Sorting out the playoff rotation

Seven games up. Eighteen games left to play. Is the race over? No, not officially. Can we start talking about October? Absolutely.

If the Twins hold the lead in the division, and if the Twins win the division, the biggest question facing our squad will be who toes the hill in the playoffs. The first two spots seem pretty obvious: games one and two will be pitched by Liriano and Pavano (I'd like to say with certainty that Liriano is your Game 1 starter, but after suggesting that to some pretty passionate Twins fans yesterday, I get the impression that there are still many who would rather see Pavano pitch the opener of any playoff series). No matter the order, though, it's seems very likely that Liriano and Pavano are both penciled in as front-line playoff starters. That's good news for the Twins: those two can stand up to any other one-two punch in baseball.

But what about after Liriano and Pavano?

At this point, Brian Duensing seems likely to be the #3 starter, considering his tremendous performance and solid consistency since joining the rotation. He's posted a 2.18 ERA and 3.89 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his 9 starts, and has yet to give up more than 4 runs in any appearance. But it's worth noting that much of Brian's success as a starter has come against weak opposition: in 9 starts, he's faced the Royals twice, along with the Orioles, Indians, A's, and Tigers. His two worst starts came against the Rangers and Rays, two likely playoff opponents. Against those teams, he gave up 7 runs in 12 innings, with 8 strikeouts, 5 walks, and 3 homers.

Duensing's competition comes from Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey, both of whom carry considerable question marks. Baker, who has a 4.60 ERA on the season, is hurt, and may not even be used as a starter down the stretch, depending on how he bounces back from the injury. Slowey is just back from the DL, and has only managed to make it through nine total innings in his two starts since returning to the rotation.

Here's how Baker and Slowey have fared this season:

ERA

IP

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

FIP

xFIP

Scott Baker

4.60

160.1

7.4

2.1

1.2

4.02

4.04

Kevin Slowey

4.24

146.1

6.6

1.7

1.2

3.97

4.53

The dark horse for a spot in the playoff rotation? Nick Blackburn. Yes, the same Nick Blackburn who got demoted in July. He's also the same Nick Blackburn who has a 1.71 ERA is 5 appearances (4 starts) since returning the team on Aug. 23. Here's a brief comparison of Nick's numbers before and after the demotion:

IP

ERA

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

FIP

SwStrike

Before

104

6.66

3.03

2.34

1.64

5.68

3%

After

31.2

1.71

5.68

1.99

0.28

3.01

7%

Remember, those "after" numbers include two starts against the playoff-bound Rangers. If anything, Nick's success since coming back from Rochester only muddles the playoff rotation picture further, especially given the health concerns and inconsistency we've seen from Baker and Slowey. After his disastrous start to the season, I don't think anyone could have predicted that Nick would be putting himself in contention to be a starter in the playoffs. But now that he's missing more bats and getting more groundouts, it seems very possible that he could leapfrog Baker and Slowey if the Twins decide to use a fourth starter in October.

Thankfully, the Twins have a few weeks to sort out the many options to fill the back-end of their playoff rotation. Obviously there is no reason to start penciling anyone of these pitchers into the rotation until we get closer to October, and we have time to see how Baker and Slowey recover, and whether Blackburn's turnaround is for real. The team will be able to use the next few weeks as an audition of sorts for Duensing, Baker, Slowey, and Blackburn as they attempt to pitch their way into the playoff rotation. They can then determine who gets the start in game 3, and whether they'll need a fourth starter deeper in the playoffs.

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join Twinkie Town

You must be a member of Twinkie Town to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Twinkie Town. You should read them.

Join Twinkie Town

You must be a member of Twinkie Town to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Twinkie Town. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9351_tracker