From: Austin, Minnesota
ORIGINAL: Mr. Ed
Sweeney was complaining that Dobnak was slated to be our #5 starter. I don't want any more complaining from Sweeney.
Depth? Cuz they're scared guys will get hurt? I've read that theory already. Fragile pitching in MLB
Then reduce the season to 140 games or something, and increase roster sizes.
Had ton of injuries in a 60 game season.
The Twins Interest in Matt Shoemaker is Intriguing
Feb 11 2021 08:30 PM | Andrew Thares in Minnesota Twins
It is hard to find someone with a better pulse on what the Minnesota Twins front office is doing these days than Darren Wolfson, who Thursday morning mentioned that the Twins have interest in veteran starting pitcher Matt Shoemaker.
Image courtesy of © Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
Initially, my reaction to the Twins being interested in Matt Shoemaker was, ho-hum. However, that started to change when I began doing a little digging on Shoemaker, and realized he is the prototype pitcher that the Falvine regime likes to target and turn into a much-improved pitcher on a low-risk high reward deal.
First, a little background on Shoemaker. He is a 34-year-old right-handed starter, with a career 3.86 ERA (4.03 FIP) with 8.1 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9 in 602 1/3 innings pitched, in a career that spans parts of eight different seasons with the Los Angeles Angels and Toronto Blue Jays.
On the surface, Shoemaker’s 28 2/3 innings pitched in 2020 were not very impressive, as he posted an ERA of 4.71 (5.95 FIP). Additionally, Shoemaker has made just 32 starts and pitched just 166 innings at the MLB level since the start of the 2017 season. Much of the time he missed in 2017 and 2018 was from a right forearm injury, and when he finally recovered from that, he unfortunately tore his ACL on a freak rundown play back in April of 2019, causing him to miss the rest of that season.
All this seems like a pitcher the Twins should steer clear from, but to me, this is all plays into why he would be a good target for the Twins and their small remaining budget, because he’s cheap. However, Matt Shoemaker is a lot more than just cheap, as there is reason to believe he could be a quality addition to the backend of the Twins rotation for the 2021 season. Let’s get into a few of those reasons, before all of you think I’m crazy.
The first thing I noticed when diving into Matt Shoemaker was the velocity spike that he had in 2020, particularly on his fastball. After following a typical early 30’s velocity decline, Shoemaker pumped his average fastball velocity up by 1.6 MPH on his 2019 average.
While it is hard to know for sure what caused this, I can’t help but think it has something to do with Shoemaker finally being back healthy from the forearm injury that gave him so much trouble for a couple of seasons. While there is also an argument that could be made that the shortened 2020 seasons is what allowed Shoemaker to spike his fastball velocity, this wouldn’t make sense with his career norm as he has shown a tendency to increase, not decrease, his fastball velocity as the season progresses.
Additionally, his fastball spike started to pay some dividends in the advanced metrics, particularly with his Four-seamer, where his expected wOBA dropped from a career .390 down to just .214 in 2020 on that pitch.
Revamping His Pitch Usage
Despite the improvement to his fastball in 2020, Shoemaker didn’t see a lot of tangible benefit to his performance as he was, by that account, not a very good pitcher in 2020. The big problem for Shoemaker was the home runs, as he gave up eight of them in just six starts last season. However, none of those eight home runs came off of Shoemaker’s four-seamer, as four came off his splitter, three off his sinker and one off his slider.
In fact, opposing hitters thoroughly struggled against Shoemaker’s four-seamer in 2020, as they combined to go just 2-for-15 off that pitch, with zero extra-base hits. Despite this show of improvement, Shoemaker and the Blue Jays failed to utilize this improvement to their advantage, as he only threw his four-seamer 18.6% of the time, which is well below his career average of 26.3% leading into the season.
Instead, they continued to focus the majority of his fastball usage on his sinker (25.6% of pitches in 2020), which has been a flat-out awful pitch for the almost the entirety of Shoemaker’s career. This is where an opportunity lies for the Twins to take advantage of. If they simply cut the usage of Shoemaker’s awful sinker in favor of what appears to be a much improved four-seamer, it would instantly bring his game to a whole new level.
Additionally, Shoemaker showed some improvement with his slider in 2020, as opposing hitters hit just .231 with a .337 wOBA and a .305 expected wOBA off that pitch. The one home run he did give up on his slider last season traveled all of 365 feet, and apart from that, opposing hitters rarely squared up the pitch, as they combined for an 80.4 MPH average exit velocity against it last season. For reference, in the Statcast era, there has not been a single qualified hitter who has posted a season with an average exit velocity below that of Billy Hamilton’s 80.5 MPH in 2017 and 2018. This could be another point of emphasis for the Twins in trying to get more out of Matt Shoemaker in 2021.
When looking at it this way, you can see how one or two simple changes could make a world of difference in Matt Shoemaker’s ability to get hitters out. Additionally, this change is exactly something that the Twins would be keen on making as doing away with the sinker, and upping the four-seamer and slider usage, has been a focal point of their pitching philosophy in recent years.
You factor all of that in with the Twins ability to get the absolute most out of pitchers when other couldn’t (just look at Kenta Maeda last year as an example) and the Twins could have themselves a more than credible option to compete for a spot in the Twins starting rotation this spring, and he would likely be doing so on a cheap, low-risk deal for the Twins.
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