Tuesday, June 10, 2008

4th Split: 7-9

Overall record: 31-33
2nd in AL Central by 6.5 games

A week ago, the Twins were 6-3 in this split, scoring 5 or more runs in 6 straight games and looking forward to series against barely .500 Baltimore and Chicago. At that point, the pitching, which had been shaky for most of May, got even shakier, allowing 5+ runs in 7 of 8 games, while the offense reverted a bit to the April standard, scoring 3 or fewer runs in 4 of the last 7 games while walking just 13 times after greatly increasing that rate in the previous split. Those two things are not a winning combination, and the Twins lost 6 of the last 7 games (including 4 straight to the White Sox) to put themselves back under .500 and quite a ways back in the standings.

Twins starters have gone 11 consecutive games without a quality start. The beleaguered pitching staff has created an unusual situation with a 13-man staff, since the organization is reluctant to attempt to demote Brian Bass, Boof Bonser or Juan Rincon, fearing that they would be claimed by another team. Unfortunately, that leaves them in the bullpen to throw gas on the flames, and further thins an already flimsy bench.

Bonser began this split with the absurd 19-3 shellacking at the hands of the Tigers. He made one more, decent start against the Yankees, allowing 3 unearned runs early in the game thanks to a Nick Punto error, then looked reasonably good in two outings out of the 'pen (Gardy left him in there just an inning too long vs. the Sox on Saturday). He's really had only 2 clean appearances since the beginning of May, though. I'm ambivalent about him - I think the Twins should attempt to send him to the minors and see if they get away with it.

Bass was also thrown under the bus against Detroit on that Saturday. In 6 appearances since then, he's allowed 3 ER on 12 H and 0 BB in 9.2 IP, for a 2.79 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. In fact, if you throw out that Motown disaster, his season line looks pretty good: 3.63 ERA over 39.2 IP. The WHIP is too high (1.51) and he doesn't strike out a lot of guys, but I think he's done well enough to keep around over Bonser.

Rincon was the other victim of the Tigers mauling, but he showed no signs that it was a fluke. He allowed at least one earned run in 5 of his 6 appearances during this split, including 3 HR. His overall line: 8.2 IP, 11 ER, 16 H, 4 BB, 5 K, 11.42 ERA, 2.31 WHIP. I didn't think the Twins would re-sign Rincon this off-season, and I'm wishing they hadn't. He should be DFA.

It's good to have Scott Baker back in the rotation - I'm hoping he'll be able to do something about this:

Bonser: 4 IP/start, 11.25 ERA, 2.13 WHIP
Blackburn: 5.2 IP/start, 5.40 ERA, 1.44 WHIP
Hernandez: 5.1 IP/start, 10.13 ERA, 2.25 WHIP
Perkins: 5.1 IP/start, 5.57 ERA, 1.90 WHIP
Slowey: 6 IP/start, 6.50 ERA, 1.33 WHIP

That's the performance of the starters over the last 16 games, with the exception of Baker's line last Thursday: 5 IP, 3.60 ERA, 1.20 WHIP. As I've stated earlier, I think the thing that will most improve the rotation is expanding the strike zone - they shouldn't be so afraid to miss off the plate, especially inside, and should be less willing to give into hitters after long ABs. This is one good thing they can learn from Livan Hernandez. They've learned it by now, haven't they? Time to cut him before he does any more damage.

I'm not going to say too much about the offense here, other than that I'm pleased with the improvement Delmon Young has shown. In 10 games since he was finally benched in KC, he's hit .325 with 4 2B and his 1st HR for a .500 SLG%, and he has 6 RBI. Unfortunately, that has coincided with 0 BB and 9 K, and he'd had a pretty decent ratio going before that (17/32). Hopefully he can put the two pieces of his game together.

Bold prediction for the next split: Slowey, Baker, Perkins and Blackburn will each average at least 6 IP/start. The bullpen will revert to 12 pitchers. At least 2 veterans will be let go. Especially the ones named Livan and Rincon.

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