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Updated: December 2nd, 2013 11:53pm
Numbers Game: Twins need Phil Hughes to be like A.J. Burnett

Numbers Game: Twins need Phil Hughes to be like A.J. Burnett

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by Phil Mackey
1500ESPN.com

The Minnesota Twins went on an early Christmas shopping spree, reportedly landing free agent starting pitchers Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes. In this week's edition of Numbers Game, we examine some important figures to know about these new additions.

76: Home runs allowed by Hughes at Yankee Stadium. He allowed just 36 away from New York, in nearly the same number of innings. The Twins are hoping Hughes turns out like A.J. Burnett, who had a 4.79 ERA with the Yankees and sub-3.80 ERA everywhere else, and Javier Vazquez, who had a 5.09 ERA with the Yankees and a sub-4.00 ERA everywhere else.

20%: The percentage of Nolasco's pitches that induce swings and misses from opposing hitters. Hughes sits at 18% for his career. These whiff rates look Randy Johnson-esque when compared to Mike Pelfrey (12%), Scott Diamond (13%), Kevin Correia (13%) and Vance Worley (9%). No team pitches to contact like the Twins, who have fanned fewer opposing batters over the past six seasons than any team in baseball, but Nolasco and Hughes should help bring a few more gusts of air to Target Field.

10: The number of times, combined, that Nolasco and Hughes struck out at least seven batters in an outing last season. Twins starters accomplished this feat only nine times.

24%: The percentage of batted balls off Nolasco last season that were classified as line drives - the third highest mark among all starters. He'll get some strikeouts, yes, but he also allows a lot of solid contact.

31%: The percentage of batted balls off Hughes last season that were groundballs - the lowest groundball rate among starters. Hughes is one of the most extreme fly ball pitchers in the game, and Target Field is generally more forgiving in that regard than Yankee Stadium.

3: Consecutive seasons in which Nolasco's strikeout rate plummeted (from 9.5 K/9 to 5.9) before an uptick last season (7.5 K/9). The only concern here is if Nolasco ramped it up in a contract season, only to regress in 2014. I guess we'll find out.

69%: The percentage of base runners Nolasco has stranded during his career. MLB average last season was 73% for starting pitchers, and while a 4% difference may not seem like a lot, it adds up over the course of the season. Nolasco's low strand rate is easily explained; he is a better pitcher throughout his career with the bases empty (where opponents hit just .259/.295/.423) than with men on (.287/.342/.438).

$79 million: The Twins' approximate 2014 payroll if they don't make another move, which is slightly below where the payroll was at the beginning of last season. This signifies the Twins could still make additional moves this offseason, and it also shows they won't be strapped if Hughes and/or Nolasco don't pan out. 

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
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