Mar
25

Mailbag: Slowey, Joba, Prior, Bunting!

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Mailbag time. This week we’re going to talk about Kevin Slowey, Joba Chamberlain as a long reliever, Mark Prior‘s chances of making the team, and sacrifice bunting. My favorite strategy. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send your questions in throughout the week.

(AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Brock asks: Assuming that the MLBTR post about the Twins willing to accept Slowey for relief pitchers is accurate, would you support the Yankees if they went ahead with a move like this? Who would you be willing to give up?

We’ve gotten a ton of Kevin Slowey questions this week, so Joe and I addressed it in yesterday’s podcast. I also looked at him earlier this month. Slowey’s is clearly an upgrade over the dreck the Yankees have at the back of the rotation right now, but he’s a flawed pitcher. He has the lowest ground ball rate of any pitcher in baseball since his debut (31.6%), he has trouble against lefties (.354 wOBA against), and he’s been on the disabled list with an arm-related ailment in each of the last three seasons, including wrist surgery two years ago. That said, he’s young (27 in May), cheap ($2.7M in 2011), under contractual control through 2013, and he doesn’t walk anybody (1.46 uIBB/9 career). He’ll give up some homers, but at least the lack of walks will somewhat mitigate the damage.

As you said, the Twins reportedly want a late-inning reliever in return, and people have asked about giving up Joba. The two right-handers are at the same point of their careers contractually, so they’d be trading three years of Joba for three years of Slowey, so that works out well. However, I’m pretty sure the Yankees could stick Joba in the rotation right now and get Slowey-level production out of him. I also think he’s poised for a big year, though I still acknowledge that an average starter is more valuable than a top-end reliever. Maybe I’m just Joba-hugging too much, but I wouldn’t give that up for Slowey.

Given Slowey’s obvious faults, I wouldn’t trade for him unless the Yankees could get him on the cheap. The Twins have already lowered his value by sticking him in the bullpen, so there’s no need to pay market value for him. There’s no doubt that he’s better than Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, Kevin Millwood, and Sergio Mitre, but I don’t see him as an “acquire at all costs” guy.

Drew asks: Okay so my friend and I got into an argument today about Joba. He is convinced that Joba can go out and throw 3 innings and be the long reliever if necessary. He said he throws only 60 pitches max, AND that in bullpen sessions he throws 60-100 pitches so his arm would be okay. I told him he is out of his freaking mind. Please set him straight and tell him he’s crazy.

I think every middle reliever, a guy accustomed to throwing one inning at a time, could go out and thrown three innings or 40-50 pitches in an emergency. That doesn’t mean it’s ideal though. Joba could certainly be the long reliever, but they’d have to stretch him out a bit, to at least 40 pitches or so. I don’t think he could just go right into the season as is and be expected to throw three innings at a time.

That said, Joba’s too good for long relief work. More than a strikeout per inning, fewer than three walks per nine, and a ground ball rate around 45% … that guy should be pitching in some kind of leveraged role, even if it’s just medium leverage.

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Ellis asks: What’s up with Mark Prior? His stats look great this spring – is he in the running for a bullpen spot?

Nah, he apparently signed his contract knowing that he needs to go to Triple-A and prove himself. Prior has looked great in camp, but it’s only been a handful of innings against (mostly) minor league competition late in games. He has to show a little more against Triple-A caliber hitters (there’s a lot of Single- and Double-A players late in Spring Training games) and prove he can pitch on back-to-back days. Prior has looked way better than I expected and he’s definitely put himself in consideration for a call-up at some point, but he’s still got some more things to work on before that happens.

Vinny asks: While I know how you guys feel about sac bunts, in certain situations, would you advocate Jeter bunting more to cut down on his double plays? Obviously it would depend on the situation during the game, but I think we can all agree that giving away one out is better than grounding into two, both from an outs and a momentum perspective.

Yeah definitely, but like you said, it depends on the situation during the game. Early in the game, absolutely not, and probably not in the middle innings either. It would have to be late, seventh or eighth or ninth inning in a one-run (either way, leading or trailing) or tied game, where scoring that one run is the sole focus.

I hate sacrifice bunting, but that doesn’t mean it’s useless. Late in a game where one run can improve the team’s chances of winning so greatly, that’s when it’s a sound strategy. It defeats the purpose pretty much anytime after that.

Categories : Mailbag
  • Paulie21

    More important than having Jeter bunt,is having him stop swinging at the first pitch all the time, to give Gardy (who many times is likely to be the guy on first) a chance to steal second. Then Jeter can bunt him to third.

  • http://twitter.com/steveh_MandAura Steve H

    With the bullpen depth I think I’d do Joba for Slowey. What about D-Rob for Slowey? You’d still have Joba for the 7th (who I think has a lot more upside than D-Rob).

    The point is probably moot however, as both Joba and Robertson strike out way too many guys for the Twins liking.

    • Ted Nelson

      I wouldn’t. I don’t think Slowey is any sort of a long-term solution. He has gotten pretty well knocked around on the road in his career and 2010.

      Joba, on the other, hand is a long-term play to me. He can be a closer or transition back to the rotation at some point.

      I would not trade Joba for maybe one extra win in 2011 in the best case, from a guy you’re trying to upgrade over from the moment he gets here. As much as people bitch about Colon/Garcia/Millwood, known of those guys cost the Yankees assets outside of a bit of (relative) pocket change.

      • Ted Nelson

        *none

      • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

        You seem to overvalue Joba a bit. Whether it’s because of his injury history or the Yankees failure to recognize his ability, Joba isn’t going back to the rotation, at least not as a Yankee. They’ve made that perfectly clear. Right now he’s a middle reliever who’s only going to get more expensive. I’d trade him for any relatively decent starting pitcher.

        • http://twitter.com/joero23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

          Even for a guy who you’re relatively certain won’t be in the starting rotation for any sort of long-term period? Maybe I’m undervaluing Slowey, but I get the impression he’d be a one-year stop-gap type of guy, no? I don’t think I give up Joba for that.

          • http://twitter.com/steveh_MandAura Steve H

            He might be a one year stopgap, but you’re basically trading your 6th inning guy for him. If guys in the minors develop as we hope, Slowey will have trade value next year as well and you can move him. I would cringe to trade Joba for Slowey, but I think Joba’s value, even coming off a subpar year, won’t get much higher if he’s pitching low leverage innings in the 6th. In a vaccum I don’t trade Joba for Slowey, but in the Yankees situation I’d certainly think about it.

            • http://twitter.com/joero23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

              Yeah, but Joba’s a 6th inning who still has potential to be more. I’m not saying he’s going back in the rotation, clearly something relatively drastic would have to change for that to happen, but he could be a relatively long-term option out of the ‘pen, no? I just think he’s more valuable to the Yanks right now than Slowey would be, I think the minute Slowey arrived in the rotation the Yanks would be considering how to eventually replace him.

              • http://twitter.com/steveh_MandAura Steve H

                Yeah, Joba’s potential is definitely higher, I just don’t know that he’ll ever get to display that potential. He’s certainly down on the pecking order in the bullpen. I guess best case scenario to increase Joba’s role is, unfortunately, injuries to Soriano and Mo. Considering Sori’s history and Mo’s age, that’s certainly not a far fetched situation.

                • http://twitter.com/joero23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

                  “Yeah, Joba’s potential is definitely higher…”

                  This is what bothers me about the proposal. Does that deal make the Yankees incrementally better today? Probably. But I think that incremental increase will be very short-term. I could see Joba having more value than Slowey as soon as sometime this very season. I think it wouldn’t take long for us to regret that deal. Sometime you trade potential for immediate gains and you know you’re going to eventually watch the asset you lost outperform the asset you gained, but you make the trade-off because the immediate gain is important enough to do it. I just don’t think this is one of those cases. I don’t think the immediate gain is great enough, nor do I think that gain would last for long enough, to make it worthwhile.

                  I know I’m quibbling about a proposal including a reliever so it’s not such a big deal.

                • Ted Nelson

                  “I just don’t know that he’ll ever get to display that potential. He’s certainly down on the pecking order in the bullpen. I guess best case scenario to increase Joba’s role is, unfortunately, injuries to Soriano and Mo.”

                  I think that this is short-term thinking.

                  A. Soriano can opt-out after 2011 or 2012 if he’s so inclined.
                  B. Mo is only signed for 2 seasons and Joba is under team control for 3 seasons.

                  So, A and B make it possible for Joba’s role to increase in a natural way without injury before he hits free agency. Though certainly injury is possible.

                  C. Even in a lesser role, Joba can still prove he’s ready to handle a greater role. If he’s back to 2007-8 form, I don’t think teams are going to freak out because he’s pitching in the 7th. I think his trade value would be considerably higher than coming off his 2009 and 2010 seasons. Whatever the reason, I think it’s hard to disagree with Cashman’s point that Joba has been different in 2009 and 2010 than he was in 2007 and 2008. I don’t know if that’s something he can or will fix…

                  D. Guys do move from the pen to the rotation, and if Joba’s results were 2007-8-ish and their bullpen remained relatively set, I certainly think he might get the chance to start for the Yankees.

                  • The Big City of Dreams

                    “D. Guys do move from the pen to the rotation, and if Joba’s results were 2007-8-ish and their bullpen remained relatively set, I certainly think he might get the chance to start for the Yankees.”

                    He has a better chance being a hitter for the Yankees than starting games for them. He’s not going to start no matter how he improves. Even if they have a need in the rotation he’s not going to start games.

              • Ted Nelson

                “I think the minute Slowey arrived in the rotation the Yanks would be considering how to eventually replace him.”

                That to me is a big part of it.

            • Ted Nelson

              “I think Joba’s value, even coming off a subpar year, won’t get much higher if he’s pitching low leverage innings in the 6th.”

              Why is he pitching low leverage innings in the 6th, though?

              I don’t understand why people seriously misrepresent this… You get people all the time commenting on how Joba is not the Yankees’ “5th” reliever… No. He’s their 3rd guy. You’d expect him to be getting mostly 7th inning work, with 6th and 8th inning work mixed in. You’d expect that they’ll try to get him into the higher leverage situations in the 6th, 7th, and 8th (mostly 7th probably) if he’s pitching the way he should be. And… if Soriano and/or Mo goes down or is ineffective… he’s pitching the 8th or 9th regularly in high leverage spots.

              I find it odd for the same people to talk about how high leverage spots aren’t only in the 8th or 9th, and then dismiss the role of anyone pitching before the 8th or 9th…

              Furthermore, just because his innings are coming earlier… if he’s blowing guys away and his ERA is under 2… teams will have a little imagination and see that he could close games for them over their closer with the career ERA over 4. A lot of people reject the notion that pitching in leverage situation is a skill at all.

              I might think about it, but I would not make the trade in the Yankees situation.

        • Ted Nelson

          “You seem to overvalue Joba a bit.”

          This implies that you know his real value… I reject that premise and therefore don’t have much use for your comment.

          “Joba isn’t going back to the rotation, at least not as a Yankee. They’ve made that perfectly clear.”

          No. They’ve made it clear that right now he’s a reliever. Guys like David Wells and Kenny Rogers and CJ Wilson have spent years in the bullpen and then been transitioned to the rotation by the exact same team that had them in the pen for years. If you asked the Rangers in 89-92 they’d have told you Kenny Rogers was a reliever, but in 93 they’d have told you he’s a starter. These things can change.
          Another example is Curt Shilling, though he bounced around before getting his shot in a rotation.

          In Joba’s specific case, Cashman said he’s a reliever because he’s lost something since “the incident.” That would imply that were he to re-gain what he lost… he could be a starter.

          Again, I reject that you know what the Yankees will do in the future better than anyone else, probably including the Yankees themselves.

          “Right now he’s a middle reliever who’s only going to get more expensive.”

          Again, my whole point was not to give up long-term value for a negligible short-term game. Joba being a “middle-reliever” now says nothing about what he’ll be in 3 years.

          “I’d trade him for any relatively decent starting pitcher.”

          If you think Slowey is that pitcher, I think you are mistaken.

          • http://twitter.com/joero23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

            “I reject that premise and therefore don’t have much use for your comment.”

            This part was unnecessary and counter-productive.

            “Again, my whole point was not to give up long-term value for a negligible short-term game. Joba being a “middle-reliever” now says nothing about what he’ll be in 3 years.”

            This part I agree with. We tend to pay lip-service to potential, and the fact that things change over time, but then overly emphasize immediate, current conditions. Yes, Joba is a reliever. I’m not going to go on another rant about why he should be given a shot to start, he’s a reliever. But that doesn’t mean he will be for the rest of his career, or that he will be in 2012, or that he will be in 2013, or anything else of the sort. He could be a middle reliever, he could be a late-game reliever, he could be a starter. Things change, and Joba is one player who has a reasonable shot to change his status.

            • Ted Nelson

              “This part was unnecessary and counter-productive.”

              My wording was too strong. By saying “you seem to overvalue Joba a bit,” Ross implies that he know Joba’s real value. I disagree. I’m not sure anyone really knows Joba’s real value 3 years down the road, since he’s been a sub-2 ERA pitcher at times in his career and a 4+ ERA guy at others.

              “He could be a middle reliever, he could be a late-game reliever, he could be a starter. Things change, and Joba is one player who has a reasonable shot to change his status.”

              Totally agree. Even if we were to say for sure that he will never, ever be a starter again… he can still be more valuable long-term as a reliever than Slowey as a starter. But, of course, I don’t think we can say for sure he won’t start at some point. He’s only 25 this season.

              • http://twitter.com/joero23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

                No worries, just trying to help keep the peace. One little perceived slight and productive conversations can get ruined pretty quickly.

          • http://twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

            I love when people drop the “you don’t know what the Yankees are thinking” line like it helps their argument. Newsflash: Neither do you.

            I wasn’t saying I knew better than anyone else, or anything like that. I’m going off facts.

            The Yankees have made it clear that (yes, for now) he’s a reliever. This is not going to change this year. Given the need for a starting pitcher this year, and their adamant refusal to transition Joba back to the rotation anyway, I don’t see how one can refute this. Could Joba be a starter down the road? Sure, it’s always a possibility. But it’s not happening this year, and we’re talking about this year since Joba isn’t signed to a long-term contract. What might happen 3 years down the road is largely irrelevant to assessing his current trade value, in my opinion.

          • The Big City of Dreams

            We know his value is low. We definitely know that. And Cashman mentioned teams have tried to “steal him” so can’t we come to conclusion is not high at the moment.

            Things change but this won’t. Joba’s future with the Yankees is set in stone. As long as he’s in pinstripes he isn’t going to start for the this ball club. They have kids on the farm on the doorstep to become apart of the rotation and there will always be trades or free agent pick-ups down the line.

            If he regains what he lost why would they ever move him again.

        • The Big City of Dreams

          I’d trade him as well because I feel he has no future with this team. I expect him to be package for a starter in the middle of the season when the need arises.

  • Ted Nelson

    I’m skeptical of Twins pitchers outside of Target Field… It’s not totally rational, but most of their starters have terrible home/road splits.

    • http://twitter.com/steveh_MandAura Steve H

      They’ve been in Target field for 1 year.

      • Ted Nelson

        Target Field, Metrodome… whatever… their pitchers do better at home than on the road. Slowey got rocked on the road last season and was also considerably worse on the road in 2008 (his other full season). I said it’s not totally rational. Liriano has also gotten rocked on the road whether home was Metrodome or Target. Scott Baker didn’t have as pronounced a split in the Metrodome though it was there some years, and he had the strong split at Target.

        Another not totally rational way I look at it is, what Twins pitcher has left their org and thrived elsewhere? I can’t really think of too many. Just a bit odd for a team that always seems to be known for its pitching to not have good pitchers leave and emerge elsewhere, but maybe I’m overlooking some examples. Garza, but I’d say Garza was a lot better than Slowey even in his short time in Minni.

        Slowey is already average-ish in Minnesota (93 ERA+), and I think he’ll fall below that outside of Minnesota, in Yankees Stadium, in the AL East. I don’t see why you give up assets to get him.

  • The Real JobaWockeeZ

    Soriano for Slowey.