Startribune.com digital sports editor Howard Sinker used to cover the Twins and now shares season tickets with friends in Section 219 of Target Field. He blogs about baseball from the perspective of a long-time fan who loves the game, doesn’t always believe the hype and likes hearing what others think. Howard sometimes talks about sports with Cathy Wurzer on MPR's Morning Edition.
While frustrating, I'm not too worked up about all that's gone on with the Twins lately -- aside from the inconsistency of the terrible trio of Blackburn, Slowey and Baker.
Even Bert was all over Baker on Sunday for pitching without a clue, and he grouped Slowey in with him as pitchers who don't "have a game plan." The freeze frame on Sunday was when Baker threw a hanging breaking pitch that was fouled off by Jeff Francouer -- a classic hole-in-his-swing guy -- and then came back with the exact same pitch in the exact same spot.
Home run, Mets. One of three given up by Baker in the fourth and fifth innings. Nil-nil quickly became 6-nil
In the big picture, Baker's inability or unwillingness to adjust can be seen here by looking at his inning-by-inning ERAs -- 2.25, 2.25, 1.12 for the first three innings; 10.69, 7.71, 5.91 for the middle three. That's over 16 starts, a large enough sample size to say, "Gardy, we have a problem." And if there are doubts, his career ERA in innings 1 through 2 is 3.70; for innings 4 through 6 it's 5.46. (It's 5.23 for innings 7 through 9, when Baker manages to get that far.)
By comparison, Carl Pavano's career thirds are 4.31/4.56/3.79.
There's a school of thought, expressed by colleague Patrick Reusse on the radio today, that the Twins don't deserve Cliff Lee because 40 percent of the rotation would still be problematic.
The counterpoint is that getting Lee and sitting one of the terrible trio in favor of lefty Brian Duensing could very well give the Twins a rotation that can be considered 80 percent reliable.
We keep waiting for Slowey and Blackburn to learn from their mistakes, instead of making the same ones repeatedly.
And Baker has been so good at times -- the two-hit, 12-strikeout night against Colorado; the three-hitter over eight innings against Baltimore -- that you wonder what's happening inside his head when he can't keep the ball down, doesn't hold leads and looks frazzled on the mound.
A telling stat, provided by Joel Rippel of our staff, who cites stats rarely enough that it means something when he does: The trio has a combined 5.26 ERA and has put 379 runners on base in 258 1/3 innings -- 1.47 walks and hits per inning (WHIP) and 13.23 per nine. The rest of the staff -- including Jesse Crain, Ron Mahay and the others -- has a 3.04 group ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 10.17 runners per nine.
I'm not recommending giving up on these guys forever, although if one of 'em were to go elsewhere in a trade, it would not break my heart.
I am saying that some uncertainty in their minds about when (and maybe where) their future starts will come wouldn't be such a bad thing.
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