Taylor's Twins Talk

Focusing on the Twins, with a few ramblings on other things that catch my attention

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Rincon's Final Game?

I'm not going to post a nightly notes column today -- I'm too frustrated. All of the Twins problems came to a head this weekend against the White Sox, at the worst possible time. What exactly would I say today about this game, or about the games on Friday and Saturday? The Twins will have one more shot against the Sox in this series, tomorrow afternoon. I hesitate to characterize it so definitively, but it sure seems to be a must win.

I will say that it seems likely that Juan Rincon pitched in his last game as a Twin today. The pressure has been building for some time to dump Rincon, and the anger of the fans has been building outing by outing. Rather than rising to the pressure, Rincon has completely folded. Whatever the Twins motivation in sticking with 13 pitchers (one of the worst roster management decisions that I can recall, and the first time that a move made by Bill Smith has caused me to shake my head), it has been proven to be a mistake. The Twins could put Bert Blyleven back on the roster and have him be more effective than Rincon.

On the positive side, the Twins seem ready to make a move. Ron Gardenhire, noting that his team has to play National League ball next weekend, has been strongly advocating for the addition of another position player. Bill Smith has played his cards closer to his vest, but it seems like reality is starting to set in on that front as well. I would guess that, possibly as early as tomorrow, the Twins could make a move.

The big question here is who will be called up to replace him. It seems clear that it will be an infielder, since right now the Twins only have 5 infielders on the roster, giving them a chance to make just one move per game involving an infielder. Sadly, there aren't a lot of options in Rochester. Howie Clark, just recently removed from the roster, would possibly have been a leading candidate, but he appears to have been injured and likely is unavailable. That would seem to make Brian Buscher the most likely to be called up, but of course he's mostly a third baseman and doesn't give the team as much flexibility as they might like. Chris Basak and Sergio Santos can both play at short, but neither are particularly dynamic players and likely would be on the roster to provide defensive replacements late in a game if a move had been made.

The Twins could always reach down to AA New Britain to call up a player, but Luke Hughes is once again hurting and Trevor Plouffe has cooled down significantly of late, and is also not really considered to be anywhere near ready for the big leagues. That makes the addition of either of them to the roster quite unlikely.

All of this at least makes it understandable (albeit still wrong) that the Twins would go with 13 pitchers rather than calling up another infielder up to this point. With all the injuries, there wasn't an obvious helpful callup to make. Recapping previous arguments, they also didn't want to lose any of the pitchers on the team, and with all of the struggling pitchers out of options there was no guarantee that anybody could be sent down. Also, with 40 games in 41 days and with the starting rotation struggling (which obviously is still true), carrying extra pitchers has certain advantages.

Nonetheless, reality can no longer be ignored. Juan Rincon is not benefiting the team in any way, and the team needs to cut him loose. I expect to see Brian Buscher in a Twins uniform in time for Tuesday's game in Cleveland.



  • At Sun Jun 08, 05:45:00 PM , Anonymous TT said...

    Juan Rincon is not benefiting the team in any way

    That isn't really true. Rincon really had nothing to do with the Twins losing today. Someone had to pitch in the lost cause and Rincon saved someone else's arm for the future. It would have been nice if he had gone longer, but he gave the Twins two innings Brian Buscher wouldn't have.

    Whatever the Twins motivation in sticking with 13 pitchers (one of the worst roster management decisions that I can recall

    How is that? The Twins starters have failed to go more than four innings for the last five games. Having 13 pitchers may be the only thing that has saved them from permanently burying the bullpen. Pinch hitting for an infielder wasn't going to change the outcome of any of the games in the White Sox series so far.

  • At Sun Jun 08, 06:39:00 PM , Blogger JST said...

    Before I disagree with your two specific points, let me agree with one thing you said -- having an extra position player would have been no help in this game. Juan Rincon did not lose today's game for the Twins, and I'm not claiming he did. One game does not a season make, however, and over the long term I don't think it's beneficial for the Twins to carry 13 players OR for Juan Rincon to still be on the active roster.

    As I noted in the main post, I understand why the team has chosen to go with 13 pitchers. It's still a bad decision. Yes, the starters have been terrible recently -- but you can't manage your roster so defensively that you handcuff yourself completely. I don't believe that it's ever justified to go with 13 pitchers.

    Second, if you are going to go with 13 pitchers, there's no reason for one of those pitchers to be Juan Rincon at this point. He's been beyond bad, and if the Twins just want a flunky to eat innings they could find plenty on their AAA roster who could do the job. I don't consider Rincon's ability to stumble through a few innings here and there while giving up runs to the tune of a 6.11 ERA (and, what is it, around 10.00 in his past 10 games?) to be beneficial.

  • At Sun Jun 08, 08:03:00 PM , Anonymous TT said...

    I don't believe that it's ever justified to go with 13 pitchers.

    There appear to be several general managers who disagree with you.

    you can't manage your roster so defensively that you handcuff yourself completely.

    It is hardly handcuffing the team to have an extra pitcher, to the contrary. The fact is the Twins are in a long stretch without days off with a bullpen that has been overworked and a starting rotation that has been struggling.

    They have everyday players at every position with the possible exception of third base where Lamb needs to sit against lefties. And they have either Kubel or Monroe on the bench along with Macri as a backup infielder. They need pitching a lot more than they need another infielder.

    if you are going to go with 13 pitchers, there's no reason for one of those pitchers to be Juan Rincon at this point.

    One reason is that they are already paying him a lot of money. The other is that they hope he will find himself and be productive. That doesn't look like it is going to happen, but the reality is he contributed two innings today and there are plenty of pitchers at AAA who would not be able to do even that.

  • At Sun Jun 08, 08:06:00 PM , Blogger Curveball said...

    Okay. The Twins hate to cut money. But who can go.

    Right now, or maybe after Monday's game, either Perkins or Slowey could go down. That means Boof is abck...for a moment.

    Who can come up? Anyone. Howie Clark cleared a spot on the 40-man. ALso, Mijares was 60-dayed recently, so the Twins do have two spots.

    Going into the Milwaukee series, they don't necessarily need an infielder. They need a bat to pinch-hit for a pitcher at the least. Brian Buscher would be ok--could play third/first or come off the bench. Maybe Randy Ruiz finally gets his one-shot.

    Howie Calrk could come back. Garrett Jones - nah.

    Not really much to choose from.

    Back to pitching. Rincon should go. I would take Korecky over Bass at the momen, but Bass is the blowout innings-eating pitch of the moment.

    How far will Hernandez's stock dip before the Twins move him. 6-2 looks pretty good. Maybe Martinez will collapse and the Mets will come calling. Do it, Twins.

    Can the Twins trade anyone for border-line offense? Who in their system is expendable and still of value? Matt Moses, Jay Rainville, Oswaldo Sosa, Whit Robbins? Any prospects someone would take a gander on?

    Should the Twins bring back Sir Sid Ponson?

    Who would've thought Bartolo Colon would be....something.

    Or are we content to play .500 ball and be somewhat competitive in a division full of...

    Come Tueday, Rincon is still here. Perkins or Slowey hit-the-road for the moment.

  • At Sun Jun 08, 09:20:00 PM , Blogger JST said...

    TT: If nothing else, people who read this thread will see a stark difference in philosophy, and I think that's valuable. As a result, I'll continue our disagreement by addressing your points in turn.

    1) - Yes, numerous general managers have chosen to handcuff their managers by going with a 13 man pitching staff. My default position is that GM's are much, much smarter than me (or you, or any other fan) when making baseball decisions. It doesn't mean I agree with every move they make, and it certainly doesn't mean they are always right. I happen to think that a 13 man pitching staff is insanity.

    2.) There's a good philosophical debate to be had over whether the 8th pitcher in the bullpen or an extra position player would be more beneficial. I happen to think that having so few bench players handcuffs the managers ability to construct a lineup, to give players necessary days off, and to make moves at the end of games.

    That said, IF the 13 man pitching stuff is designed SOLELY to get the team through the 40 games in 41 day stretch, for the reasons that I've said before I at least understand it. I still think it's a bad decision. A 7-man bullpen should be more than sufficient.

    3.) The money paid to Rincon is a sunk cost -- the Twins can't get it back. Keeping Rincon around solely because they are paying him is folly if he can't get MLB hitters out. If the Twins were to add a pitcher from AAA (such as Korecky, who was mentioned by curveball) they'd be adding the pro-rated portion of a minimum MLB salary -- in other words, not much. Money should not play a role in this decision. It's a well-known phenomenon to stick with something that cost money because there's a desperate desire to get a return on the investment; recognizing that the cost is a sunk cost and making the BEST decision regardless of that cost is difficult and often against human nature, but it is the appropriate response.

    You seem to value Rincon's ability to stumble through a few innings. I don't. Rincon contributed two innings today -- but he also gave up 4 runs. That's not useful. Again, if all he has become just a junkballer and you don't care about his ERA, then you could bring up any of the pitchers at AAA to fill that role.

    Could Rincon "find himself?" Yes. Is it likely? As you acknowledge, no it is not. The Twins should cut their losses now and give the innings being wasted on Rincon to a younger pitcher who could actually learn something from them.

  • At Mon Jun 09, 05:32:00 AM , Anonymous TT said...

    you could bring up any of the pitchers at AAA to fill that role.

    I think this is one area where we disagree. Having seen any number of pitchers who have stopped being able to get hitters out at all once they are struggling.

    The major league minimum is not chump change. If you are only going to use that last reliever in blowouts, then trying to avoid paying extra for that role makes some sense. Especially if it gives a player who has been in the organization for a long time a chance to get on track.

    A 7-man bullpen should be more than sufficient.

    Maybe. But should be and is are different things. In this case, not even an 8 pitcher bullpen has been sufficient.

  • At Mon Jun 09, 12:52:00 PM , Blogger JST said...

    TT -- in case you didn't see it, there's a quote from Gardy in today's La Velle Neal blog that backs up the argument you've been making here: "We've been complaining about having 13 pitchers . . . and we've had to use every single one of them."

    I still say 13 is too many, and that if you can't get by with 12 you need to change something. In my opinion, 13 is not sustainable long term.

    I'll end my end with that -- good discussion demonstrating some areas of disagreement. Bottom line: the team just needs to do better!

  • At Mon Jun 09, 02:02:00 PM , Anonymous Marty Andrade said...

    Why is the concept of "Sunk Cost" so hard to understand? Not just in baseball of course, but in every industry I have experience with I see it.

    That was all rhetorical, just ignore me.

    Flame on.

  • At Mon Jun 09, 05:30:00 PM , Anonymous TT said...

    Marty -

    I don't know whether you understand "Sunk Costs" or not. The salary paid to a replacement if Rincon is released is not a sunk cost. Its an additional cost.

  • At Mon Jun 09, 06:38:00 PM , Blogger JST said...

    In defense of Marty, I'm confident he understands the idea of a sunk cost. I think he's merely expressing his frustration with the fact that so many people don't seem to understand the concept.

    Regarding the cost of a replacement, you are of course correct that the cost would be an additional cost. As I mentioned in one of my responses, since the cost to fill that roster spot for the rest of the year would be about 2/3 of a big league minimum salary (almost certainly), I personally don't think it's enough money to worry about. The Twins should make a decision on Rincon's future based on baseball related criteria, not economic criteria.

  • At Mon Jun 09, 08:35:00 PM , Blogger Jeremy said...

    The conversation should go like this:

    Bill Smith: Hey Carl, we're getting rid of Rincon.

    Carl Pohlad: We can't do that! He's making $2.475 million!

    Bill Smith: Carl, your team salary is $15 million less than last year and $6 million less than 2006.

    Carl Pohlad: But what about the replacemnt cost?

    Bill Smith: It would be about $150,000. We're going to lose that in ticket sales next week if we dn't release Rincon.

    Carl Pohlad: Fine. But you can only sign Astros infielders in Free Agency this year.

    Bill Smith: But we signed them all last year.

    Carl Pohlad: Oh. Get me my medication.


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