Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Dangerous Gambles in the Rotation

Teams generally enter every season with a few question marks in the rotation. The Twins, unfortunately, look like they'll head into the 2012 campaign with five.

With each starter slated to occupy a spot in Minnesota's rotation, there is a fair amount of upside and also significant downside. At this point there's no way to know which versions of these various Jekyll-and-Hyde acts we'll be seeing, so all we can do is hope that the Twins can come up heads more often than tails as they seek to improve on a league-worst pitching performance in 2011.

Carl Pavano has officially been tabbed as Opening Day starter – an honor that he's earned since he's the only member of this unit who threw more than 150 innings last year. In 2010 he was a highly effective innings-eater and arguably the most valuable starter on a 94-win team. Last year his results were thoroughly mediocre as he allowed more hits than any other pitcher in the league.

Heads, he remembers how to miss a few extra bats and returns to the form he showed while winning 17 games two years ago. Tails, his performance continues to descend as he ages into his late 30s.

Francisco Liriano was stellar in 2010, picking up Cy Young votes while striking out 200 hitters and earning a Game 1 ALDS start. Last year his ERA never dropped below 4.59 as he battled injuries and control issues that plagued him right up until the end of the campaign.

Heads, he regains his fastball command and helps power the top of a solid rotation. Tails, the problems that haunted him in 2011 remain present, leading to continued inconsistency and frustration before the non-competitive Twins trade him for peanuts at the deadline.

Scott Baker is the only member of this bunch who actually took care of business in 2011, and naturally his season was cut short by persisting elbow problems. Though his first-half success made him a borderline All-Star, he threw only 24 innings after the break.

Heads, Baker finally shrugs off the arm troubles that have plagued him intermittently throughout the past two seasons to pile up 200 frames for the first time since 2009. Tails, his elbow keeps on barking and limits him once again, perhaps leading to surgery.

Nick Blackburn has been a reliable, mid-rotation workhorse when healthy, hurling 400 innings with a 4.04 ERA between 2008 and 2009. Sadly, he hasn't been able to stay healthy since, and recently underwent arm surgery for a second consecutive offseason.

Heads, Blackburn overcomes his flaws and serves as an average, yet valuable, anchor in the No. 4 spot. Tails, the hits keep on coming and he struggles to another shortened and substandard campaign.

Finally, Jason Marquis is the newcomer in this equation. If he repeated his 4.43 ERA posted with the Nats last year, he'd be a decent enough fifth starter. But a 4.55 ERA and 1.43 WHIP over the course of a career that's been spent entirely in the inferior NL don't bode well.

Heads, Marquis proves to be a serviceable piece at the end of the rotation, perhaps until a better option emerges in the minors. Tails, he follows the path of former bargain bin veterans like Ramon Ortiz, Sidney Ponson and Livan Hernandez, dropping before the season's halfway through.

It's not often that you see someone flip heads five times in a row, but it happens, and if these five could live up to their potential the Twins would boast a very respectable starting corps.

Unfortunately, these coins appear to be weighted, and not in a good way. Pavano is in the twilight of his career. Liriano had a discouraging run in winter ball. Baker hasn't really been healthy since '09, and neither has Blackburn. Marquis just ain't very good.

I rue the thought of the Twins pitching staff giving up 800-plus runs again this year, and I'm holding out hope that they can turn things around drastically. Given the talent present, it's certain possible.

But I wouldn't bet on those odds. Would you?

40 comments:

NReed said...

Looking at these 5 players, only 2 of them have the potential to miss bats if all works as planned. Pavano, Blackburn, and Marquis will always be pitch to contact pitchers, which some years end up with a good ERA, but most years not. Liriano and Baker have the potential to be All Star type pitchers, but too many injuries/inconsistencies leave the chances of them being elite at odds. I am as big a Twins fan as they come, but I cannot feel at all confident in this rotation.

neckrolls said...

If you believe in FIPs, the Twins should have allowed about 45 fewer runs than they did last year. Competent defense could have shaved off a few more. So even if they pitch precisely as badly as last year's staff, they still should be able to come in under 800 runs. Maybe 750? Still not good.

JB_Iowa said...

I like the coin flip analysis here, Nick. It provides a good snapshot of what needs to go right -- and how much could go wrong -- with the starting pitching this season.

(And, neckrolls, I hope this year's infield is good enough to allow 45 fewer runs. Time will tell. I just hope we aren't all sick of watching this team by June 1.)

Jim H said...

The starting rotation will likely determine whether the Twins can contend this year. Good post, this is about how I see it as well. A number of questions, only maybe Henriks as someone who could be a big help this year.

I would of liked to see a major addition to the starting rotation. It doesn't look like it will happen this year. I am not a believer in Edwin Jackson, but a one year deal would almost make sense for the Twins, if he has lowered his demands to that.

C.Eckhoff1208 said...

The Minnesota Twins have been a team of little movement, relying on surprising mid-to-end season antics and no real team leaders. The organization has made small efforts to fix the train wreck from last year, but will move nowhere with the line-up. Marquis? Definitely not the starter they needed. They could of been a lot more effective and gone big... for once. Also, while Detroit makes blockbuster-type deals, the Minnesota Twins, as always, fail to do anything close. Lets just hope they can pull together some miraculous team play, and pray that these starters find some sort of groove. Or else, its another dud of a season for this stuck-in-the-mud team.

cy1time said...

I just flipped five times, three heads and two tails. Sounds like about a .500 season to me. Let's hope the Twins fare better when the baseball gods flip!

Mike said...

I'm betting most of these guys fall somewhere in between. My guess is that Pavano does a little better than he did last year. He won't miss more bats, but he'll still be durable and eat up some innings. The difference will be better defense behind him, which is very important for a pitch-to-contact kind of guy.

I think by this point, we all know Liriano is really up and down and is probably going to continue to be for his career. But I'm counting on a little more up than down this year as he continues to frustrate fans and the organization with his inconsistency.

Baker, I have no idea what to expect from him. I really doubt that he'll stay healthy, which is my biggest concern with him. He was very good when healthy, but he's had problems the last two years and you don't usually see elbow issues go away for pitchers without work being done.

Blackburn frustrates me more than Liriano. He shows how good he can be in May and then falls apart. I don't know if it's a durability issue or what, but it doesn't seem like he can put together a consistently "okay" season.

I think the bar is set pretty low for Marquis. He's probably an okay #5 starter. All the same, I think someone in the minors will probably take his spot before the season is done. I think his signing was just a way to give a young guy the chance to develop in the minors for another half season before being called up for a shot to stay with the MLB club.

Anonymous said...

If I had to bet the most likely senario for this group is not one of them has an ERA under 4.50 and none of them is .500. I'd say the best of the bunch is probably Baker and he's got an outside chance at being about a 10 win guy. The other four won't sniff 8 wins.

TT said...

I think that is a good summary of the guys we expect to see in the rotation. But there are actually several other pitchers who fit into the starter role.

Duensing - everyone seems to have assigned him to the bullpen, but it doesn't sound like anyone has told him that yet.

Swarzak - again everyone seems to think he is stuck in the swing man role. But he is only 26 and has shown both the durability and stuff to be in the rotation.

Terry Doyle - he is a rule 5 pick they took, in part, because of his durability. He could manage to win the 5th spot in the rotation.

The real issue for the Twins may be that they don't have much depth. As that list demonstrates.

Anonymous said...

"But a 4.55 ERA and 1.43 WHIP over the course of a career that's been spent entirely in the inferior NL don't bode well. "

Inferior NL? Is that really what you meant?

Anonymous said...

On the bright side, I think Hendriks can be a pretty good pitcher around midseason for us.

I'm not completely freaked out by our rotation as much as our incredibly bad offense. If we score more, it'll take some pressure off the pitchers and if we have another season imitating the 2010 Mariners offense, it won't matter.

Anonymous said...

Then there's the risk they've added to their everyday lineup and bullpen. After an injury-filled 2011, they've added Josh Willingham, Ryan Doumit, and Joel Zumaya and a 38-year-old shortstop to their core. Their odds of being a healthy team are extremely low, just like their odds of having consistently effective staters.

Nick N. said...

Inferior NL? Is that really what you meant?

Yes?

Hank in Circle Pines said...

Nick, since the Twins fascination with these type of pitchers goes back to the original Ryan era, what do you think it will take for the organization to change things up? Over the years we've learned the Twins Starter gets rocked in the playoffs; the Twins Starter requires an excellent defense; the Twins Starter can't pitch deeper than the 6th inning in a game, so a good bullpen is required; the Twins Starter can't pitch 170 innings in a season, much less 200, etc. These things cannot be disputed. Yet in the face of all of this, nothing changes, or, the more things change the more they remain the same (Marquis, Gibson, Hendricks).

Why do you think the team keeps trotting these guys out there and drafting more of the same? I just don't understand. This was one of the worst staffs in the league last year, partly because of terrible defense, and the solution? A 38-year old shortstop and a worse defender than Cuddy even.

I'm just really frustrated at this team, maybe I'm missing something. Are they trying to win this year? At Twins Fest Dave St. Peter said they were, but I just don't understand how you could honestly look at last year and this year and think this team is that much better?

This is my first time writing, I'm sorry but since you're a Twins expert I need someone to explain this to me. There's something I'm not getting, right?

TT said...

"Twins Starter gets rocked in the playoffs; the Twins Starter requires an excellent defense; the Twins Starter can't pitch deeper than the 6th inning in a game, so a good bullpen is required; the Twins Starter can't pitch 170 innings in a season, much less 200, etc. These things cannot be disputed. "

Not only can they be disputed, but no realistic evaluation of Twins pitching would support them. The last time the Twins failed to have a pitcher with 200+ innings was 2008. The only projected starter for next year that has failed to hit that mark at least once is Francisco Liriano.

TT said...

"I just don't understand how you could honestly look at last year and this year and think this team is that much better?"

If you compared the Twins on paper last year at this time to next year's team I you definitely would be right. But The Twins were not anything like that paper team last year.

Mike said...

"But The Twins were not anything like that paper team last year."

That's exactly right. The Twins had some players perform uncharacteristically poorly last year and were obviously dealing with a ton of injuries. 2011 Paper Twins would have been okay, the 2011 actual Twins were not. All the same, I think the Twins will be around .500 this year

Tom said...

TT, my god, you don't have to dispute every single thing. No Twins pitcher has a playoff win. The Twins has a bad defense last year and a bad bullpen and the staff was the 2nd worst in baseball. Blackburn and Baker arent the same pitcher they were 3 years ago.

For most of the season the 2011 staff was healthy. Bad D and bad bullpen led to problems. Our D isn't much better this year, nor is the bullpen. As a team, maybe we give up 20 less runs. But that's not going to do much, especially with our offense.

everyone keeps talking about a healthy morneau and mauer. Unfortunately those guys can't pitch.

Anonymous said...

I think Pavano can bounce back, Liriano is a maybe, but Baker is the key if he can stay healthy he can be a #1 or #2 for us. After that who knows? Willingham was a good signing, So was Doumit, I didnt agree with Carroll, we shoulda took a chance on Ryan Theriot. Zumya could (If healthy) steal the closer role and thats a big if. We could go .500 but that aint gonna win anything. We need Justin and Joe to be the men we signed to big deals. They need to be the cornerstones we expected them to be. If we get 4 heads outta 5 we have a chance but we I dont think we can keep up with Tigers? Wild Card is also doubtfull? We shoulda took a chance on Edwin Jackson or Hirocki Kuroda? I also think Velencia can become a good player. We have a good lineup if we can stay healthy, but again thats a big "If". We dont need "heads or tails" we need the stars to align to have a chance to make the playoffs. We will finish 2nd in the division but fall short of the Wild Card.

TT said...

"The Twins has a bad defense last year and a bad bullpen and the staff was the 2nd worst in baseball."

The Twins were a bad team last year. They had second worst offense and the second worst defense. You can argue about what elements made the defense bad, but the offense is clearly on the hitters.

"For most of the season the 2011 staff was healthy. "

Tom - I only dispute things that are wrong. Like this. Nathan was gone early in the season. Slowey was out most of the season. Capps was reportedly hurting the entire last half of the year. The rotation was relatively healthy, but Blackburn, Liriano and Baker still missed quarter or more of their starts. That leaves Pavano, Duensing and Perkins as the only key pitchers who were healthy all year and Duensing missed some starts.

The pitching was healthy only by comparison to the offense.

Tom said...

Jesus. Slowey Capps and Nathan are relief pitchers, I can't imagine what they have to do with the starters being healthy. Do you understand the difference between a "starting" pitcher and a "relief" pitcher?

Up until mid-August the starting staff was mostly healthy, and to that point those mostly healthy starters contributed to the worst record in the AL. Every starter misses a start or two. For most of the season, like I said, this was all they were dealing with.

Classic: someone talks about starters being healthy, you counter with injuries to 3 relievers.

I believe this is called "straw man". You should be a politician, really: in politics facts don't really matter anyhow. With baseball, unfortunately, people are going to call your bluff when you don't have anything useful to say.

Anonymous said...

Tom, you said the 'staff' was healthy, not that the 'starters' were healthy. Relief pitchers most definitely make up a good portion of the pitching 'staff'. In fact, they make up more than half. Words matter, don't be upset with someone else that you didn't say what you meant, and don't expect other people to understand what you meant if you don't say it. Staff & Rotation are different things.

Tom said...

The article is titled "Dangerous Gambles in the ROTATION". I'm sorry I didn't clarify that we were talking about the starting staff.

I didn't think I needed to, but apparently there are some here who either didn't read a word of the article, including the title, and merely want to be contrarian, or aren't intelligent enough to discern which usage of "staff" was implied here.

Anonymous said...

"don't expect other people to understand what you meant if you don't say it"

What, are we in 2nd grade? You aren't capable of reading this sentence:

"For most of the season the 2011 staff was healthy. Bad D and bad bullpen led to problems."

and interpolate the "staff" he's referring to is the starting staff?

Honestly, you aren't able to comprehend that? Or you arent willing to?

Jay Hamilton said...

Would the starting rotation suck as bad as it does, if Gardy wasn't so fat? Food for thought (not for Gardy!)

TT said...

Tom -

Here is what you said:

"The Twins has a bad defense last year and a bad bullpen and the staff was the 2nd worst in baseball."

"For most of the season the 2011 staff was healthy. Bad D and bad bullpen led to problems."

By what measure was the Twins starting pitching the 2nd worst in baseball?

Their starters were 26th in ERA and they were 26th in WHIP. Its only when you include the bullpen that they were the 2nd worst staff.

You seem to be trying to weasel your meaning to defend yourself, which is how politicians work.

The Twins top five starters made 132 starts last year, in 2010 they made 146. And if you add in the sixth starter its 143 in 2011 compared to 159 in 2010.

In other words, the Twins had 19 starts from guys outside the top six last year and only 3 the year before. And almost all those starts last year were the direct result of starters being injured, not because they were shuffling pitchers in and out of the rotation.

Nick N. said...


Their starters were 26th in ERA and they were 26th in WHIP. Its only when you include the bullpen that they were the 2nd worst staff.


Does this kind of nit-picking really seem productive to you?

Tom said...

TT. You got me. I misquoted my stat. Here's my appended statement:

No Twins pitcher has a playoff win. The Twins has a bad defense last year and a bad bullpen and the staff was the 5TH worst in baseball. Blackburn and Baker arent the same pitcher they were 3 years ago.

For most of the season the 2011 staff was healthy. Bad D and bad bullpen led to problems. Our D isn't much better this year, nor is the bullpen. As a team, maybe we give up 20 less runs. But that's not going to do much, especially with our offense.

Okay, there we go, the typo has been corrected. Notice it doesn't change my opinon one iota. What useful bit of analysis/opinion are you going to bring to the mix now? And no, the fact that the 2011 Twins shut down some starters late in a lost season vs. 2010 when they were in a pennant race does not prove your "point", whatever it is.

What is your point, exactly? What exactly is different about 5th worst vs. 2nd worst? Do you think I'm wrong - that the starters will magically be 5th best even though the bullpen and defense are marginally better at best? Put forth an opinon, for once, instead of just nitpicking other people's.

TT said...

"Does this kind of nit-picking really seem productive to you?"

Its not "nit-picking" to defend yourself against name calling based on "nit-picking". Particularly when the purpose of the name calling was to avoid dealing with the central issue. As I have repeatedly pointed out, the claim that the "staff" was healthy isn't true even when applied to the starters.

"Up until mid-August the starting staff was mostly healthy, and to that point those mostly healthy starters contributed to the worst record in the AL."

The Twins were in 4th place in the central division until September 10th. From Liriano's last win on the August 20th until the end of the season they won 8 games and lost 29. They went from 10.5 games back of Detroit to 32 games behind. I think injuries to the Twins rotation clearly contributed to that record.

Looked at another way. In 2010 six pitchers started 159 games for the Twins. Those same six came into spring training competing for spots in the rotation. In 2011, because of injuries, those same six pitchers started 140 games.

Was the cause of the Twins problems last year injuries to the starting staff? Hardly. But to argue that the starting staff's health problems had nothing to do with their loss of 99 games is also not true.

TT said...

"Okay, there we go, the typo has been corrected. Notice it doesn't change my opinon one iota."

So what? As I pointed out in that post, no matter whether you are talking about the whole staff or just the starters, you are wrong.

You have called me numerous names because of a nit-pick about my correct interpretation of a misstatement you made. Now, having corrected it, you accuse me of nit-picking. And you still ignore the central issue, was the "staff" actually healthy?

Mike said...

I think TT has a point. If you're going to say that the Twins had an awful rotation in 2011, and then try to back that up with various stats, the stats aren't entirely telling when you have that many starts taken by fill-ins. It doesn't really matter the reason why the Twins' 7th or 8th starting choices were starting those games.

Rotation health was certainly part of the equation to the disastrous 2011 campaign. It obviously wasn't the only thing wrong with that team.

Am I the only one who thinks the Twins' defense got quite a bit better? I'm underwhelmed by the Carroll signing, but I think people forget just how bad the MI defense was last season, and forgot what it was like watching Kubel and Young man the corner outfield spots so regularly. I'm looking forward to the routine plays being made again in the infield and seeing Span and Revere cover a ton of ground in the outfield.

TT said...

Through July last year the Twins starters were 38-41. Not great, but now terrible given their awful start. In June and July they were 25-18. Over the last two months, as injuries hit, the starters were 8-30. That's 17 fewer wins and 12 more losses from the previous two months. Its impossible to argue injuries to the Twins starters weren't part of the late season collapse.

You could easily argue that injuries to starters were largely responsible for that collapse. The Twins offense actually scored more runs (96) in September/October than it did in March/April(82).

In fact, outside of March/April(82 runs) and July(139 runs), the Twins offense was pretty consistent around the 100 run mark. May(105), June(100), August(97). They certainly stumbled some at the end, but it was nothing like the collapse of the starting pitching.

Tom said...

TT and Mike, please read before you comment.

I said: "Up until mid-August the starting staff was mostly healthy."

It's there, read it. I didn't say "after mid-august, the staff wasn't healthy," but I guess I again overestimated the ability of commenters to "connect the dots" in everyday English. Nor did I define the word "mostly", again foolishly believing that anyone capable of using a computer would understand its meaning.

But you guys are obscuring the original point - you have a clever way of doing that, of turning a conversation into nitpicking to conceal the fact that you have nothing interesting or insightful to say. The original points Hank made:

-As pitch to contact types, Twins starters need a good defense. The Twins have upgraded their defense, but only significantly at one position (LF).
-Twins pitchers tend to break down very easily (hey, I'm not disputing their injury history, while simultaneously saying they were mostly healthy for a large part of the season last year! That's called nuance, or subjectivity, or critical thinking!), so the bullpen is important. The Twins have not improved the bullpen (maybe made it worse).

To summarize:
1. Bullpen and defense are critical to our starters' success.
2. Twins have not significantly improved in these areas.
3. Not much optimism for 2012 starting staff.

Mike said...

Alright, Tom, if you want to be a prick, go ahead and be a prick. Just don't be surprised if other people don't take too kindly to your attempts to degrade their intelligence.

First of all, your initial post was inaccurate, not to mention ambiguous. You reference being the 2nd worst staff (which is only true of the whole staff) and then make things more ambiguous by referencing how bad the bullpen was, which doesn't really impact how poorly the starting staff performed, but does impact how poorly the overall staff performs. Yes, the primary article was about the rotation, but you were referencing the entire staff. Had TT been addressing what was written in the initial post, he would have addressed his comment to Nick.

Second of all, nowhere did I ever state that you don't understand that the staff wasn't healthy until mid-August. In fact, if you would read what I wrote carefully, you would see that I acknowledge as much. You're trying to skew things by saying that the starters were so awful because of the season-long stats that they put up. And what I said was that that skews things. The regular starters didn't pitch nearly as much in September, October, and the latter part of August. The starter's performances were also SIGNIFICANTLY worse during that time, skewing things downwards.

The team was only five games out on what? July 26 or so?

And did you ignore my entire last paragraph? I stated that the defense is quite a bit better. It's better in LF and it's better in the middle infield. Yeah, Carroll isn't great, but he isn't one of the worst defensive middle infielders in the game, so that's actually a huge improvement over last year. Unless you didn't watch much last year and think that the MI defense was actually average or good. In which case, kudos to you.

I think the starters are more critical to the bullpen success. The bullpen is primarily critical to the starters by being able to preserve wins or keep close games close. Again, your last paragraph before you summary intertwines the two areas- starters and relief pitchers. The relievers are very important for the team success, particularly if the starters break down, health-wise. They aren't important for the starters' actual success. That's called a nuance that requires minimal critical thinking to understand.

But hey- you say up until mid-August, "those mostly healthy starters contributed to the worst record in the AL," so let's see where they were on August 15. They were actually ahead of 3 teams and tied with one more. Of course, Baker started having problems before that (for all of August), so despite the really poor start, they were only 7 games out as of July 31. They finished 32 games out. I don't know why you seem to be taking such offense to the suggestion that maybe, just maybe, starting pitching health had something to do with such a precipitous fall.

TT said...

"I said: "Up until mid-August the starting staff was mostly healthy."

It's there, read it. I didn't say "after mid-august, the staff wasn't healthy," but I guess I again overestimated the ability of commenters to "connect the dots" in everyday English."

You left off a part of your statement, here it is in full:

"Up until mid-August the starting staff was mostly healthy, and to that point those mostly healthy starters contributed to the worst record in the AL. "

In fact, they didn't contribute to the 'worst record in the AL' up to that point. That worst record was a direct result of their failure to stay healthy after that date.

The point is that the Twins collapse in August and September was largely driven by the injuries to the starting staff. The starting staff was actually quite effective when healthy in June and July.



That directly contradicts the point you seem to be trying to make. Although I expect you will change your point again and accuse me of using "straw men" and nit-picking. What you want is, not for people to "connect the dots", but to disconnect them so you can change the subject.

Jay Hamilton said...

1B: Rich Reese 2B: Nick Punto 3B: Gary Gaetti SS: Leo Cardenas LF: Dan Gladden CF: Ted Uhlaender RF: Kirby Puckett C: Tom Tichinski. Even with that defense, our pitch-to-contact sucky starters might win, at best, 45 games between them. Gardy is fat and our starters are lame. Keep Frankie and jettison the rest, hopefully for a couple of good, LIVE arms.

Tom said...

To summarize:
1. Bullpen and defense are critical to our starters' success.
2. Twins have not significantly improved in these areas.
3. Not much optimism for 2012 starting staff.

Tom said...

"The starting staff was actually quite effective when healthy in June and July."

And they were quite uneffective when healthy in April and May. April and May count as much as June and July. On the whole the starting staff was poor last year.

Tom said...

"What you want is, not for people to "connect the dots", but to disconnect them so you can change the subject."

You are confusing me with you. Once again I will summarize the points I made:

1. Bullpen and defense are critical to our starters' success.
2. Twins have not significantly improved in these areas.
3. Not much optimism for 2012 starting staff.

Yes, I was marginally off on a couple stats. What you and Mike do is latch on to minor statistical errors to discredit my point while ignoring the point itself. This is a tried and true debate tactic, particularly when you're losing or don't really have a rebuttal: ignore the point, discredit the source. Fine. That's your prerogative.

But the point remains, the STARTING STAFF was poor last year, and it wasn't hard to see that bad D and a bad bullpen were part of the cause. And you can make the case that we haven't really addressed either of those. Yes, Mike thinks the D will be much better with a 38-year old SS and Bed Revere; it could be. But Willingham is a downgrade, the other half of that "poor MI" defense hasn't changed, Carrol is really old so T-Nish is going to see plently of time, Ryan Doumit is pretty bad defensively, etc. And the bullpen is worse, I'm not sure how you could say it's any better considering Nathan's gone.

You can beat yourself up poring over the tiniest minutia - 2nd worst or 5th worst?? 11th place or 15th? - but by doing so you ignore the larger point.

Tom said...

Oh, one more thing, TT:

"That worst record was a direct result of their failure to stay healthy after that date."

This hits at what I suspected you and Mike are getting at: that you are such Twins bobos that you are blaming last year 100% on injuries. If that's the case, fine, you should apply for a job with the Twins PR department.

But most of us semi-objective Twins fans are trying to look beyond the injury excuse to get a better understanding of where this team is at. And one thing that's obvious to me is, if you're going to keep churning out these pitch-to-contact starters, and you're not going to spend a lot of cash, the best value for that limited cash is defense and bullpen, two things that can be had relatively cheap. This is how the old Terry Ryan Twins operated in the Dome. Hell, look at 2010 for an example of how effective the starters can be with good D and a good pen.

I'm not sure how blindly defending every move the Twins make contributes to the discussion. But, like I said, that's your prerogative.