Before I get started today, I'd like to mention the Playoff Contest over at SethSpeaks.net. It's a great way to stay involved and interested in the MLB post-season even with the Twins not in it. The playoff action gets started this afternoon, but if you have some time this morning, be sure to swing by and build your fantasy playoff team! OK, on to the pitching grades...
Yesterday, I handed out my 2007 grades for the Twins' position players. Today, I'll take a look at the pitching staff. I've graded every pitcher that threw a pitch for the Twins this season, with the exception of Jason Miller, who tossed a total of four innings with the big-league club. As with the position players, the pitchers' grades are adjusted a bit based on expectations, but I tried to keep the scale as absolute as possible. Again, the players are listed in no particular order.
***JOHAN SANTANA: A-
219 IP, 15-13, 3.33 ERA, 235 K / 52 BB, 1.07 WHIP
The bad news is that Santana put up his worst numbers since becoming a full-time starter in 2004. The good news is that those numbers are still extremely good by any standards. Perhaps it is unfortunate for Santana that he has been so good for the past three years, because if any other pitcher on the Twins' staff put up numbers like these, we'd all be jumping for joy. Instead, another great season from Santana is met with little enthusiasm. A lot of streaks ended for Santana this year: his string of strikeout crowns, his run of consecutive outings with 5+ innings pitched, his home winning streak. But for the fourth straight year, Santana pitched well over 200 innings while ranking among the best pitchers in the league in almost every category.
CARLOS SILVA: B
202 IP, 13-14, 4.19 ERA, 89 K / 36 BB, 1.31 WHIP
Expectations were set very low for Silva coming off a miserable 2006 campaign, but he managed to rebound big-time with his second-best season as a starter. After surrendering a whopping 38 home runs in '06, Silva nearly cut that number in half by allowing just 20 this year -- his lowest total since becoming a full-time starter.
MATT GARZA: B
83 IP, 5-7, 3.69 ERA, 67 K / 32 BB, 1.54 WHIP
Many will look at the difference between Garza's ERA in 2006 (5.76) and 2007 (3.69) and conclude that he made the necessary adjustments to become an effective major-league pitcher. That may not be totally true. Garza got off to a great start after being called up at the beginning of July, posting a 1.70 ERA while posting a 35/12 strikeout-to-walk ratio and holding opponents to a .239 average through his first 37 innings. But, from that point forward, Garza experienced struggles similar to those he encountered as a rookie the previous season. Over his final 46 innings, Garza posted a 5.28 ERA to go along with a K/BB ratio of 32/20 and a BAA of .333. His strikeout and walk rates over that latter span were actually worse than the ones he posted in 2006.
BOOF BONSER: D+
173 IP, 8-12, 5.10 ERA, 136 K / 65 BB, 1.53 WHIP
After an impressive debut at the major-league level in 2006, Bonser regressed in almost all categories in 2007. Outside of an excellent month of May, Bonser was downright horrible all year long, and he was eventually moved to the bullpen in the final month of season.
SCOTT BAKER: B
143.2 IP, 9-9, 4.26 ERA, 102 K / 29 BB, 1.33 WHIP
Something of an afterthought coming into the season, Baker surprised many by stepping up and delivering an above-average performance after joining the Twins' rotation in May. After struggling a bit initially, Baker posted a 3.24 ERA over 71 2/3 innings after July 30. His near-perfect game on August 31, which I attended, will be my most vivid memory from this season.
KEVIN SLOWEY: C+
66.2 IP, 4-1, 4.73 ERA, 47 K / 11 BB, 1.40 WHIP
Slowey struggled mightily in his first call-up, posting a 5.84 ERA while allowing 13 home runs in 37 innings and striking out only one batter per every two innings. When Slowey returned to the team as a September call-up, he was a different pitcher. In six September outings (four starts), Slowey posted a 3.34 ERA, fanned about one batter per inning, and allowed just three home runs in 29 and 2/3 frames. The overall numbers aren't overly impressive, but the upward trend toward the end of the season is very encouraging.
SIDNEY PONSON: F
37.2 IP, 2-5, 6.93 ERA, 23 K/ 17 BB, 1.89 WHIP
Ponson was predictably horrible, putting up atrocious numbers over seven wasted starts before being cut in May. Signing Ponson to a low-risk minor-league contract was not a bad move by the Twins; handing him an undeserved spot in the rotation to start the year and watching him get shelled for seven starts was.
RAMON ORTIZ: D+
91 IP, 4-4, 5.14 ERA, 44 K / 15 BB, 1.40 WHIP
Great in April, atrocious in May, and in the bullpen by June. Ortiz did a decent job out of the bullpen for the Twins, posting a 4.15 ERA in 18 relief appearances before being traded to the Rockies in August.
B+ 28.2 IP, 0-0, 3.14 ERA, 20 K / 12 BB, 1.22 WHIP
While his workload for the season was unfortunately limited due to shoulder problems, Perkins looked great when he was on the mound with the Twins. He allowed only two homers in nearly 30 innings and limited opposing hitters to a .232 average. He did not allow a run in seven appearances after returning to the Twins in September.
NICK BLACKBURN: F11.2 IP, 0-2, 7.71 ERA, 8 K / 2 BB, 1.80 WHIP
A September call-up, Blackburn made his major-league debut out of the Twins' bullpen on September 3, tossing a scoreless ninth inning in a 5-0 loss to the Indians. Blackburn continued to pitch well in his first several innings at the major-league level, posting a 2.08 ERA across 8 2/3 innings in his first four appearances. His final two appearances of the season, however, were beyond brutal, and they completely changed the complexion of his overall numbers. In three innings spread across his final two outings, Blackburn allowed 10 runs (eight earned) on 11 hits, including two homers. His overall performance this season is too small a sample size to draw any real conclusions from, but hopefully next year he will look more like the pitcher from those first four appearances and less like the one from the last two.
JESSE CRAIN: D-16.1 IP, 5.51 ERA, 10 K / 4 BB, 1.41 WHIP
No doubt affected by shoulder problems that would quickly end his 2007 season, Crain pitched very poorly in 18 appearances. He underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum and rotator cuff at end of May, and it is entirely possibly that he will not pitch again in the major leagues.
JULIO DEPAULA: FDePaula got his major-league career off to a very ugly start with the Twins this year. He walked more men than he struck out, he allowed tons of hits, and he surrended five home runs in 20 innings. My lasting memory from DePaula this season will be the time in early September that he entered a game against the White Sox in the ninth inning with the Twins ahead by six, and proceeded to surrender five earned runs without recording an out, allowing the Sox to get back into the game and eventually win.
20 IP, 8.55 ERA, 8 K / 10 BB, 2.00 WHIP
20 IP, 8.55 ERA, 8 K / 10 BB, 2.00 WHIP
PAT NESHEK: B+70.1 IP, 2.94 ERA, 74 K / 20 BB, 1.01 WHIP
After an astonishing first half in which he posted a 1.70 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .129 batting average, Neshek saw some serious regression after the All-Star break, where those numbers dropped to 4.82 and .260. Neshek posted a stellar K/9 rate of 11.1 in the first half, but that rate dropped off to 7.1 in the second half. Meanwhile, he walked one more batter in 28 post-break innings (14) than he did in 42 1/3 innings before the break (13). Neshek's overall results were still great, but the dramatic drop-off in the second half raises questions about whether his team-leading 74 appearances were too many.
JUAN RINCON: D-
59.2 IP, 5.13 ERA, 49 K / 28 BB, 1.56 WHIP
A crucial member of the Twins' bullpen for the past four seasons, Rincon saw his playing time diminish along with his control and his ability to keep the ball in the park. Rincon gave up nine home runs in 2007, which equals the total he allowed over the past three seasons prior -- a span of more than 200 innings. After watching his ERA shoot up to 5.71 with a brutal outing in Toronto on July 25, Rincon never was able to get back under 5 for the rest of the season. There were no rumblings of injury issues, so it's tough to finger what was behind Rincon's putrid 2007 campaign.
MATT GUERRIER: A-88 IP, 2.35 ERA, 68 K / 21 BB, 1.05 WHIP
With a brilliant showing in 2007, Guerrier effectively turned himself from a reliable long-relief guy to a top-notch setup man. Like Neshek, Guerrier experienced some decline in the second half (1.70 before the break, 3.34 after) but it wasn't as drastic, and Guerrier actually improved his strikeout rate late in the year.
DENNYS REYES: C-
29.1 IP, 3.99 ERA, 21 K / 21 BB, 1.88 WHIP
Few people expected Reyes to replicate his magical 2006 numbers, but the drop-off in '07 was pretty steep. While the ERA was not too bad, Reyes allowed way too many baserunners this season. After walking just 2.6 batters per nine innings and holding opponents to a .197 batting average last year, Reyes saw those numbers rise to 6.4 and .309 this year. He also missed a large portion of the season due to shoulder problems.
JOE NATHAN: A-71.2 IP, 1.88 ERA, 77 K / 19 BB, 1.02 WHIP
Nathan wasn't nearly as dominant as he was in '06, as his K/9 rate fell from 12.5 to 9.7, but he continued to be one of the top closers in the league by coming through in important situations and consistently keeping opposing hitters off the base-paths.
CARMEN CALI: C-
21 IP, 4.71 ERA, 14 K / 16 BB, 1.81 WHIPAll things considered, Cali did a reasonably decent job in limited duty out of the Twins' bullpen despite having no positive history at the major-league level. His control was horrendous (16 walks in 21 innings), but he managed to work around that to post an adequate ERA.