Monday, July 16, 2012

Contemplating Brian Duensing

Brian Duensing's
2012 ERA is now 5.06.
Brian Duensing worked out of the Twins bullpen through June 19, at which point he had a 3.12 ERA in 30 outings, 34.2 innings. He had almost 2.5 strikeouts for each walk, he had allowed just one home run, he had a batting average allowed of .224.

He was having a solid season, this on the heels of a 2011 disaster spent largely as a starting pitcher.

On June 23 Duensing was moved to the starting rotation, and it has been ugly. In four starts, he has an ERA of 10.13.

He started Sunday and went just two innings. He threw 41 pitches in the first inning; he allowed three home runs in the second inning.

In four starts, he's worked a total of 13.1 innings, partly as a matter of slowly increasing his pitch count, partly because he had to leave a game after being hit by a line drive, partly because he's been so ineffective.

The word Sunday was that the Twins aren't about to pull him from the rotation yet. They will, it appears, remain patient -- in part, I suppose, because they aren't eager to return either Nick Blackburn or Liam Hendriks to the rotation, and they have no other obvious options.

That said, it is becoming increasingly difficult to take seriously the notion that he can be a rotation piece for the future.

There are two factors that appear to make Duensing better suited to the bullpen, two factors that may be related:

  • He, like most pitchers, has better fastball velocity working in short bursts;
  • He has a sharp platoon differential.

Oakland on Sunday had just two left-handed hitters in its lineup; Duensing, working with lesser velocity, is ill-equipped to deal with right-handers. As a reliever, his manager can usually find ways to have him face mostly lefties, and with better velocity, he can cope with the righties.

I don't blame the Twins for looking once more at him as a starter; they need starters, and a competent starter is more valuable than a good relief pitcher. And I can see a rationale for sticking with the experiment a bit longer.

But I've lost my optimism about the project.

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