Thursday, October 20, 2011

Grading the Relievers

As Nick happily announced yesterday, the TwinsCentric Offseason GM Handbook e-book will be available the day after the World Series. It provides 135 pages or 26,000+ words (and counting) of analysis on what the Twins might do over the next few months, including full run-downs of the free agent market, trade targets, arbitration eligibles, 40-man roster decisions and player grades. You can buy it at:

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THANKS for your support! As a taste (and because it’s MEA weekend, and I have a family to attend to), here is a section of the player grades. This is from the section about (dah, dah, DUUUHHHH!) the bullpen:

Alex Burnett

Grade: D+

The Twins seem to feel like Burnett should be a good relief pitcher, but we haven’t seen it yet except for short stretches. He doesn’t look like he can be dominant (just 5.9 K/9), he doesn’t have exceptional control (3.7 BB/9) and he had an overall negative impact when games were on the line (-1.21 WPA). In fact that’s the lowest WPA for a Twins reliever this year. Which means Burnett actually had a bigger negative impact than Matt Capps (albeit at a much lower cost).

The question is: what do the Twins do with him next? He isn’t especially effective against right-handed hitters – in fact, they hit him much better (978 OPS) than lefties (692 OPS) this last year. He wasn’t especially dominant (7 K/9) in the minors, so it’s not like the team should be grooming him for a setup role. I guess he might be a decent low-level bullpen option, but those guys aren’t hard to find, and why not invest those innings in someone with some upside?

Matt Capps

Grade: C+

Fans’ disgust with Capps isn’t entirely his fault, but rather the situation the Twins put him in. Capps didn’t trade away Wilson Ramos (whose 779 OPS for the Nationals might have been pretty handy for a catcher this year). Capps didn’t demand the Twins offer him arbitration and pay him over $7 million. And Capps didn’t fail to fill out the bullpen, leaving himself in a position where so much was riding on his success. Those all fall on the Twins front office, which has just plain overvalued a reliever who was slightly above average. To succeed, Capps would have had to live up to crazy expectations.

Instead, he was average except in one very important area – he gave up about two more home runs (10 in 65.2 IP) than one would expect. Just about everything else was near or at his career rates, except strikeouts, but that didn’t affect his hit rate or his walk rate. So Capps wasn’t too different than what one should have expected from Matt Capps – but that wasn’t what the Twins thought they had.

Joe Nathan

Grade: B+

Yes, he lost his closer role within two weeks of the beginning of the season. Yes, he spent a month on the DL. But for a 36-year-old coming off Tommy John just 12 months earlier, he had a remarkable season, especially after that DL stint.

From June through September, he regained the closer role, set the Twins all-time record in saves, struck out a guy per inning, posted a WHIP under 1.00 and a WPA of .91. That isn’t quite vintage Nathan, but it’s close and it’s way, way better than anyone could have expected. If he feels like he should get a closer’s contract again, even at 37 years old, he’s justified.

There are seven more members of the bullpen that we grade and fully 27 free agent relievers that that we evaluate as replacements. The Handbook has become our flagship product, and you only have a few more days to get it at the discounted price of $5.99 (down from $9.99). For the last two years we have happily offered refunds to anyone who was not satisfied. I have yet to write that check.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

With all the griping about Hoey, Capps etc, I think the Twins biggest problem for the Twins this year was how poorly Burnett and Mijares pitched for them when the Twins had clearly expected them to be a big part of their restructured bullpen. Burnett's minor league reliever record is pretty impressive and Mijares has been good before so I can see why the team might have thought they were both ready to step up and fortify the pen. Too bad it didn't work.