July 7, 2008

Twins rotation is gettin' it done!

The Twins are now 18-3 in their last 21 games and that has a great deal to do with both the offense and pitching finally "clicking" at the same time. The offense has scored 132 runs which is a very good average of 6.3 runs per game while the pitching has given up just 61 runs which is an average of 2.9 runs per game in that time frame.

Before the season started, the biggest concern for the Twins was how their young rotation would handle the loss of both Carlos Silva and Johan Santana. Thus far on the season, the team has a combined ERA of 4.18 which is just slightly behind the league average of 4.17. However when compared to the rest of the American League, the pitching ranks in at 7th and is .11 points lower than the average ERA. But really, the rotation is just as good as it was last season with both Santana and Silva. And to compare it to another time, when the Twins made it to the ALCS in 2002, they did it with an average ERA of 4.12.

Recently the starters have been sensational. In the last 21 games, the starters are a combined 14-2 with a 3.15 ERA. They have 17 quality starts and a 4.2 K/BB ratio and average 6.5 IP per game. In other words, they are on cruise control.

Kevin Slowey has been the anchor. The 24-year-old right-hander is now 4-0 with a 2.05 ERA in his last 5 starts and has pitched with outstanding control which is evident with his 7.5 K/BB ratio. He has also been "homer prone" giving up 9 long balls in his first 43 2/3 innings. But on this current streak, he's given up just 2 in 35 innings. He's showing why he was named the Twins Minor League Pitcher of the Year in 2007. His current self is quite "Rochester-like" and he's definitely going to have a big role in the rotation's future and will hopefully continue to develop into the #2 pitcher he's shown potential to have.

None of the starter's ERA's are currently over 3.89 since June 13th. Livan Hernandez's ERA is at 3.00 in 4 starts and is picking himself up and giving himself a significant value boost just prior to the trade deadline which could push the Twins to pursue a possible trade for the 33-year-old veteran. After Hernandez, Nick Blackburn's ERA comes in at 3.37, Scott Baker's comes in at 3.75 and Glen Perkins' comes in at 3.89 in 12 combined starts.

The team regardless of experience is very good in regards to command and they rank 4th in the league with a 2.47 K/BB ratio but yet rank 25th in the league with a 5.86 K/9 ratio. The problem with the rotation thus far has been they are very hittable, they rank 3rd in the majors with a .280 BAA and tied for 10th in the majors in fielding this season. If the pitchers are going to be that hittable, they need to have a strong defense behind them and although the Twins are attempting to improve that area by moving Brendan Harris to third and inserting Nick Punto at shortstop (even for a couple games) is a great way to improve the defense. When the Twins last won the division, they did so by being tied with Oakland for the 3rd lowest amount of errors given up and they did so with a .267 BAA.

The defense needs to improve for this rotation to be successful. Especially with Livan Hernandez on the mound. He has induced nearly 200 ground balls this season, which is 4th most in all of baseball. If the defense improves, there's no doubt in my mind that we'll continue seeing strong starting pitching for the remainder of the season. This is a very young pitching staff, but immensely talented.

Friday's Game Ball
Nick Punto - Second Base

2-4, 3 runs, double, home run, 4 RBI, walk
Twins win, 12-3.

Saturday's Game Ball
Joe Mauer - Catcher

Line: 1-2, 3 runs, home run, 1 RBI, 3 walks
Twins win, 9-6.

Sunday's Game Ball
Glen Perkins - Starting Pitcher

Line: 7 innings pitched, 7 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, 3 K, win
Twins win, 4-3.