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Does Carl Pavano Make the Twins Rotation Better?

Actually, yes.  Yes, he does.

When the Twins claimed Carl Pavano off waivers this week, it set in motion events that would lead to Minnesota's biggest mid-season trade since Shannon Stewart in July of 2003.  Under most circumstances an inter-division trade would seem odd, but considering Cleveland's failure of a season and their sellers aspect, they really have nothing to lose by dealing Pavano to a division rival.

There's really no question that the Twins needed some help in the starting rotation.  Injuries and slow starts have been the two biggest factors affecting how effectve that rotation has been, so the addition of the 33-year old Pavano (at presumably the closest thing you can get to zero cost while still giving something up) is a step in the right direction.

Of course there are a few stock reactions of the negative variety on a move like this...

  • Pavano isn't a front-line starter
  • He hasn't been healthy for a full season since 2004 (just 45.2 MLB innings from 2006 - 2008)
  • That 5.37 ERA is just bad

All of those things are true, but none of them give an accurate clue as to whether he upgrades an ailing rotation.  Let's see how he stacks up against our boys so far this year.

Name GS IP K/9 BB/9 WHIP Zone % First Strike % HR:FB FIP
Carl Pavano 21 125.2 6.30 1.65 1.38 50.6 66.5 12.8 4.26
Scott Baker 21 127.1 7.49 1.91 1.17 53.4 61.0 11.6 4.11
Nick Blackburn 22 145 3.72 1.99 1.37 52.2 60.0 7.2 4.18
Francisco Liriano 21 118.1 8.06 4.18 1.54 45.0 54.5 12.7 4.78
Glen Perkins 17 95.1 4.25 2.08 1.48 51.9 64.6 9.8 4.63
Kevin Slowey 16 90.2 7.44 1.49 1.41 56.5 68.5 10.7 4.23
Anthony Swarzak 9 48.2 4.99 3.14 1.42 52.4 56.9 5.8 4.20


With Slowey out for the season, his leading numbers in BB/9, strike zone percentage and first strike percentage no longer qualify as "best in the rotation".  Perkins, who's been moved to the bullpen anyway with the arrival of Pavano, wasn't the leader in any category.

Understanding the season that Blackburn has put together so far and knowing the direction that Baker's season has been heading, it's not unfair to say that Pavano has just become Minnesota's third best starter, if not their second.  And considering that Bill Smith and the front office managed to pick him up for next to nothing, respect must be paid.  The front office made a play and took a chance on the waiver wire, and it just might help.

2003 was a long time ago, but that charmed Marlins club was a good one.  Pavano was a big part of their post-season success, appearing in eight different games while starting twice; he logged 19.1 innings and compiled a 1.40 ERA.  That's the only time he's been to the playoffs, not having pitched for the Yankees in October during his tenure in New York.  But if the Twins do somehow manage to pull off a fantastic final eight weeks, I'd have no problem with this guy being part of our post-season rotation.

August is a fun time, because sneakly little deals like this can still happen.  The players and teams involved aren't always a surprise, but how they're matched can be if only because news doesn't flow as freely as it does in July.

We'll get to that waiver deadline primer tomorrow night.