• Twins are behind in "Era of Pitching"

    Original post from North Dakota Twins Fan
    Twins fans are well aware of how great pitching has been across baseball this season. So far this year, there have been five no-hitters with two of those being perfect games. Two former Twins pitchers, Johan Santana and Phil Humber, accounted for two of the no-hitters. Unfortunately for the Twins, they were also on the wrong end of a no-hitter against Jered Weaver earlier this season. Combine all of these and it was a rough couple of weeks for Twins fans to watch.

    There seems to be something special in the air across baseball in recent years and pitching is at the center of this change. Following an era of baseball that was full of steroid filled sluggers, pitching seems to have regained the upper hand. Entering play on Sunday, the top 16 pitchers in the National League and the top 7 pitchers in the American League all had sub-3.00 ERAs. In contrast to the 2011 season, there were a combined 16 sub-3.00 ERAs between both leagues.

    For the Twins in 2012, there is only one starting pitcher that has a sub-3.00 ERA, Scott Diamond. He doesn't have enough innings under his belt to qualify for a position on the AL leaders board and the rest of the starters are in the same position. Most of the other Twins starting pitchers have an ERA that is well over 5.00 and the team's combined ERA of 5.12 is the second worst in all of baseball.

    But a change in ERA isn't the only sign of a shift in baseball, there seems to be a rise in the amount of hard throwing pitchers. There are plenty examples in both leagues with Justin Verlander winning the AL MVP last year and Aroldis Chapman emerging for the Reds. According to FanGraphs, the hardest thrower in both leagues out of the players that qualify is Stephen Strasburg at 96.1 mph. The top 15 fastballs for starting pitchers are all above 93.0 mph; but if you expand it to include relief pitching, there are 35 pitchers with a fastball that averages over 95.0 mph.

    Over the recent years of Twins baseball, the team has been known as a "pitch-to-contact" team and organization. This can be seen in the pitchers that make up the current roster for the Twins. Out of the starting pitchers, Francisco Liriano has the hardest fastball at over 93 mph but the rest of the starters sit around 90 mph or lower. The relief pitchers are lead by a former starter, Glen Perkins, and his fastball that averages over 95 mph. While there are plenty of relief pitchers across baseball with big fastballs, the rest of the Twins relief core sits around 93 mph with their heaters.

    There are teams across baseball that have been able to create outstanding pitching staffs based on their team's drafting and scouting departments. The San Francisco Giants have a rotation composed of three very good pitchers that were brought through the farm system of their organization. There are ups and downs with Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, and Madison Bumgarner but for the most part these three pitchers have been very good on the mound. Another team with outstanding homegrown pitchers is the Tampa Bay Rays. Their combination of James Shields, David Price, Matt Moore, and Jeremy Hellickson completes one of the deepest staffs in the game. Both of these organizations have used the draft to find pitchers from multiple rounds of the draft to build their pitching staff.

    With the Twins knowing that something had to change for the future, they changed some of their draft philosophy for the 2012 season. Instead of looking for pitch-to-contact players like the team had been doing, the Twins front office made a conscious switch to finding players with more upside. The main qualities the Twins were looking for were "power and raw speed" and the team took four pitchers in the first two rounds. For the entire draft, the organization took 24 pitchers out of the 43 picks the team was given. In the end, not all of these players will sign but it seems like the team is finally moving in the right direction.

    This change in draft philosophy could be a good start for the Twins but it will be quite some time before the team will know if they selected the right players in the 2012 draft. For now, the future of Twins pitching does not look like it is in the perfect place. There are plenty of question marks surrounding the 2012 Twins and how the rest of the season will go with the starting staff. Carl Pavano, Francisco Liriano, and Scott Baker can all leave via free agency and for most fans that would be a welcome sight. But the Twins would have to replace these pitcher and pitching doesn't come cheap. Scott Diamond, Nick Blackburn, and Liam Hendriks look to be the front runners for the 2013 rotation. But in the era of pitching, these three names leave the Twins and their fans wanting something more...
    This article was originally published in blog: Twins are behind in "Era of Pitching" started by Cody Christie
    Comments 14 Comments
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Out of boredom....

      Per FG's, the Twins starters have the 3rd lowest average fastball velocity (89.7), while the relievers have the 10th highest (92.7).
    1. jlovren's Avatar
      jlovren -
      With the Twins knowing that something had to change for the future, they changed some of their draft philosophy for the 2012 season. Instead of looking for pitch-to-contact players like the team had been doing, the Twins front office made a conscious switch to finding players with more upside. The main qualities the Twins were looking for were "power and raw speed" and the team took four pitchers in the first two rounds. For the entire draft, the organization took 24 pitchers out of the 43 picks the team was given. In the end, not all of these players will sign but it seems like the team is finally moving in the right direction.
      Unfortunately we need several of those types of drafts. The Twins need to alter their entire approach. They need to target young arms in free agency and inrternationally. If Rick Anderson is a great teacher than have him do some instructing inn the minors. The Twinkies need strikeout pitchers, that's what wins in thre playoffs.
    1. ScottyB's Avatar
      ScottyB -
      Unfortunately any power pitchers the Twins either have already in the system or the ones they drafted this year really are relief pitchers. They don't even have enough starters (of any kind) to make a full rotation for 2013.
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      In light of this analysis, I am hoping that the Twins offer enough to either keep Liriano or get a draft pick if he leaves, I also hope that some of the relievers that they drafted this year can be converted to starters.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by glunn View Post
      In light of this analysis, I am hoping that the Twins offer enough to either keep Liriano or get a draft pick if he leaves, I also hope that some of the relievers that they drafted this year can be converted to starters.
      Don't see how the draft pick scenario is at all possible. There is virtually no chance the Twins make a one-year offer at $12.5 Mil (which is what would have to happen with Liriano having to refuse the offer). Given the alternatives, the Twins might offer a 2-3 year deal with a club option on the back-end. Clearly, he has the best stuff on the club, not sure if he even wants to stay in MN. The best alternative would be to trade high with a club desperate for starting pitching and pluck a couple of potential B/B- starters from A+/AA/AAA that they could fast-track to the big club.
    1. MarshalltheIrish's Avatar
      MarshalltheIrish -
      Good read, and thanks for sharing. I've felt this way not only this season, but since we lost in the 2010 playoffs. It's frustrating to think how much better we'd be right now if we had a good or great pitching staff. I hope they splash for a good free agent starter or two this upcoming offseason.
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      The big "change" in their mentally included drafting a bunch of college relief arms. Not sure if I'm as enthusiastic about it. The Twins did an alright job, but IMO they missed on some nice picks (including Minnesota HS pitcher Mitch Brown). Obviously, I haven't seen all these guys pitch and don't know the Twins plans for them, but they certainly didn't do a 180 in this draft by any means. Hopefully they plan to convert some of the relief pitchers and the kids have the stuff to do it successfully, but I have my doubts. The Twins haven't drafted an MLB starting pitcher since Garza in 2005.
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Part of the reason for the Twins lack of pitching has to do with what they get in return for their pitching in trades. Kyle Lohse, Matt Garza, and Johan Santana trades brought nothing back for pitching help. Their record on drafting starting pitching was compensated by their ability to trade spare parts for pitchers that worked out. Lately they can't do either. In the pen it seems like they find half of their talent elsewhere. For every Jesse Crain there is a Matt Guerrier. I do not recall any recent pitching prospects they traded that you went "Oh no" later.
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      That isn't an excuse for being completely incompetent in the drat! I wish I could swear right now. Whats worse, is the Twins handed the reigns back to the guy that has had very little recent success in the draft. The ability to find talent in the draft(s) is more important now than ever. Players like Liriano aren't given away anymore via trade, GM's and scouting have evolved. This is the biggest problem I have with JR. Not that he can't get good value out of trades or work great within a salary cap, its that his drafts have been poor for 10 years. Until I'm proven otherwise, the Twins will not win until fresh blood is brought into the front office with a new direction. Maybe they are trying that now, but old habits are hard to break.. especially with someone as stubborn as JR.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Badsmerf View Post
      That isn't an excuse for being completely incompetent in the drat! I wish I could swear right now. Whats worse, is the Twins handed the reigns back to the guy that has had very little recent success in the draft. The ability to find talent in the draft(s) is more important now than ever. Players like Liriano aren't given away anymore via trade, GM's and scouting have evolved. This is the biggest problem I have with JR. Not that he can't get good value out of trades or work great within a salary cap, its that his drafts have been poor for 10 years. Until I'm proven otherwise, the Twins will not win until fresh blood is brought into the front office with a new direction. Maybe they are trying that now, but old habits are hard to break.. especially with someone as stubborn as JR.
      I disagree somewhat. Span came out of the 2002 draft. Baker came out of the 2003 draft. Perkins and Plouffe came out of the 2004 draft. Garza came out of the 2005 draft. Revere came out of the 2007 draft. We're still waiting on the players from 2008 on.

      On the other hand, you cringe when you see the names Jay Rainville, Matt Moses, and Matt Fox way up on those draft boards as well.

      The Twins haven't drafted well in the past ten years but there are teams who have drafted much worse than them. It's hard to draft well when you spend a decade picking 20th or lower. JR and Smith certainly could have done better but I don't think their drafts have been complete train wrecks, either. Overall, they've been pretty middle-of-the-road in drafting, which makes for tough times when you're a small market team for half that time, mid market the other half.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      Clearly, he has the best stuff on the club, not sure if he even wants to stay in MN. .
      If you were treated like him while lesser pitchers who were also not producing were treated better by the same club (Mr Nicholas Blackburn comes to mind,) would you like to stay? I just don't get how the Twins are treating certain players vs. others. Seems to definitely be a large variability and it is not merit-based to say the least. This has to change.
    1. twinswon1991's Avatar
      twinswon1991 -
      TR did a poor job drafting in the prev 10 year. Fire him today!
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      Quote Originally Posted by twinswon1991 View Post
      TR did a poor job drafting in the prev 10 year. Fire him today!
      I am not a big fan of JR and don't think he should have ever been given the job back in the first place. RP you are correct, they have drafted some serviceable players. But if they didn't draft any players that can make an MLB roster they would be monumental failures right? I don't think hitting on a few players makes up for missing on so many. Even the drafts after 2008 the only promising arm (which is mostly what I'm referring to) is Gibson. Throw in some potential bullpen arms I guess.
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      Why do teams like the Angels and Dodgers always seem to have a lot of promising pitching prospects, and the Twins do not? Is this because some teams are better at scouting than others? Is this due to some problem in the front office? Or is there some other reason?
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