Friday, June 19, 2015

Ervin Santana and the rotation logjam

Ervin Santana is in Rochester for the first of three planned "rehab" starts. (It doesn't make sense to me that PED suspensions are regarded as injuries, but there's a lot about the rule that aren't particularly logical.) He's eligible to pitch in the majors early next month somewhere around July 5, and as the highest-paid pitcher in club history, you can bet he's going to pitch.

We still have three weeks before Santana Day, and a lot can happen in three weeks, But let's ask ourselves: Who loses his spot in the rotation for Mr. #SmellBaseball?

Mike Pelfrey (5-3, 2.97) didn't get the win Thursday, but eight innings of one-run ball ain't bad, and he's having the best season of his career. I never imagined that he could do this, but I never imagined him with a usable changeup either. The Twins will either keep the pending free agent in the rotation or trade him, and the latter ain't happening in June.

Kyle Gibson (4-5, 3.33)  has outperformed his underlying numbers, and his ERA this month is an unimpressive 5.68. It's difficult to imagine the Twins pulling him from the rotation, but he's trending down.

Phil Hughes (4-6, 4.79) has been the Phil Hughes of Yankees days: Home run prone. He's surrendered 1.6 homers per nine innings this year, which is pretty much the rate he had his final two years with New York. But with his plump contract extension, the Twins will give him a long leash.

Trevor May (4-5, 4.26) has been the opposite of Gibson -- pitching better than his results. May's FIP -- Fielding Independent Pitching -- is more than a run lower than his ERA. He has by far the best strikeout rate of the five current starters. Everything I think I know about pitching says May is the best pitcher in this rotation, but that may not save his job.

Tommy Milone (3-1, 3.67) keeps getting shafted. Last year he got bounced from Oakland's rotation when the A's traded for two veteran starters even though he was 6-3, 3.55; this year he got bounced from the Twins rotation early on and dominated International League hitters for a month waiting for an opening. He's the one lefty in the rotation and has a 2.37 ERA in three June starts.

Off in the wings is the injured Ricky Nolasco, another veteran with a lucrative paycheck. When he's going to be able to pitch is unknown, but he's another one whose contract is too fat to be marginalized.

This is the kind of thing generally called a good problem to have. But I suspect the "solution" will make matters worse.

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