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Six for five

Posted by: John Bonnes Updated: February 6, 2011 - 11:42 PM
Six starting pitchers are showing up in training camp this year, and five will leave. I'm excited about the possibility of a little competition, partly because I'd like to see what Slowey can do when he needs to find a way to work with his catcher. Or how Baker reacts when he faces the possibility of being dropped from the rotation if he doesn't stay healthy through spring training.
 
It's been a while since I gave a lot of thought to last year's performance of the members of the starting rotation. So as a way of reintroducing myself to each of them, let's take a quick look at how each of them ranked in terms of some statistics. I'm really focusing on the four guys, Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey and Brian Duensing, who are fighting for three spots.
 
ERA
Brian Duensing wins this one with a 3.05 ERA as a starter, better than anyone else, including Francisco Liriano(3.62) and Carl Pavano(3.75). Baker(4.49) and Slowey(4.54) are about even, and Blackburn(5.30) was quite a way behind them. 
 
Quality Starts
I don't think I'm going to find a lot of areas where Blackburn isn't in last place, but I find it interesting that he led the "other four" pitchers in quality starts last year with 14. Baker had 12, and Slowey had nine. You could also award this category to Duensing, who had nine quality starts in just 13 starts, the highest percentage of quality starts on the staff.
 
Strikeouts
Other than Liriano, Baker easily wins this category. He was second on the team in strikeouts(148) overall and in terms of strikeout rate(7.48). Slowey(6.78) is third in rate, Duensing(5.36) was fourth, Pavano(4.76) fifth, and Blackburn(3.76) last.
 
Eating Innings
Pavano was, by far(221 IP, 32 starts), the leader in this category. Liriano finished second in overall innings, but was actually third in innings per start (6.19 IP per start) behind Duensing(6.54). Blackburn ranked just below Liriano in innings per start (6.08). I'm surprised to find Slowey (5.95) ahead of Baker (5.86).
 
xFIP
Oh, hell, let's throw one in for the sabrites out there. xFIP is something that looks like ERA but is derived from a pitcher's strikeouts, walks, and fly ball percentage. It is valuable because it is a better predictor of a starting pitcher's ERA than their ERA the previous year.
 
Liriano (3.06) and Pavano (4.01) led the team last year, but Baker (4.02) was a very close third. Duensing was also very close to those three with 4.10. Slowey (4.48) and Blackburn (4.62) were quite a bit behind the rest.
 
WHIP (Walks + Hits/Innings Pitched)
How good is each pitcher at keeping players off the base paths? Pavano was by far the best (1.19) but Liriano (1.26) just missed out on second place. That honor belongs to Duensing (1.25) who is putting together a pretty solid argument for being the third strongest pitcher on this staff by this point. Slowey (1.31) and Baker (1.34) are not too far behind. Blackburn (1.44) is again in last place.
 
Conclusion
Baker's got "the stuff", with Slowey a close second. Blackburn had some terrible stretches last year, but showed that even when he is terrible, he can eat innings and provide quality starts. But this analysis has really opened my eyes on the year Duensing had. He was among the leaders in ERA, quality starts, eating innings and WHIP. For two years now we've seen what he can do for a half year in the rotation. I think it might be time to see what he can do for a full year.

 

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  • Seth's Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2011 is now available online. To order today, click here.

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