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.
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