November 9, 2002

Guess who

Year    AB    AVG    OBP    SLG   HR

1996 201 .259 .320 .343 1
1997 419 .239 .301 .322 1
1998 463 .281 .302 .374 4
1999 527 .254 .309 .378 7
2000 543 .276 .338 .414 6
2001 563 .266 .319 .362 7
2002 338 .246 .300 .379 4

What would you think about the player that created those numbers?

7 total seasons.

A high in batting average of .281.

A high in on-base % of .338.

A high in slugging % of .414.

6 out of the 7 years with an OBP of .320 or less.

6 out of the 7 years with a SLG less than .380.

Again, what would you think about that player?

Ever since my two-part article on the Minnesota Twins was published on last month, I have gotten a ton of feedback from people regarding the various Twins related issues that I touched on in the article.

Far and away, the issue that I receive the most feedback on is Luis Rivas and what I wrote about him in the article.

For those of you that missed it or have forgotten, here is exactly what I said about Rivas:

During most of this season and particularly this post-season, I, and I suspect many other Twins fans, generally referred to the Twins’ starting second baseman as "[Firetrucking] Rivas."

For most of the 2001 season, Rivas’ first full year, I had high hopes for his future.

He was 22 years old, looked athletic, showed some speed, occasional power and generally appeared to have a somewhat bright future. Then he suffered a broken hand after being hit by a pitch during the first week of this season and missed significant time. Somewhere between the time he returned to the lineup and the start of the post-season, I lost all hope for Luis Rivas becoming a quality Major League second baseman.

You see, Rivas is that so-called enigma wrapped in a riddle and after seeing him this season, I am certain that I do not want to spend the time and waste the at-bats trying to solve the riddle.

He is young and athletic, but he is a horrible defensive second baseman. He has trouble on any ball that is hit to his right and he isn’t much better going to his left. In fact, his range is so bad that, among everyday second basemen last season, he ranked 19th out of 20 overall and dead last in the American League in Zone Rating, with a pathetic .781. For reference, Adam Kennedy led MLB 2B last year with a .888 ZR.

This season, Rivas missed too much time to place him among everyday second basemen, but if you take his Zone Rating (.803) over the 93 games he did play and compare them to the actual everyday second basemen, he ranks 15th out of 19 total and, once again, dead last in the American League.

So, he is 23 years old and has played in two full major league seasons in which he showed, at least according to Zone Rating, the worst range of any second baseman in the American League. I don’t have any scientific studies to back this up, but I am going to take a wild guess and say that most second basemen that stink defensively at 22 and 23 don’t start improving as they get older and their speed and athleticism decrease.

So, Rivas stinks on defense, but what about his offense? I’m sorry you asked.

Rivas showed some promise offensively last season. While he didn’t hit for a very good average or much power, he did have a somewhat decent walk rate for a 22 year old rookie and he did pretty good job stealing bases.

This season, Rivas continued to hit for a low average, but he did improve his power slightly. But that slight improvement in power was more than offset by his regression in plate discipline and his lack of stolen bases.

Basically, Luis Rivas has one thing going for him, his age. On the other side of the ledger, you have his wretched defense, a low batting average, regressing plate discipline, tons of strikeouts to go along with very little power, and vanishing stolen base abilities.

Rivas might be young and he might have some talent, but personally, I have seen enough. If this team were in a complete "rebuilding" mode I might be willing to stick with Rivas and see if his defense or plate discipline could be improved or if his power would develop further, but the Twins are contenders right now and they can’t afford a black hole at 2B.

The biggest area of concern and the spot that the Twins need to upgrade the most is without a doubt second base, but the problem is, they have essentially nothing as far as second base prospects go. That being the case, the Twins main concern for this off-season should be locating and acquiring a new starting second baseman. Doing so would not only be an upgrade over their current "situation," but would also allow them to trade Luis Rivas for whatever they could get for him, which I suspect would be something of at least decent value.

The Twins need to do something to solve their problem at second base.

Since I wrote that I have received a constant supply of emails.

A few of them agree with me, but the vast majority of them basically think I am nuts.

There are a couple of main themes that the "arguments for Rivas" center around:

1) His youth and potential.

2) His defense is far better than any numbers will tell you.

I will try to deal with these two issues the best I possibly can.

1) His youth and potential.

Scroll back up to the top of this entry and take another look at those year-by-year stat lines that I showed.

Those are the stats for Luis Rivas' entire career.

Luis Rivas has not shown any ability to be a good hittter, whether he was at Single-A or the Major Leagues.

He has had 1 season out of 7 with an OBP above .320.

He has had 1 season out 7 with a SLG above .380.

At what point does he actually have to start to hit a little bit to start showing this "potential" that everyone talks about?

I am not asking him to hit like Jeff Kent or Alfonso Soriano every year, but how about a few seasons with an OBP of .350? Or a batting average over .300? Or a slugging % over .400?

Give me something, anything on which to base this "potential" on and I with Luis Rivas 100%.

But, there just isn't anything.

He has never hit for a high batting average.

He has never taken a lot of walks or gotten on base at a high clip.

He has never hit for power, home runs or otherwise.

Luis Rivas is still young and, as I said in the original article, that is pretty much his only asset right now.

But youth only helps if you have shown some sort of actual progress or a glimpse or two of something special to come.

And Luis Rivas has shown neither.

His power has not improved in 7 seasons in the Twins organization.

His plate discipline has not improved in 7 seasons in the Twins organization.

2) His defense is far better than any statistics will tell you.

I have a little saying:

If you can't hit, you better field.

If you can't field, you better hit.

And if you can't do either, you better get the hell off my team.

I believe that Luis Rivas' minor league and Major League history shows that he simply is not a good hitter.

He looks to be a .260-.270 hitter with a .300-.330 OBP and a slugging % under .400.

And, quite frankly, that is nothing special.

So, if you go by my catchy saying, he better field.

That's the problem with Rivas, he doesn't.

Luis Rivas has been at the bottom of Major League second basemen in fielding statistics for the last 2 seasons.

Defensive stats have flaws, that is for sure, but they do provide a basis by which to go by.

And a guy that is at the bottom in Zone Rating 2 seasons in a row is not real likely to be a good defender.

That said, I would never "rip" a guy's defense as much as I did Rivas' unless I had seen him play defense with my very own eyes.

And, believe it or not, I have seen the Minnesota Twins play about 250 times over the last 2 seasons and Luis Rivas has been their second baseman in about 200 of those games.

If he has some skills that go beyond what statistical evidence shows, I just do not see it.

He is extremely weak going up the middle (to his right) and he is mediocre (at best) going to his left.

He does a decent job turning a double play.

One common theme of the "Pro Rivas" comments in regard to his defense is "Scouting Reports."

Many people claim that the "Scouting Reports" on Rivas' defense say he is exceptional.

I find this laughable.

Not so much that the reports say that, but that the people who claim they do have access to such reports.

When is the last time you had access to a Major League baseball team's Scouting Report?


By "Scouting Report" I assume most people are talking about what the media (Peter Gammons, Harold Reynolds, LaVelle Neal, Dick Bremer, Bert Blyleven) tell them.

I would be absolutely shocked and amazed if Gammons and Reynolds watched 2 dozen games (or the majority of a game) in which Luis Rivas played second base.

They are watching the "Web Gems" just like you.

You can choose to believe what you hear on Baseball Tonight or what you hear during a Twins telecast, but I choose to believe what I see with my own eyes and what the statistical evidence supports.

Which is that Luis Rivas is a bad defensive second baseman.

In closing...

Luis Rivas has not shown anything in his entire 7 year career with the Minnesota Twins that would jump out at you and say he has this "potential" that everyone talks about.

You may read these "Scouting Reports" or hear Harold Reynolds talk about him during Twins highlights, but, at some point, actions and performance have to start speaking, if not louder than words, at least loud enough to be heard.

Batting averages of .259, .239, .281, .254, .276, .266 and .246 aren't speaking very loudly.

On-base percentages of .320, .301, .302, .309, .338, .319 and .300 are pretty much silent.

And slugging percentages of .343, .322, .374, .378, .414, .362 and .379 are...well, you get the point.

His offense and defense have both been very bad at the Major League level during his 2+ seasons with the Twins.

And there is nothing in his 5 year minor league history that would suggest he has the potential to be a MUCH better hitter than he has been, which is what he would need to be to be of value.

The only thing Luis Rivas has going for him right now is his age, but there are plenty of middle infielders that are younger than him and some of them even have minor league track records that show they can actually hit a little bit.

Waiting around for years and wasting thousands of at bats on a pennant contending club while hoping a young second baseman starts hitting better than he has ever shown the ability to hit and starts fielding better than he has ever shown the ability to field is just not a good idea.

I think fans and particularly Twins fans, have a tendency to want to just stick with what they already have.

It might be fear of the unknown or it might be something else, I have no idea.

For a team like the Twins, sticking with what you have, when what you have is simply not very good, is a bad idea.

They are ready to compete right now, not in 2007 when Luis Rivas is 27 years old and maybe finally hitting .280/.340/.400.

"Potential" is only worth waiting for when there is some kind of sign that it is likely to actually arrive at some point and be worthwhile.

I don't see that sign in anything Luis Rivas has done since 1996.

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