Breakdown has a double meaning!
The Minnesota Twins have one of the worst rotations in all of baseball. The rotation currently has an ERA around 6.00. Six is terrible. I know that I felt that the Twins had upgraded their rotation this Winter, due to the simple fact that the Twins would not be using pitchers like Sam Deduno, P.J. Walters and Cole De Vries. Instead, two of those three are in the current rotation and if things don’t change quickly for Mike Pelfrey, De Vries might be taking his place. If that is the case, the rotation that ended last season will be largely the same.
The Twins have used eight different starting pitchers this season, and I feel that at least four or five more guys could make starts for the Twins this season. Let’s analyze the guys who have pitched for the Twins, and those who may take the place of some of the underperforming pitchers who currently make up the rotation.
Kevin Correia started on fire. In April, he was somehow one of the best pitchers in the American League. In May, he has been Kevin Correia. His season ERA is now just below four. His ERA in May is over six. He has a minuscule walk rate, but an even more minuscule strikeout rate. There have been only 54 instances of a strikeout rate as low as Correia’s for a full season, since 1988. Only two of those guys had an ERA below three for the full season. Correia can make a strikeout rate in this range work, but it is very tough, very rare, and it hasn’t worked in May.
Mike Pelfrey is just about one year removed from Tommy John surgery. The average recovery time is in the 12-18 month range. Pelfrey returned in 11 months and it seems like he may have needed more time to recover. His 6.85 ERA would be worst in the American League, if not for a former member of the rotation and that fact that Pelfrey doesn’t qualify for the ERA title. The fact that Pelfrey doesn’t qualify for the ERA title, despite the fact that he has been in the rotation all season, pretty much says all you need to know. He might the next guy to go, unless he turns things around very quickly.
Scott Diamond is the best pitcher of the whole lot, but he isn’t pitching like he had in the past. I did a detailed breakdown of Diamond’s 2013 compared with his 2012. You can read it here. Basically, Diamond is getting fewer strikeouts, walking more batters, getting fewer ground balls, and allowing more home runs. That is not a great combo. If he cannot reverse these trends, he may not regain the magic he conjured from 2012.
Sam Deduno is not someone who I want to watch pitch. Many disagree with me, but I find his “effectively wild” shtick to be simple wildness without any effectiveness. He walks too many batters and allows too many baserunners. He wiggles out of a lot of jams, but he puts himself into those jams too. It’s a tightrope act and his history shows that it isn’t sustainable. He may stick for the rest of the season, but I don’t expect much from him beyond a few exciting stretches surrounded by extreme frustration.
P.J. Walters doesn’t excite me either. It’s nothing personal, but Walters getting starts means that the planned rotation is in shambles. Walters did not impress me last season. He is fine if you need him for a couple starts, but is not a long-term solution to any problem that doesn’t exist in AAA. In fact, Walters has thrown almost 600 AAA innings and has an ERA of 4.45 to show for it.
Liam Hendriks was supposed to be one of the more intriguing members of the 2013 rotation and one of the more likely candidates to stick beyond 2013. Hendriks only got two starts to show what he can do, getting sent to AAA in early April. While in AAA, Hendriks was mediocre and now he is injured. My hope is that his injury explains his ineffectiveness, but Hendriks’ 22 big league starts have not been great and he wasn’t injured that whole time. I still believe in him though. He has great control and should get just enough strikeouts to be moderately successful. He may just be a 5th starter, but that might be an upgrade from some of the current members of the rotation.
Vance Worley was sent to AAA last week, after a terrible start to his 2013 season. He leads the American League in ERA (the bad way) and has seen a sharp drop in his strikeout rate. He also gave up a lot of home runs and a lot of hits. He is coming off surgery last Fall and he may be a bit overweight. If either of those issues is causing his current struggles, he can work things out. I highly doubt that he left his knowledge of pitching in Philadelphia. He’s still just 25-years-old and could be a huge part of the future if he can figure out and fix whatever is wrong.
Pedro Hernandez is not long for starting. He is basically a younger Brian Duensing. He is excellent against lefties and terrible against righties. He doesn’t have the stuff for that to change much, so he is probably destined to join Duensing in the bullpen. Duensing has been a reliable reliever in his role and perhaps Pedro Hernandez can take over that role when Duensing is no longer with the team. I think it is safe to say that he won’t be starting many games for the Twins unless things go terribly, terribly wrong.
Andrew Albers is a Minor League veteran who is getting his first taste of AAA. He has seen an increase in his Minor League strikeout rate, and that has translated to good success in Rochester. His 2.61 ERA in 48.1 innings is certainly impressive. Clearly the Twins felt that Deduno and Walters were better options. That does say something. Albers is also not on the 40-man roster, meaning someone would need to be removed to add him. However, if the Twins team is a meritocracy, he could get a chance. On the other hand, there is another guy at AAA who might be more exciting.
Kyle Gibson is the savior. Well, not really. However, he is a good starting pitcher and should be a huge part of the rotation for the next 5-7 years. Gibson could be a number 2/3 starter, if he can be consistent. He had alternated good and bad starts at AAA up until this weekend, when he strung together a second straight excellent start. If he can put a couple more good starts together, he could be the guy who replaces the next ineffective starter. Gibson is on the 40-man, so that is another positive for him.
Cole De Vries isn’t going to set the world on fire. That would be arson. The reality is that De Vries is a soft-tosser with middling stuff. However, he does throw strikes and he can get outs. He won’t be anything special, but if needed, he could give the team innings in a lost 2013 season much like he did during the lost 2012 season. De Vries is on the 40-man, so point Cole De Vries.
Nick Blackburn is also still with the organization, although he is not on the 40-man roster and he is not a good pitcher. If Blackburn makes a start during the Twins 2013 season, things are a lot worse than they are right now.
Let’s end on a semi-high note. Alex Meyer is a super prospect at this point. His ceiling might just be a number one starter. If Alex Meyer pitches for the Twins this season, the odds are that the season has gotten away from the team. However, seeing a guy like Meyer make his MLB debut might be just about the most exciting thing that happens to the Twins in September of 2013. I know the buzz would be huge, and the Twins would be wise to ensure that debut happens at Target Field. That might be the only game that I would want to witness in person, as the Twins rotation pretty much ensures that they will be nowhere near the playoffs in 2013. Semi-high note achieved.