|Liam Hendriks has|
a career strikeout rate
in the minors of
8.2 per nine innings.
|Scott Baker last year|
had a career-high
Hendriks made four starts for the Twins at the end of 2011's death march, and his numbers were not impressive. If he stays in the rotation all season -- hardly a safe bet if the five veterans get and remain healthy (which is hardly a safe bet itself) -- his numbers may still look ugly.
Which won't disturb me. Look at Radke's first year: A 5.32 ERA. Or, on higher career level, Greg Maddux: 5.52 ERA in a five-start cuppa coffee, followed by a 5.61 ERA in 27 starts the next year.
I call it the 30-start rule for young pitchers: It's what they do after they've gotten 30 major league starts that matter, that establish whether they belong in the majors.
Just making 30 starts without breaking down physically is a substantial achievement; just look at Liriano. But for many pitchers, and particularly those who -- like Radke, Maddux and Hendriks -- lack overwhelming velocity -- those 30 starts are a learning experience. They've had sufficient success in the minors to get the chance; now they have to learn how to make their stuff work at the game's highest level.
This is a big reason why contenders are reluctant to trust rookies with starting rotation berths. If you need 95 wins, it's difficult to turn a fifth of your games over to on-the-job-training. At this point, the Twins have little choice. Indeed, I'd rather take my chances on Hendriks than on Nick Blackburn or Marquis.