Monday, March 8, 2010

Spring Training Rundown

1. Nick Blackburn

The Twins have been getting slaughtered in the blogosphere for giving Blackburn a longterm contract. While I can agree with the argument that in many ways it makes more sense to go year-by-year with Blackburn, why exactly is this deal such a bad thing?

Is Blackburn a great pitcher? Ok, no.

Is Blackburn a good pitcher? Well, I'll go with goodish.

The fact is, consistent starting pitching is hard to find, even if that pitcher is consistently a 3-4 starter. I know Blackburn's peripheral numbers point to some inevitable epic falloff, but the dude has been unfailingly consistent the last two seasons. Hell, he basically had the exact same stat line in 2008 and 2009. And, color me old school, but I like the "big game pitcher" niche he has carved out. Is it technically irrelevant to his stat line? Well yes. But there is still something comforting about the title.

I understand and accept the fact that Blackburn doesn't strike anyone out, but at some point you have to just accept a player for who they are. Blackburn is a solid starter, and penciling him in somewhere in the middle of the Twins rotation for the next four (or five) years at an average salary of $3.5 million per year, is fine with me.

2. Joe Nathan

First of all, Nathan is a 35-year-old pitcher coming off elbow surgery, so the fact that he has some discomfort in that elbow shouldn't be all that surprising. It's probably nothing. (UPDATE: By "probably nothing" I meant "definitely something." Amazing how fast things become dated, eh?)

Having said that, closers are kind of like running backs. At some point, they just hit the wall. Sometimes their decline can be attributed to injuries, sometimes it can be attributed to age, and sometimes, well, they just show up one day and suck (see Tomlinson, Ladainian).

Point being, regardless of injury, I think this is the year that Nathan hits the wall. I am basing this not on deep-rooted statistical analysis, but simply a random gut feeling. Irrelevant? Completely.

Oh sure, I could make an argument about how Nathan started tailing off at the end of last season, but he tailed off at the end of 2008 too. And that didn't seem to matter for most of 2009.

So, while it would have been more impressive if I had made this call a week ago, I'm saying that, regardless of injury, Joe Nathan won't be the Twins closer at the end of 2010.

3. Joe Mauer

I was going to write something reassuring here about how Mauer will sign, but fuck it. I'm not going to acknowledge the situation until he actually signs (and he will). And even then, I'll probably just post a giant picture of a smiley face or something, because really, what else is there left to say?

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