Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Anthony Slama and the bullpen

Anthony Slama: An
ERA under a half-run
a game, and no major
league job.
The Monday print column discussed Anthony Slama's continued exile to the minor leagues despite absurdly good statistics.

On Monday afternoon, Slama added to those stats -- another inning of relief, three more strikeouts. He now has 36 Ks in 21.1 innings for Rochester.

Not that it will do him any good. The Twins have plenty of problems, but the bullpen isn't one of them.

Consider the individuals:

  • Matt Capps may be one of the least popular Twins after yielding the game-losing homer on Saturday, but he is 10-for-11 in save opportunities. 
  • Brian Duensing's ERA is 2.92.
  • Alex Burnett's ERA is 2.84.
  • Glen Perkins has 25 strikeouts in 20 innings.
  • Jeff Gray, if one excludes a horrid 5-runs-in-0-innings outing in a game already out of control, would have an ERA of 2.17.
  • Jared Burton had a streak of 34 outs without allowing a hit.
  • Anthony Swarzak, in his relief outings, has held hitters to a .164 batting average. (He's been nowhere near as effective in his starts.)

That's the seven-man bullpen core. I don't see the man there who deserves to lose his job.

The pitching problems -- and there are plenty -- have been in the starting rotation, and even Slama's most fervent admirers aren't about to call for him to enter the rotation.

At some point, there will be a bullpen opening. That's the nature of pitching; people get hurt, people change roles, people get traded. Slama, even if one takes his remarkable minor league record at face value, is not suited to all bullpen roles; he's not, for example, qualified to be a LOOGY. The Twins recalled Jeff Manship this weekend to be an eighth reliever, because their perceived need was for a long man, and Slama is a ill fit for that job.

And even for the roles Slama could logically fill, he has serious competition: Deolis Guerra and Lester Oliveros are having fine seasons themselves, and unlike Slama, they are on the 40-man roster. Kyle Waldrop, who may well have made the roster out of spring training had he been healthy, is starting a rehab assignment.

As outstanding as Slama has been this year, it's perfectly plausible that the Twins would rather turn to one of those three if a bullpen opening arises. They get outs by throwing strikes. Slama does not.


  1. Why don't the twins try and trade him? If we don't need him and he's putting up impressive numbers we might be able to get something good that actually helps us in return.

  2. Ed, doesn't his treatment by the Twins directly contradict the McMichaels rule you often refer to?

  3. Chris: That's the lead of the column linked to in the post.

    Anon.: Maybe they have tried. He was exposed to the Rule V draft last winter and went unclaimed (he was coming off an injury that kept him out much of the second half of 2011). It may well be that other organizations share the Twins skepticism about him.

    He's 28, he's stuck in Triple A. He's not a sell-high candidate.