With some reason, there exists a chorus of local media wonks that believe that Carl Pavano was less than a resounding acquisition for the Twins. They will say that securing another aging, control-wielding pitcher that was passed over by the larger market teams at the trade deadline reeked of a “typical Twins” maneuver. On the airwaves, KFAN’s Paul Allen recited how uninspiring this move was to a choir of uninformed rubes. Yes, those that worship at gospel of ERA will be less enthused by the Pavano trade; however, there are plenty of reasons why this acquisition should be met with the same victorious reception as if the Twins landed either Cliff Lee or Jarrod Washburn. In fact, there could be MORE reasons to be excited about Pavano.
Though he may not be able to find a cab in NYC any time soon, Pavano rebounded nicely in 2009, appearing to be fully recovered. In January, the Indians inked the tall righty to a one-year incentive-laden deal that started with a $1.5 million base but could increase by another $5.3 million as various milestones are reached (starts and innings). Finding themselves as an also-ran in the Central and staring a $16 million dollar operational deficit in the face, the Indians began to jettison anything that could float. Gone were Lee, Victor Martinez, Mark DeRosa, Rafael Betancourt and Ben Francisco. Oddly enough, Pavano remained. As attractive as Roy Halladay, Lee and Washburn were made out to be at the trade deadline, rare were reports of how adding Pavano could upgrade a rotation. Perhaps it was the gaudy ERA or the looming injury potential, but no deal involving Pavano was made by the July 31st deadline, possibly to a great baseball injustice to the Indians organization and a huge coup for the Twins.
For teams that evaluates players with advanced statistics (Boston, Tampa and Seattle come to mind), it would be hard to ignore that his xFIP of 4.16 – a stat that normalizes the home run rate along with the infusion of strikeout and walk rates – which was TENTH best in the AL among qualified starters. Better than Sabathia. Better than Buerhle, Shields, Washburn, Burnett. Et cetera. Et Cetera. He was pitching better than all of those staff aces. One xFIP point worse than Lee – one point! – and it took the Phillies four of their top ten prospects to nab Lee from the Indians.
But the simplest reason to get behind this transaction is the fact that Pavano has been dominant against the two AL Central teams competing with the Twins. For seven innings on Saturday night, the right-hander demonstrated exactly why the Twins were interested in his services. Holding the Tigers to no runs on five hits, Pavano improved his 2009 record against Detroit to 4-0 with a 1.48 ERA in 30.1 innings. Make that now 6-1 against the Tigers and White Sox combined. Considering that there are 13 more matches against these opponents, there will be a good chance that Pavano works three to four of those games.