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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. 


Team Irvin 32 FINAL
Team Carter 28
Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
Oklahoma City 98 FINAL
Cleveland 108
Dallas 106 FINAL
New Orleans 109
Indiana 106 FINAL
Orlando 99
LA Clippers 120 FINAL
Phoenix 100
Minnesota 100 FINAL
Atlanta 112
Detroit 110 FINAL
Toronto 114
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
San Antonio 101
Boston 111 FINAL
Golden State 114
Washington 117 FINAL
Denver 115
Houston 99 FINAL
LA Lakers 87
Team Toews 17 FINAL
Team Foligno 12
South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Virginia 50 FINAL
Virginia Tech 47
Indiana 70 FINAL
Ohio State 82
Stony Brook 61 FINAL
Binghamton 54
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
UCF 46
Maine 70 FINAL
Hartford 61
Monmouth 64 FINAL
Manhattan 71
Fairfield 67 FINAL
Marist 73
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
St Bonaventure 48 FINAL
Rhode Island 53
Duke 77 FINAL
St Johns 68
Saint Peters 69 FINAL
Siena 55
Drake 40 FINAL
Wichita State 74
Vermont 61 FINAL
UMass Lowell 50
Seton Hall 57 FINAL
Butler 77
South Alabama 55
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Illinois State 53
Louisville 80 FINAL
Pittsburgh 68
Albany 69
Niagara 64 FINAL
Iona 87
Notre Dame 81 FINAL
NC State 78
Belmont 63 FINAL
Tennessee St 55
Creighton 50 FINAL
Villanova 71
Northwestern 67 FINAL
Maryland 68
Washington 56 FINAL
Utah 77
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 99 FINAL
Georgetown 85
St Johns 69 FINAL
Villanova 81
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Florida 72
Maine 56 FINAL
Vanderbilt 55 FINAL
Alabama 52
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Lehigh 65
SMU 57
Utah 51 FINAL
Washington 63
James Madison 73 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 53
Delaware 56 FINAL
Drexel 61
Hofstra 56 FINAL
William & Mary 57
Hartford 58 FINAL
Albany 82
Binghamton 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Towson 63 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 71
Wake Forest 80 FINAL
(17) Florida State 110
Georgia Tech 68 FINAL
Virginia 62
(22) Georgia 51 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 59
Drake 79 FINAL
Evansville 62
Iona 80 FINAL
Canisius 62
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Monmouth 59
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Penn State 76
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
Ohio State 79 FINAL
Purdue 71
Northern Iowa 57 FINAL
Indiana State 55
Butler 58 FINAL
Xavier 54
Creighton 93 FINAL
Marquette 75
Providence 42 FINAL
DePaul 90
Northeastern 77 FINAL
Elon 80
(2) Connecticut 96 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Oregon 78 FINAL
Arizona 81
Bradley 46 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
NC State 49 FINAL
(23) Syracuse 66
(7) Maryland 84 FINAL
Indiana 74
Illinois State 35 FINAL
Missouri State 58
Colorado 68 FINAL
Washington St 73
Tulane 45 FINAL
South Florida 64
(14) Kentucky 83 FINAL
Missouri 69
(9) Oregon State 68 FINAL
(13) Arizona State 57
Vermont 63 FINAL
UMass Lowell 72
Iowa State 58 FINAL
(8) Texas 57
Southern Ill 61 FINAL
Wichita State 80
(15) Duke 74 FINAL
(12) North Carolina 67
Miami-Florida 55 FINAL
(4) Louisville 68
(21) Minnesota 61 FINAL
(25) Rutgers 66
California 72 FINAL
(11) Stanford 71 FINAL
USC 60
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