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Blind faith vs. evidence and reason

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When coming to form one's beliefs or making evaluations about things, the rather vast ocean between blind faith and evidence sets up a stark contrast in reasoned (or un-reasoned) judgment. This post is not about evolution or theism, but about something much less important in the grand scheme of things.

This post is about the Twins' evaluation of Anthony Slama.

Let's first examine the evidence, sticking to Slama's minor league and major league statistics. In parts of four seasons in AAA Rochester, Slama has 146 2/3 inning pitched, a 2.21 ERA, 183 K, 72 BB (2.54 K/BB), and a 1.152 WHIP. In 2012, Slama has improved upon the K/BB rate (3.0) with a whopping 15.1 K/9 together with a 5 BB/9. Let me repeat, this year he has been striking out 15 batters per 9 innings.

With such impressive AAA stats (and much the same or better at the lower levels in the minors), certainly Slama has seen ample time up with the Twins, right? He pitched 4 2/3 innings in 2010 and 2 1/3 innings in 2011. Yes, the guy striking out AAA batters at an incredibly high rate has only seven total innings up with the Twins.

So, clearly stats lie, in the view of the relevant decision makers for the Twins.

What, then, are the Twins basing their evaluation of Slama on instead? I submit that it is blind faith, but more importantly it is blind faith in their (the Twins' decision makers) ability to evaluate players and make projections into the major league future. Slama does not "have the stuff" and Gardenhire himself has made the claim that Slama's fastball is too straight vertically and horizontally for the majors, or in his eloquent words, "up here you've got to make it do something."

Instead of using the evidence of Slama's AAA success to make a reasonable projection about his MLB projected performance, the Twins would rather rely on the faith they have in their seeing-eye assessment of Slama's stuff. AAA batters are actually pretty well-equipped to hit straight fastballs as well (in fact, that is usually the one thing hitters in AAA can do, even if they can't hit anything else and never make it to the majors).

I could perhaps forgive this blind faith evaluation (in their own talents as evaluators, not in Slama) if the Twins A: had a bullpen full of better pitchers who were going to mean something for the Twins in the future, and B: if the Twins were in a division or wild card race and couldn't afford 20 innings given to a reliever they were leery of promoting.

But neither A or B are true. While, Alex Burnett has been incredibly lucky not to get destroyed this year, he does have an option left and that should not be burned this season (it will next season, trust me!). But Jeff Gray is a pitching abomination. He (like Burnett) walks almost as many as he strikes out and he isn't striking many out to begin with. He has somehow been given 51 2/3 innings to pitch this year. And Gray has no future with the Twins, isn't getting better, and will be 31 in a few months.

It is mind-boggling to me to consider the thought process involved in keeping Jeff Gray on the roster instead of Anthony Slama. Now, plenty of people at Twins Daily will wonder why one might complain about the last bullpen spot on a horrible team. Well, first, I am for improving the team at all roster spots if possible and it never matters how good or bad the team is in the first place. Second, is that there has to be some kind of justice in the baseball world! Anthony Slama deserves an opportunity with the Twins. We are also talking about livelihoods here as well.

I have come to the point where I actually believe that the Twins are not promoting Slama because they are scared that he will succeed. That would prove them wrong and would make them have to question how they evaluate pitchers. The faithful do not like either of those two things happening.
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  1. OldManWinter's Avatar
    It seems to me in the highly competitive world of MLB it is improbable that Slama, or any other player for that matter, is held down for reasons except the perception that a player cannot compete.

    Teams cannot afford the luxury of making roster decisions to protect the egos of their management.

    I am not big on conspiratorial theories.
  2. Shane Wahl's Avatar
    And it's a perception based on what? Clearly not evidence.
  3. righty8383's Avatar
    Reading the last paragraph in this sentence, normally I would call that an extreme view reserved for the most cinical of Twins fans. But honestly, the case of Anthony Slama has me thinking on the same lines. If I were to meet Terry Ryan I think the 1st thing I would ask is "what the hell does Anthony Slama have to do to get a chance with the big club?"
  4. Shane Wahl's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by righty8383
    Reading the last paragraph in this sentence, normally I would call that an extreme view reserved for the most cinical of Twins fans. But honestly, the case of Anthony Slama has me thinking on the same lines. If I were to meet Terry Ryan I think the 1st thing I would ask is "what the hell does Anthony Slama have to do to get a chance with the big club?"
    I know! It is really cynical, but I just don't get it at all. There is no reason not to give him 20 innings this year just to see if he does get rocked as they believe he will. But even a halving of that 15 k/9 would be a major improvement for the bullpen.
  5. Thrylos's Avatar
    I don't get it either. Maybe Slama used to play practical jokes on Toby or something. And about the age old "axiom" that some people can strike out AA and AAA hitters but not MLB hitters, all I have to say is that the MLB hitters were AA and AAA hitters at some point. I don't have much faith on the Twins' player evaluators. They dropped the ball way too many times recently.
  6. Shane Wahl's Avatar
    They are show sure of themselves that they need no ML evidence or they don't want him to succeed and make them look bad for doing this to him for so long. Neither one of those options makes the Twins look good. Slama's ceiling is probably a Jared Burton replacement, but that would mean Burton could be or could have been traded.
  7. Steer's Avatar
    Somebody in the brass section is very stubborn.
  8. Jim H's Avatar
    I wouldn't mind seeing Slama up this September but some of you conspiracy theorists who claim to follow the minors very closely, you realize that Slama has been hurt for large portions of the last 2(this year and 20ll) seasons? Also when he has been healthy and effective, there has been little immediate need for his skills.

    In addition to that, he appears to be largely a one inning reliever(based on how he has been used in the minors and the fact he throws a lot of pitches in each appearance). That would tend to limit his opportunities at the big league level. For example in the latest call up the Twins brought up Waltrip because he is more of a multi-inning type reliever. Slama will likely need to used as a one inning specialist or a guy to get righthanders out in the 6th-7th or 8th innings.

    Every team in baseball had a chance to claim Slama when he was removed from the 40 man roster. That doesn't mean he doesn't deserve an opportunity, but it does mean he isn't a prized prospect. Slama will likely get another opportunity to pitch in the majors, perhaps with the Twins, perhaps not. Some marginal guys do succeed in the majors and I hope Slama is one them, but I do not think there is some sort of goofy conspiracy by Twins brass to kkep him out of the majors.
  9. IdahoPilgrim's Avatar
    I'm not opposed to giving him a chance - at this point, why not? I do believe, though, that statistics can be misleading. Hendriks has great stats in AAA and has not been able to perform in MLB. Parmelee has great stats in AAA, but let's not forget he started the season with the big club and was sent down for non-performance. I believe both will be back, but it does show that there is a gap between AAA performance and MLB performance. Somehow that has to be evaluated, and some will bridge that gap and some won't, and I'll leave it to others better trained than I to evalute which camp each players falls into.
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