As you saw yesterday, Nick Nelson handed out a report on the offense, giving them an admittedly low C+ overall. I'll be taking a look at the pitching staff today, which would seem to be a high point for the Twins. The rules are the same as yesterday. Kyle Lohse will not be covered since he was not with the team at the end of the year.
Johan Santana #57
233.2 IP, 19-6, 2.77 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 245 K/47 BB, .216 BAA
There are no qualms about it. Johan is the obvious American League Cy Young Award winner for what should be the third year in a row. He won the pitching Triple Crown for the majors, a feat not accomplished since Dwight Gooden did it in 1985. Needless to say, it's quite impressive. Santana led the bigs in wins, ERA, strikeouts, WHIP, and opponent OPS, while leading the AL in innings pitched and BAA.
There isn't much that needs to be said about Johan. He's a phenomenal pitcher and he didn't slow down at all this year. I don't know that he was MVP (though the argument can be made and well) but it's clear how important he was in getting the Twins to the playoffs. Every year, he is great in the second half and that didn't change.
Boof Bonser #26
100 IP, 7-6, 4.22 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 84 K/24 BB, .267 BAA
Bonser made 18 starts for the Twins this year, starting off quite disastrously. In his seven pre-All Star break starts, Bonser was 2-2 with a 5.30 while in his 11 post-All Star break starts, he went 5-4 with a 3.62 ERA, looking his best in a 4-1 September in which he posted a 2.63 ERA.
Boof wasn't outstanding over the year, but he showed a lot of potential, didn't walk too many hitters (2.25/9 innings is pretty good for a young guy), struck out plenty, and showed fierce determination. He was an important player in the Twins making it to the postseason, as he stepped into the rotation absent of Brad Radke and gave them many good starts.
He's a key to the future and did well in his postseason start.
Brad Radke #22
162.2 IP, 12-9, 4.32 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 83 K/32 BB, .307 BAA
The .307 BAA is obviously ugly and he gave up way too many hits, but to get a 4.32 ERA despite that, you need some luck and a lot of guile. Considering the guy made 28 starts with a broken shoulder, an ERA below 6 is a miracle.
What can be said about his performance, outside of the miracle all Twins fans experienced this year? His year started out terribly; he had a 2-3 record and an 8.89 ERA in April followed by a still-ugly May with a 2-3 record and a 5.60 ERA. After that, Brad settled down. He went 3-1 with a 2.09 ERA in June, when the Twins great streak began, and did just as well up until he broke down in August, going 3-1 with a 2.48 ERA.
Whatever is said about Radke, his year was inspiring and a blast to watch. I can't give him a bad grade, because anyone who has the guts, guile, and honor to do what he did is sports hero.
Francisco Liriano #47
121 IP, 12-3, 2.16 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 144 K/32 BB, .205 BAA
Despite the shortened season he had, Liriano was phenomenal for the Twins this year and did more than enough to help them to the playoffs. There are various ways to explain how good he was. He was, for one, a strikeout pitcher who induced a 2.10 GB/FB ratio and led the team with 17 GIDP. He also held opponents to a .564 OPS, thanks largely to the pathetic .306 slugging percentage managed against him, as he gave up only nine home runs.
During July, Liriano was at his best, going 4-1 with a 1.51 ERA, a .154 BAA, and 55 strikeouts in 41 2/3 innings during a month in which Santana struggled but the Twins continued streaking. Of course, Liriano injured his elbow and now is out indefinitely. He apparently doesn't need surgery, but he probably needs to at least tinker with, if not revamp, the violent pitching motion he uses, especially with his slider. Nevertheless, a rookie campaign for the ages.
Carlos Silva #52
180.1 IP, 11-15, 5.94 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 70 K/32 BB, .324 BAA
There are many reasons to believe Silva was the anti-Santana. That is, the worst starter in the league. For instance, while Santana led the league in wins, Silva was second in losses. Also, while Santana was first in strikeouts, Silva was dead last. ERA? Johan led, while Silva was behind Joel Pineiro, who was moved to the bullpen, for last in the AL. Home runs allowed? Well, Johan allowed 24 himself, but Silva gave up 38 in 50 less innings. Opponent OPS? Santana led, while Silva was dead last at .892. In fact, the .538 slugging percentage he gave up to opponents was almost 30 points above the next worst, Mark Buehrle.
Quality starts? Johan was first with 24, while Silva was tied for second-to-last with 10, only behind Rodrigo Lopez. So, when you're quite possibly the worst starter in the league, you probably didn't do too well for your team. Silva fits that category. For some reason, he continued to get starts, while potentially better options sat on the sidelines in Matt Guerrier, Scott Baker, or even Glen Perkins.
So I admit that it may be far-fetched, but Silva was clearly a better fit in the bullpen, having Guerrier's role as a long-reliever, as he is more effective in 2-3 innings spurts than in an actually start. The team would have been better suited with Guerrier giving 4-5 innings, Silva being in reserve for clean-up and the bullpen behind them. Needless to say, Silva's option shouldn't be picked up.
Matt Garza #21
50 IP, 3-6, 5.76 ERA, 1.70 WHIP, 38 K/23 BB, .301 BAA
Garza is a bright spot. His 5.76 ERA isn't anything great, and certainly he had a few awful starts, walked too many, gave up too many hits, and didn't strike enough hitters out. However, he had a few starts that were quite good and he flashed good stuff. He reminds me somewhat of Liriano from 2005 and I think he'll be fine next year.
Scott Baker #30
83.1 IP, 5-8, 6.37 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 62 K/16 BB, .324 BAA
After a promising 2005 campaign in which he looked polished and big league-ready, Baker was a disaster in 2006. Aside from a couple good starts against the Yankees, he was absolutely awful all season. His strikeout numbers were okay and he didn't walk too many, but he gave up too many hits and too many home runs (17), struggling to keep the ball down in the zone. Suddenly, Baker's future seems very much in question. Hopefully he can rebound in 2007.
Joe Nathan #36
68.1 IP, 7-0, 1.58 ERA, 36 saves, 0.79 WHIP, 95 K/16 BB, .158 BAA
In more ways than one, Nathan had the best Twins relief season ever. For one, the 5.94 K/BB is fantastic, but looks even better when you consider that Nathan had a 12.51 K/9 ratio. Also, he allowed only a .452 OPS to opposing hitters. Most impressive is that he blew only two saves all year, and did not record one loss.
The only problem with Joe is one not of his own doing. His manager has one major issue with his bullpen and that is Nathan's criminal underusage. 68 1/3 innings is not enough from your best reliever and operating under the "save or no Joe" rule is ridiculous. Otherwise, the man is incredible.
Juan Rincon #39
74.1 IP, 3-1, 2.91 ERA, 1 SV, 1.35 WHIP, 65 K/24 BB, .270 BAA
Considering how good Rincon has been in the past, this was a down year. In the previous two seasons, he had posted BAAs of .181 and .224. However, all of this is part of a general downward trend. Along with his BAA going up, his K/BB ratio has gone down (3.31 to 2.71) and his K/9 ratio has decreased significantly (11.63 in 2004, 7.87 this year), though at least his GB/FB has gone up, from 1.15 in 2004 to 1.79 this year.
Most distressing are Rincon's August (5.23 ERA, 16 hits in 10 1/3 innings) and September (4.76 ERA, 15 hits in 11 1/3 innings) numbers, along with his complete ineffectiveness against righties. Right-handers hit .303/.366/.406 off Rincon this year, compared to .228/.297/.278 last year. All of that leads me to believe that Rincon is going downhill fast. He is no longer a set-up man or closer of the future and if he is kept around, he needs to be used either against lefties or in a sixth or seventh inning role.
Jesse Crain #28
76.2 IP, 4-5, 3.52 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 60 K/18 BB, .262 BAA
Crain's numbers don't look like anything special, but the splits tell a different story. Before the break, Crain had a 5.03 ERA and had allowed 51 hits in 39 1/3 innings for a .305 BAA. After, he had a 1.93 ERA and a .207 BAA, with a great September where he posted only a 0.75 ERA.
Although Crain's strikeout rate went way up this year, from 2.82 to 7.04 K/9, his GB/FB went up even more, from 1.18 to 2.09, though he got far less GIDP (14 in 2005, 3 this year). His major issue was the "J.C. Romero" problem, as 13 of 34 inherited runners, or 38.2%, were allowed to score. If nothing else, it is a product of Gardenhire's desire to bring Crain into tight situations that Crain doesn't seem to handle well. He didn't have a bad year, but it wasn't great either.
Pat Neshek #17
37 IP, 4-2, 2.19 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 53 K/6 BB, .176 BAA
Neshek was called up in early July, just before the All-Star break, and in some ways, it felt like the Twins waited too long. He burst onto the scene, as he was practically unhittable in August, with a 0.59 ERA and only seven hits allowed in 15 1/3 innings with 24 K. He did let up a little in September, with a 4.76 ERA, and has issues with lefites who hit .244/.300/.511 off of him.
However, he looks like a great weapon against righties, who struck out nearly half the time (37 K, 86 at-bats) and had a pathetic .140/.159/.221 line against Neshek. It was a great, if not short, year for him.
Dennys Reyes #37
50.2 IP, 5-0, 0.89 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 49 K/15 BB, .197 BAA
Wow, what a year for Reyes. The man started the year in Triple-A, never had a good season before this, but somehow found his groove with the Twins as a lefty specialist. He stopped walking so many hitters, struck out plenty, and was hard to hit, as well as consistent. Unlike Crain, he was excellent in the inherited runners department, with only 6 of 45 scoring on him.
Also, Reyes lived up to his lefty specialist title, as lefties hit .148/.219/205 off of Reyes. He was great before the break, with a 1.66 ERA, but incredible after it, surrendering only one earned run in 29 innings for a near-spotless 0.31 ERA. Hopefully, he can pitch like this next year.
Matt Guerrier #54
69.2 IP, 1-0, 3.36 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 37 K/21 BB, .287 BAA
For a second consecutive year, Guerrier quietly got the job done. He never really stood out as great, and his peripherals weren't impressive, but he posted a nice ERA and ate up 70 innings for the Twins. Guerrier is a valuable pitcher to have around, even if he's not spectacular by any means.
Willie Eyre #27
59.2 IP, 1-0, 5.31 ERA, 1.63 WHIP, 26 K/22 B, .309 BAA
Eyre did not pitch very well in his rookie year, but he was used almost exclusively in low-pressure, mop-up type situations so his performance never really hurt the team. His sole victory came in an extra-inning thriller in Chicago in August, which was certainly one of the most memorable games of the season.
PITCHING STAFF GPA: 2.78 (B-)
As expected, the pitching staff grades out a little better than the position players. A couple of F grades from Silva and Baker really dragged this unit down, but the top-notch grades from young players like Liriano, Bonser and Neshek give plenty of hope for this team's future.