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Updated: July 7th, 2013 7:17pm
Mackey: Twins getting exactly what they signed up for last offseason

Mackey: Twins getting exactly what they signed up for last offseason

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by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com

Scott Diamond took one to the chin on Sunday in Toronto.

And one to the side of the head. And another to the ribs. And a couple square in the nose.

Sunday marked the 10th time this season Diamond failed to complete at least six innings, which is something he failed to accomplish only six times all of last season. Sunday also marked the fourth time since mid-May Diamond has allowed at least six earned runs in a start.

The most amazing number for Diamond represents the same wall he slams into seemingly every outing - 29 runs allowed in the fifth and sixth innings (out of 51 total).

Diamond has gone from being the Minnesota Twins' best starter in 2012 to perhaps making his next start for Triple-A Rochester, but let's face it -- the Twins are getting exactly what they signed up for this season.

Already one of the most contact-prone pitching staffs in baseball over the past few seasons, the Twins added contact magnets Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia to the starting rotation in the offseason.

Predictably, heading into Sunday, no starting pitching staff has been easier to make contact against than the Twins', and it isn't close - an 87% contact rate.

Translation: When opposing hitters swing, they make contact nine out of 10 times against Twins starters.

The Tigers lead MLB at 77%, which adds up over the course of innings, games, months, a season, etc.

Twins starters also - again, predictably -- entered Sunday with a laughably low strikeout rate (4.7 per nine innings) that is lower than all but four qualified individual starters in 2012. Two of those starters were Scott Diamond (4.7) and Correia (4.7).

Tigers and Rangers starters strike out twice as many hitters.

That's why Twins starters - yes, predictably -- entered Sunday with the worst collective ERA (5.25) in the major leagues.

By continually assembling starting staffs that don't miss bats, the Twins are relying on one of two factors - luck or weak contact. And the only Twins starter who regularly induces weak contact is Samuel Deduno, who gets more groundballs (per Fangraphs.com) than any other starter in baseball.

There have been rumblings that the starting staff has been better recently.

Sure, there are the occasional performances like the one Mike Pelfrey turned in on Saturday in Toronto. But over the past 30 days Twins starters have a collective ERA of 5.22 - nearly identical to the 5.25 mark on the season. And that doesn't count Diamond's dud on Sunday. The advanced metrics have shown some improvement - a 4.32 xFIP, down from 4.57 - but nothing that signifies an about-face.

Until the Twins find starters who can miss more bats - via trade, free agency or the minor leagues - the rotation will continue to be largely ineffective. 

Phil Mackey is a columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He co-hosts "Mackey & Judd" from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Phil | @PhilMackey | Mackey & Judd
In this story: Scott Diamond, Mike Pelfrey
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