Twins Dump Neshek

This Sunday, sitting in a Chicago bar with knowledgeable fans of various Midwestern baseball teams, including the Minnesota Twins, news that the Twins placed reliever Pat Neshek on waivers broke via twitter. Reactions varied from “wait, what?” from the unaffiliated to the “[expletive deleted]” from the Twins fans in the group. Within 10 minutes, news broke, once again via twitter, that the Padres had claimed the 30-year-old righthander. Given the reaction from those who follow the organization as well as the speed with which Neshek was claimed, the move appears curious at best.

A look at Neshek’s career stats begins to explain the despair felt by the Twins fans at the table. Over his career, the sidearmer has posted a tremendous 10.5 K/9, and even with middling control (3.1 BB/9) and trouble with fly balls (32% GB rate), Neshek has a 3.05 career ERA to go with a 3.58 FIP and 3.61 xFIP. Both peripheral rates are solid for a reliever, and can produce nearly a full win over replacement in value over a 70 inning season.

Over the last three seasons, Neshek has thrown only 22.1 innings of mediocre baseball, including a completely lost 2009 to Tommy John surgery. He hasn’t been great in the minor leagues during his rehab either,  managing only a 5.9 K/9 rate without improvements in other areas. Given the Twins’ supervision of these struggles along with Neshek’s spring performance, it’s entirely possible that they’ve seen something that suggests that Neshek is done and beyond repair as a Major League pitcher.

I find two problems with this idea. First, the Twins can’t afford to dump a reliever with even a small chance of contributing in 2011. After Joe Nathan, their bullpen quality drops heavily. The other six bullpen positions will likely go to Matt Capps, Jose Mijares, Jim Hoey, Dusty Hughes, Kevin Slowey, and Glen Perkins. Slowey should be excellent in the pen (and should be a starter), and Capps and Mijares should be slightly above average. The others? ZiPS is not confident, and the depth just isn’t there.

The second problem is the most damning: Neshek still has a minor league option remaining, according to Dan Hayes of the North Country Times. Even if the Twins had decided that Neshek wasn’t ready to pitch on the Major League roster, they had nothing to lose by stashing him in the minor leagues and seeing if he could figure it out. Neshek’s ZiPS projection isn’t exactly pretty (4.57 ERA), but he’s a bit of a special case due to his injury; he would have a sort of twin peaks projection. One of the peaks would correspond to if he “finds it” again, and the other if his injuries have killed his MLB talent. A healthy Neshek may be projected for a 3.80 ERA or maybe even lower, which would put him on the same level as a Mijares or Capps.

A healthy and effective Neshek would be a huge boon to a Twins team which needs every win it can find in a tight AL Central. Instead it appears that the Twins have decided that dumping Neshek’s $625K salary is a more worthwhile endeavor than attempting to work him back to health. This isn’t the kind of mistake whose impact will be readily noticeable as the season wears on, but if right-handed batters clobber Twins relievers in the 6th and 7th innings this year, they will wish that Neshek was still around.




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42 Responses to “Twins Dump Neshek”

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  1. Eric says:

    He was buried in the dog house after his tweets last year. Gardenhire has shown he can be petty in the past (see his burial of Jason Bartlett). Neshek will rock in SD.

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  2. Peter S says:

    If the Twins think he’s done … and that’s the only conclusion you can make here considering their other options despite what the organization may say to be nice to Neshek … I trust the Twins.

    The Twins have a good track record on when they think a pitcher is done. They don’t have a good track record on when they think infielders are done (Hardy).

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    • Joe NP says:

      Two points:
      1. Craig Breslow isn’t done is he? Neither is Grant Balfour.

      2. Hardy hasn’t played a game with Baltimore yet. You can’t come to any conclusions as to whether is he done or not.

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  3. MorneauVP says:

    Eric Hacker? Roster spot.

    Pat Neshek? Pack your bags.

    Logical. When Gardenhire decides he doesn’t like someone — they’re out of Minnesota, plain and simple. He runs this team with his emotions rather than actual logic and rationale. I wish more people who praise him from afar would notice this. Stubborn and pointless roster move here. A pointless risk driven by Gardy’s personal preferences.

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  4. Bill says:

    The guy lost his fastball. What is hard to see?

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    • Bryz says:

      Give him the appropriate amount of time to recover from his TJ surgery before you say that his fastball velocity is gone forever. Note that he also had a hand issue last season.

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  5. Barkey Walker says:

    The Twins are setup to make plays on ground balls. The infield has wall to wall high UZRs, and the outfield has terrible UZRs near the walls (Span is good at CF with #6 UZR/150 in MLB). The team works off of ground balls that lead to outs. Fly balls tend to land in that large stadium and can easily lead to base cleaning.

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    • John says:

      You are a lot more bullish on the Twins IF than I am. Valencia is average at 3B (unless you put huge stock in a small sample), Casilla has been below average at a defender at both 2B and SS over his career, Nishioka is a question mark, and Morneau is a good 1B but a question mark. The Twins could easily be fielding one of the worst IF defenses in the league this year.

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      • Eric says:

        I second that. This is a horrible defense at almost every position

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      • Barkey Walker says:

        Casilla’s UZR/150 as SS is 25.7. Valencia’s UZR/150 is 10.2. The samples are small, but I wouldn’t be so confident that either is at below average. Nishioka is scouted as a good SS with a weak arm–sounds like a good second baseman. @Eric,I have no idea how you could conclude from this that they are, “horrible.”

        But these are besides the point. The Twins are now, and will be, a team with a good infield and pitchers that make GBs. Was anybody else even close in infield quality (infielder UZR) last season?

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      • John says:

        Casilla has been a terrible defender at 2B over the course of his career. I am very confident that he is not going to be a good SS, you can look at 20 games last year where he was good or 200 where he has been awful. Valencia was held down in the minors because the Twins didn’t like his defense. I am hoping he has improved enough that he is an average defender at 3B over the long haul. The only problem w/ Nishioka was not his arm. Kaz Matsui was a GG winner in Japan at SS, was a butcher at 2B in MLB. I have my doubts until I see him perform over a while.

        Twins lost Hardy, Hudson and Punto this offseason, so I hardly think last years UZR is relevant to this years defense.

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      • Barkey Walker says:

        The Twins keeping someone down because of their defense is like saying, “this guy couldn’t even get the job of CEO for a few years.” The team plays strong infields, so the bar is very high.

        Last season Casilla had a positive UZR at second and shortstop. Have a little faith Gardy can scout a guy that is right under his nose better than you can.

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      • John says:

        Gardy had Punto under his nose for how long w/out being able to tell he couldn’t hit a lick? How about not realizing Jacque Jones couldn’t hit lefties (or Kubel for that matter)?

        And the Twins IF defense hasn’t been a high bar to clear. Before last year they had gone through a couple years where their only above average defender was Punto. The Twins rep for doing the “little things” right, is a bit overstated.

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  6. GarryHarris says:

    Lets be honest, Pat Neshek didn’t make the team. His BBs are way up and the hitters are hitting him hard. It normally takes 1-1/2 years to recover from surgery. He hasn’t been effective for 4 years.

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  7. Derek says:

    Thank you Garry. Neshek had one year where he really blew people away and hasn’t been even close to the same since his first and second sugeries. You can’t look at historical numbers in this case; his fastball didn’t get it’s velocity back and his slider isn’t where it was pre-op.

    The current Neshek wasn’t even worth the six-figure salary.

    As for the infield defense, I disagree that it will be terrible. Sure, Danny Valencia is no gold glover, but if the Casilla doesn’t tank (which, admittedly, could well happen) then this IF defense is solidly in the top half of the AL.

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    • SC2GG says:

      If a statement has too many ifs, then that statement is really iffy.

      Just saying.

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      • Derek says:

        I hear ya but to me the only real if is Casilla. Looks like Morneau will play a full season. Nishioka, while likely not a gold glove candidate, has the range/arm/glove to play second based on what he’s displayed in ST. Valencia posted a UZR/150 above 10 last year (I know, small sample size. But in watching nearly every game, I didn’t see him show any sign he can’t be at least league average at the position).

        I’m a Twins fan and am certainly not trying to be a homer, but objectively speaking this infield could be very good.

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      • John says:

        I just disagree w/ your assessment. Valencia probably will be average. But SS, the most important defensive position in the IF will be filled by a very below average defender. I would be shocked if Nishioka is above average at 2B. Morneau has become a pretty solid 1B, but putting him as “likely” to play a full season is very hopeful.

        Average at 3B, well below average at SS, Average at 2B and Above average at 1B w/ bad defensive backups at every position does not put the Twins in the top half. In order for the Twins to be in the top half Casilla has to demonstrate skills at SS he never demonstrated at 2B, Valencia has to maintain at least some of his defensive gains, Nishioka’s skills have to translate into being a solid 2B and Morneau has to stay healthy. That is a lot of ifs to ride upon for a hope of being average and I could easily see my Twins fielding the worst IF defense in the AL.

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      • wrong em says:

        There seem to be 2 schools of thought about Casilla moving to SS full time; one sees his below-average numbers at 2B and extrapolates to as-bad-or-worse performance at SS, and another is somewhat more optimistic because he played SS in the minors and was moved to 2B more because of team need at the position than his deficiency at SS.

        I don’t think that the latter way of thinking jumps to a conclusion of slam-dunk success for Casilla at SS, but rather it at least suggests that we have to wait and see on his defense. I know that the conclusion “bad 2b = worse SS” is based on the outcomes of a lot of cases, but this could be a case where extrapolating from the 2B defensive numbers is misleading.

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      • JTC says:

        How many teams aren’t full of “ifs” this time of year. The heads can do a whole lot of confident talking, but, looking back at the end of season, it all usually turns out to be quite iffy.

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  8. Derek says:

    Good points, John. I think it’s fine that we just disagree on this. My closing remark is touching on my (probably foolish) optimism for Casilla. His problems in his career — which at this point is a pretty significant amount of innings — have been stupid plays where he seemingly has Carlos Gomez-esque baseball intelligence. That’s harsh, but every years since 2006, he’s shown to have the range and arm capable of playing the position, he just fails to make routine plays consistently.

    That’s not something that can be swept under the rug, but the physical tools appear to be in place for a quality defender.

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    • Eric says:

      Casilla was moved off of SS to 2b because he was bad at SS. Now moving him back, after a few years of bad 2b play, and he’s going to be a + defender at SS? You sound like Yankee fans trying to explain how Jeter will improve in his late 30s

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  9. Luke in MN says:

    When evaluating relievers who haven’t had significant MLB playing time since 2006, the only really interesting data point is what scouts are saying about him. Apparently either (1) the Twins scouts don’t think he’s got it anymore or (2) there’s some personality issue. Given the absence of more than just whispers about 2, you have to go with 1. And if 1, are you and your bar buddies really in any position to question the evaluation?

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    • Eric says:

      3) Past history. Gardenhire has pulled the plug on guys he didn’t like before. The fun part is we’ll see how he does in SD. I know he’s moved to the top of my draft board in my Scoresheet league (round 33, but still).

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      • Luke in MN says:

        I just don’t know why we need to go there when the guy throws a mid-80s side-arm fastball that doesn’t seem to be impressing anyone these days. Even when he was good he got by on deception, a wing, and a prayer (and maybe small sample sizes). Now that it hasn’t clicked in 4 years he’s gone just because he’s in Gardy’s doghouse? It’s possible that’s the reason, but I there’s a pretty darn good alternative explanation.

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      • Eric says:

        Mid ’80s is Exactly my point. He wasn’t blowing anyone away before he got hurt and since the TJ surgery he’s come back, called the manager a jackass on twittter and sent to Flippin’ San Diego (AA) where he should be a Cy Young Candidate, if middle relievers can be such a thing. Gardenhire is a joke. Put him in any other division and he’s a footnote.

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      • Bryz says:

        @ Eric:

        1. Neshek did not call Gardy a jackass on Twitter. You are at best exaggerating what he said, and at worst just making up something to prove your point.

        2. “He wasn’t blowing anyone away before he got hurt.” 89+ MPH (his yearly velocities from ’06-’08) from a sidearm delivery is pretty damn hard to hit, and a 10.6 K/9 over those 3 years prior to TJ surgery certainly looks like he blew away hitters to me, regardless of fastball velocity.

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  10. Eric M. Van says:

    Pretty sure Neshek, as a player more than three years removed from his debut, would have had to pass through Optional Assignment Waivers in order to use his remaining option. That may well be what happened (although there is supposedly a gentleman’s agreement not to claim such players). Scott Atchison had to clear those waivers to use his second option last year, and they were reported as straight waivers without the OA qualification. (He and Okajima will have to clear them this year.)

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  11. Eric says:

    Who said he called Gardy a jackass on twitter?

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    • scottz says:

      Um…you?
      Eric says:
      March 21, 2011 at 8:18 pm
      …..surgery he’s come back, called the manager a jackass on twittter and sent to Flippin’ San Diego…..

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  12. Eric says:

    I see. There seeems to be two “eric’s”

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  13. Eric says:

    But to be fair to my namesake, there was a twitterversey last year. Didn’t Gardenhire tell him to stop tweeting, or stop criticizing the the Twins in Tweets?

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  14. Derek says:

    He divulged an injury on twitter and seemed to suggest he didn’t agree with the way the team handled it. It was pretty benign but it got blown into a big thing.

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  15. Gardenhire has also stated this spring , ” don’t even write that down just tweet it yaeh tweet is and fire it through the internet.”

    lol

    i think its safe to say Gardy, and most Twins hate the Twitter verse

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  16. ToddM says:

    Neshek has at least a decent chance to become a dominant reliever again, especially in Petco National Park.

    Truly, given the nature of his comments (anyone ever read On the Road with Pat Neshek, his blog?), this was probably a combination of the Twins’ lack of confidence in him and Gardenhire’s dislike of him.

    The odds of the Twins regretting this are certainly less than 50%, but not insignificant.

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  17. Lucky Goobn says:

    He threw a perfect 9-pitch inning (7 strikes) with 2 Ks yesterday. BUY!!!!!

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