Monday, September 12, 2011

Evaluating rotation candidates: Scott Diamond

Scott Diamond lowered his ERA to 3.94
in Sunday's 2-1 loss in Detroit. 
Nick Blackburn, on the 60-day disabled list, won't pitch again this season. Scott Baker and Francisco Liriano, if they do pitch again, will do so only out of the bullpen. Brian Duensing might start again, but my guess is not.

Which makes September an audition month for Kevin Slowey, Anthony Swarzak, Scott Diamond and Liam Hendriks.

One should generally be wary of putting too much weight on September trials, since both teams are often using cup-of-coffee players. The lineup Diamond faced on Sunday in Detroit, however, was pretty much legit; the Tigers, many of whom remember their 2009 fade all too well, are eager to wrap this division up.

Diamond's performance fit neatly in with his previous four starts (the sum and total of his major league experience) — a mixed bag.

On the plus side: He allowed just two runs in six innings, and one of the runs was unearned. He didn't give up an extra base hit, he struck out four men, he threw ground balls (including three double plays).

On the bad side: He walked four men and allowed seven hits. Eleven baserunners in six innings is a lot.

This has been a pattern for Diamond — about six innings with lots of baserunners and few runs allowed (in the context of all those baserunners).

In his first two starts, he fared well for six innings, but when Ron Gardenhire tried to get a seventh inning out of him, things fell apart. He's had a shorter leash in the next three starts. He threw 95 pitches Sunday, and that's the most he's thrown for the Twins.

Diamond interests me perhaps more than he should. Of the four September trial candidates, he's the one I think is most likely to get a shot at the rotation next year – he's left-handed; he hasn't (unlike Duensing) been hammered by righties; he's avoided the long ball both in the majors and the minors; he has, in the minors, a good control record (which hasn't shown in the majors).

He's also topped 150 innings, majors and minors, already, with three more starts to come — then a scheduled stint in the Arizona Fall League.

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