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  • Top '13 Stories: #5 - A Dismal Starting Rotation

    The 2012 Minnesota Twins starting rotation was 29th our of 30 MLB teams in ERA. They identified this as their number one issue and responded with a major trade, several free agent signings, and a top prospect’s promotion. The result? The 2013 Minnesota Twins starting rotation ranked 30th in ERA.

    Not all the moves were fruitless. The Twins biggest free agent acqusition of the offseason – signing starting pitcher Kevin Correia to a two-year deal – looked solid through the first year of the deal. He led the team in innings and compiled a league average 4.18 ERA. The most pleasant surprise of the year was when Andrew Albers, who had been rescued from the Can-Am independent league, provided some midseason excitement and ended the year with a 4.05 ERA. And Sam Deduno, when he was healthy, rode his eclectic pitches to an ERA under 4.

    But those positive developments were buried under an avalanche of disappointments. Vance Worley, who had been acquired in a trade with the Phillies and was the Opening Day starter, was brutal for 10 starts and didn’t look much better in AAA. Scott Diamond, the only member of the 2012 rotation who thrived, started the year hurt and bounced between AAA and the majors. Free agent signing Mike Pelfrey, rushing a return from Tommy John surgery, was brutal in April, and merely below average the rest of the year. And top pitching prospect Kyle Gibson made 10 late starts without generating much momentum. Those four were supposed to be the 80% of the rotation behind (and in front of) Correia this year.

    But you don’t finish dead last without a lot of additional support. Pedro Hernandez, who the Twins acquired for Francisco Liriano, had the 5th most starts on this team. He also had a 6.83 ERA. Liam Hendriks started eight games: 6.85 ERA. PJ Walters at least was under a 6 ERA in his eight starts. Cole de Vries was mostly hurt, still started two games late, and had a 10.43 ERA. Finally, lottery ticket Rich Harden never threw a pitch at any level.

    For the third year in a row, the story of the Twins season was the story of a starting rotation that failed. This offseason, the front office has been more aggressive financially in addressing this ongoing issue. That’s an appropriate response. Twins Territory hopes there is an appropriate result and that we’re not writing this story again next year.
    Comments 8 Comments
    1. AM.'s Avatar
      AM. -
      A discussion of the dismal start of the rotation in 2013 should include the historically low strikeout rates, especially given an era where teams are succeeding in large due to an increased focus on strikeouts.
    1. beckmt's Avatar
      beckmt -
      The bulk of these starters were not very good. Most of them will be AAA filler or gone from the system in the next two years. Strikeout rates are nice, but command with stuff is what is needed. The strikeout rate should be higher next year, but not greatly higher.
    1. TheBigGuy7273's Avatar
      TheBigGuy7273 -
      Does anyone think this was the plan when TR returned???? They will at the very least, be much more competent this year then the past few!
    1. BigTrane's Avatar
      BigTrane -
      I saw Albers (and Dozier) as rays of light late in the season after what you rightly call an 'avalanche' of disappointment. Simply put, there was no truly competitive/coherent rotation in place, and that pressure just cascaded through the system, from Pelfrey to Gibson and beyond.

      Nolasco and Hughes stand to be serviceable or better, they buy breathing room for guys who need to spell in the minors (looking at you, Gilmartin). If they over-perform, then great.

      If we go on to add another starter (Tanaka? unlikely. Arroyo? Possible. Johan? MiLB deal = lo/no risk) then we have a total makeover and gain flexibility in trades going forward.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by beckmt View Post
      Strikeout rates are nice, but command with stuff is what is needed.
      This is the key... whether someone throws 88 or 98... Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay didn't throw 94+. It's not just about velocity.
    1. MrHockey's Avatar
      MrHockey -
      Good point Seth. Jim Hoey is a good example.
    1. Paul's Avatar
      Paul -
      Quote Originally Posted by AM. View Post
      ... especially given an era where teams are succeeding in large due to an increased focus on strikeouts.
      The "increased focus" on strikeouts is purely a fan focus. Teams covet the best pitchers. The best pitchers generally strike more people out than the lesser pitchers. Teams with the best pitchers succeed at a higher rate. To say teams succeed because they focus on strikeouts is analogous to saying wet streets cause rain.
    1. John Bonnes's Avatar
      John Bonnes -
      What this story drove home, to me, is how just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong with the starting rotation this year. When 80% of the guys you count on either take enormous steps (Diamond, Worley) backwards or aren't ready (Pelfrey, Gibson), then it's going to be a bad year.

      And when almost all of the fill-ins for them are absolutely dreadful - then things get even uglier. Just look at those guys. Deduno was good for a half year. Albers was competent for 1/4 of the year. The rest were brain-freezing bad.

      After writing this, I had one thought - it seems silly to say this, because it's what was said before last year, but here it is - it really can't get much worse. But it's true. It really can't.
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