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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. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim H View Post
      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.
      Slama was dominant for a large stretch of this season before the injury and he is healthy again. And he hasn't been merely a one-inning guy in AAA this year (see, you know, today). And even if he were, so what? Taking care of the 7th or 8th inning seems pretty valuable.

      Clearly you cannot contend that there are better "clear reasons" to keep Jeff Gray on the roster instead of Slama?
    1. acrozelle's Avatar
      acrozelle -
      The Twins unwillingness to call up Slama is simply unfair. He consistently puts up the numbers in Rochester, what more can you ask from the guy? I don't think anyone here thinks Slama is going to be our next Joe Nathan or Matt Guerrier, but still, it's not like the Twins have anything to lose at this point. If they continue to refuse to call him up and give him a fair chance in the majors the Twins should at least do Slama justice and trade him to a club that will give him a fair opportunity to succeed. But, I'm sure they would be too scared seeing him excel for another team and proving the front office wrong. I hope he eventually gets the chance he deserves, I feel for the guy.
    1. Montecore's Avatar
      Montecore -
      Relying on Gardenhire's analytical skills is illogical. He doesn't know the difference between dung and poundcake
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Perhaps Gardenhire remembers the Slama of 2010 he saw for 5 games where he put up Gray type numbers. If the complaint is that there is no movement on the fastball then where are the facts that dispute it? See Liam Hendricks major league versus minor league numbers. Are we to accept on blind faith that because Slama's numbers are good that the fastball is of major league level and not AAAA?
    1. twinswon1991's Avatar
      twinswon1991 -
      If Slama focused more on battling his tail off instead of striking guys out he would be up by now. Gardy and Andy love the Capps/Gray type battlers on their staff.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by old nurse View Post
      Perhaps Gardenhire remembers the Slama of 2010 he saw for 5 games where he put up Gray type numbers. If the complaint is that there is no movement on the fastball then where are the facts that dispute it? See Liam Hendricks major league versus minor league numbers. Are we to accept on blind faith that because Slama's numbers are good that the fastball is of major league level and not AAAA?
      If we judged every player on his first five games (and in Slama's case that would be seven innings) we'd have very few major leaguers. There's no reason the Twins can't give him 20-40 innings between now and the start of next year of years to see if they're opinion is wrong.

      The guy costs nothing and he's going to be able to walk after this season unless they move him to the 40-man roster. It just doesn't make sense.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Quote Originally Posted by old nurse View Post
      Perhaps Gardenhire remembers the Slama of 2010 he saw for 5 games where he put up Gray type numbers. If the complaint is that there is no movement on the fastball then where are the facts that dispute it? See Liam Hendricks major league versus minor league numbers. Are we to accept on blind faith that because Slama's numbers are good that the fastball is of major league level and not AAAA?
      But it isn't accepting anything on blind faith, because there isn't any MLB evidence either way (besides a total of 7 innings). That's the main point of the article . . . that accepting things on faith and ignoring or not even bothering with evidence is a pathetic way to evaluate something.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      For me, I have no idea if Slama will be good or not. But, these are the facts:

      1. Gray is not good.
      2. Slama is cheaper, and is from their system, and has had success in the minors.
      3. Slama has not proven if he's good in the majors or not.

      logicial conclusion, dfa Gray, give Slama a legit audition.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      [QUOTE=Alex;49831]
      Quote Originally Posted by old nurse View Post
      The guy costs nothing and he's going to be able to walk after this season unless they move him to the 40-man roster. It just doesn't make sense.
      No, he can't become a 6 year minor league free agent until after the 2013 season, which makes me feel even more horrible for him. he was drafted in 2006, but he didn't sign until early in the 2007 season, after his senior season of college (final year of draft-n-follows). if they don't put him on the 40 man roster (or if they do for September and then take him back off again), he would be eligible for the Rule 5 draft. But then again, when the Twins took him off the 40 man last November, no one claimed him. Hard for me to understand this one. In 8-9 years of following the Twins farm system pretty closely, nothing has confused me more than the Slama Situation.
    1. MarcusE's Avatar
      MarcusE -
      Does anyone know if Slama is funny and/or smart? It seems like whenever the Twins do something mind-boggling like this, it turns out that "his personality doesn't fit in the Twins Clubhouse."
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      1. Gray is not good.
      2. Slama is cheaper, and is from their system, and has had success in the minors.
      3. Slama has not proven if he's good in the majors or not.

      logicial conclusion, dfa Gray, give Slama a legit audition.
      We're not talking about millions here, but I don't think the Twins get to stop paying Gray if they DFA him; even if they poisoned his Gatorade, they'd still have to pay Gray's estate for the rest of the season. So, it seems that the Twins must believe that Slama would be no better than Gray, and thus they'd be paying twice for the same caliber of performance.

      They seem to really have faith in their scouting conclusions, that somehow his strikeouts won't translate to the major league level, and the high level of walks will do him in. You could envision, for instance, AAA batters getting themselves out on 2-2 pitches in the dirt that major leaguers won't swing at.

      All that said, I'm with most here, in wanting to see him get the chance anyway.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Alex View Post
      The only person who has defied the evidence has been Deduno.
      Casey Fien so far hasn't looked like a guy who should have put up 4+ ERA numbers in AAA the past two years.
    1. Dilligaf69's Avatar
      Dilligaf69 -
      I got no problem with Slama replacing Gray....maybe there is something else going on but I do not believe the Twins are afraid of ANYONE succeeding cuz it may make them look bad, that seems ridiculous in itself. I would have to think Slama will be up in Sept.
    1. mlhouse's Avatar
      mlhouse -
      The Slama "problem" is just a small piece of the problem with the organization: They did not realistically evaluate their chances this year, so instead of rebuilding they pretended "we are a contender". THey should have ripped this roster apart and played players like Dozier, Benson, and Slama from day 1. The pieces that failed, failed. The pieces that worked, worked. Then move on from there.

      But, rebuilding means discarding Gardenhire and his staff because it is clear that this staff cannot work with young players and develop them, and it also means dropping the slow train to the big leagues that our minor league practices now.

      It worked in 1982, the worst year in Twins history. But, in 1987, much of that lineup was the core of a World Series winning team. But, to pretend that stop gap measures like Jamey Carrol are going to make any difference is ridiculous. I would rather lose 100 games with Dozier at SS (Lenny Faedo was our SS in 1982) and find out if he could cut it (Faedo could not and was replaced by Gagne) or not. Instead, we have prolonged the rebuilding process another year.
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      Quote Originally Posted by beckmt View Post
      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.
      I get your frustration with the topic; I get frustrated with the proliferation of Fire Gardenhire posts. But I don't think it's something that should just be dropped. After all, it is a developing situation. As Slama's ERA drops from 1 to .9 to .8 to .7 to .6 to .59, and Jeff Gray's home runs allowed go from 7 to 8 to 9 to 10, I think it's absolutely true that the issue must be revisited.

      Although perhaps this is less about Anthony Slama per se than it is about Jeff Gray...
    1. PopRiveter's Avatar
      PopRiveter -
      I'll be upset if he doesn't get a Sept call-up, but he's just gaining steam post-injury. For most of the time since the pitching staff v 1.0 fell apart, calling him up hasn't even been an option.
      However, it's my hope they are willing to rethink their projected, predetermined conclusion. I'll call it "The Deduno Factor." Try-out some guys who shouldn't succeed. Maybe some will play over their heads. Worked with Parmelee last year.
      Anyone else recall Neshek getting called up despite similar nay-saying within the organization? I seem to remember a real lack of team confidence in his brand of deception-based success. When given a shot, he dominated.
    1. IdahoPilgrim's Avatar
      IdahoPilgrim -
      You know, it would be worth it to call him up just to end this freaking debate once and for all. I am skeptical of AAA numbers (think Hendriks, Parmelee) and probably trust the organization's ability to evaluate talent more than most on this site, but this has been a topic of discussion for over three months now. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. If he does well, great! If he sucks, this time release him. Either way the debate is over (unless he is marginally competent, in which case we can do this again next year).

      I do disagree, though, with the final thought expressed in the article. I don't buy the idea that the Twins are afraid they'll be proven wrong. My guess is that they genuinely don't believe Slama has the stuff to transition from Triple-A to MLB. They may be wrong in that assertion, but I don't buy the idea that they're just trying to avoid embarassment.
    1. crarko's Avatar
      crarko -
      Quote Originally Posted by sbknudson View Post
      You know, it would be worth it to call him up just to end this freaking debate once and for all.
      Yes, please. Knowing is better than endless speculation.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by 70charger View Post
      As Slama's ERA drops from 1 to .9 to .8 to .7 to .6 to .59
      The brain trust will bring him up when it reaches zero.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      According to pitch f/x, Slama's 4 seem fastball in 2010 moved 6.7 inches of tailing action and 6.9 inches of rise. Joel Peralta had the best 4 seam fastball among relievers, and his tailed an average of 3.7 inches and rose 11.0 inches. The worst 4 seamer among relievers was owned by Tampa's Lance Cormier, his averaged 2.8 inces of tail and 8.7 rising.

      I am guessing that Slama's fastball movement was near the periphery of Pitch f/x's boundary where it distinguishes between two seemers, and 4 seamers (and then cutters). I would not be surprised if he was in fact throwing the 2 seamer as per the "pitch to contact." And that was the pitch good for a 25% hr/fb rate in his short time with the club.

      Does anyone know if Slama is allowed to throw the 4 seamer in Rochester, that is actually the pitch he's succeeding with?

      For comparison, PitchFX tells us that Peralta didn't throw a single 2 seamer (nor did Cormier). This would be the norm for relievers who have an eye to getting a strikeout when they come into the game.
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