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:

Add to Cart

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.

Add to Cart

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gleeman & the Geek, Ep 10 Twins vs Rays

Aaron and John go to Senser's in Bloomington with special guest Jason Collette from and There is a lot of talk about how the Rays and Twins are similar and different. Here are:

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tigers Still Have Claws

As I watched the Tigers season end this weekend, I couldn’t help but wonder what the 2012 offseason holds for them. The answer I came up with isn’t as bad as I thought for Twins fans.

This year, the Tigers payroll was $106 million, their lowest in four years. That was despite signing Victor Martinez for $80 million last Thanksgiving. This year I knew they had another big chunk of essentially wasted money coming off the books:

  • Fragile Magglio Ordonez and his $10 million paycheck was coming off the books.
  • Oft-injured Carlos Guillen’s four-year deal runs out, giving them another $13 million
  • Finally, pitcher Brad Penny’s one-year, $3 million contract will also be over.

That’s $26 million that the Tigers could spend, even if they don’t want to raise payroll to the stratospheric levels of a couple years ago. That’s enough to do some major shopping. Fortunately, more of it is spoken for than I thought.

  • It looks like they’ll offer arbitration to Delmon Young, tying up $7-8 million.
  • Justin Verlander is due a $7 million raise by his current contract.
  • Several others are due a million dollar raise here or there.

That still probably leaves enough money to make on significant purchase – probably a starting pitcher – or several smaller purchases to fill gaps. But it doesn’t mean a spending spree which could damn near bury the rest of the division. Unless…

Unless owner Mike Ilitch really likes the taste of the postseason he got this year, in which case all bets are off. Unlike our favorite team’s local management, Ilitch has run his team as more of a passion than a business, doubling down at odd times over the last decade. If the Tigers decide to return to the $130+ million payroll level that they had in 2008 or 2010, they’ll have another $25 million of walk-around money. If that’s the case, the rest of the AL Central will have some significant hurdles to clear next year.