Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Another opportunity lost

There was some mystery to the Twins offense last night. Whats the mystery here? The mystery is discovering how the Twins offense managed to score five runs against the Blue Jays last night, in a loss nonetheless, without a single extra-base hit. One run can across on a wild pitch, another on a sacrifice fly, and one more on a two-out single by Delmon Young. In total, though, the Twins had nine singles and two walks, but still seemed lucky to get the five runs they did, even though their two stolen bases also helped them.

Of course, while the offense didn't pack too much punch in providing a solid amount of run support, the pitching staff's failure may be the bigger story of the loss. In a game in which a win would have given the Twins the lead in the AL central, the pitching staff was the true culprit, allowing 17 hits and three walks for a total of 20 baserunners while giving up seven runs. Therefore, the pitching staff was also somewhat lucky in that they didn't manage to give up more runs, helped by the Blue Jays offense leaving seven baserunners in scoring position with two outs.

Five of the Blue Jays hits went for extra-bases, including three home runs, two off of starter Glen Perkins, who did not look very good at all. Perkins' line is quite ugly: 5 innings, 10 hits, 4 earned runs, one walk, and one strikeout. In other words, Perkins was constantly putting on baserunners, getting hit hard, and was not showing any dominance at all. This may be somewhat closer to the real Perkins fans should expect, since his season stats are anything but impressive.

Sure, Perkins has a 12-3 record, but anyone reading this site knows that we do not consider a win-loss record to be that helpful in evaluate a pitcher's success, his future potential, or his efficiency. In 136 2/3 innings, Perkins has given up 160 hits, 20 home runs, and 62 earned runs (for a 4.08 ERA) while striking out 64 and walking 34. The walk rate is fine and above average, but a strikeout rate of 4.31/9 is terrible and a 1.39 WHIP is bad as well.

Fans should note that Perkins' xFIP (expected Fielding Independent Pitching) is 4.94, well above his current ERA, which that Perkins has certainly be lucky and regression towards the mean should not be surprising. In fact, if there is one young pitcher he seems bound to disappoint fans, at least somewhat, its Perkins, because he has the worst peripherals of anyone in the rotation and stats like xFIP suggest that fans should lower their expectations. Unfortunately, it comes at a bad time, as the Twins have often been in close games like yesterday's lately that they have lost.

Of course, I cannot put the blame purely on Perkins' woeful starting pitching. Boof Bonser also gave up a two-run home run in relief and Matt Guerrier continued to get beaten around, giving up three hits and a run in just 2/3 innings. (In fairness, he had 5 1/3 scoreless innings before last night, so he hasn't been utterly hittable of late, but his second half regression is hardly a secret) But the remedies to continue winning are simple and hard at the same time: the Twins need more consistent punch and the offense isn't going to win many games without hitting extra-base hits, but the pitching staff also needs to do its job more consistently. Its too bad, then, that it still appears that in some instances, fans may need to lower expectations and face some stubborn realities.