Say it ain't so, Joe: Nathan injury could shift balance in Central
- Blog Post by: Darren "Doogie" Wolfson
- March 9, 2010 - 7:17 PM
A sarcastic tweet from one of my many virtual friends to lighten the mood in Twins nation: One benefit from Joe Nathan not playing this season is we won't have to listen to "Stand Up and Shout" by Steel Dragon.
I would allow Nathan to enter the game to the fingernails-on-a-blackboard sound of Cher if it meant he were healthy enough to pitch this year. But a tear of the ulnar collateral ligament is seemingly doom-and-gloom.
Let's be realistic: Nathan is done for the season and at 35-years-old, maybe for his career.
On the surface, the simple take is that he faced 271 batters in 2009, or just 4.3 percent of the pitching staff's match-ups. That closers are overrated. That Nathan was rarely asked to enter the game in the eighth inning.
That the Twins' offense is so good, how often will they have to protect one-run leads?
My comeback: We can't quantify the psychological edge the Twins have had since Nathan's emergence. The other team knowing that they had little chance to win the game when trailing entering the final inning. There is also the human element of his leadership in the clubhouse, the one sport where chemistry, whatever that exactly means, has value.
On the statistical side, Parker Hageman of TwinsCentric provided this note in the Maple Street Press Twins Annual magazine (a must-read): In Nathan's six seasons with the Twins, he has carried a strikeout rate of 11.1 per nine innings while giving up less than a hit or walk per inning pitched (0.934 WHIP). This output has been better than New York's Mariano Rivera (8.7 K/9, 0.936 WHIP) and Milwaukee's Trevor Hoffman (8.0 K/9, 1.009 WHIP) ... In 2009, he led all closers in chase percentage (the number of pitches swung at outside of the strike zone), missed bats percentage, and lowest percentage of balls put into play.
Sorry, but barring a trade, I am hitting the panic button. Nathan is that good. My obsession with Alex Rios might have a lot to do with it, but the White Sox, with the best pitchers in the division top-to-bottom, especially now, appear ever-so-slightly to be the best team in the division.
Analyst Al Leiter, as good as it gets, on the MLB Network Tuesday night: "You have to get somebody ... If you're going to compete, you have to get someone."
Dead-on. The right move can shift the Twins in front of the White Sox again.
The Twins have the prospects -- catcher Wilson Ramos, outfielder Rene Tosoni, third baseman Danny Valencia, and pitcher Carlos Gutierrez -- plus pitcher Glen Perkins and infielder Alexi Casilla as trade chips.
To suggest the Pohlads have to add more payroll would be asinine. But to win the Central and more importantly, in the postseason, they will have to. Convince yourself that Jon Rauch, Jose Mijares, or Matt Guerrier is good enough to handle the pressure-filled ninth inning if you must, and maybe one can for a while, but not for the totality of the season. Doing that also hurts manager Ron Gardenhire's options in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings.
The issue involves who is realistically available and applicable. Only four names come to mind: George Sherrill (Los Angeles Dodgers), Heath Bell (San Diego), Jason Frasor (Toronto), and Michael Wuertz (Oakland). If general manager Bill Smith has to overpay for one, so be it.
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