I was looking at the basic pitching stats the other day and realized that the Twins have a chance to have 4 starters finish the season with:
a) 150+ innings
b) ERA+ above league average
c) and are all 26 or younger
and I was wondering how often that had happened. Then I realized that there is another American League team likely to do that this year: the Rays. Anyway, that got me to thinking more about the Twins rotation, and in particular the non-Liriano members of it--what can we make of the seasons they've had?
The first thing I noticed is that the defense, which overall has been below average at turning batted balls into outs, has been average or above average for all 4 of these guys. (The pitchers who have been hurt by the team's DER are Bonser, Hernandez, and Bass, mostly).
Blackburn is the one that has an average GB rate, the others are all significant flyballers. This is why they give up so many homers, of course; Slowey is exactly league average in % of flyballs that go out, Baker slightly above average, and Perkins too, but all very close to average. Blackburn gives up less fly balls, and actually is below league average in FB/HR %.
Slowey and Baker have the above average K rates, along with the low walk rates, Blackburn and Perkins lack the K's, though they both also have the good control. Perkins seems like the odd man out, here--mostly flyballs and limited strikeouts is not a great combination. Indeed, he has the lowest K rate and the highest BB rate among the 4.
And in fact, he also has the worst FIP--the other 3 are clustered very close to 4, Perkins is at 4.77. (Bonser, by far the unluckiest pitcher on the staff, has a FiP of 4.20). I owe an apology to Nick Blackburn, frankly, who I've always thought was the weakest pitcher of the 4. In fact, his FIP is essentially indistinguishable from Baker's and Slowey's, well better than Perkins.
Another note is that Blackburn and Perkins have had the hardest schedules among the 4, especially Blackburn. 14 of Backburn's 25 starts have been against the top 6 R/G offenses in the AL, (other than the Twins), plus he had to start in Colorado. Perkins has had 12 of 19 starts against those 6 teams, though he got both Washington and SD in interleague. Baker has had 10 of 20 against the top offenses, and SLowey has had by far the easiest-- 8 of 19 starts against the good AL offenses, plus he got both Washington and SD.
Ultimately, Blackburn has been better than I thought, Perkins a little worse. I still have the most confidence in Baker and Slowey going forward, because they have the best K:BB rates and are above league average in K/9, which is predictive. They will both give up an above average number of homers, but a lot of successful pitchers give up lots of homers. But I'm now wondering if Blackburn might have enough ancillary skills to maintain a career. Ultimately, I think he'll have to develop into a true ground baller to survive, since his HR/FB rate is lower than it will be long term, so he'll have to limit the flyballs even more. Still, he's performed admirably this year. Perkins has been OK, but he's going to have to find a way to strike more guys out. He has the lowest K rate among the 4, and survive I think he's going to have to increase it, which seems possible but what do I know?
At any rate, it's nice to see the Twins go with the young guys, and it certainly is an inexpensive and potentially effective rotation--one stud (Liriano) and 4 guys clustered around league average is a good rotation. We'll see if it's kept intact, how they perform, and whether Bonser ever gets another chance...
what say you?