Pitching rotation to blame for Minnesota Twins’ downfall

BY WADE MCMILLIN, Couchsideshow.com editor

Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Carl Pavano isn’t looking like the team’s ace this year after posting a 5.02 ERA and a 2-1 record to start the 2012 campaign. Photo by: Michael Donovan / Flickr

Remember when the Colorado Rockies of old had the Blake Street Bombers (Larry Walker, Vinny Castilla, Andres Galaraga and Dante Bichette) and still couldn’t muster many wins in the mid-90s?

Well it looks like the Rockies curse of never having any pitching has bitten the Minnesota Twins in 2013. When comparing those aforementioned Rockies teams to what the Twins are now, the similarities are quite glaring. Minnesota has a plethora of pop at the plate with players like Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Josh Willingham, but without a decent staff of hurlers, the Twins currently sit at the bottom of the barrel in baseball. Sure, Mauer and Morneau are not the players they once were when the pair were winning MVP awards, however, this pitching staff doesn’t look even close to when the squad won six AL Central division titles from 2000-2010.

There’s a huge difference in those former rotations that carried players such as Johan Santana, Brad Radke, Eric Milton, Kyle Lohse and Joe Mays. The 2012 Twins’ starting five seem more like a hodgepodge of pitchers rather than a dominant force like the club had as little as two seasons ago. And the numbers further my case. The Twins are literally the worst team in baseball with a 8-22 record (Thursday, May 10).

So that automatically makes the pitching staff last in the league for wins and first in the MLB for losses. Furthermore, the Twins are last in the majors with a dismal 151 strikouts and are also the worst for ERA at 5.48. Minnesota is second to last for opposing team’s batting average at .287; runs at 165; and earned runs. That’s not exactly something manager Ron Gardenhire wants to write home to mom about.

When I took a look at the team’s bullpen, it’s actually not that bad as only one player — former starting pitcher Glen Perkins (weird that he is a starter) — carries and ERA above 5.00. So that leads me to believe Minnesota’s woes fall straight on the shoulders of their starting pitching. There really is no ace on this year’s club or an exciting prospect to get pumped up about. Instead, Minnesota has the likes of Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, Anthony Swarzak, Nick Blackburn and Jason Marquis. So to put the Twins’ starting rotation dismay into perspective, let’s take a close look at those five pitcher:

1. Carl Pavano, RHP, 13-year-pro

Pavano has some nasty stuff just a few years ago, won a world series ring and even signed a jaw-dropping contract with the New York Yankees after he won the said World Series title with the Florida Marlins in 2004. But then Pavano was bit with the injury bug and the Yankees release him. The Cleveland Indians jumped in to see if Pavano could revitalize his career with the Tribe. His 5.00-plus ERA indicated otherwise, but the Twins for some reason found him useful, acquiring Pavano around the 2009 MLB Trade Deadline. Although Pavano couldn’t bounce back with Cleveland, he did just that with the Twins in 2010, positing a 17-11 record with a 3.75 ERA. It’s needless to say that Pavano solidified himself as the team’s ace for the 2011 season. Things didn’t go too bad for Pavano. For a team with really no offense, he managed to go 9-13 with a 4.30 ERA. Are those the stats you want from a guy who is going to be your No. 1 starter in 2012? I don’t think so. But the sad news for Twins fans is that is exactly what Pavano is right now. And the funny thing is that the righty is the best starting pitcher Minnesota has with his 2-3 record and 5.02 ERA. All I can say is, ‘ouch.’

2. Francisco Liriano, LHP, 6-year-pro

Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Francisco Liriano is on pace to have his worst season ever. Photo by: Jennifer Huber / Flickr

Liriano was supposed to the next Johan Santana for the Twins after having three spectacular seasons in the past six years. But this is a guy who is always known to fall off and it looks like he is officially taken a plunge off of the deep end this season. So I have to laugh that he is penciled in as this team’s No. 2 starter instead of in the minor leagues. Liriano is pathetic this season with an 0-5 record and an uncalled for ERA of 9.45. He has also dealt with injures in the past, which makes the 200-plus pounder even more of a risk. I guess Gardenhire is waiting for another bounce-back year. I just want to know how long is this guy’s leash?

3. Anthony Swarzak, RHP, 2-year-pro

I guess this is the young pitcher Twins fans are supposed to be excited about. But it’s hard to sell a guy to the masses that they’ve already seen as a question mark. Swarzak is a spot starter who wasn’t that good i his first two years the league. In 2009, the 24-year-old started 12 games, posting a 3-7 record with a 6.25 ERA. He looked better last season, making 11 starts and 27 appearances, however, the righty still went just 4-7 with a 4.32 ERA. Coming into this season, Gardenhire may have thought this kid was a safe bet as the No. 3 guy in the rotation. But he hasn’t proved he is even worth a No. 5 spot with an 0-3 record and an ERA of 5.79 in 2012 thus far.

4. Nick Blackburn, RHP, 5-year-pro

Blackburn is the definition of your run-in-the-mill starter. However, he’s not pitching that good to earn even that title. For about the past three seasons, Blackburn has been at least a reliable No. 4 starter for the Twins. In his five years in the majors, he has never had an ERA under 4.00, but at the same time, he’s also never really dipped into the 5.00-plus with the exception of 2010 when he recorded a 5.42 ERA in 26 starts. I think Minnesota knows Blackburn will never be a Cy Young award winner. I have to believe that he probably doesn’t expect that of himself, either. But the Twins need him t at least pitch like that get-the-job done No. 4 starter that they’ve been accustomed to in the past. This season, Blackburn doesn’t look like his usual self with a 6.84 ERA and an 0-4 record. Does that mean he won’t return to form? Probably not. I bet the Twins wish he was more like the Blackburn of old, however, because if the 30-year-old did return to that form, he’d easily be this team’s ace, which isn’t saying much.

5. Jason Marquis, RHP, 12-year-pro

You probably have to figure your career is on a downslide when you’re the No. 5 starter for the Minnesota Twins. That’s perhaps of the story of the modern-day Jason Marquis. This was a guy who was sort of a Blackburn type, but a little better. He has definetely found success with a handful of baseball clubs, but nobody will keep him around long enough to find out if he is the real deal. The Twins are Marquis’ seventh major league team. With the rest, he has enjoyed that above average success of season ERAs that bounced back-and-forth between 5.00 and 3.00. He’s either really good, kinda good or awful. Playing for Minnesota, could make the awful Marquis emerge as the 33-year-old approaches what will probably be the end of his career unless his sticks around like Bartolo Colon or Freddy Garcia. Except, he never was as good as either of those guys. Twins fans were probably thinking what kind of Marquis are we going to get this year? And if things don’t start to turn around quickly, it’s going to be the ugly one after his slow start of a 5.40 ERA and a 2-1 record.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s