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Rival Staffs (Part 3 of 7): Minnesota Twins

Mood music - Blow Up The Outside World by Soundgarden

Alright, time for me to put my "evaluate other pitching staffs" hat back on and take a look at the Minnesota Twins.  This comes with the added bonus of getting to talk about the "American Idle," or the only man who makes Nick Johnson appear to have the body of Adonis.  For purely childish reasons, I will not use his name, but merely refer to him as 'Sir Useless' for the entirety of this post.

In addition to Sir Useless, the Twins do not have a ton of marquee names in their rotation.  Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn, Kevin Slowey, and Francisco Liriano aren't the sexiest names (with the possible exception of Liriano, who was very filthy in 2006 before injuries set him back), but while they don't get a ton of hype or coverage, the Twins have a surprisingly solid rotation.  And their main weapon? Pinpoint control that I will demonstrate later......

Another important note to make about the Twins pitching staff, before we get into taking a look at the individuals is in the injury to Joe Nathan.  Nathan, one of the toughest closers in the game, went down for the season, so the starters have to be relied upon even more because the bullpen is in shambles, right?  Wrong.  The bullpen has posted a stellar 2.89 ERA (2nd in the AL only to the Tigers 2.88 mark), and has been an aid to the rotation so far (3.82 FIP makes me wonder how long the excellence will last, however).

And finally, the Twins rotation has been terrifically healthy, with only one spot start by Jeff Manship (possibly the greatest name ever) being needed.  Every other game this year has been started by one of the aforementioned five regulars.

Sir Useless - Well, let's just get this tool out of the way early.  Sir Useless leads the Twins with 8 wins, though his numbers a pretty unspectacular.  (3.64 ERA, 4.03 FIP, 5.14 K/9, 45.9 GB%)  What Sir Useless has been doing well, is in limiting the free passes.  To demonstrate this further, here are some BB/9 numbers for the entire staff:

Sir Useless - 1.31
Francisco Liriano - 2.46
Scott Baker - 2.00
Nick Blackburn - 2.25
Kevin Slowey - 2.00

The Twins starting rotation has allowed 94 walks, easily the fewest in the American League (with the Mariners rotation coming in second at 121, for reference).  So it's fairly clear that the philosophy within the Twins organization is to pitch to contact.  How's it working?  Well for Sir Useless and Liriano, not so well for Baker, Blackburn, and Slowey.

Francisco Liriano is having a terrific season, recalling memories of his dominant 2006 campaign.  A 2.98 ERA, 2.23 FIP, 9.55 K/9, and the aforementioned tiny 2.46 BB/9 are very scary, as well as notching two quality starts against the Yankees in his two games against them.  If Liriano was getting more run support (3.7 runs per game), he would be in the early discussion of AL Cy Young contenders; however, Zack Greinke syndrome has contributed to his rather mediocre 6-4 record.

Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey have been pretty mediocre, in the neighborhood of 4.5 ERA and FIP, with pretty average ratios.  I don't really have much in the way of insight to offer about them, other than the fact that they pitch to contact and eat innings.  Who I would like to finish up with is Nick Blackburn, who is truly a statistical anomaly.

Blackburn has a 2.84 K/9.  I didn't even know that was possible (even Nick Swisher got a strike out), but Blackburn has recorded only 24 strikeouts in 76 innings so far in 2010, while facing 337 batters.  In addition to this extremely low ratio, Blackburn has posted a 5.80 ERA and a 5.42 FIP and seems to be the weak link in the rotation.  However, a playoff rotation of Liriano, Sir Useless, Baker, and Slowey, could be enough to prove dangerous in a short series.