July 5, 2007
Beginning with his big-league debut against Oakland and ending with yesterday's rough outing against New York, Slowey definitely showed that he needs "improved offspeed stuff" to approach the type of amazing success that he experienced in the minors. Without it, he had trouble putting big-league hitters away and gave up a ton of fly balls. In fact, his ground-ball percentage would easily rank as the lowest in the entire league if Slowey had enough innings to quality for the ERA title.
A lanky right-hander with a smooth delivery and pinpoint control, Slowey has drawn comparisons to Brad Radke. However, Slowey is a unique prospect in that he works almost exclusively with his fastball, so the comparison is ultimately inaccurate until he develops a world-class changeup to go along with it. Slowey should be at least an effective mid-rotation starter, perhaps by midseason, but I'm somewhat skeptical about his becoming much more than that without improved offspeed stuff.
Fly balls turn into home runs at a relatively consistent rate and Slowey served up 13 long balls in just 37 innings. Slowey did a good job throwing strikes and that many homers is likely a fluke in the sense that it's an unsustainably high rate, but not missing any bats and giving up a bunch of fly balls is the worst possible combination for a pitcher. To Slowey's credit, his post-demotion quotes show that he understands that there's still plenty of work to be done:
The biggest thing is you realize what are good pitches here aren't necessarily the same as a good pitch in Triple-A. Your misses have to be way finer here. I feel that has been my problem and I've really got to work on, when I go down, my misses being balls as opposed to back over the plate and a little too hittable. Goodness knows I got plenty to work on.
It's amazing how much different those comments are compared to how Matt Garza reacted earlier this season when told to use more offspeed pitches at Triple-A. Despite that, Garza was called up last week and will start tonight against the White Sox. The Twins won't need a fifth starter again until July 21 and Garza could stick around in the bullpen until then if he pitches well, but I suspect that Slowey handling the demotion with class will help him get back to Minnesota more quickly than Garza did.
If Kevin McHale wasn't a complete disaster as general manager, it's amazing to think of how different Garnett's basketball legacy would be.
Having spent a similar amount of time in the semi-intimate company of both men, I can say confidently that two people couldn't be more different. Kevin Garnett is one of the most impressive humans I've ever been around. Kobe Bryant isn't.
As a strict contrarian, I wish it weren't so. But in this case, there have been no mischaracterizations. Garnett is noble, loyal, and larger-than-life. And, again, Bryant isn't.
Garnett is a throwback superstar, a Bill Russell for the modern age. When some people conjure up Russell they visualize the consummate winner, a man who led his teams to 11 NBA championships. But I link the two men by personality. By all reports, Russell shares Garnett's intelligence, grace, and intensity. And, in his defense, Garnett has never had a Cousy or a Havlicek.
Or, as I put it yesterday: "Give Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Torii Hunter, and Michael Cuddyer some help and the Twins' offense can do some damage."
This is a really pathological kind of offense, and maybe it has something to do with the inconsistency we’ve seen. While it is possible that the Big Four could improve, they’ve been pulling their weight. The key to improving the offense would seem to be replacing a couple of the awful spots in the order with some league average or so production.
Apparently the Star Tribune needs more room to run the same cookie-cutter Associated Press articles that can easily be found online or in hundreds of other newspapers. After all, with the newspaper business declining, it's not like offering unique, localized content would make sense. Wait, what? As is increasingly the case when it comes to websites stepping in to provide the content that's lacking in print, there are thankfully several good blogs that offer plenty of fantastic minor-league updates.
The changing newspaper industry calls for a new business model, one that doesn't have room for a minor league update.
If Gardenhire is really so interested in "protecting" his left-handed hitters, why did he refuse to platoon Jacque Jones for four seasons when Jones had clearly proven that he couldn't hit lefties? Instead, he chooses to consistently bench Kubel against southpaws despite the fact that Kubel has actually hit lefties better than righties during his career, including a .282/.333/.410 line against them this season. For comparison, Jones hit .227/.277/.339 against lefties during his Twins career.
Lew Ford went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts starting in Kubel's place, while Kubel delivered a pinch-hit single in the ninth inning off Mariano Rivera. Kubel has a .460 slugging percentage since May 10 and sports a higher OPS against lefties than Morneau and Mauer (not to mention Ford, Luis Castillo, Jason Bartlett, Nick Punto, Jason Tyner, and Luis Rodriguez), so it's probably safe for Gardenhire to start focusing his protection efforts on one of the team's many hitters who actually need it.
Once you're done here, check out my latest "Daily Dose" column over at Rotoworld.