Archive for the ‘Aguilera’ Category

The All-Dome Team: Relief Pitchers and Manager

May 17, 2009

Dan Serafini, Scott Klingenbeck, and Billy Gardner. Kidding.

Infielders here, outfielders and DH here, starting pitchers here. Two relievers and a manager will round out the official ballot. It’s a little anticlimactic to be ending with these guys, but so it goes.

#1 Reliever: Joe Nathan (364.2 IP, 1.88 ERA, 235 ERA+, 444 K)
Well, duh.
He’s overshadowed by Mo Rivera and Jon Papelbon, but if there’s been a better reliever than Nathan since 2004, the difference between that better guy and Nathan is too small to be worth talking about. I never want to hear or talk about what happened on Friday night again, but that notwithstanding, Nathan has been everything you could ask a closer to be. He got started too late to be in any sort of Hall of Fame discussion — and I don’t think the Hall needs any more relief pitchers after Mo goes in anyway — but he’s been as valuable as a 70-innings-a-year pitcher can be. Would’ve been nice to see what he could do as a more sensibly used, Gossage-style, 100-innings-a-year pitcher. But alas.

#2 Reliever: Rick Aguilera (694.2 IP, ~3.39 ERA, ~130 ERA+, 609 K)
Again, not a huge surprise. Aggie is a good illustration of The Daily Something Immutable Principle #347: you can always assume a closer (or any reliever), no matter how great, is no better or more talented than an average starter, and any above-average starter can generally become a dominant reliever. Behold:

Year G GS IP ERA+
1995 60 0 55.1 186
1996 19 19 111.1 94
1997 61 0 68.1 121

Further recommended reading is Goose Gossage: 212 ERA+ in 141 relief innings in 1974, and 243 ERA+ in 133 relief innings in 1976; in between, 91 ERA+ in 224 innings as a starter in 1975. This is why I said above that I’m generally against relievers in the Hall (though I’m pro-Goose); is it really enshrinement-worthy that some coach at some point decided to make them into Bruce Sutter rather than Bruce Hurst?

Anyway, Aguilera’s numbers with the Twins, aside from being hard to pin down because of his involvement in three mid-season trades, are dragged down by that one year as an awful starter and by the offense-heavy era in which he pitched. Extra credit for happening to turn in his best year as a Twin — 2.35, 182 ERA+, 42 saves in 69 innings — in 1991, contributing nicely to the World Championship effort.

Runner-Up: Eddie Guardado (697.2 IP, 4.52 ERA, 105 ERA+, 605 K; 141 ERA+ from 2000-03). Everyday Eddie was solid in lots of different roles, but really blossomed when he took over as closer. Sure seemed to make you nervous every time he took the mound in the ninth, but he generally got it done. His early numbers look a lot worse than they were; in the Metrodome in the mid-to late-90s, an average pitcher was putting up a 5 ERA.

Manager: Tom Kelly, 1140-1244 (.478). If you recognize that Billy Gardner being in the conversation is kind of silly, the only two names left on the ballot are Ron Gardenhire and Tom Kelly. As it should be. I’m thinking this is a tough decision for most Twins fans, and it is for me too, though perhaps for a different reason: they’re both deeply flawed in almost the exact same ways. They both distrust(ed), mistreat(ed) and have (had) very little patience for young talent (Todd Walker, David Ortiz, Jason Bartlett, Johan Santana), and both fall (fell) in love with “scrappy” little vets who don’t really have much talent (Al Newman, Denny Hocking, Nick Punto). They both have plenty in their favor, too, of course, but they’ve both made me want to pull my hair out on many, many occasions. Ultimately, I think, you’ve got to go with the guy who got the two titles. Gardy has a much better winning percentage (.547) and four division titles, but I don’t think there’s a manager on the planet who could’ve done any better than TK did with the garbage he was handed from 1993 onward.

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