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Updated: January 13th, 2013 11:44pm
Mackey: Twins GM used 'common sense' in assembling new rotation

Mackey: Twins GM used 'common sense' in assembling new rotation

by Phil Mackey

Only the Colorado Rockies and Cleveland Indians posted higher team ERAs than the Minnesota Twins' 4.77 mark last season.

No team struck out fewer batters, and only one (Toronto) allowed more home runs than the Twins.

No American League team allowed more hits.

Those numbers are all embarrassing reminders of how awful the Twins' pitching staff was last season.

But those numbers aren't as important as this one:


As in, 5.1 runs per game allowed in 2012 -- the third highest total in baseball behind only Colorado and Cleveland.

Twins pitching was bad by any measure, but 5.1-runs-per-game bad puts it into better context. Imagine coming to the ballpark every day as manager Ron Gardenhire, or as a hitter in the Twins' lineup, knowing you had to find a way to score six runs in order to assure your team a good chance to win.

Only five other Twins teams in history have allowed more than 5.1 runs per game, and all five came during baseball's steroid era between 1995 and 2000.

The 832 runs allowed overall by the Twins are also 28 more than they allowed in the 99-loss season of 2011 and at least 67 more than any of Gardenhire's playoff teams had allowed.

When the Twins won 96 games in 2006, that pitching staff -- led by Johan Santana and a young Francisco Liriano -- allowed only 683 runs (4.2 per game).

It's impossible to compete for division titles with a pitching staff that gives up five runs per game.

Take last year for example -- the Texas Rangers (707) and Baltimore Orioles (705) were the only two teams that reached the playoffs while allowing more than 700 runs (4.3 per game). The Rays, who narrowly missed postseason play, allowed 577 (3.5 per game). The Nationals and Reds each allowed fewer than 600.

Think about that... The Nationals and Reds allowed 1.5 fewer runs per game than the Twins.

Sure, the Twins have some imposing bats in the lineup.

But none of it matters without pitching.

Rotation will be better, but by how much?

If every pitcher performs to the modest numbers posted below, the Twins will shave roughly 100 runs off last season's total according to Base Runs*.

But a team that allows 730 runs instead of 830 still ranks bottom 10 in baseball.

Just like an obese person losing 50 pounds...

Scott Diamond (200 innings): 4.15 ERA... 119 K... 47 BB... 21 HR allowed
Vance Worley (180): 3.73 ERA... 143 K... 60 BB... 14 HR allowed
Liam Hendriks (165): 4.41 ERA... 107 K... 43 BB... 21 HR allowed
Kevin Correia (165): 4.81 ERA... 88 K... 51 BB... 21 HR allowed
Mike Pelfrey (150): 4.34 ERA... 80 K... 48 BB... 13 HR allowed
Kyle Gibson (100): 3.81 ERA... 83 K... 26 BB... 11 HR allowed
Brian Duensing (66): 3.89 ERA... 45 K... 17 BB... 4 HR allowed
Alex Burnett (66): 3.94 ERA... 42 K... 24 BB... 4 HR allowed
Glen Perkins (65): 2.93 ERA... 74 K... 18 BB... 5 HR allowed
Jared Burton (61): 3.64 ERA... 55 K... 18 BB... 5 HR allowed
Casey Fien (52): 4.18 ERA... 44 K... 15 BB... 7 HR allowed
Anthony Swarzak (47): 4.55 ERA... 30 K... 14 BB... 6 HR allowed
Tyler Robertson (40): 4.21 ERA... 40 K... 17 BB... 5 HR allowed
Other pitchers (100): 5.22 ERA... 64 K... 48 BB... 13 HR allowed

* Assuming league average team defense -- nothing spectacular, but nothing like watching Tsuyoshi Nishioka trip all over himself either.

The above numbers merely represent one realistic scenario -- a scenario that could easily be much different depending on injuries, innings loads and other factors.

Last year Twins hitters plated 701 runs. Teams that score 700 and allow 730 historically finish with 78 wins.

Unless Twins decision makers think the lineup is capable of a drastic improvement, or unless multiple pitchers out-perform their track records, the Twins are likely destined for mediocrity in 2013.

Mediocrity would actually be a huge step up from the past two seasons.

Twins used 'common sense'

Twins general manager Terry Ryan stated numerous times earlier this offseason that the Twins' available resources would be used mostly for repairing the pitching staff, and that's exactly what has happened.

Of course, the phrase "available resources" might be up for debate, considering the Twins' 2013 payroll currently sits around $80 million -- nearly $20 million less than it was at the beginning of last season.

Why not spend more money and improve the staff even more for 2013?

Well, Ryan has yet to say so publicly or off-the-record, but it has become obvious that the Twins -- by adding young, talented pitchers, rather than throwing money at veterans -- are attempting to build a crescendo that leads into 2014 and beyond.

One could make a case for adding another piece, such as unsigned free agents Joe Saunders or Shaun Marcum, or signing one of those guys instead of Correia, who is likely to get hit hard.

But would Marcum or Saunders -- on multi-year deals, no less -- really make a big difference in 2013 for a team chasing the Detroit Tigers? Probably not. And spending money just to spend money doesn't make any sense either.

Instead, the path is clear for high-upside youngsters like Alex Meyer and Trevor May to join the rotation anytime between now and 2014.

When asked about what his overall strategy was this offseason to improving the pitching staff, Ryan, in a recent interview with 1500 ESPN, said, "To use common sense, that's first off. We knew we had a couple centerfielders here and maybe some depth there that we could use for other areas, and obviously we used two centerfielders to get some pitching back. Now, the Meyer kid, it's going to be interesting to see how he responds when he gets to major league camp. Worley we can plug right in, and I think Pelfrey, when his health is fine, we'll plug him in.

"We were looking for people we could put into the rotation, there's no doubt. You can't (win) at this level unless you've got the ability to put a starter out there to give you a chance, and we didn't do that enough last year and the previous year. Some of it was injury and some of it was disappointment, and maybe even some of it was over-evaluation. I don't want to push it all on players. ... Maybe we didn't quite evaluate the way we should have."

Phil Mackey is a columnist for He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
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