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  • Blind faith vs. evidence and reason


    When coming to form one's beliefs or making evaluations about things, the rather vast ocean between blind faith and evidence sets up a stark contrast in reasoned (or un-reasoned) judgment. This post is not about evolution or theism, but about something much less important in the grand scheme of things.

    This post is about the Twins' evaluation of Anthony Slama.
    Let's first examine the evidence, sticking to Slama's minor league and major league statistics. In parts of four seasons in AAA Rochester, Slama has 146 2/3 inning pitched, a 2.21 ERA, 183 K, 72 BB (2.54 K/BB), and a 1.152 WHIP. In 2012, Slama has improved upon the K/BB rate (3.0) with a whopping 15.1 K/9 together with a 5 BB/9. Let me repeat, this year he has been striking out 15 batters per 9 innings.

    With such impressive AAA stats (and much the same or better at the lower levels in the minors), certainly Slama has seen ample time up with the Twins, right? He pitched 4 2/3 innings in 2010 and 2 1/3 innings in 2011. Yes, the guy striking out AAA batters at an incredibly high rate has only seven total innings up with the Twins.

    So, clearly stats lie, in the view of the relevant decision makers for the Twins.

    What, then, are the Twins basing their evaluation of Slama on instead? I submit that it is blind faith, but more importantly it is blind faith in their (the Twins' decision makers) ability to evaluate players and make projections into the major league future. Slama does not "have the stuff" and Gardenhire himself has made the claim that Slama's fastball is too straight vertically and horizontally for the majors, or in his eloquent words, "up here you've got to make it do something."

    Instead of using the evidence of Slama's AAA success to make a reasonable projection about his MLB projected performance, the Twins would rather rely on the faith they have in their seeing-eye assessment of Slama's stuff. AAA batters are actually pretty well-equipped to hit straight fastballs as well (in fact, that is usually the one thing hitters in AAA can do, even if they can't hit anything else and never make it to the majors).

    I could perhaps forgive this blind faith evaluation (in their own talents as evaluators, not in Slama) if the Twins A: had a bullpen full of better pitchers who were going to mean something for the Twins in the future, and B: if the Twins were in a division or wild card race and couldn't afford 20 innings given to a reliever they were leery of promoting.

    But neither A or B are true. While, Alex Burnett has been incredibly lucky not to get destroyed this year, he does have an option left and that should not be burned this season (it will next season, trust me!). But Jeff Gray is a pitching abomination. He (like Burnett) walks almost as many as he strikes out and he isn't striking many out to begin with. He has somehow been given 51 2/3 innings to pitch this year. And Gray has no future with the Twins, isn't getting better, and will be 31 in a few months.

    It is mind-boggling to me to consider the thought process involved in keeping Jeff Gray on the roster instead of Anthony Slama. Now, plenty of people at Twins Daily will wonder why one might complain about the last bullpen spot on a horrible team. Well, first, I am for improving the team at all roster spots if possible and it never matters how good or bad the team is in the first place. Second, is that there has to be some kind of justice in the baseball world! Anthony Slama deserves an opportunity with the Twins. We are also talking about livelihoods here as well.

    I have come to the point where I actually believe that the Twins are not promoting Slama because they are scared that he will succeed. That would prove them wrong and would make them have to question how they evaluate pitchers. The faithful do not like either of those two things happening.
    This article was originally published in blog: Blind faith vs. evidence and reason started by shanewahl
    Comments 65 Comments
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Great article, and I was just about to post a shorter version in the game thread. It's less about a guy like Gray being horrible than it is about the concern this puts in the Twins ability or method of evaluating players.

      People who were paying attention to the evidence early on haven't been surprised that Willingham has done well (maybe even better) or that that Doumit has been a successful signing. However, there was a ton of concern about Marquis, Dozier being ready, and Jeff Gray. The only person who has defied the evidence has been Deduno.
    1. nokomismod's Avatar
      nokomismod -
      Shanewahl, thank you for posting this. I have almost forgotten about Slama, but there must be something keeping this guy from getting a legitimate shot. Why not this season??
    1. greengoblinrulz's Avatar
      greengoblinrulz -
      it is one of the more mind boggling (non) decisions this organization has made.
      All they have to do is give him a full month of 10gms (10/12innings) to silence the Slama-ites or for him to prove the evaluators wrong
    1. IdahoPilgrim's Avatar
      IdahoPilgrim -
      This is basically the whole moneyball argument again - what should we trust more, raw statistics or evaluation by those who (theoretically) have the experience and knowledge of the game to "separate the wheat from the chaff."

      Perhaps neither is infallible, and both have to be involved. I fully admit that sometimes raw numbers can force us to face unpleasant truths about ourselves or our abilities (I am made woefully aware of this every time I step on the bathroom scale), but statistics themselves also can be deceptive, and I would never make a decision solely on them.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by nokomismod View Post
      Shanewahl, thank you for posting this. I have almost forgotten about Slama, but there must be something keeping this guy from getting a legitimate shot. Why not this season??
      Well, he did miss 2 months this year with a broken leg, suffered on a hard ground ball back at him by Miguel Tejada. I have to believe that if he was healthy, he would have got a legitimate 2-3 month look. He's been good again and should be up.

      I've never understood it... Based on his K-Rates, I'd say that big league hitters should be made to prove that they can hit him at this point. Enough guys who don't put up Slama numbers get chances because of "stuff", but Slama can't get a real chance despite unbelievable numbers in AAA? Makes no sense whatsoever. Maybe the Twins will prove to be right in this case too. But he's earned a chance.

      Scary thing is that because of when he signed, he can't become a minor league free agent until AFTER the 2013 season. Poor guy!
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by sbknudson View Post
      This is basically the whole moneyball argument again - what should we trust more, raw statistics or evaluation by those who (theoretically) have the experience and knowledge of the game to "separate the wheat from the chaff."

      Perhaps neither is infallible, and both have to be involved. I fully admit that sometimes raw numbers can force us to face unpleasant truths about ourselves or our abilities (I am made woefully aware of this every time I step on the bathroom scale), but statistics themselves also can be deceptive, and I would never make a decision solely on them.
      Statistics can also tell you exactly what we see, and that's part of the point of the article. If we believe that the Twins are right in trotting out a player like Gray while Slama rots in Rochester, we have blind faith. I've no problem trusting scouting if it turns out to be correct, but in the Twins case, I think we can see that it's not going very well.
    1. Lonestar's Avatar
      Lonestar -
      At first they viewed Slama as a ROOGY. Now they view him as a One-Inning Only guy.
    1. COtwin's Avatar
      COtwin -
      Sheer obstinacy. I just watched today's game and I logged in to see if Gray was DFAd. He is still getting chances after nine home runs given up. Free Slama! Although we are probably what is keeping him down. Can't have the possability that the unwashed masses might be right on this .
    1. greengoblinrulz's Avatar
      greengoblinrulz -
      if they dont bring him up in Sept, wonder if he'd ask for his release
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      If you are going to write articles like this, it is only fair to note that Slama has missed large chunks of both this year and last year. I suspect the Twins do indeed view him as a one inning guy. Max effort, uses a lot pitches per inning, been hurt a lot, has control issues. If you run him out there for 3 innings, he is likely unavailable for nearly a week. Those factors help explain why Waltrip was called up instead of Slama.

      It is also fair to note that when he was dropped from the 40 man roster, nobody claimed him. He isn't a top prospect. That doesn't mean he can't succeed in the majors, and I hope he does. I just think that no great injustice is being done here.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      Sorry for misspelling Waldrop.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      As a side note, I don't care for this style of writing. It reminds of Aaron Gleeman. There are clear reasons why the Twins have not promoted Slama. Now you don't have to agree with them, but when you don't address them or even acknowledge that they are there, you reduce the credibility of your post.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      So a one inning guy that pitches only 45 innings in the 9th is worth millions, but a one inning guy that can get guys out in the 7th or 8th (unlike Gray and others, who, ya, can pitch more than one inning but can't get people out when they do) isn't worth anything? Mind boggling. Give the guy a chance, and see if his success can translate or not. What the heck do they have to lose, exactly? The clear reasons for not promoting him are clearly stated, they think the stats are lying, and he's not good enough to get out MLB pitchers because his pitches don't move enough, despite the fact that he has succeeded at every level.
    1. Top Gun's Avatar
      Top Gun -
      It's clear to see that the Twins don't know what there are doing.
    1. righty8383's Avatar
      righty8383 -
      Slama gave up a hit and struck out only 1 of the 7 batters he faced today. I think he's losing it.
    1. Andrew Bryz-Gornia's Avatar
      Andrew Bryz-Gornia -
      It seems pretty clear that the Twins don't trust Slama's stuff. From what I've heard, he has 3 pitches: a straight, low-90s fastball, a pretty slow slurve, and a splitter. It also sounds like his success has come from a little deception in his delivery, and the Twins seem to think that this deception will not help him any more in the majors. Also, while it's been in very little time, he seems to have the makings of an extreme flyball pitcher. In other words, he could become homer-prone.

      However, the Twins have been bad for nearly 2 years now, and this is the perfect time to give someone like Slama a shot. His presence is not going to cost the team a playoff spot, and someone like Jeff Gray is merely filling a roster spot for the remainder of the season. Even Gray's one thing he did fairly well - induce grounders - has deserted him this year.

      I disagree with the idea that the Twins are afraid of being wrong, however. I'm sure if Slama succeeded, they would be thrilled. As I mentioned before, I'm sure the issue is that they think Slama has no chance of being a successful pitcher in the majors, and as someone else mentioned, it's pretty clear other teams feel the same way as Slama cleared waivers when he was removed from the 40-man roster last offseason.
    1. greengoblinrulz's Avatar
      greengoblinrulz -
      Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Bryz-Gornia View Post
      It seems pretty clear that the Twins don't trust Slama's stuff. From what I've heard, he has 3 pitches: a straight, low-90s fastball, a pretty slow slurve, and a splitter. It also sounds like his success has come from a little deception in his delivery, and the Twins seem to think that this deception will not help him any more in the majors. Also, while it's been in very little time, he seems to have the makings of an extreme flyball pitcher. In other words, he could become homer-prone.

      However, the Twins have been bad for nearly 2 years now, and this is the perfect time to give someone like Slama a shot. His presence is not going to cost the team a playoff spot, and someone like Jeff Gray is merely filling a roster spot for the remainder of the season. Even Gray's one thing he did fairly well - induce grounders - has deserted him this year.

      I disagree with the idea that the Twins are afraid of being wrong, however. I'm sure if Slama succeeded, they would be thrilled. As I mentioned before, I'm sure the issue is that they think Slama has no chance of being a successful pitcher in the majors, and as someone else mentioned, it's pretty clear other teams feel the same way as Slama cleared waivers when he was removed from the 40-man roster last offseason.
      part of the problem is also THEY think/thought that Jeff Gray could be a successful pitcher. Pretty much they should KNOW that answer by now.
      As a fan, I would like to KNOW if Slama can get MLB hitters out instead of being told he cant.
    1. beckmt's Avatar
      beckmt -
      Slama is not regarded by the Twins brass as a major league pitcher. He will have to prove himself in another origanization. If he does the 'free Slama' brigade can say 'I told you so'. Until that time comes, can we drop this topic, it's a waste of time and breath.
    1. Rosterman's Avatar
      Rosterman -
      No, no, no...not a waste of time and breath. Never give up...hope.
    1. OldManWinter's Avatar
      OldManWinter -
      Question the competence of the scouting staff and decision makers for leaving Slama in Rochester ... but it makes no sense to me that any MLB team would leave a guy in the minors who could actually help our weak pitching staff.

      So I can't accept the conspiracy theory.

      Besides, peoples jobs depend upon smart and correct decisions that turn into W's.

      Would anyone posting here be so foolish as to refuse to stock a roster with the best available players if it was their decision? I do not think so.
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