Friday, July 30, 2010

Trade deadline - How do the Twins position players stack up for the postseason?

The last two days, I have detailed how the Twins starters stack up and how the Twins relievers stack up for the postseason. I am checking these numbers to see if the Twins should make moves before Saturday's trade deadline. Yesterday, the Twins traded for Matt Capps to shore up their bullpen and closer position. I expounded upon how Capps improves the bullpen in the reliever post as well. I'd still like to still see the team trade for a decent starter, say Brett Myers.

Today, I will focus on the position players. Once again I will only focus on those teams that have a chance at the post-season. The Twins, Yankees, Rays, Red sox, White Sox, Tigers, Rangers, and Angels.

#1 New York Yankees:
The Yankees are hitting .273/.356/.443. They have stolen 59 bases and been caught 19 times. They have only grounded into 68 double plays. They strikeout 18.9% of plate appearances and have a 37.4% fly ball rate. They have scored a league leading 556 runs. Their overall defense has a .8 UZR/150 and has saved about 5.8 runs.

#2 Tampa Bay Rays:
The Rays are hitting .255/.339/.406. They have stolen 129 bases and been caught 32 times. They have only grounded into 60 double plays. They strikeout a whopping 23.1 K%. They have a 38.6% fly-ball rate. They have scored 516 runs. Their overall defense has been outstanding. They have an 8.5 UZR/150, which has saved about 32.9 runs. 

#3 Boston Red Sox:
The Red Sox are hitting .271/.345/.460, which leads the AL in OPS. They have only stolen 33 bases and been caught 11 times. They have grounded into 86 double plays. They strikeout 20.7% and have a 42.1% fly-ball rate. They have scored 532 runs. Their overall defense has a 2.6 UZR/150, saving about 12.1 runs.

#4 Texas Rangers:
The Rangers are hitting .278/.343/.426. They have stolen 81 bases and been caught 35 times. They have grounded in 77 double plays. They strikeout 18.5% and have a very high 45.1% fly-ball rate. They have scored 514 runs. They have a 5.4 UZR/150, which has saved about 22.1 runs.

#5 Minnesota Twins:
The Twins are hitting .283/.353/.434. They have stolen 41 bases and been caught 17 times. They have grounded into a whopping 114 double plays. This is probably due to their high OBP, low strikeout rate of 16.9% and their low 34.9% fly-ball rate. They have scored 505 runs. They have a 5.1 UZR/150, which has saved about 22.7 runs. 

#6 Chicago White Sox:
The White Sox are hitting .261/.328/.421. They have stolen 96 bases but have been caught 47 times. They have grounded into 93 double plays. They strikeout only 15.5% and have a 38.1%  fly-ball rate. They have scored 467 runs. They have a -4.4 UZR/150, which has costed the team about -16.4 runs.

#7 Detroit Tigers:
The Tigers are hitting .270/.339/.414. They have stolen 42 bases and been caught 17 times. They have grounded into 86 double plays. They strikeout 20% and have a 37.2% fly-ball rate. They have scored 443 runs. They have a 1.1 UZR/150, which has saved the team about 6.8 runs.

#8 California Angels:
The Angels are hitting .255/.318/.401. They have stolen 67 bases and been caught 36 times. They have grounded into 79 double plays. They strikeout 19.5% and have a 36.7% fly-ball rate. They have scored 467 runs. They have a -6.4 UZR/150, which has costed the team about -27.5 runs.

So, what does this all mean? Well, when combined with the starters and relievers numbers, I don't see the Tigers or the Angels having a shot at the playoffs. I have been hearing the Angels may indeed become sellers by tomorrow. What does this mean for the Twins? Their day-to-day lineup has only been ok this year after a lot was expected of them. They have dealt with injuries to Hardy and Hudson as well as their best starter, Justin Morneau. Other teams have dealt with injuries as well, but have been able to score runs. What would I suggest the Twins do for their offense at the deadline? Probably nothing. The offense has been clicking lately. A right handed bench bat like Ty Wiggington could help the Twins but, his .768 OPS is actually below the team average and couple that with his bad defense, he really is not much help.

Instead of a trade, I'd make minor changes. All the changes with the assumption, the Justin Morneau comes back to the team soon.

1). I'd play Danny Valencia every day. His bat is far superior to Nick Punto and his defense, while not as strong, has been very good so far. With superior defenders at SS, 2b, and 1b, having slightly less defense at 3rd is not a problem. Note: Punto is probably due to go to the DL today.

2). Play Jason Repko more. He has proved that he can hit a little the last few days. Using Repko as a defender will save runs in the outfield for the fly-ball pitchers. Repko should start in RF/CF vs. lefties. He can start occasionally in CF vs. a lefty to give left-handed hitter Span a breather. Span does a little bit better vs. right-handed pitchers. If Repko is not starting in CF vs. lefties, he should start in RF. With Repko in right, Cuddyer can shift to DH and the Twins can keep Thome and Kubel on the bench, for late game pinch hitting. Repko's speed could also help the Twins on the base paths. He has stolen 24 bases in a full season at AAA. The 2010 Twins have not run like Twins teams in the past.

3). Sit Michael Cuddyer often vs right-handed pitchers. Keeping Cuddyer's .713 OPS on the bench, in favor of Kubel (.814) and Thome, (1.036) will improve the lineup and will give the Twins a late inning right-handed bat. A bat that they sorely have needed vs tough lefties. I know this is a move the staff will not make, but it could improve the runs scored.

Delmon Young has already been moved up in the lineup as I asked for previously. Making the three moves above will help the team score more runs and prevent more runs from being scored. Having Morneau and Hudson returning to full health will help the team as well.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Trade deadline - How do the Twins relievers stack up for the postseason?

Breaking News: Matt Capps and 500,000 dollars has been traded to the Twins for Wilson Ramos and Joe Testa. Capps is 3-3 with a 2.74 ERA with 26 saves and 4 blown saves for the Washington Nationals. He has struck out 7.43/9 and walked 1.76/9. His FIP is 3.46 and his xFIP is 3.53. Capps is making 3.5 million and has one more year of team controlled arbitration remaining. Currently, Capps profiles as a Type B. If he is a Type B free agent at the end of 2011 and the Twins offer arbitration, they would receive as compensation a 1st round pick, if he leaves as a free agent. He is an upgrade over Jon Rauch and would make the bullpen stronger overall. I have no problem with the Twins making a trade for him. Having said this, Ramos was the Twins #1 trade chip. Trading a modestly better closer for Ramos isn't the wisest use of that chip.

Yesterday, I posted how the Twins starters stack up for the post-season. Today, I will focus on the relief pitching and if it needs tweaking before the trade deadline Saturday. Yesterday, I focused on 8 teams I feel have a shot for the playoffs. The Twins, Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, White Sox, Tigers, Rangers, and Angels. I will focus on over-all bullpen and closers. Notes on how the trade for Matt Capps affects the Twins as well.

Who has the best over-all bullpen?
#1 The Chicago White Sox:
The White Sox relievers have a 3.57 ERA, 3.54 FIP and 3.73 xFIP in 265 innings. They strike out 9.10/9 and walk 3.74/9. They have a nice 1.39 ground-ball to fly-ball ratio and a 8.9 HR to fly-ball ratio.

#2 The Tampa Bay Rays:
The Rays relievers have a 3.23 ERA, 3.48 FIP and 3.89 xFIP in 267.1 innings . They strike out 8.11/9 and walk 2.93/9. They have a decent 1.08 ground-ball to fly-ball ratio and a 7.7 HR to fly-ball ratio.

#3 The Twins:
The Twins relievers have a 3.12 ERA, 3.82 FIP and 4.42 xFIP in 282.1 innings. They strike out only 6.34/9 but walk only 2.61/9. The .98 ground-ball to fly-ball ratio is low, they have a 6.9 HR to fly-ball ratio. The loss of Brian Duensing, to the rotation, shouldn't hurt much, his FIP/xFIP are closer to the bull-pen's average numbers than the sparkling ERA. The depth will suffer a little, however. With the addition of Matt Capps, I moved the Twins pen in front of the Rangers.

#4 The Texas Rangers:
The Rangers relievers have a 3.27 ERA, 3.98 FIP and 4.21 xFIP in 310.2 innings. They strike out 7.68/9 and walk 3.65/9. They have a decent 1.12 ground-ball to fly-ball ratio and a 8.8 HR to fly-ball ratio. The higher number of innings could lead to breakdown of relievers.

#5 The New York Yankees:
The Yankees relievers have a 3.99 ERA, 4.04 FIP and 4.20 xFIP in 268.1 innings. They strike out 7.55/9 and walk 3.42/9. They have a decent 1.19 ground-ball to fly-ball ratio and a 9.4 HR to fly-ball ratio. If the Yankees follow through with dropping Joba Chamberlain from his 8th inning role, over-rating his 5.86 ERA over his 3.02 FIP & 3.48 xFIP, the overall bullpen will suffer.

#6 The California Angels:
The Angels relievers have a 4.64 ERA, 4.31 FIP and 4.52 xFIP in 275.2 innings. They strike out 8.13/9 and walk a very high 4.93/9. They have a really good 1.30 ground-ball to fly-ball ratio and a 8.9 HR to fly-ball ratio.

#7 The Detroit Tigers:
The Tigers relievers have a 3.51 ERA, 4.01 FIP and 4.63 xFIP in 302.2 innings. They strike out 6.3/9 and walk 3.75/9. They have a good 1.26 ground-ball to fly-ball ratio and a good 6.2 HR to fly-ball ratio. Losing  Joel Zumaya's 2.58 ERA, 2.54FIP and xFIP 4.02 in 38.1 innings hurts the bullpen a lot.

#8 The Boston Red Sox:
The Red Sox relievers have a 4.42 ERA, 4.78 FIP and 4.66 xFIP in 287.1 innings. They strike out 7.11/9 and walk 3.82/9. They have a low .88 ground-ball to fly-ball ratio and a high 11.2 HR to fly-ball ratio. The Red sox bullpen numbers are bad all the way around, but they include the released Scott Schoeneweis and his 13.2 innings of 7.90 ERA, 5.31 FIP and 4.90 xFIP.

Who has the best closer?
#1 Mariano Rivera - New York Yankees. Mariano is 3-1 with a .96 ERA with 21 saves and 2 blown saves. He strikes out 8.36 batters per 9 innings and walks 1.43 per 9. His 2.24 FIP and 3.09 xFIP is not as good as his ERA, but he's having a great year. Mariano deserves to be #1 on this list no matter what he has done in 2010. He is the greatest playoff closer of all-time and there is no one I'd rather have closing an important game.

#2 Jose Valverde - Detroit Tigers. Valverde is 1-2 with a 1.81 ERA with 21 saves and 1 blown save. He strikes out 9.27/9 and walks 3.63/9. His FIP 3.27 and 3.28 xFIP is much higher than his ERA, probably due to his .200 BABIP.

#3 Bobby Jenks - Chicago White Sox. Jenks is 1-3 with a 4.82 ERA with 21 saves and 2 blown saves. He strikes out 11.33/9 and walks 3.86/9. His FIP is 2.58 and xFIP is 2.61 suggesting he's had a much better year than it looks. A .401 BABIP has really killed his ERA. Having said all of that, as a Twins fan, he still doesn't scare me that much.

#4 Neftali Feliz - Texas Rangers. Feliz  is 2-2 with a 3.65 ERA with 28 saves and 2 blown saves. He strikes out 9.74/9 and walks 2.64/9. His 3.27 FIP and 3.64 xFIP are pretty close to his ERA.

#5 Matt Capps - Minnesota Twins. Capps is 3-3 with a 2.74 ERA with 26 saves and 4 blown saves for the Washington Nationals. He has struck out 7.43/9 and walked 1.76/9. His FIP is 3.46 and his xFIP is 3.53. 

#6 Rafael Soriano - Tampa Bay Rays. Soriano is 2-0 with a 1.82 ERA with 28 saves and 2 blown saves. He strikes out 7.71/9 and walks 2.04/9. His FIP is 2.81 and xFIP is 4.15. His strikeout rate is 4.5 and inning less than in 2009 with Atlanta and a .236 BABIP suggest he's been a little lucky as well.

#7 Jon Rauch - Minnesota Twins. Rauch is 2-1 with a 3.05 ERA with 21 saves and 4 blown saves. He strikes out only 6.34/9 and walks 2.11/9. His FIP 3.43 and xFIP 4.47.

#8 Brian Fuentes - California Angels. Fuentes is 3-1 with a 3.86 ERA with 18 saves and 4 blown saves. He strikes out 10.09/9 and walks 3.86/9. His FIP is 4.40 and xFIP is 4.15.

#9 Jonathan Papelbon - Boston Red Sox. Papelbon is 3-4 with a 2.91 ERA with 24 saves and 4 blown saves. He strikes out 7.68/9 and walks 3.12/9. His FIP is 4.31 and xFIP 4.37. Papelbon hasn't been nearly as good as in past years. His strikeouts are down 2.5 per game and his FIP/xFIP are higher than 2009 and about 2 runs higher than in past seasons. Daniel Bard with his 9.37 K/9 and 3.13 FIP/3.38 xFIP might be a better choice as closer at this point.

What does this mean coming up to the trade deadline? For one, I give long odds to Detroit, Boston, or Anaheim making the playoffs. For another, the Twins could definitely use some relief help. If they trade for a Shawn Marcum, Brett Myers, or Tom Gorzelanny, it will improve the starting rotation and lessen the impact of their bullpen or at least return Duensing to his late inning lefty role. The Twins have been rumored to be interested in Scott Downs 2.99 FIP/ 3.41 xFIP or Jason Frasor 3.37 FIP/ 3.93 xFIP and 9.46 K/9 from Toronto. Both would improve the bullpen and Frasor could be used as a closer. If the Twins don't trade for a starter, they should look to add superior depth at the back end of the bullpen. Since the Twins traded for Matt Capps, I'd assume they are done pen wise. This improves both their pen and their closer spot, so the trade is a net positive in 2010.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Trade deadline - How do the Twins starters stack up for the postseason?

I was on Fanatic Jack's Twins podcast: listen to me talk about this post there. Andrew Bryz-Gornia and Dez Tobin also stopped by to talk to Topper and Jack.

With the trade deadline coming Saturday, I will focus on different components of the AL contending teams. I will take a look at what their current rosters look like if they make the playoffs and how it should affect what the Twins do between now and Saturday.

I will first focus on the starting staffs. I have named a probable ace for each team, based on knowledge of the team and the pitcher's numbers. I will then identify a #2 and 3 starter and a #4 or wild-card, if needed starter. I will rank the aces, the top 3 starters and the potential #4s. I only included starters for the Twins, Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, White Sox, Tigers, Rangers and Angels.

#1 Cliff Lee - Texas Rangers. Lee is 9-4 with a 2.40 ERA between Seattle and Texas. He strikes out 7.38 batters per 9 innings and walks .45 .... yes .45!!!! His 2.40 FIP and 3.30 xFIP says Lee is an ace. With his current production and his past history (2008 Cy Young and 2009 playoff performance), there is no pitcher in the AL I'd rather have start a playoff game.

#2 Francisco Liriano. Yes, in the ace department the Twins are in good shape. He is 9-7 with a 3.35 ERA. He strikes-out 9.7/9 and walks 2.51/9. some say he is not even the ace of the Twins, but they aren't looking deeper. His .348 BABIP has been unlucky. He's only given up 2 HRs. His FIP of 2.13 and xFIP of 2.91 suggest he's probably been the AL's best overall starter.

#3 John Lester - Boston Red Sox. Lester is having another great year. He's 11-5 with a 2.92 ERA. He strikes out 9.49/9 and walks 3.18/9. His FIP/xFIP of 2.89/3.22 suggest he'll continue his great year.

#4 Jered Weaver - California Angels. Weaver is having a great year and he has been the ace that the Angels supposedly didn't have. He is 9-7 with a 3.19 ERA. He strikes out 9.89 and walks 2.04/9. He has a 3.07 FIP and 3.38 xFIP.

#5  C.C. Sabathia - New York Yankees. Sabathia is 13-4 with a 3.15 ERA. He strikes out 7.37/9 and walks 3.09/9. His FIP/xFIP is 3.61/3.91 showing he has been a little lucky. He hasn't been as good as he has in past years, but the 2007 AL Cy Young is still a workhorse and solid #1 starter.

#6 Justin Verlander - Detroit Tigers. Verlander is 12-6 with a 3.74 ERA. He strikes out 8.52 K/9 and walks 3.21/9. His FIP/xFIP is 3.22/3.95.

#7 John Danks - Chicago White Sox. This was a tough pick. Gavin Floyd may be having a better 2010 and Ozzie may still go with Mark Buerhle as his #1 starter. If I was the manager, I'd take Danks. Danks is 11-7 with a 3.23 ERA. He strikes out 6.8/9 and walks 2.96/9. His FIP/xFIP is 3.31/4.11.

#8 David Price - Tampa Bay Rays. Price started the all-star game and is 13-5 with a 2.90 ERA. He strikes out 7.63/9 and walks 3.60/9. A .275 BABIP and 76.6% LOB rate suggests he's been lucky. His FIP/xFIP suggests some regression. 3.71/4.15.

Best playoff 3:
#1 The Chicago White Sox:
John Danks.
Gavin Floyd is 6-8 with a 3.66 ERA. He strikes out 7.39/9 and walks 2.55/9. His FIP/xFIP is 3.09/3.65.
Mark Buehrle is 9-8 with a 3.96 ERA. His K rate is really low at 3.96/9. He walks 2.05 BB/9. His FIP/xFIP is 3.93/4.78.

#2 California Angels:
Jered Weaver.
Dan Haren is 7-9 with a 4.57 ERA. He strikes out 9.21/9 and walks 1.79/9. He has a very high BABIP of .355. His 3.86 FIP and 3.31 xFIP show he's a lot better pitcher than he's appeared. His high, 14.1% HR/fly-ball rate hasn't helped his ERA either.
Joel Piniero is 10-7 with a 4.18 ERA. He strikes out 5.69/9 and walks 2.19/9. His FIP is 3.89 and xFIP 3.88.

#3 Texas Rangers:
Cliff Lee.
Colby Lewis is 9-6 with a 3.52 ERA. He strikes out 8.58/9 and walks 3.01/9. His FIP of 3.68 and xFIP of 3.97 are near his ERA.

CJ Wilson is 9-5 with a 3.03 ERA in his first year as an MLB starter. He strikes out 6.7/9 and walks 4.23/9. He has been quite lucky, as his .245 BABIP shows. His 3.93 FIP and 4.58 xFIP suggest he's been decent, but not as good as his ERA suggests.

#4 Minnesota Twins:
Francisco Liriano.
Carl Pavano is 13-6 with a 3.21 ERA. He strikes out 5.02/9 and walks 1.33 BB/9. His .257 BABIP has been lucky. His FIP is 3.85 and xFIP is 3.93.
Scott Baker is 8-9 with a 5.00 ER and, as I spoke of here, he has been very unlucky. He has a .337 BABIP rate. He strikes out 7.76/9 and walks 1.72/9. His 3.97 FIP and 3.77 xFIP say Baker has been a very good pitcher who has been very unlucky.

#5 New York Yankees:
C.C. Sabathia.
Andy Pettitte is 11-2 with a 2.88 ERA. Has had a good, but a little misleading season. He strikes out 7 K/9 and walks 2.96/9. His 80.7% LOB rate and .274 BABIP suggest he has been very lucky. His FIP/xFIP at 3.96/4.06 are over a run above his ERA.
The Yankees have a decision on their 3rd starter. All indications are, that Hughes will be in the bullpen by the playoffs, to keep his innings down. He's had a good year. He is 12-3 with a 4.04 ERA. He strikes out 7.76/9 and walks 2.59/9. His FIP of 4.00 and xFIP of 4.12 mirrors his ERA. The Yankees could use him. I'm picking Burnett over Vazquez with Hughes in the bullpen.
AJ Burnett is 8-8 with a 4.77 ERA. He strikes out 6.65/9 and walks 3.68/9. His FIP/xFIP 4.75/4.77 suggest he is the same pitcher his ERA thinks he is.

#6 Boston Red Sox:
John Lester.
Clay Buchholz is 11-5 with a 2.71 ERA and having a breakout season. He strikes out 6.38/9 and walks 3.67/9. His low BABIP of .274 suggests regression. His FIP/xFIP is 3.76/4.25.
John Lackey is 10-5 with a 4.26 ERA. He has been considered somewhat of a disappointment in Boston. He's only striking out 5.39/9 and walking 3.33/9. His FIP/xFIP of 4.19/4.80 hasn't been any better than his ERA.

#7 Tampa Bay Rays:
David Price.
Jeff Niemann has had a decent year, going 8-3 with a 2.95 ERA. He strikes out 6.59/9 and walks 2.81/9. His FIP/xFIP is 4.32/4.26, suggesting he has been lucky. His .249 BABIP and 83.9 LOB% would agree with this.
Matt Garza just threw a no-hitter and he is 11-5 with a 4.06 ERA. He strikes out 6.78/9 and walks 2.87/9. His FIP of 4.52 and xFIP of 4.45 say he's only been slightly above average this year.

#8 Detroit Tigers:
Justin Verlander.
Max Scherzer is 7-8 with 4.45 ERA. He strikes out 8.73/9 and walks 3.8/9. His FIP is 4.32 and xFIP is 4.09.
Jeremy Bonderman is 5-6 with a 5.05 ERA. He strikes out 6.2/9 and walks 2.48/9. He has been a little unlucky, his FIP 4.32 and xFIP 4.46 suggest he is a little better than he has looked.

Wild Card/#4 starters:
#1 Josh Beckett - Boston Red Sox.  Beckett is 1-1 with a 6.66 ERA in just 9 starts. He strikes out 7.89/9 and walks a pretty high 3.86 BB/9. He has been hurt most of the season and his ERA looks ugly, but he has been very unlucky. He has a .360 BABIP and a LOB % of only 59.1. His FIP/xFIP are 4.39/4.23. Beckett is the ultimate wild-card. He may not even be healthy enough to pitch. If he's healthy and on, he represents another potential ace and increases Boston's chances if they make the playoffs.

#2 James Shields - Tampa Bay Rays. He is 9-9 with a high 4.79 ERA. He strikes out 8.11/9 and walks just 2.06/9. His BABIP is a high .337 and his 4.19 FIP 3.68 xFIP suggest that he will improve. He could be the Rays second best starter, but unless Maddon is willing to use advanced statistics over ERA, Shields is probably the 4th guy.

#3 Ervin Santana - California Angels. He is 9-7 with a 3.55 ERA. He strikes out 7.55/9 and walks 2.76/9. He's had a high LOB%, which probably explains why his ERA is lower than expected. His FIP is 4.14 and xFIP 4.32.

#4 Kevin Slowey - Twins. Slowey is 9-5 with a 4.76 ERA. He strikes out 6.37/9 and walks only 1.69/9. He has also been unlucky, as I explained here. He has a .332 BABIP. His FIP of 4.15 and 4.56 xFIP suggests he has been better than his ERA. He may be frustrating to watch, but he has been decent in 2010, if not great.

#5 Freddy Garcia - Chicago White Sox. Garcia is 9-4 with a 4.74 ERA. He strikes out 5.43/9 and walks 2.85/9. His FIP/xFIP is 4.62/4.61.

#6 Javier Vazquez - New York Yankees. Vazquez is 9-7 with a 4.54 ERA. He strikes out 7.23/9 and walks 3.45/9. His FIP/xFIP 4.92/4.62 suggests he is no where near the pitcher he was in Atlanta in 2009. Vazquez is more of a National League pitcher.

#7 Tommy Hunter - Texas Rangers. Hunter is 8-0 with a 2.31 ERA. He only strikes out 4.62/9 and walks 2.17/9. He has been extremely lucky and his W/L and ERA are very hollow. He has a .234 BABIP and 86.2% LOB %. His 4.41 FIP and 4.81 xFIP suggests a rude awakening for Rangers fans.

#8 Armando Galarraga - Detroit Tigers. Galarraga is 3-3 with a 4.43 ERA. He only strikes out 4.3/9 and walks 2.35 B/9. A .274 BABIP suggests he's been lucky and predictably his FIP 4.67 and xFIP 5.09 are higher than his ERA. His near perfect game was a nice moment, but he really is not a good pitcher.

What does this all mean? It means that the Twins have an ace going into the playoffs and if they make the playoffs, they have a decent starting staff to compete.

What does this mean going into the trading deadline? If the Twins can trade for a Shawn Marcum or a Brett Myers they should. If they can make a trade to improve their #3 spot in the rotation or their #4 by a lot, they should. The Twins should probably stay away from the likes of Ted Lilly, Jake Westbrook, Kevin Millwood. None of these pitchers are an improvement over the Twins top four starters. If one of these can be had for just about nothing, making the trade will give the Twins a decent 5th starter and allow Duensing to go back to the pen. There are starters available to improve the Twins, but no trade needs to be made, the Twins starters are pretty decent as they are.


Monday, July 26, 2010

Twins Trade Target - Brett Myers

The Twins just completed a 4 game series in Baltimore, taking 3 out of 4. The Twins are in second place, 1 game behind the Chicago White Sox and 1 game ahead of the Detroit Tigers. The Twins have been struggling with the starting pitching up until the Baltimore series. I recently posted about the Twins pitching being unlucky and about Baker and Slowey's numbers affected by outfield defense. I have come to the conclusion that every starter, other than Carl Pavano, is pitching better than his ERA suggests. Having said that, Nick Blackburn has deservingly been replaced in the rotation and Kevin Slowey, who was very good today, has been quite underwhelming even taking defense into account. 

The Twins have replaced Blackburn with Brian Duensing in the rotation. While this should improve the rotation slightly, trading for another arm could still be necessary to put the team over the hump and give the team a 3rd or 4th starter if they make the playoffs. By trading for another starter, the Twins could also put Brian Duensing back in the bullpen where he has been their best left-handed reliever.

So, who do the Twins trade for? Cliff Lee and Dan Haren are gone. If Dan Haren wasn't going to come to Minnesota, Roy Oswalt is not going to either.

So, that leaves the Twins  with the crumbs....errr secondary guys. Of the "secondary" guys who should the Twins look at? Names such as Ted Lilly, Jake Westbrook, and Kevin Millwood seem to be getting the most run in rumor circles. But, these guys are clowns. If the Twins only goal is to trade for a veteran guy at Kevin Slowey's level, then by all means trade for one of these names. Unfortunately, they won't be worth any prospect given up or the money they will cost, unless of course, Nick Blackburn is the trade piece. If the Twins want to get an impact pitcher on a budget, they should look at Brett Myers.

Yes, that Brett Myers.

Well, I'm not going to try to convince anyone to like him. I don't like him. He is not an ace, but he could be worth a win or 2 down the stretch. He could give the Twins a solid starting pitcher for the playoffs.

In 2010 he has a 7-6 record  and a 3.24 ERA. He has struck out 6.68 per 9 innings and walked 2.71. He is having one of the best years of career. His FIP 3.60 and xFIP 3.92 are very similar to Carl Pavano's 3.84/3.88. His ground ball rate and line drive rate are similar to Pavano's and his left on base% is also similar as well.  He gives up more base runners than Pavano due to a higher BABIP and a higher walk rate, but he also strikes out more batters. With Myers high ground ball rate and the Twins superior defense, the Twins could reasonably expect Myers BABIP to improve. While his 8% HR/FB rate is a little a little low, his FIP and xFIP suggest that even if his HR rate increases, he profiles as a very competent #3 or 4 starter and quite possibly as good as Pavano has been in 2010.

So, what will this cost? Myers has a reasonable $3.1 million deal plus an $11 million mutual option with a $2 million buyout. So, the contract is reasonable, what will it cost in players? The Twins certainly won't get Myers for something so small as Yohan Pino but he shouldn't cost any premium prospects. The Astros system is weak and they need prospects. If the Twins offer someone in their 11th to 15th best prospects or a couple lesser prospects, this should be enough to make the trade happen. Myers currently doesn't profile as a Type A or B free agent, so there is no draft pick premium.

So, if the Twins want to improve their rotation, add a veteran presence, and keep their best lefty reliever in the bullpen, a Brett Myers trade might fit the bill.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Slowey and Baker bad or bad defense?

Recently I posted about the Twins pitching woes here. I used FIP and xFIP numbers to show the Twins starters have probably been better than their ERA would suggest. But if the pitchers are giving up more runs than they should, what is the cause?

On this post I will focus on Kevin Slowey and Scott Baker. I would suggest the outfield defense has been the main culprit in their numbers being worse than expected.

The starters in the OF have been very bad defensively. Micheal Cuddyer has a -16.5 UZR/150 in right field. He's basically given up 16.5 runs per 150 games over an average defensive RF. Delmon Young has a -5.4 UZR/150, which is an improvement over past seasons. Denard Span, with a 3.4 UZR/150 has been slightly better than average, but the net starters have been several runs under replacement. Jason Kubel, who has a -19.9 UZR/150 in relatively limited play in the OF and a -18.3 UZR/150 for his career in the OF. These numbers suggest, the defense will give up 19+ runs per 150 games more than replacement defenders, whether Kubel or Cuddyer is playing RF.

So, the OF D has been bad, why is that an issue with the Slowey and Baker?


Kevin Slowey has a 50.9% fly-ball rate, which is the highest in the AL. His 21.7% line drive rate is high as well, 6th highest in the AL. While his fly ball rate is really high, his home run rate on fly balls is about average. The large amount of fly-balls and line drives in play, plus bad outfield defense, has contributed very heavily to Slowey having a ERA higher than expected.

Scott Baker has a 41.0% fly-ball rate, 19th highest out of 54. His 23.3% line drive rate is the worst in the American League. Line drivers turned into outs or singles for decent defenses turn into doubles or triples for Baker. The above average fly-ball rate and bad defense is affecting Baker's ERA as well. Baker's ERA is more than a run higher than his FIP. Bad defense alone is probably not the only culprit. He also has the 12th highest HR per FB rate in the AL. Baker has been unlucky in the HR rate department and he should be expected to improve somewhat due to the law of averages, even without a defensive improvement.

Kevin Slowey and Scott Baker have both had the greatest opportunity to be victimized by bad outfield defense. The Twins do not have many options to improve the defense without making a trade. The Twins outfielders are offense players more so than defense. There are not many opportunities to sit the current OF starters, But....

One way to improve the defense is to get Jason Repko on the field more. Repko has 7.1 UZR/150 in 234 plays in the majors. He has an 8.8 UZR/150 in RF and a 22.2 UZR/150 in CF. While this is a small sample size and most of his MLB playing time was 4 and 5 years ago, he should certainly be more competent in the field than Jason Kubel. The difference between Jason Repko in RF vs. Jason Kubel is worth as much as .2 runs per game.

Jason Repko has a total of 489 plate appearances in the MLB and has sported a whopping .228/.299/.369 in those appearances. I do not advocate him playing every day, but, especially with Justin Morneau out of the lineup, I'd have him play right field when a lefty pitches. His numbers are not outstanding but, his career .245/.314/.421 line vs. lefties is better than Jim Thome's in 2010 and on par or better than Thome has been the last few seasons. Thome crushes right-handers and keeping him on the bench vs. lefties keeps him fresher vs. righties.  Having Thome as a late inning pinch hitter is also much more valuable than getting 4 at-bats and plugging up the DH spot/bases vs a lefty.

Many fans say pitchers need to make smarter pitches when they get into trouble. By smarter pitches, do they mean fly-ball pitchers should become ground-ball pitchers? If Slowey and Baker can become ground-ball pitchers overnight, more power to them! Otherwise, with Slowey and Baker on the mound and bad defense behind them, expect their ERA to be higher then their FIP/xFIP. Both pitchers are better then they've shown, but their style counts on good outfield defense, and they are just not getting that.

As the trade deadline looms, the Twins should look at ground ball pitchers given their current crop of outfielders.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Is it the pitching?

A few weeks back i referenced ways the Twins could improve the team without making moves off of their 25 man roster. They were scuffling a little but not too terribly. Most of those things have not been done and most are still applicable. Check it out here. I suggested Delmon Young be moved up vs right-handers and Micheal Cuddyer moved down. This is a change that would still help the team. I suggested the Twins skip Blackburn's start in the rotation any time they can skip a starter. He has been the team's worst pitcher and this move would still help the team without making a major change.I turned out to be wrong about Alex Burnett and he has been sent down for now, in favor of Anthony Slama.

The real problem for the Twins lately has been their starting pitching. Baker, Slowey and Blackburn have drawn a lot of Twins fan ire. There was also an interesting argument this last week on the other 2 starters. Liriano or Pavano as the Twins best pitcher was a hot debate on twitter last week. Digging deeper into this debate might help show some of the weaknesses (real and perceived) of the Twins starting pitching. Pavano was favored by many fans for his 11-6 record and his 3.48 ERA vs. Liriano's 7-7 and 3.76 ERA. Liriano supporters point to his 2.16 FIP, 2.76 xFIP and suggests Liriano is worth 4.6 WAR. Pavano has a 3.93 FIP, 3.91 xFIP and suggests he has been worth 2.2 WAR.

So, what the hell am I talking about?

FIP/xFIP are two different measurements that suggest what a pitchers ERA should be based on different factors related to defense, luck, etc.... They use factors such as HRs allowed, strikeouts and walks. Both suggest a pitcher who gives up less HRs, less walks and strikes out a lot of guys should expect a lower ERA. The reason being, a pitcher cannot control balls in play. Once it hits the bat, the pitcher has to count on his fielders and the park he is playing in. So, what FIP and xFip are saying is that Liriano's ERA should be lower than it is and Pavano's should be higher. Well, what is going on here?

Let's look at the whole pitching staff.

Francisco Liriano has given up a .358 BABIP. (Batting Average Balls in Play) This is the highest in all of major league baseball by 7% points over Dan Haren. (Another reason I like Dan Haren vs. his numbers but more on that in a different post) What does this mean? It means that more balls put in to play become hits for Liriano than any other pitcher in major league baseball. He also has a 69.5 LOB% (runners stranded on base percentage), which is 17th worse out of 54 AL starters. Based on these numbers, it is easy to see why Liriano's actual ERA is higher than his expected ERA.

Scott Baker is 7-9 and had a 5.15 ERA with a 4.01 FIP/3.84 xFIP after the loss last night. His BABIP is .343, which is 5th highest in the American League out of 54 starters. His 69.3 LOB% is 16th worse out of 54 AL starters. His FIP and xFIP look similar to Carl Pavano's. In fact, his xFIP says he is the 10th best pitcher in the AL, 3 spots ahead of Pavano. Not many fans would not buy this, but there is a good article about Baker's season here.

Kevin Slowey is 8-5 and has a 4.98 ERA with a 4.40 FIP/4.68 xFIP. He has been a little better than his ERA probably due to his .333 BABIP. (8th highest out of 54 in the AL) His 71.9 LOB% is a little better than average. There is a good article on his ground ball rate here.

Nick Blackburn is 7-7 with a hideous 6.53 ERA. He has a 5.77 FIP/5.11 xFIP suggesting he has been less horrible than the numbers suggest. His BABIP is .329 (10th highest in the AL) and his LOB% is 65.1. (3rd worst in the AL) As I mentioned above, I believe the Twins should minimize the use of Blackburn, but he hasn't been quite as bad as it seems. More on Blackburn's season here.

Finally, we get to Carl Pavano, his FIP and xFIP are lower than his ERA as explained above. Probably due to his .259 BABIP (5th lowest in the AL) and his LOB% is 73.2 (19th best in the AL).

What does this all mean? Why would 4 of 5 starters look to be worse than they appear? I'll discuss the reasons and some potential ways to improve the pitching staff in my next post. The Twins pitching has been frustrating this season, but as the numbers above suggest, there are probably other factors at play.