Thursday, August 04, 2011

Babysitter Wanted

The Twins are full of frustrating players right now, but Francisco Liriano might actually be at the top of the list. He even looks frustrated with himself, but of course that's what is so maddening. He found himself in mid-May, back when he was throwing to Rene Rivera, but Rivera was (justifiably) sent down when there was a roster crunch. Still, I can't help but wonder if Rivera is the secret sauce that Liriano needs right now.

Coming into last night's debacle, Lirino had made nearly an equal number of starts with Drew Butera, Joe Mauer and Rene Rivera behind the dish. But the results have been vastly different. Liriano has posted a 5.26 ERA with a 1.449 WHIP throwing to Butera. He's been even worse with Mauer, with a 6.19 ERA and a 1.753 WHIP. But with Rivera, he's been Cy Young: 2.89 ERA and a 1.125 WHIP.

Of course, this reeks of small sample size, but sometimes that's all you've got to work with. I'll agree that it seems more than a little silly to carry a guy on the 25-man roster just to be Liriano's babysitter, but right now there happens to be plenty of dead wood on this roster:

  • Jason Repko is the sixth outfielder on the roster and third center fielder. The only reason he is still on the roster is that he's out of options, but at some point he turns from reserve to hostage. Can you justify carrying him for another 4 weeks just so you maybe keep him in the offseason? And even if you did lose him, wouldn't the cost to replace him be minimal?
  • Yesterday Jose Mijares was not brought in to pitch an inning when the Twins had a 37-run lead. Scarier? That was totally justified. He's also out of options, and again, I can kind of see keeping him around just so you can try him out again next season. But really, why? Is there any hope next year is any different? Has any year been much different for him? He hasn't been a serious setup option since his September callup.
  • Tsuyoshi Nishioka has turned into my whipping boy lately, I'll admit it. But seriously - put the poor kid out of his misery. He looks like he would actually be relieved to be sent down to Rochester at this point. I might even consider dropping him to New Britain if he continues to insist on using this slappie left-handed approach versus southpaws. I suspect the plan was to wait for Casilla to come back, but Tolbert can play there and Plouffe can sub in a pinch.
Last night was the kind of game drives Gardy to the industrial-sized bottle of cherry extract, so I wouldn't be shocked if we see some roster changes regardless. But seeing as the Twins have repeatedly tried and failed to get Liriano's head on straight this year, doesn't it make a little sense to at least try that which has already worked? Especially when so little is to be lost?


Heinie Manush said...

O Geek, Wise One. Nishi put up MVP numbers at waht might be considered an hybrid AA/AAA level. Were he 24, I would be pretty excited. What we paid him is high, but not terribly out of line for an elite prospect. But, alas, he's 26. Still, he's under our control for six major league seasons. The dollars are sunk costs. Maybe he can learn to be a major league average middle infielder. If so, even if the price is a bit steep, that ain't too shabby. Send him down and teach him the American game.

neckrolls said...


I noticed the Liriano/Rivera connection, too. And it actually extends beyond Liriano: Nick Blackburn had a 2.40 ERA with a 3/1 K/BB ratio in 8 starts pitching to Rivera. In fact, all Twins pitchers had a 3.28 ERA with Rivera behind the plate, and a much higher K/9 and lower HR/9. I think he either sets up hitters better than Butera or does a better job of getting borderline calls from the umpires. Either way, he's no worse a hitter than Butera and threw out 42% or attempted base stealers. If you can put up with Butera, you can put up with Rivera.

Any of the roster moves you suggested would be sensible. Two other possibilities:

1. Send Revere down to finish the regular season playing every day for Rochester, then bring him back up for September.

2. Simply swap Rivera for Butera.