Recently I have become a huge soccer fan, specifically of the English Premier League. Ever since Chelsea goalie Petr Cech’s horrific injury in 2006 I have been a Chelsea fan, and am excited to follow the EPL more closely this year since ESPN is broadcasting many of the games, and I can find most others on the internet. So since I have been in soccer mode lately, I decided to find the EPL equivalent to each Minnesota Twins player. Well, almost each. There are only 20 EPL teams and I’m not comparing them all, so we’ll get 10 or so players compared.
Joe Mauer = Chelsea
The man and team can do it all. Mauer is one of the best hitters in baseball, Chelsea had the leading scorer in the EPL last year in Nicholas Anelka, and with Didier Drogba joining him up front they have one of the most potent strike duos on Earth. Of course, Mauer is also a great defender behind the plate, and Chelsea has a sparkling defense, led by captain John Terry. They also have Jose Bosingwa, Ashley Cole, and my favorite player Branislav Ivanovic. They’re always the favorite in any match they go into, and can beat you in so many ways, just like Mauer.
Justin Morneau = Manchester United
They both are universally praised. Many people think Morneau is the best player on the Twins (not true) and many think Man U is the best team in the EPL (not true). They both are very good, but their abilities cover up some underlying problems. For all of Morneau’s power offensively, his walk rate has been surprisingly low (except the past couple years). And UZR isn’t quite as kind to his defensive prowess as mainstream analysts are. Although I must admit that I think Morneau is a bit undervalued by UZR. They both are very very good team/player, but perhaps not worthy of the praise heaped on them.
Jason Kubel = Tottenham Hotspur
When Kubel came to the major leagues he was set to be one of the better power hitters in the game. After injuries derailed the next couple years, Kubel put up solid but not spectacular numbers. Prior to the 2009 season, Dave Cameron wrote a post on Fan Graphs asking why the Twins re-signed Kubel. But Kubel is having a very good season this year, with a .382 wOBA. He has been worth 2.2 wins, and already has almost earned his entire contract. Likewise, Tottenham has been tipped to be a Big 4 challenger in the EPL for years to come, and this year could finally be the year they put it together. They have 9 points from 3 games and currently sit on top of the league. With Jermaine Defoe up front pumping in the goals and solid striker depth (Robbie Keane, Roman Pavlyuchenko, and Peter Crouch) goal scoring won’t be a problem. They just need to play good defense. Kind of like Kubel.
Denard Span = Everton
Everton was right on the cusp of being elite last year after being talked about for a long time. Span was the Twins first round pick in 2002 and was considered the successor to Torii Hunter in centerfield. He finally became a regular big leaguer last year and now appears to have a stranglehold on the leadoff sopt.
Orlando Cabrera = Manchester City
Man City spent more money over the summer than any club in the world other than Real Madrid. They brought in players like Carlos Tevez, Emmanuel Adebayor, Roque Santa Cruz, etc. With their influx of cash they are expected to challenge for a top 4 spot in the EPL this year. But they appear to have some chemistry issues (to be expected.) They also don’t seem to have a complete squad, lacking some depth at the back. Likewise, Orlando Cabrera was acquired near the trade deadline. Twins fans everywhere have been excited about his play. But his OBP has been in the .330s, very pedestrian for a 2 hole hitter. And his defense has also been a bit underwhelming, although you can’t go by UZR because it is unreliable in short bursts.
Delmon Young = Stoke City
Stoke plays ugly soccer, relying a lot on long throw ins and other set pieces to score goals. They aren’t a very good team, but they should be just good enough to avoid relegation this season. Delmon Young looks god-awful both at the plate and in the field, but there is no denying he has tons of talent and could end up being an average baseball player.
Alexi Casilla = Burnley
A promoted side, Burnley prides itself on playing pretty football, meaning they don’t just put 11 men behind the ball and rely on defense, they have nice passing and try to actively score goals. Likewise Alexi Casilla plays the game with a flare that isn’t often seen from a Twins player. However, Burnley might not stay in the Premier League after this year, and Casilla might find himself in AAA.
Anthony Swarzak = Fulham
Last year, Fulham finished in good enough position to make the Europa League, coming out of nowhere after fighting relegation battles the past few years. Swarzak dominated in his first couple MLB starts, but has fallen off the cliff and is back in the minors. It actually hurts to make this comparison because Fulham is my 2nd favorite team and I absolutely despise Swarzak.
Nick Punto/Matt Tolbert = Portsmouth
Pompey is a disaster. They have 0 points after 3 games, and have allowed 7 goals and just scored 1. There is absolutely no doubt they are being relegated after this season. And we all know about the Nick Punto/Matt Tolbert trainwreck.
Joe Crede = Birmingham City
Joe Crede has been very good defensively this year. The best 3B in the AL in fact. But he has been 6.2 runs below average thus far this year. Birmingham has allowed just 1 goal in EPL play this year, but they’ve also scored only 1.
Nick Blackburn = West Ham
The Hammers have their ups and downs as a team, but they have finished 10th the past 2 seasons, exactly in the middle of the table. Nick Blackburn has had some great starts and some starts where he hasn’t gotten out of the 3rd inning, but it all adds up to an average run of the mill starter.
I realize not all of these comparisons are perfect, but it was still a fun little exercise for me to do. Hopefully in the future I’ll find time to do more things like this.