Friday, September 21, 2012

Eye on 2013: Brian Duensing

Brian Duensing
wants to be a starter,
but has been more
effective as a reliever.
It would behoove the Twins to decide early this offseason: Is Brian Duensing a starter or a reliever?

The lefty has been markedly better this season working out of the bullpen than in the rotation. His ERA as a reliever (51.2 innings) is 2.61; as a starter (52 innings), 6.92.

Such drastic difference, it would seem, makes this an easy call. But the Twins' shortage of usable starters is so glaring, and Duensing's record as a rotation fill-in in 2009 and 2010 so bright, that Ron Gardenhire and Co. continue to look in his direction.

Part of the fascination with the idea is that Duesning's stuff is certainly no worse than that of Scott Diamond's, and probably superior. If Diamond can be an effective starter, why can't Duensing?

Well ... because at this point, Duensing can't get right-handed hitters out. Righties are hitting .312/.352/.464 this year off Duensing, lefties just .237/.280/.362. It's easier to match him up against left-handed hitters as a relief pitcher.

This is the same issue that ran Duensing aground as a starter in 2011, although the differences were even deeper that year. The problem has not been solved. And I'm skeptical that it can be.

If the Twins keep Duensing in the bullpen, the relief corps becomes considerably deeper immediately. With Glen Perkins as the closer, Duesning gives them a superior lefty set-up man. If Duensing's in the rotation, Tyler Robertson is a step down as a lefty specialist.

But a decent starting pitcher is more valuable than a good relief pitcher. And the Twins projected rotation right now has Diamond -- who, much as I like him, isn't likely to contend for a Cy Young -- and a bunch of vacancies.

I think this: When the Twins hold their organizational meetings after the season, and Gardenhire and ptiching coach Rick Anderson talk up Duensing as a starter, Terry Ryan ought to ask: How is he going to get righties out?

If they don't have a specific, workable answer, Duesning should go in the bullpen plan. And if they do have a specific, workable answer, the next question is: Why didn't you/he do that this year?

1 comment:

  1. I think the Duenslinger is destined to stay in the bullpen. He couldn't find the magic in 2011, or again in 2012, even after he went back to pitching from the stretch all the time. I like him in the pen, and whether that's as a long-man or a late inning loogy, I think he's an asset in the pen, but a liability in the rotation.