Quick, without looking, tell me the #3 starter for the Minnesota Twins in 2016. Having trouble coming up with the answer off the top of your head? Join the club. Well, let me enlighten you and just provide you with the answer. It’s Tyler Duffey. Yes, the same Tyler Duffey was is now emerging as one of the better right-handed options out of the bullpen. That Tyler Duffey.
The fact that Tyler Duffey was the #3 starter for the Twins is a good example as to why the season turned out the way it did. The 2016 Minnesota Twins starting rotation, with its absolutely awful ERA (and results) is one of the worst aspects to an already terrible season.
Save for some starts by Pat Dean, Phil Hughes, and Hector Santiago, let’s look at the top 6 starters in terms of games started for the 2016 Twins and delve into their seasons.
*Warning: the following analysis is extremely distressing and it may horrify some readers.
With that said, here is an in-depth look at the 2016 Minnesota Twins starting rotation. Here we go:
Ervin Santana-30 games
Ervin Santana is undoubtedly the lone highlight of a terrible 2016 Twins rotation. Santana led the team with a respectable 3.38 ERA. To put that in context, today in 2019 both Jake Odorizzi and Jose Berrios better that with a 3.06 and 3.10 ERA respectively. Additionally, Kyle Gibson hovers just over Santana’s 2016 mark with a 4.03 ERA. That’s three starters who are as good or better than the #1 Twins starter in 2016.
Throughout the season, Santana averaged an okay-ish 7.4 strikeouts per 9 innings. That’s not terrible, but it’s certainly not fantastic. For context, today Jose Berrios and Martin Perez have the lowest strikeouts per 9 innings at 8.1 strikeouts. For Santana to lead the team in 2016 with 7.4 strikeouts per 9 innings leaves much to be desired.
Perhaps most surprisingly, for as terrible as that Twins team was, Santana had a WHIP of 1.219. While that certainly did not cause Santana to be vaulted into the Cy Young conversation, that is decent enough to cement his role as the #1 starter.
Tyler Duffey-26 games
It is shocking that Tyler Duffey started 26 games for the Twins given the stats he put up every five days. Let me run some number by you that we will delve into here shortly. 6.43 ERA. 0 wins lost. It should sadden Twins fans that a pitcher with these kinds of stats could be the #2 starter. Yet, here we are diving into Tyler Duffey’s 2016 season.
In 2016, Duffey had a 6.43 ERA. Let me say that again for those of you who didn’t quite catch that. A 6.43 ERA over 26 starts. A starter with a 6.43 ERA should not be allowed to start 16 games, much less 26 games. There’s not much to explain here other than to say again that Tyler Duffey was the Twins #2 starter and he had a 6.43 ERA. Yeeeesh.
A second compelling stat is that in 2016 Tyler Duffey had 0 wins lost. That is to say, when Duffey left the game and was in line for a win, the bullpen never blew the lead. Or, another way to say that is all of Duffey’s 12 losses are entirely his fault. To lose 12 games and have them all be your fault is not great. Now, I do recognize that he may have had some poor run support during those losses. But the 6.43 ERA does little to support that argument. Either way, Duffey is not the ideal candidate to be the #2 starter for a Major League baseball club.
Kyle Gibson-25 games
Ahhh Kyle Gibson. Where do I even begin? Gibson has been one of the most divisive Twins player of the last several seasons. Some fans hate him. Some fans believe in him and refuse to give up. Whatever side of the fence that you fall on, it is undeniable that Gibson was less than stellar for the Twins in 2016.
Gibson’s 5.07 ERA, coupled with his 1.2 hits per inning, equate into a sub-par season. While a 5.07 ERA is typical of Twins starters in the past 8 seasons, it is the 1.2 hits per inning that is particularly concerning. It is nearly impossible to win games consistently when you give up over a hit per inning.
These nonstop hits led to his high ERA, as well as contributed to his 6-11 record. Even though wins and losses do not mean much today, it is still an indicator of how a pitcher’s overall season is going.
Thankfully, Gibson has seemingly been able to turn it around recently, which is seen in his 4.03 ERA in 2019. While that is certainly not at an All-Star level, Gibson has managed to shave an entire run off of his ERA.
Ricky Nolasco-21 games
Ricky Nolasco. The Nolasco Fiasco. Seen largely as a bust and a waste of money for the Twins, Nolasco was the Twins big offseason signing of 2013-2014. Traded in the middle of 2016, Nolasco ended his Twins career with a very forgettable 2016 season.
Nolasco, who threw 124.2 innings with a 5.13 ERA, had the second to worst winning percentage among starters. Yet, he was due to make $12 million before being traded to the Angels. The quality of starts that Nolasco gave the Twins day in and day out caused them to lose more games than win.
With the trade of Nolasco to the Angels, the Twins got rid of both his awful starts, as well as the majority of his salary. While Nolasco is just a piece of the puzzle, his presence is indicative of why the 2016 Twins season was so terrible. A team that is competitive every day does not send Ricky Nolasco to the mound every five days, and that’s exactly what the Minnesota Twins did.
Jose Berrios-14 games
Jose Berrios, the Twins highly anticipated pitching phenom coming into the 2016 season, made his debut on April 27, 2016 and got rocked by Cleveland. Berrios threw 4.0 innings while giving up 6 hits, 5 earned runs, striking out 5, and walking 2. This kind of start summarizes Berrios’ overall 2016 season.
Berrios had an extremely difficult 2016 season. In his 14 starts, Berrios pitched himself to an 8.02 ERA. He had a 49/35 strikeout to walk ratio. Additionally, he only pitched 58.1 innings in those 14 starts. No matter which way you look at it, those numbers are truly terrible.
Similar to Gibson earlier, Berrios has improved beyond his 2016 numbers. However, Berrios has shown tremendous growth while Gibson has only marginally improved enough to where he is a respected starter while Berrios is seen as the teams ace today. Berrios’ rough debut season did not cause the Twins to lose 103 games. However, he certainly did not help matters much.
Tommy Milone-12 games
Tommy Milone, the only left-hander on our list, is one of the typical starters that Twins fans think of when they are forced to remember the dark years of 2011-2016. Not terrible enough to ever warrant a DFA but not good enough to be offered an extension, Milone is the last of the bunch of our terrible Twins starters.
Just like everyone else, Milone sported a 5.71 ERA and was completely forgettable in an already forgettable Twins season. It’s sad when a staple of the Twins rotation has an ERA well over 5 and he is not even the worst of the bunch. This feeling of absolute meh among the Twins starters is typical of Twins teams of the last decade.
Finally, Milone had a 1.529 FIP for the 2016 season. Considering that Santana had a WHIP 1.219, Milone’s 1.529 mark is terrible. Allowing 1.529 hits/walks per inning is how you give up runs and lose games.
The 2016 Minnesota Twins had a truly terrible group of starting pitchers. Anchored by Ervin Santana, the lone bright spot for the Twins, the starters greatly contributed to the dismal 2016 season.
The bullpen and the offense did not help improve the season’s results one bit. Later in the series, we will examine the numbers behind those two groups and look at how they helped cause the downfall of the 2016 Twins.
In the end, the starting rotation is one of the most important aspects of any good baseball team. The 2016 starting rotation was not good. And neither were the Twins. Ultimately, this group of rag-tag starters is what sparked the dumpster fire that is the 2016 Minnesota Twins.