Even though the season is technically 53% complete, many people consider the All-Star break to be the unofficial halfway point in the season. With that in mind, I thought this might be a good opportunity to break down the first-half performances of each player currently on the Twins' roster. Based on what should be expected of a particular player based on their role with the team and the amount of time they've spent in the league, I will assign letter grades to each player's performance thus far.
Today we will take a look at the pitching staff, and tomorrow Mr. Nelson will grade the position players.
SP - Johan Santana #57
9-5, 2.95 ERA, 9.48 K/9, 1.00 WHIP, .221 BAA, 5.75 K/BB
Johan Santana's season has been pretty exciting so far, but it's hard to give him a straight A considering his teammate Fransisco Liriano's performance and after a great June, his last two starts against KC and Texas were rather disappointing. However, he has been great this year and much better than he was at the break last year (7-5, 3.98 ERA) and in 2004 (7-6, 3.78 ERA).
Knowing how absolutely ridiculous he has been the last two years in the second half (22-2 record) lets us know its likely he'll go on another run. If so, he has a great chance to finish with 250 Ks and a ERA around 2 and maybe 20 victories. And the 12 quality starts is an indication of how good he has been. He's had a few rough starts, but for the most part, has been consistent most of the year. Its easy to point to Liriano as a likely Cy Young contender, but I think Johan still has the best chance by far.
SP - Fransisco Liriano #47
10-1, 1.83 ERA, 10.39 K/9, .97 WHIP, .201 BAA, 4.44 K/BB
This one was easy. How do you not give a guy this good an A? Even though he didn't enter the rotation until May 19th, as spending the first month and a half in the bullpen put him eight starts behind most AL "aces," Liriano leads the AL in ERA, WHIP, and opponent OPS, is second in BAA and winning percentage, tied for 4th for wins with six other starters, and sixth in strikeouts.
Now, I don't want to say he won't maintain these numbers, because ten straight quality starts for a rookie is amazing. As I mentioned in a recent post, these are the best rookie numbers before the All-Star break since 1968. I don't think he'll finish with a sub-2.00 ERA, because he doesn't have the control of Johan, but there is no reason to think he won't keep winning or striking guys out.
I say he finishes with a 19-3 record, 210 Ks, a 2.45 ERA and the Rookie of the Year award. Yes, Jonathon Papelbon and Justin Verlander have been great. But Verlander's K rate and K/BB ratios aren't great and his ERA will probably eventually rise and the minute Palpelbon starts given up runs, he may lose out of the race because of how great Liriano has been.
SP - Brad Radke #22
7-7, 5.13 ERA, 4.61 K/9, 1.60 WHIP, .336 BAA
I feel in some ways I'm being easy on Brad because I really like the guy, but he has been good since an awful start. He was 3-1 with a 2.09 ERA in June and was rolling before his blurp in Kansas City.
I think Radke will probably be okay in the second half. I wouldn't expect a great resurgance, but he should be solid in what is supposed to be his last year. Needless to say, when the Twins were winning, Radke was doing great. He'll be vital to any playoff chances in the second half, as he'll be stuck between Santana and Liriano.
SP - Carlos Silva #52
4-9, 7.00 ERA, 1.62 WHIP, .343 BAA, 3.60 K/9
Carlos has had a few moments this season of "goodness," but has otherwise been awful. Those of us expecting a season like last year's have been let down big time. Carlos is now even being called out by Rick Anderson for lacking "mental toughness."
As the numbers attest to, opponents have simply enjoyed seeing Silva this year. No one doesn't love the sight of a pitcher who allows a .343/.379/.574 line to opponents. Don't forget he has allowed 19 homers this year. Even when he was put in the bullpen earlier this year in favor of Liriano in the rotation, he wasn't great.
I don't forsee a great second half for Silva, but rather injuries, mediocrity, and likely a move out of Minnesota in favor of youth.
SP - Kyle Lohse #49
2-5, 7.48 ERA, 1.77 WHIP, 6.67 K/9, .319 BAA
I, in some ways, feel that Silva has been the worst pitcher on the Twins staff this year. But, it's nearly impossible to forget how terrible Lohse has been. Even after some good relief outings, the moment the game is on the line, he is the pitcher to end the Twins' winning streak.
Of course, if you get rid of the embarassing outings and subsequent loses out of the pen against Baltimore and Houston, he has had 14 1/3 scoreless innings and 14 Ks with it. All I can hope, like Seth over at SethSpeaks, is that some GM sees this and decides to take a chance on him.
CL - Joe Nathan #36
5-0, 15 SV, 1.75 ERA, .185 BAA, 13.00 K/9, .81 WHIP, 10.40 K/BB
If you forget those stupid saves, which only put him on pace for 28 this year, Nathan is the best reliever in baseball this side of Mariano Rivera and Jonathon Papelbon. To put it simply, the baseball world has seen this kind of control since Dennis Eckersly.
Everything about Joe has been great this year and there is no reason he won't continue it in the second half. The great thing is that he comes at a discount for the Twins. Lets hope he can continue with the rest of this great Twins core.
RP - Juan Rincon #39
3-0, 2.06 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 8.04 K/9, .231 BAA, 0 HR allowed
Rincon has been nothing but stable all year. Realistically, he's had two bad outings all year: One in a lost to Chicago in April and the other in a loss to the Dodgers in June. He continues to be a great set-up man for Nathan and is by far the best reliever on the staff next to Joe. Once again, no reason to think his numbers won't continue to be great.
RP - Jesse Crain #28
2-5, 5.03 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 7.55 K/9, .305 BAA
After being the bullpen vulture last year (12 wins), things have been vastly different this year. For one, he's back to being a strikeout pitcher, as he was in the minors. However, he didn't dominate the competition at all early in the year. He had a 7.50 ERA in April and a 6.97 ERA in May.
However, he has been much better since. In June, his ERA was 2.03 and opponents only hit .216 off him. So far in July, his ERA has been 2.45. That's great news for the Twins, as he could not hold a lead for his life early in the year. If he has turned the corner, Crain will end up being a much pitcher than last year's "sinkerball" version.
RP - Willie Eyre #27
0-0, 6.60 ERA, 1.83 WHIP, .339 BAA
We supported his inclusion in the bullpen after spring training this year, but the experiment has gone on far too long. Time and time again he is brought into blowout games and can't get anyone out. In the last week, he has a ridiculous 27.00 ERA. With Matt Guerrier coming back soon, the Twins already have a pitcher to fill Eyre's role.
He desperately needs some seasoning in the minors and his numbers have shown it. With Ruben Sierra released, it will be interesting to see who gets brought up. Neshek really belonged over Eyre for while, so it's possible Scott Baker will return. Regardless, Eyre just isn't ready for the bigs.
RP - Dennys Reyes #37
1-0. 1.66 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, .218 BAA, 6.65 K/9
Reyes hasn't been used a lot since his call-up in April and hasn't appeared in many "tight" situations, so it's tough to give him an A. But he has been far more effective than expected. After having almost no control his whole career, he has managed to walk only five batters in 21 2/3 innings this year. His ability to throw strikes, get some Ks, and be consistent out of the pen has been a very pleasant surprise.
And, yes, he has been very effective against lefties (.171/.216/.286) this year, making a good LOOGY even if the Twins don't necessarily need one.
RP - Pat Neshek #72
0-0, 0.00 ERA, .143 BAA, .50 WHIP
So far, so good. Sure it was only one apperance, but I can't help but be excited. He looks like he'll be a great addition to the bullpen and plus he's a native Minnesotan. Couldn't be happier to see him finally in the bigs and playing for the home team.
RP- Matt Guerrier #54
0-0, 3.34 ERA, .310 BAA, 1.64 WHIP
His numbers aren't too great and he is currently on the DL, but since he was one of the bright spots early on, I saw no reason to keep him off the list. Just as he was effective last year out of the same role (3.39 ERA), Guerrier has been stable as a long reliever. He probably will never be a great setup man or closer, but he's nonetheless a great piece to have in the bullpen. He can pitch for many innings, be effective, and is important part of the bullpen. When he returns, I expect him to continue putting up similar numbers. Perhaps eventually he will move into the starting rotation.