After continually struggling for the entire season, Josh Towers and Russ Adams were sent to the minors last night. Towers, who has no options left, cleared waivers prior to being demoted and now finds himself off the Blue Jays' 40-man roster. Had he been released earlier in the season, it's possible that a team in desperate need of a starting pitcher would grab him off waivers, but at his current rate he's about as desirable as Otis Nixon in a...well, you get the idea. After a great performance against the Devil Rays about two weeks ago, the false, yet prevailing (by me, too, admittedly) hope that he had turned the corner granted him the opportunity to make two more starts, both of which led to embarrassing, short-live poundings by the opposition. Unless his control and/or velocity improves a significant deal, he'll be a multi-millionaire minor league player for an extended period of time. And rightfully so.
If Towers pitched enough innings to qualify for pitching titles in averaged categories (ERA, WHIP, etc.), his rankings in the following categories, out of 99 major league pitchers, would be:
Category Towers' Rank (out of 99) Next in Line
ERA 99 (9.00 ERA) 98th place: Carlos Silva (8.28)
Winning % 98 (.111 W%) 99th: Scott Elarton (.000)
WHIP 99 (1.93 WHIP) 98th: Brad Radke (1.81)
ERA+ 99 (55 ERA+) T-98th: Rodrigo Lopez and Carlos Silva (58 ERA+)
HR/G 98 (2.26 HR/G) 99th: Carlos Silva (2.47 HR/G)
DER 97 (.645 DER) 99th: Brad Radke (.626 DER)
FIP T-98 (6.88 FIP) 99th: Carlos Silva (7.03 FIP)
He's close to last or dead last in almost every category I listed. His DER (Defense Efficiency Ratio, sort of a BABIP for pitchers) suggests that he's had some bad luck in addition to his poor play. Luck or no luck, however, Towers has had an horrendous season, and it's abudantly clear that the team can no longer justify keeping him in the rotation.
It would be awfully interesting to have the opportunity to compare tape from last year's starts to tape of this year's. It seems highly unlikely that Towers is hiding an injury of some sort; surely, after close to two months of decrepid play, the Blue Jays would look into it. Moreover, Towers, fully aware that a stint to the DL would not only help the team but probably his long-term standing with the team, would have made any injury or nagging ailment a public matter. Rather, it's likely a mixture of both mechanical and psychological problems. The latter is open to personal conjecture, of course, but it follows logically that the burden of having to overcome an historically poor start would weigh heavily on, and likely significantlly impact, one's ability to perform at a normal level. In AAA, where the crowds are smaller and the media coverage is more sparse, he'll have the opportunity to smooth out the myriad physical and mental kinks that have derailed him in '06.
As for Adams' demotion, I'm staunchly in favour of it. Since his introduction to the major leagues, he has been a significant defensive liability at one of the most important defensive positions in the game. According to most defensive metrics, he ranked last or close to last among all qualified shortstops last season (lest we forget Michael Young; though, to be fair, he more than makes up for it with his Ripkenian offensive contribution). Of course, the main reason why this demotion, which has certainly been a long time coming, has only finally manifested itself is because there simply are no viable replacements. Sure, John McDonald and Luis Figueroa, who was called up from Syracuse, should be fine defensively, but they're by no means suitable long-term options. Gone are the days when a contending team could justify playing an all-glove, no-bat Mark Belanger-type player. It's possible that a team could succeed under such an arrangement, but the archetypal shortstop boasts much more of an offensive punch than he did ten or twenty years ago. As of now, twenty shortstops in the game have higher OPS totals than McDonald's career OPS of .660. This season, moreover, McDonald's OPS currently stands at .516 through 58 at-bats, which would easily rank dead last among all qualified major league shortstops. It would also rank dead last among all qualified second basemen, which is where he'll spend the brunt of his playing time now that Aaron Hill will move to shortstop. Now, who currently ranks last in OPS among qualified shortstops, you ask? Aaron Hill, with an OPS of .611. However, by all accounts, Hill, unlike Adams, boasts a strong, accurate throwing arm and he currently ranks fourth among qualified second basemen in zone rating. As a result, he provides value to the team despite his slow start with the bat. In Adams' defense, his range doesn't appear to be as putrid as it was last season, though he does have the highest errors-to-innings ratio among qualified shortstops. With Sergio Santos' struggles in the minors, I genuinely hope that Adams' improvements are both significant and quick, because the Blue Jays are in dire need of significant middle infield help.