Pavano's name became synonymous with "injury-prone" after he made just 26 GS spanning 145.2 IP with 5.00 ERA and 1.46 WHIP over the course of a 4-year, $40M deal with the Yankees. Since coming to the Twins in August of 2009, however, he's been a front-end workhorse, leading the team in GS and IP with a 3.97 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. He fell to the Twins in the offseason for the very reasonable price of 2-years, $16.5M. Barring a return from the injury bug, he should earn that easily.
Expected line: 33 GS, 220 IP, 1.8 BB/9, 5.5 K/9, 1.0 HR/9, 4.20 ERA, 1.30 WHIP
2. Francisco Liriano, LHP
Statistical analysis bears out what I observed last season: Liriano gave up more than his share of crappy hits, without which he would have obviously been one of the top pitchers in the league. He's shown this spring that he's still prone to rushing his delivery and losing his command. Time for him to grow up and get himself under control. When he does that, there's nobody better.
Expected line: 33 GS, 210 IP, 2.7 BB/9, 9.5 K/9, 0.5 HR/9, 3.00 ERA, 1.20 WHIP
3. Nick Blackburn, RHP
Some folks seem to think that Blackburn's execrable 2010 season was an inevitable result for a guy who allows too many balls in play. I don't buy it. Maybe if he was pitching the same way he did in 2008-2009. But his mechanics were out of whack, his command slipped, he got away from his secondary pitches. He just pitched like crap for a while. He went down to Rochester, figured it out, and finished the season strong, averaging 7 IP/GS with a 3.16 ERA over his final 8 GS. His GB and K rates went up, and his BB and HR rates went down. He should be a competent back end starter this year. No excuses.
Expected line: 33 GS, 210 IP, 1.8 BB/9, 4.5 K/9, 1.1 HR/9, 4.50 ERA, 1.36 WHIP
4. Scott Baker, RHP
I have a theory that, while DIPS work well in the broad view, they consistently under or over-rate certain pitchers, because those guys have skills (or lack skills) that the equations haven't been asked to measure. I'm beginning to worry that Baker is one of the guys who gets overrated. His peripherals suggest a pitcher who should be putting up ERAs right around 4.00 every season. But, except for 2008, he hasn't been able to do it. One possible factor: he gives up too many hits (especially XBH) on 0-2 counts. The league allowed a .407 OPS in those counts last year, but Baker gave up .543, including 3 HR. Can he finally fix that and meet his potential? I don't know. Maybe, by this stage in his career, he is what he is.
Expected line: 30 GS, 190 IP, 2.2 BB/9, 7.5 K/9, 1.2 HR/9, 4.30 ERA, 1.24 WHIP
5. Brian Duensing, LHP
Meanwhile, DIPS might be missing something about Duensing. He doesn't blow anybody away with his stuff, but he has good command and mixes his pitches well. Throughout his career he's been able to hold opposing hitters to a fairly low BABIP and keep the ball in the yard. This will be his first opportunity to start full-time since 2008, and it will be interesting to see how well he holds up. His career high in IP is 167.1, and he hasn't thrown that many in a season since 2007. He might be one to take advantage of the frequent off days in September. Like Pavano and Blackburn, he'll be efficient and won't hurt himself. Maybe not the kind of guy you want in a short series, but pretty good over a marathon season.
Expected line: 30 GS, 190 IP, 2.4 BB/9, 5.5 K/9, 0.8 HR/9, 4.00 ERA, 1.25 WHIP
Not the sexiest rotation in the league (unless Pavano's mustache is your thing), but still a strength. With Kevin Slowey in the bullpen and top prospect Kyle Gibson hopefully progressing at AAA, it's also the deepest part of the roster. If everybody stays healthy through the first half, I would expect the front office to trade from that depth in order to upgrade the team for the stretch run.