The old baseball adage is that pitching and defense wins championships. That being the case, the Minnesota Twins appear to be going in the right direction in 2010.

The starting pitching, led by Francisco Liriano, appears to be the strongest and deepest staff the Twins have had in ten seasons. Four of the starters have spent their entire major-league careers with the Twins. Liriano, Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey have all been a part of the rotation since 2008.

They average four years of experience with an average age of 27. Baker is the elder statesman at 28, and is in his sixth season with the Twins.

In 2009 the Twins added Carl Pavano, who in his 14th major league season, adds a veteran presence to the rotation.

Comparing the success of the starting pitching in 2010 over the past ten seasons confirms that this is a strong staff. The starters are pitching deeper in games with an average of 6.33 innings per start—the third highest since 2000.

With two complete games already this year, the 2010 staff has more complete games than the 2001 staff and almost half as many as any team since 2007.  

Manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson appear to have increased confidence in their starters, allowing them to go longer in their starts and throwing more pitches.

The starters have averaged 96 pitches per start while exceeding the 100-pitch count ten times already this season.

Liriano has thrown at least 92 pitches in every start and 123 against Cleveland in his last start. This many pitches is almost unheard of for a Twins’ pitcher.  

Gardenhire’s confidence was very much on display in a recent game against Detroit. With the Twins leading 3—2, he sent Blackburn out in the ninth allowing him to get the win and the complete game.

With Jon Rauch having converted eight of nine save opportunities, it could not have been due to lack of confidence in the first year closer.

The pitching staff is getting the job done. It is currently third in the AL in ERA at 3.60, and second in all of Major League Baseball with only 76 walks allowed.

Liriano, at one time considered for closer, has become the staff’s stopper with a 4-0 record and a 1.50 ERA. In three of five starts, Liriano has earned the victory following a Twins’ loss.  

If the starters can continue to pitch effectively and stay healthy, the Twins will cruise to another AL Central Division title and a great chance of getting past the divisional round of the playoffs.

Miscellaneous observations and questions:

  • After going seven for eight in his first two games Wilson Ramos has cooled to one for 11 the past three. What will the Twins do when Joe Mauer returns? Could one of these two end up playing third base, adding some power to the lineup?
  • With depth in the starting rotation and pitchers Jeff Manship and Brian Duensing appearing ready to join the rotation, is there a chance that Pavano will be playing for his sixth team?
  • How long will Twins’ fans have to wait for Justin Morneau’s first Target field home run?
  • When will Michael Cuddyer hit his first road home run?





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