Thursday, May 26, 2011

Drew Butera's Atrocious Season

Anyone who has watched the Twins at all this season likely understands that Drew Butera is not a good major league player. Either you've heard of Butera and know of his offensive shortcomings, or you've never heard of him, which also speaks volumes about his ability as a major league player.

Butera has long been considered a 'defensive specialist' and despite being one of the worst offensive players in the minor leagues over the last few years, he managed to spend the majority of that time playing in AAA because of his defensive ability behind the plate. The Twins liked Butera enough last year while Jose Morales was injured that they decided to trade Morales this off-season because they had picked Butera as Joe Mauer's backup.

Unfortunately, Butera's offense has been even worse than anyone could have predicted. He's hitting a miserable .122/.151/.156. His On-base Plus Slugging percentage (.307) is 185 points lower than just Jose Bautista's on-base percentage (.492). That is absolutely unreal to see at this level.

National League pitchers as a whole are hitting .134/.166/.168, which shows even more so how poor Butera has been with the bat this season. He's been nearly 10% worse offensively than a group of players who wouldn't even be hitting if they played in the American League.

On nights Carl Pavano starts, the Twins would actually potentially be a better offensive team if they chose to DH for Drew Butera instead. Pavano is a career .145/.159/.205 hitter, although he hasn't more than 10 at bats in a season since 2004. Obviously the team would never choose to DH for Butera, because the embarrassment it would create for him far outweighs the slim chance that a pitcher would actually be enough of an upgrade offensively to make a difference.

However, it's clear Drew Butera has no business being a major league catcher. His Adjusted OPS+, which adjusts based on the ballpark you play in (Hitting 50 home runs in San Diego's park means more than hitting 50 home runs at the Rockies park, for example), is an almost unheard of -17. The highest Adjusted OPS+ in MLB history was Barry Bonds 2002 season in which he put up a ridiculous 268. Mauer's 2009 MVP season was a 170.

Using a minimum of 50 plate appearances, Drew Butera's OPS+ of -17 is the 16th worst OPS+ ranking since 1900. The worst OPS+ in history actually goes to a different former Twins catcher, Tom Nieto, who managed just 4 hits in 60 at bats, posting an OPS+ of -54. It's hard to imagine someone being more than three times worse than Drew Butera, but apparently Nieto's 1988 season was that much worse.

Little known Drew Butera is in fact making history, but unfortunately rather than being acknowledged for his talent, he's becoming well-known for his lack of talent, at least offensively. When the catcher who is leading your team in at bats can't outhit national league pitchers, it's pretty easy to understand why the team sports the worst record in baseball. Send him to AAA, or AA, or just release him, but there's absolutely no reason Butera should swing a bat ever again. At this juncture, I'm not even sure if he could hit a beach ball. Or Ryan Griffin.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Time to Forgive LeBron

Wrestlemania XV was the first Pay-Per-View wrestling event I remember watching. Degeneration X, a group consisting of X-Pac, Triple H + Chyna, Road Dogg and Bad Ass Billy Gunn, were fan favorites. As a 10-year-old kid, there was nothing better than watching Degeneration X tell The Corporation (consisting of the McMahons and their cronies) to "suck it."

Then Triple H decided to turn on Degeneration X to join the Corporation at Wrestlemania 15, giving X-Pac the Pedigree and then sliding Shane McMahon's arm over X-Pac while the ref was distracted by Chyna. Shane McMahon won the match, Degeneration X never recovered, and Triple H went from somewhat known to a main-event mainstay for basically the remainder of his career.

Triple H was clearly the most talented wrestler in D-X at that time, and in order to compete for the championship belt he would need to turn his back on those closest to him. As a 10-year-old, this concept was completely new to me. I had no idea wrestlers consistently were going from heel to face back to heel, so I never expected to see Triple H give X-Pac the Pedigree. But he did. And then he became WWF Champion.

What Triple H did to D-X is similiar to what LeBron James did to the city of Cleveland. Not only did he turn his back on the people who felt closest to him, but LeBron James metaphorically grabbed the whole city of Cleveland and gave them all the Pedigree at the same time on national television before taking his talents to South Beach ("The Corporation") and collectively destroying the moral of Cleveland (D-X). 

But you know what? I wasn't outraged the night I watched Triple H turn on his friends, and to this day I'm still not sure why. Maybe 10-year-old me somehow understood that Triple H had to move on to take the next step. But I don't think so. I just know I found it entertaining; I liked the fact that something had happened that I never expected to happen. Obviously, anyone that had been watching wrestling for more than a year or was older than 10 likely would have expected something bizarre to happen, considering it was Wrestlemania.

I was outraged when LeBron James left Cleveland. He had promised that city he wouldn't leave without bringing them a championship, and then he bolted for greener pastures the second he had the opportunity. However, despite breaking Cleveland's heart, James is just six wins away from his first NBA Championship. The Heat are playing incredible on both sides of the ball, and right now they have to be the favorites to win it all. Had James stayed in Cleveland, it's likely he would be watching the Eastern Conference Finals from his living room rather than starring in them. 

So yes, after being outraged at the way LeBron James made his decision, I think it's time the general public gets over it*, myself included.

*Note to fans of Cleveland: You can and should hate him forever.

I've got a feeling in three years when LeBron James is holding up the Heat's third consecutive championship trophy, most of his haters will have disappeared. Of course, as long as Skip Bayless remains on this planet, King James will always have at least one hater. But all LeBron needs to remember is that Triple H became the star, while the rest of D-X disappeared into nothingness, much like the Cavs have done without their King.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


- I actually might have taken a language in college if this happened to me.

- Some interesting facts about the best player to ever play the game.

- Proof that drugs aren't always bad.

- I loved the Gruden QB Camp that ESPN ran again this year with many of the NFL draft prospects, and this is even better:

- Maybe Barry Bonds isn't all bad, after all.

- Anyone texting you all the time who you don't want to talk to? Try this.

- Drew Butera is hitting worse than NL Pitchers.

- Maybe it's time to worry about Francisco Liriano. Or not.

- ESPN's Outside the Lines did a great job reporting on the gambling that goes on in youth football leagues in Florida. Absolutely ridiculous.

- This kid has more game than anyone I know:

The best part is his reaction to the kiss. Years ahead of his time.

- And finally, the more I read about Christian Ponder, the more I like him.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Legalize Gay Marriage

Since the beginning of this blog, I've done my best to keep my political beliefs to myself. I understand that for the most part, people are set in their beliefs, and it's ultimately pointless to argue with someone who disagrees with you on really any political topic because neither of you is likely going to change your opinion. However, I have no problem making this post about gay marriage, which is a fairly controversial topic in the political arena, because to me it's absolutely ridiculous for anyone to be against gay marriage.

The three "strongest" arguments against gay marriage are that same-sex marriages will ruin the sanctity of marriage, legalizing it could lead to inter-specie marriages (Yes, like between a person and a dog, for example) and the real religious types point out that the Bible suggests marriage is between a man and a woman. To be honest, with those three arguments as the basis for keeping gay marriage illegal, it's amazing to me that it's not yet legalized across the country.

First, let's address the myth that the sanctity of marriage would be challenged by same-sex marriages. 45-50% of first-time marriages end in divorce according to the most recent statistics available. That is almost exclusively statistics from heterosexual marriages; would allowing two men or two women that are in love to get married really effect that number? If anything, I would think allowing same-sex marriages would move the number of divorces down, because to me it seems much more likely that two people of the same sex will get along better than a male and a female would. Also, in a country that allows two people to go to Vegas, get married, and have that marriage annulled in a matter of a weekend, I think it's clear the sanctity of marriage really doesn't mean anything. It's embarrassing for a country to allow people to elope, or even to just drunkenly stumble into a wedding chapel and get married, and then try to cite the sanctity of marriage to stop two people who are in love from getting married because they don't fit an extremely out of date and incorrect definition of marriage.

Secondly, let's take a moment to laugh at how ridiculous the second main point against gay marriage is. Seriously, people are afraid that one day it'll be okay to marry an animal? Somehow, these people are convinced that by allowing two human beings to get married that are of the same sex, eventually it will lead to the forced legalization of inter-specie marriages. There really isn't much to say to that, except that it's absolutely ridiculous and allowing gay marriage will not create inter-specie marriages. If someone wants to marry their dog, then they have other issues that need to be taken care of before they start fighting for their dogs right to a wedding. I hate this argument because it infers that gay people aren't humans, but rather some kind of different species, which is beyond idiotic. A persons sexual preference should have no effect on the way society views them. Watching two humans get married should in no way trigger something in your brain that would make you believe one day people will be allowed to marry animals. 

As far as the Bible defining marriage as "between a man and a woman" I just shake my head. The Bible has so many different translations, and there are so many lines of scripture that anyone trying to make an argument against gay marriage based on the Bible thinks they can cite several verses that they feel suggest God doesn't approve of homosexuality. However, the truth is there are only six or seven verses that address homosexuality directly, out of millions. And, of course, the Bible says a lot of things that we no longer abide by; times change. Here are some examples of "laws" from the Bible that we would deem ridiculous if they happened today:

If it is discovered that a bride is not a virgin, the Bible demands that she be executed by stoning immediately.

MARK 10:1-12
Divorce is strictly forbidden in both Testaments, as is remarriage of anyone who has been divorced.

MARK 12:18-27
If a man dies childless, his widow is ordered by biblical law to have intercourse with each of his brothers in turn until she bears her deceased husband a male heir.

Obviously, those "laws" are ridiculous. Are we to believe that the same people that cite the Bible as their reason for not wanting gay marriage legalized also believe these three laws should be enforced? Very doubtful, and the kind of person that is trying to enforce the three crazy examples above would be laughed at everyday of their life. Clearly, in today's age, common sense has prevailed over the three crazy laws. Why can't that be the case with gay marriage? Anyone using common sense would come to the same conclusion I have: there's simply no good reason to ban gay marriage. Not one.

I am certain that one day gay marriage will be legalized across the country, and whether that's five years down the road or five hundred years, I can say with absolute certainty that the people living in that time period will look back at this time in our history and wonder just what the hell we were thinking. How do I know that? Because my generation looks back at our parents and grandparents generations and wonders what the hell they were thinking with their ridiculous treatment of African Americans.

We should strive to one day have our kids and grandkids look back on our generation as the one that did the right thing. Every American deserves equal rights, and the sooner we realize that as a country, the better.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Christian Ponder

Like pretty much every Vikings fan across the country, when the Vikings selected Christian Ponder my immediate reaction was anger. The team had just reached for a quarterback that had gotten little to no buzz over the last month, and to make matters worse they passed on arguably a top 5 talent in Nick Fairley, who would have filled a fairly important need at defensive tackle.

Undoubtedly, though, if Ponder develops into a good quarterback, Vikings fans will forgive the front-office for passing on Fairley. Will he develop into one? I'm not sure, but he has a lot of weapons in Harvin, AP, Rudolph, Shiancoe and hopefully Sidney Rice, that should help make the transition from Florida State to the NFL at least a little easier.

If I had ranked the top 8 quarterbacks before the draft, it would have been Newton, Mallett, Gabbert, Ponder, Kaepernick, Locker, Dalton, Stanzi in that order. I've been extremely high on Mallett for a while, but ultimately Ponder projects to have a better arm than Dalton and Stanzi, and Locker's accuracy concerns are a huge red flag in my opinion.

So, ultimately, I've spent too much time trying to talk myself into why the Vikings took Ponder. I still think the team should have taken Fairley, but the fact is the Vikings got who they felt was the best fit for their team, and there's little doubt that Ponder is likely the most NFL ready of the quarterbacks in this draft. He played in an offense at Florida State that is at least similar to what the Vikings plan to run this year, and while it is a steep learning curve for any rookie quarterback, Ponder is extremely bright. The lockout continuing isn't good news for a team hoping to teach a rookie quarterback a new offense, so hopefully the new CBA gets figured out sooner rather than later.

I am very impressed with Ponder's completion percentages at Florida State. Yes, he played in a west coast offense that should result in a solid completion percentage, but he completed over 68% of his passes as a junior and then almost 62% of his passes as a senior despite playing through multiple injuries. He's a tough kid, which is important, because he's been fairly injury prone over the last few years. Hopefully that trend will stop in the NFL, much like it has (knock on wood) with Adrian Peterson.

Whenever I criticize Jake Locker's accuracy, his defenders always point out that he played with very little talent at Washington, especially at wide receiver. They are correct, Locker did play with poor talent at Washington. However, accurate quarterbacks put up good completion percentages regardless of the wide receiver talent. Ponder is impressive in this area because he has not played with an NFL-type talent at receiver in either year he started, yet his completion percentage as a junior was spectacular and playing hurt as a senior his completion percentage was still very good.

Here are two different quarterbacks senior seasons:

Quarterback A: 184/299 (61.4%) 2,044 yards 20 TD 8 INT in 11 games
Quarterback B: 214/341 (62.8%) 2,586 yards 20 TD 6 INT in 12 games

Quarterback A is obviously Ponder. He averaged less than 200 yards a game, which is definitely worrisome, but yards and touchdowns are greatly effected by the talent level around a quarterback. Completion percentage is not; most college level receivers will catch a ball that is thrown where it needs to be. It's the running after the catch and ability to make spectacular catches that create opportunities to rack up gaudy touchdown and yard totals. Of course, averaging less than 200 yards a game also suggests Ponder was making a lot of short throws, so his completion percentage was probably inflated by that as well. But the Vikings are likely going to continue a west coast type offense, and by drafting Kyle Rudolph in the second round they should be expected to use a lot of two tight end sets. That suggests they won't be stretching the field consistently, so Ponder's accuracy on short to medium distance routes is much more important than his ability to throw the ball deep.

Quarterback B is Tom Brady. Both Brady and Ponder were considered "leaders" out of college, although that seems impossible to actually quantify. Neither put up amazing numbers, but played multiple years and battled adversity each year. Both had good accuracy but not the greatest arms, although certainly capable of making most NFL throws. The biggest knock on Brady was that he probably didn't have the velocity to make all the throws, notably the deep out. Obviously he's managed to make that throw just fine. Ponder's arm strength is considered good, but not great. We'll see. Obviously I don't think Ponder will be Tom Brady, because Brady improved a lot after getting drafted, but I make the comparison because not every franchise quarterback has Andrew Luck's talent on draft day.

Regardless of how upset most of us Vikings fan were, hopefully Ponder can become the team's franchise quarterback, and in a few years Vikings fans are no longer upset about the team passing on Nick Fairley or Robert Quinn for Ponder. Either way, the team made a bold move taking the player they felt was a franchise QB at #12. If it works out, nobody will care that the Vikings reached. If not, Frazier will be out of a job, and the Vikings will be drafting yet another quarterback, likely much higher than 12th. For now, let's let the kid show what he can do. Maybe he'll prove all the doubters wrong.



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