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Article: Terry Ryan's Foolish Gamble

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#1 John Bonnes

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 05:24 PM

You can view the page at http://www.twinsdail...-Foolish-Gamble

#2 Seth Stohs

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 05:30 PM

I personally think that the Twins/Terry Ryan saw Zumaya as a risk-reward signing that they made because it was Zumaya. I don't think that they signed Zumaya in place of someone else. That's just a guess, of course, as it appeared more to me that they didn't really have any interest in the likes of Wheeler, Coffey, etc. I don't think there was a backup plan because I think Zumaya was a bonus plan.

#3 mike wants wins

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 05:36 PM

The mistake wasn't sign Zumaya, the mistake was signing Capps, and not signing three other guys for the same price, plus Zumaya. Had they done that, they'd be in fine shape right now. Or, even if you sign Capps, you sign Zumaya and another RP or two. But the Twins didn't seem to understand the law of supply and demand from the beginning of this offseason when it came to RP.

What I just typed is probably an opinion, not a fact. I mean, I'm usually right, so you should maybe assume it is or will be a fact soon, but that's up to you. :)


#4 Thrylos

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 05:36 PM

I have zero problem with the Zumaya signing. I'd rather see the Twins "gamble" for someone with a high upside than playing it safe with mediocre signings. And they are down $400K. Good seed money for a kid whose career is pretty much done as a player. Bringing in a mediocre veteran reliever or two would not have made much difference (as a matter of fact thay got 3 of those in camp in Gray, Burton and Bulger, albeit in better terms.) I really feel confident that some of the younger pitchers in the camp will step it up and make things happen for the Twins this season...
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#5 Highabove

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 06:30 PM

John Gets it. Another good reason to come here.

Edited by Highabove, 26 February 2012 - 06:33 PM.


#6 Ben Collin

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 06:48 PM

Did you talk to Terry Ryan? On the surface your theory is plausible but I wouldn't call it a foolish gamble. I'd call it Twins Baseball.

#7 jorgenswest

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 06:56 PM

It cost the Twins $400,000. Hardly a gamble or foolish. I hope given a similar choice next year, they will take the same chance on a player. Easier to argue that signing Capps or Marquis was a foolish gamble. How about Coffey or Wheeler as a gamble? Below is player values from fangraphs for the two. Coffey 2010 - $0.2 (0.0 WAR) 2011 - $2.1 (0.5 WAR) Wheeler 2010 - $0.3 (0.1 WAR) 2011 - $1.6 (0.4 WAR) Projections for both put them with a season somewhere between the last two. The expected value might be 1.1 million and a WAR of 0.3 with little upside and a realistic chance of another season of almost no value. At best, their signing might make a WAR difference of 0.5. It would have been foolish to sign them and any money over the minimum would be a gamble. I would rather invest the innings in players with an upside.

#8 PSzalapski

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 07:36 PM

John, $400K really that big of a gamble? Suppose the chance was 20% that Zumaya could even contribute. Isn't that worth the risk?

#9 Seth Stohs

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 07:36 PM

Well stated jorgen. The guys that so many want provide no upside anyway. That's why I will continue to stand by the idea of promoting from within and with minor league signings. It just makes sense.

#10 mike wants wins

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 09:03 PM

John's point, I think, is that Zumaya wasn't a bad gamble, but only Zumaya was....as in, you have to sign more than just a guy who is "likely" to break down. In a vacuum, not a bad decision. Stopping signing other RPs because you've signed Zumaya, that is a bad gamble. I think that's John's arguement.

#11 John Bonnes

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 09:13 PM

First, WAR is a terrible metric with which to measure relievers. It completely ignores the context of the innings in which they work. Late innings in which relievers work are far more important in determining a game. Putting a very good reliever in a critical late-inning role can produce a WPA worth several games, much better than their WAR. Second, the goal of a GM isn't to invest innings or to get a good return on the money spent. Those are means to a greater end, which is winning games. Those other things are nice, but in this case, the goal was to find a pitcher to fill an important role. And it wasn't done, and from the beginning, the chances of it working were negligible, and the dropoff if it didn't work was huge. And this doesn't mean the Twins shouldn't have the philosophy of promoting guys from within. But when that person is not on the roster, then it's the job of the GM to use a different tool as his disposal. Ryan could've signed a lot of guys instead of Zumaya. He didn't. He could've signed a lot of guys AND Zumaya, which would've been even better. He didn't. He rolled the dice, and the loss isn't $400k. The loss is 50 or so critical innings to which the Twins now have no answer.

#12 John Bonnes

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 09:24 PM

I'll make one more point that I made back when Zumaya was signed. It's a forced analogy, I'll grant. It's not a bad gamble to buy lotto tickets if the payout is high enough. After enough people have paid in enough money, you can make an argument that spending a $1 on the lotto isn't a bad bet. So it's defensible to spend $10 on some lotto tickets. Hell, in moderation, if you have some extra money and want to spend them on some lotto tickets, go for it. But, if you're down to your last $10, just about out of gas, you spend the $10 the $10 on gas that can get you to work, not on 10 lotto tickets. That was the situation Ryan faced, even if we didn't recognize it. He spent his last money, innings and offseason move on a high-risk, high reward guy, when all he needed was some gas.

#13 Thrylos

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 09:25 PM

First, WAR is a terrible metric with which to measure relievers. It completely ignores the context of the innings in which they work. Late innings in which relievers work are far more important in determining a game. Putting a very good reliever in a critical late-inning role can produce a WPA worth several games, much better than their WAR.


Music to my ears :)

Love WPA, btw
a couple of questions:

a. Survey says, Joel Zumaya's WPA is 2.38 over 5 seasons; please find a reliever at that price who can do better
b. Can we have a write up about Mike Cuddyer's WPA?
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#14 Highabove

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 09:34 PM

Whats real crazy is to spend Five Million on a Closer and next to nothing torwards setting him up.

#15 minn55441

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 09:38 PM

Zumaya was a great gamble. No downside if it doesn't pan out (which he didn't). Huge upside if it does pays off. $400K is peanuts when you are talking about a $100 million payroll team. If Zumaya had made 10 to 15 appearances by the all-star break with a with a WHIP of 1.2 or less and then he was forced out of action because of an injury everyone would be calling Terry a genius. He just bought half a season of relief for little to nothing. It just looks bad because he broke down while still in Spring Training (ok, early in spring training). Terry took a gamble on a number of pitchers that are highly motivated to make their mark or get back to the majors. If you invite 10 of those guys, you might hit the jackpot with 1 or 2. That is why we started with 33 pitchers this year. You hear it in every interview Terry Ryan has given this spring. He is giving players a chance, it is up to each of those players to take advantage of that chance? I think that was the real frustration from last year. We just didn't have the numbers, both in terms of position players and pitchers. We called guys up and when they didn't produce, there were no options. Players were on the major league roster by default. We didn't have the option of sending them down and calling someone else up and give them a chance.

#16 John Bonnes

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 09:38 PM

WPA isn't a predictive metric. My point wasn't that we should be comparing WPAs of these guys. My point is that comparing a relievers WAR (which mostly gives a shorthand value of his stats) to his WPA (which shows how useful he was in winning games) shows how significant the inning he worked were. Zumaya worked some very significant innings very well prior to mid-2010. That doesn't mean bringing in a competent reliever wouldn't have also had a significant impact (and WPA).

#17 minn55441

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 09:43 PM

I think Capps is going to surprise people this season. The saves will depend on how the team plays, but I have a feeling he is going to pitch well. He spent a year with Gardy and Rick, they know how dinged up he was last year. I'm sure they were part of the decision to bring him back. Nathan may end up with more saves, but I won't be surprised if Capps out pitches Nathan this year

#18 jorgenswest

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 09:44 PM

John,

Don't want an argument over metrics to distract from the discussion.

Coffey
2010 - $0.2 (-.99 WPA)
2011 - $2.1 (-.04 WPA)

Wheeler
2010 - $0.3 (-.80 WPA)
2011 - $1.6 (.33 WPA)

I don't see how this metric better supports either of these veteran relievers, but I do concede the point.

My point... Let's invest the innings and dollars in pitchers with an upside.


#19 CA

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 11:02 PM

But, if you're down to your last $10, just about out of gas, you spend the $10 the $10 on gas that can get you to work, not on 10 lotto tickets. That was the situation Ryan faced, even if we didn't recognize it.


To a major league team, $400k is the change you put in your car's ashtray after you've bought a few Capps-sized burritos at the Taco Bell Drive-Thru. Is there evidence that the $400k spent on Zumaya actually prevented Ryan from signing other relievers, as that analogy implies? I certainly get the argument that the Twins should/could have had more contingency plans in case Zumaya went down, but if that kind of investment is high-risk (analogous to spending your last $10 on lottery tickets), then there are bigger problems with the team than the bullpen.

#20 palmspringstwinsfan

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Posted 26 February 2012 - 11:34 PM

Excellent analysis, John. This is why I want to come to this site. We are now back to the old, penny wise and pound foolish Terry Ryan. We've seen this before when he didn't try to sign Hunter, who was offering a large hometown discount in the year before free agency. Pitching this year was cheaper than I ever remember, yet the only addition to the staff was Jason Marquis, the very essence of mediocrity. Most of the cut in the Twins payroll comes from reducing the amount paid to pitchers; hardly a way to improve one of the worst staffs in the AL last year. To think that all your pitching problems will be solved by better defense, anchored by a 38 year-old journeyman shortstop is folly. I suspect we will hit just fine this year, but collapse from poor pitching. By mid-season, we could be looking at a fire sale and complete overhaul.

#21 Shane Wahl

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 02:45 AM

Spot on, John. The money isn't the risk, the particular relief role is! Hopefully a lot of the optimism surrounding Lester Oliveros proves to be founded OR a lot of the pessimism surrounding Alex Burnett proves to be unfounded. The problem, ultimately, is with the Capps signing. The Twins could have signed Coffey, Wheeler, Wuertz, and Zumaya instead.

#22 twinkiesfan11

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 07:59 AM

I have zero problem with the Zumaya signing. I'd rather see the Twins "gamble" for someone with a high upside than playing it safe with mediocre signings. And they are down $400K. Good seed money for a kid whose career is pretty much done as a player. Bringing in a mediocre veteran reliever or two would not have made much difference (as a matter of fact thay got 3 of those in camp in Gray, Burton and Bulger, albeit in better terms.)
I really feel confident that some of the younger pitchers in the camp will step it up and make things happen for the Twins this season...


Agreed 100%

I commend Terry Ryan for stepping out of the organization's comfort zone with this signing and really hope this one bad experience doesn't dissuade them from making similar moves in the future.

#23 roger

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 08:05 AM

John, I must disagree with your use of the term "foolish." It wasn't, it was a calculated risk that could range between a cost of $400,000 if he doesn't make the team (is injured) to $850,000 plus potential for bonuses of nearly another million if he played in 60 games. You claim that he should have used that money to sign another reliever, one of the several you have listed. You missed something very important however, that is different than last. Last year they picked up about a half dozen minor league free agents, with only Hughes and James having some major league experience. Hughes failed and James was great at Rochester, although did nothing with the Twins. This year they signed a dozen, most with some major league experience and a few with a lot of experience. Is it unrealistic to expect that one or two will enjoy some success this year? I don't think so.

#24 BeefMaster

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 09:16 AM

I think a few people are misunderstanding what John's saying. Signing Zumaya to a low-risk deal wasn't, in itself, foolish. What was foolish was going into the season with one of the most injury-prone relief pitchers of the last decade as basically the only high-end righthander in the bullpen. As Seth said, though, it may have been that Zumaya was considered a "bonus" and not relied upon as a core member of the bullpen... I suppose in that case you'd qualify the situation more as questionable roster construction rather than a "foolish risk".

#25 jharaldson

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 09:24 AM

The issue is not just the $400,000 that is going out the window but the additional $500,000 we will have to pay one of our in house guys to fill the spot bringing us to almost $1 million. There are a lot of better options on the free agent market for a million that I would have preferred like Chad Qualls or Todd Coffey rather then the 16 pitches from Zumaya and a full season of the Manship at Target Field.

#26 Cris E

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 01:14 PM

But, if you're down to your last $10, just about out of gas, you spend the $10 the $10 on gas that can get you to work, not on 10 lotto tickets. That was the situation Ryan faced,

That's not a good comp because 800K will only buy you about a thimbleful of gas. The signing of Z was total lottery ticket and didn't affect any real plans. Who were they going to get for that money that is likely to be better than Ontiveros or Bulger or whomever?

Certainty costs money, and as mentioned by a lot of people above, there were structural holes in the bullpen and Ryan had to make a choice. Perkins should be solid. Capps only really sucked when he was hurt in the middle of the year. After that there's the herd from last year and the lotto tickets like Wheeler and Coffey and Zumaya and whatnot. My guess is he looked at everyone on the market, his bullpen budget, the guys on his roster, and didn't see much that projected better than what he had. Not much certainty can be bought for what he spent, so he just sat on the cash.

Ryan seems to be betting that Capps isn't the mid-season guy that pitched thru pain, but could be a solid closer if given normal rest. But if the rest of the pen is no good he won't be getting that rest again and he's likely to hit the same sort of rough patch. If there was $13m for Nathan then there should probably have been something more available for the seventh inning, and that's where the second guessing should come in. The Zumaya signing was a symptom of the bad decision, not the problem.

#27 tobynotjason

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 02:37 PM

First, WAR is a terrible metric with which to measure relievers. It completely ignores the context of the innings in which they work.


You always say this. But WAR absolutely does give relievers credit for half their leverage premium (since the chain of relievers would move up one slot, the closer hardly deserves credit for every tick of leverage). That is the opposite of "completely ignor[ing] the context of the innings in which they work."

I think the actual reason WAR strikes you as "wrong" is because you underestimate the quality of replacement level relief pitching.

WAR assumes different FIP/ERA performances for starters and relievers. If the pitcher on the mound for "Team A With Average Offense" always performed to the level of MLB replacement relief pitching, Team A would have a W% of .470, which ain't too shabby at all. Once you consider that as the baseline, it makes a lot more sense. (Remember, this is relief quality pitching pitching AS A RELIEVER. The exact same guy pitching as a starter would like pitch to a level below STARTING pitcher replacement level, which is pegged at a .380 winning percentage.)

BTW, this is not unrelated to your overestimation of Carl Pavano for 7 innings vs. Scott Baker for 6 innings. You assume replacement level is worse than it is and accordingly value mediocre innings more. (A cynical individual might lay the blame for this at the doorstep of the Twins' F.O., given the sub-replacement players they've actually signed to fill out the back end over the past few seasons.)

#28 tobynotjason

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 02:38 PM

But yeah: the risk wasn't Zumaya. The risk was Zumaya and bupkis.

#29 Thrylos

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 02:54 PM

But yeah: the risk wasn't Zumaya. The risk was Zumaya and bupkis.


If I remember correctly, the 2004 bullpen was comprised by a couple of leftovers (Romero, Rincon) and a bunch of bupkis (for the non-Yiddish speaking folks out there, it means "nobodies"), like Roa, Fultz, Guerrier and Nathan and a couple of young kids like Balfour, Crain who stepped it up. This can happen this season as well...
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#30 tobynotjason

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 03:27 PM

If I remember correctly, the 2004 bullpen was comprised by a couple of leftovers (Romero, Rincon) and a bunch of bupkis (for the non-Yiddish speaking folks out there, it means "nobodies"), like Roa, Fultz, Guerrier and Nathan and a couple of young kids like Balfour, Crain who stepped it up. This can happen this season as well...


It means nothing, nadda, zilch. Which in this case means "nobody", I guess.

I'd love it if Waldrop, Guerra, etc. could make it work in MLB. I wouldn't bet on it, but I'd love it. I don't think that's a very sound strategy if you're not in rebuild.