As the Twins continue to disappoint, the starting pitching is becoming one of the biggest question marks of the young season. It is known that the Twins don’t have the strongest rotation, but they weren’t expected to have one of the worst either. as we approach the weekend series at home against Toronto, the starting pitching needs to wake up and start pitching better.
They have the 2nd worst earned run average amongst starters in the Majors with a combined 4.95 ERA, only ahead of the Chicago Cubs. They are also known the walk very few batters compared to the rest of the major league, but they have already walked 80 batters, compared to a total of 233 last year. Something needs to change quickly otherwise they will remain at the bottom of the MLB ranks.
The most disappointing starting pitcher to me has to be Carl Pavano. Winning 17 games in 2010, he was re-signed by the Twins to a $16.5 million, 2 year contract. He was expected to be the ace of this staff entering 2011. So far in 2011 he is 2-4 with a 6.64 ERA in seven starts. This brings back memories of when he signed a four year contract with the New York Yankees back in 2005 after going 18-8 during the 2004 season with the Florida Marlins.
He isn’t a strikeout pitcher, but to only have 17 strikeouts through seven starts is not a good sign. He really needs to go back and maybe look at film and find out what is going wrong. Whether its mechanic or just he is having a bad start to the season. If he is going to be the leader of this rotation, he needs to pitch like it.
As you continue to go through the rotation, you ask yourself more and more question about whether this team has a pitcher that will win more than 10-11 games. Francisco Liriano is a perfect example of this situation. Ever since his Tommy John Surgery, people have been wondering if he will be the same pitcher we saw in 2006, when he went 12-3. He might have had too high of expectations when he was the #2 pitcher behind Johan Santana in 2006, so he might be trying too hard to live up to the hype. Everyone expected him to be the next Johan Santana, but we came to quickly realize he was not the same pitcher after the surgery.
He shows flashes of brilliance, but then just as you get your hopes up, he goes out and gets shelled. The perfect example of this was just a couple of weeks ago. After lasting just three innings his April 27th start against Tampa Bay, giving up seven earned runs and walking four, his next start was in Chicago. Many people thought that this would be the start that would determine if he would stay in the rotation or not. Well he answered those critics by throwing a no-hitter against the rival White Sox.
With just two more years, 2011 and 2012 season, left he needs to quickly prove to the Twins that he is worth keeping around. Otherwise he will find himself involved in a possible trade or even just let go and land in the free agent market. I personally think Liriano has the potential to be a solid #2 or #3 starter, but he has to figure out what he is doing wrong and work on it not only during the season, but also the off-season.
So whether the problems within the rotation are mechanic related, psychological or just a run of bad pitching, the Twins need to figure this out and figure it out quickly. Otherwise, the Twins may be forced to look within the organization or do some shuffling around with the pitching. Whether that is re-inserting Kevin Slowey into the rotation or making a trade around the deadline.
This could very well be pitching coach Rick Anderson’s toughest year on the job and he will need to show why is one of the better pitching coaches around. So it will be very interesting to see how this turns out.