Minnesota Twins News & Rumors Forum
  • Blackburn should pitch like his scholarship is on the line

    At last Saturday’s home game against the Tampa Bay Rays the Twins reached the 2 million mark in attendance for the eighth consecutive season. In honor of the milestone, Nick Blackburn went out and tried to distribute home run balls to everyone at the game.

    Blackburn Needs To Start Performing To His ContractBlackburn’s recent stint in Rochester was supposed to be the fix. He tinkered with his mechanics and was going to return as the pitcher with better command and good movement on his pitches.

    To his credit, he did improve his command. After walking 7% of total batters faced prior to the Rochester visit he has grinded that down to 2% since returning (3 walks in 131 match-ups). However, the movement simply has not been there and the sound of hot bat-on-ball action reverberating throughout Target Field during his starts confirms that he still struggling.

    His two-seam fastball, the one with the supposed sink action, has been obliterated across the field. Opponents are hitting .357/.404/.609 with 13 home runs on that pitch, leading to a “value” of -21.4 runs above average – the worst in baseball among starters who have thrown a minimum of 80 innings. The unfortunate part is that Blackburn chooses to use this pitch 60% of the time.

    The Twins sent Blackburn to Rochester to straighten some things out and regain confidence. During that time, Blackburn claimed he and pitching coach Bobby Cueller, discovered some differences between his earlier delivery and his contemporary mechanics. The pair worked on quieting his front side and getting his release point higher (which was a fairly similar recommendation found at Twins Daily). Retooled for success, Blackburn was recalled at the end of July but the results with Minnesota have been far from those he posted while in AAA.

    While in Rochester, Blackburn was able to get his International League opponents to beat the ball into the ground 58% of the time over the course of 21 innings leading to a 2.57 ERA. Meanwhile, since returning to the Twins rotation, Blackburn has only enticed grounders on just 34% of balls in play in 30 innings.

    As noted above, Blackburn’s release point was noticeably higher in 2009 and 2010. Pitch F/X charts shows that he was throwing more over the top versus the slight drop to three-quarter – even after his return from Rochester (as seen on the right, click to embiggen):



    This has led to a flattening of his two-seam fastball and has given it less pitching arm side (PAS) run (or away from left handed batters and into right handed ones). It has also led to a 1013 OPS against the pitch.

    Despite the near constant struggles each time out, the Twins still stand behind Blackburn for the future. After his most recent start in which he surrendered three home runs to the Tampa Bay Rays, manager Ron Gardenhire threw his support behind his veteran right-hander on 1500ESPN:

    "He's going to be one of our pitcher. He'll be one of our pitchers again next year, and we need good outings from him. He's the veteran of this staff now.”
    Not long after, general manager Terry Ryan confirmed that Blackburn will “be in the mix” for 2013, which, based on Blackburn’s performance the past two seasons, almost directly contradicting the “no-scholarships” policy the front office set forth during spring training - no matter what the contract status was.

    The 2013 rotation is filled with plenty of vacancies so it is clear that the Twins would like to keep their options open, so giving Blackburn the opportunity to audition the rest of this year for a spot of next year does not hurt anything. But if he continues to issue home runs like jello shots at a frat party, his scholarship should most definitely be revoked.

    Beginning tonight in Seattle, Blackburn needs to pitch like his scholarship is on the line.
    This article was originally published in blog: Blackburn should pitch like his scholarship is on the lilne started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 17 Comments
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Is it unreasonable to ask if he would be a better pitcher by pitching more over the top? If so, why haven't the coaches noticed?
    1. Brad Swanson's Avatar
      Brad Swanson -
      Blackburn is going to be 31 next year, so I just don't see how he becomes a different pitcher than he was at 28, 29 and 30. He is what he is, and we all know that he is. I am just hoping that we won't have to watch him pitch at 32.
    1. cr9617's Avatar
      cr9617 -
      Discussing the the stupidity of the Twins mindset as it relates to Blackey never gets old.
    1. JP3700's Avatar
      JP3700 -
      It's looking inevitable that Blackburn is going to be in the rotation at the start of next year. Since his return from Rochester he has "improved". 30 IP.. 19 ER for an ERA under 6 and if you take out the one start at Chicago 25 2/3 IP.. 11 ER for an ERA under 4. Then take a look at his next 7 starts.. @Seattle.. @Oakland.. Seattle.. @KC.. Cleveland.. KC.. @Cleveland.. Not exactly powerhouse offenses and some good ballparks to pitch at. Finally include the fact that he's "Gardy's guy" and all signs point to his return to the rotation next year. To be honest I root for the guy.. He seems to care.. And it's not like he wants to be this bad.. But I do think he is currently the worst starting pitcher in the league. If he regains his 08-09 form I'll be the first to raise my hand.. And for the twins sake.. I hope I have to raise my hand.
    1. COtwin's Avatar
      COtwin -
      Who do we lose as an organization so we can keep him on the 40-man?
    1. Shea's Avatar
      Shea -
      This is one of the main problems with baseball (in my opinion). Guaranteed contracts. I understand if the year they pitch in is guaranteed but future years shouldn't be just expected. So ridiculous...it just makes players lazy/content it seems. Blackburn seems to be the perfect example of this. I'm sick of Gardy and others saying "he cares, he really does, its just not working for him". Then demote him!
    1. Paul's Avatar
      Paul -
      Quote Originally Posted by old nurse View Post
      Is it unreasonable to ask if he would be a better pitcher by pitching more over the top? If so, why haven't the coaches noticed?
      From my experience, the lower the arm slot the easier it is to generate the topspin necessary for sink. Think Eckersly and Webb. Apparently, for some reason, Blackburn can no longer get the rpms required for the sink he needs. This jives with Parker's observation of,

      "This has led to a flattening of his two-seam fastball and has given it less pitching arm side (PAS) run (or away from left handed batters and into right handed ones)."

      His observation makes sense only if the rpms are down. The lower slot would naturally create less run but should have increased the sink instead if the opposite effect of flattening the ball out.
    1. gunnarthor's Avatar
      gunnarthor -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shea View Post
      This is one of the main problems with baseball (in my opinion). Guaranteed contracts. I understand if the year they pitch in is guaranteed but future years shouldn't be just expected. So ridiculous...it just makes players lazy/content it seems. Blackburn seems to be the perfect example of this. I'm sick of Gardy and others saying "he cares, he really does, its just not working for him". Then demote him!
      Couldn't disagree more. The thing I hate most about football is how owners screw the players over their contracts. The players get hurt or has a down year, then the contract doesn't matter, the player is cut. But if they exceed the contract and want a raise, all of sudden owners act like the player is a greedy **** for wanting his value.
    1. Steve Penz's Avatar
      Steve Penz -
      The second sentence of this article is pure poetry. Thank you Parker.
    1. cr9617's Avatar
      cr9617 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shea View Post
      This is one of the main problems with baseball (in my opinion). Guaranteed contracts. I understand if the year they pitch in is guaranteed but future years shouldn't be just expected. So ridiculous...it just makes players lazy/content it seems. Blackburn seems to be the perfect example of this. I'm sick of Gardy and others saying "he cares, he really does, its just not working for him". Then demote him!
      Do you really think Blackburn stinks because he's lazy or doesn't care? That's just plain silly. He's stinks...because he stinks. I would bet Blackie is fully aware of how god awful he is. No matter how hard he tries, how hard he works, or how much he wants it, he's still a guy with below average stuff that never should have been given a 4 year deal. He will be out of baseball by 2014, and desire or hard work has nothing to do with it.
    1. PopRiveter's Avatar
      PopRiveter -
      I like Blackburn. He seems like a really great guy who used to be a pretty good pitcher. I hope he can get back to that, but I think it's more likely he'll just be a former pitcher soon. That ball does not move this year.
    1. tmerrickkeller's Avatar
      tmerrickkeller -
      As I read through the comments, I'm just waiting for the "cut him loose" answer. I certainly understand that mentality, but one thing I know for sure is that I don't know for sure. The guys who have performed beyond expectations for this club over the past few seasons (and are now its most contract-friendly stars, for the most part) are a who's-who of folks that we've wanted to toss off this roster as useless underperformers who will never be big-league ready - Denard Span, Glen Perkins, Trevor Plouffe, Scott Diamond, Ben Revere. I'm just hoping Blackburn joins that list (and someday soon, brother!).
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brad Swanson View Post
      Blackburn is going to be 31 next year, so I just don't see how he becomes a different pitcher than he was at 28, 29 and 30. He is what he is, and we all know that he is. I am just hoping that we won't have to watch him pitch at 32.
      The answer is his pitching mechanics. As we've seen, Blackburn is _sometimes_ able to tweak his mechanics well enough to make his 2-seamer a reliable ground-out pitch. He's never been a big strikeout guy, but at his best he's been a good innings eater and sometimes he looks like a very good Twins-style pitch to contact guy.

      The big question, as you alluded, is Blackburn's hard mileage. History of physical ailments, plus the wear and tear of several years of pro ball may have worn Blackburn down a little too much for him to rebound successfully. At this point, is he a better option than various starters rising through the ranks? Like a lot of fans here, I've got my doubts. The arm slot he must use for his effective 2-seamer reminds me of the arm slot for hitting an American twist kick serve. It requires a shoulder socket angle that's a little past vertical, which becomes more difficult with age and damage. It's possible Blackie just can't do that anymore. If so, he better learn some other way to get batters out, or his career will wind down pretty quick.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Shea View Post
      I'm sick of Gardy and others saying "he cares, he really does, its just not working for him".
      Isn't that exactly what they were saying about Slowey, Neshek and Baker as well before they got injured?
    1. gil4's Avatar
      gil4 -
      Quote Originally Posted by gunnarthor View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Shea View Post
      This is one of the main problems with baseball (in my opinion). Guaranteed contracts. I understand if the year they pitch in is guaranteed but future years shouldn't be just expected. So ridiculous...it just makes players lazy/content it seems. Blackburn seems to be the perfect example of this. I'm sick of Gardy and others saying "he cares, he really does, its just not working for him". Then demote him!
      Couldn't disagree more. The thing I hate most about football is how owners screw the players over their contracts. The players get hurt or has a down year, then the contract doesn't matter, the player is cut. But if they exceed the contract and want a raise, all of sudden owners act like the player is a greedy **** for wanting his value.
      I don't have a problem with either system. Both sides know the rules going in. That's why FB contracts often have huge signing bonuses (and why reports of NFL contracts usually mention total $$ and guaranteed $$.)
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98 View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Shea View Post
      I'm sick of Gardy and others saying "he cares, he really does, its just not working for him".
      Isn't that exactly what they were saying about Slowey, Neshek and Baker as well before they got injured?

      Slowey and Neshek were malcontents... Baker was soft.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      Quote Originally Posted by gil4 View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by gunnarthor View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Shea View Post
      This is one of the main problems with baseball (in my opinion). Guaranteed contracts. I understand if the year they pitch in is guaranteed but future years shouldn't be just expected. So ridiculous...it just makes players lazy/content it seems. Blackburn seems to be the perfect example of this. I'm sick of Gardy and others saying "he cares, he really does, its just not working for him". Then demote him!
      Couldn't disagree more. The thing I hate most about football is how owners screw the players over their contracts. The players get hurt or has a down year, then the contract doesn't matter, the player is cut. But if they exceed the contract and want a raise, all of sudden owners act like the player is a greedy **** for wanting his value.
      I don't have a problem with either system. Both sides know the rules going in. That's why FB contracts often have huge signing bonuses (and why reports of NFL contracts usually mention total $$ and guaranteed $$.)
      Interestingly enough, football earns more revenue than baseball too, yet baseball contracts tend to pay more. A 30M contract for a FB player is a big thing. It's fairly typical these days with baseball. FB players in particular get screwed. They are asked to put their bodies out on the line and the moment they get hurt, they get cut. Baseball puts far less wear on a body than football.
©2014 TwinsCentric, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Interested in advertising with Twins Daily? Click here.