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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 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Seth Stohs View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Alex 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.
      Thanks for clarifying (originally my post but I think getting rid of the double quote caused the error). It sounds like he could still be gone for nothing.

      For those that believe we should trust the Twins scouts, how have they done lately? If you look at how poorly they've done with them, it's arguable that they should probably abandon that approach and that those who have followed just the stats (because that's all we can) have been a bit more accurate this year, unfortunately.
    1. silverslugger's Avatar
      silverslugger -
      [QUOTE=Seth Stohs;49838]
      Quote Originally Posted by Alex View Post
      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.
      Well, this explains alot. Obviously, there's no trust because he's a college guy and most likely one with a degree if he stuck it out through his senior season. No reason to have free thinkers on our roster. Free Slama! Out of curiosity, do the Twins have any college grads on the 40 man?
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      "Blind faith vs. evidence and reason"

      love that title. Can probably transport us like a good 500 years ago when Little Nicky Koppernigk used mathematical formulas to show that, heck, the earth moves around the sun. Indeed. But the powers of being back then did not trust numbers... All their scouts were waking up every morning looking up at the sun moving around the earth and that is what it was. Sue them. Same thing is happening right now to Slama. Unfortunately.
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      Actually, it seems to me that the original post and many of the following posts are less about Slama, and more about an opportunity to bash the Twins organization. I wish Slama well and hope he gets an opportunity to prove himself, but there is no conspiracy to keep him out of the majors.

      Keep in mind that when he was pitching well early in the season nearly everyone(including Gray) was pitching well in the Twins bullpen. Then Slama was hurt for 2 months. I would guess he needs to prove he can remain healthy and effective, especially since he is not on the 40 man roster. I have heard this kind of complaint before concerning many minor leaguers in the midst of a hot streak. Generally they get their opportunity. Sometimes they do well, many times they do not.

      It is a little difficult to understand all the fire and brimstone over what is a pretty marginal prospect. Right now he would be the 12th or rather the 13th man on the pitching staff. I hope he does well when/if he gets promoted, but lets temper some of the over the top crap, I mean level headed analysis going on here.
    1. drjim's Avatar
      drjim -
      I commend your ability to read numbers from a boxscore. I also find it a little ironic that you consider the evaluation of those that watch Slama every day as "blind faith" but your ability to read a boxscore as "evidence and reason". Seems a little backwards.

      I think the reason the Twins have Gray up right now instead of Slama is not all that complicated. As has been mentioned, Slama has missed about two months this season with injury and he pretty much is a one inning max guy (and probably also dicey against LH hitters in general). With the Twins rotation as shaky as it is, it makes sense to have a guy like Gray who can go multiple innings and also have the ability to blow through him with minimal regard for his future. Gray is basically there to soak up innings so the younger and/or more valuable arms don't have to. If Slama had been on the roster instead of Gray many of those extra innings would had to have been pitched by someone else other than Slama, if he was only more or less able to pitch one inning.

      I am thinking that once September 1 rolls around we will see Slama and perhaps another arm or two get called up and the amount of appearances by Gray will decrease significantly, though he will still be around to mop up a few extraneous innings if a starter gets shelled. I'm no big fan of Gray, but he did his job fine this year, eating innings and protecting other arms.
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      He did his job fine? His job being one of the worst relievers in the game?
    1. TheLeviathan's Avatar
      TheLeviathan -
      Quote Originally Posted by snepp View Post
      He did his job fine? His job being one of the worst relievers in the game?
      Yeah, it's pretty sad when your "success" is having a pulse on the mound and a willingness to be publicly awful at what you do.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim H View Post
      It is a little difficult to understand all the fire and brimstone over what is a pretty marginal prospect.
      I suppose the converse difficulty is seeing a guy who consistently strikes out more than one per inning, and keeps his ERA under 3, called marginal.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim H View Post
      I mean level headed analysis going on here.
      It's true that numbers don't always translate and that Slama could just have figured out AAA hitters. He still posts a lot of walks and that may be a concern.

      But conversely, if a hitter was hitting, say .344/.463/.661 in AAA, you'd be wanting to see what he could do in the majors, right? Even if it was only sixty games and his recent few opportunities in the majors were relatively poor.

      It's also true that Slama has become somewhat of a lightning rod for the Twins talent evaluation, possibly past the point of reason, but how effective has that talent evaluation and their methods of doing so been in the last couple of years?
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Things the box score tells me:

      Of 182 pitchers with 30 or more innings, Jeff Gray's 5.71 ERA is not the worst. He is 171st.

      Jeff Gray has 49 Appearences and 52 IP. 7 outings have gone 2 IP or more. Slama has 27 G and 30 IP, but I couldn't access data. Either way those ratios are very similar in terms of how much they help the rest of the pen in terms of fatigue.
    1. righty8383's Avatar
      righty8383 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Alex View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim H View Post
      I mean level headed analysis going on here.
      It's true that numbers don't always translate and that Slama could just have figured out AAA hitters. He still posts a lot of walks and that may be a concern.

      But conversely, if a hitter was hitting, say .344/.463/.661 in AAA, you'd be wanting to see what he could do in the majors, right? Even if it was only sixty games and his recent few opportunities in the majors were relatively poor.

      It's also true that Slama has become somewhat of a lightning rod for the Twins talent evaluation, possibly past the point of reason, but how effective has that talent evaluation and their methods of doing so been in the last couple of years?
      When you say Parmelee's recent few opportunities in the majors was reletively poor, I think that was the wrong choice of words. He was not very good this year in 108 AB's. He was very good in his shorter stint last year as a September call up. Also, while Parmelee does deserve to play in the bigs, its widely understood that he is currently being blocked and would not get many AB's up here, therefore he stays in Rochester. As for Slama, he is being blocked by...Jeff Gray.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Alex View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim H View Post
      I mean level headed analysis going on here.
      It's true that numbers don't always translate and that Slama could just have figured out AAA hitters. He still posts a lot of walks and that may be a concern.

      But conversely, if a hitter was hitting, say .344/.463/.661 in AAA, you'd be wanting to see what he could do in the majors, right? Even if it was only sixty games and his recent few opportunities in the majors were relatively poor.

      It's also true that Slama has become somewhat of a lightning rod for the Twins talent evaluation, possibly past the point of reason, but how effective has that talent evaluation and their methods of doing so been in the last couple of years?

      What a terrible example, Alex......Now, if only the Twins had somebody even close to that good in AAA.........???








      I'm still trying to figure out why Revere was sent down in favor of Komatsu, Thomas and Mastroianni.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98 View Post
      "Blind faith vs. evidence and reason"

      love that title. Can probably transport us like a good 500 years ago when Little Nicky Koppernigk used mathematical formulas to show that, heck, the earth moves around the sun. Indeed. But the powers of being back then did not trust numbers... All their scouts were waking up every morning looking up at the sun moving around the earth and that is what it was. Sue them. Same thing is happening right now to Slama. Unfortunately.
      Yes, that was one point of the article. I write from my background sometimes . . .

      I do think the Twins need a Copernicus, that is, a radical shift in thinking about players.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim H View Post
      Actually, it seems to me that the original post and many of the following posts are less about Slama, and more about an opportunity to bash the Twins organization. I wish Slama well and hope he gets an opportunity to prove himself, but there is no conspiracy to keep him out of the majors.
      It's not about bashing the organization. It is about questioning how they evaluate players and how statistics actually matter (evidence). It is not that there is a conspiracy to keep him out of the majors, rather, there is simply no reason to keep him out of the majors.


      Keep in mind that when he was pitching well early in the season nearly everyone(including Gray) was pitching well in the Twins bullpen. Then Slama was hurt for 2 months. I would guess he needs to prove he can remain healthy and effective, especially since he is not on the 40 man roster. I have heard this kind of complaint before concerning many minor leaguers in the midst of a hot streak. Generally they get their opportunity. Sometimes they do well, many times they do not.
      Jeff Gray was miraculously pitching well enough. But he has been bad in the majors (90 innings worth) and had been up and down in the minors. That is, given the EVIDENCE provided, one could quite reasonably suspect that he would turn out a 5.00ish ERA this year and generally suck.

      It is a little difficult to understand all the fire and brimstone over what is a pretty marginal prospect. Right now he would be the 12th or rather the 13th man on the pitching staff. I hope he does well when/if he gets promoted, but lets temper some of the over the top crap, I mean level headed analysis going on here.
      You didn't read the full post, then. I believe that this team needs to improve at every roster spot when it can. Sorry. Also, I mentioned the sense of justice based on actual merit and opportunity. This is not simply a matter of how the Twins do, but of giving someone a chance that they deserve. It's a way to make a living and given A: that minor leaguers don't make much and B: that Slama has been a minor leaguer for far too long, it bothers my sense of justice. He deserves a chance. Jeff Gray deserved another chance as well, but he has proven that he is not good and has no future in baseball. Slama is the opposite.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      A perhaps final point--it is clear that the bullpen is not the worst part of the Twins roster right now, but there still are questions. Jeff Gray provides no value whatsoever to that bullpen. Give Slama a chance--if he is bad, the Twins' evaluators "win" in their seeing-eye scouting. If he is good, then the Twins have a solid back four for the Bullpen with situational Slama and Duensing, then Burton and Perkins. This would also put less pressure on the likes of Guerra, Robertson, and Oliveros next year.
    1. kab21's Avatar
      kab21 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Alex View Post
      Things the box score tells me:

      Of 182 pitchers with 30 or more innings, Jeff Gray's 5.71 ERA is not the worst. He is 171st.

      Jeff Gray has 49 Appearences and 52 IP. 7 outings have gone 2 IP or more. Slama has 27 G and 30 IP, but I couldn't access data. Either way those ratios are very similar in terms of how much they help the rest of the pen in terms of fatigue.
      Wow! You have a way of twisting numbers until they appear good. A 5.71 ERA doesn't help anyone. the Twins have a 7 man pen and there are other pitchers like Burnett that can go 2+ innings.
    1. Buck Nasty's Avatar
      Buck Nasty -
      It seems like everyone is making this a “Slama vs. Gray” debate. It’s not. Slama was removed from the 40 man last year – long before Gray came along. Any team could have claimed Slama last year. None did. Why do you think that is? Does anyone really believe that all of MLB is part of a conspiracy to keep Anthony Slama out of majors? Come on. Slama has put up some good numbers in the minors. But he’s put up some bad ones too. Specifically, he’s averaging over 4 walks per 9 innings. Add that to the fact that his fastball couldn’t break a pane of glass and you probably have your reason why he’s not highly regarded. His 7 walks in 7 innings/1.86 WHIP during his brief stint in the majors only reinforced that concern.

      Regarding Gray – he has a decent arm with a fastball averaging about 93 mph per Fangraphs. This is the 5th year in the row he’s pitched in the majors and with 3rd team. So again – to make it sound like the Twins are the only people in the world who think this guy could be ok is incorrect. In a year where injuries have again taken a toll on this team, Gray has been healthy/available. He’s had moments when he’s been ok – especially at Target Field (27.1 IP, 18Ks, 1.28 WHIP, .245 BAA). He’s also had moments when he’s been horrible. But unfortunately, that’spretty consistent with the entire team. Bottomline, cutting Gray at this point would be the equivalent of throwing a deckchair off the Titanic to stop it from sinking. It wouldn’t matter.

      Again – this should not be “Slama vs. Gray”. If the Twins wanted to see Slama this year,they could have called him up. Here is a list of guys who got the nod ahead of Slama: Jeff Manship, Lester Oliveros, Tyler Robertson, Kyle Waldrop, Casey Fien and Luis Perdomo. That's six guys who they called up ahead of him! And I'm going to guess that Vasquez will be #7.
    1. BD57's Avatar
      BD57 -
      "Third .... it's not like you've been very good at evaluating pitching talent lately ..."
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by kab21 View Post


      Wow! You have a way of twisting numbers until they appear good. A 5.71 ERA doesn't help anyone. the Twins have a 7 man pen and there are other pitchers like Burnett that can go 2+ innings.
      I hope you caught my sarcasm and I just missed yours...Obviously, the point was that as you say a 5.71 helps no one. If he's pitched multiple innings occasionally it's helped no one because he's essentially left the game early other times.
    1. Alex's Avatar
      Alex -
      Quote Originally Posted by Buck Nasty View Post
      It seems like everyone is making this a “Slama vs. Gray” debate. It’s not. Slama was removed from the 40 man last year – long before Gray came along. Any team could have claimed Slama last year. None did. Why do you think that is? Does anyone really believe that all of MLB is part of a conspiracy to keep Anthony Slama out of majors? Come on. Slama has put up some good numbers in the minors. But he’s put up some bad ones too. Specifically, he’s averaging over 4 walks per 9 innings. Add that to the fact that his fastball couldn’t break a pane of glass and you probably have your reason why he’s not highly regarded. His 7 walks in 7 innings/1.86 WHIP during his brief stint in the majors only reinforced that concern.

      Regarding Gray – he has a decent arm with a fastball averaging about 93 mph per Fangraphs. This is the 5th year in the row he’s pitched in the majors and with 3rd team. So again – to make it sound like the Twins are the only people in the world who think this guy could be ok is incorrect. In a year where injuries have again taken a toll on this team, Gray has been healthy/available. He’s had moments when he’s been ok – especially at Target Field (27.1 IP, 18Ks, 1.28 WHIP, .245 BAA). He’s also had moments when he’s been horrible. But unfortunately, that’spretty consistent with the entire team. Bottomline, cutting Gray at this point would be the equivalent of throwing a deckchair off the Titanic to stop it from sinking. It wouldn’t matter.

      Again – this should not be “Slama vs. Gray”. If the Twins wanted to see Slama this year,they could have called him up. Here is a list of guys who got the nod ahead of Slama: Jeff Manship, Lester Oliveros, Tyler Robertson, Kyle Waldrop, Casey Fien and Luis Perdomo. That's six guys who they called up ahead of him! And I'm going to guess that Vasquez will be #7.
      And how have most of those guys worked out? Yep, Slama had a bad seven innings in the majors but since then he pitched well. I assume that if you're ready to make a judgement on Slama after that, you'd also like to keep Dozier where he's at?
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