Warne: What you see is likely what you're going to get from Twins
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Twins entered play Friday with a 4-5 record and without the benefit of an offense or pitching staff that would be considered as firing on all cylinders. The offense entered the series against the New York Mets hitting a collective .232/.323/.354, which isn't entirely different than Nick Punto's career line of .248/.326/.325. The pitching staff has been overall adequate if a bit uneven.
In other words, when considering performance and weather over these first nine games, we don't know a whole lot yet.
But what we can do is break down what has happened so far to see exactly how things have gone in lieu of what should have been expected.
General manager Terry Ryan, for one, hasn't been terribly surprised by what he's seen:
"For the most part they've given us an opportunity to win the game. That's the good thing. The other night (Kevin) Correia pitched as good as you'd hope, and we didn't win the game. (Mike) Pelfrey didn't pitch very well, and we had a chance to win that game. The bullpen picked us up a couple times.
"(Liam) Hendriks has to get deeper in games. He's up in that pitch count pretty early in the game, and we can survive that for a while, but over the course of the long haul you just can't keep dipping into the bullpen. We did that a lot last year, and we don't want to see that repeated. But for the most part, we've done OK. You can't rave about it because we're 4-5, but we have seen some pretty decent outings."
The rotation has struck out nobody, and that was to be expected. The highest strikeout rate among the four starters who have started more than one game is 4.7 per 9, and that belongs to Hendriks.
Those four starters have 15 strikeouts combined over 32.1 innings pitched. Seven starters -- including Saturday's starter for the Mets, Matt Harvey -- have more strikeouts than that quartet. The bullpen has been markedly better, with Glen Perkins, Jared Burton, and Casey Fien each fanning a hitter an inning with sustainable potential.
And there's help on the way.
Not only should there be a bit more projection in the current guys' stat lines -- Correia simply can't fan 1.9 per 9 and survive -- but there should be considerable strikeout upside coming through the system in the form of Alex Meyer, Trevor May, and even Kyle Gibson. Gibson probably has the least electric raw stuff of that trio, but he should be able to at least come within shouting distance of league average.
And maybe that's a worthwhile aside. With a staff K/9 mark of 4.9 entering play Friday, the Twins are presently mired in a five-year stretch of declining strikeout rates, tumbling down from 6.5 in 2009. The major league average has trended in the opposite direction, however.
In 2008, the big-league average was 6.8. In 2013, that number has swelled to 7.7. Guys like Meyer and May should be the kind of pitchers who can do that and more, and if someone like Scott Baker or Kevin Slowey could regularly register in the 7.0s, there's at least some optimism Gibson's raw stuff could stick at a similar level.
But strikeouts aren't in the equation this year. The big emphasis this season will be on groundballs, and so far, so good. The Twins rank fourth in groundball/flyball rate (1.7), and fifth in raw groundball percentage (49.6%). While one might stop shy of calling those marks sustainable -- sheerly due to sample size at this point -- both marks would have been good enough to pace the major leagues last season.
In short, that part is working.
But two things which can derail a good groundball rate are BABIP (batting average on balls in play) and WHIP. In short, one can use BABIP to determine if a team is unlucky or not particularly good when it comes to fielding balls in play, simply based on where it falls within a standard acceptable range. And as far as WHIP goes, the stance here is that it's somewhat important to see how many baserunners a team is allowing per inning.
With the sheer number of balls in play that the Twins staff is apt to permit, a high WHIP likely will result from too many walks, too many hits, or a combination of both. In fact, the hits are a downright certainty, and have thus far been problematic for the Twins. The Twins presently have a 1.43 WHIP, which is ninth but would typically be in contention for the absolute worst in a given year.
As far as BABIP is concerned, the Twins currently check in at .314, ninth-highest in all of baseball.
While too many factors are in play to say whether or not this is the kind of BABIP the Twins will sustain all year, it's within the generally accepted range of .280-.320. Outside of that will typically send statisticians screaming for regression to the mean.
To try frame it up a bit, last year's league-wide BABIP was .297, and the overall BABIP on grounders was .238. Both of those portend a possible improvement in the Twins' favor, but then there's the X factor of Trevor Plouffe's defense at third. So while there's a good chance the Twins should stand to improve on its current BABIP, it's certainly no guarantee.
And if it seems like not enough credit is given to the Twins possibly improving on some of the numbers that have presently been compiled, it's due in large part to this largely being a low floor, low ceiling group. Ryan has compiled a staff of guys who will eat innings, with little potential for breakout or attrition. This bunch is who it is.
So in essence: Don't be surprised if what you see is what you get.