part of the National Toy Museum in Rochester, NY. There are fifteen nominees. Although the balloting process is not clear, AV Club says that the panel will be composed of “journalists, scholars, and other video game experts.” The first class is:

Pong

Space Invaders

Pac-Man

Oregon Trail

Tetris

Super Mario Bros.

Sonic The Hedgehog

The Sims

Doom

FIFA Soccer

The Legend Of Zelda

Pokémon

World Of Warcraft

Angry Birds

Minecraft

There are fourteen games with legitimate credentials (and FIFA Soccer). Let’s assume, for the moment, there will be five nominees. I think four are very clear, right off the bat: Pong, Tetris, Pac-Man, and Super Mario Bros. All four are enduring classics, which have been carried up to the present day. The fifth choice is a tough one: Space Invaders seems a safe bet, but I think we’ll get one relatively new franchise. The poll on the Strong Museum’s website has The Sims leading the way with, as of this post, more than 50% of the vote. Personally (assuming this is not a one-time deal, and that entries can be nominated more than once), I think either Legend of Zelda or, especially, Pokemon is a better bet for spot #5.

2015 NFL Schedule is out

In what has become a nigh annual tradition, I am going to analyze Cleveland’s schedule and predict our record! Shout out to Tom Reed of Cleveland.com, who first posted the schedule (as far as I saw it).

Week 1 (at NYJ): According to Reed, Cleveland is 1-15 in the past 16 seasons for the first game of the season. Ouch. However, the Jets don’t particularly impress me (although Revis + Skrine is a nasty DB combination). Win. (1-0)

Week 2 (vs. TEN): Tennessee has beefed up its defense, true, but that offense is butt ugly. Even if the Titans pick up Marcus Mariota, who thinks he’ll be ready to face what should be an improved Browns defense by week 2? Win. (2-0)

Week 3 (vs. OAK): I know we’ve all crowned Derek Carr the next big QB, but while he had a solid rookie season, he didn’t light the league on fire (Oakland was 30th in offensive DVOA). The Raiders defense will probably still stink (26th in 2014 by defensive DVOA), and that should give Cleveland a chance to go 3-0. Win. (3-0)

Week 4 (at SD): San Diego has a killer offense, but their defense is only a little better than Oakland’s. There have been trade rumors swirling surrounding Philip Rivers, but I don’t think he goes anywhere. If we can stop the run and whoever starts at QB isn’t a steaming pile of shit, this could go either way. Loss (but a close one). (3-1)

Week 5 (at BAL): The Ravens will be the first team that, I think, will probably wipe the floor with Cleveland. Baltimore has had Cleveland’s number for a while. I think we’ll make a good showing, but the Ravens are extremely balanced and don’t have glaring weaknesses. Loss. (3-2)

Week 6 (vs. DEN): The Browns have one, and only one chance: Peyton Manning has to be human. He has to, finally, start sucking as somebody of his age should. If Manning does melt down, it’ll come at the end of the season, not near the beginning. Loss. (3-3)

Week 7 (at STL): Time to get back on the winning track, wouldn’t you say? I’m not convinced that Nick Foles is better than Sam Bradford; healthier, maybe. Philly had a lot more weapons than the Rams do. Win. (4-3)

Week 8 (vs. ARI): Arizona went 11-5 last season. If they break .500 this year, I’d be pleasantly surprised. They are, essentially, a mirror image of the Browns (good defense, bad offense), but they had better luck. Carson Palmer doesn’t scare anybody and hasn’t for years. Win. (5-3)

Week 9 (at CIN): It comes down to the run defense. If it’s better (and honestly, a cardboard cutout of Ted Washington would be an improvement), I think Cleveland looks more like the team that dominated the Bengals, not vice versa. Andy Dalton is overrated and always has been. Win. (6-3)

Week 10 (at PIT): If we beat Cincinnati (specifically shut down the run), I think we can beat Pittsburgh. The Steelers are formidable offensively, but a shadow of their former selves on defense. We’re being optimistic, aren’t we? Win. (7-3)

Week 11 (BYE): So, at this point, Cleveland is 7-3, and only two of those wins make me nervous (Pittsburgh and maybe Cincy.) If we’re 7-3, and 2-1 in the AFC North, we’re in playoff position. The key is not to shit the bed for the rest of the season. Let’s move on.

Week 12 (vs. BAL): We’re at home, coming off of a bye, when people will be rested. I genuinely think we have a chance at an upset here. Win. (8-3)

Week 13 (vs. CIN): This feels like a trap game to me. Cleveland’s won five straight (if my predictions are right), and we’ll probably get some injuries about this time. I think we lose here. Loss. (8-4)

Week 14 (vs. SF): I have no idea what to expect out of the 49ers next season. I genuinely don’t. Colin Kaepernick was still pretty darn good, but they lost Patrick Willis, the key to their defense. If that means the offense gets better but the defense gets worse… I think this game is winnable. Win. (9-4)

Week 15 (vs. SEA): Yeah, we’re losing here. This and Denver strike me as two no-doubt losses. Loss. (9-5)

Week 16 (at KC): If I can get some cash together, I’d love to go see this game. This is another trap game. KC is on the downside defensively, but upside offensively. Unlike the second Bengals game, though, I think we’ll overcome this trap. Win. (10-5)

Week 17 (vs. PIT): Dare I predict sweeping the season series against the Steelers? I think I do. It’s at home, and we might be fighting for playoff positions. Win. (11-5)

Now, obviously, I could be very, very wrong. Everything depends on Cleveland addressing their most fundamental weakness (which is not quarterback): stopping the run. If the Browns don’t improve there, I have little confidence we can beat Pittsburgh or Baltimore. A healthy Jamaal Charles also guarantees us a loss at KC. However, it is at least possible that Cleveland makes the playoffs with competent QB play and, most importantly, good DL play. We’ll have to see!

Thoughts on the Twins of the present and past

The Minnesota Twins have been an awful team since Joe Mauer proved he was human and Justin Morneau the flashiest flash in the pan that ever flashed (or panned, for that manner). They will probably be awful again this year, according to FanGraphs. Their team is presently a whirling vortex of suck, a rotation of retreads who haven’t been good in years, and minimal young talent (except for Danny Santana).

Yet, here’s what we forget: just five years ago, the Twins ended a mini-dynasty atop the AL Central, with six division titles in 9 years (2002-2010). If you recall, those Twins teams were positioned as the anti-A’s. Small market, successful, but not with any of those fancy “numbers.” They did it based on pure moxie, damn it! One guy ran the team, interesting, from awesome to suck to awesome and back to suck: Ron Gardenhire.

Why were these Twins so good? Let’s take a (somewhat) in-depth look.

2002: Let me take you back to a time. A simpler time. The first Spider-Man movie came out to rave reviews, spawning hopes for a comic book movie orgy of awesome. Ironically, Spider-Man failed miserably after a good second attempt and has not benefited from said orgy. Nickelback had the #1 song in America. (I said simpler time. Not better.)

Along come the plucky Twins. They hadn’t made the playoffs since their World Series win in 1991. Yet the 2002 Twins would take the baseball world by storm, losing in the ALCS to the Angels. They would never be that successful again in the playoffs, but I digress. They did win 94 games and unseat the glorious Indians, who had won six of the previous seven division titles and made two trips to the World Series.

The 2002 Twins were part of a three year swing that saw the Twins go from worst to first, after an even longer cycle of suck that stretched from 1993 to 2000. What did the 2002 Twins do so well?

First, the Twins had pretty okay pitching. Brad Radke, Eric Milton, and Joe Mays, were, for the time, relatively lukewarm stuff. Radke was drafted by Minnesota — Mays and Milton were acquired via trades. Milton was part of the Chuck Knoblauch deal where New York got an awful second baseman and the Twins got players who, while hardly Hall of Famers, were not Chuck Knoblauch. This is a win. Mays was swapped from the Mariners for Roberto Kelly, in another move that had analysts going “eh.” Kyle Lohse was acquired in 2001 from the Cubs in another minor deal. These four pitchers all put in innings of slightly below to slightly above league baseball. 37 year old Rick Reed joined the Twins in trade where Matt Lawton went to the NY Mets. He had a surprising year, serving as de facto staff ace. Johan Santana, a rule 5 draftee who was traded to Minnesota in exchange for a bag of baseballs (essentially), had an impressive season in relatively few innings as well. Santana spent a good chunk of the season in the bullpen.

Except for the weird career renaissance of Rick Reed, none of the starters were imposing. The bullpen, on the other, was superb. Eddie Guardado was the closer, termed “Everyday Eddie” even though he had fewer innings than everyone else in the pen (except Mike Jackson). Tony Fiore, LaTroy Hawkins, and J. C. Romero were also superb. The bullpen, it could be said, was the key to Minnesota’s success in 2002.

What about offensively? Torii Hunter and Jacque Jones were good both at the plate and in the outfield, Hunter won a Gold Glove; Jones was reasonably competent (although he wasn’t always.) Their third best hitter, David Ortiz, would never play for Minnesota again despite a pretty good season. He was released (released!!!) in the offseason for no particular reason. Only two offensive players were actually bad — Luis Rivas (who made up for his awful bat by being almost as awful with the glove) and Cristian Guzman (who was less awful all around, but still hardly “good.”)

The 2002 Twins were basically a great bullpen, a lineup with two scrubs and seven good to great hitters, and starting pitchers who, it must be said, did not stink as much as you thought they might. It had lots of homegrown talent, too: Hunter, Jones, Corey Koskie, A. J. Pierzynski, and Doug Mientkiewicz were all drafted by the Twins, as were three of those top notch relievers (Hawkins, Guardado, and Romero).

2003Apart from the DH, the Twins had an identical lineup. Matt LeCroy filled in as DH (and wasn’t as awful as he first appeared). Torii Hunter and RF Dustan Mohr were much worse, offensively, Rivas and Guzman were still dreadful, but everyone else was pretty okay. Hunter made up for his worthless bat with a very, very good glove and lots of homers (if nothing else). Mohr’s terrible glove totally negated even the modest production of his bat. 2003 was one of Cristian Guzman’s “turf triple” years, raising a putrescent slugging percentage all the way up to .365! Shannon Stewart was eventually traded for, replacing Mohr’s worthless bat and having an excellent season.

The rotation was about the same as 2002. Radke, Rick Reed 2.0 (otherwise known as Kenny Rogers), and Lohse all had years right around league average in ERA+ but pitched impressive numbers of innings. Rick Reed 1.0 (otherwise known as Rick Reed) was still in the rotation, but he pitched worse. Joe Mays was a non-factor. Santana had 18 starts, but still spent lots of time in the pen, helping both parts of the club.

The bullpen was still the strength of the team, but while there were no superstars in the lineup, there were lots of stars. Great defense from Hunter and Pierzynski, good defense from Mientkiewicz and solid contributions from the rotation took them to another title.

2004: The lineup was considerably worse in 2004. Pierzynski was flipped to San Francisco for Francisco Liriano, Joe Nathan, and Boof Bonser. Nathan would take Guardado’s place as closer and hardly missed a beat. Henry Blanco, Pierzynski’s replacement behind the plate, was a decent catcher who couldn’t hit his way out of a wet paper bag. He was the Cristian Guzman of catchers. Fortunately, Joe Mauer came up, hit the bejeezus out of the baseball, and turned out to be pretty awesome at the backstop. Lew Ford played the outfield amazingly well for a single season. Justin Morneau got his first crack at the lineup and turned out to be pretty okay (which is good, because Jose Offerman as a DH was a sight to behold, but in the bad way.)

The real secret to 2004’s success, however, begins and ends with Johan Santana, who won his first Cy Young. Radke had the best season of his career, and rookie Carlos Silva provided 200+ innings of pretty okay pitching. The Twins bullpen was still good (if not amazing), but Johan Santana in his prime solves a lot of problems.

If Minnesota had 2003’s lineup, or even played Mauer/Morneau full time, they might have won close to 100 games. That’s scary. As it is, they won two more games than 2002 (a total of 92).

2005: The rotation was, as a whole, even better than 2004. Santana was slightly worse, but Radke almost repeated 2004, Silva went from 200+ innings of league average pitching to slightly less than 200 innings of better than league average pitching, and Lohse once again enjoyed being an average starter. Santana probably deserved Cy Young #2, but Bartolo Colon won 20 games that year.

The lineup actually got worse. In 2004, four Twins had a WAR over 2. In 2005, two did. Nick Punto and Jason Bartlett took over from Luis Rivas and Cristian Guzman; both were sound defensively but still offensive blackholes.

The team barely finished over .500 (83-79). It’s important to note how many of their genuinely good players still came from the draft. Mauer, Morneau, and surprisingly good replacement for Koskie Michael Cuddyer gave the team three young offensive starters from the draft; Hunter and Jones were still around (and also provided quality play at this stage in their career).

2006Reading about the Twins of this era gives me a new appreciation for Brad Radke. He was a really, really solid pitcher, the kind who always stayed deep in games and didn’t embarrass himself. The last year of Radke’s career, all with the Twins, he really was “Mr. Twin”, almost by default, for a generation, connecting the Twins of Kirby Puckett to those of Joe Mauer. He was never great, never awful. I’m a little sad he couldn’t muster at least 1% of the Hall of Fame vote.

Even as Silva imploded, Francisco Liriano was a hot new rookie sensation. Boof Bonser made his major league debut and started his career as the next Brad Radke, at least for a year. The pen was great (especially Joe Nathan and Denys Reyes). Johan Santana won his second Cy Young.

What made 2006 special, where the previous years weren’t, is that with amazing pitching finally came great offense. Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau were almost identical twins (HAH HAH HAH) offensively. Mauer got the batting title, Morneau the MVP. Cuddyer moved from 3B to RF and still played very well. Torii Hunter was still very talented. Even Punto and Bartlett were offensively competent, as was new 2B Luis Castillo.

The 2006 Twins won 96 games, tied for 5th most in the team’s history. You can make a strong case that it is the best Twins team of the 21st century.

2007: This was a bad Twins team. Yet, all of the same pieces were in place. True, Mauer didn’t win a batting title, and Morneau didn’t capture a second MVP, but they were almost as good. Hunter had another excellent year. Jason Kubel played LF very well. Only Nick Punto made a serious step back, and honestly, he’s Nick Punto. He’s Cristian Guzman with more defensive versatility.

Silva returned to respectability. Santana was still ace level, if not Cy Young level. Boof Bonzer continued the Brad Radke career path. Even the bullpen was pretty good.

The absence of Liriano is the most obvious failing here. Instead of two potential aces, you have one (who had a down year) and a bunch of meh. Honestly, I wonder if Brad Radke had come back to stabilize the rotation or if Liriano hadn’t blown out his arm, if the Twins might have made the playoffs again. Probably not, but it’s possible.

2008: What a different a year makes. Morneau and Mauer are back to their old tricks (if a bit shy of 2006 level). The infield is varying levels of acceptable. An all new outfield has some nice surprises (Denard Span) and some not so nice surprises (Carlos Gomez in his rookie year).

The trade of Johan Santana did damage to the rotation, but a patched together rotation actually held together. 7 pitchers had at least 10 starts. Boof Bonser realized that the Brad Radke career path was far too ambitious, but Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, Glenn Perkins, and Kevin Slowey were all reliable if not great hands in the rotation. Livan Hernandez was terrible, but Francisco Liriano’s return gave some hope that Santana wouldn’t be missed that badly.

The bullpen, except Joe Nathan, was terrible. Denys Reyes was still a good LOOGY, but everyone else was awful (or average, in the case of Jesse Crain.) For the second year in a row, the Twins missed the playoffs, but still won 88 games and were only one game behind the White Sox.

2009: Joe Mauer won an MVP. Morneau was very good. Kubel and Cuddyer made their contributions. Yet, despite only losing one more game, this was a very, very vulnerable team.

Blackburn and Baker were good #2-#3 starters, but the rest of the rotation was putrid. Kevin Slowey and Carl Pavano were the best of the rest at “merely below average.” The bullpen was improved, but in all honesty, without Mauer, these Twins don’t make it be swept in the first round.

2010When Carl Pavano is the key to your team’s rotation, you know you’re in trouble. Liriano finally fulfilled some of his promise, and Baker and Slowey continued their path to mediocrity. The bullpen was solidly above average; no one great and no one awful.

Why did the 2010 Twins win 94 games, you ask, the second highest total of the period? Jim Thome, surprisingly, had an amazing season, hitting 25 HRs and just smacking the shit out of the baseball for 300+ PAs. Morneau was equally awesome (in part time play, due to injuries). Only Denard Span was actually bad with the bat.

What made the Twins great during this year was, for the most part, the draft. Yes, key players came from other teams, but the core was from the draft. Smart veteran pick ups (Thome and Pavano prominently) added to the roster without blocking anybody’s spot. Unfortunately for the Twins, that farm system isn’t what it used to be.

Joe Mauer was selected #1 overall in 2001. He’s provided 46.3 WAR since then, out of a class of 61.8 WAR. Now, let’s look at the most valuable players the Twins have drafted since then:

2002: Denard Span, 1st round. 23.0 WAR. Total draft: 51.4 WAR.
2003: Scott Baker, 2nd round. 15.9 WAR. Total draft: 21.3 WAR. [1st rounder Matt Moses no longer in baseball, never made the majors.]
2004: Glenn Perkins, 1st round. 7.7 WAR. Total draft: 15.5 WAR.
2005: Matt Garza, 1st round. 15.3 WAR. Total draft: 30.2 WAR. [0.8 WAR for Garza with the Twins; traded for Delmon Young and a pair of nobodies]
2006: J.D. Martinez, 36th round, 3.0 WAR. Total draft: 1.5 WAR. [1st rounder, Chris Parmalee, has less than 1 career WAR. Martinez has 0 WAR for the Twins, as he did not sign with them.]
2007: Ben Revere, 1st round. 4.2 WAR. Total draft: 4.8 WAR.
2008: George Springer, 48th round. 2.0 WAR. Total draft: 4.5 WAR. [Springer has 0 WAR with the Twins, as he did not sign. Aaron Hicks, with .6 WAR, is the most productive Twins player in the draft.]
2009: Brian Dozier, 8th round. 9.6 WAR. Total draft: 9.5 WAR.

From 2010 on, no Twins draftee has produced even 1 WAR. That’s beyond awful. An organization that thrived on the draft has simply been terrible at it for years now. If you want to know why it’s been 4 years, and almost certainly 5 since the last playoff appearance for Minnesota, now you know.

Why I’m rooting for at least one Yankee this season

That Alex Rodriguez is, over the first week of the season, clearly the best hitter on the Yankees delights me. What takes it over the top is that Barry Bonds is pulling for him to hit #660.

I really think this whole PED nonsense is malarkey. Malarkey, I say! I’ve even specifically addressed A-Rod and PEDs in the past. In any case, that Bonds is trying to convince the world that A-Rod isn’t a bad guy is hilarious.

The Yankees, who didn’t have the balls to simply cut him (if his PED usage was so horrific), are still sanctimonious pricks about the whole thing, claiming they’ll deny him his $6 million bonus if he passes Willie Mays this year (which he almost certainly will.)

What actually makes me happiest is the simple fact that, a guy like A-Rod, one of the best hitters ever, missed a full season of baseball and hasn’t missed a step. Yes, it’s six games, but still, that’s extremely impressive.

To everyone else on my enemies list: in 2008, I removed Alex Rodriguez from my list, the first and only time I’ve done that. If you want extremely delayed questionably sustainable performance, well, you know what to do.

The fee is $100,000 minimum, depending on your level of enemy-ness. (Sun, if you want off the list, the price starts at $1 million.)

May Speaking Events

I will be speaking at two SQL Saturdays in the month of May.

On May 9th, I will be in Jacksonville, Florida for SQL Saturday #391.  My topic will be Hadoop.  This will be the only Big Data session at #391.  Right now, I’m scheduled to speak at noon.

On May 16th, I will be in Rochester, New York for SQL Saturday #383.  My topic, again, is Hadoop, and I am scheduled to present at 1:30 PM.  James Serra will be there, so if you’re looking for Big Data, you can schedule the entire afternoon.

Cleveland signs tall tight end

Rob Housler is a tight end and he is tall. He is also a Brown. He was never a featured part of Arizona’s offense, only caught 40+ passes, and is 6’5″. Guess which number matters to most people?

He’s cheap. That’s about the nicest thing I can say about him. i have no real opinion on him as a pass catcher.

On to QBs: ESPN suggests that the talk of flipping #19 overall for Bradford is blowing smoke. I don’t want Sam Bradford at the cost of a first rounder. Dawgs By Nature reported that Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio is thinking the Browns will swap both first rounders for Mariota. This is stupid. Very stupid. I am furious that this conversation is even out there. Mariota is a bigger Johnny Manziel without off-field issues… and has almost never taken steps under center. If we hadn’t taken Manziel last year? Sure, let’s go for Mariota. I am not giving up what would be, at a minimum, three first rounders. If he falls to #12? Let’s take him. Otherwise? Play with the hand you’re dealt this season and see if next year’s QB class is better.

An Indians pitcher wins the Cy Young…

… and they DON’T trade him? Be still my beating heart!

I love the Kluber deal ($38.5m over 5 years, including two team options). I’m not sure the Carrasco deal is that great ($22m over 3 years), since we don’t actually buy out any of his free agency years. I’m also less enthused about Carrasco as a pitcher, who’s had one great year (2014) and one decent year (2011). I would rather have stuck to arbitration with him for a couple of years. Kluber, on the other hand, has shown consistent improvement throughout his career, hasn’t been seriously injured yet, and is hitting his prime right now.

Both deals are good, but Kluber’s is awesome. Go Tribe!

Speaking At SQL Saturday Rochester

I just received word that I was selected to be a speaker at SQL Saturday #383 in Rochester, New York.  I will give my presentation, Much Ado About Hadoop.  I might even touch it up a little bit, now that I have a little more work experience with Hadoop.

I will be in Rochester for a few days, as it’s the first time I’ve ever been to upstate New York.  My plan is to stock up on Buffalo Bills paraphernalia while I have the chance…