Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Dead Arms

When you get outscored 41-3 over the course of four games, it's pretty clear that there are a lot of things that aren't working. Aaron Gleeman wrote yesterday about how bad the Twins' offense has been over the first month of the year. Stick and Ball Guy has the embarrassing numbers on the Twins hitters over the past eight games. The offense has been quite pathetic (mainly thanks to the unspeakably bad performances of Hunter, White and Mendoza), but we'd be kidding ourselves if we tried to act like the most disconcerting issue with the Twins right now were anything other than the pitching. That's not necessarily because of the increased expectations placed on the pitchers because of last year, it's just because they have been unbelievably bad.

Scott Baker had a poor outing last night in another blowout loss to the Mariners, but he is certainly not the heart of the problem, and neither is Johan Santana. Carlos Silva, Brad Radke, and Kyle Lohse are all pitching incredibly badly. It wouldn't be particularly surprising if one of these pitchers had gotten off to a horrific start, or if a couple of them had struggled a bit out of the gates. But for all three of these guys who all had pretty good years last season to come out and post 8+ ERAs over the first month of the season... it's dumbfounding.

I'm not totally surprised by the fact that Silva has been getting crushed. I actually kind of thought this would happen last year with him. It's great that he's able to throw nothing but strikes, but when batters realize that and when your stuff isn't too great, it's basically like batting practice for them. Silva has been crushed every time out and really hasn't shown any signs of improvement, with his most recent start being his worst yet.

Lohse has been known for being inconsistent over the course of his career, and he's certainly gotten shelled on more than a few occasions, but I don't remember him ever being this this terrible for this long a stretch. It's particularly surprising because, entering the season, all signs were pointing to a breakout year for Lohse. At age 27, he was coming off a 2005 season in which he posted the lowest ERA of his career, and he was totally dominant during the spring. Now, Lohse has come out and gotten off to an atrocious start, unable to throw strikes. He's struck out 12 and walked 13 in 25.2 innings, while surrendering 25 runs (all earned).

As for Radke, there were signs coming into the year that he might have some troubles. He is getting older and he had shoulder problems at the end of last season. He had a very bad spring. But for him to drop off this badly, this quickly? Radke has allowed 10 home runs in just 26.1 innings and opponents are hitting .374 against him. It's just brutal.

And then there's Jesse Crain. Ron Gardenhire continues to use Crain and Crain continues to fail miserably. Crain has been tattooed in almost every outing this year, and I think that at this point he has been given ample opportunity to prove that he simply cannot get anyone out. Last night he came into the game in relief of Baker in the sixth inning with a runner on second. Crain allowed two doubles and a triple while recording one out before being yanked from the game. After that gem, Crain now sports an ERA of 9.49 with an OBA of .383.

So what can be done about these pitchers who can do absolutely nothing against opposing batters, presuming they continue to show no improvement? Radke is essentially cemented in as a starter due to his salary and standing with the team, unless he goes on the DL. Lohse and Silva are trickier. Regardless of what Gardenhire wants, the Twins need to find a way to get Francisco Liriano into the rotation. Crain needs to be in the minor leagues. Changes need to happen with this pitching staff. It doesn't matter what the offense does, you're simply not going to win when your pitchers have allowed 6+ runs in each of their last seven games against teams not from Kansas City.

Let's face it. As a team, the Twins can't hit for average, they can't hit for power, they can't run the bases particularly well, they can't field, and their pitchers can't throw strikes or keep the ball in park. We know this a better team than what we're seeing right now on a nightly basis, but the longer they go without turning it around, the more convinced I am becoming that they aren't going to. This is a soft spot in the Twins' schedule, yet the team's play has been absolutely putrid. I'm not to the point of jumping all over the manager or the GM yet, but someone is going to have to take the fall for this this truly embarrassing team if things do not turn around very quickly.