Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The annual Anthony Swarzak nonsense

Anthony Swarzak would rather be a starter,
but the numbers are against him.
It has become a late-September tradition:

  • The Twins rotation is a mess;
  • Anthony Swarzak talks himself up as a rotation option;
  • Terry Ryan says Swarzak should prepare himself over the winter to start and will be considered for the rotation in the spring.

And a following tradition in March is that Swarzak doesn't really get a shot at starting.

We're going though this pattern again, kinda-sorta. The Twins rotation has been awful beyond Phil Hughes, so that part is in place.

Swarzak has, apparently, never been shy about wanting to start, and who can blame him? Ricky Nolasco is getting about $11 million a year more than Swarzak, and they have, at the moment, identical career ERAs (4.47). Starting is a lot more lucrative than long relief.

Swarzak has gotten a couple of September starts this year (thanks in large part to Tommy Milone's neck and the decision to shut down Alex Meyer rather than give him as September call up). Neither went all that well. He went 4.1 innings in both starts and gave up a total of nine earned runs.

Even with a successful emergency start in July, Swarzak's starter-reliever splits this year resemble his career splits. His ERA in his three 2014 starts is 6.59; his ERA in relief, 4.10. For his career (31 starts), Swarzak's starter ERA is 5.86, bullpen ERA 3.66.

I heard Ryan talk on the radio before Sunday's game about that day being a potentially big start for Swarzak and his hopes of emerging as a rotation option. So that implies that Ryan's still open to the possibility.

I just can't see it. Not only is Swarzak's track record evidence that he ought not be a starter, the roster numbers at the moment are against him.

We've been over this before, but it bears repeating:The Twins head into the offseason with Hughes, Nolasco, Kyle Gibson, Tommy Milone and Mike Pelfrey as presumptive starters. Hughes, Nolasco and Pelfrey will be paid a combined $25 million-plus, Milone (despite his lousy record since coming to the Twins) has a solid track record and the Twins still have hopes for Gibson. Plus there's Meyer and Trevor May knocking at the door and Jose Berrios trotting up the sidewalk to join them.

That's eight guys, at least, who are going to get priority over Swarzak as starters. Ryan is likely to try to clear some of the incumbents this winter, but that won't be easy. Even if he moves one or two of the veterans, Meyer and May should be at the head of the line.

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