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Breakfast & baseball: Aces, shifts, Moneyball, draft, digital umpires

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You're almost there, folks. Thursday is the downhill slide to the weekend.

Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

Today's soundtrack is courtesy of The Doors. Enjoy!

The Ace Deception

Jeff Sullivan has always done good work. It's what got him noticed at USS Mariner, and through his time at SB Nation and Lookout Landing his passion for baseball (and the Mariners, and the Twins trading for Jose Lopez) shows through his writing. He's still writing for FanGraphs, and yesterday he wrote an article titled What's happened to teams that traded for Aces?

Sullivan finds that of the 21 teams who have traded for an Ace in June or July back to 1994, exactly none of them have won a World Series. We saw how Jeff Samardzija and Jon Lester couldn't push the A's through last year, but beyond that: Zack Greinke didn't push the Angels over the top, Cliff Lee couldn't do the job for the Phillies or for the Rangers; Randy Johnson with the Astros and Curt Schilling with the Diamondbacks couldn't break on through in the year they were acquired.

This shouldn't discourage teams from getting better at the trade deadline and every contending team would love to trade for David Price or Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto (if he's healthy). But there's obviously more to winning a championship than bolstering the squad with one player.

Return of the Eye Scout

The Wall Street Journal can be added to the sources who have jumped into the fray to discuss how defensive stats may not actually be all that effective thanks to largely being unable to parlay a player's starting position on the field into a standard which can be measured. While the idea of "The quality of a fielder doesn't matter on most plays" doesn't seem like a great revelation to me, it's an idea off of which Andrew Beaton and Michael Salfino build their narrative.

Their findings are compelling. Out of 76,112 total defensive chances in 2015, defenses have saved 179 hits over what was expected and allowed 156 hits that normally would have been outs. Chase Utley's defensive reputation is based more on his superior positioning versus left-handed hitters than it is his incredible range.

There's also something they dub subtle position changes, as opposed to a radical shift. Paul Molitor has his players working in a great deal of these subtle moves this year. But the point comes back: players shift subtly or radically, but they move a little bit depending on the player, the number of outs, base runners, who's on the mound, and the count. The only way that those intricacies can be fully accounted for when scouting a player defensively is by including a heavy dose of eye scouting. Software like StatCast certainly helps, but defensive evaluations - more than any other aspect of the game - is highly dependent on what scouts see live.

Moneyball 2.0

References to Michael Lewis' book will never fade away, which shows how much of an impact his book and the secrets that lie within has on the baseball industry. Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller, however, are using video and advanced metrics to help the Sonoma Stompers dominate their league. It's a pretty novel use of baseball's new school to help a team out of the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs get the best out of their players. In a league like that, using those methods has to be a real advantage.

2016 Draft

Over at MLB,com yesterday, Cash Kruth divulged the teams who were awarded competitive balance lottery picks. The Reds, A's, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Marlins, and Pirates drew picks in Competitive Balance Round A, which follows the first round of the draft (as well as compensation selections dependent on free agent issues). The Twins were eligible for a pick in Round A, as were the Orioles and Mariners, but neither team was selected.

Minnesota was, however, awarded the third pick in Competitive Balance Round B, following the Padres and Indians and preceding the Brewers, Orioles, and Rays. The Cardinals, Royals, and Mariners (again) were eligible but were not selected. Round B comes after the second round.

Right now it looks like the Twins will get four picks in the top 100 selections of the 2016 draft: Round 1, Round 2, Competitive Balance Round B, and then a replacement pick for being unable to come to terms with Kyle Cody this year.

Digital Umpires

I can't see this perpetrating Major League Baseball or its minor league affiliates any time in the near future, but it's happening somewhere. I don't like it.

MLB Trade Deadline

  • The Twins are 0-2 with six games left to go through this very meaningful stretch of games. Chances were never good for a big move from Minnesota, but those chances get worse every time the club doesn't win. And that's now four losses in a row.
  • Per LEN III, bullpen help is the number one priority. Catcher and shortstop are obviously needs too, but it'll be easier (and cheaper) to find an arm or two to help bolster the relief corps.
  • The 40-man roster is currently full. We may see the Twins outright a player or two in the next few days if the front office anticipates an imminent trade.
  • There has been no public acknowledgement that the team is looking at shortstop upgrades, whether that's Jimmy Rollins or Troy Tulowitzki or anyone else. I'm interested to see whether this changes in the next few days. No doubt winning four or five of these next six games would make the idea more palatable.
  • We reviewed the trade market for catchers again yesterday afternoon.