With how poorly the Twins have been playing this year, it’s been rather easy now to go back and look at the transactions and decisions they’ve made over the past offseason. In no particular order…
1. Trading J.J. Hardy for Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobsen (giving up a starting shortstop for two relievers, neither of whom look like anything special at the moment)
2. Claiming Dusty Hughes and designating Rob Delaney for assignment (acquiring a middling reliever for a former Minor League Pitcher of the Year)
3. Basically ignoring the lack of depth for the major league roster (which has been shown by the rash of injuries and ineffectiveness)
4. Making Alexi Casilla the starting shortstop, and related to #3, failing to have a solid backup plan in case he failed
5. Signing Eric Hacker (though he’s looked pretty good in Rochester so far)
There’s likely more things that we could add to this list. Well, the latest interesting move the Twins made was when they had to find someone to call up to replace the hurt Jose Mijares and ineffective Jim Hoey. In Hoey’s place, the Twins brought up Anthony Swarzak, which bugs me a bit because hasn’t been that good during his time in the major leagues. Interestingly enough, his main problem is the same one that Hoey was having – serving up too many long balls. However, I see the move as being defensible (at least by looking through the front office’s eyes) as Swarzak has had a decent 3.90 ERA in Rochester, with a good number of strikeouts and walks.
On the other hand, it’s the guy replacing Jose Mijares that I can’t understand. The Twins chose to bring up lefty Phil Dumatrait, who has seen some time in the major leagues with the Cincinnati Reds in 2007 and the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2008-2009. In just over 100 career innings, he has a poor 7.06 ERA (5.78 FIP) with a 5.58 K/9 and 5.33 BB/9.
The reason I can’t understand this is because there was another pitcher (also lefthanded and with some major league experience) that the Twins could have brought up, and that’s Chuck James. Let’s take a look at their 2011 numbers in Rochester.
Phil Dumatrait: 1.72 ERA, 4.80 FIP, 6.89 K/9, 6.32 BB/9, 0.57 HR/9
Chuck James: 2.25 ERA, 2.80 FIP, 11.70 K/9, 2.70 BB/9, 0.90 HR/9
Dumatrait tops James in only two categories, and the ERAs are very similar anyway. Looking at these numbers alone, it would seem that James would be the clear choice for a call-up. It’s not even a case of who was already on the 40-man roster, as neither was prior to today and Dumatrait was only called up after the Twins designated Steve Holm for assignment in addition to putting Jose Mijares on the disabled list.
I really see only three possible explanations for picking Dumatrait over James. In addition to the seemingly good ERA (which again, isn’t that much better than James’), Dumatrait was the Red Wings closer. Like the acquisition of Matt Capps last season, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Twins – never really known for even considering sabermetrics – took to the liking of Dumatrait simply because he was closing games. I will admit that this is purely speculation as Dumatrait has been a starting pitcher for most of his career and has never been a closer (to my knowledge) prior to this season. My final guess is that James is sore/hurt, but there hasn’t been any mention of that yet. He hasn’t pitched since May 12th, but he did throw 2 innings that day, so I doubt that it’s injury-related.
* Edit: Seth Stohs pointed out that James threw 2 2/3 innings today, so like I said already, I doubt that Dumatrait was chosen because of an injury to James.
Bringing up James instead of Dumatrait certainly wouldn’t turn around the season, nor would it make a huge difference in the long run. It’s just that James is clearly the more deserving pitcher, and yet the Twins went with Dumatrait. Count me as one fan that wouldn’t be surprised to see Dumatrait back in Rochester within the next 3 weeks.
* Edit #2: Again from Seth Stohs, reading some of his tweets from last night, he believes the Twins called up Dumatrait simply as a placeholder until Mijares comes off the DL. Since James and Dumatrait are both out of options, it’s less likely for the Twins to miss Dumatrait if he was claimed, plus he’s less likely to be claimed in the first place. This spin on the transaction makes more sense than what I discussed above.
As a retort, I have to say that I would have gone with James anyway. He’s pitched better than Dumatrait once you look past ERA, and therefore I’d imagine he’d have a better chance of succeeding in the bullpen. With how many players have struggled thus far this season, I don’t see why the Twins wouldn’t give him a chance to prove his worth. When Mijares comes back, I’d send someone else down to Rochester, such as Alex Burnett or Anthony Swarzak. If James wasn’t pitching well anyway, then designating him for assignment shouldn’t be as big of a deal as the Twins are making it out to be.