Laying in the Weeds

Through 35 games, not many of us Twins fans expected the team to be a game over .500 at 18-17. Just following the team, watching games, and not looking too far into numbers, I’ve been encouraged by the starting rotation. It seems like the Twins are always in the game, and that it’s been the lineup that has let them down from time to time – a lineup with somewhat high expectations. Taking even a quick look at the numbers, the eye test has thrown me off in this case.

The Twins pitching staff currently sits 11th in the American League in ERA with a total of 4.21. The staff is giving up 10.2 hits/9 innings right now, which is good for 14th in the AL – only the Houston Astros are worse. They have given up the fewest walks/9 at 2.4, but also the fewest K’s/9 at 5.8. The Twins have just 1 team shutout, which ties them for the fewest with Toronto and Houston. All of these stats include the great things the bullpen has done to bring up a lot of the team’s rankings.

The Twins bullpen currently ranks 2nd in the AL in ERA at 2.75, just behind Baltimore. They’ve only given up 8 home runs, 3rd best in the AL. The ‘pen has struck out 8.0 batters/9, which is good, but still ranks them 11th among AL bullpens. Finally, the ‘pen has given up just 7.6 hits/9, compared to an 11.8 H/9 mark by the starters.

Outside of Kevin Correia and Scott Diamond, by the numbers the remaining starters have been no better than awful. Pedro Hernandez has a 5.79 ERA in 5 starts, has struck out just 15 in 28 innings, along with 35 hits and 5 home runs. Mike Pelfrey is off to a slow start with a 6.03 ERA in 34.1 innings, also striking out just 15, and has given up 49 hits during that time. Vance Worley takes the cake with a 7.15 ERA in 39 innings over 8 starts – less than 5 innings per start – and has given up an alarming 66 hits and 6 home runs.

Reading only that last paragraph makes one wonder how there is any way this team is 18-17. It also makes me wonder how much longer a couple of these guys may last in the big leagues. If you take a quick peak down in Rochester and New Britain, there are a handful of quality starters having really good years so far laying in the weeds.

Despite the 2-4 record, 2009 1st Round draft pick Kyle Gibson has been very solid in AAA Rochester. He currently holds a 3.32 ERA in 40.2 innings over 7 starts. His last start nearly a week ago yielded a complete game, 4-hit shutout in a game where he struck out 8 and walked just 2. He has gotten knocked around in two of his starts, so his inconsistency may be the one thing that keeps him from the big leagues for at least a few more starts.

P.J. Walters has been equally impressive in Rochester as he’s made 8 starts, pitched 47.1 innings, and holds a 3.42 ERA. During that time he’s given up just 2 long balls. He got roughed up in 2 of his first 3 starts, but in his last 5 starts he’s won 4 games, pitched at least 6 innings every game, and gave up 3 runs in just one of those starts. Walters was okay last season for the Twins, but has a career 6.39 ERA in the bigs, which might be the biggest obstacle to getting back to Target Field.

Perhaps the most under-the-radar starter in the Twins organization is Andrew Albers. The 27 year old has never pitched in the majors, and is in his first season even at the AAA level this year. In 7 starts, he’s pitched 36 innings, struck out 34, walked just 9, and holds an excellent 2.75 ERA. In fact his career minor league ERA is a stellar 2.56. In his last two starts, he hasn’t given up a single earned run in 12.1 innings. His last start he struck out 7 and walked just 1 in 6 innings. In his 5th season of professional baseball, Albers could be facing his first opportunity in the majors at some point this summer if he continues to pitch well.

In addition to these three pitchers, Sam Deduno (0.87 ERA, 10.1 IP, 8 BB, 9 SO) and Cole De Vries (3.00 ERA, 9.0 IP, 2 BB, 7 SO) are getting closer to contributing again after injuries this spring. Down at AA New Britain top prospects Trevor May (3.20 ERA, 39.1 IP, 19 BB, 37 SO) and Alex Meyer (3.58 ERA, 37.2 IP, 18 BB, 47 SO) have lived up to every high expectation placed on them. With a lineup that is slowly coming around, and a bullpen which ranks at the top of the AL; if the veterans in the rotation don’t improve, there are plenty of other options just waiting for an opportunity to try to take this team to another level.

Follow Twins Rubes on Twitter @twinsrubes.

3 thoughts on “Laying in the Weeds

  1. Good points Nathan! So far only Correia and Scott Diamond have pitched effectively as starters! Our bullpen and enough hitting from our likely players have kept us a game over 500. However, Worley, Pelfrey & Hernandez are right now glorified minor league pitchers pretending to be major league pitchers. It’s obvious that Worley was the “throw in” in the trade that brought Alex Mayer over from the Phils! Worley is a junk ball specialist who if he doesn’t hit his spots, because he doesn’t have a great fastball is going to be knocked around the yard. Pelfrey, who is also coming off arm surgery is still trying to find his groove. He needs to spot his pitches better, because if he leaves them up he’s a glorified batting practice pitcher. Hernandez will never be mistaken for Frankie Liriano, that’s for sure. So, as June rolls around and these 3 starters I mentioned aren’t getting the job done, it’s then time to bring up Gibson, Deduno & DeVries. Possibly P.J. Walters.

  2. I agree many good points have been made, but I am not ‘surprised ‘ by the Twins modest sucess. Why should it be a surprise? it happens every year . what appears to be easy to predict , on paper, seldom ever goes as expected when things play out. The ‘surprises’ really are the Yankees , hurt and aging , on top! Toronto and the ANGELS ( mega bucks superstarred team Angels) on the bottom.
    The Twins redid their roster with an almost complete remake of the starting pitching . Would it be a surprise , as I said earlier this year that half of the new guys were a sucess? Correia etc have kept us in the games which is what we hoped . So far the injury bug has been tamed for now.
    Mauer and Morneau look healthier than they have been in 3 years.
    Those were all possibilites we should have expected and with a very talented farm system producing ( after restocking and maturation ) being at .500 and competive , doesn’t surprise me.
    Things will shake out and Worley or Pelrey or ? will be out and Gibson, Denudo? will be tried. I think that always was the game plan. Try different guys , keep those who work out well and discard those who don’t , thank God the cupboard is stocked today!

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