Are the Twins Trying To Play Moneyball With Their Pitching Staff?

24 03 2011

The Minnesota Twins have had an odd offseason to say the least. First, they trade away J.J. Hardy for relievers Jim Hoey (34.1 Major League innings and a 5.15 FIP) and Brett Jacobson (no Major League innings).

Then they openly discuss trading Fransisco Liriano. For those of you who do not remember, advanced statistics had Liriano as the third best pitcher in the Majors. Right behind Josh Johnson and Cliff Lee. Fangraphs also had his slider as the best slider in baseball.

They then told Nick Blackburn he will be a starter. Nick Blackburn had a 3.8 K/9, and a FIP of 5.09. You could make a case that he was the worst starting pitcher in baseball. All he had working for him was a 50.8% groundball rate.

They picked up lefty Scott Diamond from the Atlanta Braves. Diamond is a reliever who has a career 7.3 K/9 in the minors with some control issues.

The Twins put Pat Neshek on waivers and he was taken by the Padres. Neshek had an option left. I understand that Pat Neshek had a bad year last year (so did Fransiso Liriano his first year after Tommy John surgery) and not a very good Spring, but it’s Spring Training.  He was still striking out a batter an inning and keeping the ball in the park.

And now, it comes out that the Twins are interested in trading Kevin Slowey for relief pitchers. I’m not going to go into why that itself is stupid (Fangraphs wrote a great article about that.)

They drafted Alex Wimmers. Who throws his fastball at 88 MPH.

What are the Twins doing with their pitching staff? Especially with the bullpen. Last season, the Twins had a bullpen that was worth 18.8 WAR. Good for 6th in the league. Who was better? The White Sox, Rockies, Giants, Braves, and Red Sox. Now, they have blown up the bullpen.

What about the rotation? 5th in the leauge in WAR at 15.8. Who’s in front of them? Rockies, Red Sox, White Sox, Cardinals. Now, they have discussed trading 2/5th of that rotation.

The move to the bullpen will keep Slowey's innings down, and presumably keep him off the disabled list.

Or have the Twins heard of the Rule of 17? And do they think that the Rule of 17 would be most beneficial to Kevin Slowey?

For those of you who don’t know, the Rule of 17 is the theory that when a starer transitions to the bullpen, his K/9 will increase, his BABIP will decrease, and his HR/9 will decrease. All  by about 17%. So, in the case of Kevin Slowey, his K/9 will rise to 8.1, his HR/9 will fall to 1.2, and his BABIP will fall to .290. Most ERAs fall by about a run.

The move to the bullpen will keep Slowey’s innings down, and presumably keep him off the disabled list. And with the limited free passes he’s issued, and the increased K/9 we can reasonably expect, Kevin Slowey will be one of the more dominant middle relievers in the American League.

Maybe the Twins know what they’re doing with their pitching staff. The trades for Matt Capps, Brian Fuentes, Ron Mahay, and Jon Rauch all worked out pretty well for Bill Smith and company, but it seems that they have been going after every middling Minor League reliever they can acquire, and drafting hordes of Brad Radke clones in the last few years. Every move they’ve made involving pitching has me worried. Except for Slowey to the pen. That is assuming that they don’t trade him for someone like Joba Chamberlain.

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One response

30 05 2011
baseball91

Wow! You really had the Kevin Slowey situation figured out. Could you really be Brad Stell, the Director of Baseball Operations? Or Rob Antony, the assistant general manager to Bill Smith, and before that the predecessor to Steil. These are the new Moneyball guys in the TWINS organization who have done quite a job since September 2007. I guess even you are feeling the wrath of the 2011 season.

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