I have been working on a series of Bill Smith posts. How he is doing as a trader and how he is doing signing free agents. I have more posts on his running of the franchise coming, but last night's game made me remember that, Smith sucks at roster maximization. I'm not really referring to who is on the roster so much as keeping the roster prepared at all times. Roster maximization is hard to quantify. There are no stats to measure it, but examples exist, such as last night.
Let's take a look at last night's game. Scott Baker started and hurt his elbow, throwing only two innings. Jeff Manship went 4 innings, throwing 65 pitches. Jon Rauch threw a scoreless 7th. After 7 innings, the Twins were leading 7-3 and had only used 2 relievers. To start the 8th, lefty Randy Flores was brought in. He got an out and gave up a HR. The team then turned to Matt Guerrier. Matt is showing signs of wearing down, as he did in 2008. I'd have gone with Jesse Crain in this spot and given Matt a day to rest. Guerrier came in and gave up 3 runs in .2 innings, tieing the game at 7-7. The top of the 9th saw the Twins score a run, so Jesse Crain was brought in for the save. (Gardenhire wanted to rest Matt Capps) He blew the save. Crain went 2 innings. Why couldn't Crain have gone 1.2 innings and give Guerrier the night off?
The whole bullpen was used-up after 10 innings. Capps was deemed unavailable and Brian Fuentes had tightness in his back. Smith surely cannot be responsible for Baker getting hurt. He is not responsible for Gardenhire's use of the bullpen, though he should be aware of it. Because Blackburn was used last night, he couldn't be used to start today's game.
Due to starters on the 40-man roster such as Glen Perkins and Anthony Swarzak being used recently, the team has to call-up Matt Fox today and place Justin Morneau on the 60 day disabled list. For one spot start, the Twins need to make a roster move they'd rather hold onto.
How does this happen? There seems to be times where the team holds an injured player for 5+ days before sending them to the disabled list. Too often in Bill Smith's tenure, a guy like Matt Tolbert is pinch hitting with the game on the line. The roster is often missing a player or two that it needs, due to roster mismanagement.
How could this have happened last night? Certainly the team went into the game looking relatively strong, but things happen. Things should not happen in September. Once September 1st rolls around, teams can expand their rosters. Anyone on the 40-man roster can be called up to the major league roster. The Twins called up two position players, but no pitchers. The reasoning was to keep rosters in the minors filled until the end of their minor league seasons. The minor league season ends Monday! Rochester and New Britain are not threats to extend their season in the playoffs.
Last nights game meant Fox had to be called up as well as Rob Delaney and Alex Burnett. How could the Twins have avoided this? They could have called up Delaney and Burnett already. This could have saved Guerrier's arm and helped prevent starter's getting wasted in an extra innings game.
I am not a fan of Smith's trades, though he has been better the last 2 seasons. I like what he has done in free-agency. Smith's biggest weakness might be in roster management. It may have cost a game last night. Last night's game may cost a game down the road.
I hope Smith learned a lesson for next September.
An update on this post. Matt Fox made a good start for the Twins. The Twins have not lost a game since the nightmare game against Detroit. Fox was then designated for assignment to call up Ben Revere. Fox was claimed by Boston today. Smith, leaving his team short-handed in September, may have cost the team a game and definitely cost the team some decent starting pitcher depth. Again, I hope Smith learned his lesson.
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