Before the season, the Twins cut ties with Bobby Korecky, allowing him to be taken on waivers by the Diamondbacks. Early in the season they cut Craig Breslow in favor of Sean Henn. This week they cut Luis Ayala and replaced him with Bobby Keppel. Now, Korecky, Breslow, and Ayala were no great shakes or anything out there on the mound, but the Twins have seemed to go out of their way to replace them with inferior versions of themselves.
Breslow’s a crappy left-hander used in a LOOGY role? Well, we have Henn, an even crappier left-hander suited solely for a LOOGY role!
Ayala’s a crappy right-hander completely unsuited for late inning relief? Well, Keppel’s an even crappier right-hander who can barely get anyone out at AAA!*
* Seriously, in 6 seasons at AAA his ERA is 5.13, and he’s struck out just 5.2 per 9 innings. This is his first season as a reliever, and his ERA is down despite the fact that his peripheral numbers are worse; expect him to explode, Ayala-style, in the most embarrassing fashion possible.
Now, you might want to accuse the Twins of being cheapskates. After all, they didn’t go after any of the hot-shot relievers in free agency this year, and they won’t trade away any prospects to pry a good setup man from a flailing non-contender. This is the problem, right?
The problem is that they’re promoting crappy relievers to the majors while excellent relief prospects continue to toil away in the system, dominating at every level, getting older but not better. Robert Delaney and Anthony Slama have nothing left to prove at their current levels — AAA and AA, respectively — but yet they rot.
One obvious possibility is that the Twins believe in Reliever Roles, and they follow that system dogmatically. You must have a LOOGY reliever, which means “a crappy lefty you can bring in to face a single left handed batter, and usually walk him, before going to someone else in a more difficult situation with runners on base, and you have to do this even if he can get right handed batters out just as well.” You must also have a 7th/8th inning right hander who gives up runs every time out but there’s still always the chance he sneaks through an inning somehow. That was Ayala, and now it’s Keppel. Of course, when the Twins’ bullpen was working well (years ago), the Reliever Roles “worked” because all the relievers were good. If you have six relievers who can all go 1-2 innings and not allow a baserunner, much less a run, then it doesn’t matter whether you use them in their proper roles or not — you’ll have a good bullpen.
So is the Twins’ belief in the necessity and value of roles the reason for Henn and Keppel being on the team instead of Delaney and Slama?
It’s possible, I guess. But I’d like to think that the reason is considerably stupider than that. I’ll posit such a reason to you now.
Throughout their minor league careers, Delaney and Slama have always racked up a lot of strike outs. Normally that’s a good thing, but not if you’re being measured by your effort. Let’s just go ahead and say the following happened at some point this season:*
Minor league pitching coordinator Eric Rasmussen sits at his desk; Bobby Keppel, Anthony Slama, and Robert Delaney enter. Rasmussen: Hi guys, thanks for coming in. I called you in here to tell you that one of you is going up to the majors! Delaney gives a little fist pump. Rasmussen: What was that for, Del-y? You think you’re the one getting the call? Delaney: I’m not? I mean, I’ve struck out 9.5 batters per nine over my entire career, and I’m at AAA now … what do I gotta do? Rasmussen: We haven’t seen what we want out of you. You’re not clutch. Delaney: Clutch? I had 18 saves last year! And 35 the year before that! Rasmussen: That’s not what I mean. We haven’t seen you get out of any jams. You’re not putting in enough effort out there. You need to show that when runners are on base, you can get out of that tough situation. Slama: Wait, isn’t it better to just strike everyone out? Rasmussen: Absolutely not! We pride ourselves on our defense around here – Keppel: Yup, I heard that, which is why I signed with the great great great Minnesota Twins organization. Rasmussen: … thank you Bobby. As I was saying, we pride ourselves on our defense, and we don’t want our great defensive players just standing around watching you walk people. Delaney: I don’t walk people. 1.5 BB/9 is pretty low. Rasmussen: Bah! You should be more like Kepp-y here. He’s getting out of jams all the time! Look how many times there are men on first and third and he gets the ground ball! Keppel: That’s true, there are men on first and third a lot. Slama: That’s a BAD THING! Rasmussen: Can it Slam-y. Getting out of tough spots is valuable. You two bums haven’t ever done it. Slama: I’ve struck out 13.7 batters per nine innings! For my whole career! Rasmussen: Exactly. Your 53 strike outs in just 36.2 innings so far this year tell me you’re not ready for Twins baseball. Keppel: Rasmuss-y? Rasmussen: Yes Kepp-y? Keppel: I’m tired from all the work I’ve been doing. Did you know I gave up 26 homers last year? And that my WHIP was 1.663? That’s hard, grueling work. I need to take naps. Rasmussen: I know you do Kepp-y. And look at all those baserunners! And that’s what I’m talking about, you bums. You should be more like good old Kepp-y here. Delaney: You mean you want us to stop striking people out? Slama: And start giving up more runs? Rasmussen: In so many words, yes. Yes I do. That’s why Kepp-y’s getting the call. Congratulations my friend! Keppel: zzzzzzzzz Rasmussen: Aw, isn’t that cute? He loaded the bases last night but only allowed two runs to score. He needs his rest. Delaney and Slama dejectedly walk out of the office, each considering taking up some drugs of abuse so they can get suspended for 50 games and not have to deal with this fucking bullshit any more.God damn it.
* By the way, this did not happen. I hope.1 comment