Friday, August 07, 2009

Grabbing Pavano

Twins acquire Carl Pavano (RHP) from the Cleveland Indians

The logical take on this is that there is nothing to lose, but that's not quite right. Something is lost. How much depends on your opinion of the front office.

If your opinion is not high (and that seems to be the predominant view lately), then there is nothing to lose. Plus, there is something fairly significant to gain, just not where you thought it would be.

It isn't in the starting rotation. Pavano's performance most closely resembles the guy he's likely replacing, Francisco Liriano. A lot of the numbers - ERA, WHIP, HRs, Innings - are almost identical. Pavano gives up more hits and Liriano gives up more walks. Liriano strikes more out, but that hasn't done him much good. Pavano has had a pretty good run going for the last month or so, but a couple of bad outings in July messed that up.

Would I trust Pavano more than Liriano over the next month-plus? Not really. But I wouldn't trust him less.

No, the benefit is on the correlating move. Liriano gets to move into the bullpen which is good news for two reasons - check that - three reasons, because it gets RA Dickey out of there. It also gives the Twins potentially a new dominant guy in the 'pen. Batters are hitting .172 against Liriano over his first 15 pitches and .225 against him over his first 30. That sounds a lot like a 7th or 8th inning setup man, which would be a significant improvement.

The other good reason is that it might protect Liriano's arm. Liriano's innings aren't high, but a lot of those short inning games still resulted in plenty of pitches. Considering he woke up with forearm pain (which is often a symptom of elbow problems) a couple of weeks ago, it might pay to lower his innings.

But it has a cost, too. This move makes it much less likely that the Twins will try and claim any other starting pitchers on waivers this month. The Twins biggest problem for the last two weeks has been their starting rotation, and this move cements that the solution must come from internal improvment, whether that be players stepping up, minor leaguers filling gaps, or Rick Anderson voodoo.

Of course, that's only a cost if you had any faith that Bill Smith's front office was going to make a better move. Fair or not, for most of Twins Territory, that's a small risk we're willing to accept.

Sunday, August 02, 2009


The Twins entered yesterday ranked 21st in the major leagues in runs against.

Read that last sentence again. I'm not talking about something minor or quirky here. I'm talking about runs given up, arguably half the game. We've talked a lot about the middle infield, and the #2 hitter, and the bottom of the order, but it is damn hard to be a legitimate contending team when you're pitching and defense are ranked in the bottom third of the majors.

This weekend reflected that ranking. Friday's game can probably be written off in part because Nick Blackburn was just left in too long, but Ron Gardenhire has made that mistake several times this season, and four innings later we saw why. Having milked three innings from the two reliable relievers he has, Gardenhire turned the game over to the rest of the bullpen and watched his closely contested game turn into an 11-5 rout.

Neither Gardenhire or the Twins have many options at this point in the 'pen. Jose Mijares is the third most relieable arm in the bullpen, and he's walked 17 guys in 35 innings while primarily facing left-handed batters. RA Dickey started well, but has an ERA of 8.38 since July 1st. Brian Duensing has been servicable, though he has a WHIP of 1.50 as a reliever. Bobby Keppel looked promising, but has now given up 11 runs and 15 hits in his last six appearances. And Jesse Crain continues to be a wreck.

That's three players - Dickey, Keppel and Crain - who are essentially dead wood right now, waiting to be trimmed. And this weekend, they all got to pitch, because the Twins have three starting pitchers who are also maddeningly inconsistent. Glen Perkins has been good when healthy, very bad when not, and now we don't know what he is. (Though it's worth noting that with an infield defense as full of holes as this one, he deserved a better fate on Sunday.) Anthony Swarzak is a young pitcher, and pitching like a young pitcher. And Francisco Liriano has struggled with his control and self-confidence from inning-to-inning, let alone game-to-game.

How bad is it? I'm including Scott Baker, who has a 4.86 ERA as one of the good starters. The final count is four reliable pitchers, five inconsistent pitchers, and three guys who could very well be swapped out to give a Rochester guy his chance.

That's the situation the Twins face with two months left. The final third of the season is supposed to be when a team makes a run. But this year, the run is going to need to be powered by the Twins arms, not their legs.