Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rocky Rotation

After coughing up seven runs on nine hits while recording just six outs against one of the league's worst teams last night, Brian Duensing now owns a 5.12 ERA on the season, including 7.42 since the All-Star break. Right-handed hitters, who were slugging .546 against Duensing entering the contest (a mark that would rank 11th in all of baseball for a hitter), ripped five more extra-base hits against him in the disastrous outing.

The Twins are asking for trouble if they're figuring Duensing into their future plans as a starter at this point. The problem is, the same can be said about nearly every member of their rotation.

Nick Blackburn may have dodged a bullet with his latest arm injury, but his deteriorating command and his 6.32 ERA since the start of July must have the team wondering how much they can rely on him, especially after a substandard 2010 campaign.

Francisco Liriano owns a 4.85 ERA this season and hasn't been able to settle into a prolonged groove. Carl Pavano has allowed the most hits in baseball.

All of these starters are under team control for next year, but with the way things have played out this summer, can any of them be counted on to be even quality mid-rotation options for a contender?

Kyle Gibson, whom the club almost surely had in their plans for next year, may end up needing Tommy John surgery, which would put him on the shelf until 2013.

Scott Baker, the only Twins hurler whose performance has been good enough that you could feel comfortable penciling him into next year's starting five, continues to battle elbow problems that have plagued him since last year, raising long-term doubts about the durability of his arm.

The wide array of issues circling the Twins' rotation creates plenty of questions, but also makes three things crystal clear as we look ahead to next year:
1. Kevin Slowey must be retained. 

I'm sure the Twins would like nothing more than to part ways with the embattled righty, but right now that doesn't look like a luxury they can afford. Entering his final year of arbitration, Slowey will likely cost only half what a starting pitcher of comparable ability would command on the open market. He's necessary depth.

2. Liriano also must be kept.

Liriano is making $4.3 million this year and will get a raise in arbitration. Are the Twins willing to pay that price for a pitcher coming off such a tumultuous year? Undoubtedly they'll be listening to offers for Liriano this winter, but in their position they'd be wise to hang onto the frustrating southpaw and hope for the best. He's the most talented starting pitcher they have, and you bet on talent above all else.

3. Seek a starter with some upside who can miss bats.

Even if Baker is healthy entering next season, you're counting on the reliably unreliable Liriano and a bunch of a extremely hittable strike-throwers to comprise the rest of your rotation. That's just not a recipe for conquering the Yankees or Red Sox in the playoffs. The Twins need to identify a pitcher who has demonstrated the ability to dominate. The list of pending free agents includes Edwin Jackson, Hiroki Kuroda, Chris Young and Rich Harden. Maybe you get brave and take a shot at Wandy Rodriguez. Take a risk, and break the mold. After a season like this, the status quo is not acceptable.


mgraves said...

Mea Culpa. That leaves two (or possibly three, assuming Slowey stays with the club) major league quality starters going into next year.

Assuming I am not recalled--I've been the guy defending Duesing's place in the rotation. Right now, he looks like last year's summer Blackburn. Not that you need to hear it from me--you certainly appear correct.

Matt said...

Take a risk, and break the mold. After a season like this, the status quo is not acceptable.

Boy, do I ever agree with that.
However, I doubt the Twins will do this.

I would have liked to see them trade Cuddy, Kubel, and anyone else a contender might want for the stretch run, for some minor league pitchers (at least one or two high minors guys) with some real potential and value. Instead, they stood pat. I believe they'll do the same again.

Let's be honest, here. Any team running Pavano and Duensing out every fifth day needs some serious luck to even win the central, let alone the WS. I don't care who is batting.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand this reasoning. Why do you keep two more starters that you don't have to keep that are almost as bad as the ones you have to keep? If you trade Liriano and Non-Tender a worthless Slowey you save 10 million next year. Slowey will make 3 million and Liriano close to 7. Slowey isn't worth half that. He hasn't earned the right to pitch this year for the Twins being medicore in AAA ball and getting rocked starting for The Twins. Most importantly he has never been good.
I agree move Duensing to the bullpen but also trade Liriano. You should get something okay back. Non-Tender Slowey.
The Twins will have money to sign a top pitcher. Go for broke with a real guy not Wandy. CJ Wilson is available and the Twins have money to spend. Just getting CJ Wilson improves the club by 4-5 wins a year. Along with Baker, Blackburn, Pavano & Hendricks you have a decent group of guys. You also by just moving Duensing to the bullpen improved it.

cy1time said...

Why is the waivers/claiming process such a big secret? I read that Kubel and Thome have been claimed. Sounds like Thome was claimed by White Sox, but nothing on who claimed Kubel. Why don't they just come out and say who was waived and who claimed whom?

Mike said...

@anonymous- I don't understand your reasoning. The Twins are hard up for decent starting pitching and you think they'll be better off trading Liriano because they'll get someone okay.

But if the Twins are so hard up for pitching and Liriano isn't good enough to keep and will cost $7 million next year, how do you figure they'll get a decent return for him?

Slowey will be a fine starter. No one is saying he's top of the rotation, but he'll be fine. He's done okay in his time in the MLB overall and he was very good in spring training.

Anonymous said...

People tend to overlook the real problem with the Twins' pitching staff. The problem begins with their pitching coach Rick Anderson. He needs to go away. It seems like pitchers get better once they go somewhere else and away from him. The first move the Twins need to make is give Anderson his walking papers

Anonymous said...

I agree, Anderson needs to go bye bye. So does Matt Capps, Phil Dumatrait, Alex Burentt and Brian Duensing. Clean house. We need big league pitchers not guys who would give up home runs to Little Leaguers. Also don't forget the brilliant moves of Billy Smith sending JJ Hardy, an All-Star this year, for some bum named Jim Hoey, who would have trouble in any league

Anonymous said...

Yeah Kevin Slowey is going to be fine... Besides his win total he has been a below average pitcher in the major leagues. I said an okay return for Liriano. So, a couple of B level prospects. My point is Liriano at this level is maybe 1 win better than Blackburn or Pavano who they basically have to keep. They don't need to keep Liriano and they can use his 7 million on a real pitcher. An Ace. And Boom goes the dynamite.

Anonymous said...

After Slowey's latest dumpster fire of a start against the powerful Orioles, let's not kid ourselves that he's a playoff caliber starter. I can't see any reason to bring him back next year. He's terrible - and doesn't seem like he wants to be here anyway.

SadPanda said...

So it looks like we are going to get swept in a four game series at home against the Orioles. We got outscored 24-4 (assuming there are no runs in the 9th).

Is this the lowest point of our season?

Anonymous said...

The low point was when it was obviously we weren't getting to the playoffs. Who cares now? they can lose all the rest of their games and we will get the 1st pick in the draft. That's a plus. Liriano of course got hurt after another joke start. If it's series they won't get anything for the chump.

Kel said...

All pitchers are fair game if you ask me. None of them have distinguished themselves. Although I'd give Nathan and Perk their spots back, moving Perk to the rotation.

The rest of the guys are below ordinary, except for Frankie every now and then is dominant.

Twins need new hitting coach and pitching coach.

Laches said...

Excellent post. It all comes back to starting pitching. It always does. It's the main reason this year has been such a disaster. It's the main reason for the Twins lack of playoff success. (Think TK would have gotten very far in '87 or '91 if he had to send the likes of Boof Bonser or Brian Duensing to the mound?)
Your approach is rational. Sure, it's easy to scream "get rid of the entire staff", but who do you replace them with? There aren't many internal or external options.

Marshall Garvey (MarshalltheIrish) said...

I'd at least hire Paul Molitor to replace Joey Vavra as the hitting coach. Not only have the Twins failed to produce a winning hit in the playoffs in eons, but the offense is practically nonexistent now. Molitor's not just an all-time hitting great, but he was also clutch in the postseason and is always close to the Twins organization. I say bring him in...and fire Bill Smith too. Replace him with a Theo Epstein/Pat Gillick type, someone who's really set on winning a championship and willing to do whatever it takes.

As for new pitching, Nick, I like your suggestions, but if possible, I'd love to see the Twins take a splash on one of the top-tier lefties that's going to available this offseason. What do you think the odds are that they'd be able to afford C.J. Wilson? I think he'd be a great pickup, but my instinct is to expect the team to just roll with the current awful staff and expect it to pan out next year.

Anonymous said...

Anyone want to go in on this together? We can probably get them to lower the price....