Two epic plate appearances with a dramatic disparity in styles.
Normally this series is on the blog side of the site, but since this is an extra-long edition, I’ve made it an article. If you’re new to “Longest Plate Appearance of the Week” because you don’t read the blog section regularly, A) read the blog section regularly! and B) catch up on the first edition here and the second edition here. I’ve added a few new elements this week: the length of the plate appearance, the number of mound visits involved, and a GIF of an exhausted player who’s wishing the plate appearance would end.
Bonus long plate appearance trivia: I don’t know why I didn’t think to look it up before, but if we’re going to talk about long plate appearances every week, we should know what the gold standard in long plate appearances is. The pitch-by-pitch data in our database goes back to 1988, and in that time, the longest plate appearance was a 20-pitch battle between Bartolo Colon and Ricky Gutierrez on June 26, 1998. Gutierrez struck out swinging. So, 20 pitches: that’s the goal. The average plate appearance in 1998 was 0.15 pitches shorter than today’s, so we have a head start.
K:BB darling Kevin Slowey is rewarding those like Paul, who have coveted his ratio brilliance for years.
I planned to write about Kevin Slowey regardless of how he performed on Tuesday night. He is a longtime favorite of mine who has looked great early on with his best work coming in that Tuesday effort against the Mets, as he went eight strong allowing just a single run on four hits with eight strikeouts. He walked nobody. In fact, he has a 14-to-0 K:BB in his last two outings, spanning 14 innings. I won’t fault you for not remembering Slowey.
He was pretty good in his first “full” season with the Twins back in 2008, throwing 160 1/3 innings of 3.99 ERA and 1.15 WHIP ball, along with a sharp 5.1 K:BB. After that, it was a series of disappointments, as he was plagued by injuries and home runs. I remained enamored with the K:BB rates, though. From 2009-2011 (he didn’t pitch at the MLB level in 2012), he had a 5.01 ERA and 1.35 WHIP over 305 2/3 innings, but a sparkling 4.6 K:BB. If you played in any leagues with me, you remember Slowey as “that guy that Paul keeps taking and acting like he got one over on us with his last-round pick.” Like any great setup, I was just waiting for the payoff that was due to come five years later.
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The ultimate showdown of premier outfield prospects in the Dominican Winter League happened on Wednesday night when Starling Marte's Leones del Escogido faced off against Oscar Taveras' Aguilas Cibaenas. Of course, neither player disappointed. The 24 year-old Marte had three hits, including a double and a three-run triple while the 20 year-old Taveras had a double, two singles, and a walk. What? You want to know who won the game? It doesn't really matter. Every fan who was in the stands wins because they got to see Marte and Taveras before they were stars on the same field as former big league greats Manny Ramirez and Miguel Tejeda. Incidentally, the two veterans who have 18 All-Star selections between them, each had a pair of hits.
Is there any hope that the Twins will be better than horrible this season?
First, let’s get this out of the way: The Minnesota Twins will probably be pretty bad, at best, this season. They lost a lot of games in 2011, and though many of the names and faces have changed, they’ll take the field in 2012 looking a lot like the same team. As a matter of sabermetric best practices, it’s probably a good idea to assume that they’ll lose a lot of games again. PECOTA and the depth charts currently see the Twins losing 91 games, in a two-way tie for the AL Central cellar and a three-way tie for last in the American League. That’s all very reasonable, and nothing you read here is going to dispute the notion that that’s exactly what’s most likely to happen.
What I’m wondering, though, is why it’s being treated as a foregone conclusion. Great analysts are dismissing the team without, well, analyzing. Our own departing-and-incoming managing editors—brilliant, insightful, and devastatingly handsome men, both—had things like this to say in their recent ALCentralpreview: “This team should trade any veterans not nailed down” … “they can’t compete” … “The Royals are about to leave the Twins in their dust” … “It’s going to stay bad before it gets better.” And they’re certainly not alone... they’re just the example I can find right now. On Twitter and elsewhere, the Twins have very quickly become a punch line. They’ve been written off completely.
The Twins decide on a rotation, but did they make the wrong choice?
As Christina Kahrl noted yesterday, the Twins have decided on their Opening Day rotation, and it does not include Kevin Slowey. Instead, Nick Blackburn will bump Slowey into the bullpen or as trade bait for another reliever before the season begins. The Twins’ search for more bullpen help further confuses their decision to designate Pat Neshek for assignment rather than optioning him to Triple-A.
A conversation with the Twins prospect about pitching, command, and the penalties of making a mistake over the plate in The Show.
Although his fastball might be unexceptional, Kevin Slowey is one of the top pitching prospects in the game because of his uncanny ability to command where he puts it in the strike zone. A second-round pick in the 2005 draft, the 23-year-old Twins right-hander has allowed only 42 walks in 324 minor league innings while striking out 319. Slowey made his big league debut earlier this season, but was returned to Triple-A Rochester after seven up-and-down starts in which he went 3-0, 5.84 and gave up 53 hits in 37 innings. He currently leads the International League in ERA (1.83), WHIP (0.92), and complete games (four).
Nate introduces this year's PECOTA-based look at ranking prospects. Today, he lays out the methodology, which includes a few key changes to how he approached this project last year.
Last year, we ran our first-ever series of PECOTA-based prospect rankings. This wasn’t necessarily intended to be an annual feature, but it proved to generate a lot of good discussion, so here we are again.