Quality over Quantity


At this point of the season, the Twins (5-15) have a lot of problems and obviously very few solutions. One of those problems is starting pitching. They have used 6 different starters who have averaged as a group under 5 innings per start and nearly four earned runs allowed (3.9) in those 5 innings per contest. In 99 total innings, they’ve allowed 78 earned runs for a combined ERA of 7.09. In the twenty starts so far, they have three—three—quality starts, two by Carl Pavano and one by Liam Hendriks.

A quality start (QS) is defined as a start during which the starter pitches a minimum of 6 innings and allows a maximum of 3 earned runs. While not a stat that is commonly tracked or referred to, the quality start is useful in identifying pitchers who add value a team by giving a team innings (thus not taxing its bullpen) and making them beneficial innings (not digging the team in an early 4-0, 5-0 hole each game). This is something that would go a long way in aiding the ailing Twins. Would you be happy with Nick Blackburn and Jason Marquis pitching to a 4.50 ERA? While that number doesn’t look outstanding, it would mean they’re giving you 6 innings of work and limiting the damage to 3 earned runs night in and night out. I would take that in a heartbeat. So where can Minnesota get these quality starts?

Most members of their current rotation should provide them with a quality start every other time they pitch. A big emphasis on the should. That’s based in part on their performances in 2011. Pavano had the AL’s 24th-best best quality start rate (QS%) with 18 quality starts, a 55% QS rate; Anthony Swarzak (8 QS for a 73% clip), Marquis (57%), Brian Duensing (50%), Francisco Liriano (50%), and Blackburn (46%) also averaged close to one QS for every two games started. Rounding out last year’s starters, we had Scott Baker (48% QS%), Scott Diamond (43%), Kevin Slowey (25%), and Hendricks (25%).

To put it simply, the Twins need some quality pitching from their rotation fast if they hope to salvage this season. To do so I suggest they reconfigure their rotation as follows:

Pavano, Diamond, Swarzak, Duensing, and Blackburn/Marquis

  • Pavano – he’s the de facto ace of the club and the only current starter close to the 4.50 ERA quality starters should target at the minimum.
  • Diamond – in four starts in Rochester, the guy’s put up four QS. Check out his game log here, and then see why he deserves to be in at least one major league team’s rotation (and I mean the Twins’, of course).
  • Swarzak – he doesn’t need to be stretched out again, and his only really rocky outing was the start against the Yankees.
  • Duensing – he would need a little time to be stretched out again, so I would give Blackburn and Marquis a few more games each to try and show their worth and then replace Duensing in the bullpen with Liriano. Make Francisco a LOOGY if that’s all we can get from him, for heaven’s sake. Duensing may not miss many bats, but it’s QS we’re aiming for at this point, not K’s.
  • Blackburn/Marquis – while I’d prefer to see Hendriks here, I don’t see the harm in sending him back Rochester for some work. There’s little point in having the young 23-year-old get beat up in the big leagues instead of gaining confidence in AAA. Sending him down after spring training was the original plan, after all, before Baker’s surprise Tommy John surgery. While the aforementioned two vets don’t offer much, they are under decent-sized contracts and there aren’t many other alternatives. Maybe we can bring back Brad Radke and ask him to do his best Jamie Moyer impersonation. Radke…now there was a quality pitcher…sorry for the reminiscing.

Ok Ron Gardenhire, Terry Ryan, go do something—anything—to get some quality starts from our rotation. If we wait any longer, there will be no season worth salvaging.