Thursday, August 23, 2012

The ruins of a rotation plan

When the Twins this week outrighted Nick Blackburn to Triple A, removing him from the 40-man roster, it meant that the all five members of the projected rotation were gone.

"The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry," but the question rises: Were the Twins rotation plans all that well made to begin with?

Scott Baker is coming
off ligament replacement
surgery and will be a
free agent this winter.
Scott Baker was the first of the five to fall; he didn't make it out of spring training. He'd had elbow problems last year, didn't have surgery, couldn't muster his usual velocity in camp, had surgery -- and once the surgeon opened the elbow, he found more damage than expected, and performed Tommy John surgery.

Fairly or not, this fit an apparent pattern of missed diagnoses and undertreatment. We'll see this again.

Next out was Jason Marquis, signed in the winter to a one-year deal as a free agent. He was awful with the Twins -- 8.47 ERA in seven starts with more walks (14) than strikeouts (12), and the Twins released him. He signed with San Diego, and he's had an ERA of 4.04 in 15 starts with a BB/K ratio of 28/78.

Marquis seemed a curious addition at the time of his signing, and I never really viewed him as anything more than a pricey holding piece. Nobody should have expected him to be as bad as he was before the Twins dumped him; even with his competent numbers with the Padres, his overall numbers aren't all that good.

Carl Pavano went on the disabled list after 11 starts; his ERA was an even 6.00, and his velocity was missing from the time camp opened. He was moved to the 60-day disabled list (and off the 40 man roster) in late July, and his hopes of pitching again ended this month with a new diagnosis of a bruise on his humerus bone.

Francisco Liriano, the Twins big tease.
Pavano had been a durable workhorse for the Twins since they acquired him in 2009 despite a lengthy injury history. I can't fault the Twins for expecting another season of 200-plus innings from him, but ... all pitchers are injury risks by definition, and 36-year-old pitchers with marginal stuff are probably more vulerable than most.

What stands out, again, is how long this lingered. Pavano voiced some frustration this month that it took three months to find the problem.

Francisco Liriano was, again, Mr. Inconsistent. He had an excellent spring training, stunk in the early part of the season, spent some time in the bullpen, returned to the rotation, pitched better, got traded in late July.

He's done well with the White Sox. Good for him. I have to believe the Twins aren't going to be free-agent suitors for him. Counting on him in the past hasn't yielded much but headaches.

And finally, Blackburn. Those of us who believe in what the leading indicator stats say about pitchers knew when the Twins signed him to a four-year contract that it was a bad bet. And so it has proven.

The failure of any one of these five cannot really be called a surprise. They all carried their individual risk, be it injury histories or performance track records. That all five collapsed so utterly -- the lowest Minnesota ERA in the group was Liriano's 5.31 -- is.

One could reasonably have anticipated going into training camp that one, two, even three of these guys weren't going to succeed. All five? That seems extreme even for a confirmed pessimist.

1 comment:

  1. Ed - what is the history of MLB teams losing their entire starting rotation by August? (i.e., the rotation they began the season with).

    It has probably been done, but can't be common.

    The history would make an interesting blog.