Monday, August 25, 2008

The Breakdown of Eddie Guardado

After hurling just 13.7 innings in a forgettable season with Cincinnati in 2007, Eddie Guardado had found a home in the Lone Star State when General Manager Jon Daniels took a flier on the former closer to a 1-year, $2 million dollar contract. Instead of having Guardado chew meaningless innings or retiring a solitary left-handed batter per outing, the man that had amassed 183 saves between 1995 and 2006 with Minnesota, Seattle and Cincinnati was once again tasked with meatier roles.
Guardado sports a 1.31 leverage index, essentially the equivalent role as Dennys Reyes (1.42 pLI) or Matt Guerrier (1.33 pLI), but where those two failed to provide adequate performance (0.28 wpa and 0.33 wpa, respectively), Guardado's pitching has assisted his team towards victory (2.53 wpa). Guardado spent April and May being deployed in the seventh innings in 10 of 18 appearances. His 15.1 innings of work that produced a 2.93 era earned manager Ron Washington's trust. In June and July Guardado was the Rangers main set-up man for closer CJ Wilson, holding 18 games. He received a vote of confidence by the manager by working the eighth inning in 20 out of 28 appearances in that time. By August the Rangers had promoted him to closer in place of the injured Wilson. "I've been pitching this year like it was the ninth inning, like I was the last man standing," Guardado said. "That's given me an edge to get the job done. Pitching in the ninth, that's pressure, no doubt. In the eighth, you know there's someone behind you to pick you up if you fail. In the ninth, you've got to close the door." Guardado's set up success did not parley into a dominate closer though. In 8.1 innings of work in August under his new title, Guardado has allowed 11 hits and 5 walks leading to 5 runs - saving just two games.


Batters Face



































He readily admits that he is showing his age, but his ascending opponent numbers as the season grows support the hypothesis that Guardado may be breaking down. "I'm going to leave my arm on the mound one day," Guardado said with a laugh. "I'm going to turn around, pick it up and say, 'Let's go.' But that's what it's all about when you're playing for something special. You never know when you'll get to that spot again."
The 2008 Eddie Guardado is an anomaly of a pitcher. It is hard to isolate any particular statistic that reaffirms his success though a great number of them deserve a second look. The 37 year old lefty no longer possesses the ability to miss bats as he did in 2002 when he accumulated 45 saves while striking out 67 of 270 batters faced (24.8%) or the following season when he locked down 41 saves while whiffing 70 out of 270 (25.9%). This season, after being shut down by the Reds in 2006 and signing the short-term contract with the Rangers, Guardado has managed to strike out only 28 of 194 batters faced (14%). As cliche as it sounds, Guardado reinvented himself as a pitcher. Instead of batters making contact 76% of the time, as was the case in 2002, now batters are making contact in 86% of match-ups but rather than see his numbers skyrocket (especially given the conducive nature the Ballpark at Arlington is to offense) Guardado has remained consistent - opponents hit .215 off of hin 2002 and they have hit .220 in 2008. He now unleashes a subdued 85-mph fastball, down 2-mph hour from 2006. Yet in spite of that large contact difference, Guardado's 2008 results, a WHIP of 1.15, do not vary that much from his 2002 season when he produced a WHIP of 1.04. What is the differences between Eddies?
"I don't know, bro, I wish I had an answer for you," Guardado said. "The best I can tell you is I pound the strike zone, I keep the ball down and, for the most part, I stay ahead of hitters. I'm not afraid, I know what I've got and I trust it."
Guardado's self-analysis notwithstanding, his numbers would suggested that he is actually not within the strike zone as much as he would like you to believe. In 2002, 70% of his pitches were strikes, both swinging and called. By 2008 there was a 5% decrease in the amount of pitches within the strike zone. However the notable difference is that Guardado has experienced a growth in called strikes, going from 20% in 2002 to 36% in 2008, suggesting that Guardado is indeed better at locating his pitches therefore getting batters to swing at "his pitches". How has this effected his results?









Line Drive



One explanation for Guardado's resurgence could be partially credited to his defense, as difficult as it is to believe. It is no small secret that the Texas Rangers have shown the worst defense since Bonds claimed flax seed oil was responsible for his muscular build. The team has committed 108 errors and are the proud owner of a .668 defensive efficiency ratio (meaning that roughly 66% of all balls in play are converted to outs) both the worst in the American League. Even knowing that his team might covert less than 67% of balls in play into outs with a substantial odd that they might muff the play altogether, Guardado still boasts a .243 batting average on balls in play. This is marginally better than his .259 batting average on balls in play while with Minnesota in 2002 (a team that committed a league low 74 errors and converted nearly 70.3% of balls in play into outs) but at a time when 25% of his opponents were striking out. Normally one would argue luck as the reason behind Guardado's batting average on balls in play - particularly without any strikeouts to justify defensive swings - but his ability to show control within the strike zone as led to more flyballs (52% of the time) which typically obey Newton's Law and returns as an out as indicative of the opponents' .122/.118/.297 batting line on flyballs.
What does this study tell us about Eddie Guardado's potential in Minnesota? The Twins will provide better defense in the outfield (Span, Gomez and Young) over that of Texas (Boggs, Hamilton, Murphy) so if he continues to incite flyballs, Guardado stands a better chance of those being coverted to outs. On the other hand, the change in opponent average over the past two months could also indicate that Guardado's arm is tiring. If the trend is accurate, Guardado's .355/.444/.548 opponent line in August would only exacerbate the bullpen problems at the cost of a decent relief prospect. Nevertheless, the gamble on acquiring Guardado is worth taking as the bullpen appears to be in a freefall. In the event that Guardado cannot revert to his June-July performance, the Twins will certainly regret not bringing in either Chad Bradford (7 innings, 1.63 pLI, 0.63 wpa) or LaTroy Hawkins (7 innings, 0.83 pLI, 0.60 wpa) both of whom as thriving at their new homes in Tampa Bay and Houston.

Notebook Dump (08.25.08)
Game: Twinks 3, Angels 5
Record: 74-56, half-game back
Streak: Two losses
The Quote: "You never want to drop the last two games but I feel like we battled them every game. They are one of the best teams in the league -- record-wise, talent-wise, lineup-wise. ... It's good for us to see that we can definitely play with a team like this for nine innings for four straight days." - Kevin Slowey.
* One move that calls for questioning was Gardenhire allowing Dennys Reyes to face Mark Teixiera in the 8th inning. The obvious decision was to bring in Craig Breslow or Dennys Reyes to turn Teixeria around to his slightly weaker side (.290/.410/.471 as a right-handed batting average). Reyes has been the "hotter hand" if you will over Breslow. In the month of August had yet to give up an earned run in his 8.1 innings of work, striking out 11 and posting an .182/.229/.182 average against. Breslow, however, had the better average against versus right-handed batters: .224/.338/.239 vs. .276/.354/.397. Gardenhire chose Reyes. Reyes worked ahead of Teixeira, 0-1, with a 90 mph fastball on the outside corner. The portly lefty threw Teixeira the indentical pitch which he drove to right field for a double to start the inning and he would eventually score the tying run after Reyes was pulled in place of Jesse Crain.
* In order to recall Alexi Casilla from his rehab stint, the Twins outrighted Brian Bass to Rochester. With Bass's recent minor league pedigree coupled with the Twins lack of bullpen options, it was not at surprising that Bass was included on the roster and used liberally as the long-relief/mop-up pitcher. After throwing 838.1 innings in the minor leagues with a 4.34 era, the Twins decided that Bass - who lacked options and would have needed to pass through waivers in order to assigned to AAA after spring training - would be a solid candidate to work innings that did not qualify for either Crain, Rincon, Reyes, Guerrier or Neshek. Bass




walk %

strikeout %

home runs



groundball %

% of relief innings worked





























































As you can determine from the month-to-month breakdown, Bass's performance was ineffective at best. When the 2008 season concludes and analysts descend onto the data attempting to explain why the Minnesota Twins did or did not make the postseason, one area will be criticized more than all the others: the bullpen. The front office addressed needs pertaining to defense (Adam Everett), power (Delmon Young, Craig Monroe), the starting rotation (Livan Hernandez), and the ability to hit left-handed pitching (Monroe, Brendan Harris) during the winter but the make-up of the bullpen was neglected and overlooked entirely. While no one could have predicted a disasterous injury to Pat Neshek early in the year, yet there were signs of cracks in the foundation:
1) Both Pat Neshek and Matt Guerrier were given an early offseason when they were ultimately shut down due to overusage.
2) Juan Rincon had a third straight season in which his peripheral numbers declined. (Though the difference between 2006 and 2007 did not provide much reason to show concern, his velocity had shown a steady drop since 2005 along with his strikeout rates.)
3) Jesse Crain would be shut down for the entirety of the season in mid-May of 2007.
Brian Bass, with his lack of options and his 2007 season in Rochester where he tossed 103 innings with a 3.48 era, entered as the only new member of the relief staff. The Twins were hopeful that Bass would continue his development in the major leagues after his strikeout rate increased from 11.6% in 2006 to 18.8% in 2007. Bass began the season working extremely low leverage innings but begin to experience more challenging innings as Neshek and Rincon both disappeared from the the roster. In June, it appeared that the 26-year-old Bass had turned a corner posting lows in walk rates (4.3%), home runs allowed (2) and batting average against, on-base percentage and slugging in 18 innings of work. The Twins went 17-11 on the month, thanks to one of the bullpen's best months (3.21 era) and Bass handled 21% of the relief innings that month. The team's relievers regressed in July as indicated by the 5.21 era and Bass, like his brethern, contributed to that with a 6.75 era in 10 appearances in his least amount of innings worked (15.6%) since the season began. The August 4th game at Seattle possibly sealed his fate. After Glen Perkins had gone six solid innings, the lefty hit a wall, culmanting in a grand slam to Raul Ibanez that brought the Mariners within one run. Bass came on only to give up a double to Adrian Beltre followed by a single to Jose Lopez to knot the game at six a piece. Lopez later scored when Guerrier gave up a single to Jeff Clement and Bass was branded with the loss.
* In order to make room for Bass in Rochester the Twins released Casey Daigle, one of the few offseason spring training invitees, from the organization. Daigle, in 44 relief appearances in AAA, went 1-5 with a 3.78 era, striking out 65 batters in 69 innings of work. Of course, the most disappointing part of this move is that Daigle's wife and Olympian hottie Jenny Finch will not be making an appearance at the Metrodome. Boo-urns.
* One of the questions that came up during Sunday's Twins broadcast was what is the likelihood of Denard Span winning the Rookie of the Year award? Bert Blyleven touted Tampa Bay Ray third baseman, Evan Longoria, suggesting he was the obvious winner. The sentiment across the mainstream media seems to favor him as well. Cearly Evan Longoria has the spotlight thanks to an All-Star as well as a Home Run Derby appearance, but the fact that the Rays are heading from Worst to First is providing him with additional accolades whenever writers attempt to find an explanation. Longoria has done well producing ridiculously high power numbers (.255 isolated slugging average) and has driven in many (71) batting 5th in a very good Rays lineup while Span has sparked the Twins offense as the leadoff hitter with his on base percentaged indicates (.398).

plate appearances



home runs



win probability added

E. Longoria








D. Span








* The Twins are keeping a close eye on Hernandez's Colorado performance as they will be responsible for his contractual bonuses which take effect after he tosses 160 innings. Fortunately, Tracy Ringolsby reported that the Rockies are considering replacing Livan Hernandez after his third start. When the Rockies agreed to take on his contract, they were hoping to add a pitcher that would give the bullpen a rest. Instead, in Hernandez's three starts, the bullpen has pitched more innings than Livan (14 innings to 12 innings). "He has pitched better in the past, and we need him to pitch better to keep him in the rotation," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We got him to eat innings, but the bullpen has worked quite a few innings (in Hernandez's three starts)." Hernandez has posted a 15.32 era in those three starts as opponents have hit .424/.469/.661 in that duration adding Game Scores of 5, 29 and 23.