Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Contemplating the starting rotation

Kyle Gibson is
beginning to justify
his first-round
Several big-name starting pitchers are rumored to be trade bait this month: Cole Hamels of the Phillies, Johnny Cueto of the Reds, James Shields of the Padres, maybe even David Price of the Tigers.

I don't expect the Twins to be in the market for any of them, or for a lesser name either. The Twins have six starters for five rotation slots already, even with Ricky Nolasco probably out of the rest of the season after his invasive ankle surgery.

It's more likely that the Twins would trade one of their starters, but even that seems doubtful at this point. The veterans should be of interest only to contenders, and I doubt that any of them would bring back a solution to the shortstop problem. Trevor May should interest a building team, but I certainly wouldn't move him for a shortstop rental.

Somebody over the weekend asked on Twitter: Which starter would you want starting a Game 163 -- or, alternately, the wild card game? Obviously, the first goal would be to get there, and the Twins may not have the luxury of being selective about that starter, but we're being theoretical here. This is another way of asking: Who's the top starter in this rotation?

Start with this: Ervin Santana is out. His steroid suspension kicks in after Game 162. He's not eligible for postseason or any playoff games to get into the postseason.

Kyle Gibson is probably my choice. Not only does he have the best actual results of the remaining starters (2.85 ERA), his strikeout rate has risen dramatically as the season has progressed -- 8.2 strikeouts per game in June, 8.6 in three July starts to date. The discrepancy between his ERA and his underlying statistics has diminished.

Behind him, frankly, I still prefer May, but he's in the bullpen and will be barring trade or injury. Sunday's awful outing notwithstanding, I probably have more confidence in Tommy Milone right now than in Phil Hughes, but they're pretty even in my view. at least until Hughes fixes whatever it is that ails his fastball velocity. It's safe to say that Mike Pelfrey is at the bottom of my preferences for a win-or-go-home start.

But I'd certainly take that scenario over not making it to a win-or-go-home start.

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