Friday, October 2, 2015

Kyle Gibson, Tyler Duffey and the piecemeal rotation

Paul Molitor has gone through September essentially naming starting pitchers one series at a time. I have previously compared Molitor's juggling of the starters to the way Tom Kelly moved pitchers around in his rookie September, 1987

Two crucial differences: Kelly was managing with the lead, while Molitor is playing catch-up; and Kelly had two horses, Frank Viola and Bert Blyleven, who each threw more than 250 innings with markedly better-than-league ERAs. Molitor has no such rotation foundation.

The best he has is Kyle Gibson, who might start Sunday's scheduled finale on three days rest. If he does, he has a chance to top 200 innings (he's at 194.2 now). Gibson's ERA right now is slightly better than Blyleven's in 1987, but his ERA+ (ERA adjusted to league and park environment) is a good bit worse (eight percent better than league average compared to Blyleven's 15).

And, of course, there's Tyler Duffey, the rookie sensation who started Thursday night and took a shutout into the seventh inning before giving up a two-run homer. Duffey has thrown now 58 innings in 10 major league starts (ERA 3.10), and he's also worked 138 innings in the minors for a total of 196.

The Twins -- one game out of the second wild-card spot and tied with the Angels with three games left on the schedule -- will start Ervin Santana tonight against the Royals. Tommy Milone figures to start Saturday, and I expect Gibson will get the ball if Sunday's game means anything.

And if a Game 163 is needed Monday? By the rotation, it would figure to be Mike Pelfrey, who is second on the team in starts and innings. But I can't imagine anybody has much faith in Big Pelf at this point. Molitor may well give the ball to Phil Hughes under that scenario, with Duffey pitching Tuesday on regular rest if the Twins are still alive. I can't imagine Molitor having Duffey go on three days rest.

Once past a Game 163 (or 164 in a more extreme tie-breaking scenario), Santana would be out of the picture. His PED suspension kicks back in for the postseason. Presumably the playoff starters would be some combination of Gibson, Duffey, Milone and either Hughes or Pelfrey. We can wait to wrestle with that problem until it actually arrives.

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