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  • Analyzing the Early Returns from Matt Shoemaker


    Matthew Lenz

    On Friday, Twins right-hander Matt Shoemaker made his seventh start with the club. Allowing five earned runs doesn’t look attractive in the box score, but I’d argue that Shoemaker has met expectations to this point in the season.

    Image courtesy of © Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

    Admittedly, Shoemaker hasn’t had a great start to his Twins tenure posting a 1.43 WHIP and 6.00 ERA in 30 innings pitched. Especially after the worst outing of his career against Kansas City two weeks ago, Twins Twitter seemed ready to move on from the oft-injured veteran which I think was a little misguided. You see, in the four starts prior to facing the Royals, Shoemaker had a “good” start, “poor” start, “awful” start, and an “above average” start using FanGraphs Game Score Version 2 metric. Keeping in mind that Shoemaker was brought in as a low-risk/high-reward option who had pitched 88 1/3 innings over the last three seasons, I don’t know what more Twins fans would expect specifically this early in the season. In 2019, it took a superior pitcher in Michael Pineda two full months to really get back to full strength after an extended absence because of Tommy John surgery so why wouldn’t we give Shoemaker similar grace? Okay, I know the answer to that.

    Entering that atrocious outing, the Twins had just finished the first month of their season with a 9-15 record ... the inverse of what most would have expected. Many fans, myself included, figured a turn of the calendar would be a good opportunity to turn the tide of the season and get back on track. Then eight earned runs (nine total) in 3 1/3 innings pitched happened, and we realized it wasn’t going to be as easy to figuratively  “turn the page” from the first month of the season. So, naturally, recency bias sets in and all of a sudden Twins twitter is narrowed in on the number five starter, with a respectable career ERA of 3.91 (for reference Berríos’ is 4.15), as the primary target for a pink slip in his locker to start cleaning things up. Yet, for me and setting aside one lonesome start, Shoemaker has mostly met expectations, and furthermore here’s the other issue I had then and still have: 

    Who is going to replace him and automatically be better? Simply put, nobody. Moreover, the Twins fifth spot in the rotation is pretty far down the list of things I would attribute their 12-23 record to. All that said, Shoemaker could be a valuable asset moving forward whether it’s as a starter helping a team climb back into the playoff race or as a trade chip on one of the most disappointing Twins teams ever.

    Although it hasn’t been “the rest of the month”, he’s now had two starts since May 1st and has given the Twins mixed results, although his box score against Oakland is a little misleading. Albeit we’re talking about the Tigers, he looked effective although inefficient in his start following the Royals and was taken out after just 86 pitches, which made sense given that the 3-4-5 hitters were due up for the Tigers. On Friday, facing one of the best homerun hitting teams in the league, he made three mistakes and the A’s made him pay, scoring all five runs off the long ball. Regardless, he gave the Twins six innings for the second time this year which is one more time than Maeda and only one less than Berríos. You see what I’m setting up here? If you were disappointed in Shoemakers season as a whole, I think your disappointment needs to be redirected elsewhere. If I hadn’t made it clear yet, to this point Shoemaker has met the admittedly low bar I set for him when he signed with the club. I truly believe that if he can continue giving us competitive starts, one way or another, he could become a valuable asset come the end of July.

    What are your early thoughts on Shoemaker? Are you ready to move on? If so, who takes his spot?

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    While I don’t think you’re wrong about getting from Shoemaker what we should have expected, I think that misses the point. He was brought in to be an adequate fifth starter on a contending team, with the hope he must be better than that. He probably has fit the “adequate fifth starter” role. The problem, of course is, is that the Twins are not a contending team and do not appear likely to be one this season. That means the whole reason to have a Matt Shoemaker no longer applies.

    The calls to move on from Shoemaker really involve switching to a development/reloading year as a team. Absent huge uptick in performance which appears unlikely, Schumaker is not on this team next year. On the other hand, Thorpe and Dobnak probably are and at least one of them will be in the rotation. We need to use this year to give them some development time, particularly in Thorpe’s case, to be sure they can handle that role. Conversely, the one way Shoemaker could be on this team next year is if we move into the bullpen and he thrives in a high leverage relief role.

    So overall, I would not say Shoemaker’s been a disappointment. He’s been kind of what we all expected, a mediocre fifth starter. Our needs have changed. This team doesn’t need a mediocre fifth starter. This year should be used for the development of someone who can start next year and beyond. The change doesn’t have to start with the next turn in the rotation but it needs to start soon. I think the team does right by Schumaker by making him a reliever because if he’s going to stay in the majors long-term, that’s where he is going to be. Keeping him as the fifth starter accomplishes nothing and is, in my mind, exactly the wrong thing for this team to do going forward.

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    Do we take comfort when we disliked the addition in the first place and now he has given us all the reasons we need to have to know that he is not going to rise much above the bottom of our expectations.   I do not believe in Dobnak, Smeltzer, and Thorpe.  I think it is the next level of prospects which will have to save us, but that does not mean that they should not have the same opportunity that Shoemaker has had to prove us right or wrong.  Each is an interesting story, but that does not make them the right components of a pennant winning rotation.  

    So now we look at Maeda and hope he is not a one year wonder, Berrios seems to be the same as he always has been, good but not great, Pineda is steady and valuable but only signed for this year.  Happ is the perfect number five, but has to serve as a four. 

    In other words we have two dependable starters which makes the acceptance of a mediocre five less viable. 

     

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    5 hours ago, USAFChief said:

    We're at rock bottom if the rotting corpse of Matt Shoemaker occupying a slot in the Twins rotation out of spring training isn't a disappointment. 

     

    What did you expect? 

     

     

     

    Almost exactly what he's given us aside the from the worst start of his career.

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    9 hours ago, Matthew Lenz said:

    and has kept us in the game for all but two of his starts. What more can you ask out of your #5 guy?

    Give up 5 runs, over an entire game and not just the starting pitcher's portion, and you're odds-against to win. I think you're willing to call "he gave up enough runs that they'll very probably lose" as keeping the team in the game. That's a really low bar to clear. You could probably do a similar analysis of other starters having an ERA around 6, and get similar results. And asking who else in the system could have done better is an irrelevancy, for me.

    In 7 starts, he has had 2 games that were clear successes. First start of the season against Detroit, and his May 7 start also against Detroit. Great work.

    At the opposite end of the spectrum, 2 putrid games against Oakland and KC. Those can happen occasionally, even if the name is Kershaw. Accept them and move on.

    It's the other 3 games that will shape my opinion of him, then.

    • April 25 against Pittsburgh, 2 runs in 5 1/3 innings. That's what I call keeping the team in the game - not shutout ball, and turning the ball over to the bullpen for 11 outs if they are to win, but it doesn't require a huge game from the batters.
    • May 14 against Oakland 5 runs in 6 innings. Not a good outcome, but probably a bit unlucky, with only 7 base runners but 3 balls flying out of the park for HR. But I don't call that keeping the team in the game, except as a very low standard; he already gave up enough runs to expect them to lose.
    • April 11 against Seattle, 4 runs in 5 innings. Relies on 12 outs of shutout ball from the bullpen to make even 5 runs from the offense stand up. (They lost 8-6.)

    I count 3 good games - Detroit, Detroit, Pittsburgh.

    Now, take into account that these two teams have turned out to have the poorest offenses in their respective leagues thus far in 2021. He pitched good ball against glorified AAA teams.

    I found less to praise him for, the closer I looked. Courage and composure, that's probably what he's brought.

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    I was expecting to be Shoemaker to be decent *if healthy*. To me, durability was the risk in the signing and I thought he would be a guy whose ERA would sit in the low 4’s if he could stay on the field. Sadly, it’s been far from that with way too much blue on his statcast page with his xBA, xSLG, xwOBA and xERA all being in 8th percentile or worse. 
     

    The glimmer of hope with Shoemaker is that he has been very effective his first time through the order. Opponents have a .533 OPS against him the first time they face hime, compared to 1.054 the second time and 1.304 the third. 

    I give Shoemaker three more starts, and if two of them end up with him giving up something like 4+ earned runs again, I move him to the bullpen and get Thorpe into the rotation. 

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    No Way.  Shoe gave up 3 BOMBS yesterday.  He's given the Twins very little at all this season.  I realize not every MLB team can have a starting staff as deep as the Dodgers, but good grief, if a team has to "settle" for Shoe's level of "production" in the 5th starter spot, that team is headed for 90-95 losses.  That is not what any of us expected out of the Twins this year is it ??

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    3 hours ago, Mike Sixel said:

    I don't understand why anyone wants a number 5 starter, and to be happy those expectations are met. I'd want to aim higher. I'm hopeful they move him to the bullpen soon, and give one of the minor league players an extended run.

    The whole idea of "#5 starter" is a false concept anyway.

     

    Starts by every member of the rotation count the same. 

     

    Don't sign below average guys to take 20 percent of your starts. Sign above average guys. Trade for above average guys.

     

    The games started by your "5th starter" count just as much as your "number 1" starter. Aim for 5 number 1's. Or 6, or 8.

     

     

     

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    On 5/16/2021 at 9:42 AM, specialiststeve said:

    100% sure Duran would be much better and may even spark some wins. 

     

    Duran has been injured. He was activated only yesterday. A resume including 7 starts at AA in 2019 doesn't strike me as a good reason to bring him up to the majors right away. Let's see how AAA goes for a month.

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    On 5/19/2021 at 9:36 AM, ashbury said:

    Duran has been injured. He was activated only yesterday. A resume including 7 starts at AA in 2019 doesn't strike me as a good reason to bring him up to the majors right away. Let's see how AAA goes for a month.

    Should have done my homework on that statement.... there are other prospects that would be better than Shoe... give him the boot!

     

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