clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Case For A Veteran Starter

There’s a reason they call the playoffs the “Second Season”

Jack Morris

During the last few weeks, many rumors have been floating around that the Twins expressed interested in San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner. There are a number of reasons why this deal may not be the most logical step forward for the Twins, and most of them were already laid out by a fellow Twinkie Town-er.

But there is also one reason why a veteran like MadBum might not be a bad addition to this squad, and one needs only look back at the last Twins championship season to find it...

The top three starting pitchers for the 1991 Twins posted these stat lines:

Player A- 16-9, 2.99 ERA, 244 IP, 143 ERA+, 3.49 FIP, 1.09 WHIP, 6.8 WAR

Player B- 20-8, 3.18 ERA, 204 IP, 135 ERA+, 3.76 FIP, 1.28 WHIP, 4.4 WAR

Player C- 18-12, 3.43 ERA, 246.2 IP, 125 ERA+, 3.66 FIP, 1.29 WHIP, 4.3 WAR

Based on what most people might assume about that ‘91 season, surely “staff ace” Jack Morris must have been player A or B, right? Well, actually, Black Jack was Player C, and over the course of the regular season could easily have been considered the team’s third-best pitcher behind Kevin Tapani (Player A) and Scott Erickson (Player B). In fact, Tapani led the entire squad in WAR that season.

Of course, the playoffs told a much different story. None of those starters were particularly effective in the ALCS against the Toronto Blue Jays, but look at the World Series lines against the Atlanta Braves...

Tapani: 12 IP, 4.50 ERA, 1.25 WHIP

Erickson: 10.2 IP, 5.40 ERA, 1.31 WHIP

Morris: 23 IP, 1.17 ERA, 1.17 WHIP

When the lights were shining the brightest and the pressure at its highest, the veteran came through with the most clutch performances. I don’t think anyone could reasonably say we would have taken home the WS trophy without him.

One of the biggest arguments against acquiring Madison Bumgarner (or any veteran of his ilk) is that he is no longer the pitcher of legend he once was. Heck, even this season he’d probably rank as the Twins’ 4th or 5th best starter...

Jose Berrios: 8-4, 2.89 ERA, 112 IP, 155 ERA+, 3.67 FIP, 1.08 WHIP, 2.0 WAR

Jake Odorizzi: 10-3, 2.73 ERA, 85.2 IP, 164 ERA+, 3.23 FIP, 1.07 WHIP, 2.3 WAR

Kyle Gibson: 8-4, 4.21 ERA, 87.2 IP, 106 ERA+, 3.93 FIP, 1.23 WHIP, 0.4 WAR

Martin Perez: 7-3, 4.15 ERA, 89 IP, 108 ERA+, 3.73 FIP, 1.36 WHIP, 0.2 WAR

Madison Bumgarner: 5-7, 4.02 ERA, 109.2 IP, 105 ERA+, 3.95 FIP, 1.19 WHIP, 0.8 WAR

Even Michael Pineda (5-4, 4.78 ERA, 86.2 IP, 94 ERA+, 4.37 FIP, 1.19 WHIP, 0.2 WAR) isn’t far off the pace.

But consider this: Besides Berrios, who would you have confidence in handing the ball to in Game Two of a playoff series? For me, I don’t think there is anything Perez or Pineda could do the rest of the season to earn my full trust. Odorizzi seems solid now, but he’ll almost surely regress a bit to his career norms. With Gibson, it always depends on whether “good Gibby” (lively fastball and dominant slider) or “bad Gibby” (timid nibbler) shows up.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a player with considerable playoff experience take the mound in that scenario, or at very least be available out of the pen—something he showed to be more than capable of doing in the 2014 World Series—should one of our current main guys falter early?

Bumgarner’s age is often considered a stumbling block, but he hasn’t yet ticked over into his third decade of life. The 36-year old Morris in ‘91 was even further removed, by comparison, from his early-to-mid 80s heyday.

Often, the phrase “Second Season” is used to denote the start of the MLB playoffs. The slates are wiped clean and the performances that got a team into the postseason end at game 162. While on one hand there might be a certain sense of loyalty to “dance with who brung ya”, as the old saying goes, playoff baseball is a different beast entirely.

To quote Moneyball guru Billy Beane: “My shit doesn’t work in the playoffs”. Sometimes, it takes someone who has been there before.