Thursday, December 22, 2011

Marquis for Slowey an Unexciting Swap

The Twins rounded out their rotation today, signing free agent right-hander Jason Marquis to a one-year, $3 million deal. Since Marquis essentially replaces Kevin Slowey, who was traded to the Rockies a few weeks ago and would have made about the same amount next season through arbitration, it seems appropriate to compare the two based on what they're likely to provide in 2012.

Slowey was disastrous this past season, but Marquis' 2010 campaign was almost equally catastrophic, as he posted a 6.60 ERA and 1.71 WHIP while being limited to 58 2/3 innings by injuries. He rebounded this year, putting up a mediocre 4.43 ERA and 1.49 WHIP while logging 132 innings over 23 starts between Washington and Arizona. That seems like a fair baseline expectation going forward.

Their career numbers aren't terribly different. Marquis' ERA in the majors sits at 4.55, Slowey 4.66. Both have been extremely hittable. Slowey owns the superior WHIP (1.29 to 1.43), thanks largely to a lower walk rate (1.4 BB/9 to 3.5), and he also boasts the higher strikeout rate (6.7 K/9 to 5.2).

Opting for a guy who misses fewer bats is disappointing in light of the strikeout shortage that I've written about a couple times this week. However, Marquis offsets his lack of whiffs with an elite ground ball rate, which stands in stark contrast to Slowey's extreme fly ball tendencies. Only six pitchers in the majors finished with a higher grounder rate than Marquis' 55.1 percent in 2011.

If he continues to put the ball in play and induce tons of grounders, Marquis will only be as good as the infielders behind him, so the gamble that the Twins took on Jamey Carroll holding up as a full-time shortstop at age 38 will be magnified.

If you asked me which guy I'd rather have on a one-year deal for $3 million next year, I'd probably opt for Slowey, if only because he's six years younger and offers greater upside. The difference isn't huge, though, and if Slowey is really the clubhouse headache he's been made out to be, this can be considered a justifiable swap at the bottom of the rotation.

Unfortunately, it does nothing to augment the top of the rotation, which will leave plenty of pressure on Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano to carry the load. Fans who were hoping for a serious upgrade to the starting corps aren't getting one here.


mntwinsmusings said...

Interesting comparison. It does confirm what the Twins got is a 5th starter and nothing more. Here's hoping for a stellar year for the infield.

Anonymous said...

"If you asked me which guy I'd rather have on a one-year deal for $3 million next year, I'd probably opt for Slowey, if only because he's six years younger and offers greater upside"
if it's a one year deal why does it matter who's younger?

Noam Chomsky said...

Slowey is pitching comparison to Dave Mccarty. How much more of seeing him get his tits lit up do people need to see? Honest to god. The only thing that has kept him in the league as long as he has been is his inability to stay healthy and the Twins praying he could fulfill his minor league promise. Even Blackburn has at least pitched "some" innings. I hope Kevin's complexity and uncanny intelligence yields him more success in Colorado. I doubt Twins fans will miss him much.

Anonymous said...

At least Marquis can serve as a pinch hitter on the days he's not pitching, and won't be an automatic out during inter-league play. Blackburn was at his best when his sinker was working. Perhaps Marquis can do the same. We shall see soon enough.

Anonymous said...

Marquis follows a long, tired trend of signing low risk, low reward starters to shore up the rotation. 5th starter at best and not very exciting.

But you are cherry picking your stats in the Slowey vs. Marquis. Slowey has never sniffed 200 innings while Marquis has hit the number 3 times and 190 another 2, and has hit 200 as recently as 2009. It's also interesting that you picked Marquis's worst year as a starter to compare with Slowey's 2011. Marquis battled injuries but rebounded with better numbers after his 2010 campaign. Marquis has also pitched in some hitter friendly parks in Chicago, Washington, Colorado and Arizona, so Target Field might help, as it has for Pavano. I'm not saying he's an ace, clearly another soft-throwing pitch-to-contact guy who needs good fielders behind him. But he is an upgrade over Slowey, even if it is a slight upgrade.
Slowey's upside is questionable as well, especially now pitching in Coors Field. He was a pitcher on the rise after a very good 2008 season, but whatever injury sidelined him in 2009 has lingered and made him less effective.

All that said...with Target Field the Twins should be able to better than both Marquis and Slowey.

Anonymous said...

Forget the stats. Either Slowey or the team flunked chemistry. He had to go.
Marquis should do OK in a big ballpark. The Twins could've done a lot worse -- and, with Smith, they did.
I don't understand the negative tone. It seems to me the Twins have made some upgrades, at least on paper. We knew there probably wouldn't be any huge deals.
They've sure been smarter than the Viqueens, whose personnel decisions are Smith-like.

Josh said...

Slowey's rate stats are nice, but the fact remains that he seems incapable of pitching deep into games. Marquis has cleared 200 innings 3 times and 190 2 more. He should be a guy who can be counted on to go 6-7 innings a start, which will make the bullpen look significantly better (at least in theory).

It is true that this doesn't help the top end of the rotation, which is a concern. Baker is a good #2 starter, I think, but seems incapable of staying healthy for a full season. Liriano has the stuff to be an ace, but hasn't put it back together after the elbow surgery and can't seem to put in a full season either. That's tough. Pavano is a nice workhorse (amusing to think of him that way after the disastrous Yankee years) as a #3 starter who pitches without fear. Blackburn is a solid back of the rotation guy who needs to stay healthy and sharp for a full season.

But it was a bad year for starting pitching on the free agency market. $3M for Marquis is a low-risk signing that helps stabilize things, and I'd rather go that route than toss a multi-year deal at any of the other clowns that are left on the market.

Is there a top-end college pitcher we could get in the draft? That would be nice...

Anonymous said...

Nick, somehow I knew the comparison to Slowey was coming. You really need to accept that he's gone and move on. I don't think any of us think that Marquis is an exciting signing, but this team does need a guy who can give them 200 innings and Slowey is not that guy. I also agree that this was not a good FA year for starting pitching and over committing to a mediocre guy probably would've been the worst thing Ryan could do. Hopefully after Pavano's contract is done after next season they will feel compelled to finally sign a big name FA like Greinke. I'm still holding out hope that this signing allows them to add another arm to the BP - like Harden.

Kel said...

Sign Roy Oswalt for Pavano money.

Nick N. said...

I don't understand the negative tone.

It's not so much a negative tone as a blasé tone. The Twins set out to improve their pitching staff this offseason but I don't think they've done that. I don't see Marquis as a legitimate upgrade over Slowey, who they could've kept around for the same money. Marquis might give you more innings, but not even that is a given.

I don't think any of us think that Marquis is an exciting signing, but this team does need a guy who can give them 200 innings and Slowey is not that guy.

Slowey has thrown more innings over the past two years than Marquis.

Laches said...

I'll take Marquis over Slowey because of his better attitude and track record of pitching deep into games, but it's a marginal upgrade.

I understand the frustration with not doing something bigger with the rotation to a point, but I didn't see any appealing trade or FA options that would have accomplished that goal at a reasonable price.

Last year's rotation keeps getting trashed for how bad they were, and while much of that is deserved, it's not like 2011 was their first year in the league. They have done better than that before, and I think they can again. I don't buy this idea that they are not capable of performing any better than they did last year.

Ryan is in a tough spot here. I'm with Nick on his Twitter comment, I don't mind that they are straddling the line between rebuilding and re-loading. There were so many guys who had either bad or injury-shortened years, it's hard to know where the team stands, it depends whether and how and bounce back. If a bunch of them return to pre-2011 form, then the division is within reach and you go with the reload. If they don't, it's going to be another exceptionally long season and you go with the rebuid and become sellers at the deadline.

Mike said...

This just isn't a move to get all that excited about. I guess if Marquis pitches to his career norms and goes 180+ IP, I'll be alright with it. If not, I think I'd rather have Slowey.

Slowey is more of a fly ball pitcher, Marquis is more of a ground ball pitcher. I feel more comfortable with Revere and Span running down fly balls than I feel with Valencia, Carroll, and Casilla scooping up ground balls.

But we'll see. Ryan has hinted that the team isn't quite done yet, so hopefully they still upgrade the bullpen, which I'm more concerned about than the rotation.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ed Bast,

Please do not stop commenting. Many readers of this great blog, I'm sure, look forward to them as much as I do. Continue to comment!


Nick N. said...

if it's a one year deal why does it matter who's younger?

In general, baseball players have their best years between the ages of 27-32 or so, which is why that window is often referred to as their "prime."

Andy H said...

were the twins in the GIo Gonzalez sweepstakes at all? That's exactly the kind of trade the twins could and should have pulled off

Anonymous said...

Another ho-hum move. Why weren't they in the running for Gio Gonzalez? This team will be lucky not to repeat last year's 99 game loss.

birdofprey said...

Andy H,

To get Gio Gonzales, would you give up Oswaldo Arcia, Aaron Hicks,Liam Hendriks, and Brian Dozier? That would be the equivilant haul to what Billy Beane got. Not a good trade for us.

Anonymous said...

I'll take 'em over Slowey on attitude alone--can't be worse. I knew this guy was clubhouse poison as far back as July 2010. Difference between Slowey and an ace? An ace'll try and pitch the complete game shutout and not hand the ball over after 8 scoreless with 103 pitches thrown (Seattle Jul 31). Who does that?

Anonymous said...

If our roster gets as thin as it did last year, could Marquis bat for himself and someone DH for Butera? Marquis has superior career stats than him.

Mike said...

"An ace'll try and pitch the complete game shutout and not hand the ball over after 8 scoreless with 103 pitches thrown (Seattle Jul 31). Who does that?"

A guy that listens to his manager, who knows more about the game than he does. A guy that routinely gets really bad after about 80 or so pitches and was well beyond that point. It was a close game- going to the pen was a better decision.

Do you also want to rip on Felix Hernandez, an ace, who gave up the ball after 7 innings and 99 pitches? Surely, Hernandez was a better option than the Seattle bullpen, even down three runs.

I don't hate swapping Slowey for Marquis, but it still isn't a very exciting move.

Denard Span Fan said...

I agree with Nick...Kevin Slowey has way better upside and I think we should of gave him one more chance then picking up Jason Maquis and great blog Nick!I think he'll do well in Colorado and understand he is hittable but I think most his balls will be pop ups then doubles and be more fly-outs then himeruns b/c the wind carries dooes'nt mean the wind can't hold balls in...I wish the best for Kevin Slowey and I always been high on him and always root for him. Al;so Nick out of all the teams I root for from NFL to NBA this fan base seem more negative then any of them and even when we get into postseason for some reason. One time they say get rid of Denard Span? One day Francisco Liriano? Then Justin Morneau? Micheal Cuddyer once and now he is gone so whose next? Good job Nick and keep it up bro!

cheap logo design said...

That is an interesting comparison! Hopefully they do good this year. I don't know, well see!

Anonymous said...

Is it even a competition I mean at least Marquis won a game last year. I mean you are comparing a guy (Slowey) who went 0-8 last season and Marquis who went 8-6. How is this not a great swap. Who cares what Marquis era is over his career. If you look Slowey had a 6.67 era and Marquis had a 4.43 era last season still not good but its better. You should change the Unexciting swap to pretty exciting swap.