Monday, June 11, 2007

Wrong Lesson Learned

Twins fans knew that last year’s incredible late season surge was dangerous. It wasn’t something that this team or any team can count on, and there were plenty of warnings about it as we watched last year’s offensive lineup fail to put up last year’s numbers. We were prepared to not see the lineup transform to an offensive juggernaut just because June rolled around.

But we may have missed the real danger. Last year, we thought we learned that patience produces results - that we just needed to wait for the minor leaguers to overtake the offseason’s rent-a-veterans and raise this team to a higher level. Indeed, that’s what happened last year as Francisco Liriano, Jason Bartlett and Boof Bonser led the team’s turnaround.

Unfortunately, the cavalry is mostly here for the Twins, and they haven’t made much of an impact. The Twins began the season with four aces waiting in Rochester, and three of them have been played:
  • Glen Perkins came up within the first week, but hasn’t outperformed the role he was placed in – second lefty in the bullpen. His ERA is just 3.80, but he’s also given up 32 base runners in 23.2 innings, and only struck out 16. Plus, he’s now injured, with a strained muscle in his throwing shoulder, just beginning a throwing program on Tuesday.
  • Scott Baker came up to replace Sidney Ponson, whose 6.93 ERA earned him his release. Baker’s ERA after four starts is 6.45, and his turn in the rotation will be skipped this week.
  • Ramon Ortiz was demoted to the bullpen after he followed up five straight quality starts with five straight non-quality starts. He was replaced by Kevin Slowey, who followed up his first quality start with a non-quality start last week. His 4.09 ERA looks fine, but five strikeouts in eleven innings means he’s not missing many bats. In fact that strikeout rate is eerily similar to Ortiz’s.

That leaves one card left to trump the AL Central. Matt Garza continues to toil in Rochester, putting up numbers less impressive than Slowey or Baker, but he’s still considered the pitcher with the highest upside. With the struggles of some other members of the pitching staff, it would be shocking if he didn’t get his (second, by the way) chance by the All-Star break. Twins fans will be crossing their fingers, hoping that Garza can do what the rest of the minor leaguers have not yet done – provide a needed boost.

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