Taylor's Twins Talk

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

Friday, August 01, 2008

Well, Well, Well

Wow! I have to say that I find the Twins moves today satisfying and quite interesting overall. In case you hadn't heard, the Twins today designated Livan Hernandez and Craig Monroe for assignment. They'll be replaced on the roster by Francisco Liriano and Randy Ruiz. So far as I'm concerned, it's impossible for the replacements to be any worse than the two fellows their replacing, so I'm fully in support of these moves.

The Twins should never have signed Livan in the first place, as I've been saying since before the season started. I know that some of you feel that he benefited the team with his experience and his ability to "eat innings" (who cares, says I -- if the innings are crappy then he's not valuable). Still, the Twins essentially didn't lose anything but $5 million and some pride by signing him. Some might argue they lost a roster spot, but Liriano needed some time in the minors anyway, so I'm not all that worried about the roster spot he took up.

Unfortunately, the Twins actually gave up a player to acquire Craig Monroe -- and it's looking like a pretty bad trade right now. Full disclosure: I pretty much backed up GM Bill Smith when the deal was done, because I didn't think the Twins were giving up too much. The player we gave up, a first baseman/outfielder by the name of Doug Deeds, is having a pretty great season in AA for the Cubs, however. He's hitting .341 with 9 homers and 46 RBI (and a 940 OPS) in 334 AB's. That's no guarantee that Deeds will have any future success at higher levels, but considering that the Twins got virtually nothing out of Monroe it still looks like a pretty bad deal.

Finally, a word on Randy Ruiz -- I'm really excited to see whether he can do anything at the big league level. He's been around forever, starting off his minor league career in the GCL with the Reds in 1999. He's been busted for steroid use. He's come back (presumably) clean. And this year, he's been great for the Red Wings. I was excited about him in Spring Training, and I was even rooting for him to make the club back then. Instead, he'll get his chance tonight as a first time big leaguer. Good luck, Randy!

Anyway, two thumbs up for these moves. Let's hope the Twins get the series with the Indians off on the right foot with a win tonight.

Labels:

16 Comments:

  • At Fri Aug 01, 06:44:00 PM , Blogger Jeremy said...

    Josh,

    What do you know about Ruiz's options? For some reason, I thought I read awhile back that he was out.

     
  • At Fri Aug 01, 07:15:00 PM , Blogger JST said...

    Jeremy,

    I can't guarantee the accuracy of my information, but after looking around through old transactions, I've found no evidence of Ruiz ever being on a 40-man roster (and therefore no evidence of him ever being optioned). I went back as far as 2002 when he was with the Reds, so I'm fairly confident about this. If anyone has heard differently, by the way, please let me know!

    Anyway, the Twins should have Ruiz essentially for as long as they want him. He's already 30 with 0 service time, so the Twins pretty much control his destiny now that they've added him to the 40-man roster.

     
  • At Fri Aug 01, 08:57:00 PM , Anonymous TT said...

    The Twins should never have signed Livan in the first place,

    The Twins were 14-9 in games Hernandez started. Its hard to see who the Twins had who would have done better.

    That record had little to do with the offensive support he received. In only one of those wins did the Twins pitchers give up more than 5 runs. There were also three wins where they gave up exactly 5. They also lost one game where they only gave up 3 runs.

    I suspect that money was a factor in this decision, as well as the desire to find a spot for Liriano. If Hernandez stayed in the rotation for the rest of the year, he may have earned over $1 million in bonuses for innings pitched.

     
  • At Fri Aug 01, 10:27:00 PM , Blogger JST said...

    I stand by my statement that the Twins shouldn't have signed Livan. Hernandez essentially has had two distinct seasons. In the first two months of the season, he was very good -- his April ERA was 5.65, but that includes a horrid 7 run, 2.2 inning performance on April 27. The last two months, however, have been terrible -- his ERA in June was 6.62, and in July it was 6.44 -- and there were multiple poor outings each month.

    I don't think the Twins could have expected Hernandez to pitch as well as he did in the first two months. It was completely uncharacteristic of how he's pitched for the past few seasons, as he was keeping his WHIP down far below his average and was getting out of the jams that DID develop.

    The Livan of June and July is the Livan I expected to see, and the Livan that his past performance suggested would arrive eventually. Spending $5 million on him was a waste, regardless of whether he outperformed expectations for the first two months of the year.

     
  • At Sat Aug 02, 12:38:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Got to love baseball...where wins are irrelevant :-)

    the Dragon

     
  • At Sat Aug 02, 02:56:00 PM , Anonymous TT said...

    The Livan of June and July is the Livan I expected to see,


    You understand that your expectations were wrong don't you? That isn't what actually happened. Maybe in some alternative universe it was a bad move to sign Livan. But in this universe, signing Livan is one of the reasons the Twins are, unexpectedly, only a half game out of first place.

     
  • At Sat Aug 02, 03:49:00 PM , Blogger JST said...

    TT -- First, to your argument that Livan is part of the reason why the Twins are within striking distance of the White Sox. Sorry, but I'm not buying what you're selling. The Twins have won 14 times when Livan has been on the mound, but they've scored 5 runs or more in 12 of those games. Hernandez has not been winning pitching duels. That's not entirely fair to him, since in many of those games the score was extremely lopsided (11-1, etc.) but most of his wins came when the Twins offense would have taken care of business regardless of who was on the mound.

    Now, to what I consider to be by far the more important point. You are obviously correct that my expectations were wrong, and that Livan performed well for two months. That does not mean, however, that his signing was a good move or was justified -- and his own performance provides evidence of that. Luck and random chance play a role in baseball just as they do elsewhere in life. Just because something turns out well doesn't mean it was the right thing to do (the converse is also true). It's very easy for you to point to April and May and say "look, obviously signing Livan was a GREAT move." It's also wrong.

    What I'm essentially saying (and this is entirely unprovable, since we can't go back and replay anything) is that if we were to "play out" the start of the 2008 season 10 times, my guess is that in 9 of those 10 seasons Livan would have had an April and May more similar to his June and July. In other words, he would have stunk.

    Why do I make this claim? Simple -- go back and look at his numbers over time. Nothing in his recent past suggested that he was about to have a great first two months of the season. Hernandez was a very good pitcher as recently as 2005, but over the past couple of seasons he's gone in the wrong direction (big time). With the exception of Roger Clemens, pitchers don't reverse those kinds of slides long term. He was fine for a few starts, but that's all it was ever going to be.

    Based on the information that the Twins had to go on, signing Livan was a bad move. Yes, he had a nice two month run. Which Livan do you think is the real one, however? If you had the choice right this minute of whether to sign him or not, would you do it? Unless I'm mistaken, your answer would be no.

    Nothing says you have to buy my argument, but pointing to April and May while ignoring the larger context of Hernandez's past performance AND the way he's performed in June and July is to completely miss the point of what Hernandez's season demonstrates.

     
  • At Sat Aug 02, 05:46:00 PM , Anonymous TT said...

    1) There is little doubt in my mind that Livan Hernandez would still be in the rotation if Liriano was still struggling in AAA.

    2) I don't know what you are looking at, but in 3 of the past four years Hernandez' ERA on June 1st was under 4, better than this year. That April-May stretch was not really unexpected and neither were his bad stretches since.

    3) The Twins average 5 runs per game. And the alternatives to Hernandez, including Liriano to start the season, would have not been able to win some of the games Livan did.

    4) And if you say signing Livan was a mistake, you have to consider what the alternatives were.

    And once you go with the world as you saw it then there were several differences from now:

    5) It is at least as unanticipated that all four of the pitchers currently in the rotation would have success as it was that Livan would.

    6) You ignore the likelihood that Livan's leadership has something to do with that success.

    7) The Twins were not supposed to be contenders. They were signing a veteran for the staff who would eat innings was a way of protecting a young pitching staff. Take out Livan and you are playing prospect-roulette with young pitchers you don't really think are ready, hoping one will surprise you. The realisitc alternative to Levan was to let Liriano struggle at the major league level.

     
  • At Sat Aug 02, 06:21:00 PM , Blogger JST said...

    TT -- I'll try to address these in turn. Even though I disagree with you completely, I find this kind of back-and-forth quite interesting. At this point, I think it's pretty clear that we aren't going to change each others minds, but here goes:

    1.) You are probably right that Hernandez WOULD still be in the rotation if Liriano hadn't been making a strong case for a promotion. That's a different question than whether he SHOULD be, though, so I'm going to move on without discussion. I will say that I'm on record as agreeing with you -- the day Hernandez was cut, a quote of mine appeared in the Bleacher Report column I linked to on the main page saying that I thought Hernandez would be kept around for the rest of the year. So, we agree on something -- although for quite different reasons.

    2.) I'm going to assume your stats with Hernandez's April/May splits for the past few seasons are correct. I don't think this helps you, though -- you hurt my argument that Hernandez's early success was unexpected, but I think you actually bolster my overall argument that Hernandez shouldn't have been signed. Why? Well, as you put it in the comment: "That April-May stretch was not unexpected and neither were his bad stretches since." In other words, the Twins spent $5 million for a pitcher who, at best, was only going to be decent for April and May. If the Twins KNEW that he was going to be really bad from June on, then they essentially spent that $5 million for 1/3 of a season of good play. That's drastically overpaying for a player like Hernandez.

    3.) Yes, the Twins average five runs per game. In Hernandez wins, though, they averaged 8 runs. In other words, he got a heck of a lot of run support. You would expect him to win an awful lot of games with run support like that. Now, change the starting pitcher and everything would change, so we can't simply plug in a replacement and assume the Twins would still have averaged 8 runs/game. For comparison sake, though, let's just assume we could -- I bet a whole lot of pitchers (guys like Kevin Mulvey, Brian Duensing, Boof Bonser, and Brian Bass, for example) could have won the games Hernandez won with that kind of run support. Basically, I just don't accept the premise that the Twins won those games because of Hernandez -- I think they won them in spite of him.

    4.) I just named several alternatives, any of whom would have been preferable in my mind -- yes, even the failed Boof Bonser. Why? Because Bonser was cheap.

    5.) You're right that the Twins could not have foreseen the success of all four of Slowey, Blackburn, Perkins, and Baker all at once. I'm not sure why this bears on whether Hernandez should have been signed, though.

    6.) Livan may have played a role in mentoring the young pitchers, but how are we measuring that? Do you have any evidence (other than speculation and/or anecdotal evidence) that this is so? Shouldn't a pitching coach be able to do this sort of thing? And if Livan is so good at mentoring pitchers, and is capable of such dramatic successes, why wasn't there a bidding war for his services as soon as Free Agency opened last winter?

    7.) The Twins were already playing "prospect roulette" by going with 4 young starters out of 5 spots. I don't think adding another young starter to the rotation would have been that much of a risk, comparing what Hernandez was likely to give them over the course of the season. I've said before that I think "innings eaters" are overrated if the innings that are eaten are bad innings. I've already mentioned who I would have gone with instead.

    So, there's my take on each of your points. Feel free to either continue the discussion or cut it off -- obviously, we both feel like we're right!

     
  • At Sat Aug 02, 07:55:00 PM , Anonymous TT said...

    "Now, change the starting pitcher and everything would change, so we can't simply plug in a replacement and assume the Twins would still have averaged 8 runs/game. For comparison sake, though, let's just assume we could -- I bet a whole lot of pitchers (guys like Kevin Mulvey, Brian Duensing, Boof Bonser, and Brian Bass, for example) could have won the games Hernandez won with that kind of run support."

    I don't know why you believe that, its pretty easy to find young pitchers who would have done worse. I suggest you take a look at Brad Thomas and Adam Johnson's results a few years ago. But you ignore the other part of the equation, they would have required a whole lot more help from an already overworked bullpen.

    And, like Johnson and Thomas, they might very well never develop.

    I'm not sure why this bears on whether Hernandez should have been signed, though.

    Because if you assumed that you really only had three pitchers who were going to be able to go 6 innings with any regularity, you needed a pitcher who could eat innings. Otherwise the entire staff is going to fall apart. The manager can't turn to his overworked bullpen, so he leaves young, struggling starters in until they prove they can't get anyone out any more.

    why wasn't there a bidding war for his services as soon as Free Agency opened last winter?

    Why do you think the Twins got him on a one year contract for $5 million and Silva got 4 years at $12 million per year?

    The Twins were already playing "prospect roulette" by going with 4 young starters out of 5 spots.

    No, they weren't. I think they thought they would have at least a couple pitchers who were ready for the big leagues.

    I don't think adding another young starter to the rotation would have been that much of a risk,

    Risk to who? I think if they had kept Liriano in the big leagues getting bashed, he would never have recovered his stuff. Humber, Mulvey, Duensing? These are all pitchers who struggled to get AAA hitters out consistently.

    A rotation of Bonser, Bass, Liriano, Baker and Perkins, with three starters who need help from the bullpen in the sixth inning on their good days, is not the way to develop a championship team. Its a great way to destroy the confidence of a bunch of good young pitchers.

     
  • At Sat Aug 02, 08:24:00 PM , Blogger JST said...

    TT -- more responses:

    1.) Why do I believe that multiple pitchers could have won the games that Hernandez won? Simply because the Twins were scoring 8 runs a game for him during those wins. With 4 or 5 options, several of whom (notably Bonser and Bass) have had at least some major league experience, I think the Twins would have found a way to muddle along without Hernandez. The larger point, though, is that Hernandez doesn't deserve all that much credit for getting "wins" in games where the offense was scoring him 8 runs/game. It's not all that impressive a feat.

    2.) OK, so Hernandez often pitched 6 or 7 innings. Frequently in the last few months those innings were accompanied by 5 or more runs allowed. I guess if that's something you value, that's a positive. However, if you're worried about outings when the starter blows up completely, Hernandez was actually worse than the young guys. He failed to get through 5 innings 5 times as a Twin. Blackburn has had 4 starts where he's failed to get through 5, and Slowey has had 3 such starts in comparison. Bonser had (if I counted right) 3 before being pulled from the rotation. The bullpen can handle a starter going 5 or 6 innings -- it's the really short starts that are problematic. Since "innings eater" Hernandez made more short starts than the other starters, I'd say he's not so valuable in that regard, and his starts were more stressful (or, at the very least, equally as stressful) as the other starters. I don't actually see this as a demonstrable strength of Hernandez's.

    3.) I have no idea what you're getting at with your response about Hernandez and the lack of a bidding war. My point was that he obviously wasn't that valuable, because the Twins got him for $5 million. That's cheap compared to Silva (who got a ridiculous contract), but it was still wasted money in my mind. The point about the price tag was that if he was so valuable because of his "mentoring" ability, why was he "only" worth $5 million? I just don't see any evidence that he mentored anyone. He certainly might have, and to be fair at least one pitcher (I think it was Slowey, but I can't be sure) said that he served as a mentor -- but what else would he say? "That old guy doesn't know anything"? Of course he wouldn't say that. What can you point at in the young pitcher's games that improved because of Hernandez, however? We can't say one way or another whether there was any real affect or not.

    4.) So going with 4 young starters isn't a risk in your book, but going with 5 young starters is? I guess that's the magic line. To me, there's very little difference -- especially when the veteran starter is likely to have a season WHIP around 1.60 or higher.

    5.) Who said anything about a rotation of Bonser, Bass, Liriano, Baker, and Perkins? Why did you exclude Blackburn and Slowey? The current rotation, of course, is Baker, Blackburn, Slowey, Perkins, and Liriano. Without Hernandez, at the beginning of the year it would have been Baker, Blackburn, Slowey, Bonser, and Liriano. Perkins would have been added after Liriano went out. Liriano would presumably have replaced Bonser when he was ready. If you didn't want Bonser in there, then you could have tried Bass, Duensing, Mulvey, or anyone else you wanted in that spot until Liriano was ready.

    The doomsday rotation you suggested was never something I proposed, nor would have been. I'm not sure why you thought that's what I wanted, because I never said anything like that. The Twins rotation without Hernandez would have looked very similar to the rotation with him -- except it would have been Bonser failing rather than Hernandez failing (as of June), for less money. And if you're worried about destroying Bonser's confidence -- well, don't be. He's as good as done with this team by the time next year rolls around anyway. This would have been a good chance to see if he could have turned things around in the rotation.

     
  • At Sun Aug 03, 06:22:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Josh,

    With all due respect, I think you're incorrect on this.

    At this point I do not remember your arguments against the signing, and I will submit that Livan did EXACTLY what he was hired to do.

    In hindsight, it might be reasonable to argue the signing was in error, yet that presumes you foresaw that ALL 4 of the young starters were going to perform to or above expectations. If you add Liriano, 4 of the 5 young pups had 1/2 year of ML experience or less, Baker being the exception. Blackburn had none. Add to that the fact that both Liriano had not pitched in 2007 and Perkins had pitched minimally in 2007 due to injuries.

    Livan's stats are poor, yet does the surface stats actually reflect what actually occured or is it a case where the average distorts reality. Or, is it an issue with "style points"?

    I saw the following stats posted on another blog, so I won't vouch for their accuracy, yet it looks about correct when eyeballing Livan's 2008 stats on baseball-reference.

    In Livan's wins he had an ERA of 3ish. In his losses he had an ERA of 10/11, and in his ND his ERA was 5ish. This is really a case of schizophrenia.

    I think this discussion would not exist if the team was 50-60, or 1 or 2 of the young pups had not succeded as they have.

    My 2 cents, although due to inflation not worth that much.

    Regards,

    the Dragon

     
  • At Sun Aug 03, 06:52:00 PM , Blogger JST said...

    Dragon -- no need to preface your comments with "all due respect." You (and TT) are 100% entitled to your opinions, and not I'm not arrogant enough to think that there's no way I could be wrong. However, I don't think that I am.

    Here's the thing -- I have been opposed to the Livan signing from the beginning. I found the arguments in favor of signing him (i.e. that he would be an innings eater, that he would be a mentor, etc.) to be poor. I thought it was a waste of both $5 million and a roster spot to bring him in. The argument is not based on "style points" or on the expected performance of the young pitchers. It's based solely on what I expected Hernandez to do, and what he in fact did over time. I simply don't think he's the "innings eater" that he's famed to be, and I would rather have gone with another young starter.

    The biggest objection that the pro-Hernandez camp (I say "pro-Hernandez" as a short-hand for those who were in favor of the signing, which doesn't necessarily imply that all those in that camp wanted to keep him now) is that Hernandez would provide some stability in a sea of youth. This is primarily why I think the Twins signed him. In the end, though, that supposed "stability" didn't materialize (see the earlier post where I referenced the fact that Hernandez was the worst amongst Twins pitchers in terms of short starts - i.e. those less than 5 innings). When the guy was pretty much destined to have an ERA above 5.00 and a WHIP above 1.60, the supposed stability he would have provided weren't worth a lick in my mind.

    So, this is not an argument that I arrived at after the fact. I always felt it was a mistake to sign Livan. This was awkward when he was pitching well early in the year. It became decidedly less awkward as the season went on.

     
  • At Sun Aug 03, 09:30:00 PM , Anonymous Marty Andrade said...

    Omnis bella bellabilis in bellerio bellando, bellans, bellativo, bellare facit, bellabiliter bellantes. Parisius habet bellas. Ergo gluc

    Taylor Wins

     
  • At Mon Aug 04, 06:19:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Josh,

    First, I respect your take, and do not often disagree with your analysis, thus "with all due respect".

    This is obviously a case of different individuals seeing the same event and interpreting it differently.

    It appears we disagree , which is fine. To me the answer is crystal clear, to you the opposite is just as clear :-)

    Regards,

    the Dragon

     
  • At Mon Aug 04, 06:23:00 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

    Oops...

    One final thought.

    I saw at least 2 of the young pups take the effort to give kudo's to Livan after good efforts. I presume those comments were sincere. There was no need in the context, for insincere gratutious comments.

    Regards,

    the Dragon

     

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