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Article: A Tale Of Two Transitions

trevor may
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#1 Nick Nelson

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 08:48 AM

Turn the clock back with me, for a moment, to the year 2011. Yes, it was a long time ago, tracing to the beginning of this lengthy era of organizational ineptitude.

At that time, the Twins were trying to shoehorn a proven starter into a relief role, resulting in all sorts of issues. Sound familiar?Kevin Slowey's 2010 campaign was decent, but not great. Coming back from a major wrist injury that cut short his 2009 season, the righty was bogged down by inconsistency but still managed to finish 13-6 with a respectable 4.45 record and 1.29 WHIP. He put up an impressive 116-to-29 K/BB ratio and stayed mostly healthy. Still only 26 years old, he was poised to become a reliable and cheap staple in Minnesota's rotation.

Of course, that is not how things played out. The Twins decided to re-sign 35-year-old Carl Pavano to a two-year deal, crowding Slowey out of the rotation picture. Even though he posted the best numbers of any starter at camp in 2011, Ron Gardenhire and his staff elected to bump Slowey to the bullpen, opting instead for the likes of Brian Duensing and Nick Blackburn.

We know how the rest of this story goes. Slowey grumbled publicly. He complained of injuries, which were basically treated by the team and media as imaginary. As you may recall, the people running the club were not especially fond of Slowey, nor were the media members who covered him. He was painted (perhaps accurately) as a smug and smarmy malcontent, and an excuse-maker.

You won't see such attributes attached to Trevor May. He's a humble and friendly guy, who has earned the respect of coaches, teammates and reporters alike. Although he was dealt a very similar hand this year to Slowey's in 2011 -- banished to the bullpen despite having spent nearly his entire pro career as a starter, and making a pretty good case as one of the club's five best rotation options -- May did not pout. He chose to be a good organizational soldier and embraced the assignment.

Still, the outcome has not been much different, in terms of the physical reaction. May pitched quite well in his relief role over the first month before struggling in the second and hitting the disabled list with back spasms. He returned in July, delivered another month's worth of strong performance, and is now back on the shelf with more back problems.

Clearly, there is a better argument for using May as a reliever than Slowey. His stuff plays up much more in short stints, and he has proven to be a dominant force out of the bullpen when healthy. But he, too, seems to have untapped potential as a starter, and it's a laughable notion that this team is too rich in starting pitching depth to give him a try.

Moreover, May's health needs to be viewed as a pre-eminent concern. For a pitcher who has followed the same routine for years and years, an abrupt switch can easily cause physical and mechanical issues. When May is suddenly pitching multiple times per week, and going full-bore every time he's on the mound, it takes a toll. According to Phil Miller of the Star Tribune, "changes to (May's) routine caused him to unconsciously lengthen his stride and put more torque on his back."

The recurring injuries are a new thing for the 26-year-old. He has rarely missed a start during his pro career up until this season, making the ailments all the more more conspicuous and alarming.

Paul Molitor has said only that he will consider the idea of another role switch for May. Hopefully the manager will think long and hard about it. May offers huge upside out of the bullpen but he's useless to the club when he is besieged by health problems that keep him off the mound.

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#2 Hrbek70

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 08:54 AM

What? Read it twice and still trying to get the correlation

#3 Steve Lein

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 09:25 AM

May was a workhorse as a SP throughout the minors. Never missed time. Threw a ton of innings every year with no issues. Now in the majors before they even found out what they had with him as a starter, his transition to RP has resulted in multiple DL stints. It's not hard to see the correlation there.

 

I hope they make the switch back sooner rather than later. Never should have been done in the first place.

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#4 Thrylos

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 09:28 AM

"Yes, it was a long time ago, tracing to the start beginning of this lengthy era of organizational ineptitude."

 

That was not 2011, more like 1995

 

And then (also unrelated) a young starter by the name of Eddie Guardado was switched to the bullpen

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#5 nytwinsfan

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 09:34 AM

The Twins should not tender Santiago a contract next year. He is not worth it at the likely price. That money can be better spent on a reliever with some upside or possibly a catcher.

 

2017 Starters:

1.Santana

2.Gibson

3.Berrios

4.May (assuming injuries have subsided and he seems healthy).

5.Duffey/Mejia (depending on how each does the rest of the year and in spring training).

 

Gonsalves and/or (less likely) Jay may be ready by mid-season, but they shouldn't count on it. Stewart and Jorge likely won't be ready until 2018 at the earliest. Hughes might be back from surgery and healthy, but again, they should not count on it. If they want to bring in another cheap veteran on a very light contract (someone with some upside, but questions/recent injuries) then I'd be ok with that, but only on a 1-year deal, and only without any promise that a rotation spot is guaranteed.

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#6 FargoFanMan

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 10:08 AM

Just boggles my mind why he is still being used in the pen. Could have easily been stretched out in Rochester his first rehab assignment. Probably would have been in the rotation by now gaining steam heading into next year. I don't think Molitor is incompetent as a manager but this is on a list of a handful of moves that make no sense to me. May is a starter! Why is milone still on this team? Someone needs to run this team like a 2016 business instead of a liberal congressional district

#7 dxpavelka

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 10:18 AM

When Ryan was canned the explanation should have been twofold.Sano to RF & May to the pen.If Molitor was complicit and not just following orders (Sano leaving RF around the same time Ryan gets fired causes doubt but May remaining in the pen lessens the doubt) he should be next to go.

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#8 HitInAPinch

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 10:44 AM

 

"Yes, it was a long time ago, tracing to the start beginning of this lengthy era of organizational ineptitude."

 

That was not 2011, more like 1995

 

And then (also unrelated) a young starter by the name of Eddie Guardado was switched to the bullpen

and Hawkins and Perkins.Can't think of any others OTTOMH.

I'm not sure [and May's statements alluded to it] that May didn't have this problem as a starter.That with enough rest, stretching, etc. between starts kept it in check.

 

Sometimes the switch works, sometimes it doesn't.This is a not.

 

EDIT:Joe Nathan

It's not my fault !


#9 Nick Nelson

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 10:52 AM

 

and Hawkins and Perkins.Can't think of any others OTTOMH.

I'm not sure [and May's statements alluded to it] that May didn't have this problem as a starter.That with enough rest, stretching, etc. between starts kept it in check.

 

Sometimes the switch works, sometimes it doesn't.This is a not.

 

EDIT:Joe Nathan

Thing is, those guys were bad as starters, or had injury problems as starters. The decisions to move May and Slowey out of the rotation were based on a perceived overabundance of starting depth more so than their own situations. 

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#10 ashburyjohn

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 11:06 AM

EDIT:Joe Nathan

Joe Nathan pitched 78 games in relief and none as a starter for the Giants in 2003, before the trade. Fire Brian Sabean and Felipe Alou, I guess.

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#11 mikelink45

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 12:00 PM

A plan?  A team that rises like the cubs has a plan, the Astros had a plan - the Twins make it up from week to week.  Put your players in their best position.  If that leaves a weak position, address it, but not by reducing the quality in another area. 

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#12 Loosey

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 01:30 PM

 

A plan?  A team that rises like the cubs has a plan, the Astros had a plan - the Twins make it up from week to week.  Put your players in their best position.  If that leaves a weak position, address it, but not by reducing the quality in another area. 

Completely agree.The Twins appear to operate in a vacuum at times.As you mentioned, moving May to rotation would leave a hole in the bullpen, but again as you mentioned that can be addressed both externally and internally.Nolasco and Milone are not better starters than May in my opinion.The team should put players in positions to succeed, clearly the bullpen is causing issue for May from a health standpoint.

 

Additionally, incrementally the improvement from Milone to May is likely to be greater than the regression from May to his replacement in the bullpen. 

 

 

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#13 Jham

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 01:53 PM

Wait, were the Twins wrong about Slowey? He ended up being pretty terrible after that breakout season right? Just because a starter had immediate success doesn't mean they'll have sustainable success. Slowey wasn't better than pavano or duensing or Blackburn despite having 1 good year. May should start, but i think we need to be realistic about our expectations regarding his results and health.

#14 lukeduke1980

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 01:55 PM

Trevor May bullpen vs. starting is catching up to Joe Mauer as far as posts on this site.

 

 


#15 spycake

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 02:02 PM

 

Wait, were the Twins wrong about Slowey?

I don't think anyone was really making that claim, although one could question whether the bullpen assignment exacerbated the injuries which were ultimately responsible for derailing his career.

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#16 Deduno Abides

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 02:03 PM

Actually, if you squint a little, the bullpen next year might be fine without May. There's some hope, tape and bubblegum, but follow along. Tonkin, Pressly and Rogers might be decent middle relief. Can Kintzler continue to be good, or at least OK? His walk and ground ball rates give some reason for optimism that he can, either continuing as closer or in another role. Perkins should be back, with something to prove. (I said hope was involved.) He shouldn't get the closer role handed back to him, but he should get a chance to get A role. Chargois? Can the team commit to let him have the rest of 2016 to acclimate? Pat Light? He's obviously in the plans. Baxendale, Darnell, O'Rourke from AAA? Hildenberger from AA? Phil Hughes should be healthy. If he is, he should begin the year in the bullpen. And then there's mostly the same list of expected contributors that were supposed to progress this year: Burdi, Reed, Melotakis, et al, with the addition of Zack Jones. Finally, unless there's a complete change in FO DNA, we should expect them to sign some minor league free agents. Some of these players will not meet expectations, but enough should be OK that moving May to the rotation will not leave a gaping hole in the bullpen.

#17 dgwills

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 02:32 PM

This would be a good post for the "Kevin Slowey was framed" guy to comment on.

I've heard others say that the quick move to the bullpen and then having Gardy use him incorrectly (Having Slowey pitch consecutive days and not giving his arm time to rest) caused Slowey's injury and ruined his career. Hard to say if this is true or not, but there is some compelling evidence if you look at the situation in detail.

It's also been said that Slowey's intellectual nature did not sit well with Gardy and others on the coaching staff. Kevin Slowey did score a 1420 on his SAT. Gardy and friends were kind of meat heads so I can definitely see that happening. I'm sure Slowey did question how the Twins were handling his career as well.

The biggest correlation in the two situations is the move to the bullpen and the subsequent injuries. One big difference is the May was given more time to transition and used in a more responsible manner. It also shows that the Twins have a history of choosing veteran pitchers over young pitchers.

Either way Ryan is already fired, so it's kind of a moot point.

 

 

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#18 ashburyjohn

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 03:38 PM

This would be a good post for the "Kevin Slowey was framed" guy to comment on.

Or of course Hipster Kevin Slowey.

 

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#19 Rosterman

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 05:48 PM

Yes, May didn't shine in 2014 as a starter. But he did show promise. He was also a bit rough in 2015 and pulled it together in a role out of the pen. But he still has the mix. He learned.

 

Come 2016, he was used a lot out of the gate...multiple days, short stops in a game. Not a long man, not a setup, not given a role. Just put out there as a member of a bullpen.

 

This is 21st century baseball. We now have roles. We have top of the rotation starters who can give us 200 innings and a chance to win every time they pitch. We have middle guys who might just keep us in the game. We have that 5th guy who might reach 125-130 innings and then be replaced by a similar soul. We have specialists in the bullpen. The closer. Two guys who see the ball in the 9th. We have a long guy. If you have the luxury, someone who can get a groundball, someone who can get a fly ball, someone who can strike someone out. And you have a couple of them coming in from the left side who can do more than jsut get their one guy out.

 

Maybe The Twins Way is that everyone can play anywhere on the diamond when called upon. Sometimes it works for awhile (Nunez this season), but at some point, you develop a player and you leave them there and you either trade that player eventually when someone else comes along (Dougie M and A.J.) or move that prospect (Polanco, Sano perhaps). But you don't start shuffling guys around for the heck of it. Your system should be strong enough that are are always looking at depth of three at a position for the next five years (like the Twins at catcher right now, eh). Someone is moving the little standups around the cardtable and seeing what your lineup would look like with so-and-so, and what it MAY look like next year, or three years down the line. If you need to change a position, you do it BEFORE you egt to the majors.

 

Of course, starting pitchers are a different case. You can get by with 2 or 3 pitches in the minors, but once you hit the majors, you better have four. Maybe you can be role arm in the bullpen if you don't adapt. Going to the bullpen is not necessarily a step-down...it is, afterall, a major league job. But it is also a mindset, like how every bullpen guy can't close a game...how every starter has trouble getting thru that batting order the third time, how batters can't adjust when the other team actually looks at the tape they have on your swing.

 

At best, when they IMMEDITATELY moved May into the bullpen in spring training, I was hoping they would still stretch him out, making him that - most time - minimum three inning guy, possibly becoming a spot starter rather than dipping down to the Deans and Albers in the organization. At worst, when Perkins started to falter, I was wondering if they would try him at closer, which almost seemed the case when he was working consecutive days, but not in the high pressure situation.

 

Somehow, I think, we have THE LOST SEASON OF TREVOR MAY. Nothing was accomplished. He moved backwards more than forwards. Even if you to rebrand him as a starter, can he pitch 150 innings in 2017...can he go 175...and what is his homework assignment for the off-season.

 

Are the Twins thinking that far ahead? Or is/was it a total system failure.

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#20 Eris

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 07:04 PM

 

The decisions to move May and Slowey out of the rotation were based on a perceived overabundance of starting depth more so than their own situations. 

 

I was always under the impression that the decision to move May to the bullpen was based along the lines that May only was effective for 5 innings.  Using Fangraphs (2013-2015), as a starter, May started 25 games was 7-14, with at 5.61 ERA and averaged 5.06 innings/game.  Compare to Mike Pelfrey started 64 games was 11-27, had a 4.94 ERA and averaged 5.33 innings/game.  Tyler Duffy, 29 games, 12-9, 4.90 ERA, 5.49 innings/game.  Ricky Nolasco 56 games, 15-22, 5.39 ERA and averaged 5.70 innings/game.  Based on this information, May was one of the least effect starting pitchers, despite having the highest K/9 on the staff (Berrios is tracking slightly better in K/9).  More importantly, May gave the least innings as a starter.  I think we can all agree that Nolasco and Pelfrey did not have a very successful Twins career, yet their numbers are better than Mays and they got deeper into the game (although Pelfrey just barely).

 

Where I agree with the discussion on this board is the May should have been stretched out especially given this dreadful year.  Because he has the stuff to be a very good pitcher, he needs to get deeper into the game and in a lost year this could have been worked on.

 

 

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