What to Make of the Influx of NL Pitching

Most Twins fans would like to forget the 2012 season, mostly due to the pitching staff which stumbled its way through injuries and ineffectiveness.  Minnesota finished with the 2nd highest team ERA in the American League at 4.77, gave up the most hits (1,536), the second most home runs (198), and struck out the fewest batters (943).  Offensively, the Twins were middle of the road hitting .260, and scored more runs than only four other AL teams (701).

Something needed to be done to help the rotation this off-season, and that’s exactly where Terry Ryan targeted.  Trevor May and Alex Meyer were acquired in trades to bolster the future of the rotation; and Vance Worley, Mike Pelfrey, and Kevin Correia were brought in to help now.  The interesting thing that these last three names have in common is they all come from careers solely in the National League.  It’s long been speculated that NL pitchers struggle when they switch over to the deep lineups of the AL.

Jason Marquis signed with the Twins before last season, after 12 seasons in the NL.  As we all know this turned out to be a disaster, as Marquis started only 7 times in Minnesota.  He gave up 32 earned runs in only 34 innings, and the Padres picked him up in late May after the Twins released him.  Marquis went on to finish 6-7 with San Diego, with a 4.04 ERA in 15 starts.

In 2001 the Twins made a mid-season trade for Rick Reed, who had spent 9 of his 12 previous seasons throughout the NL.  That season before getting traded, Reed was 8-6 with a 3.48 ERA with the Mets.  Reed would go on to produce a 4-6 season with a 5.19 ERA in 12 starts with the Twins.  He gave up 12.2 H/9 with the Twins, his worst performance since 1993.

After the 2003 season, the Twins traded for Carlos Silva in the Eric Milton deal.  Silva pitched two years in Philadelphia before that, posting an 8-1 record and a 3.83 ERA in 171.1 innings primarily out of the bullpen.  At age 25 in his first season in Minnesota, Silva finished 14-8 with a 4.21 ERA.  The next season he had a 3.44 ERA, led the league in BB/9 at an alarming 0.4 (9 walks in 188.1 innings), and went 9-8.  He played four seasons for the the Twins, and went 47-45 with a 4.42 ERA.

33 year old Livan Hernandez signed with the Twins in 2008 after pitching 12 years in the National League.  The two-time all start pitched only 23 games for the Twins that year, going 10-8 with a 5.48 ERA.  He gave up 12.8 H/9 in his 139.2 innings in Minnesota, and was claimed off waivers by Colorado in August.

Outside of the Twins organization, Roy Oswalt pitched 11 years in the NL before signing with Texas last season.  He proceeded to go 4-3 with a career worst 5.80 ERA, and the Rangers relegated him to the bullpen.

Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay both pitched many years in the AL before making the switch over to the NL later in their careers.  Both have produced much better numbers in the NL than the AL.

Obviously it won’t be surprising to see the three new Twins starters’ numbers to be a little worse as they face lineups not including the opposing pitcher.  29 year old Pelfrey holds a career ERA of 4.36 in 153 games, all with the Mets.  He is also coming of an arm injury that will probably hold him out until sometime in April. Correia pitched for the Giants, Padres, and Pirates before signing with the Twins, and the 32 year old holds a career ERA of 4.54 in 290 games.  25 year old Worley pitched only 3 seasons in Philadelphia and was 18-13 in 53 games with a 3.50 ERA.

All of this said, my expectations are not high for these three NL transplants.  Since Worley is so young and was just short of being dominant in 2011, I am intrigued by his arrival.  I do expect him to earn a spot in the middle of the rotation for years to come, but I wonder how his game will change moving to the AL.  Correia and Pelfrey were brought over more to fill a gap between 2013 and the future wave of good young arms coming up, so any positive results will be welcome; however, the transition to a new league may prove too much to handle for these two veterans.

Follow Twins Rubes on Twitter @twinsrubes.

One thought on “What to Make of the Influx of NL Pitching

  1. Good post. AL pitchers definitely have a tough time facing the hitters in this league. As you said though, Correia and Pelfrey are just bargains to fill in spots temporarily. And they weren’t particularly good in the NL. But I’ve already accepted the fact that pitching in 2013 isn’t going to be great.

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