Minnesota Twins: Analyzing Dreadful 2012 Starting Pitching, And Looking Ahead to 2013

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Sunday March 17th, 2013

After very disappointing seasons in 2011 (63-99) and 2012 (66-96), the Twins look to rebound in 2013.  The Starting Rotation has been revamped, but still bolsters heavy question marks.

After very disappointing seasons in 2011 (63-99) and 2012 (66-96), the Twins look to rebound in 2013. The Starting Rotation has been revamped, but still bolsters a lack of experience and a proven #1 starter.  In the American League it will mean trouble against the upper echelon teams.

Jake Dal Porto (Baseball Writer)

The Minnesota Twins’ pitching staff was downright awful in 2012. Yes, that’s a harsh assessment, but I think everyone would agree, including the numbers.

Per FanGraphs, the Twins’ rotation posted the worst ERA in the American League with a 5.40 mark. When only the Colorado Rockies had a worse ERA over in the National League, something was seriously wrong, which was indeed the case.

To no surprise, the Twins’ rotation was weak across the board. They had the fourth worst HR/FB (Home-run to fly ball ratio) in baseball. The second worst home-run per nine innings ratio. The worst xFIP (Fielding Independent Percentage). And lastly, the lowest strikeout per nine innings ratio. Worse, these are just a few stats. The list could probably eat up a whole page.

But enough. We get the point: The Twins’ rotation was really bad last year. Now the question is what pieces caused this disaster that probably won’t improve in 2013?

From a broad view, inexperience was the primary complication. From there, several problems arose, especially when injuries struck, or when the regulars were replaced in favor of a young prospect. You could also say that they just didn’t have a ton of talent to compete. It’s a simple theory, yet a fairly accurate one.

Nick Blackburn, 30, was one of Minnesota’s most experienced starters, but his 7.39 ERA in 19 starts skews the experienced point. Carl Pavano, 36, had a 6.00 ERA in 11 starts, and after his start on June. 1, he didn’t pitch again with a shoulder problem. Lastly, Jason Marquis, 33, had a 8.47 ERA in seven starts, and the Twins released him on May 22.

Twins Pitchers at Fort Myers:

Liriano was a bit of a risk with the Pirates for the $1 MIL base salary - and his Team Option cold bite that lub for next year (if Liriano plays the majority of the year, pitches poorly - and makes $5 MIL, $6 MIL or $8 MIL.  The Twins traded away the inconsistent starter to the White Sox in 2012

Liriano was a bit of a risk with the Pirates for the $1 MIL base salary – and his Team Option cold bite that club for next year (if Liriano plays the majority of the year, pitches poorly – and makes $5 MIL, $6 MIL or $8 MIL). The Twins traded away the inconsistent starter to the White Sox in 2012.

Francisco Liriano, who signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates this winter, has a host of potential that has yet to be fully developed. There aren’t a ton of Left – Hander’s that can hit 93 MPH on the radar, and compounded with a slider that can be devastating at times, Liriano did indeed have potential, and still does, mind you.

However, potential doesn’t throw strikes, and that was the continually bothering problem for Liriano. Frankly, it’s always been, and 2012 was simply a reminder of that sentiment.

Opposing hitters dominated Liriano when his command was shaky, which was often the case (12.7 Walk Percentage last year). While his slider is a dominant pitch (held hitters to a .180 average with it in 2013), it’s effectiveness slips when he doesn’t have command of his fastball because hitters don’t look for it. They look for one pitch and one pitch only—the fastball.

But enough of Liriano. He’s the Pirates problem now.

Liam Hendriks, Cole De Vries and Sam Deduno held down the back-end of the Twins’ rotation last year. Well, held down wouldn’t be the best way to put it. Hendriks, the Twins’ 7thbest prospect in 2012 per Baseball American, posted a 5.59 ERA in 16 starts. De Vries posted a 4.11 ERA in 16 starts.  Deduno had a 4.44 ERA in 15 starts.

Of the three, Hendriks, 23, has the brightest future ahead of him. He’s projected to occupy the 4th spot in the Twins’ 2013 rotation, while De Vries has a chance to earn the fifth spot. But, neither have reached ace status, and may never reach that point.

If there was a bright spot for the Twins’ rotation in 2012, it was easily Scott Diamond’s emergence. Up until the All-Star break in July, he had a 2.96 ERA in 13 starts. He did gradually slide after the break, compiling a 4.31 ERA from Jul. 16 to Oct. 3. Still, he was easily Minnesota’s best pitcher–I wouldn’t call him an ace quite yet.

Diamond isn’t a strikeout pitcher. In fact, he had the third lowest strikeout per nine innings ratio (4.68) in baseball among qualified starters. He still, however, managed to induce outs without running into much trouble, and in turn, fashioned a 3.54 ERA in 27 starts.

Now, the question is whether or not the Twins’ rotation will see improvements in 2013. They had a somewhat busy offseason, adding Vance Worley in a trade, signing Kevin Correia and also signing Mike Pelfrey. Not the type of additions that instantly catch your eye, but could certainly improve a hapless Twins’ staff.

Worley, 25, has to the potential to become a front line starter, but 2012 was a bump in the road for him, as he totaled a 4.20 ERA in 23 starts with the Philadelphia Phillies. Essentially, he simply didn’t have it. Opposing hitters hit more than .300 off his three main pitches—change up, curveball and slider—and .294 off his normal fastball. That’s not a recipe for success, and the results speak to that point.

If Worley can find success with just one of those off-speed pitches, he will improve dramatically in 2013. That’s a big if, however. But at 25 years of age, he has time.

Another big if are the statuses of Pelfrey and Correia, both of whom are trying to reestablish themselves.

In 32 games with the Pirates last year, Correia totaled a 4.21 ERA. Pelfrey, meanwhile, pitched in only three games before eventually undergoing Tommy John Surgery. We’re not talking about ringers in Correia and Pelfrey, but surely what you would figure to be upgrades over what the Twins threw out there last year.

But ultimately, the Twins will again struggle from a pitching perspective in 2013. I think you can say they will be improved in that area, but not improved enough to compete consistently.

Photo Credit: Keith Allison,

Minnesota has suffered without an ace since the days of Johan Santana.  In a park that has a decisive park advantage, the club must correct this problem for the team to compete in the AL Central versus the Tigers, White Sox and Royals, who all have better Starting Rotations.  Only Cleveland might have more question marks for their pitching staff at the beginning of this season.

*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of or their partners.***

A big thank-you goes out to our Baseball Writer Jake Dal Porto for preparing today’s featured article.   Jake is a student from the Bay Area. Jake’s favorite sports moment was when the Giants won the World Series back in 2010. He loves to use sabermetrics in his work. He thinks they are the best way to show a player’s real success compared to the basic stats such as ERA, RBIs, and Wins. Jake also enjoys interacting and debating with his readers. Follow him on Twitter: 

Jake Dal Porto

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About Jake Dal Porto

Jake Dal Porto is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score

Posted on March 17, 2013, in MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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