Jarrod Washburn and the Twins: Overvaluing the Theory of a Veteran Presence

Josh JohnsonCorrespondent IJanuary 10, 2010

Jack Steal of Fanatic Jack Talks Twins has been an advocate of the Twins adding Jarrod Washburn. While stating one of several reasons for adding Washburn, Jack brings up the point that Pavano had a "calming effect" on the rest of the rotation. I completely disagree with this argument, and I always have. There's nothing that proves this. It's a lot like the argument that who hits ahead/behind you will make you a better hitter. To me, these are baseless arguments.

A lot has been said about the addition of Carl Pavano last season. Upon first glance, it's easy to believe that Pavano helped a young rotation of inexperienced starters settle down and pitch great over the last 55 games. Prior to his addition, the Twins were 53-55 and were struggling to stay afloat in the AL Central. After his addition, the Twins went 34-21 and eventually went on to win the division. But even with those figures, I still can't give Pavano the credit for this.

The Twins opened the 2009 season with a rotation of three right-handers in Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey, and two left-handers in Francisco Liriano and Glen Perkins. The majority of them struggled throughout the first month of the season and the rotation, with a spot-start by R.A. Dickey, allowed an average of 4.87 runs per game in April. Prior to the Pavano trade, the Twins depended on eight different starters. As a group, they gave up an average of 4.8 runs per game in the first 108 games.

Upon acquiring Pavano, the Twins used eight different starters over the last 55 games. Brian Duensing was the best pitcher over the course of this time, compiling a 5-1 record and a 2.58 ERA as a starter. As a group, the rotation still gave up an average of 4.5 runs per game. The rotation improved, obviously, but Pavano didn't have the biggest impact—Duensing (a rookie) did. In fact, if you discounted Duensing's eight starts, the Twins would have allowed an average of 4.9 runs per game.

As for the great record after the Pavano trade, it's due to the fact that the Twins scored an average of 5.4 runs per game. Prior to his trade, the Twins scored an average of 4.8 runs per game. Pavano had no effect on how many runs were scored; only given up.

When looking at specific players, the only two players that can really be evaluated are Baker and Blackburn. They're the only two players to make at least five starts before and after the acquisition of Pavano. Before, Baker was 9-7 with a 4.59 ERA through 21 starts. After, he was 6-2 with a 3.98 ERA through 12 starts. That's a considerable improvement and one definitely worth noting. Blackburn on the other hand was 8-6 with a 3.78 ERA through 22 starts before the addition of Pavano. After, he was 3-5 with a 4.62 ERA through 11 starts, which is also worth noting.

Out of the two pitchers that can be evaluated properly, one improved with Pavano's presence while the other declined. It's not fair to assume Duensing was better because of Pavano. And it's unfair to say that Pavano made Baker better or Blackburn worse.

What some also fail to remember is that even with a struggling rotation, many losses at the beginning of the season came at the hands of the bullpen. The rotation struggled, no doubt, but saying that they were "lost little puppies" without a veteran presence is inaccurate. Duensing was the hero, not Pavano. And I would think that the additions of Ron Mahay and Jon Rauch as well as the improvement by Jesse Crain would play a bigger role in relieving pressure than another starting pitcher.

I just wish the Twins, and some fans, didn't continually buy into this "veteran presence" argument. In the past, guys brought in to provide "veteran presence" like Livan Hernandez, Sidney Ponson, and Ramon Ortiz have cost guys like Matt Garza, Scott Baker, and Francisco Liriano valuable starts. And what I don't want to be misconstrued in all of this is that I do like Pavano and love the idea of adding another starter. But the pitcher we add should be better than what we already have. Washburn isn't, which is why I don't support the Twins adding him.

Bottom line, veteran presence is just a theory that I don't believe in.