360 Degrees -- A Trip Around the Rotation

Hello, Twinkie Town.  I have been writing a regular feature this season that I call 360 degrees in which I analyze the Twins starting pitching after every trip in the rotation.  The Twins completed their seventh trip around the rotation on Friday night and below is my report.  Of course, this time the "trip" included two starts by the one and only Johan Santana.  Look for my feature every five games at SBG.  Below is my seventh edition of 360 degrees.

This lucky seventh time around the rotation, the Twins found a great way to improve their starting pitching.  The answer?  Why, just hand the ball to Johan Santana 40% of the time.  That way, only one other good outing is necessary for a 60% winning percentage.  As it turns out, the Twins only got one other good start, that by Kyle Lohse.  They also erupted for 15 runs when Silva was throwing batting practice, so as a result, the Twins won four of the five games played this time around.

Before we go to the numbers, let me take a quick break to state the obvious.  Johan Santana is a great pitcher.  He is a brilliant athlete and on the fast track to being one of the great Twins of all time.  I wonder where he'll land in the Aaron Gleeman TOP 40.  In five years, he could very well be challenging for number one over all.  Despite all of the problems that this team has, they have Santana and every five days (or two out of every five days) Twins fans should be ecstatic that he's taking the ball.  I happened to have ESPN the other night during that abomination known as "Baseball Tonight."  They had a conversation about who is the best pitcher in the American League.  I'm not sure, but I don't believe that Mr. Santana name even came up in the conversation.  If you heard that, let me know.  I'd like to get some verification on that.  I wasn't listening too closely, I'll admit.

Now, let's go to the numbers.

IP: 31 (31)
R: 15 (14)
ER: 14 (14)
H: 37 (24)
K: 29 (26)
BB: 9 (2)
HP: 1 (1)
HR: 4 (6)
ERA: 4.06 (4.06)
WHIP: 1.48 (1.16)
FIP: 3.23 (3.46)
QS: 3 (3)

The numbers are remarkably similar to the last time around (which I have added parenthetically).  One might conclude that the Twins pitching staff has started to stabilize.  And if so, these are numbers that I could live with over the long term.  In fact, I'd be pretty happy with them.  But, it is it true?

The last time out, the Twins got very good performances from Silva and Radke against the hapless Royals (who seem to open up a can of whoop-ass on the Indians every time they see them).  This time, down in the trade winds in Texas, both Radke and Silva pitched poorly.  Lohse, pitching for his job, then came out and shut the Rangers down, sort of.  It wasn't pretty (six hits and four walks in six innings), but the results were good (one run and six Ks).  Obviously, substituting Santana for Baker makes the overall numbers look better.  I'd say that the Twins probably pitched about the same over all this time around, considering the improved level of competition.  But, any illusions that this staff is going to start pitching at this level as a group should be dashed unless the trend continues.

Let's look at that last ten games, or 720 degrees, if you will.

IP    R    ER   H   BB   K    ERA  OPS  WHIP   FIP    GPA     K/9    K/BB
62  29   28   71  11   55   4.06 .813  1.32   3.35   .267    7.98   5.00

The OPS is pretty high, and that is coming from a .494 slugging percentage.  The strikeouts per 9 is excellent and so is the K/BB.  It's a good thing that the Twins aren't walking many people, because the hit total is up there.

Now let's pull Santana's three starts out of there.

IP    R    ER   H   BB   K    ERA  OPS  WHIP    FIP    GPA     K/9    K/BB
41  25   24   56   9   25   5.27 .915   1.59   4.79   .300    5.48   2.78

FIP is Fielding Independent Pitching or 3.20 + (HR*13 + BB*4 -K*3)IP, which approximates the pitcher's contribution to his ERA.  GPA is gross production average, (1.8*OBP + SLG)/4, which provides a little better balance between OBP and SLG than OPS.
The Twins' opponents are slugging .558 against everyone else over the last ten games, and that's with the two good outings against Kansas City.  Ye-ouch!  It is ugly.

In the last five games, the Twins' starters faced 134 batters.  The Twins starters walked 9, struck out 29, allowed four home runs and hit one batter.  The Twins committed three errors.  Using the Hardball Times formula for defensive efficiency, which is


The Twins DEF_EFF for the last five games is .615, which is even worse than their MLB worst total.  Our friend ubelmann recently wrote a heckuva good piece here at Twinkie Town about the Twins' defensive struggles.

As a staff, the starters allowed opponents to hit .298/.351/.448/.799 with a GPA of .270.  Let's break that down by start.

Johan Santana (I):  .160/.222/.320/.542    GPA: .180  FIP: 0.91
Brad Radke:           .524/.583/.714/1.298  GPA: .441  FIP: 5.00
Carlos Silva:           .379/.379/.724/1.103  GPA: .352  FIP: 7.03
Kyle Lohse:            .250/.357/.250/.607    GPA: .223  FIP: 2.87
Johan Santana (II): .200/.231/.400/.631    GPA: .204  FIP: 1.34

Radke let everyone get on base.  Silva got his brains beat in.  Lohse battled, but his strikeout totals were darned good and he allowed no extra base hits.  Of course, the pitcher of the rotation was Johan Santana, again.  The only question is which of the bookends you prefer, the manhandling of Detroit or the bitch slapping of the White Sox.

I hope you enjoyed my 360 Degrees feature.