Friday, April 24, 2009

Rough Starts

Here are the basic pitching statistics for the Twins' five current starters as of today:

Francisco Liriano is 0-4 with a 7.06 ERA
Scott Baker is 0-2 with a 12.46 ERA
Nick Blackburn is 0-1 with a 5.71 ERA
Kevin Slowey is 2-0 with a 5.89 ERA
Glen Perkins is 1-1 with a 1.50 ERA

Shoddy, underperforming starting pitching early in the season -- this feels vaguely familiar. On April 24, 2006...

Johan Santana was 0-3 with a 4.81 ERA.
Brad Radke was 2-2 with a 7.50 ERA
Carlos Silva was 1-3 with an 8.33 ERA.
Kyle Lohse was 1-1 with an 11.57 ERA
Scott Baker was 1-1 with a 3.31 ERA

Now, this comparison is obviously to be taken with a grain of salt since the differences between the rotation that opened the 2006 season and the Twins' current stable of starting pitchers are vast. The point of bringing up these stat lines is to remind everyone that there's a recent local precedent for almost roundly underwhelming starting pitching performances out of the gate, and it doesn't necessarily doom an entire season.

In '06, Silva and Lohse never really rebounded from their poor starts, as Silva went on to post an 11-15 record and 5.94 ERA while Lohse was booted from the rotation and later traded to the Reds with a 7.07 ERA. Baker fell off after his solid start and was also eventually removed from the rotation. Yet, Santana came back strong and ended up winning the Cy Young Award and Radke -- a pitcher with notable similarities to a few members of the current staff -- also rebounded to become a key contributor the team's amazing second-half run.

What the 2009 Twins lack is a Francisco Liriano -- or, to a lesser extent, a Boof Bonser -- who can step in from the minors and energize the rotation. Therefore, internal improvement will be the key factor for this current group. Based on their career histories and the way they finished last year, there's little reason to believe that Liriano and Baker will continue to pitch this poorly unless there are underlying health issues. Meanwhile, Slowey already showed signs of getting back on track with a very strong showing last Saturday, and he'll look to continue that progress tomorrow night against the Indians.

I'd be lying if I said I weren't somewhat concerned with the dud performances the Twins' starting pitchers have been putting forth on most nights, but I also have a very difficult time believing this nearly team-wide slump is going to last. These guys are too talented to continue getting hit this hard. Hopefully the turn-around begins tonight in Cleveland.