Revisiting Jose Mijares
by, 06-05-2012 at 08:40 AM (1206 Views)
[Originally published at Twins Fan From Afar]
I was somewhat surprised last winter when the Twins declined to offer portly lefty reliever Jose Mijares a contract for 2012. Joe Christensen of the Star Tribune guessed that the Twins would have ended up paying Mijares around $700,000 this season through the arbitration process. On the one hand, $700,000 isn't even 1 percent of the Twins' 2012 payroll; but on the other hand, Mijares was downright bad last season. And it wasn't just last season, either: every season since 2008 -- the year that Mijares debuted with Minnesota -- his ERA has increased (0.87; 2.34; 3.31; 4.59 in 2008-2011, respectively).
Additionally, there were other off-the-field issues with Mijares. He was never in very good shape. He reported late to Spring Training in 2010 when he was detained for suspicious hair gel in his luggage, and had missed TwinsFest that same year due to visa issues. In 2009, as the Twins were completing a historic comeback in September to win the Central division, Mijares and teammate Delmon Young almost got into a fight when Young was hit in the knee by a Detroit Tigers pitcher in retaliation for Mijares throwing a fastball behind Adam Everett. Stated Young after the incident: "I knew somebody was going to have to wear it. You can't throw behind one of their players . . . and expect nothing to happen. [Mijares] needs to pay attention to how baseball's played." Finally, in 2011, there was the incident in Milwaukee, where Mijares served up a game-winning, 2 run double to Prince Fielder, then later faulted Joe Mauer for calling for nothing but fastballs in the at-bat. In response, Mauer stated that he "didn't call for it down the middle." This last incident prompted a team meeting.
The point here isn't to go through all the negative things Mijares allegedly did in his time as a Minnesota Twin but, rather, to underscore the fact that both on-the-field and off-the-field things likely contributed to the Twins' decision to let Mijares walk. For me, aside from Mijares' 2011 ERA of 4.59, the worst thing he did was walk batters last season. In fact, he walked 30 batters in 49 innings pitched, and his WHIP was 1.694 in 2011. That's unacceptable, especially for a guy who the Twins should have been able to count on in high-leverage situations. Instead, it was Glen Perkins that assumed that role.
But if you've watched Mijares this season (like last night, for instance), playing for the Kansas City Royals, he looks more like the Mijares of 2009. I thought he was pretty darn good last night against the Twins. In 1 and 1/3 innings, he struck out 3, walked none and allowed no hits. Back on April 27 in his other outing against the Twins, Mijares picked up the win, throwing a scoreless inning and allowing one hit. After last night's outing, here are Mijares' stats for 2012: 24 innings pitched; 2.25 ERA; 22 hits; 6 earned runs; 2 home runs allowed; 5 walks; 20 strikeouts; 1.13 WHIP. ESPN states that the Royals are paying Mijares $925,000 for his services this season.
It's clear that Mijares wore out his welcome in Minnesota. He got progressively worse each season, and lost the ability to consistently throw strikes. There were personality issues, and concerns over the way that Mijares took care of his body. In short, it wasn't shocking that the Twins decided to sever the relationship. But look at how Mijares is pitching now! I'm not sure what changed; possibly it was just as simple as having a fresh start. The Twins' 2012 bullpen has been better than the starting rotation, but there's still room for improvement. As we move closer to the trade deadline, closer Matt Capps could be sought after by teams looking for late-inning bullpen help. If the Twins are in the cellar of the AL Central, it's a move I wouldn't be at all surprised to see. In that event, Glen Perkins would almost certainly take over as closer. And if that scenario takes place (I think there's a good chance of it happening), the Twins certainly could use a lefty arm out of the bullpen.
After watching Mijares have 2 good performances against his former team, and looking at his 2012 stats, which are reminiscent of the good work he did in the beginning of his Twins career, I'm wondering how the Minnesota front office feels about their decision. Again, it's tough to fault them based on Mijares' body of work over the past couple seasons, and we know that it's incredibly easy (and fun!) to cull statistics and play Monday Morning Quarterback. But it's not as if Mijares was set to make $4 million this season, or was on the cusp of free agency. So although I certainly didn't foresee that Mijares would come out of the gates in 2012 and be a reliable reliever, I still think that the abrupt parting of ways last December was a bit premature. For Mijares, my guess is that the change of scenery did him a world of good.