Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Finding Nathan's Replacement

The biggest question created by the departure of Joe Nathan is, obviously, who is going to fulfill his role as closer for the Twins.

This is an organization that has highly valued the ninth-inning job over the years, as evidenced by their willingness to hand Nathan a $47 million extension back in 2008, and later by their willingness to trade for and subsequently overpay established closer Matt Capps to be Nathan's fallback plan.

I would guess that the front office considers the closer position less of a priority at this point, given the likelihood that the team will not contend next year, but this is still not a decision I expect to be taken lightly. As I see it, there are four options for proceeding:

1) Promote Glen Perkins.

Perkins has certainly done plenty to earn consideration. He was one of the most dominant relievers in the American League this year, posting a 2.48 ERA with an excellent 65-to-21 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 61 2/3 innings as a setup man.

What the Twins have to ask themselves is whether they're comfortable removing the southpaw from a role in which he was so wildly effective. As the Twins' de facto bullpen ace for much of the season, Perkins was frequently called upon to get more than three outs, to dispatch lefty hitters (whom he held to a .589 OPS) and to work out of sticky situations.

Perkins would not be utilized as optimally in the closer role, where he'd generally be facing whatever batters happened to be due up in the ninth, with a clean slate and with a lead ranging anywhere from one to three runs. All of those tricky spots he worked out of last year would go to someone else.

If the Twins believe Perkins is capable of repeating what he did in 2011, I think they're better off leaving him where he's at.

2) Re-sign Matt Capps.

I know, I know. This is an unthinkable option. But really, it's not.

In an interview with KFAN's Paul Allen yesterday, pitching coach Rick Anderson called out Capps as a potential replacement, saying "I wouldn't give up on a guy like him so quick." Anderson pointed out that the right-hander's struggles this season were largely attributable to a forearm injury that he pitched through, and it's a fair point.

When he's been healthy, Capps has generally been a good enough reliever to adequately handle closing duties, and he has the kind of makeup and accountability that Twins coaches like to see. He showed signs of returning to normal late in the season season, and if he could be signed for significantly less than he earned in 2011, he wouldn't be the worst option as a late-inning counterpart to Perkins.

There's no question that the Twins would have a tough time selling this one to the fans, though.

3) Sign another free agent.

There are a number of closers out on the market, which is one reason the loss of Nathan is easier to bear. On the high end, you've got guys like Ryan Madson, Heath Bell and Francisco Cordero, all of whom the Twins are likely to pass on due to cost.

But then you've got a number of intriguing buy-low candidates. One example is Jonathan Broxton, the formerly dominant Dodgers closer who was limited to 12 innings this year by injury but is still only 27. Another example is Brad Lidge, the slider-flinging right-hander from Philly who pitched only 19 innings but turned in a 1.40 ERA with lots of strikeouts.

4) Acquire a replacement via trade.

The Twins have already flirted with this option, as they were reportedly close to a deal with the Nationals in July that would have brought Washington's young closer Drew Storen to Minnesota. Joe Christensen said a week ago that he wouldn't rule out the possibility of those talks being rekindled, but Ryan may also turn his attention to another closer that is apparently being made available: Andrew Bailey of the Athletics.

ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted this week that the odds of Bailey being traded "appear to be about 100 percent." Like Storen, he's a young right-handed reliever with dominant numbers and several years of team control remaining. Bailey is four years older than Storen and he experienced some elbow problems this spring, but those factors should make him easier to acquire.

Of course, another option is that the Twins follow the route they did with Nathan, identifying a quality setup man in another organization who hasn't yet been established as a full-time closer. The Rays pulled this off quite successfully with Rafael Soriano in 2010.

Whichever direction they choose to take, the Twins will be wise not to invest a huge amount of money into the closer position considering the various uncertainties that surround this club in the short term. With Terry Ryan at the helm, I feel a lot more confident about their ability to do so successfully than I did before.


Shane Wahl said...

I wonder what it will take to get Andrew Bailey. I still like the idea of moving Perkins into that role after signing Dotel. Duensing would replace Perkins in that situational lefty slot. Lidge and Broxton are interesting if available. I would certainly lean towards Broxton.

I long for the days when the closer position is relegated to the dustbin . . . .

Shane Wahl said...

Also, the Twins will get a pick if Capps signs elsewhere. That is worth it, in my view. There are plenty of viable 7th inning guys out there to sign. A dozen or so, in fact. It's worth letting Capps sign elsewhere, signing the exact same guy for cheaper, and collecting a pick between the 1st and 2nd rounds. The Twins can now have 5 of the first 65 or so picks, correct?

Anonymous said...

With Nathan gone and Capps likely to go elsewhere the worst bullpen in the majors has just gotten incredibaly worse. Perkins is not a closer. He had a career year and probably can be effective as a 7th or 8th inning guy again. But not as your closer. Internally ther are no answers. And really who do we have to trade? And why would you give up your best prospects when you know without Cuddyer, Kubel, Nathan etc. you won't compete anyway. I guess it will be a bullpen by committee and hope someone comes forward like Everyday Eddie. Gonna be a long year.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure why we are prefacing blog entries with comments that the Twins will not be competitive next year. I know we are not inheriting a great roster without question marks, but this is really not any different right now than the 2010 team that won 95 games or so. The big question here is if several Twins players can get healthy. There are other issues, but a couple of them have already been addressed by the Carroll (shortstop solution) and Doumit signings (replaces Cuddy's bat, reduces if not eliminates Butera's role, backs up Morneau), and the Twins still have about $20 million even with their reduced payroll (Nathan, Capps, Cuddy, and Kubel coming off their books saves them about $30 million). There are definitely still holes to fill -- the bullpen, obviously, but the fact Twins management is at least aware of that marks a huge change from last year's thinking. The bullpen is simply not that hard to address -- there are 20 to 25 arms available that would help our bullpen issues.

Beyond that, we need a fifth starter (right now there's enough money to sign Oswalt, although I don't think we will or even that we necessarily should) and maybe another quality utility infield player just to make sure we don't have to rely too heavily on Casilla and/or Nishioka (if an injury occurs). And we've got like $25 million after the Doumit and Carroll signings to fill those spots. I guess an outfielder to replace Cuddy might be nice, too.

There's still work to do and our roster isn't the Yankees, but it's far from doomsday. The core is in place. Let's get them healthy and start getting after it THIS year.

Shane Wahl said...

I like what Anonymous the second has to say. The 2011 team was not that much different at all from the 2010 team. It is a bizarre 32 game (or whatever) shift, but I don't think that writing this season off is necessary. The Indians seem to actually be making the wrong decisions along with the White Sox, so I expect those two to actually bring up the rear in the division this year. Improving at the margins is central to the success of the team this year with a healthy Mauer being the first priority.

Assume the following: healthy Span, healthy Mauer, and unhealthy Morneau. The Twins would still have:


at the top of the lineup, and that OBP has not been amongst the top three for years.

The truth of the matter is that the Twins will have to take advantage of platooning players this year, or else it is all a joke (Plouffe, Hughes, and Revere are not solid everyday players). Gardenhire needs to understand fundamental platoon splits. A LF of Revere/Plouffe this year could actually be very good.

Anonymous said...

Everyone forgets that Terry Ryan is the one who brought this club back from the dead in the early 2000s. Bill Smith traded away all of our young talent. You need to give Ryan a few years to right the ship. Dont forget we have those two young dominican kids playing rookie ball waiting in the helms. Yes we need a closer but we also need help in all aspects to the pitching game. All of our starters could be number 2-5 guys in other clubs rotations.

I say give Ryan a year or two to rebuild the farm system and then we should see where we are. Nathan is gone which saves us a ton of money. Morneau will be off the books in a year or two. In a few years we will have a farm system in place and some money to throw around.

Ed Bast said...

"but this is really not any different right now than the 2010 team that won 95 games or so."

Yep, other than Hardy, Hudson, Thome, Young, Cuddy, Kubel (2/3 of the lineup) Rauch, Guerrier, Crain, Fuentes, (2/3 of the bullpen), this team's real similar to 2010.

Matt said...

Yep, other than Hardy, Hudson, Thome, Young, Cuddy, Kubel (2/3 of the lineup) Rauch, Guerrier, Crain, Fuentes, (2/3 of the bullpen), this team's real similar to 2010.

Yeah, I had a hard time reading that, too. First to mind was the middle of the infield and the good 'ol boys Crain and Guerrier. Just shows how fixated the fans are on the M&M boys and the outside chance that both are healthy and productive for 162 games + 3 and maybe more postseason games. When was the last time that happened?

Being strong up the middle is important, and with Span's team friendly contract, I don't know why you'd deal him for a relief arm, but with this FO, it's entirely possible.

I think we should curb our Terry Ryan enthusiasm just a little bit here...

Young Man Duggan said...

Considering how bad the 2011 season ended up, I think most of us can agree that they're bound to be better next season. Even up through July the Twins weren't totally out of it (albeit in a weak AL Central). The last two months...obviously...those went terribly wrong, and the first two months were without one of the best players in the game.

I'm not too worried about Nathan's replacement because under TR's first go at the helm, he managed to always find a high quality closer out of what appeared to be nothing at first glance to fans. Nathan had been an unsuccessful back end of the rotation starter for the Giants before he was came over and become one of the top closers in the game over a 7 year span. [According to Seth Stohs] Jared Burton could be the type of project Nathan was when he came over...

cy1time said...

I think Perkins has more value as a setup guy. I'd lump Capps in with the rest of the buy low free agents and wait to see who's leftover for a one year deal. Those guys are all wildcards. I'd rather overpay a little for a one year deal that lock in for multiple years on guys like Lidge or Broxton.

As for a trade, I see Span more valuable than Storen or Bailey. Would be interested in either, but only for less than Span.

Anonymous said...

cy1time - Terry Ryan has already said that Span and Revere are untouchable since he already knows that the Twins will be losing both Kubel and Cuddyer. So that isn't something anybody will have to worry about anyways. Outside of them, the Twins really don't have anything to offer for either Storen or Bailey. They need to hang onto what little talent that they have in the minors too. So I don't see the Twins making any acquisitions via trade. At least not any big names.

Anonymous said...

The Twins don't need to go sign a closer they need starting pitching. Losing Nathan doesn't make the bullpen worse. He was worth 0 wins last year and 0 wins in 2010.
Losing Nathan gets saves money for areas of actual need. If the twins pick up a guy like Edwin Jackson and sign a guy like Josh Willingham along with what they have already done and a healthy (this is the key) Morneau and Mauer the Twins will contend in 2012. Losing Cuddyer, Kubel & Nathan doesn't hurt the Twins at all. Overpriced Veterns who were injured or had medicore season's in 2011. People just don't look at the numbers or advanced metrics and compare that with the person's age, position and amount of cash and years he will get to make a reasonable assumption.

Nick N. said...

Terry Ryan has already said that Span and Revere are untouchable since he already knows that the Twins will be losing both Kubel and Cuddyer.

I think that's a mischaracterization of what he said. If the A's offered Bailey for a package centered around Revere, the Twins would have to very strongly consider it.

I know we are not inheriting a great roster without question marks, but this is really not any different right now than the 2010 team that won 95 games or so.

It's a lot more similar to the 2011 team that lost 99 games, especially in terms of health concerns and the sad state of the pitching staff.

I'm not a believer that the Twins have no shot at contending next year, but it would be ridiculously irresponsible to proceed as if they're loading up for a World Series run in 2012.

Mike said...

@last anonymous- I disagree and think that losing Nathan is going to hurt the Twins if they can't find someone else to competently fill the void he's leaving. Although, I'm hesitant to think that he's worth the money Texas is giving him.

Sure, Nathan was 0.0 in WAR in 2010 and 2011. Of course, I can't imagine that injury had anything to do with that.... Of course the guy didn't contribute when he was out due to TJ surgery. And it's pretty common knowledge that the first year back after TJ surgery is a down year. He pitched much better the second half of the season. I expect that he'll be solid for Texas this next season, just given how pitchers tend to improve in year 2 after TJ surgery and how Nathan improved last year as it went on.

I also disagree that losing Cuddyer and Kubel won't hurt the Twins. Cuddyer is overpriced, yes, but I don't think the Twins are going to be able to replace his production (which, ps, was not mediocre last season). If they lose Kubel as well, I think that gets rid of the last viable home run threat the Twins have, aside from potentially Plouffe and Valencia.

I don't want to see the Twins overpay for these guys, but losing them is likely going to mean it will be tougher for the Twins to compete. I'm not writing the Twins off next season by any means, but I won't be surprised if they're a 3rd place team in the ALC, either.

Anonymous said...

YES! Michael Cuddyer season was TOTALLY mediocre. His OPS was good for 27th out of Major League Outfielders at 805. 805 would be great if he could play 2B but he can’t. Add to the fact that Cuddyer by any statistically measure also sucks in RF that lowers his value. If 27th with players of at least 350Abs is NOT good. It’s average. Throw in that he can’t play defense and is old and his value to the Twins is negligible at best.
In a contact year his WAR was 3.1 to the Twins. The year before it was .8 and before that 2.8. In 2008 when he was hurt his value was 0.0. This points that a long term deal for Cuddyer is ridiculous because he isn’t the consistent player people act like he is.
Kubel actually might be below average since he can’t field at all. He should never even be put at an outfield spot and he can’t run and has been injured a bit in his career.
As for Joe Nathan the Twins have won the division without him and have lost 99 games without him. Obviously the last two years were caused by his injury. His overall value has been in decline for a couple of years before that however. His WAR in 2009 was 1.9 with a full season (if you can call it a full season for a reliever 68IP!). The year before that his WAR was 2.1. This was way down from his glory years around 3.1, 2.7 & 3.1. Those numbers translate into big success. Nathan getting 2 years and 14.5 million now is a huge risk. The only thing that helps Texas is that they now will put their current closer in the rotation. If he is successful (his stuff indicates it is) he will be a 5-6 WAR a year pitcher like the previous guy Texas put from closer to starter. CJ Wilson. Starting pitching is what the Twins need badly not to sign risky deals for bullpen help or long term contracts to mediocre outfielders.
If Ryan Doumit can stay healthy he will be worth WAY more value to the Twins at 1 year and 3 million that Cuddyer. A guy like Willingham if he can be had for 1 or 2 years would be another great addition.

Shane Wahl said...

As far as health goes, I am only worried about Morneau (which is why I would like the Twins to pursue Derrek Lee) in any real way. Mauer is not going to be the mess he was in 2011. The comments about how different this team is from 2010 are right to point out that the names are very different, but I would maintain that Carroll replaces Hardy 2010, Doumit is 2/3 Kubel, and with a few more signings Cuddyer can be entirely replaceable. Cuddyer is average-to bad defensively all over and is always an up and down player year-to-year. Starting pitching is the same as 2010 and the bullpen still needs two good arms to make it similar to 2010. Offering Lidge or Broxton a one-year deal would not be a bad idea at this point, but then the Twins still need another setup man to pair with Perkins. Spending for Dotel for one year would be wise. Since Perkins and Duensing are now the two lefty situational 7th and 8th inning men, Dotel would be the right choice. I wonder what it would take for Andrew Bailey. Mijares and Burnett are big-league ready arms and players like Evan Bigley and Bruce Pugh seem tradeable.

TT said...

This is not the same team at all that lost 99 games last year. Nor is it the team that won the division the year before. Which it is closer to depends almost entirely on Mauer, Morneau and Span.

I don't think anyone here has a clear handle on how likely it is any or all of them will come back healthy and productive. But we would have a right to be upset if that happened and the Twin still couldn't compete because they failed to provide a decent supporting cast.

That means adding a closer and a major league corner outfielder at minimum. They could also use help in the rotation and rest of the bullpen. Although, if they add a closer, other bullpen needs can be identified and addressed during the season if need be.

"(Cuddyer's) OPS was good for 27th out of Major League Outfielders at 805"

Which just demonstrates why OPS is so crude as to be pretty much useless. Kind of like WAR. In any case, there are 90 outfield positions on 30 teams. Even the 27th best outfielder is in the top third.

Laches said...

I'm sure there will be a lot of talk about Nathan's replacement, but to me the bigger issue is that the Twins still need to find adequate replacements for Crain, Guerreir, Rauch, etc. You could bring in Mariano, it won't matter if the middle relief still stinks. Restoring depth to the bullpen is more important than having a stud closer.

8th inning guy said...

The Twins should go find a reliever they really like, doesn't have to be a closer, and give him the job. Perkins has had 1 nice season, I would leave him where he is right now. If Mauer and Morneau return to the glory days of yesteryear(big if) this team could compete immediately. They've won two division titles with the exact starting rotation. A bullpen can completely turn around in the same season, not to mention a whole offseason.

Anonymous said...

The current roster is not that different than 2010. There are obviously some players that are not here anymore, but the current roster has more similarities than differences. Crain and Guerrier were important, but Nathan didn't even pitch in 2010 and Perkins was worthless. So Crain + Guerrier is not that different than Perkins + about 10 to 15 other affordable relievers on the market right now (see Gleeman's post on free relievers if you don't believe me). The twins closer in 2010 was Rauch and Capps, and both could very feasibly be back in 2012 (both are affordable free agents). Cuddyer and Kubel both might be gone but both also might stay. And if Cuddy leaves, fine, at least from a 2010 standpoint. His production in 2010 was even worse than it was in 2011 and is easily replaceable. Kubel will hurt a little more but he mostly DH'd in 2010 and is really not that much better than a lot of free agents DHs, especially if he isn't platooning. It's also worth noting that Thome took the place of Morneau essentially in 2010, cause Cuddy shifted to first, Kubel to OF, and Thome then DH'd. Obviously he had a bigger impact in 2010, but it's not like he added 11 or 12 wins or something. Hardy in 2010 and Carroll in 2011 is basically awash, so as good as Hardy is now, a 2010 Hardy/2012 projected Carroll yields no loss. O-Dog is better than Casilla, but again that's not earth-shattering. And frankly, we already have a replacement for Cuddyer on our roster. His name is Ryan Doumit, and he hits as well as Cuddy while having an ability to play all the positions Cuddy mainly played, only Doumit can catch and can't play second. So there's no loss there.

Oh, and in your analysis, it's interesting you left out the fact that all 5 opening day starters from 2010 are on the current twins roster, and all 5 are (at least presumably) healthy going into 2012. Last I checked pitching rotations had a pretty big impact on a team's success.

I am not going to waste any words on how much losing Delmon Young hurts, because it doesn't. That guy sucks and his trade was an addition by subtraction by any standard baseball metric.

The bottom line is that last year's debacle was caused, more than anything, by injuries, and if our key players are healthy this year, as likely or as unlikely as you think that is, the Twins will be competitive. Am I certain that will happen? No. Am I certain it won't happen? No.

But here's the important point: if the Twins are healthy, they will compete for a division title. So I find all the doomsday talk interesting given the fact that our roster has the talent to win the division. Yes, they might get hurt, they are injury prone.

But just because they don't have backup players that can replace AL MVPs doesn't mean they need to start rebuilding and aiming for their next winning season in 2015. Give me a break. That's just a pathetic analysis.

TT said...

Anonymous -

I agree with your conclusion. But you listed a lot of places the Twins are worse than 2010 and almost no areas where the team has improved.

Also, the 2010 Delmon Young was not worthless. And Ben Revere is certainly not going to replace his offensive production that year.

I think your point about the rotation is a good one. This is basically the same group of pitchers who won two division championships. The bullpen has a long list of candidates for spots, but not many you would write in ink. Duensing, Swarzak and Dumatrait are the most proven of the bunch.

Anonymous said...

The only way to "hurt the Twins" is to cost them money while playing at less-than All Star caliber (or, by being unable to count ones own toes ... see ya Jose, Gardy, and, of course, Fat Matt). Trade mid value of today for (hopefully) better value for tomorrow, and then sit back and enjoy the ride. That's what quality GMs do. Take some risks, forgo winning for 2-3 years, and steal some wins (and bases!).

Shane Wahl said...

OPS and WAR are useless, TT? Does that first T stand for Ron, and the second T stand for Gardenhire???

TT said...

OPS and WAR are useless. They are just numbers. They don't accurately measure anything tangible.

Ed Bast said...

"Oh, and in your analysis, it's interesting you left out the fact that all 5 opening day starters from 2010 are on the current twins roster, and all 5 are (at least presumably) healthy going into 2012."

You mean the starting staff that was 2nd worst in all of baseball last year, despite being healthy for most of the season? This is not a positive for the Twins. I left it out of my analysis as a courtesy to you. Fact is, this is a poor pitching staff - if they were able to acquire a #1 and a solid #2/3 starter, I'd start listening to ideas of "contending" in 2012. But as long as we have this collection of pitch-to-contact #4 starters whose arms implode after 130 innings, we aint going anywhere.

I love how everyone sums up our 2012 chances as, if we're healthy, we'll compete - aka, as long as Morneau, for example, can play, he'll play at an AL MVP level. Fact is, Morneau's career may be nearly over. When he played last year, he was terrible.

Joe Mauer was an "MVP" caliber player one season. He's a singles hitter. Singles hitters do not carry lineups.

Our problems go much deeper than a lot of you seem to realize.

TT said...

"Fact is, this is a poor pitching staff"

Fact is, its the same pitching staff that won the division in 2010.

The real problem may be that people are drawing too many conclusions from one bad year. Its perfectly plausible the Twins will be a mediocre team. But it is also plausible they will be a very good team. I think losing 99 games again is the least likely result next year.

If Mauer and Morneau are unproductive, they aren't going to be contenders. I don't think it much matters what the Twins do in the offseason.

TT said...

One other thing, after looking it up. Joe Mauer had 59 extra base hits in 2009 when he won the MVP. He had 53 extra base hits in 2010 in 22 fewer plate appearances. His 43 doubles in 2010 tied him for 11th most in baseball. He is not a "singles hitter" by any definition.

Shane Wahl said...

What statistic measures *anything* tangible? Tangible? What are you even referring to, possibly? OPS is not the most telling stat, but it is a great way to judge a player at a basic level and WAR allows for one to compare players relative to anonymous replacement players. I don't understand what your issue is with these two worthwhile statistics.

TT said...

"What statistic measures *anything* tangible? Tangible? What are you even referring to, possibly?"

A home run is tangible. A "Win Above Replacement" is pure invention from the assumption that you can accurately measure "wins" for any player not a pitcher to the criteria for a "replacement".

OPS is adding together two measurements to get a number. You can add home runs and walks, both measures of something tangible, and get a number. That doesn't make it meaningful.

Anonymous said...

Ed and TT both bring up good points. This is both the same rotation from 2010 and the rotation from 2011. It tells you that this rotation won't prevent you from winning games, but also probably won't win a lot for you. Perhaps even more significantly, it tells you just how bad of a year the Twins team as a whole had last year, and the rotation was no exception.

Liriano and Baker are not pitch to contact pitchers, as much as Gardy and the misguided fan base may wish that to be so. I would submit in fact that Liriano would be much more effective if he were left to be the strikeout pitcher he seems naturally driven to be.

Pavano and Blackburn are pitch-to-contact pitchers, and Slowey is somewhere in between. This emphasizes the importance of solid defense, and that's why the Carroll signing was so significant.

Consider this: in 2011 the Twins had significant injuries to Morneau, Kubel, Mauer, Nathan, Span, Casilla, Liriano, Slowey, Blackburn, and Mijares. It's impossible to say if that's going to be the norm or the exception, at least for most of those players.

2010 Delmon Young was barely better than average when you factor in his defense. Even with his unusually successful hitting, he still was barely average overall. And I would take Revere over Delmon every time for 2012.

Mauer is by no definition of the term a singles hitter, as TT mentioned. He has not done what we hoped, but he is definitely not a singles hitter.

Bottom line: There are a lot of variables on this team and it is a fool's errand to write them off without having any of those variables set. Let's make the best signings we can and wait and see what happens. That's a much better approach than writing off the entire season in November.

Ed Bast said...

Okay, Mauer hits doubles too. My point was that people keep saying that if our "AL MVPs" are healthy we'll compete, as though we're automatically going to get 06 Morneau and 09 Mauer again. It's much more realistic to assume that we'll get something closer to the 11 versions of these players.

Seriously, though, let's stop deluding ourselves about this pitching staff. Liriano has the most talent by far but the least mental fortitude (and that's saying something); he's an example of wasted talent, and can't be counted on. Also about 95% guaranteed to get hurt.

Baker occasionally puts together decent stretches, but with him, the more strikeouts he gets, the quicker he ends up on the DL. As a product of the Twins' minor league system it's 100% guaranteed that his arm will not withstand a full MLB season. Go ahead and spit out "8k/9" or something similarly useless if you want, but I'm pretty sure you get 0k/9 on the DL, where he will spend a good portion of the year.

Blacky: trying like hell for 2 full years now to show everyone how terrible he is. No one on the Twins seems to be paying attention.

Slowey: His positive outings are overshadowed by the fact that, as a product of the Twins' minor league system, he maxes out at 5.2 innings per start, so he taxes bullpens like no other. Also 100% guaranteed to get hurt.

Pavano: he's a year older than the pitcher who gave up the most hits in the league last year. Also, clearly our best overall starter. Terrifying.

The single easiest way to improve is through the starting staff. If we are really trying to "contend" next year (we're cutting payroll so we clearly aren't), a shakeup of the staff is required. And no, Terry Ryan, Bruce Chen was not the answer.

Mike said...

Actually, I think it's far more likely we'll get a productive Mauer than what we got in 2011. There's no reason to take one down, injury filled year and act like that outweighs his previous six very good years. Morneau is probably going to be more like 2011, though. I think the Twins would be better off with Morneau in AAA next year to start until he can show he can compete in the MLB.

I'm not sure what Ed's problem is with people saying that the Twins' chances rest heavily on Mauer, Morneau, and Span. If those guys aren't healthy, this team isn't competing, and it doesn't matter what they do in the offseason. If they are healthy, they'll be a good team. Not necessarily a playoff team, because yes, there are a lot of things that go into winning a baseball game, but they'll be a good team.

For the people that say Carroll replaces the 2010 Hardy- I don't think so. Maybe from an offensive standpoint, but not from a defensive standpoint. The defensive aspect is huge, particularly when 40% of your starting rotation is pretty extreme pitch-to-contact and another starter is just more heavily pitch-to-contact.

And no- I have to agree with TT- Cuddyer was not average last year. Even the OPS numbers, which I don't think tells nearly the whole story, has Cuddyer in the top third of all starting outfielders, playing in a park that doesn't give up so many home runs. There are 164 FAs in MLB this year, and ESPN ranks Cuddyer as the 15th best FA. He's the #2 ranked RF out of 11. He's the #2 ranked outfielder overall out of 29.

ESPN's ranking is certainly not the end-all, be-all either, but I tend to trust the expert analysts who have Cuddyer ranked very highly over someone who points to WAR and OPS as being determinative.

Mike said...

@sean- yes, the Twins won the division without Joe Nathan in 2010. They also had Rauch, Crain, Guerrier for the whole season. They also had Matt Capps, who pitched pretty well, for half a season, and Fuentes for a while. This is NOT the same bullpen that they had in 2010, so the comparison is moot.

I don't think they should be spending $7 million/year on a closer, but the fact still remains that Nathan is on the rise and the Twins will need to replace what he would have been able to provide the team.

And come on- I don't even know what you're trying to imply by stating that he only pitched 68 innings in 2009 as though that isn't a "full season" for a reliever. He was tied for 48th in innings pitched as a reliever for that year. Relievers Only 20 relievers pitched more than 75 innings. Most of the pitchers who threw more innings than Nathan that year weren't closers, either.

TT said...

"This is NOT the same bullpen that they had in 2010, so the comparison is moot."

The 2010 bullpen was not the bullpen they had in November 2009 either. No one was talking about Crain as a bullpen mainstay during the off-season. And he was pretty bad early in the season.

And don't forget that Duensing was an important part of that bullpen for most of the year. It looks like he will be back in the bullpen this year.

The notion that Delmon Young as only slightly above average in 2010 is not confirmed by his record. He had the 8th most RBI's in major league baseball that year.

Ben S said...

Simple solution. Promote Perkins and then have him get those elusive 4 inning saves night in and night out because the rotation can't go more than 5 and the rest of the bullpen can't get an out.

Mike said...

@TT- true, the bullpen changed a lot between 2009 and 2010 as well. But Sean's point was that the Twins won the divisions without Nathan in 2010. Which is true, but as noted, the current bullpen is not in the same situation.

But yes, I tend to forget that Duensing will be back in the pen, where he's been very, very good. Not that he's a good option as a closer, but he'll make what I think is the weakest part of the team much better. I expect several more bullpen moves this offseason.

Shane Wahl said...

"A home run is tangible. A "Win Above Replacement" is pure invention from the assumption that you can accurately measure "wins" for any player not a pitcher to the criteria for a "replacement".

OPS is adding together two measurements to get a number. You can add home runs and walks, both measures of something tangible, and get a number. That doesn't make it meaningful."

If all you are saying is that a counting stat is more reliable than a percentage stat if the latter is for a small number of plate appearances, that's one thing. Or, if all you are saying is that statistics don't matter as much as scouting and the seeing-eye test and whatnot, that's another thing (though I would totally disagree). . . . .

BUT, if you are trying to tell me that Cuddyer's 20 homers is a better indication of his performance than his .805 OPS in 2011 . . . the nice response is that it is bewildering that anyone could possibly believe that. The percent of the time that a player reaches base and the kind of hit that player gets is VASTLY more indicative of his worth to a team than how many homers he has!

As far as WAR goes, it's just statistical analysis--math--and there's nothing to be scared of. No one should say that it is perfect, but it is definitely MUCH more illustrative than merely looking at counting stats.

TT said...

"If all you are saying is that a counting stat is more reliable than a percentage stat"

It has nothing to do with what kind of stat it is. OPS doesn't measure anything. Neither does WAR. They are just numbers.

" The percent of the time that a player reaches base and the kind of hit that player gets is VASTLY more indicative of his worth to a team than how many homers he has! "

OPS measures neither of those. That's the point. It doesn't measure anything, its just a number. You add a person's height and weight and you get a number. You can call it "size" if you want, but it really doesn't mean anything.

If you want to argue that Jim Thome's .827 OPS compared to Michael Cuddyer's .805 OPS is "VASTLY more indicative of his (relative) worth to the team" than Cuddyer's 20 HR compared to Thome's 12, I want some of what you are smoking. Because I think its obvious that Cuddyer had far more value than Thome did last year.

Shane Wahl said...

TT, I am just going to disagree with you about OPS and WAR. OPS is a nice way to sum up (literally) two very worthwhile statistics that tell a fair amount about how a player performs. Your Thome/Cuddyer comparison is ridiculous given the disparity in plate appearances. Of course with such substantial differences in plate appearances, counting stats are going to be better indicators. Also, there are other factors beyond OPS that one needs to consider. And there is a stat that does a pretty good job tying in all of the factors! It's called Wins Above Replacement (LOL!!!!). Not that you are going to care, but Cuddyer's WAR was 3.1 and Thome's 0.8.