August 26, 2010

Twins go in search of left-handed specialist, settle for Randy Flores

In their search for a left-handed reliever to fill the bullpen void created by injuries to both Jose Mijares and Ron Mahay the Twins claimed Randy Flores off waivers from the Rockies. At first glance Flores may appear to be a perfect fit because he's a 34-year-old veteran who posted a nice-looking 2.96 ERA in 27 innings for the Rockies, but the problem is that he simply isn't very good or even especially effective at getting out left-handed hitters.

Flores has a 4.53 ERA and 4.42 xFIP in 336 career relief outings, walking 3.8 batters per nine innings while allowing opponents to hit .285/.359/.442. Righties have clobbered Flores to the tune of .306/.383/.467 and lefties have hit .266/.337/.428 off him. To put that in context, the MLB average for a left-handed hitter is .260/.334/.409 and that includes facing both lefties and righties. In other words, for his career lefties are better against Flores than they are overall.

Actually improving the performance of left-handed hitters isn't exactly what teams are looking for in a supposed "left-handed specialist" and he's been particularly ineffective versus lefties in recent years. Including this season's 27 innings for the Rockies he's thrown 120 total innings since 2007 and during that time left-handed hitters have produced a .290 batting average and .470 slugging percentage off Flores. This year lefties are slugging .460 off him.

Devoting a roster spot to a left-handed specialist who faces one or two batters per game and tailoring your late-inning decisions to get him into matchups with left-handed batters can make sense when that pitcher is dominant in the role, but Flores isn't even effective enough versus left-handed hitters to be a clearly superior option against them than the various right-handers in the Twins' bullpen.

In the grand scheme of things a left-handed specialist is unlikely to have a very big impact and because the workload for the role is so limited Flores almost surely won't throw more than 10 innings down the stretch, so anything can happen. However, because Ron Gardenhire clearly felt the need to have "a lefty" in the bullpen the Twins focused on handedness over ability and in doing so added someone who's an iffy fit for the role and simply not a very good pitcher.

24 Comments »

  1. How does he compare to Perkins?

    Comment by Derek — August 25, 2010 @ 11:53 pm

  2. From Nick’s Twins Blog, linked to from AG:

    Those patterns have also been reflected during Perkins’ major-league time, during which he has allowed a .327 average and .857 OPS against lefties, versus a .283 average and .786 OPS against righties. In 286 big-league innings, Perkins has posted a solid 107-to-46 strikeout-to-walk ratio against right-handers, while the ratio against lefties is an ugly 40-to-30.

    Comment by brian — August 26, 2010 @ 12:40 am

  3. Flores will have an ERA of under 3.00 at the Twins..believe me!!!

    Comment by chris — August 26, 2010 @ 6:26 am

  4. Ron Mahay was released, had unimpressive numbers; yet was effective for the Twins. Perhaps Flores will also.

    Comment by Ned — August 26, 2010 @ 6:34 am

  5. I like the concept, not the execution. I was hoping the Twins would claim Brian Fuentes and use him as a lefty specialist. His 2011 option isn’t going to vest, so you would basically be paying around $1 million for the rest of the season, and I’m guessing the Angels would let you have him for nothing. He’s dominant against lefties, but his proven closer label would likely confuse Gardy.

    Comment by Dustin — August 26, 2010 @ 6:55 am

  6. If I were to pick one word that does not describe Gardy, it would be “creative.” There’s also “innovative,” “imaginative,” and “trend-setting.” So take your pick.

    Comment by Tom — August 26, 2010 @ 8:16 am

  7. Exactly Dustin – Fuentes is a closer not a loogy. Flores is a loogy. Gardy knows his labels. Don’t fill his head with actual numbers.

    Comment by UGH — August 26, 2010 @ 8:30 am

  8. I’m sure this will help them field better, hit good pitching, and improve their starting pitching, I’m just not sure how yet…..and, you are all right. Gardy would be confused by adding another “closer”. Not a fan of this move, but what do I know. I also don’t see the need for Butera to hit against a righty (while Thome sits), and to have two utility infielders on the roster (and to play and injured Hardy, who can barely hit when healthy).

    Comment by mike wants wins — August 26, 2010 @ 9:15 am

  9. To me this smacks of poor coaching.

    To be a good coach, you sometimes have to prepare players to step into roles they are unnacustomed to due to an injury of another player.

    In high school baseball would the varsity coach who loses his lefty reliever prepare a good righty to take those innings or reach down into the JV team for an inferior lefty just because “he needs a lefty” on the roster?

    Trust me, as a high school sports coach – this is coaching 101. Put your best players on the field regardless of physical makeup.

    Lastly – in basketball, if your team had Chris Bosh, Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki – would you acquire and then play Kwame Brown just because you didn’t have a center on the roster?

    Or would you just simply figure out how to make the best of a situation created by a short numbers at one position?

    Comment by Karl — August 26, 2010 @ 9:24 am

  10. Look, as fans we have to deal with a lot of stupid things Gardy does. If you start by accepting Gardy’s rule that we have to have a lefty in the bullpen, the move makes sense because the only other option at the point is Perkins, who can’t get anyone out.

    Comment by Pedro Munoz — August 26, 2010 @ 11:03 am

  11. There were other options on the waiver wire, we just chose not to claim them.

    Comment by Dustin — August 26, 2010 @ 11:31 am

  12. Ok, just a point to make here – if the only thing I ever read was this website and comemnts, I’d think the Twins were 20 games below .500 each year. Gardy isn’t Casey Stengel, but he’s a very solid manager. Ask Royals or Pirates fans from the last 20 years about bad managers. We’re in first place, not last….

    Comment by TR — August 26, 2010 @ 12:02 pm

  13. Never understand why Gardy is so adamant about left-right matchups and other strategy issues even when statistics suggest exactly the opposite. Here is a perfect example — rather than add a quality pitcher the Twins add someone who fits Gardy’s silly strategy even though his statistics suggest he is not a good addition.

    Comment by Donn — August 26, 2010 @ 12:15 pm

  14. TR: there is a difference between disagreeing with specific decisions, and how you feel about the whole body of work. Gardy and Smith and others deserve credit for the team winning, but that does not make them exempt from questions about specific decisions. I’ve never understood why people come to sites that analyze decisions, then complain about the site reaching one conclusion or another. That’s what Aaron does, and his readers. They discuss the merits of various decisions.

    Comment by mike wants wins — August 26, 2010 @ 12:41 pm

  15. What puzzles me is, if the guy comes to replace Perkins because Perkins is no good against lefties, why they snt down Slama and not Perkins? To me, at this point the really useless one is Perkins.

    Comment by adjacent — August 26, 2010 @ 12:51 pm

  16. that is the best Bill Smith could do, grant it, the waiver wire is not exactly stocked with all-star quality relievers every year, but seriously? Why not leave Slama up here or bring up Kane Holbrooks (throws lasers) or Bully Bullock or Waldrop or Delaney…my neighbor’s kid is a lefty for his high school team, why not try him? What, did he strike out Mauer earlier this year, so he must be good? My head hurts…

    Comment by matt — August 26, 2010 @ 1:12 pm

  17. Great question adjacent, great question.

    Comment by mike wants wins — August 26, 2010 @ 1:16 pm

  18. Are everyone’s comments centered on the page or just mine? I feel like I should write a haiku…

    Gardy loves loogies
    Bill Smith caters to Gardy
    Eww, Randy Flores

    Comment by thegeneral13 — August 26, 2010 @ 3:31 pm

  19. Only on your screen

    Comment by Jeremy — August 26, 2010 @ 5:02 pm

  20. Bill Smith literally looked at his ERA didn’t he?

    Comment by Gendo — August 26, 2010 @ 10:43 pm

  21. Well, given that rob antony doesn’t even know what FIP or BABIP are, I’m guessing you are correct Gendo.

    Comment by mike wants wins — August 27, 2010 @ 8:32 am

  22. Looking at just 2010:
    BAA is .224 overall, .220 against lefties.
    ERA in Colorado 4.91 – Road ERA 1.65

    Maybe he’s discovered a new pitch? The career numbers are not inspiring, but maybe he’s found something this year. Give him a chance.

    Comment by Bob Ritchie — August 27, 2010 @ 9:47 am

  23. I agree 110% with Mike wants wins about the playing Butera against right handers and sitting Thome. By his own comments Gardy says he probably won’t use that strategy in the post season(god willing we get there), so why use it during the season?? Sitting Thome like this only makes his bat ‘grow’ rust, and why in the heck does Pavano supposedly not like throwing to Mauer?? Look at Tuesday’s game. With the career #’s Thome had against Texas’ SP, he sits? Sure coulda used a knock/homer from Thome to win that game…

    Comment by Noely67 — August 27, 2010 @ 10:52 am

  24. It’s harder for a 1st place team to pick up talent on the waiver wire. Not every year is like last year with regard to waiver wire free agents

    Comment by Twins Fan in Milwaukee — August 27, 2010 @ 11:16 am

Leave a comment