Monday, May 28, 2012

Listen to the money talk

Francisco Liriano's
bullpen time was
always supposed to
be limited.
The Twins have had 15 quality starts -- games of at least six innings pitched and no more then three earned runs allowed -- in 45 games this season. No American League team has fewer.

Seven of those QS -- almost half -- have come from starters who opened the season in Triple A: four from P.J. Walters, three from Scott Diamond. Another four have come from Carl Pavano, whose 10 starts are more than Walters and Diamond have combined (a total of eight coming into Diamond's start today). That's 11 of the 15; the other four are spread among six others who've started games for the Twins already.

The Twins have the dismal record they have today largely because their starting rotation has been incompetent (starters ERA 6.60; OPS allowed .915).

And now two of the biggest offenders are returning to the rotation. Oh joy.

The returns of Francisco Liriano -- who is to start Wednesday -- and Nick Blackburn -- who is to make the first of two rehab starts Tuesday, then return to the Twins rotation next week -- were inevitable. Each is getting paid in excess of $5 million; each is supposed to be a rotation foundation piece. And each sports an ERA floating close to a run per inning (Liriano 8.47, Blackburn 8.37).

Nick Blackburn has
had one quality start
in seven tries, and
it just made the
minimum standard.
Liriano has allowed exactly the same number of earned runs (32) in exactly the same number of innings (34) as Jason Marquis, who figures to be officially released today. Liriano has allowed more baserunners than Marquis but fewer homers. The results have been equal, but Liriano gets another shot and Marquis is gone.

It's about the money. The Twins will eat the remainder of Marquis' $3 million; they're not eager to do the same with Liriano's $5.5 million, and even less eager, one assumes, to pay off the $8 million or so left on Blackburn's multi-year deal.

And, to be sure, good options aren't readily available. Anthony Swarzak has been no improvement over either as a starter; Cole DeVries, who figures to drop out of the rotation when Blackburn returns, is marginal at best; Liam Hendriks, the best prospect of the healthy starters in the Twins system, will probably benefit more from time in Triple A than from getting kicked around in the majors.

So it's back to Liriano and Blackburn. They're getting paid to pitch. Time for them to do it.

1 comment:

  1. Ed, is there any help at AA or high A? Is this BJ Hermsen kid at New Britain anything to hang our hats on? I see he keeps steadily moving up, he's a big kid and doesn't walk a lot of guys - although I also see his K rate drops with each step up.

    I'm starting to think the Twins should plan for 2015, blow everything up, get the Yankees to take Mauer (I'm sorry, a $184 million contract should get you more than .418 slugging or .823 OPS) off our hands.

    These days feel even more depressing than the late 90s wasteland that was Twins baseball, although maybe I'd be a little more positive if Capps hadn't grooved an 0-2 pitch yesterday.