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New Location

June 5, 2010

I see that I am still getting traffic at this site, so I wanted to let everyone know that this is no longer my current address on the web and I have stopped updating it. Please un-bookmark https://boknowz.wordpress.com.

The address to go to is simply: http://boknowz.com

Please make that your new bookmark.

I look forward to having you visit me in my new online digs!

Ultimate Zone Rating

April 8, 2010

It was my understanding there would be no math, but the Ultimate Zone Rating (or “UZR” as the kids are calling it) seems to be all the rage recently.  In case you missed the memo, it’s basically a newer and quite complicated method of measuring a baseball player’s defensive prowess.  It’s not about just counting errors, though that’s one small part of the formula. I’ll stop there and let this helpful video from the Boston Globe explain it far better than I ever could. Tip of the hat to Rob Neyer of ESPN for sharing this find via Twitter.

And for those of you fantasy baseball owners trying to figure out a way to incorporate UZR into your fantasy league next season…just stop already.

Bo Knowz on The FAN

April 7, 2010

I took to the airwaves a little early today for my weekly in-studio appearance with Paul Allen on KFAN in the Twin Cities. We talked about (what else?) the Twins first two games of the season, including the perfect performance of Jon Rauch Tuesday night in nailing down his first save as a Twin. Other topics included Delmon Young and his approach at the plate, projections for Joe Mauer, the Twins pitching staff, and notes and observations from around the major leagues. We didn’t have time to get into a lot of fantasy baseball stuff because P.A. wanted to talk about Alice Eve instead, but it’s a long season so no worries. We’ll have plenty of time for that in future weeks. For those of you who missed it, the segments are available online at KFAN.com in their FAN On Demand area.

Remember, you can catch me each week on P.A.’s show. I will typically be on with him from 10:55 to 12:00 Central Time, and I will try to alert listeners here if the schedule changes from now on. The show is available live at KFAN.com for those of you not within listening distance of the FAN Radio Network. We’d love to have you call in. Thanks for listening!

Mauer’s Prolific Pace

April 5, 2010

A lot has been made of the hefty, eight-year contract extension that Joe Mauer recently signed–a deal that will likely keep him in Minnesota playing in front of his hometown fans for the rest of his career.  While it may seem a bit premature to examine Mauer’s place in history since he won’t turn 27 for another couple weeks and has played fewer than six full seasons in the big leagues, I won’t let that stop me.  Ask your typical Twins fan and they’ll already proclaim their hero the best catcher ever.

I’m not ready to go that far. Not yet.

In my mind, Reds Hall of Famer Johnny Bench is still the best all around player to ever don the tools of ignorance.  Bench finished his storied career with 389 home runs, 1,376 RBI, a Rookie of the Year award, two MVP awards, 10 gold gloves, and a pair of World Series championships. Old school baseball fans will point to Hall of Famer Mickey Cochrane, whose .320 batting average is the best amongst catchers with at least 5,000 plate appearances, or Yogi Berra and Roy Campenella, each of whom have three MVP awards listed on their Hall of Fame plaques. And what about Josh Gibson? He might actually have been the best ever, but we’ll unfortunately never know for sure.  Cases could also be made for more recent players like Mike Piazza, who has 427 home runs, 1,335 RBI, and a .308 lifetime batting average on his resume and Ivan Rodriguez, who has caught more games than any player in history, owns 13 gold gloves, and leads all catchers with 2,711 career hits. More on him in a moment.

Bottom line: Twins fans should relax a little because Joe still has a little ways to go. In fact, he’ll likely never come close to the prodigious home run totals posted by the likes of Bench and Piazza nor will he win nearly as many World Series titles (10) as Berra. However, his batting average and glove work will eventually match up favorably with the best ever.

If he stays healthy and maintains something close to the pace he has established.

Obviously, his health will be the key. Mauer has already been sidelined by significant knee and back injuries in his young career and he plays the most physically demanding position in the game. As for maintaining his pace, I sincerely believe the torrid pace he is on will continue for quite some time. On average, hitters enter their prime when they turn 27, meaning Joe is just reaching his peak seasons. Mauer already has three batting championships, and as you probably have heard a couple hundred times by now, no catcher has ever won more. That will ultimately be his pass to the Hall of Fame because he’s probably not done winning batting titles. Indeed, he’s the favorite to win another one this year.

After hitting .365 in 2009, Mauer now owns a career .327 batting average–so in about three years, or about 2,000 more plate appearances, he will have the required 5,000 career PAs to be listed among the career leaders. If he continues his .327 pace, he will own the highest career batting average for a catcher. As I noted above, that mark is currently held by Cochrane, at .320. Truthfully, his career average will probably climb during his peak years before coming back down to earth a bit when he reaches the end of his contract at 35 years old. If at that time, he is still averaging .327, not only will he own the career batting average mark for catchers by a substantial margin, he will also be one of just five catchers with at least 5,000 plate appearances to have a batting average over .300.  That’s pretty select company.

So let’s assume for the purposes of this discussion that Mauer will maintain his .327 average over the next nine seasons. If he averages 525 at bats the next nine years (he had 523 at bats after missing the first month of the season last year) Mauer will have a total of 2,389 hits. That would be more hits than any catcher currently in the Hall of Fame and the third most by a catcher in history as far as I can tell.  Correct me if I’m wrong. Ted Simmons would still have more hits, with 2,472, but he played 21 seasons. Remember for comparison, Mauer would have 15 seasons under his belt and be within 100 hits of Simmons by that time. The aforementioned Ivan Rodriguez would also have more hits. He opens this season with 2,711 hits, seemingly intent on reaching 3,000. However, it’s important to point out that Pudge is in his 20th season and about a year ago he all-but admitted to using steroids earlier in his career. His alleged PED use is hardly shocking to anyone who witnessed him morph from chunky backstop to lean, muscle-bound athlete during the peak of his career with the Rangers.

Thus, in comparison to Simmons and Rodriguez, by 2018 Mauer could easily be regarded as the most prolific (and clean) hitter amongst catchers in the game’s history. Again, that’s assuming a .327 batting average and 525 at bats for the next nine seasons. To some, that could be considered a conservative estimate if he stays healthy. At the same time, that’s projecting quite a few years into the future and a lot could happen between now and then. But hey, it’s fun to do these sorts of projections.

Mauer is already one of just 10 catchers to win an MVP award, and if he adds another one in 2010, as I have predicted, he will become one of just four catchers (along with Bench, Berra, and Campenella) to win multiple MVP awards. Throw in a mantle full of gold gloves (he already has two) and Mauer’s place in history by the end of his fat new contract will be secure. Even a handful of more seasons at this pace and Joe will have a plaque in Cooperstown to call his own. At the very least, one can be certain that no Twin will ever wear the No. 7 after he is done using it and his likeness will someday be cast in bronze (sideburns and all) on Target Plaza outside the new Twins stadium alongside Rod, Harmen, Tony-O, and Kirby for future generations to enjoy.

2010 Player Predictions

April 5, 2010

A few days ago I submitted the official BoKnowz.com team predictions for 2010 with the Red Sox topping the Phillies in the World Series. That one is looking really good right now, by the way. So now that the season is 1/4860ths old after the BoSox comeback win over the Yanks on Easter, it is time for the real Opening Day…and also time for me to go on record with the rest of my 2010 Major League forecast.

This one is more fun because it is player-centric. Below you will find my prognostication for the leader in each major statistical category as well as the major year-end awards.

So without further ado, I present my 2010 baseball player predictions…

THE LEADERS
A.L. Batting Average: Joe Mauer, Twins (.370)
N.L. Batting Average: Pablo Sandoval, Giants (.333)

A.L. Runs: Denard Span, Twins (119)
N.L. Runs: Hanley Ramirez, Marlins (122)

A.L. Stolen Bases: Elvis Andrus, Rangers (55)
N.L. Stolen Bases: Nyjer Morgan, Nationals (63)

A.L. OPS: Joe Mauer, Twins (1.075)
N.L. OPS: Albert Pujols, Cardinals (1.120)

A.L. Home Runs: Nelson Cruz, Rangers (40)
N.L. Home Runs: Prince Fielder, Brewers (44)

A.L. RBI: Mark Teixeira, Yankees (135)
N.L. RBI: Albert Pujols, Cardinals (133)

A.L. Wins: C.C. Sabathia, Yankees (21)
N.L. Wins: Roy Halladay, Phillies (24)

A.L. ERA: Zack Greinke, Royals (2.69)
N.L. ERA: Chris Carpenter, Cardinals (2.78)

A.L. WHIP: Felix Hernandez, Mariners (1.09)
N.L. WHIP: Roy Halladay, Phillies (1.07)

A.L. Strikeouts: Justin Verlander, Tigers (244)
N.L. Strikeouts: Tim Lincecum, Giants (250)

A.L. Saves: Mariano Rivera, Yankees (41)
N.L. Saves: Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers (40)

THE AWARDS
A.L. Rookie of the Year: Austin Jackson, Tigers
N.L. Rookie of the Year: Jason Heyward, Braves

A.L. Cy Young: Jon Lester, Red Sox
N.L. Cy Young: Roy Halladay, Phillies

A.L. MVP: Joe Mauer, Twins
N.L. MVP: Albert Pujols, Cardinals

Yes, I am predicting that Mauer and Pujols will repeat as MVPs because to me they are head and shoulders the best players in their respective leagues. I just double-checked Baseball-Reference.com and the same A.L. and N.L. MVP has not won in back-to-back years…ever. So while that prediction may not seem so bold at first, the fact that it is unprecedented makes it pretty darn bold in my book. So, what say you? I’d like to hear some of your player predictions as the 2010 season gets underway. Play ball!

Right on Target

April 4, 2010

I made my second trip to Target Field this weekend and it was even more jaw-dropping than my first visit because this time I actually had a chance to see a game. My wife and I had the good fortune to get some tickets for the first-ever Twins game at the new stadium, an exhibition game against the Cardinals on Friday. We have tickets for the opener on the 12th against the Red Sox, too, so any way you slice it we will be able to claim that we were at the first game at the Twins brilliant new home. For the record, I was also at the final Twins game ever at the old Metropolitan Stadium back in 1981 (with about 8,000 other people on a rainy day against the Royals). Plus I can also claim with a little less bravado that I was at the second Twins game ever as well as the next-to-last Twins game at the Metrodome. Clearly, their new home takes the cake. It’s not even close.

My wife and I arrived at the ballpark early, somewhere around 1:30. We got right into the parking ramp across the street for $13 and parked on the roof, giving us a spectacular view of the downtown skyline and the top of the new stadium across the street. The $13 we paid was admittedly pretty steep, but considering the quick-changing weather we were dealing with (cold and rainy one minute, followed by humid and a bit steamy the next) it provided the convenience of being able to run back across the street before going in the gates in order to shed the sweatshirt and rain poncho in favor of the t-shirt and rain jacket. Had we taken the light rail downtown or parked 10 blocks away, we would not have had that luxury. Anyways, to our surprise, at the end of the game we were able to zip right back out of the ramp and hit the freeway very quickly–we were on 35W about five minutes after getting back to our car.

Speaking of convenience, for those of you who bristle at the thought of shelling out $7 for a beer at Target Field–both inside the confines of the new park and out on Target Plaza prior to the game–I suggest walking what seemed to be about 90 feet off the plaza to the new Hubert’s location. In case you have not heard, it has taken the place of the old NBA City, and man is it convenient! The short walk payed off when we found out we could get a $3 tap beer rather than paying $7 across the way. I have a feeling the folks at Hubert’s are going to be raking it in…not that the old location across from the Metrodome sucked for them.

After downing a few pregame libations at Hubert’s we hurried back to the Plaza for the unveiling of the Rod Carew statue. Carew was my boyhood idol and remains my favorite baseball player of all time, so it was especially meaningful for me to get to watch him being honored in such a way…and to take it all in from about 10 feet away during the entire ceremony. The Carew statue is great and I can’t wait to see the one they did of Harmon Killebrew, which was unveiled Saturday, or the one of the late Kirby Puckett, which will be unveiled prior to the real home opener next week.

A cool aspect that I did not realize until noticing it at home in my official Target Field fan guide before the game was that you can actually bring food and bottled water into the stadium. Certain restrictions apply of course; they don’t want you bringing in stuff like apples that you can chuck onto the field and they limit the beverages to water, as I said, and juice. No cases of beer allowed. Funny how that works! The great thing about that is you can come in with a water bottle and some peanuts, sandwiches, or sunflower seeds (or whatever) and not have to spend a fortune on food at the game on top of the prices you pay for the tickets and parking to begin with. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still fun to get a hot dog, burger, or a Murray’s steak sandwich at the ballpark, but in this economy and especially if you are bringing your family to the game it makes sense to pack a bag (the fits under your seat) with extras. Now, there may very well have been a similar policy in place at the Dome, but I never knew about it nor was it widely advertised, so this was news to me.

The one thing that kinda sucked about the whole water bottle strategy was that, contrary to what I read in the Minneapolis Star Tribune a week or so ago, refilling an empty bottle at a drinking fountain is easier said than done. It’s easier to find a hole in Joe Mauer’s swing than it is to find a water fountain at Target Field. In fact, I never did find one and the sinks in the bathroom are too low to fit a bottle under. If anyone knows of a Target Field water fountain and can tell me approximately where I can find it when I go back there I would appreciate it. And about that policy regarding no alcohol being allowed in the gates, I know for a fact that the security missed one college-aged buffoon’s flask…because when they showed him and his over-served pal on the ginormous new scoreboard early in the game he held it up and took a pull off it. Idiot. He was probably escorted out of the building faster than Denard Span can scoot from first to third.

I heard some people complaining about the long lines at the food stands throughout the park, but I frankly didn’t have that experience. I only had about a five-to-10 minute wait in the middle of the game at the Murray’s steak sandwich stand on the lower level of the first base line. Nothing out of the ordinary about the wait time at all. I also read complaints about trouble with cell phone service at the stadium, but neither my wife nor I experienced similar issues with our phones.  The other complaint  I heard was about the colder and windier conditions in the upper deck, to which I respond three ways: first of all it shouldn’t surprise anyone that it might be a tad more uncomfortable up there. Second, I sure am glad our seats are on the lower level. And third, don’t be such a wuss! The fact that we even have wind to discuss at a ballpark (as opposed to air conditioning) is fantastic. By the way, it was blowing in from right field for most of the game and the huge “wind veil” (which you can sort of see in the photo to the right) that hangs from the parking ramp adjacent to Target Plaza is very cool when the lights come on after dark.

My only minor (very minor) complaints: I thought the seats would be noticeably wider than they were at the Metrodome. They are not. However, they are at least tilted toward the playing field if you are sitting down the line. Second complaint: the wave somehow followed us across town to the new ballpark. Seriously, the wave needs to go away. It’s just plain cheesy. I guess there’s nothing the Twins or Target Field officials could have done to prevent that, but still…I had to get that off my chest. Last complaint: you know how at the Dome the security would not let you walk down the aisle after hitting the food stand or going to the bathroom until there was a break in the action (e.g. after the half inning)? That policy apparently stayed at the Dome because there was what seemed to be a constant stream of people coming down the aisles that I had to look around, over, or through during the game. That was a big nuisance and I hope the powers that be get that squared away prior to the start of the real games.

Everything else about the Target Field experience is top notch: the museum-like clubs,  the green, green grass, the overhanging seats in right field, the sight lines, the flagpole from the Met, real outfield walls rather than a baggie, the limestone exterior that laces throughout the park, the pine trees in center field, the openess of it all, and the scoreboard…that huge HD scoreboard. That thing was spectacular and incredibly crystal-clear. Oh, and I love the Minne and Paul logo that lights up in center field. I could go on and on, but you get the point. The fact that the “roof” on the new place includes sunshine, spectacular clouds, occasional airplanes, birds, and stars at night makes the whole experience nearly perfect despite the aforementioned minor complaints.

Those who are still pining for a retractable roof so they don’t have to get wet or chilly or sunburned just don’t get it. I’m sorry, you are just missing the point completely…unlike the new ballpark itself, which is “right on target.”

Have you been to Target Field yet? Please share your thoughts, tips, accolades, complaints. whatever you want.

2010 Predictions

April 3, 2010

Any baseball blog or web site worth its rosin is practically required to publish its annual picks for the Major League Baseball season ahead. Therefore, with the big league slate of games ready to get underway on Easter Sunday it’s probably about time I go on record and chime in with my official predictions. I won’t go Bo-stradamus on the bit and present my forecasts in the form of quatrains — not that it wouldn’t be cool to do so. However, quatrains would leave room for interpretation of what I’m really saying, so I’ll just be boring and run through the divisional and postseason prognostications instead.

A.L. EAST
1. New York Yankees
2. Boston Red Sox
3. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Baltimore Orioles
5. Toronto Blue Jays

A.L. CENTRAL
1. Minnesota Twins
2. Detroit Tigers
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Cleveland Indians
5. Kansas City Royals

A.L. WEST
1. Los Angeles Angels
2. Seattle Mariners
3. Texas Rangers
4. Oakland A’s

N.L. EAST
1. Philadelphia Phillies
2. Florida Marlins
3. Atlanta Braves
4. New York Mets
5. Washington Nationals

N.L. CENTRAL
1. St. Louis Cardinals
2. Milwaukee Brewers
3. Chicago Cubs
4. Cincinnati Reds
5. Houston Astros
6. Pittsburgh Pirates

N.L. WEST
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Colorado Rockies
3. San Francisco Giants
4. Arizona Diamondbacks
5. San Diego Padres

ALDS
Twins over Yankees
Red Sox over Angels

ALCS
Red Sox over Twins

NLDS
Phillies over Dodgers
Cardinals over Rockies

NLCS
Phillies over Cardinals

WORLD SERIES
Red Sox over Phillies

There you have ’em… the official BoKnowz.com predictions for the 2010 season. Go ahead and disagree or agree all you want. We’ll all find out how accurate they are in about seven months.