Ok, so the starting rotation, outside of brilliant performances by Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano, is a little bit of a mess right now. Scott Baker has put forth at least a league-average effort (and his peripherals suggest he is pitching much better than that), but he might be suffering from elbow inflammation. Kevin Slowey has been disappointing, and Nick Blackburn has been throwing batting practice almost every single start. While the Twins are searching for outside help, they are preparing to slide Brian Duensing into the rotation. That’s probably a good idea.
Duensing isn’t really anything special, so Twins fans shouldn’t get too excited about the 27 year-old as a rotation savior, but he has been a fairly useful pitcher in albeit a very small sample size. The Dunce has a 2.98 ERA, 4.00 FIP, 3.69 tERA, 4.59 xFIP, and an unimpressive 1.86 K/BB ratio over just 127 innings pitched. He doesn’t miss a ton of bats, with a mediocre 5.67 K/9 rate and 8.8% whiff rate, and he doesn’t exactly feature pinpoint control, with a 3.05 BB/9 rate. However, he does get a lot of ground balls, 1.22 GB/FB ratio, and therefore doesn’t surrender a lot of home runs, just 6.8% of his fly balls end up leaving the yard. Duensing does have an extremely-low .241 batting average on balls in play this season, and that should regress more towards the league-average .303 once he steps into the rotation, but given the strength of the infield defense (a combined 34.2 UZR, 70.9 UZR/150 at all infield positions), he shouldn’t see too dramatic a rise in ERA as long as his groundball rate holds up.
Although he isn’t a cure-all for everything that ails the starting rotation, Duensing would provide a cheap, in-house upgrade over the likes of Slowey or Blackburn (or Baker, if he does end up on the DL). Slowey is struggling with his command while posting a 4.40 FIP, Blackburn is posting a 5.76 FIP and non-existent strikeout rate (3.09 K/9), and the Dunce would provide some much-needed averageness to the back of the rotation while the Twins try to sort all of this out.
Erin is a contributing writer for Twinkie Talk. Please feel free to email her at erinm725 [at] gmail [dot] com or follow her on Twitter.