Saturday, August 08, 2009

Pavano

If there's one thing capable of prompting a Saturday post on this blog, it's a post-deadline waiver trade for a mediocre veteran starting pitcher. So let's get to it.

The Twins acquired Carl Pavano from the Indians yesterday in return for a player to be named later. The 33-year-old right-hander will add that ever-valuable veteran presence while jumping into the rotation and creating additional depth in what has become a paper-thin starting pitching corps. R.A. Dickey gets a one-way ticket to Rochester to create room on the 25-man roster.

First, I'll say that I actually don't mind Pavano. When the Indians signed him this offseason for $1.5 million plus incentives, I spoke rather glowingly of the move, giving the following brief analysis:
I’m not a big fan of Pavano, but he’s 33 years old and has a history of pitching well. If he stays healthy, he can probably [be] counted on for close to league average production; if he doesn’t stay healthy, the Indians aren’t on the hook for much money at all. This is what a low-risk veteran signing should look like. When you hear complaints about the Twins handing $5 million to Livan Hernandez and $3 million to Ramon Ortiz, this is why.
Pavano has indeed stayed relatively healthy, and while his production up to this point doesn't look all that good at a glance (9-8 record, 5.37 ERA), it's worth noting that he has performed better than his results would indicate. The mention of Hernandez in the above quote seems apt, since I would basically describe this year's version of Pavano as a rich man's Livan. He has given up a lot of hits and home runs (.299 BAA with 19 HR allowed in 125 2/3 innings) but he actually hurls a respectable fastball which averages over 90 mph, and he has posted a solid 88-to-23 strikeout-to-walk ratio while limiting baserunners to a large degree thanks to his quality control. His 4.15 xFIP suggests that if he keeps pitching the way he has up to this point, he'll probably be good for an ERA lower than 5.37 from here on out.

The relatively impressive peripherals don't change the fact that Pavano has been fairly hittable this year, and given the fact that he's 33 and has never been much better than average in his career (with the exception of a season or two), it's not likely that he'll step in and change the fortunes of the Twins rotation. What he does do is add much-needed depth to a pitching staff that was one more Glen Perkins shoulder flare-up or Francisco Liriano control meltdown away from turning to Kevin Mulvey as a starter. That in and of itself makes this a pretty good move, particularly when you consider that the Twins aren't likely to end up losing anything of much value in the deal. The PTBNL is probably conditional based on Pavano's performance, but will likely end up being an older farmhand whose chances of making a serious impact at the major-league level are minimal.

Now we turn to the predominant question at hand: who will Pavano replace in the rotation? It's almost certainly going to be one of the Twins' struggling lefty starters; Pavano will start tonight in place of Perkins, but Ron Gardenhire has stated that the team has yet to make a decision whether Liriano or Perkins will be the odd man out in the long run. Twins Geek seems to think Pavano replacing Liriano is a foregone conclusion, and Howard Sinker was strongly advocating for Liriano's dismissal from the rotation on his blog just the other day. I disagree with both of them. But that's a matter that I'll tackle another day -- probably Monday.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, thank you for coming to Liriano's rescue. People are so quick to banish his talented, cheap, young arm to the bullpen where he won't be able to throw enough innings to provide much value. Like Pavano, Liriano's ERA paints him as a worse pitcher this year than in actuality (4.78 FIP, 4.68 xFIP). That's still not a great starting pitcher, but if he can find some more control, he's a #2 or #3 starter.

Bryz said...

I agree, it's disappointing to see how quick fans write off Liriano and act convinced that Swarzak is the savior. I can't remember who mentioned it, but I saw someone check out Fangraphs and find out that Liriano's slider and change-up have been great this year, but his fastball has been absolutely terrible.

I know that it's between Perkins and Liriano to see who gets sent to the bullpen, but despite my comment above, I feel that it has to be Liriano. To me, Perkins would just be another Duensing, and I don't think that Perkins has the stuff to match up with tough lefties. Granted, one could argue that Mijares could assume that role, but then that drops the team to one setup man (Guerrier), which risks him getting overused like last year. Plus, people keep quoting that Liriano pitches very well the first 2 times through a batting order, so at first glance it appears that he may have the stuff to improve the bullpen. But...only time will tell.

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