Thursday, September 16, 2010

Twins rotation is well grounded

Brian Duensing has induced 14 groundball double plays
in 113 innings ptiched this season.
Brian Duesning went six innings Wednesday night against the Chicago White Sox — 18 outs. Four strikeouts, five fly balls, nine ground balls (including two double plays).

Duensing, as noted in a previous post, has been pretty good at keeping the ball in the park this year (the homer Wednesday by Carlos Quentin was Duensing's eighth gopher ball, not a bad number for 113 innings). Avoiding the home run is generally a characteristic of ground ball pitchers.

And sure enough, of the 68 American League pitchers with 100 or more innings pitched, Duensing has the 10th highest ground ball/fly ball ratio.

What surprised me, however, is that he's not alone on the Twins staff in being a ground ball pitcher.

Francisco Liriano is fourth, with 1.29 grounders to every fly ball. Duensing is 10th (1.15), Carl Pavano 11 (1.14) and Nick Blackburn is 13th (1.09).

The Twins have traditionally built their rotations around fly ball pitchers, from Bert Blyleven and Frank Viola to Johan Santana and Brad Radke. They've generally had a "sinker" specialist in the rotation, the best of them being Scott Erickson, but the organizational emphasis on change ups tends to result in fly ball pitchers.

Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey live up to that tradition (Slowey is 68th, last on that list). But this rotation is more of a ground ball staff than we're used to seeing.


A couple of links that, to appropriate a non-word from a retired Free Press colleague, you might find recommendable:

• USA Today on Wednesday ran this piece on Carl Pavano and Delmon Young, depicting them as baseball outcasts who found a home with the Twins.  I'm not sure I buy the writer's thesis.

The conclusion is noteworthy, however — not so much for this year as next:

Add it up, and Pavano could again be a hot commodity on the free agent market this winter, though he says his preference is to stay in Minnesota, and the Twins do not want him going anywhere.
"You can spend your whole career looking for a place like this and never finding it," Pavano says. "I know they're counting on me. I know they're counting on Delmon, too. I can't tell you how good it feels to be counted on again."

It's too soon for me to do heavy thinking about the 2011 roster, but if Pavano wants to stay and the Twins want to keep him, it will happen — in which case I count six guys for the rotation.

Here is Bill James on — well, on cheating and the American way of life.

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