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  • Changing Focus: The Danny Valencia & Francisco Liriano Moves

    At some (very depressing) point, as a season turns into an extended offseason, the focus needs to change. For the Twins, that change has been coming since the middle of last week. The turning point was tonight.

    At some point, the focus changes from the team to the players. The moves become less about what the team needs, and more about what each player needs. It doesnít necessarily mean coming down on one side or the other, but the balance changes. That balance changed tonight.

    Tonight third baseman Danny Valencia was sent to AAA-Rochester and starting pitcher Francisco Liriano was sent to the bullpen. I like both moves, because I agree with the change in focus.

    I donít know if Valencia is ever going to be a competent starting third baseman in the majors. Nobody does. But I sure used to think so. This move isnít a punishment Ė itís a release. Valencia is hitting .198, 50 points lower than last year, which was 50 points lower than 2010. As bad as that is, thatís not the most alarming of his statistics. Heís also struck out 23 times in 96 AB Ė and walked just twice.

    I donít know what he needs, but he isnít finding it here. I wonít argue with those suggesting that itís foolish for a club to invest time in a 27-year-oldís career in AAA. But at this point, one needs to try things. Maybe AAA might reestablish Valenciaís confidence. With literally zero third base options in the Twins pipeline until at least 2014, why not try it?

    Which is exactly the philosophy for the other big move. Liriano is moved to the bullpen to try and regain some Ö. well, name it what you will. Confidence? Mojo? Momentum? Or, if you're especially cynical: Equity? They all work. The Twins and Liriano have tried everything else, and short of demoting him (which I suspect he and his agent would resist) this is the last option.

    If youíre of the opinion that Liriano needs to be traded for something valuable, I gotta think you like this move. Maybe Liriano can build some value. A decent reliever is valuable at the trade deadline. Even more so if heís a southpaw. His value certainly canít decrease.

    As for the rest Ė meh. Matt Maloney was the odd man out with another lefty moving to the bullpen. That's unlucky for him. I like Darin Mastoianni as a infield/outfield utility guy, though his infield coverage is limited. One can argue whether heís the best fit, but Iím getting weary of sweating where deck chairs should be moved. PJ Walters must have had the right mix of control, BABIP and veterany goodness to make him the default pick for the open rotation spot. That's not the way I would go, but Iím not nearly as close to this situation, and it's close to a tie. Whatever.

    The bad news is that these look more and more like the moves of a last place team looking to the future. The good news is that is probably the correct philosophy to embrace. The focus is changing from the team to the individuals, and for both of these individuals, the change in focus looks to be wise.
    This article was originally published in blog: Changing Focus: The Danny Valencia & Francisco Liriano Moves started by John Bonnes
    Comments 42 Comments
    1. Jim H's Avatar
      Jim H -
      I was not aware that 3B's make it to the bigs later. I would have guessed more catchers and left handed pitchers may develop later. I suppose speed positions may be on the earlier side. Anyone seen a study in this area? My interest is player development and career path. It hasn't been in my mind to be more patient with thirdbasemen.
      There are examples of what John is talking about, Wade Boggs come to mind. But, part of the reason is because of the special demands of the position and that it is sort of a transition position.

      Playing 3B well, requires a strong arm, good hands and a certain amount of quickness, if not outright speed. Also since there aren't necessarily as many chances at 3b but a higher percent of difficult chances, errors often appear more glaring.

      Many times players start out as middle infielders and are moved to 3B if they don't have enough range for short or 2b but have some power or strong contact skills. A number of very good 3B over the years started at catcher, often again because their bat skills were stronger than their defensive skills.

      I think all of these things seem to contribute to longer development time for 3rd baseman. It is also interesting how many very good ballplayers, play at 3rd for a while but ultimately end up in the OF or at 1B. Thome, Killebrew and Shefield are 3 who come immediately to mind. Cuddyer also.
    1. jorgenswest's Avatar
      jorgenswest -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jim H View Post
      There are examples of what John is talking about, Wade Boggs come to mind. But, part of the reason is because of the special demands of the position and that it is sort of a transition position.
      I guess I am interested in seeing it in the data. Once the data shows a trend, the reasoning would follow. If I look at the current 3B's, will they have had later career starts than other positions? Do prime seasons for a 3B tend to occur later? If so, maybe I should have more hope for the 27 year old Valencia. I did a quick look for a study but didn't see one.

      My question: "Is there more hope for Valencia as a struggling 27 year old because he plays 3B and hence will develop later?"

      I know there are examples of guys who moved to 3B or away from 3B. Players often move down the defensive spectrum as the age. That doesn't give hope for Valencia. I think I will take a shot at that question sometime in the future. In my mind, I have an impression that catchers and lefties develop later. That may be a false impression. Maybe it is 3B's that require more patience.
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