Friday, August 15, 2008

The Friday Flotsam
* Joe Christensen reported that the Twins claim both right-fielder Raul Ibanez and starting left-handed pitcher Jarrod Washburn but negotiations to complete a trade came back fruitless. The interest in Ibanez is justified as the combination of Carlos Gomez's futile at-bats pile up and Michael Cuddyer's compounded injuries has left the offensive production in the outfield flat. In 472 plate appearances this season, Ibanez is hitting .292/.356/.496 with 19 home runs. Playing in the Metrodome that favors left-handed batters with the inviting Baggy within reach would certainly improve the offense. His defense, however, leaves something to be desired as USS Mariner has often highlighted this: "His defense is, of course, horrible. There’s no denying this - he’s one of the very worst defensive players still being allowed to carry a glove. Every advanced defensive metric shows this to be true. His Fielding Bible +/- is -14 plays (or about -12 runs) so far this year. His UZR is -18. This follows exactly in line with what we’d expect, considering how bad he’s been with the glove the last few years." As bad as he has been, he has proven to be better than Delmon Young this season. As a left fielder with the Mariners, Ibanez has had 237 expected outs in 1031.0 innings and has converted 231 of those outs (-6). Meanwhile Young, In 990 innings in left has made 217 outs from the 230 expected outs (-13). Furthermore, Ibanez's revised zone rating of .887 bests Young's .840. That's a sad realization. Dave Cameron, one of the writers at USS Mariner, continued in that article to theorize that despite Ibanez's impending free agent status at the end of the season, it behooves the Mariners to retain him. Ibanez will undoubtedly be labeled a Type A Free Agent. A Type A Free Agent, when signed by another team, would net the Mariners two draft picks. Hence not trading Ibanez would provide the Mariners with a $5.5 million off of the payroll and two prospects to be named later. Therefore, trading him away would result in the Twins getting a half-season of Raul Ibanez (at the expense of Carlos Gomez's defense, which is decision to move the best defensive center fielder in the league) and two draft picks in next season's draft. Seattle, aware of trading Ibanez means two prospects, was probably requesting what they believe Ibanez's current value plus two low-level prospects. The Twins could have flipped three prospects in exchange for Ibanez only to replenish them in the next draft. Still all of this speculation is moot since a team with a lower record than the Twins claimed Ibanez prior to the Twins and did not reach an agreement.
* Albert Einstein said the definition of insanity is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Not long ago, the Twins cut tied with the ineffective Livan Hernandez and possibly felt naked without the "veteran presence" or "innings eater" in the rotation and decided to claim Jarrod Washburn when the Mariners posted him. The only difference between Hernandez and Washburn is that Washburn is still under contract in 2009 for $10.35 million - a disastrous amount to dedicate to a pitcher of this caliber especially when the Twins have an assortment of pitchers to bring into the rotation from within the system. SI's Jon Heyman speculates that the entire maneuver of the Twins claiming Washburn was to block the White Sox from obtaining him as they need to find a replacement for Jose Contreras. This is a curious theory. As you can see by the chart below, Washburn is essentially a left-handed version of Livan Hernandez. Inserting Washburn into the White Sox rotation would mostly likely benefit the Twins. In addition to that, the block (if that was indeed what Bill Smith was attempting) could have backfired and the Twins could have actually wound up with him like the San Diego Padres and their ill-fated claim of Randy Myers in 1998 which cost the Padres $12 million dollars and two years of Myers not pitching. A pitcher of declining talent on the payroll at $10 million 2009 is not the route the franchise wants to take.
























* Speaking of Livan Hernandez, ESPN's Jason Stark noted that the agreement between the Twins and the Colorado Rockies included the Rockies paying for the remainder of the $1 million left on his contract. Turns out this move could come back to haunt the Twins after all. The problem is that the Twins are accountable for his incentives. According to the contract, once Hernandez reaches 160 innings (he's currently at 142 innings), the Twins will owe him $133,333 for every five innings he pitches the rest of the season. If he does get to 200 innings this season - as he has done each season this century - it would mean the Twins would be liable to pay him $1.1 million.
* The Twins square off against Carlos Silva to open the series against Seattle. Silva, who was quoted by the Seattle press as saying "Maybe half of the team wants to do the best they can. Every time (the starters) cross that line, we want to do our best. No matter how many games we are behind. But maybe half of the team doesn't have that mentality. They are only thinking of finishing strong, and to put up their numbers. That's great, but that affects us. As a team, that doesn't work out." While it "takes balls" (as Aaron Gleeman appropriately labeled it) when you call out your entire team in a post-game locker room interview as you sport a 4-13 record with a 5.93 era, but in an odd way he is right. Nobody has ever claimed Silva to be a superstar pitcher. Seattle misguidedly handed him his 4-year, $48-million contract and those that executed it are now looking for employment. Here's what is factual about Carlos Silva:
1) He is a groundball pitcher (50% groundball rate on his career),
2) that rarely strikes hitters out (3.78 per 9 innings),
3) but doesn't walk them either (1.63 bb per 9 innings).
His era fluctuated between 2004-2007 with the Twins, but it also coincided with the Twins defensive abilities. In 2004 the Twins posted a .684 defensive effieceny ratio. Silva posted a 4.21 era. In 2005 the Twins posted one of the league's best defensive efficiency ratio of .701 while Silva matched that with his career best 3.44 era. In 2006, the Twins pitching staff suffered a half-season with Tony Batista and Juan Castro before exchanging that for the superior defensive of Nick Punto and Jason Bartlett finishing with a .684 defensive efficiency ratio. Silva clearly was the biggest negative recipient of the Batista/Castro defense as through his first eight starts that season resulting in an era of 8.80, a WHIP of 1.69 and a demotion to the bullpen. After several outings in relief Silva returned to rotation and pitched more typical of his track record as indicated by his 4.95 era and 1.45 WHIP. In 2007 the Twins matched their previous season's defensive efficiency ratio (.684) resulting in a very family 4.19 era. It was this consistency, the ability to pitch a lot of innings and a dried-out pitching market (Lohse or Silva? Lohse or Silva?) that sent his price to the moon. Unfortunately the Mariners did not have a strong defensive infrastructure equipped to handle a groundball pitcher. Seattle has a .672 defensive efficiency ratio, second to last in the American League, meaning that additional groundballs are leaking through the infield. Whether the Mariners DFA Silva or eventually find a trading partner that is willing to take on that contract, it is clear that in order to obtain production out of Carlos Silva, his next team better be solid defensively.