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Wednesday Roundup

  • As noted yesterday, Ron Gardenhire announced that Scott Baker will begin the season in the rotation, while Kevin Slowey will be asked to work out of the bullpen. Baker is pretty clearly the superior pitcher, possessing the better track record and better peripherals. It will be interesting to see how Slowey reacts moving to the pen. He's always had trouble the second and third time facing hitters in the lineup.
  • Over at Fangraphs, Dave Cameron posted an article titled, Free Kevin Slowey. Cameron notes what Twins fans already know: Slowey has one of best strikeout-to-walk ratios in baseball, and even with his dangerously-high homerun rates, advanced stats like FIP and xFIP suggest he'd be capable mid-rotation starter for many teams.
  • Over the past weeks, we've talked a lot about the Twins' decision to hand starting roles to Brian Duensing and Nick Blackburn, while forcing Baker and Slowey to compete for the last spot in the rotation. Both Baker and Slowey have posted strong peripherals over the past two seasons, even while they've seen their ERAs rise. In 2009 and 2010, Baker posted a FIP of 4.13, which put him in the top 25 of pitchers who have pitched at least 200 innings in the past two years. Slowey posted a 4.39 FIP, which put him in the top half of pitchers.

Both Baker and Slowey's biggest weakness has been their propensity for fly balls. Both pitchers give up fly balls at a pretty extreme rate, and in turn give up a lot of homeruns. But, to be fair, it's pretty clear they've both been hurt by the Twins' outfield defense over the past two seasons. Between 2009 and 2010, the Twins outfield defense has rated as well-below average by UZR, and disastrous by TZL. This has certainly impacted Baker and Slowey, who rely on their outfielders far more than normal pitchers. Baker's BABIP on fly balls in 2010 was 43% higher than league average, Slowey's was 25% higher.

While Baker and Slowey both seem like good candidates to rebound in 2011, it's not clear how much we should expect them to rebound in front of a Young-Span-Cuddyer outfield.

  • Michael Cuddyer is seemingly past his foot problems. He's played in two straight minor league games, and is scheduled to make his official spring debut tonight.