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Mid-Season Grades, Part II

Today we hit the pitchers.

In the same style as the hitters, where players were listed in reverse order of at-bats, the pitchers will be listed in reverse order of innings pitched.  The primary difference is that there's only one major part to a pitcher's game, and that's pitching.  These guys all get just one grade.  Let's get to it.

Pat Neshek

Honestly, there's not much you can say at this point.  Perfect, really is all.  With that, let's roll out the first grade!

Overall Grade:  A

Dennys Reyes

After being called up at the end of April, Dennys has turned into a reliable LOOGY for the Twins.  He's been touched for all of four runs in nearly 22 innings in the first half, and in spite of working himself into some jams has been very consistent.  Utilized as a left-handed specialist, there a number of times where he's called upon to get just a hitter or two, and largely he's been very successful.  He doesn't walk many, and being he gives up about a hit per inning, this is a very VERY good thing.

Overall Grade:  B+

Willie Eyre

Eyre has been used inconsistently, and when he's been given the opportunity to pitch he's just as inconsistent on the mound.  Even when he doesn't allow runs he's allowing a mess of hits, and it's rare to see him breeze through even one inning without difficulty.  Coming into the season he was one of a number of arms in Rochester who looked to be ready for a jump, and when camp broke it was Eyre who was chosen to round out the bullpen.

Through the break he's allowed 60 baserunners in 30 innings, and with the arrival of Neshek and the presence of other valuable arms in middle relief, I'm not sure if we'll see Eyre much in the rest of 2006.  Eyre turns 28 in less than a week, so he's in his prime and hopefully will get better chances in the future.

Overall Grade:  F

Matt Guerrier

Guerrier had a hell of an April, battling all sorts of ineffectiveness before settling in during May and June before hitting the disabled list.  Used as a long reliever, Guerrier found his stride after that rough first month, often pitching 2 or 3 innings.  While he doesn't have the greatest stuff, when he's on and hits his spots he can get guys out by forcing them to hit the ball.  Unfortunately his lack of stuff is what keeps him from being a starter, and at times can cause him to be quite touchable after one time through a batting order.

Even as Lohse has been decent in the pen as of late, it's important for the Twins to get Guerrier back.  He's consistent, effective in his niche and he's confident is what he has.  Get well soon, Matt.

Overall Grade:  B

Boof Bonser

Whether you agreed with the Bonser callup in the first place or not, admit it, you enjoyed cheering for BBOOOOOOOOOOOOOOFFFFF.

Bonser had the same issues that Scott Baker had before he was sent to Rochester:  inconsistent starts.  Boof had five starts over his last 34 days in a Twins uniform, between June 1 and July 4.  Only once in this stretch was he anything resembling effective, as he was "too strong" and had issues locating his pitches.

Did Boof deserve a call up?  Probably.  Unfortunately it came at the expense of Baker, who didn't deserve to be sent down.  Bonser is still young and will have plenty more opportunities to crack the roster, starting next spring.  Until then, Boof.

Overall Grade:  D+

Joe Nathan

This guy has been absolutely fantastic this year.  It's sad that he hasn't had the chances to pitch like the past two years, because he'd be putting up some pretty hefty numbers by any standard.  As it is we have to settle for 15 saves, a crapload of strikeouts, and reading mouths of players saying things like Wow, what a curveball!

Nathan was, in my opinion, the biggest snub from the Twins in terms of All Stars.  While he hasn't pitched the innings and hasn't racked up the saves of Jenks or Rivera, he's been better than them by the numbers.  And, really, isn't that what the All Star game should be about?  Numbers?  Wait...this years numbers, or numbers over the past few years...

Overall Grade:  A

Jesse Crain

After allowing 19 runs in April and May, Crain has held the opposition to just 5 runs since June 1.  Ever so slowly his numbers are coming down to respectability after being shelled early.  The exciting thing about Crain are his strikeout numbers, fanning 33 in just over 40 innings this year after striking out only 25 the whole of last season.  That's a marked improvement.

Like many of the other Twins pitchers, Crain was at the mercy (or lack thereof) of a lethargic and lead-footed defense the first couple months of the season.  Also like many of the other Twins pitchers, he's been the beneficiary of better defense as of late, and his numbers are reflecting this.  Heading into the second half my faith has been restored in Crain, and I think he's found confidence in himself again as well.

Overall Grade:  C+

Juan Rincon

Heading into the break with an ERA hover just over 2.00, Rincon has returned to form.  His fastball has regained its zip, and he's become the strikeout machine of a set-up man we've grown to love.  In addition to the fastball, his slider has been more effective as it seems to be kept lower in the zone.  He's getting a lot more groundouts again, and this has helped him as well.

Overall Grade:  A

Scott Baker

As I mentioned earlier, Baker was sent down when he shouldn't have been.  He should have been pitched regularly, or at least used out of the pen if he wasn't going to be pitching for 9 or 10 days at a time.  In four April starts, he pitched 23.1 innings with a 3.47 ERA, giving up only 1 homer on 25 hits.  In five May starts, he went only 25.2 innings with an 8.42 ERA, giving up 9 homers on 41 hits.

There are two positives gained from sending Baker to AAA, however.  First, he was able to get regular time; regular time as a starting pitcher.  Second, a bit more time in Rochester may be giving him one more year of arbitration and affordability for the Twins.  I know, it sounds cheap, but even with a new stadium on the way we're still a fiscally challenged team.

Baker is back at it tonight, but in general his time with the Twins earlier was mixed...largely due to getting a week and half off between starts.  Unfortunately, his grade suffers because of it.

Overall Grade:  C-

Kyle Lohse

While the horrendous defense was responsibly for some of Kyle's numbers, the bottom line is that when Lohse started he couldn't get the job done.  He'd run into a jam in every game, and there was always one time when he couldn't get out of it.  In April he was walking too many and not striking out enough, and this made the hits he allowed even more dangerous.  In his 3 May starts, he allowed 3 homers in one game, walked 4 in another, and lasted just 2.2 innings in the last.  Since then he's been pitching from the bullpen with mixed results.

In his first 4 relief appearances he allowed 6 runs on 9 hits in just 6.1 innings, but in his last 4 chances before the break he allowed only 2 runs in 10.2 innings.  Hopefully Kyle is regaining his confidence and adjusting to his new role.  If he continues to pitch well, I'd expect him to be dealt by the end of July, at this point probably for an outfielder.

Overall Grade:  F

Francisco Liriano

No one imagined he could be this good, this early.  This is a Doc Gooden/Fernandomania thing right now, and you can only say one of two things:  holy cow this is amazing and please stay healthy!

Forgetting the stupid decision to start Liriano the day after the break, everything leading up to the All Star game was jaw-dropping.  Stikeouts left and right, batters losing bats and looking foolish, sliders breaking laws of physics and wins piling up like donuts on C.C. Sabathia's breakfast dish.  Liriano has been better than billed up to this point, and while it can't be this good forever (dammit), I'm going to enjoy it while the ride lasts.

Overall Grade:  A

Carlos Silva

Silva is another story of inconsistency and an inability to remain effective for any length of time.  He was extremely hittable early in the year, was sent to the bullpen, and eventually came back tothe rotation.  Once back in the rotation, he was still horrible for two starts, was really good for three starts, and then had two more bad outings before the break.  What exactly are we supposed to think about this guy?

He doesn't have the greatest stuff.  There's a nice fastball, and a really good sinker as long as it sinks, but once you lose the sinker you lose the fastball, and it's all downhill from there.  Thankfully Silva still doesn't walk anybody.

The three good starts in a row keep Silva from getting an F, but it doesn't do much.  He's going to have to do a lot more outings like the one he had on Sunday for that grade to get any higher.

Overall Grade:  D-

Brad Radke

Radke started the year in an awful slump, just like Carlos Silva.  And Jesse Crain.  And Matt Guerrier, Kyle Lohse and to an extend Willie Eyre.  Ouch.  Since the end of May, however, he's suddenly become Mr. Reliable.  In his last eight starts, five were quality starts, one was 2 runs in 5.2 innings, another was 3 runs in 5 innings and the last was 4 runs in 6 innings.  There's so much talk about how ineffective Radke has been, but as of late...he's been very, very solid.

I'm not sure what the issue was over those first 10 starts.  Whether he wasn't prepared mentally, if there was something wrong with his arm or if he was tipping his pitches, it's easy to think that there's a reason for how he was performing.  Maybe, along with the defense, it was just bad luck and a lack of confidence.  Who knows.  Right now, he's great, and he had another great start on Friday.

Since his start on May 29 and leading into the break Bradke had eight starts, compiling 49.2 innings with a 2.93 ERA.  Not too shabby.  With numbers like that it's too bad those first 10 starts were as bad as they were, because his grade suffers.  Oh well.  I look forward to the second half.

Overall Grade:  C+

Johan Santana

I'm making a call right now, Santana will win the Cy Young award in 2006.  He was quite mortal in his last two starts leading up to the All Star game, but he hadn't given up more than 3 runs in a start since May 23.

Even Santana got off to a slow start this year, not arriving until April 27 when he struck out 10 Royals.  Since then, it's been the Johan we all know and love.  He's compiled 5 double-digit strikeout games, and struck out 7 or more eleven times.  Every time he steps onto the mound, you feel like the Twins will win.  It's fun watching Santana, because everything he does exudes confidence.  His struggles early and his last two starts will bring his grade down a little, but only slightly.  I anticipate another stellar second half.

Overall Grade:  A-