RandBall

Michael Rand started RandBall with hopes that he could convince the world to love jumpsuits as much as he does. So far, he's only succeeded in using the word "redacted" a lot. He welcomes suggestions, news tips, links of pure genius, and pictures of pets in Halloween costumes here, though he already knows he will regret that last part.

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Twins' bullpen is predictably wearing down, melting down again

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated September 16th at 1:14pm 275317331

fienFor the first four months of the 2014 season, the Twins bullpen was among the team’s bright spots. Even as the starting pitching faltered yet again — outside of Phil Hughes and every other Kyle Gibson start — the ‘pen was holding things together and keeping Minnesota at least somewhat competitive.

The bullpen ERAs, by month this season:

March/April: 3.42; May: 3.86; June: 2.96; July: 2.53. The MLB average for the season is 3.58; the Twins were better than that mark three of the first four months, and certainly better than that overall number through the end of July.

But now we are seeing, yet again, the burden of an overtaxed bullpen. Early in the season, arms have an easier time compensating for the short starts (and therefore long bullpen nights) created by an underwhelming starting staff. But now? The Twins’ bullpen ERA soared to 5.09 in August and has ballooned to 5.70 so far in September.

Being overworked doesn’t explain all of it, since September callups can also contribute to a swollen ERA, but watching Casey Fien give up back-to-back homers in the ninth last night in his 71st game of the season (tied for third-most among pitchers in the majors) was another piece of anecdotal evidence that these lads are tired.

The same thing happened last year, with very good bullpen numbers through August before the ‘pen ERA bloated to 4.96 in September.

This year, Minnesota’s bullpen is tied for the second-most innings pitched in MLB. Last year, the Twins led the majors in that category, with the next-closest team a full 24 innings behind them.

It’s yet another reason the Twins need to figure out this rotation. Not only has another disappointing year from starting pitchers wasted an unexpectedly good offensive showing, it is helping to turn another positive year from the bullpen into a negative finish.

Tuesday (NFL TV ratings down) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated September 16th at 10:03am 275289781

goodellIt’s dangerous reading too much into TV data from one week, since so many factors can influence viewing habits and skew comparisons even between similar time frames.

That said, given the tumultuous NFL week that led up to the Week 2 games, it’s at least worthwhile to take a look at the TV numbers to see if the raw data tells us anything about the impact on viewership

Awful Announcing breaks it down here, time slot by time slot, and finds that in most cases TV ratings were down in Week 2 this year compared to Week 2 last year. The most notable drop came in the late afternoon time slot (3:25 p.m. Central games), which CBS had this past week. Per AA:

CBS saw the biggest drop of any window, as they had Broncos-Giants — AKA Manning Bowl III — in this window last year. That said, it’s a little surprising that a window mostly led by Chiefs-Broncos and Jets-Packers drew only a 14.6 overnight, still leading the weekend but down 18 percent from this window last season.

Again, the 18 percent drop could be chalked up primarily, if not entirely, to less-enticing matchups this year when compared to a major story line a year ago. Still, as the site notes, an 18 percent drop is significant (and, on a personal note, fits neatly into the time we turned the TV off after the Vikings instead of watching more football, as had been our previous custom).

The noon time slots on Fox and CBS were down 4 percent and 7 percent from this time last year. Sunday Night Football was up slightly from a year ago (3 percent), though it was noted on Awful Announcing that last year’s Week 2 game went up against a big episode of Breaking Bad and also featured a rare weather delay.

What do these numbers mean? Probably not much given that it’s only one week. What will bear watching, however, is whether it marks the start of a trend in which ratings are consistently dropping when compared to last season. The overall NFL TV numbers are still so massive that a small drop doesn’t really dent the big picture of how popular the sport still is, but a little drop here and a little drop there could add up to trouble. We’ll try to check in on the numbers periodically throughout the season to see if there are any larger trends at play.

TFD: TCU football coach attempts to clarify sideways shot at Gophers, Big Ten

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated September 16th at 8:06am 275210531

pattersonkillTCU coach Gary Patterson, whose squad dismantled the Gophers 30-7 on Saturday, was asked on Monday’s Big 12 conference call how he would assess the progress of his offense this season.

His response: “I have no idea. We played a Samford and now we played a Big Ten team.” The full quote and question are here, but still:

ZING! Right in the mouth of pal Jerry Kill and the rest of the downtrodden league.

Patterson tried to clarify the statement later, per the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram’s Mac Engel, who said the coach sent him this via text:

Wasn’t meant that way at all. I wouldn’t take a shot at a best friend (Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill).
Only meant we have played two games period. Lots of football ahead – that’s all I meant.”

Lots of football against teams he seems to deem better, at least, than Samford and a Big Ten foe. Read it as you want.

Thoughts from Ponder and Gray -- Vikings players and dads -- on Peterson

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated September 15th at 3:21pm 275174481

Reactions to the allegations against Vikings running back Adrian Peterson have been far-reaching and often colored by our experiences and own lives. If you lived in the South, as Adrian Peterson and Jerome Felton did, disciplining a child with a “switch” was and continues to be commonplace.

Others can’t fathom any level of that sort of punishment, particularly something that would cause injuries to a 4-year-old that were so severe that charges were filed. Many of those particularly disturbed are parents.

We attempted to find some representatives those two groups in the Vikings locker room and wound up chatting with MarQueis Gray, the former Gophers QB who though not from the deep South (born and raised in Indianapolis) does have two small twin boys he often posts about on social media. We also checked in with Christian Ponder, who recently became a dad and grew up in Texas, like Peterson.

Gray, a new addition to the team, was fairly guarded when we asked him if being a father made him view the Peterson situation any differently. “Everyone has their own things about disciplining their children,” he said. “I really didn’t focus too much on it. I have enough problems as it is. I’m here still trying to learn the playbook.”

Ponder, when asked the same question, said: “I haven’t had time to think about it. Everyone has their different ways of dealing with their own children, and everyone is different.”

Ponder went on to say that his parents “had their way of punishing us as children” but declined to discuss what that entailed.

Their remarks are telling, though, in that they seem to be framing this as a parental choice. Gray and Ponder are surely choosing their words carefully because a locker room is a tight-knit place.

Our thought (as a new dad, and as a human being raised in the Midwest) remains that certainly when you cross the territory into alarming a doctor with the extent of damage you have done, you are over the line from simply being a parent deciding how to discipline your child.

And there are consequences regardless of intent.

Opposing views of Adrian Peterson from Cris Carter, Charles Barkley

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated September 15th at 11:33am 275141391

One of the fundamental questions a lot of folks are wrestling with in the case of Adrian Peterson and charges of child abuse is this: did he act maliciously in a situation where there is no grey area, or can his behavior be explained (if not excused) by the environment he grew up in and a Southern culture many of us don’t know or understand?

To us, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle, whereby Peterson is most definitely a product of a different environment and upbringing, but within that acceptance 1) there needs to be growth from generation to generation and an understanding that how he was punished growing up isn’t necessarily right and 2) even if we continue with the “this is how it is” leeway, within that construct he went well over the line with the extent of the punishment he doled out.

Two prominent former athletes, both black, weighed in on both sides of the matter recently. We’ll give you a quick snippet of what each said on camera, with links to the full video.

Said Charles Barkley: “I’m from the South. … Whipping, we do that all the time. Every black parent in the South is going to be in jail under those circumstances.”

Said Cris Carter, talking about his upbringing: “My mom did the best that she could do … But there are thousands of things that I have learned since then that my mom was wrong. This is the 21st century; my mom was wrong… And I promise my kids I won’t teach that mess to them. You can’t beat a kid to make them do what you want them to do.”

Of course, Carter also said he was proud of the Vikings for de-activating Peterson. We’re assuming he’ll have more to say now that the Vikings have announced Peterson is expected to play next week.

Your thoughts, as usual, in the comments.

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