April 7, 2010

Twins Notes: Reliever Picking, Strawman Arguing, and Face Stuffing

  • If there was no such thing as a "save" the Twins probably would have left Matt Guerrier in to pitch the ninth inning last night after he breezed through a 1-2-3 eighth inning on just 11 pitches, but instead they brought in new closer Jon Rauch. And guess what? Just like most quality relievers would do about 90 percent of the time in that spot, he was able to protect a two-run lead for one inning against the bottom of the lineup. So far, so good.
  • There was a last-minute change to the projected Opening Day roster, as Clay Condrey was placed on the disabled list with a strained right elbow and the Twins called up Alex Burnett to take his spot in the bullpen. Burnett thrived after moving to the bullpen in the minors last year and ranks No. 21 on my list of the Twins' top prospects, but the move was surprising because he's just 22 years old and has zero experience at Triple-A.


    By choosing Burnett the Twins again showed how little faith they have in Anthony Slama's amazing minor-league numbers being for real. He's four years older than Burnett and had a 2.67 ERA with 112 strikeouts in 81 innings between Double-A and Triple-A last season. He's not on the 40-man roster, but the Twins could have made a spot by putting Joe Nathan on the 60-day disabled list and if a minor-league reliever is getting a shot it should be Slama.
  • Last night Ron Gardenhire had his first shot to get Brendan Harris into the lineup versus a left-hander, but my hope that he'd sit Nick Punto for a clearly superior option offensively proved to be wishful thinking. Gardenhire cited their career stats against Joe Saunders and wanting the better glove behind Nick Blackburn, but they had a meaningless 15 combined at-bats off him and despite his rep Blackburn's ground-ball rate is barely above average.
  • According to USA Today the Twins have the 10th-highest Opening Day payroll this year after ranking 24th, 25th, 18th, 19th, and 20th during the previous five seasons. I'd expect them to eventually settle into the 12-18 range, but for now being a "big-payroll team" is fun. Of course, even with the Twins at a team-record $97.5 million the Yankees are out-spending them by a cool $110 million and a total of five teams have an edge of at least $40 million.
  • Last week I wrote about the Twins finally getting somewhat involved in statistical analysis and a few days later an Associated Press article about new-school stats quoted Gardenhire:

    Sabermetrics has picked us to finish like fourth or fifth three years in a row. So you figure their numbers out. Numbers are good bases to go off things and try to figure things out, but for every number you throw out there that's not supposed to work, the human element's always coming.


    Bad pitch, guy gets a hit. But he's not supposed to, still rips a pitch in the gap. Those are all great things and, over the course of time probably prove out pretty good. But I like the human element and I like the heart way better than I like their numbers. And that's what I'll always stay with.

    I'm not even entirely clear about what Gardenhire is specifically talking about there, but I do know that "sabermetrics has picked us to finish like fourth or fifth three years in a row ... so you figure their numbers out" is just false and a strawman argument. Baseball Prospectus, for instance, has projected the Twins to finish first or second in five of the past six seasons, which is more often than the Twins have actually finished first or second.

  • Just a month after signing him to a minor-league contract the Twins have released Charlton Jimerson, which is no surprise. At the time of the deal I wrote that he "would be laughably overmatched in the majors" as a even a fourth outfielder and the Twins quickly replaced him with a better fit for that potential role in 29-year-old Dodgers castoff Jason Repko, who'll join Jacque Jones in the Triple-A outfield while competing for the same potential call-up.


    Jones is obviously the sentimental pick and had an impressive spring, but as a right-handed hitter Repko might be a better fit in an outfield/designated hitter mix with lefty bats Denard Span, Jason Kubel, and Jim Thome. He hasn't played regularly in the majors since 2006, but fared decently against lefties back then and has hit .291/.355/.470 overall in 230 games at Triple-A. Plus, unlike Jones he's actually played center field regularly in recent years.
  • Much like Jimerson, the Twins also released 29-year-old left-hander Mark McLemore after inking him to a minor-league deal last month. Seth Stohs notes that in addition to Jimerson and McLemore the Twins released a bunch of other minor leaguers like Jason Jones, Rene Leveret, Jonathan Waltenbury, Jeff Lanning, and Blair Erickson. As a 2006 sixth rounder who ranked 31st on my list of Twins prospects last year Waltenbury is the biggest surprise.


    Jones was a Rule 5 pick from the Yankees last winter and the Twins gave up a decent minor league reliever in Charles Nolte to keep him in the organization after not making the team, but he never struck me as a particularly worthwhile pickup. Leveret has hit .303/.390/.442 in four pro seasons, including .286/.363/.399 at high Single-A last year, but lacks the power to be a legit first base prospect. Lanning was an eighth-round pick just two drafts ago.
  • Speaking of Seth, during the Twins-Cardinals exhibition game last week FSN coincidentally showed him eating in the bleachers. Bert Blyleven had been talking about how relaxing it was at Target Field, so when Seth popped up on camera he said: "Now that's relaxing, that gentleman stuffing his face." And since this is the internet, naturally a bunch of other people who noticed one of their favorite bloggers on screen captured the moment for posterity:


    To see Seth "stuffing his face" in person check out the latest TwinsCentric event Saturday.
  • Last week Jeremy Greenhouse of Baseball Analysts interviewed me about the Twins, but somehow it segued into Lost and LaVelle E. Neal III's je ne sais quoi.
  • 27 Comments »

    1. You hear Bremer compare Joe Saunders to Roy Halladay last night? Unlike you, I don’t mute Blyleven and Bremer because I find them amusing enough to offset some of the things they say, but this comment killed a few brain cells:

      “Being second to Roy Halladay in anything is an accomplishment. Over the last two years, only Halladay has more wins that Saunders.”

      I suppose ripping on Bremer is sort of like attacking a straw man…oh well.

      Comment by David — April 7, 2010 @ 8:16 am

    2. I don’t know what they call a false defense to a straw man argument, but Gardy didn’t cite Baseball Prospectus, and they hardly count as the only sabermetrics. He also said fourth or fifth three years in a row, and you (again) cite BP over six years.

      So your both wrong. His point though is that numbers are good bases to go off things, but they aren’t everything. I don’t understand why the numbers guys so frequently seem to think that when somebody says this (OBVIOUSLY TRUE) stuff it is some sort of hidden insult to the numbers guys.

      Perhaps he, like a lot of us, appreciates numbers but is sick of hearing about then all the time.

      Comment by Matt — April 7, 2010 @ 9:57 am

    3. Gardy didn’t cite Baseball Prospectus, and they hardly count as the only sabermetrics

      Yes, but when someone refers to “sabermetrics” as some sort of entity like Gardenhire does, it’s a bit tough to determine who specifically he’s talking about. Beyond that, there is no prominent sabermetric-based projection system that has predicted the Twins to finish fourth or fifth three years in a row. Not even close.

      He also said fourth or fifth three years in a row, and you (again) cite BP over six years.

      If they picked the Twins for first or second five times in the last six years, then they certainly couldn’t have picked them for fourth or fifth three years in a row.

      Perhaps he, like a lot of us, appreciates numbers but is sick of hearing about then all the time.

      You’re at the wrong website then, unfortunately.

      Comment by aarongleeman — April 7, 2010 @ 10:39 am

    4. I’m calling BS on Matt here.

      Gleeman backed up his point by providing an example of a sabermetric analysis that disproves what Gardy said. If you are going to say Gleeman is wrong, you can’t just say Baseball Prospetus isn’t the only saberetic source, you need to find one that backs up what Gardy says. Further, because Sabermetic analysis is based on hard data and not opinions, I expect that while you may have some variation based on the formulas used, its pretty unlikely that you are going to find one.

      The numbers guys here are insulted because Gardy is talking out of his *ss. The numbers guys are frustrated because they are tired of watching Gardy put guys with poor on base percentages in the 2nd spot in the order.

      Comment by Dan — April 7, 2010 @ 11:33 am

    5. The Gardy quote, in full:

      Numbers are good bases to go off things and try to figure things out, but for every number you throw out there that’s not supposed to work, the human element’s always coming. Bad pitch, guy gets a hit. But he’s not supposed to, still rips a pitch in the gap. Those are all great things and, over the course of time probably prove out pretty good. But I like the human element and I like the heart way better than I like their numbers. And that’s what I’ll always stay with.

      Well, then, why even look at a guy’s batting average? Or his ERA? I think everyone should just take a Colbert-esque look at a guy’s gut. I know Nicky’s batting average is .205, but in his heart he’s a .450 hitter. Put him in the lineup!

      Comment by SBG — April 7, 2010 @ 11:34 am

    6. SBG, that is funny.

      Comment by TwinsWoody — April 7, 2010 @ 12:26 pm

    7. Can we get to the heart of the matter? He keeps confusing “bases” and “basis”! Where’s this guy from, Oklahoma? I get that it’s a baseball thing, and in his world a base is something you “go off of,” or whatever, but still. A manager who doesn’t look at numbers is one thing; a manager with no grasp of grammar, well, that just not a good base to go off things.

      Comment by cterhark — April 7, 2010 @ 12:35 pm

    8. Well Pecota predicted the Twins would have a losing record in 2009 and that the Indians would win the division and have the only winning record – Rob Neyer 2009.
      2008 I see the Projection for the Twins in 4th place with a 74-88 record.
      So for the last two years Pecota has been totally wrong on the Twins.
      For 2010 Pecota has picked the Twins to win the division but with a terrible record, basically a 500 record.
      If I go to ESPN for 2008 and 2009 seasons Rob Neyer and Keith Law have predicted the Twins to finish poorly.
      I’d say that Gardy is on the money in a lot of cases in regards to projections.
      Rob Neyer, Keith Law, Baseball Prospectus are big sabermetric inclined users/sites.
      As for Anthony Slama I don’t think the Twins are down on him at all. They don’t want to add him to the 40 man roster because Clay Condrey will be back in 12 days so even if they move Joe Nathan to the 60 man DL once Condrey is back they will have to send Slama or someone else down. Burnett has good numbers and stuff and is a reasonable call up at this point. Next year Crain, Rauch, Condrey and possibly Guerrier have a good chance of not coming back. They are all free-agents and to sign them all would cost probably over 12 million. I think Slama, Burnett, Carlos C and maybe Rob Delaney will all get good looks.

      Comment by Sean — April 7, 2010 @ 12:46 pm

    9. “Can we get to the heart of the matter? He keeps confusing “bases” and “basis”! Where’s this guy from, Oklahoma? I get that it’s a baseball thing, and in his world a base is something you “go off of,” or whatever, but still. A manager who doesn’t look at numbers is one thing; a manager with no grasp of grammar, well, that just not a good base to go off things.”

      Did Gardy actually write that? Probably barking up the wrong tree here.

      Comment by ? — April 7, 2010 @ 12:57 pm

    10. I fully enjoy all the new sabermetrics tools for analysis. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t even fully understand all of them, but it doesn’t stop me from appreciating them and their role in evaluating talent.

      A question I have is this: Do they translate to team performance as well? I haven’t looked at all the data, but I’m guessing someone else has. I’m wondering whether all the improved stat tools and analysis methods have led to better game by game predictions. Theoretically, if the new tools lead to better predictions, then presumably professional gamblers should be doing better and better, no?

      Comment by CJ420 — April 7, 2010 @ 12:57 pm

    11. Does someone police these comments? I posted one a bit ago about Seth Stohs, and it was there, but now it seems to be gone. -CJ

      Comment by CJ420 — April 7, 2010 @ 12:59 pm

    12. I am hardly a Gardy apologist.

      With this latest statement Gardy is essentially saying, I don’t care how much data and factual evidence there is that pocket jacks will win 55% of the time, my gut says AK suited is going to win this time so I am going to go with it.

      Here is the rub:

      Even with all the warts, LNP, DY, OC in the 2 hole etc… the $250,000 Gardy question boils down to this.

      Would starting Harris over Punto netted a better result in last nights game? No – the Twins came away with the best possible result, a win.

      Could another manager have done significantly better with the talent provided Gardy last season? Would replacing the manager have netted a first round win over the Yankees? A trip to the World Series? I say no. In fact I would argue that Gardy’s “WAR” would more likely be a positive number than a negative number – given the fact that any replacement would have been a “replacement quality” manager. This isn’t fantasy land where we can just go out and hire Joe McCarthy or Charlie Comiskey and plug them in.

      I’m not ready to say he/we should ignore the stats – they are valuable. But let’s not forget something that also should be factored into the equation.

      Gardy knows more about baseball and the personalities/quirks of his team than most anyone else second and first guessing his decisions. I believe in the stats – but I also believe in hot streaks, cold streaks and anomalies in the numbers that perhaps managers can identify and fans cannot.

      Is that enough to give him a pass on everything? Emphatically no. However, if the Twins continue to be relevant and successful – It is reason enough to at least not kill the guy any time he deviates from the statistical favorite.

      Comment by Karl — April 7, 2010 @ 1:01 pm

    13. CJ420:
      Aaron himself “polices” this site.

      I didn’t see your comment, but above his old comment section it used to read, “Comments deleted on a whim. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t say it here…”

      Comment by theOW — April 7, 2010 @ 1:06 pm

    14. Ahhh – fair enough. Of course, I HAVE said it to his (Stoh’s) face, or at least his blog, anyway. I took his survey a while back and said everything I said here. It was nothing egregious, nothing profane, just an opinion on the “quality” of the Stohs blog, prompted by the AG’s line in the post about Stohs being “a favorite blogger.” Perhaps AG deleted it because it was a bit off topic, which is fair enough.

      Comment by CJ420 — April 7, 2010 @ 1:10 pm

    15. I wish there were an option on Twins telecasts to mute the announcers but keep all of the other sound. You know, like you can do on baseball videogames. Gardy sounds like a genius after listening to Bremer blather on about Snuggies for 15 minutes.

      Comment by Nico — April 7, 2010 @ 1:13 pm

    16. I live in Colorado, so I don’t get to see the Twins all that much on TV. I’ve resorted to MLB.TV, which isn’t bad. Does anyone else use it? How is the quality? Mine is ok, but I have to downgrade from the “HD” version, otherwise it buffers and jumps around all the time. Thanks.

      Comment by CJ420 — April 7, 2010 @ 1:14 pm

    17. I wonder if they’re keeping Slama in the minors in order to protect the AAA starters confidence or whatever that line of reasoning was. “Can’t have these guys’ leads blown because that will hurt their confidence. We need a closer who can protect them.” I remember them saying that about Nathan when they inked him a few years ago. Maybe Slama is the AAA Nathan in this vein.

      Comment by Nico — April 7, 2010 @ 1:15 pm

    18. Anyone suprised to see the the AL central to have 3 of the top 10 payrolls? The AL central is the only division to have 3 in the top ten.

      Comment by SoCal Al — April 7, 2010 @ 2:04 pm

    19. cterhark: If we’re debating diction and grammar, “bases” is the plural of “basis,” which the sentence in question clearly demands (saying “numbers are good bases” rather than “numbers are a good basis”). So whether it was Gardy or, as another commenter suggested, the writer who transcribed the comment, someone did use the correct form of the word.

      I’m not, however, defending the logic of the argument. Grammar = good. Point = ?

      Comment by hrunting — April 7, 2010 @ 2:30 pm

    20. I would like to know exactly what kind of anomalies Gardy was relying upon when he was batting Punto and Tolbert second last year. I will obviously never be as smart as Gardy because I have no idea how that makes sense.

      I think you have to distinguish between true sabermetrics guys and guys who are just interested in stats. Gardy, with his love for putting his worst hitters high in the batting order, seems to be not interested in either, but it actually does make a difference.

      I still do think Gardy is a good manager – I am by no means calling for his removal. There is obviously more to the job than filling out the lineup card. I just think the team could get a little better if he didn’t do things that weren’t so statistically unhelpful.

      Comment by Dan — April 7, 2010 @ 2:34 pm

    21. You know how you could make sabermetrics more appealing to us unwashed masses? When you say Nick Blackburn’s ground ball rate is barely above average, tell us what the average effin ground ball rate is. Otherwise his 40-whatever percentages that Fan Graphs says he has mean nothing.

      And forget the stupid saves already. Guerrier looked great last night, but why let him throw two innings and up to 30 pitches? Keep him to one inning and he’s available tonight if needed…

      Comment by Neil — April 7, 2010 @ 5:41 pm

    22. Alex Burnett was called up because he’s from Anaheim and it was his mothers birthday one of the days during this series.

      Pretty sure I read that somewhere.

      Comment by nchillsdale — April 7, 2010 @ 5:51 pm

    23. It’s true that Burnett is from Anaheim and it’s his Mom’s bday, but neither that nor protecting AAA pitchers is the reason for promoting Burnett over Slama. As Aaron said, he was called up is entirely due to the 40 man roster. Yes, they could have moved Nathan and added Slama, but that would use up the only open place, and if they needed to add someone like Jacque because of an injury, or pick up a closer in a trade (that doesn’t involve anyone on the Twins 40 man roster), then they’d have to expose someone on the 40 man roster to waivers. That’s not the end of the world, but this is supposed to be a short-term promotion until Condrey comes back. If Condrey comes back soon, then for the 3 or so innings that Burnett will would have pitched, Slama isn’t enough (if any) of a quality upgrade over Burnett to be worth potentially exposing someone to waivers later.

      Comment by JimV — April 7, 2010 @ 6:31 pm

    24. hmm..

      So Gardy doesn’t like numbrs that make sense. But he uses numbers like batting average in 3 plate appearances to justify not starting Harris against the lefty.

      What’s even crazier, is that Harris is starting tonight against piniero, while Punto will probably start against Danks tomorrow.

      I see myself as a Gardy apologist, because I think the good outweighs the bad, but sometimes the bad is just dumbfounding.

      Comment by Steven Ellingson — April 8, 2010 @ 9:00 pm

    25. hrunting: Good point. I guess I just assumed Gardy said “base-ez” rather than the correct “base-eez.” Perhaps I’m wrong. Either way, it hardly excuses the torrent of nonsense that followed the word. I didn’t even mention “For every number you throw out there that’s not supposed to work, the human element’s always coming.” What the hell does that even mean? Is he having a stroke?

      Comment by cterhark — April 8, 2010 @ 10:33 pm

    26. I’m not even entirely clear about what Gardenhire is specifically talking about there, but I do know that “sabermetrics has picked us to finish like fourth or fifth three years in a row … so you figure their numbers out” is just false and a strawman argument. Baseball Prospectus, for instance, has projected the Twins to finish first or second in five of the past six seasons, which is more often than the Twins have actually finished first or second.

      That was the funniest, and geekiest beatdown I’ve ever seen of Gardenhire.

      Comment by brian — April 10, 2010 @ 5:16 pm

    27. It’s too bad people stayed in Gardy’s court to argue about PECOTA season predictions, the shakiest predictions ever, admittedly so.

      There’s a better conversation about more real metrics that he is dodging.

      Comment by brian — April 10, 2010 @ 5:25 pm

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