Thursday, March 03, 2011

Done Deal

Ron Gardenhire made it official yesterday: Brian Duensing is a starter.

Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano have to be considered rotation locks, but it seemed as though the manager might use spring training performance to determine which of the remaining four would be awarded starting jobs.

Not so for Duensing. Apparently, in Gardenhire's mind, the left-hander earned the billing through his performance last year, when he went 7-2 with a 3.08 ERA after joining the rotation in July.

That performance, combined with his excellent work after stepping into the rotation late in the 2009 season, has convinced many people -- including Gardy -- that Duensing is the team's third-best starter. And, looking only at his ERA and win/loss record from the past two years, that certainly seems to be the case.

Unfortunately, for anyone looking past those categories, it's tough to see him sustaining the kind of success he had last year in a starting role. Duensing doesn't have the stuff to throw past hitters -- evidenced by his 5.5 career K/9 rate -- and as his .275 BABIP from last year inevitably begins to normalize his other numbers will see regression, perhaps drastically so. It seemed as though his luck started to catch up with him late in the season, when he gave up 19 runs on 35 hits in 27 innings over his final five starts, including a playoff dud against the Yankees (though one could make the case that he simply wore down).

To be sure, Duensing is a solid pitcher with admirable poise and there's no reason he can't be a fine back-of-the-rotation arm, but guaranteeing him a starting job also minimizes his greatest and most sustainable asset, which is domination of same-sided batters. Duensing held lefties to an anemic .162/.217/.239 hitting line last year, and showed similar proficiency against them in the previous season.

As a reliever, he would provide the Twins with an established commodity in a bullpen that lacks many. He'd be able to fully utilize his dominance against lefty swingers rather than facing starting lineups stacked with righties. And, should one of the five other starters get injured or fail to cut it, he'd be available to step into the rotation, as he's done successfully in each of the past two seasons.

Instead, assuming everyone stays healthy, the Twins will opt to either potentially weaken the bullpen by asking Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey or Nick Blackburn to pitch in relief -- something none of them have experience doing -- or weaken their starting pitching depth by trading one of those three.

It's frustrating. Not so much that Gardenhire has reached a decision I disagree with, but more so that -- on March 3rd -- his mind is apparently already made up.

60 comments:

Kelly said...

Nick, how's the view out there on a limb?

Look, Ron G, excuse me, Manager of the Year Ron G, names Duenslinger a starter. Duns had a 7-2 record with a 3.08 ERA in half a season, projecting to a 14-4 record over a full season, and you think its a bad idea for him to be a starter cuz he could get the occasional leftie out in relief?

Yeah good thinking. Mauer hits pretty well. Lets use him only as a pinch hitter.

Duns is not a strike out guy is your case? Get real. He gets people out. That is the thing.
Strikeout pitchers tend to go to high pitch counts while they play the hitter. I'd rather see quick 1-2-3 innings. Duns is gonna be great this year, like last year and the year before. Manager of the Year Gardy know what he is doing.

AK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AK said...

Kelly, citing Wins and ERA isn't that convincing for why Duensing should be make a starter. There's a more convincing argument to be made.

cy1time said...

You don't want to hear it, Nick, but this is Gardy clearing the way for the trade that is going to explode your head. By establishing Duensing in the rotation now, the upcoming Liriano trade will be much easier to sell to the masses.

theconsultant said...

I love how sports writers claimed the Twins had a "good" problem with having too many starters. Plug into the rotation Blackburn, Slowey or Duensing... regardless, they are all a 5 spot guy. So we have two #2 guys, I suppose you can call Baker a #3 and three #5 guys. I hope Duensing can produce this year and be a legit #4. I also hope Baker can consistently get past the 5th inning (no so last year). As for Blackburn or Slowey... flip a coin.

Ed Bast said...

Nick, if I understand you correctly, you believe Duensing is better out of the bullpen than the other 3 guys, so he should be in the bullpen. But isn't he a better starter than them also (at least Slowey and Blackburn)? You'd rather add value to the middle relief, which in my opinion is the most replaceable position in baseball. Yes, Blackburn/Slowey don't have much experience there, but we're not talking about high-leverage situations generally.

And while Duensing doesn't project to repeat last year's numbers, he still projects better than Slowey and Blackburn, correct?

I can understand both sides of it, but personally, I'd just as soon see him in the rotation, because regardless of his low strikeout numbers (again, cue Blackburn), he was flat out better than Blacky, Slowey, and Baker last year, and you always want your best pitchers in the rotation.

Anonymous said...

I dont know who anyone can be shocked by this. Gardy is one of the most hard headed manager in the league. Once he's got his mind on something, hell will have to freeze over for it to change. If he believes Duensing is a starter he'll leave him in the rotation no matter once (even though I liked him outta the pen more) From 2B always hitting second to his strict bullpen, lefty on lefty and righty on righty.

This is how Gardy has operated for years. So with you wanna praise him as one of the top managers, you gotta take the good with the bad.

Anonymous said...

OTB came to the exact opposite conclusion as you did based on FIP. Interesting.

I think we're trading Slowey.

RS said...

One thing to keep in mind is Duensings mindset and happiness. After the way he has pitched over the last 2 years when he has started he probably feels that he deserves a chance to start. So if you continually keep throwing him back into the bullpen he is going to get discontented and not pitch as well or want to leave the team which doesn't make him a better option in the bullpen.

I am making the assumption that he would prefer to start and not stay in the pen. It's just hard to keep knocking a guy back to the minors when he keeps performing well in the big league, to use a different example. It's hard for me to look at what he's done as a starter and say that he doesn't deserve a shot to be a regular starter.

Siehbiscuit said...

I am actually shocked at many of your comments!!! Forget wins and losses, and ERA's and any other stats, for that matter. It was absolutely clear to anyone that watched the Twins pitching staff last year that Liriano can be dominant, Pavano will be steady, Duensing will be an overachiever, and Baker, Slowey and Blackburn a complete mystery! Duensing has completely earned a position in the rotation. Nick, it is fascinating to hear you you would prefer Duensing to be a lefty specialist. So instead of giving our third best pitcher (of these 6) the ball every fifth day and have him throw 180-200 innings you would prefer him get 60-70 innings because he can get lefties out really well. If those lefties are so dangerous wouldn't they be in the lineup against a lefty anyway? Morneau and Mauer don't sit vs lefties? You logic is pretty ridculous.

Nick N. said...

And while Duensing doesn't project to repeat last year's numbers, he still projects better than Slowey and Blackburn, correct?

Blackburn, maybe. I think Slowey will be a better starting pitcher if he's healthy. For the most part, they're all interchangeable back-of-the-rotation arms. I'd rather start Duensing off in the bullpen, where his strengths can be maximized.

There's a good chance the odd man out in this equation is going to be needed at a starter at some point anyway, and I'd trust Duensing to make that bullpen-to-rotation transition more than anyone else, since he's proven capable.

Nick, it is fascinating to hear you you would prefer Duensing to be a lefty specialist.

I never said lefty specialist. He'd certainly face a higher percentage of lefties serving in a late-inning relief role though.

So instead of giving our third best pitcher (of these 6) the ball every fifth day and have him throw 180-200 innings you would prefer him get 60-70 innings because he can get lefties out really well.

Duensing started as a reliever last year and pitched well over 60-70 innings. I don't think anyone believes that the five starters who open the season in the rotation are going to be there for the entire year. Adjusting to different roles has proven to be a strength for Duensing, so why not take advantage of that -- while giving some legitimate help to a thin bullpen early in the season -- rather than asking Baker, Blackburn or Slowey to do something they've never really done before?

BE said...

It should be pretty clear to anyone who has been paying attention that, when healthy, Baker and Slowey are far superior to Duensing and Blackburn.

Duensing may or may not be better than Blackburn; he was certainly better last year. Interesting how everyone is ignorning this part of the post:

It seemed as though [Duensing's] luck started to catch up with him late in the season, when he gave up 19 runs on 35 hits in 27 innings over his final five starts

That is godawful. Duensing is just extremely hittable when exposed to righties, and depends on balls being hit at defenders to put up decent numbers. When those batted balls start falling in for hits you get stretches like the above.

Assuming health, the rotation has to be Liriano, Pavano, Baker, Slowey, and either Duensing or Blackburn with the other headed to the bullpen. Who would you rather have in the pen, Blackburn (who's been ineffective vs the world) or Duensing (who is effective against lefties)?

If someone struggles, Duensing can always be moved back into the rotation.

Personally, I think both Blackburn and Duensing are likely to crash and burn this year if used in the rotation. I think we see Gibson up before the All-Star break.

Ed Bast said...

"It should be pretty clear to anyone who has been paying attention that, when healthy, Baker and Slowey are far superior to Duensing and Blackburn."

1) The fact that Duensing stays healthy while Bake/Slowey can not is both a positive for Duensing and maybe an indication that Bake/Slowey cannot handle the rigors of the rotation and would be better suited for less of a workload.

2) By what measure have Baker and Slowey been "far superior" to Duesning? There isn't a statistic, advanced or otherwise, to support this. And since Bake/Slowey haven't been healthy for 2 years, are you suggesting we cannot analyze Duesning's performance at all? Pretty silly to diminish Duensing's performances because the other guys were too hurt to put up better ones.

Polish Sausage said...

Liriano was bad in Sept/Oct. That is godawful. Ship him to the pen.

kelly said...

Duensing is 12-3 with a 2.93 ERA in 22 career starts for the Twins.

Yeah. the same guys that say put him in the pen were ecstatic about Frankie being a possible Cy Young candidate with virtually the same numbers.

Glad Gardy is running the show

Nick N. said...

Look, there would be no point in even bother with this type of analysis if past performance -- in terms of ERA and W/L -- were a perfect predictor of future outcomes. It's not.

You can regurgitate Duensing's ERA and W/L records from limited time as a starter over the past two years all you want, obviously he's going to look superior to the other candidates when you look solely at those factors.

I strive to go a step beyond the completely obvious, and when all is accounted for I feel pretty confident that Slowey and Baker will be better starting options if healthy. That's a big "if," of course, but Duensing is readily available to step in should things not work out. I just don't see what it hurts to have him start in the bullpen, where he has experience. I know some people seem to think he's "earned" the chance to open the season in the rotation but I'm not a big fan of determining these things based on what players have earned. He should be ready to fill whatever role he'll be most helpful to the team in.

HermantownTwinksFan said...

Kelly,

Great post man, I couldnt agree more. How can we doubt the MOY's decision to move statistically our third best pitcher in terms of ERA and winning perecentage into the third slot in our rotation. It has been reported that Yoshi has some great speed, and that it impressed Gardy. Should we use him strictly as a PR?? Duns will be solid, ala left handed Brade Radke, with hopefully better 1st inning numbers. Maybe Kenny Rodgers in the mid 2000's type season...win Twins!

-DB

Dan said...

For the most part, I think Nick is right. Nobody can deny Duensing's success, but there really is a lot more to future projections than W-L and ERA. Stats like BABIP and K/9matter. Duensing has undeniably had his fair share of luck, and he doesn't miss a lot of bats, so Nick is right in expecting his core numbers to suffer when his luck normalizes. After all, his minor league numbers were pretty mediocre.

Baker, Slowey, Blackburn, and Duensing have all had success in the past. Just because Duesning's is more recent, doesn't mean he's the best of them. it really should be a 4-man competition this spring.

But while Duensing is probably our 6th best starter, and is the best fit for the bullpen, I'm okay with giving him a spot in the rotation based on his past results. For whatever reason, he was able to get the job done, and that's significant. If he can duplicate his past results, great, but he probalby won't, and when he doesn't, Gardy needs to pull the plug before it gets ugly.

HermantownTwinksFan said...

Brian Duensing’s Efficiency (2010)

vs. Major Leauge SP Averages

% of PA’s that go to 3 ball counts: 15% (ML Avg:20%)

1st batter of inning out%: 79% (ML Avg:67%)

3 or less pitch PA’s: 52% (ML Avg:45%)

4 or less pitch PA’s: 71% (ML Avg:65%)

He's everything Gardy looks for in a starter. Stays around the plate, works both sides, gets ahead in the count, changes speeds, and keeps his defense moving.

We all know he doesnt have the KO, 10k's/9 stuff that Frankie has, Duns doesn't need it. Expect him to stay ahead of hitters and let his INF's do work.

-DB

Ed Bast said...

Nick, understand your point about future outcomes. But if you look strictly at FIP, Blackburn's was 1.5 runs higher than Duensing's. We need 5 guys in the rotation. The "Duensing in the rotation" guys - at least the ones who give it more thought than "Gardy was manager of the year so everything he does is outstanding and unquestionable" - are more comfortable with Duensing getting 175 innings than Blackburn. You want your better pitchers throwing more innings than your bad ones, simple as that.

Duensing seems to me like a guy who's always going to have to overcome the eye test. Well, he doesn't SEEM like he should have a 2.93 ERA, so it must be luck, no way he's that good. Maybe so, but you can't question his performance to date.

And to keep him out of the rotation just because you think his success has been "lucky" and so he hasn't "earned it"? Let's say you were in sales. This is the equivalent of your boss saying, well, your numbers were great, but frankly I don't understand how you did it, so, I'm giving you a pay cut. Doesn't make sense.

glida.org said...

Interesting (perhaps even provocative) post, Nick. It's about time we pay less attention to ERA (or wins: every one knows a pitcher can't buy wins, even the best of them), while paying more attention to WHIP, K/9 rate, BABIP or PQS for that matter.

I love Gardy and his approach to baseball, but that doesn't mean I always have to agree with him. My gripe about Gardy's decision is that other pitchers (Baker, Slowey,Blackburn) work just as hard as Duensing to be starters this year. Spring training just started so let ALL pitchers fight for that job a bit longer.
Go twins! :)

Paul said...

I don't mind this Gardy decision, although I'm not sure how wise it is to announce right now. It almost sounds flippant so hopefully he's given it serious thought. With Blackburns contract it seems likely he'll be given a lot of rope to win the #4 spot, and that leaves Baker and Slowey for spot #5. So will this mean Slowey is basically a mop up man to start the season?

Anyway, I'm happy to see the provocative Nick take on the announcement, with legit reasons to back up his angle.

Dave said...

BABIP is whatever you want these days.

A recent blog said that Span's BABIP was caused by him flailing at pitches away and grounding out weakly. Astounding! BABIP isn't just luck! What a groundbreaking realization!

Now we are back to baseline. BABIP is once again luck, and in this case caused Deunsing to pitch well. Lets be honest, BABIP is exactly whatever you want it to be. Trying to say that someone got screwed by luck? Cite BABIP. Trying to say someone actually sucked? BABIP. Lets cut the crap, its a misused stat and should be banned from baseball vocabulary for at least a year until we can all be responsible with it again. If not everyone then Nick for sure.

And now let me adress this particular misuse and abuse of BABIP. .275? Really? Thats like .15 to .25 less than expected. Thats like 5-10 hits. Maybe. Yea, that really inflates the stats. Duensing pitched well, and got results in return.

Michael said...

Nick, I think you make some good arguments. And there is certainly a good chance Duensing will regress some this year, perhaps significantly.

However I think the point is that the results he has gotten over the past couple years have earned him a shot as a full-time starter.

Just a shot. If he regresses a lot, they could switch him back to the bullpen. And honestly based on some of his comments I thing he'd be fine if that happened.

But does it really make sense to keep him in the bullpen indefinitely, just out of fear he might not be able to repeat the great results he's gotten so far? To me it does not.

Kelly said...

Look, saying a guy with a 12-3 record should go to the bullpen cuz he can't possibly keep being that good and doesn't strike out enough guys, and is good against lefties is funny. I thought Nick was being sarcastic. Then when he dug in deeper I laughed again.
He is serious!!!

Gardy doesn't care HOW you get guys out. He only cares THAT you get guys out. Unless its a 10 K, low hit perfomance, who cares how you got them out?

I'd rather have a guy that throws 9 pitches an inning and gets me 3 ground ball outs than someone that makes me hold my breath after five innings.

Duns earned this shot, fair n square. I am smiling that he finally gets a chance to show what he can do as a regular starter. He's paid his dues. As a guy who has coached at all levels for over 35 years I have to say, "Bout time Gardy"

I don't consider the appointment as early. Its a year too late in my opinion. Duns gets it done. Period.

Michael said...

^ Dave, just above me.

I think the issue is not just that Duensing has a really low BABIP -- it's that in combination with his fact that the balls put in play against him tend to be well-hit, statistically.

It would be one thing if he were inducing a lot of weak contact. But strong contact plus low BABIP does seem to indicate a measure of luck.

Kelly said...

Oh, and Nick, you want Duns to come in and face one or two lefties in a two inning stint. Every other game or so.... cuz he is so good against lefties..... But
if there are 3 lefties in a lineup... over a two inning stint maybe he faces one or two lefties a game... two or three times a week. Say 5-6 lefties, tops.

But if he starts and faces all three lefties... in 7 inning game he has faced 9 to 12 lefties. Every other week (where he gets two starts) he faces 18 to 24 lefties, and in off weeks he faces 9-10 or so. Your way he faces about 10 in a week.

Duenslinger's sucess against lefties is better used starting, so he can shut them down, inning after inning, to the 8th inning set up man...

Gardy knows this.

Anonymous said...

All those lefty heavy lineups we'll be facing must be really scared now. Oh wait, we're the only lefty heavy team, at least he'll be able to neutralize Adam Dunn and Shin Soo-Choo.

Seriosly though look at his splits, the guy was made for the bullpen. He dominates lefties and is awful against righties. I expect we'll see him exposed in a big way this year.

Haplo said...

God, I wish Batgirl was still going...

Nick N. said...

Now we are back to baseline. BABIP is once again luck, and in this case caused Deunsing to pitch well.

I have never believed BABIP to be a completely luck-based statistic, and have never claimed it was. But maintaining a .275 BABIP is not a sustainable skill for a pitcher. Find me one guy who's done it. Seriously.

If Duensing was an elite ground ball pitcher, or he consistently induced weak contact with a dominant pitch like Rivera's cutter, I'd buy into his ability to keep succeeding the way he has with a high contact rate. That isn't the case.

He's been pretty lucky, plain and simple. And he was exposed in the playoffs last year, when he failed to induce one single swing and miss. Considering all the people who whine and moan about the team's lack of power pitching in the postseason, I'm quite surprised this point hasn't been brought up more often.

But does it really make sense to keep him in the bullpen indefinitely, just out of fear he might not be able to repeat the great results he's gotten so far? To me it does not.

It's not so much about fear that he'll regress as a starter, it's more about the fact that he's by far the most valuable bullpen asset among players vying for a starting spot. I think he'd be a fine back-end starter, and I think he'll end up getting a chance in that role eventually one way or another, but he offers a lot more as a reliever to start the season than Blackburn, Slowey or Baker.

Kelly's right said...

Hey Nick, the harder I work, the luckier I get.

Kelly is far right said...

Nick, please please please please please ......
invite me into your fantasy league.

Anyone who thinks going 12-3 is just lucky needs to turn in his blog.

You would rather put guys in the starting lineup with 4.6 ERAs, just so you could have a lefty reliever with better skills take over down 3 runs in the 5th?

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Thanks. Ahh man I needed that laugh

Nick N. said...

Anyone who thinks going 12-3 is just lucky needs to turn in his blog.

You're not getting anywhere with me by citing W/L record as a measure of skill. There's no statistic in baseball that is more directly attributable to luck.

Steve H said...

Nick I love you

This has been going on in my mind all off-season long, i feared this day would come, and it already has? You're 100% right too early to make the announcement of Duens as a lock..... Duensing is much more effective as the #1 or (2) lefty in you're bullpen than as a #3 or #4 starter...... I think he could make it just fine as a 4th starter but not if opposing lineup-s are goint to load up on RH batters .... Duensing I'd take over Blackburn but NOT Kevin Slowey...

Steve H said...

Look at the difference in quality of Duensing Vs and Slowey's minor league #'s ...... Now I know people can "figure it out" after raching the Majors which looks to be the Case for Brian but Slowey's minor league dominace coan't be a complete fluke.... (and even in saying that I know there are those who never figure it out in the Majors despite how great they may have been in the Minors) But Slowey hasn't been 100% healthy for a while know... Give HIM a shot people (Kelly)

Kelly is really far right said...

Steve, never said anything about Slow,

Nick, I'll say this, when you're wrong, you're really wrong. But saying wins is about luck is just plain dumb. Why is it that you take an absurd position, then defend it til you look even sillier? All of us have friends like that...

Pitchers get considered for the hall of fame based on what primarily?.... come on, I'm waiting? .... OK I'll help ya out...I bet the folks got it...Here is the answer: how close they got to 300 WINS.


CY Young too. If you win 20 games, you are in the conversation, and its not because you were lucky. Felix was the exception. Wins are never the sole criterion, but if you win a lot of games you are considered a great pitcher. Period.

And if you are a guy with an .800 winning percentage (as Duns is) its not because you were just lucky bub.

Anonymous said...

This debate should not be happening. Clearly duensing should start because NICK BLACKBURN IS THE WORST PITCHER IN PRO BASEBALL. Cut his sorry pathetic ass already. We should not stand by and accept Gardys stuborness of playing these horrible players. The only reason he won MOY is because he makes good adjustments to the more important aspect of baseball which is putting out a quality lineup. I'd rather have Gibson or any other unknown trot out to the mound then continuosly going to a dude that sucks ass and needs to shave. If duensing struggles with starting then you put him in the pen and call up anyone in the minors that isn't named NICK SHITTY BLACKBURN!!!!!!!!

-Zeus Cannon

Nick N. said...

I can't tell if Kelly is even being serious anymore.

Zeus, I'm no huge Blackburn fan but you're judging him way too much based on last year, when he wasn't even healthy. He was a perfectly solid pitcher the two years prior and if he could return to that level he'd be an asset. He's under contract for the next several years anyway, so they really have no choice but to give him a shot. He's got no value in the bullpen.

Ed Bast said...

"I'm no huge Blackburn fan but you're judging him way too much based on last year, when he wasn't even healthy."

You refuse to even judge Duensing's performance, though, instead solely looking at his "projections". And what the hell is the "healthy" thing all of a sudden? As Twins fans do we really need to make excuses for every single thing? Now we're flat-out making up excuses, hoping nobody will remember the only time he missed was when he sucked so bad we had to send him down?

"He's got no value in the bullpen."

Why? What does this mean? Don't we need a long-relief guy? You really think he would be incapable of coming in a pitching 3 innings of mop up duty? It's not like we're asking him to become the trainer or batboy. It's pitching. It's the bullpen. Former starters are capable of becoming relievers. It's what's happened with practically every relief pitcher in the history of relief pitchers.

Siehbiscuit said...

Nick, I understand your point on Duensing being the best bullpen option of the four, but he has proven over the last couple seasons that he is the best starting option as well. Yes, there may be some luck involved, but in this game results matter and Duensing has proven healthy enough to deliver better results. I also remember a certain Rule 5 draftee that spent a few season in the "Duensing" role before given the ball every 5 days, his name was Johan Santana. By your logic (having the most experience in the bullpen), you probably think Santana should have stayed in the pen. Duensing may get lit up and some may be surprised. When any of the other three candidates do get lit up no one will be surprised, because all of their experience as starters in the majors reflects that. There is no evidence that Baker, Blackburn, or Slowey can't become a tremendous reliever. Don't forget Joe Nathan was once a failed starter in San Francisco. Just because we don't know how things will turn out doesn't mean it is the wrong way to go. Duensing is the safest choice, due to recent success. Is he the most talented or have the most potential? No, but he has proven to get results. That is what matters.

SethSpeaks said...

Nick and I disagree on this topic, but Nick, I think Kelly Far Right has to be just trolling to get an opinion.

Obviously I'm big on minor league development and how it has to mean something. But I also acknowledge that sometimes it doesn't. I fully expect Duensing to regress in 2011. Putting up the ERA he's put up the last two years would be tough to expect.

I fully understand BABIP and FIP and all that. I get it, and if there were pitchers that I thought were significantly better, I'd be Ok with Duensing to the 'pen, but right now, I don't know that there are.

What I see from Duensing... Good fastball. Good control. Terrific, sinking movement on the fastball. Good curveball. Ability to throw any of his pitches in any count.

What I see when watching Slowey... Good fastball... Good walk rate (different than good control, because he throws a lot of strikes that are too good)... straight fastball... not a good changeup... not a good curveball... Of course, he can improve those things, hopefully, and i believe in Slowey because of those amazing minor league numbers.

Blackburn was very solid in 2008 and 2009. When he was bad in 2010, he was really bad, but he was also really good in May and when he came back, he went 7 innings or more in something like 7 out of 8 outings. I like his cutter and think it would really play well out of the bullpen, I think.

Nick N. said...

And what the hell is the "healthy" thing all of a sudden? As Twins fans do we really need to make excuses for every single thing?

Blackburn had elbow problems last year and they prevented him from being able to use his cutter as much as he had in the past, which was a big part of his game. This is demonstrably true, not some abstract vagary.

Don't we need a long-relief guy? You really think he would be incapable of coming in a pitching 3 innings of mop up duty?

No, but there are about a dozen candidates to adequately fill that role. This team needs impact relievers, and only Duensing appears to fit that bill.

I get it, and if there were pitchers that I thought were significantly better, I'd be Ok with Duensing to the 'pen, but right now, I don't know that there are.

It's not about the other options being significantly better -- I've called the four interchangeable. It's about Duensing being by far the best option as a reliever.

People are taking this article as an indictment of Duensing's starting ability. It's not. It's recognition that he's been an excellent reliever and this team could use one of those. I believe the bullpen is where he can best maximize his skills.

Ed Bast said...

"Blackburn had elbow problems last year and they prevented him from being able to use his cutter as much as he had in the past, which was a big part of his game. This is demonstrably true, not some abstract vagary."

Demonstrably true? Why, because he pitched poorly? I'd say the only thing he did demonstrably was pitch poorly. Again, we see that Twins fan excuse reflex at work: one of our guys performs poorly, so that simply MUST indicate something completely out of his control (payroll/Yankees/ injuries/luck/ payroll/etc).

The Twins have a long history of blaming never-before-mentioned injuries after a pitcher's poor performance - the classic "effect/cause" relationship you seem to fall for. If the guy is healthy enough to go out there, he's healthy enough to be judged by his numbers. Either pitch, or don't.

Nick N. said...

Again, we see that Twins fan excuse reflex at work: one of our guys performs poorly, so that simply MUST indicate something completely out of his control (payroll/Yankees/ injuries/luck/ payroll/etc).

I'm hardly one to make that argument. I predicted before the season started last year, without I had any inkling about his health issues, that Blackburn would post a 5+ ERA. As a high-contact pitcher he's susceptible to bad results like that.

But there's a reason he went from throwing the cutter -- arguably his most effective pitch -- 20 percent of the time in '09 to 10 percent of the time last year. If he's healthy, there's certainly a chance he can rebound and return to posting numbers like he did during his first two years.

Twins fans -- and certainly this one in particular -- are not generally blinded by the bright side of every situation, as you seem to think. But unlike you, we also aren't cursed to see the worst in every situation and spew venomous blame at players who don't succeed.

I agree that Blackburn probably shouldn't have been pitching last year if his health was impacting his performance as much as the team now claims it was, but that's a different issue.

Ed Bast said...

"But unlike you, we also aren't cursed to see the worst in every situation and spew venomous blame at players who don't succeed."

I'm just tired of the Culture of Mediocrity around this team. I wish the organization and its fanbase would have higher standards than what currently exists. As long as we find excuses for everything, the culture won't change. It's pro sports. Performance matters. Athletes get criticized (in real sports towns at least), and get paid handsomely for it. Sorry. Nick Blackburn had an awful year last year. Brian Duensing had a good year. I'm not looking for the worst, those are the facts.

Nick N. said...

Nick Blackburn had an awful year last year. Brian Duensing had a good year. I'm not looking for the worst, those are the facts.

No one denied either of those things. But figuring out the best way to utilize them both going forward isn't as simple as that.

Kelly's moving to the middle said...

Seth nice try. I point out that wins do count (contrary to Nick the ridiculous) and you call me a troll?

Tellyawhat? I understand coming to the aid of a fellow blogger, but that limb Nick climbed out on won't hold both you guys.

Dave said...

.275 is not all that low a BABIP. If it "normalizes" it would be exactly .297. And that is league average which includes every crappy pitcher.

What you are really saying Nick is that you don't think that Duensing's performance was in line with his skills. Thats fine, but lets leave a BABIP analysis out of it. You clearly don't know what makes BABIP or how to use it or even what the average BABIP is. So lets make a deal, eh? Instead of trying to wrap your beliefs into the BABIP box, lets call a spade a spade. You don't think Duensing will be able to repeat last year because he doesn't have the talent. Is that so wrong? You have a gut feeling, one that very well could be right. Lets not be pretentious and try to justify it with stats you don't really know anything about.

glida.org said...

Kelly, you are right: wins do count (a win is a win), but wins are not an indicative of good pitching. You can have an ERA of 6.00 and win 15 games, or you can be winless with ERA of 3.00.

Ed Bast said...

For what it's worth, the all-time leaders in wins are: Cy Young, Walter Johnson, Grover Alexander, Christy Mathewson, Warren Spahn, Pud Galvin, Kid Nichols, Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens. I'd say wins are indicative of good pitchers.

The Win stat is like the RBI stat: the saber guys completely disregard them as if they are absolutely meaningless. Sure, they might be overused, but they are meaningful. For example, Twins Geek did a comparison from one year to the next on "predictive" pitching stats and Wins was a better predictor than BABIP, which has almost no correlation to future ERA.

http://twinsgeek.blogspot.com/2009/11/on-craps-shoots-and-era.html

Let's move beyond BABIP, shall we?

Nick N. said...

Lets not be pretentious and try to justify it with stats you don't really know anything about.

Yeah, we wouldn't want to seem pretentious, would we? My goodness.

I never said Duensing's BABIP was absurdly low in the Trevor Cahill category, but .275 is more than 20 points below average and I don't think Duensing has the stuff to sustain that. The point is that a lot of balls get put in play against him and once more of those start turning into hits, his results will turn south -- particularly if he's facing larger doses of right-handed batters.

Why don't you actually go ahead and explain what's wrong with that viewpoint rather than acting like a smug, condescending prick? You're the exact type of person that gives the stat analysis community a bad name.

For example, Twins Geek did a comparison from one year to the next on "predictive" pitching stats and Wins was a better predictor than BABIP, which has almost no correlation to future ERA.

If you think anyone is claiming that BABIP is predictive of anything, you're not listening.

DK said...

Twins Geek didn't do a very thorough job of explaining what he was doing in that study, but if I can extrapolate that he was trying to correlate low BABIPs in one year to low ERAs the next year, it makes sense that it would correlate badly, since the point of BABIP for pitchers is that for most, its fluctuations are based on randomness/luck and not repeatable skill.

We "predict" that guys with low (or alternatively, high) BABIPs one year are likely going to see some regression the next year, and so we expect that their ERA will rise (or, alternatively, lower). That's what I expect out of Duensing (or, alternatively, Liriano). That's not what I understand Twins Geek's study was doing, though. Pitchers who had low (or high) BABIPs in 2008 probably had lower (or higher) ERAs in 2008, but those ERAs probably regressed in one direction or the other in 2009 as their BABIPs normalized in 2009, meaning you can't use their 2008 BABIPs to predict similarly low or high ERAs in 2009.

Ed Bast said...

"If you think anyone is claiming that BABIP is predictive of anything, you're not listening."

You're saying Duensing's low BABIP means he's due for a regression. You're predicting a regression. What am I missing?

Nick N. said...

You're saying Duensing's low BABIP means he's due for a regression. You're predicting a regression. What am I missing?

The point is that BABIP fluctuates randomly for pitchers like Duensing and most guys end up around .300 in the long run. So while it's certainly possible that he'll continue to beat the odds, it's not something the team should be planning around.

USAFChief said...

It would be one thing if he were inducing a lot of weak contact. But strong contact plus low BABIP does seem to indicate a measure of luck.

Wait a minute...I thought the premise behind "BABIP" was that pitchers have no control over balls put into play. What's all this 'weak contact' talk? Are you implying that pitchers do, indeed, have the ability to induce weak contact? That 'stuff' or location or velocity influences the types of contact made by hitters?

Blasphemy!

Gardy said...

Nick, you know about as much about baseball as a high school sophomore. So calling someone else a "condescending prick" is unprofessional and just shitty work.

Please resign. You suck

Matt said...

Let's ask Duensing if he thinks "ability to change/adapt well" is one of his strengths.

How long would a "valuable asset" put up with being sent to the pen, only to enter the rotation when someone goes down or performs dreadfully?

Give the kid his friggin shot, already, and see what he can do over a full season if he's able to complete it.

He's earned his shot this year. Slowey's done almost nothing to prove he's reliably good, either has Blackburn or Baker. Time for a new guy to get a shot and see how he does.

Why does it have to be more complicated than that? I'm surprised Nick took the troll bait and acted so unprofessionaly, but I'm faithful Nick is a good blogger, so let's give him a pass on this one...

Ellen Colby said...

Good for Duensing! He's worked hard, and he's earned his shot by having results on the field. I'm surprised that Baker still has anybody supporting him for a role in the rotation. I can't believe we haven't traded him while he still has value. Yes, one of every 6 or 7 starts is above average, but he doesn't have an out pitch. He doesn't strike anyone out. His ERA has gone up the past 3 years. And, he has no presence on the mound.

Most importantly, is anyone actually excited anymore to go to Target Field and see a game that Baker starts? You know you'll get to see a lot of defense as balls are tagged to the gap, and there's usually one to go over the fence. Duensing, on the other hand, has shown some promise. He may get hit, but it doesn't seem to be two or three-run homers once per game. I'd much rather pay to see Duensing pitch.

Anonymous said...

Honestly,nothing advertises you as a jerk quite like posting jerk stuff from behind the safety of a computer screen that blasts someone you don't even know personally. I enjoyed the nature of the argument that Duensing is more valuable to the team as a reliever than as a starter, yet I can see the other side to the argument too which is that even though his 2009 stats are likely unsustainable, he's somehow managed to get to the point where he's at and that has to be worth something. Thanks for a provocative argument Nick, and any well articulated and positive counter arguments by others. To those who can't be respectful on a basic level, quit trolling and grow up. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

In retrospect, Nick was spot on with his assessment of Duensing. You detractors need to wise up.