Sunday, January 30, 2011

Rays Claim Rob Delaney and Thoughts on Stats vs Scouting

A few days ago when the Twins announced they had claimed lefty Dusty Hughes from the Royals, I was surprised to see they had chosen to designate reliever Rob Delaney for assignment to make room for Hughes.

It's not necessarily that Delaney is a fantastic player, but he is a player with some potential. Though being decidedly old for each level through his minor league career, Delaney has posted strong peripherals at each stop and was deserving of a chance with the Twins. Technically he did get one - pitching one poor inning. But he probably deserved better. The Twins however seem to feel that Hughes represents a better alternative. I'm going to take exception to that.

Hughes is the proud owner of a thoroughly unremarkable minor league career in which he posted a 3.51 ERA with a 7.1K rate and a 3.5BB rate over seven seasons. He didn't reach the Majors until the 2009 season and even then, threw a total of just 14 innings with a 4.95 FIP. His ERA was better in 2010, but the actual performance really wasn't as his meager strikeout rate (5.83) and poor control (3.83BB/9) gave him a 4.11 FIP.

Delaney of course isn't anything too terribly special himself. An undrafted player who made the Twins via tryout, Delaney has worked his way through five minor league seasons. The difference is that Delaney actually pitched well. While Hughes struggled to strikeout minor league hitters, Delaney posted a career MiLB strikeout rate of 9.5 (including a 10.4 mark in AAA last year). Furthermore, Delaney's 1.9 walks allowed per nine innings is essentially half that of Hughes.

When it comes to the things pitchers can do to be effective - Delaney has done far more of it throughout his career than Hughes has. He's also two years younger. The only thing that Hughes has going for him, is that he's left-handed. But as I pointed out in my post when the Twins claimed him - he's not an option for the role of lefty-specialist, because lefties actually have hit him better than righties.

This is a puzzling move for the Twins. One in which they clearly are trusting that their scouts see something the numbers do not. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out. Unlike much of Major League baseball, the Twins have remained quite staunchly against relying too much on sabermetric analysis (though they do employ statistical analysts). The Rays by contrast, employ a small army of stat-heads who have helped the team find a lot of players other teams gave up on. 

While the overall impact of Delaney v Hughes will likely be relatively minuscule (there is a decent chance neither pitcher has any impact on the 2011 season) should one side r another walk away a clear winner - it could serve as an interesting case study.

Corey Ettinger is a proud contributor to both and He also provides extensive analysis of the American League Central Division at his own blog, AL Central In Focus.

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