Originally written on Down with Goldy  |  Last updated 11/17/14
Finally managed a little time to get some thoughts down on paper or whatever you want to call it cybernerd, so I better get to typing before it's too late.  Sorry for the lack of posts lately, but work has really been kicking the ever-loving **** out of me the last two weeks.  Hopefully things will calm down after this weekend

-  The biggest news is that Trevor Mbakwe is officially back.

Obviously this is huge as he was the team's best player a year ago before going down to injury, and with Sampson (thankfully) gone he gives the team another inside presence besides Elliott Elliason and takes a lot of pressure off of Mo Walker's return (what's up with him anyway?).  Hopefully Mbakwe (and Walker) will be back at full strength for the season, which gives the team three capable big men along with Rodney Williams who can clearly play the four when need be.  Rodney is also the biggest driver of how far this team can go.  Mbakwe's return will push him back out to the perimeter for stretches, and with him thriving this year more in the post than on the wing how what will that do to his development?

If Williams can develop a reliable jumper (how many years have we been saying this) and keeps the confidence he gained this season in going to the rim this team can be a monster.  I feel confident in saying Andre Hollins is a rising star, and him, Mbakwe, and the good Williams give this team three legitimate threats to dominate a game at any one time, whether for stretches or in total.  Add in the late season improvement of Elliason, Austin Hollins, and Joe Coleman and the Gophers should by all rights be a top 4 Big 10 team with Indiana, Ohio State, and Michigan.  Even without Mbakwe back they could have reached those heights with continued improvement, so expectations are high this year.

Of course, there's also the possibility that Williams still can't shoot and falls back into his old disappearing routine when Mbakwe is on the post.  I'd like to think any player capable of putting together the stretch of games Rodney did to finish out the year is incapable of completely regressing back to a full year ago's form, but I'm certainly not going to completely rule it out.  I have to say, without exaggeration, this looks to me like it could be the best Gopher team we've seen since Clem was framed and railroaded out of town.  I'm very interested to see how they break my heart into a million pieces this year.

-  Looking like Morneau is back, eh?  This Twins team keeps showing me just enough to keep me interested, which I guess I can't complain about since last year I was checked out by like June.  And yeah, maybe it's sad that locking up a guaranteed split is enough to get us all tingly in our nether parts and yeah, Matt Capps continues to be the worst pitcher in history (but at least he mixed in a couple non-fastballs this time), and yeah, there's no way this team can win without some kind of major shocker or something coming from the starting pitching, but you know what, I'm entertained so far.  No, I still can't tell you anything about the bullpen guys beyond Capps and Duensing, but I do at least know now that they have some guy named Burton, and that's a victory for the good guys.

-  If you've been reading this blog too long and have been keeping track of all the times I've been right (which shouldn't be too hard) you may remember this piece I posted on Zack Greinke back in May of 2010.  Greinke was coming off his historically awesome 2009 year and had gotten off to a slow start and, thanks to digging into some advanced metrics it was clear to me he wasn't the same pitcher and I traded him immediately in our fantasy league, which turned out to be the right move because he was basically a slightly above average pitcher in 2010.  Since I'm a genius, I will briefly look at Tim Lincecum since he's sucked this year and figure out if this is real or a mirage (I promise I'll be brief, this is a random thoughts post after all, not a Tim Lincecum post)

Red flag #1 is he stopped throwing his slider, I assume for arm health reasons but I tried to look it up and after 1 link that didn't say anything meaningful I was bored.  It's not always bad to give up a pitch if it's not working, but that slider was Timmy's second best pitch behind his change-up last year (although to be fair it's been mediocre through his career).  This can be fixed simply by throwing the slider again (he threw it 15% of the time last season), which I read he was going to start doing again.

Red flag #2 is an alarming drop in fastball velocity, from 92.3mph to 90.3mph.  This has resulted in fewer missed bats, particularly in the strike zone (batters make contact 93% of the time on balls in the zone this year compared to 84% last year).  This is resulting in a lot of line drives (29% compared to 19% in his career) and a greater number of fly balls going out of the park (17% of flyballs have been HRs this year compared to 8% in his career).

Unlike Greinke, however, I think Lincecum will be just fine.  Despite the above he's actually increased his strikeout rate while decreasing his walk rate, always a positive move for a pitcher.  He's also suffering from line drive rates and HR/flyball rates that would be historically bad, along with a BABIP of over .400 which would be the highest ever and is unsustainable.  Basically, unlike Greinke who had just faded a bit, you either believe Lincecum will right the ship and be just fine or you believe he's fallen off a cliff and is done.  I believe the former, and actually I think I'm going to go try to trade for him right now, brb.

-  Here are my thoughts on the NHL playoffs so far:

-  I find it interesting that although I like cheeseburgers, I find the very thought of cheeseburger pizza disgusting, while at the same time I love tacos and absolutely adore taco pizza.  Man I'm whacky. 

-  Finally, happy birthday to WonderbabyTM, four years old today and an awesome kid who loves gymnastics, baseball, The Legend of Zelda, and a whole bunch of girlie crap.  Hard to believe that when I started this blog I didn't even have a kid yet.  Wow, I've been doing this for a long time.  You'd think I would have gotten better at it at some point.

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