The Minnesota Twins have sent a bevy of pitchers to the mound thus far this summer. As a matter of fact, they have sent a Major League high 11 different starting pitchers to toe the rubber this season alone, and seven different pitchers over the past seven games. This means one thing and one thing only: The Twins’ pitching is inconsistent.
The Twins’ pitching has the worst earned run average in the American League (4.86) worst batting average against in the AL (.281), and have given up the second most home runs in the AL (110). It’s hard to win games when you give up that many runs and hits.
The Twins’ starting pitching has been a complete mystery and that all starts with the enigmatic pitcher Francisco Liriano. You never know which Liriano will come out to pitch as he started the season incredibly poor holding a 9.45 ERA after his last start on May 7 before heading to the bullpen. Now, he is lighting it up as he went 1-2 with a 2.87 ERA in June.
The Twins’ have also had many injuries to the starting rotation; Scott Baker, Carl Pavano, and P.J. Walters just to name a few. These injuries have stymied the progress of the team and any chance for young pitchers to develop. Walters had pitched four consecutive quality starts before going only 9.1 innings in his last three starts, giving up 13 earned runs and going on the disabled list.
Like aforementioned in the last article, there are bright spots in an area that is mostly dark. As a matter of fact, the Twins’ inconsistent pitching rotation has been anchored by rookie Scott Diamond. Diamond has not done much wrong as he has gone 7-3 with a low 2.62 ERA in 12 starts. Even more impressive, nine of his 12 starts have been quality starts, four of which he has not given up an earned run. His ability to go deep into ball games has helped preserve a bullpen that has been efficient, but overworked.
Speaking of the bullpen, it has certainly been improving. This year’s bullpen has been held together by a solid core group that includes righty Alex Burnett, righty Jared Burton, and lefty Glen Perkins. Between the three of them, they have pitched 116.1 innings with a combined ERA of 2.71. Burton and Perkins have done a pretty good job filling in for All-Star closer Matt Capps while he is injured. Since Capps has been on the disabled list, they have combined for 13 innings pitched, three earned runs and three saves in four opportunities (The one blown save was due to an error). Burnett, who before giving up three earned runs to the Detroit Tigers on July 5, went 16 straight innings without surrendering a run.
This is all well and good, however these three guys have been seriously overworked. It is only a matter of time before they collapse. Don’t get me wrong, they have pitched quite efficiently and have done what they’ve been told, but if you overwork your bullpen, they will get tired and lose efficiency. A great example would be Matt Guerrier circa 2007. Guerrier, through the All-Star break, had a 1.70 ERA in 53 innings pitched. However, he ended the year pitching 88 total innings with a 2.35 ERA. This isn’t the worst of it though as the next year he clearly was fatigued. He was overworked again pitching 76.1 innings with a 5.19 ERA. I worry that all of these guys will be overworked and by the end of the year they will falter.
I expect the starting pitching to only improve in the second half. With Cole De Vries making a name for himself and Diamond continuing to dominate, the rotation is looking pretty solid. However, I can only see the bullpen deteriorating. It is very hard to give the Twins a good grade for pitching because of how poor the statistics look. On the other hand, the future is looking brighter. Unfortunately, for now, I have to give the Twins pitching a D. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, let’s just hope it is not an oncoming train.
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