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Article: Wake Me Up When September Ends: Starting Rotation

tommy milone rickynolasco trevor may kyle gibson phil hughes
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#1 Cody Christie

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Posted 19 August 2014 - 02:39 PM

As the season starts to wind down, this is the first in a series of posts looking at different parts of the Twins roster . There have been some rough moments at the end of the last few seasons. The motto of the last few seasons might have been "Wake Me Up When September Ends" but this season might be a little different as there seems to be some hope on the horizon. That hope might mean you won't want to sleep through this September.

August is slowly winding down and this points toward another Twins season coming to an end. Many fans can tune out at this time of year. The NFL season is ramping up, students are heading back to school, and there's just less time to fit baseball into people's crazy schedulesThere hasn't been much reason to watch the Twins during the last couple Septembers. The team was trotting out a starting rotation composed of a combination of non-prospects and aging veterans, which can be a lethal combination. Things might be shaping up to be a little better this September but the jury is still out on how this year's crop of starters will fare.

2014: Phil Hughes, Kyle Gibson, Tommy Milone, Ricky Nolasco, Trevor May
This could very well be the same five who will compose the 2015 opening day starting rotation. Hughes and Gibson have had some up and down moments in the second half but they have been the most consistent starters this season. Milone had the worst start of his career during this weekend's typhoon at Target Field. The Twins are still going to want to see more of him in the last month since he just joined the organization. Nolasco is coming off a month on the DL and he's got a lot to prove to the Twins fan base. May has been a little wild so far but the Twins need him to show that he can pitch at the big league level.

2013: Scott Diamond, Kevin Correia, Andrew Albers, Cole De Vries, Mike Pelfrey
8-20 team record in September
The Twins failed to reach double digits wins during two separate months last season and one of those months happened to be September. The team's leaders in wins for the month were Anthony Swarzak and Casey Fien. None of the starters had more than one win. Pelfrey is the only member of the list to still be with the Twins and he has been injured most of this season. Diamond is now part of the Reds organization but his ERA is north of 5.00 since joining their Triple-A squad. Correia was leading the AL in losses before the Twins dealt him to the Dodgers. De Vries has since retired and started flipping houses (sound like something Hulk would do). Albers has played this season over in Korea and it's been a rough year to say the least.

2012: Scott Diamond, Sam Deduno, Liam Hendriks, PJ Walters, Esmerling Vasquez
13-18 team record in September and October
Five games under .500 is not such a bad record when considering the fearsome five-some the Twins showcased a couple years ago. Diamond was in the middle of a breakout season but he posted a 2-3 record with a 4.79 ERA in six starts over the last month. Deduno was getting his first longer look with the Twins and he got roughed up losing three of his last five starts. He didn't make it past the fourth inning in his final three outings. Hendriks finally earned his first major league win and he's only won two other big league games since that first victory. Walters and Vasquez didn't earn a win in the month and both had ERA's of over 5.50.

The Twins might not be on their way to a 20-win month to close out the year but the rotation looks improved compared to the past couple years. If May can iron out some of his kinks and Nolasco can look like the pitcher he was before coming to Minnesota, there could be some good things happening in September.
Make sure to stay awake for it.

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#2 drock2190

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Posted 19 August 2014 - 05:19 PM

I'd say its trending better.

 

Those last couple rotations make me gag


#3 Thegrin

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 01:11 AM

The difference between '14 and other years is that we know we have 2 solid starters going into 2015 and we have a 3rd (Nolasco) we have no choice but to start (barring injury). That leaves us with 2 pitchers to distinguish themselves in the last 40 days.  Like you say. The 2015 starting rotation may already be set.


#4 goulik

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 08:22 AM

2014: Phil Hughes, Kyle Gibson, Tommy Milone, Ricky Nolasco, Trevor MayThis could very well be the same five who will compose the 2015 opening day starting rotation.2013: Scott Diamond, Kevin Correia, Andrew Albers, Cole De Vries, Mike Pelfrey[i]8-20 team record in September.2012: Scott Diamond, Sam Deduno, Liam Hendriks, PJ Walters, Esmerling Vasquez[i]13-18 team record in September and October[


This is my point in conversations often and in a few of my posts. This looks like the Rebuild is close to fruition at least in the Rotation. Now for the hitters(see Buxton and Sano)
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#5 oldguy10

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 11:49 AM

If the proposed 2015 rotation is close to fruition all I can do is yell HELP!   That is another year of a + 5.50 ERA and another 90+ loss season that accompanies such a ridiculous starting five.   If any other team in MLB attempts that sort of rotation they will be welcome to join the Twins in another last place finish and perhaps even have a shot at 100 losses.   Is that really something to be looking forward to?   I sure do not think so.


#6 SD Buhr

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 01:05 PM

"Close to fruition" of a rebuilt rotation may be stronger than I'd agree to, but it's certainly an improvement over where things stood a year ago.

 

Hughes still looks like a strong addition, even if not a legit #1 starter. I believe Nolasco will be much improved next year if he gets/stays healthy. I'd say those are two potential #2 starters, which is 2 more than the Twins have had going in to any offseason in a while. In fact, you could make a case for Gibson being a stronger holdover than almost any other pitcher for the past couple years.

 

Still, I don't think the rotation will reach "fruition" until you're seeing Meyer and Berrios among the 5 and that's perhaps another year away.

 

A rotation headlined by healthy Hughes-Nolasco-Gibson, combined with two of the young arms on the doorstep, should be enough to get to .500 in 2015, however, if there's any improvement at all on offense.

Edited by SD Buhr, 20 August 2014 - 01:06 PM.

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#7 iTwins

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 01:14 PM

I wouldn't call next season's (projected) rotation the proof that the rebuild is nearly complete - but it's a sign that it's VERY close to being done. Hughes, Gibson and a healthy Nolasco make a solid core while Meyer / May / Milone can fill out the back end with above average contributions. Those players are vastly better pitchers than the De Vries, Albers, Deduno crowd.

I agree with the notion that our next "elite" rotation probably features Berrios and Meyer amongst the names (likely as starters 1 and 1A), but the fact that Meyer can be learning on the job next season alongside some quality starting pitching is a very good sign.

#8 Oxtung

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 02:46 PM

I guess I have a different view point than most people here.  Gibson, Hughes and Nolasco are league averagish players.  If we want to have a rotation that can put the Twins in the playoffs, and if we're talking about a nearly completed rebuild that's what is being said, then May and Meyer had better both turn into Aces.

 

I know that it's easy to compare this rotation to that of the last few years and see a big improvement but let's not let it blind us to reality.  We still have one of the worst rotations in baseball.  This "rebuild" is no where near complete and won't be until the Twins have several legit #1-2 type pitchers in the rotation.  At this point the only players that may fit that mold are prospects not yet arrived.

 

Let's be thankful that this rotation isn't as terrible as the last few years but let's also keep in mind they need to keep adding talent and at this point that needs to be elite talent.  I am sure cheering for Meyer, Berrios, Stewart, Thorpe, etc... 

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#9 BMCACCAL

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 03:05 PM

Sadly, I have to agree with Oxtung.  Hughes, Nolasco (if healthy) and Gibson are all competent 3/4 starter types.  Milone/May/Mayer can be 4/5 at this stage, with only Mayer really having a good chance to be a #1 or #2 guy in a contending rotation someday. I say someday, because it's unlikely that day is in 2015.  Bottom line is 2015 should bring a better, but still average rotation at best without a FA or unseen break though. Adding a Sheilds or Santana (or better, a Scherzer, but not happening) would go a long way.  Neither is probably a #1, but they both could be a #2 and thus both get us closer and maybe give us a trade chip in one of the three younger arms that we could use to get the middle of the order bat we desperately need.  


#10 Mr. Brooks

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 06:05 PM

I also agree with Oxtung, and couldn't really say it better myself...but I guess I'll try anyways.

 

I think people are somewhat blinded by the comparisons to previous rotations.

Yes, compared to those, this rotation looks great.

But, they are still possibly the worst rotation in all of baseball. 

 

Hughes has been a bargain at this point. I hope he keeps it up, but even so he's not a difference maker. He wouldn't be a 1 or a 2 in any legit WS contending rotation, and he'd likely be a 4 in many of them. 

 

Gibson has looked pretty good at times, but I think we can all agree that he is not as good as Hughes. If Hughes is a #3 on a playoff contender, but likely a number 4 on a WS contender, then what does that make Gibson? Probably a #4 at best. 

 

Nolasco might have the numbers of a solid #3, but those are NL numbers. In the AL it is looking like he's probably a guy you run out as your 5th starter, a guy who (when healthy) should be able to eat innings, but isn't going to be a difference maker- a la Kevin Correia. 

 

I was on board the May Day Express as much as anyone, and it's an extremely small sample size thus far, but obviously he hasn't looked good thus far. 

 

Meyer will help, if the Twins ever decide to give him a chance. (The opinion that he may not even make the rotation to start 2015 is hard to wrap my head around.)

 

This is not a rotation that is just a couple tweaks away from being good. It's more like a rotation that is at least not an embarrassment to Abner Doubleday. It is a rotation that needs not just a little, but a LOT of improvements to ever be a playoff or WS contending rotation. 


#11 Paul Pleiss

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Posted 20 August 2014 - 11:29 PM

Some ugly rotations listed in this article Mr. Christie. Luckily things are improving, albeit slowly.

 

Wake me up when Eric puts his potty mouth away.

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#12 goulik

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 12:30 AM

So if Meyer turns into the Ace we want, Hughes is a 2-3, Gibson is a 3-4, Milone is a 4 and Nolasco a 4-5 you have a true rotation. Elite? No. Average rotation, yes. That does not take into account May panning out as a starter either. I didn't say elite, I said rebuilt and I did not say its done, I said close to rebuilt.

Yes, one of the worst starting rotations when you look at the whole year but only two of those have been part of the whole year. When looking at just the six pitchers being discussed and the current playoff system, your a good offense (not even necessarily great) away from the playoffs. Keep in mind, Neither Minnesota World Series was won with an elite rotation.

#13 Oxtung

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 02:14 AM

So if Meyer turns into the Ace we want, Hughes is a 2-3, Gibson is a 3-4, Milone is a 4 and Nolasco a 4-5 you have a true rotation. Elite? No. Average rotation, yes. That does not take into account May panning out as a starter either. I didn't say elite, I said rebuilt and I did not say its done, I said close to rebuilt.

Yes, one of the worst starting rotations when you look at the whole year but only two of those have been part of the whole year. When looking at just the six pitchers being discussed and the current playoff system, your a good offense (not even necessarily great) away from the playoffs. Keep in mind, Neither Minnesota World Series was won with an elite rotation.

Here are the ERA+ of the starting playoff rotations of the division winning teams:

 

2013

Bos: 234, 116, 109, 101

Det: 163, 145, 121, 115

Oak: 145, 144, 97, 97 (Tommy Milone didn't make the cut.  ERA+ of 93)

StL: 138, 134, 126, 93 (Shelby Miller didn't pitch but had a 121 ERA+ too)

Dod: 194, 135, 119, 101 (Ricky Nolasco's career year is the 101 and he made only 1 start)

Atl: 121, 117, 117, 106 (also had Alex Wood's 120 ERA+ available)

 

2012

NYY: 148, 125, 127, 101 (Hughes is the 101)

Det: 161, 123, 114, 114

Oak: 153, 127, 112, 104 (Milone is the 104, the 153 is Anderson only pitched 35 innings, 120/114 hurt)

Was: 138, 136, 118, 99 (Strasburg w/ 126 ERA+ hurt)

Cin: 148, 118, 112, 110, 90

SnF: 126, 105, 105, 85

 

As of today, 2014

KC: 155, 127, 123, 116

Bal: 109, 105, 105, 103

LAA: 146, 107, 100, 96

Oak: 151, 137, 129, 125

Sea: 187, 145, 122, 92 (Have both Paxton and Walker available too)

Mil: 115, 114, 108, 105

Dod: 191, 129, 123, 108

Was: 170, 127, 126, 109

 

Minnesota in 2014

Hughes: 105

Gibson: 96

Nolasco: 66 (101 last season)

Milone: 42 (94 between Oak + Minn)

May: 46

Meyer: ???

 

We need some serious improvements and even then we had better have one hell of an offense.

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#14 Kirby_waved_at_me

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 10:17 AM

Oh, that chart leaves out Correia and Pino, who have had more starts that Milone and May this year.

 

Correia had an ERA+ of 80, Pino's was 74.

 

Not saying that the rotation is anywhere close to Playoff quality, but the list looks a lot worse without those two in there. Correia, in particular, since he made more starts (23) than all but two of those guys.  


#15 Shack L Ford

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 12:46 PM

With Gardy' s genius brand of Smallball, with no Powerhitting, just hit to contact, I have no doubt in my mind that we will be World Series contenders next year!

#16 drjim

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 01:44 PM

With Gardy' s genius brand of Smallball, with no Powerhitting, just hit to contact, I have no doubt in my mind that we will be World Series contenders next year!

 

Are you a real person or a random Star Tribune comment section generator?

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#17 goulik

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 02:46 PM

Minnesota in 2014
Hughes: 105
Gibson: 96
Nolasco: 66 (101 last season)
Milone: 42 (94 between Oak + Minn)
May: 46
Meyer: ???
 
We need some serious improvements and even then we had better have one hell of an offense.


We are talking about next year right? In that case some of your numbers are meaningless; Milone 42= SSS, Career is close to 100. Nolasco's last three years until this injury shortened SSS year was three straight right around 100. May =SSS with no MLB large sample to project from as well as Meyer who has 0 MLB experience. Gibson is in his first full year so one could hope the 96 improves but I will go with your number on him and Hughes, so;

Based on career, next years potential ERA +
Meyer 133 (based on Minor league ERA's some years much higher, some not as much)
Nolasco 101 (last 3 years when not hurt)
Hughes 105 (outside Yankee stadium)
Milone 98 (Last 4 years)
Gibson 96 (in first full season will probably be higher)
May 100 (approx based on minor league career... Just throwing out a "league average" on this one w/out data...)

Wow, those numbers look a lot better when you throw out SSS...

#18 chuchadoro

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 04:05 PM

We are talking about next year right? In that case some of your numbers are meaningless; Milone 42= SSS, Career is close to 100. Nolasco's last three years until this injury shortened SSS year was three straight right around 100. May =SSS with no MLB large sample to project from as well as Meyer who has 0 MLB experience. Gibson is in his first full year so one could hope the 96 improves but I will go with your number on him and Hughes, so;
Based on career, next years potential ERA +
Meyer 133 (based on Minor league ERA's some years much higher, some not as much)
Nolasco 101 (last 3 years when not hurt)
Hughes 105 (outside Yankee stadium)
Milone 98 (Last 4 years)
Gibson 96 (in first full season will probably be higher)
May 100 (approx based on minor league career... Just throwing out a "league average" on this one w/out data...)
Wow, those numbers look a lot better when you throw out SSS...


Those numbers also look better when you use inaccurate and/or made up ones.

Nolasco's ERA+ the last three years is 101, 91, and 84. He put up those numbers in nearly 600 innings in the NL, which someone might have told me once is the weaker of the two leagues. Besides 2013, his only season above 100 was in 2008. Nolasco's career ERA+ coming into this year was 92. But yeah, let's just assume he will be a league average pitcher next year.

Counting on Meyer to replicate his minor league stats right out of the gate is setting yourself up for disappointment. May is a wild card and I would be hesitant to assume anything regarding his 2015 season.

I agree that you can't use the handful of starts that Milone and May have made for the Twins as projections for 2015. You also shouldn't make rosy projections with little basis in reality as a counterpoint.
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#19 Oxtung

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 04:31 PM

We are talking about next year right? In that case some of your numbers are meaningless; Milone 42= SSS, Career is close to 100. Nolasco's last three years until this injury shortened SSS year was three straight right around 100. May =SSS with no MLB large sample to project from as well as Meyer who has 0 MLB experience. Gibson is in his first full year so one could hope the 96 improves but I will go with your number on him and Hughes, so;

Based on career, next years potential ERA +
Meyer 133 (based on Minor league ERA's some years much higher, some not as much)
Nolasco 101 (last 3 years when not hurt)
Hughes 105 (outside Yankee stadium)
Milone 98 (Last 4 years)
Gibson 96 (in first full season will probably be higher)
May 100 (approx based on minor league career... Just throwing out a "league average" on this one w/out data...)

Wow, those numbers look a lot better when you throw out SSS...

 

I won't go into why your numbers are faulty, Chuchadoroo did that just fine, but I will say you're missing my point.  I'm not saying things can't get better next season.  I am trying to point out just how much better they need to get.  I'm trying to show people that the playoff teams of today have 4 pitchers that are average or better and generally 2 elite pitchers that season.  If everything breaks right the Twins might have 4 averagish pitchers but who is going to be elite?  Who is going to post an ERA+ of 140?  Of 120? Until the Twins have 2 or 3 pitchers capable of that we are going to be a long ways from being a contender.  That's my point.


#20 goulik

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Posted 21 August 2014 - 07:00 PM

Those numbers also look better when you use inaccurate and/or made up ones.
Nolasco's ERA+ the last three years is 101, 91, and 84. He put up those numbers in nearly 600 innings in the NL, which someone might have told me once is the weaker of the two leagues. Besides 2013, his only season above 100 was in 2008. Nolasco's career ERA+ coming into this year was 92. But yeah, let's just assume he will be a league average pitcher next year.
Counting on Meyer to replicate his minor league stats right out of the gate is setting yourself up for disappointment. May is a wild card and I would be hesitant to assume anything regarding his 2015 season.
I agree that you can't use the handful of starts that Milone and May have made for the Twins as projections for 2015. You also shouldn't make rosy projections with little basis in reality as a counterpoint.


I looked at Nolascos Fangraphs page incorrectly, I apologize. My numbers were way off. My point with the numbers remain the same though they are just guesses based on past performance. The more past, the more likelihood of guessing close to correctly. So Nolasco is less than league average.
My original point remains the same and is what I am defending, I do not think we are too far away and if everything fell into place, we could contend for a playoff spot. I'm betting on 2016 though, not 2015. There is honestly no way to know next years ERA+ and that was what I am trying to say to Oxtung and other readers.This is a rebuild and we have to ride these guys out and see what we have.

I won't go into why your numbers are faulty, Chuchadoroo did that just fine, but I will say you're missing my point. I'm not saying things can't get better next season. I am trying to point out just how much better they need to get. I'm trying to show people that the playoff teams of today have 4 pitchers that are average or better and generally 2 elite pitchers that season. If everything breaks right the Twins might have 4 averagish pitchers but who is going to be elite? Who is going to post an ERA+ of 140? Of 120? Until the Twins have 2 or 3 pitchers capable of that we are going to be a long ways from being a contender. That's my point.

I get your point. I am confident Meyer will be one of those elite pitchers. Nolasco had a 124 ERA+ one year. Often, that is what carries that World Series team, a career year from a few different players. Often the World Series champs have those breakout seasons, career years, good breaks and relatively good health. With all these untested, unproven young players, no one really knows what to expect next year. I just feel there is reason to hope based on the plethora of changes in the last 14 months and the much greater talent than the past few years.

Edited by goulik, 21 August 2014 - 07:02 PM.


#21 Oxtung

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Posted 22 August 2014 - 12:20 AM

I looked at Nolascos Fangraphs page incorrectly, I apologize. My numbers were way off. My point with the numbers remain the same though they are just guesses based on past performance. The more past, the more likelihood of guessing close to correctly. So Nolasco is less than league average.
My original point remains the same and is what I am defending, I do not think we are too far away and if everything fell into place, we could contend for a playoff spot. I'm betting on 2016 though, not 2015. There is honestly no way to know next years ERA+ and that was what I am trying to say to Oxtung and other readers.This is a rebuild and we have to ride these guys out and see what we have.
I get your point. I am confident Meyer will be one of those elite pitchers. Nolasco had a 124 ERA+ one year. Often, that is what carries that World Series team, a career year from a few different players. Often the World Series champs have those breakout seasons, career years, good breaks and relatively good health. With all these untested, unproven young players, no one really knows what to expect next year. I just feel there is reason to hope based on the plethora of changes in the last 14 months and the much greater talent than the past few years.

In order for the Twins to win the division next season it's likely Meyer will have to come up and be an Ace right off the bat posting an ERA around 3.00.  Hughes will have to improve upon this season posting an ERA around 3.25, Gibson will have to take a big step forward dropping his ERA into the 3.50 range and Nolasco will have to regain his 2013 league average standing.  All of those pieces coming together in the same year seems highly unlikely.

 

I definitely hope they do, but I don't expect or predict that they will.  It's ok to hope but we shouldn't be blinded to the realities of where the Twins are at. 


#22 Thegrin

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Posted 22 August 2014 - 01:08 AM

I am a fan.  I look for signs of positive improvement in the Twins.  Today. Hughes beat Kluber. Our best beat their best.  It does not prove anything, but it points to progress.  Heck, with a good winning streak, we could still be at or near .500 at seasons end.


#23 The Wise One

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Posted 22 August 2014 - 02:54 AM

2010 pitching staff had ERA+ of  112, 109.  91. 91 and 75 and still won 94 games


#24 The Wise One

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Posted 22 August 2014 - 02:55 AM

I am a fan.  I look for signs of positive improvement in the Twins.  Today. Hughes beat Kluber. Our best beat their best.  It does not prove anything, but it points to progress.  Heck, with a good winning streak, we could still be at or near .500 at seasons end.

Do the Twin's batters need to face an Ace to do well?


#25 Kirby_waved_at_me

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Posted 22 August 2014 - 06:54 AM

I think the Twins should be in the market for another big time starter - Lester, Scherzer, James Shields. I agree that the way the Twins will move forward is by having players that are better than good. The players on the team right now are mostly "good" right now. The Pitchers have been below league average, with one exception.

Hughes has been fantastic, and has been the Twins' Ace this year. But for a team that wants to play in the postseason, Hughes is a #2 or #3 starter on a playoff team.

I think the Twins can build around Hughes and Gibson. May and Meyer could be the future, or they could be league average. I don't expect either of them to be better in 2015 than Gibson has been this year. They most likely will need some more time facing major league talent before they are at their peak performance.

I think the Twins need to add another starter, and the floor should be one of the big three. Otherwise, the Twins are not making the playoffs until at least 2016.


#26 Oxtung

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Posted 22 August 2014 - 11:04 AM

2010 pitching staff had ERA+ of  112, 109.  91. 91 and 75 and still won 94 games

 

Here are some more ERA+ rotations

2011

NYY: 143, 119, 116, 107

TBR: 134, 128, 108, 111

Det: 231, 172, 93, 87

Tex: 150, 130, 126, 112

StL: 109, 108, 104, 104

Phi: 163, 160, 137, 127

 

2010

Tex: 134, 133, 121, 120

NYY: 136, 132, 103, 82 (Phil Hughes=103)

Min: 112, 109, 91, 91

TBR: 144, 100, 96, 89

Cin: 116, 112, 105, 96

Phi: 167, 145, 133, 86

Atl: 138, 117, 107, 98

SFG: 131, 127, 124, 114

 

2009

NYY: 137, 114, 111, 97

Min: 109, 100, 95, 90

LAA: 117, 115, 95, 87

Bos: 136, 121, 111, 102

LAD: 143, 124, 109, 106

StL: 182, 155, 117, 86

Phi: 144, 124, 104, 97

Col: 136, 116, 113, 109

 

2008

Bos: 160, 144, 115, 112

LAA: 131, 127, 119, 103

TBR: 127, 124, 119, 100

ChW: 138, 121, 119, 101

Mil: 156, 137, 101, 96

Phi: 141, 117, 104, 96

LaD: 133, 129, 112, 98

ChC: 210, 154, 117, 112

 

So, yes the Twins did make the playoffs that season and they did with an even worse rotation in 2009.  Of course those are also the two worst (by a considerable margin too) rotations to make the playoffs in the last 6 seasons at least (looks like it will be 7 soon).

 

I think Twins fans are misled by those 2009 & 2010 teams making the playoffs.  I think we tend to look at those teams and think they represent a typical playoff team when in fact they are far, far from it.  They made it because the AL central was so weak those years and we beat up on it over and over.  We were the best of a bad bunch.


#27 goulik

goulik

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Posted 22 August 2014 - 11:57 PM

On that, we agree!

With the addition of Wild card teams, above average teams can make the playoffs and be in contention for the playoffs without being true contenders.



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