December 17, 2012
Putting the 'Pen In Pennsylvania
Anytime the Twins sign a low-strikeout pitcher we rush to say, “Well, duh!” The additions of Kevin Correia and Pelfrey are no different.
Pelfrey is a tall right-hander with a slow delivery and a shallow arsenal. He throws plenty of two- and four-seam fastballs because he must to survive. The fastballs are his best pitches, by far. The paucity of secondary offerings is a career-long staple for Pelfrey. He tried for years to throw a changeup, but has since ditched it for a splitter. At his best, Pelfrey is an okay innings sponge with deficiencies that irk pitching coaches and fans alike. At his worst, he’s annoying.
Minnesota expects to have Pelfrey, who underwent Tommy John surgery in May, back by opening day. It’s an aggressive timeline, even with 12-month returns becoming commonplace. If Pelfrey is back, then the Twins figure to roll out a rotation featuring three newcomers: Pelfrey, Correia, and Vance Worley. Scott Diamond and Brian Duensing figure to get the final two spots, though Liam Hendriks is also in play.
The National League East is a monster in small part because of the strength of the bullpens. Washington has Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen, the Braves have Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel, and now the Phillies have Adams and Jonathan Papelbon. Philadelphia also has this fellow named Antonio Bastardo: A southpaw who last season fanned 14 batters per nine innings. If Bastardo can shave some home runs and walks from his game then the Phillies should be in contention for the best seventh-eighth-ninth combination in the league.
First Adams needs to prove his health before we get too far ahead of ourselves. His status for opening day is in doubt after October surgery to correct thoracic outlet syndrome. Adams showed during his brief time in Texas that he isn’t a Petco Park creation, but rather a legitimately talented pitcher with good stuff. His 86-88 mph cutter tails away from barrels. He complements the pitch with a low-to-mid 90s fastball and an upper-70s slider.
There isn’t much to nitpick about this deal. Lesser relievers are signing for more years and more money. Dodgers fans are still wondering if Ned Colletti should have acted so quickly on Brandon League. Adams is one of the game’s premier setup men. There is a risky of injury or attrition, like there is with any pitcher, but if you’re going to gamble on one then make it a good one. This deal doesn’t feel like a gamble.
Just as Adams could redefine the back end of the Phillies bullpen, Lannan should help redefine the back end of their rotation. The days of the Four Aces are over, and so for that matter are the days of Three Aces and Joe Blanton or Vance Worley. Kyle Kendrick and Tyler Cloyd were the internal favorites to fill out the rotation. Lannan isn’t a sexy package but he should be an upgrade.
The Nationals—flush with pitching depth and spending money—left Lannan and his $5 million salary in Triple-A for most of last season. Don’t take it as an indictment of Lannan, who should be a capable no. 4 or 5 starter. The southpaw uses a high-80s sinker to generate groundballs and coerce timely double plays. He walks a pinch too many batters given his meager strikeout rates, and his component-based measures suffer for it.
Bill Baer raised a subplot worth watching: Will the Phillies give Michael Young days off when Lannan pitches? The majority of Lannan’s groundballs go to the left side, meaning Freddy Galvis’ slick glove could come in handy. Baer thinks the math works. We’ll see if Charlie Manuel and—more importantly—Young agree.