Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Miami Marlins sign Kevin Slowey

"If any Twins pitcher is going to just all of a sudden turn into Greg Maddux, it's Kevin Slowey." - Brad Swanson in 2010.

"Brad Swanson is an idiot." - Everyone else, right after the previous statement was said.

"You're mom." - Unknown.

Kevin Slowey signed with the Miami Marlins this evening.  He signed a minor league contract and I fully expect him to win a job in Spring Training, win the Cy Young Award and lead the Marlins to their 3rd World Series championship.  As you can likely tell from the title of my blog, I feel Kevin Slowey was not given a fair shake by the Twins.  It stands to reason that if you want some Kevin Slowey analysis, you would come to this blog.  Well, I don't want to let that one person in Russia who reads this blog down. 

Let me add some context, while also revealing the story behind the name of this blog (AT LONG LAST!).  I first started caring about stats late in 2009.  I was trying to create a foolproof fantasy baseball strategy and I stumbled across Ron Shandler's Baseball Forecaster.  Since I read at a roughly 3rd grade level, I only scanned the pages.  While scanning, I got it in my head that K:BB ratio is the only required stat for finding good pitchers.  I was scouring spreadsheets looking for pitchers with good K:BB  ratios who didn't have good ERAs.  I figured this would help me find some pitchers who would improve that coming season and help my fantasy team win many free Yahoo leagues.  This lead me to my hometown Twins, and Kevin Slowey.

I was already a fan, just take a look at his 2008 season to see why.  Now I was also aware that Kevin Slowey possesses an elite skill.  He doesn't walk anyone.  He has only walked 3.7% of the batters he has faced in his career.  League average is over double that.  So, Slowey doesn't walk anyone and he reaches the magic 6.0 strikeout rate that the aforementioned handbook deemed acceptable for a starting pitcher.  I was hooked.  I drafted Kevin Slowey until the cows came home.  Oddly, he was always available!  He was coming off a year when he was 10 and 3, with a 5.00 K/BB ratio.  5.0!!!!!!  That is quite high.  He only threw 90.2 innings and still had a 4.86 ERA, but I was blinded by that one ratio.  Only Roy Halladay, Dan Haren and Javier Vazquez had K/BB ratios higher than 5.0 in 2012.  Elite territory.

Unfortunately, elite results did not follow into that elite territory.  Slowey started 28 games in 2010, but only threw 155.2 innings.  He barely averaged 5 innings per start.  He posted a 4.0 K/BB ratio, but also a 4.45 ERA and 91 ERA+.  He was below average and I didn't get it.  He had such a good K/BB ratio!  The following year was even worse, as he went 0 and 8, posted a 6.67 ERA, but a dominant 6.8 K/BB with a miniscule 1.9% walk percentage.  These are crazy stats and they don't really add up on paper.  My world was shattered.

On the mound, Kevin Slowey was and probably still is a nibbler.  He thought he knew how to get everyone out, but his stuff wasn't good enough.  He seemed to prefer giving up hits to walking people, but I have no proof for that.  He resisted the Twins' pitch to contact strategy and butted heads with coaches and fellow players.  That doesn't really bother me, but when you add it to the poor results, it makes sense that the Twins traded him away after the 2011 season.  The Rockies acquired him, then turned around and sent him to Cleveland.  He only threw roughly 50 AAA innings in 2012,  missing much of the season with a stress fracture in his rib cage.  That would hurt.  Probably a lot. 

What will his 2013 season bring?  If he can somehow make the team, I still hold out hope that he will be an effective starter.  He still doesn't walk anyone and can get some strikeouts.  He has been prone to some home runs and his ground ball rates are very low.  The old Kevin Slowey would throw 100 pitches, give up 2 or 3 runs and get lifted in the middle of the 6th inning.  I used to argue with people that I would take those innings from Slowey rather than 7 terrible innings from Nick Blackburn, but that just seems like a reason to rip Nick Blackburn in this post.  Slowey's inability to pitch deep hurt the bullpen, which hurts the team.  I realize that now.  I am so sorry.     

He is a smart guy by all accounts.  You can check out his off-season blog from a few years ago if you want some proof.  He has some interesting thoughts, he spells well and uses ellipses properly (most of the time).  He seems averse to using capitalization though, but this isn't an English critique.  However, those smarts are also supposedly part of the reason why he was not accepted in the Twins clubhouse.  He read books, which was NOT COOL.  His intelligence supposedly made him aloof, or at least that was the perception.  If that is true, then he was traded for a terrible reason.  If the team just got tired of dealing with a malcontent that couldn't produce, then it makes perfect sense. 

I'll always like Kevin Slowey for some reason.  I like the idea of a nerd infiltrating a baseball clubhouse full of jocks.  If nothing else, maybe he can mentor Jose Fernandez in AAA.  I just hope Mike Redmond doesn't try to pants him or something.  That would be so Red-Dog.

By all accounts, Kevin Slowey is probably not a nerd, but a good narrative is too hard to pass up.  Who is your favorite nerd?  What is your favorite Slow-ride (my term for a Slowey-related memory)?  Which former Twin do you like for reasons unknown?  

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