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TwinsCentric: Down early

Posted by: Parker Hageman Updated: September 28, 2012 - 12:15 AM

 With the possible exception of the popularity of “Call Me Maybe”, nothing has spun more out of control in 2012 than the Minnesota Twins starting pitching.

Categorically the Twins rotation has produced some of the least desirable stats in the American League. For starters, their misshapen 5.50 ERA tops the charts. Performances like Nick Blackburn (7.39 ERA in 19 starts), Brian Duensing (6.92 in 11 starts) and Liam Hendriks (6.13 ERA in 15 starts) shows where that number can be quickly inflated. Adding insult to injury, their expected Fielding Independent Pitching (4.60 xFIP) is the highest in all of baseball and offers no reprieve that would suggest perhaps, just maybe, the local staff was unfairly fastened to that ugly ERA. 

Not surprising either is the fact that the rotation is currently averaging just 5.4 innings per starts - the lowest average in the American League. If you happened to have attended a Jason Marquis start and stopped for popcorn on your way to the seat, chances are with him getting the hook before the fifth inning (4.9), you would have missed your opportunity to see him pitch. Same scenario could be applied for a Duensing start as well (4.7).

It is probably easy to deduce judging from the bloated ERA and the early showers that the rotation’s Quality Start percentage would also be adversely affected. And you would be punctilious in assuming that. In just 38% of their contests (60 of 152 games), the Twins have managed to get through six innings with allowing three runs or less.

The biggest culprit, which has resulted in the sideways statistics listed above, is the battle of the first inning – a batter in which the Twins are losing in spectacular fashion.

In the first inning, the Twins starters have issued 69 walks and allowed 32 home runs. Like politics and family dinners or crack and Charlie Sheen, putting runners on base and then surrendering moon shots is a volatile combination. Only Baltimore and Kansas City encroach on that home run mark (30 each), as we all know, the O’s are playing this season protected by a bubble of pixie dust and unicorn farts from Pythagoras and his nerdy theories. It is a year in which no matter how many runs they allow, the Orioles still wind up winning more games than they lose. The Twins and Royals, meanwhile, play in the real world where giving up runs in bunches has legitimate consequences.

Right now, the Twins lead the American League in runs allowed in the first inning with 124. That’s a remarkable deficit to put one’s team into. Compare that to what may be a less talent Oakland A’s team on paper. With their brood of starters all under the age of 30, the A’s have allowed just 56 runs in the first inning. With a 68-runs allowed differential between the A’s and the Twins, if you subscribe to the notion that 10 runs equals one win, then Oakland  is, in theory, 7-wins better than Minnesota in the first inning alone.

Obviously, the original plan was not to head into the year with Scott Diamond, Cole De Vries, Sam Deduno or Brian Duensing taking up a large portion of the starts. Then again, the original plan was not all that solid, either.

The Twins rolled the dice heading into 2012 and plowed forward with a starting rotation that was held together by a wing and a prayer. Scott Baker had always struggled with injuries. Nick Blackburn had not only been battling injuries but had been highly ineffective overall. Carl Pavano was showing signs of aging, with a strikeout rate and velocity that dropped in 2011. Francisco Liriano had a clunker of a 2011 and was nothing more than a coin-flip with a high upside if everything landed correctly. So much had to break in the team’s favor in order for this group to succeed, instead it all fell apart early on.

As Terry Ryan spoke to in his conference call last night with season ticket holders, the highest priority will be to acquire starting pitching – whether it be through trades, free agency or exploring the international market. There is plenty of room for improvement and if the Twins are looking to raise their win total in 2013, giving their lineup a fighting chance in the battle of the first inning is a good place to start. 


Tennessee 13 FINAL
Jacksonville 21
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
New York 97 FINAL
Chicago 103
New Orleans 99 FINAL
Houston 90
Milwaukee 108 FINAL
Sacramento 107
Oklahoma City 109 FINAL
Golden State 114
Florida 2 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 1
Colorado 0 FINAL(OT)
Pittsburgh 1
Toronto 1 FINAL
Carolina 4
Washington 5 FINAL(OT)
Columbus 4
Anaheim 2 FINAL
Montreal 1
St. Louis 4 FINAL
Los Angeles 6
Edmonton 3 FINAL
San Jose 4
St Thomas (TX) 61 FINAL
Rice 72
Stony Brook 59 FINAL
Canisius 60
Temple 82 FINAL
Delaware 62
Long Island 69
Lehigh 65 FINAL
Quinnipiac 80
South Alabama 54 FINAL
Richmond 65
Seton Hall 89 FINAL
South Florida 69
Ga Southern 76 FINAL
Stetson 67
Yale 57 FINAL
Vermont 56
Cleveland State 54 FINAL
Virginia 70
Wright State 69 FINAL
Western Carolina 56
Nicholls 54 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 79
Morgan State 48 FINAL
Rider 62
Idaho State 72 FINAL
South Dakota St 75
Oakland City 52 FINAL
Austin Peay 76
Eureka 38 FINAL
Bradley 80
Appalachian St 65 FINAL
Charlotte 75
Connecticut 56 FINAL
Duke 66
Southern Miss 46 FINAL
Jackson State 66
Coastal Carolina 68 FINAL
Ole Miss 71
Montana State 53 FINAL
South Dakota 55
UAB 70
Ohio 69 FINAL
Evansville 81
CS-Dominguez 50 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 72
Walla Walla 39 FINAL
Idaho 86
DePaul 59 FINAL
Oregon State 90
Nevada 65 FINAL
Pacific 69
Portland State 40 FINAL
San Francisco 77
CS-Bakersfield 56 FINAL
Utah State 57
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Niagara 76 FINAL
Cleveland State 58
High Point 59 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 81
Towson 64 FINAL
Wake Forest 74
Presbyterian 50 FINAL
Charlotte 66
Chicago State 62 FINAL
Bradley 59
Northwestern Coll 58 FINAL
Drake 102
Vanderbilt 67 FINAL
Marquette 80
Temple 78 FINAL
Howard 48
Southern Miss 66 FINAL
Ole Miss 68
Rider 67
Miami-Florida 74 FINAL
St Mary-KS 51 FINAL
South Dakota 115
William & Mary 71 FINAL
Wofford 51
Troy 82 FINAL
Evansville 94
Loyola Marymount 54 FINAL
USC 96
St Francis-PA 52 FINAL
Duquesne 92
Indiana-Southeast 45 FINAL
Delaware State 52 FINAL
Detroit 74
Tenn Temple 48 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 68
West Virginia St 58 FINAL
Radford 52
Fairfield 47 FINAL
Seton Hall 79
Dartmouth 44 FINAL
New Hampshire 60
Ball State 47 FINAL
Pittsburgh 59
Jacksonville 61 FINAL
Tennessee St 64
Trine 45 FINAL
Western Mich 81
Tenn Tech 53 FINAL
Lipscomb 72
Samford 56 FINAL
Tulane 57
New Orleans 55 FINAL
Tulsa 78
Incarnate Word 61 FINAL
TX-Pan American 65
Ark-Little Rock 42 FINAL
South Dakota St 67
CS-Northridge 77 FINAL
Northern Ariz 71
Santa Clara 88 FINAL
Oregon 92
(19) Oklahoma St 55 FINAL
Weber State 49
Washington 69 FINAL
San Diego State 48
Cal Poly 68 FINAL
New Mexico 84
(10) Louisville 65 FINAL
Grand Canyon 51
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