Tag: Scott Baker

Scott Baker Could Be Another Potential Bargain for Rangers

And we’re here at what seems to be the final stop on the train ride exploring all the available free-agent pitching options for the Texas Rangers. Johan Santana was Tuesday morning’s first attraction, and he’ll be followed by Scott Baker

Like Santana, Baker, 32, is looking to rebuild his market value following major surgery a couple of years ago, and he could end up being a steal for his new team. Do I have your attention Mr. Daniels? The Rangers should definitely be interested in this guy.

According to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish, the Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians are currently in the running to sign Baker. The Chicago Cubs are seeking to add a starting pitcher but are reportedly not interested in a reunion with Baker, per Jesse Rodgers of ESPN Chicago

That’s a shallow market for a guy who’s been pretty solid over his seven-plus-year career in the majors. It’s a perfect opportunity for the Rangers to join the running for him. 

Baker gets the job done with the classic fastball, changeup, slider and curveball repertoire. He’s not quite a “strikeout pitcher” but is rather well-rounded—a poor man’s version of Ervin Santana, perhaps. He misses a healthy amount of bats, is very controlled and generally stays under one hit per inning. 

He doesn’t have front-line stuff like Santana, but being able to pinpoint a 90 mph fastball can be just as effective as a loosely thrown 95 mph heater. Control and location usually trump velocity alone. Usually—because there are exceptions to this.

Baker isn’t a horse like other pitchers I’ve profiled, such as Santana or Bronson Arroyo, but he does seem to fit the mold of a back-end starter pretty comfortably. He’ll give you around 150 to 160 innings on average and will allow about the same number of hits, maybe slightly less. 

He’s made at least 21 starts in five of his last six full seasons, with the exception being last season. So he’s more than durable enough to handle a No. 5 spot in the Rangers’ rotation.

The Oklahoma State product consistently hit his corners and spots, and he won’t walk too many batters. He leans toward a fly-ball pitcher but isn’t terrifyingly home run susceptible. He pitched 200 innings in 2009 with the Twins and watched 28 balls leave the yard. That could be better, but it isn’t the worst total you’ve ever seen. 

He does get his share of ground balls with a quality changeup. The athletic Ranger defense would be behind him every step of the way.

The only substantial concern with Baker is his recent Tommy John surgery. He had the operation in mid-2012 and returned to pitch in the final month of 2013 with the Cubs. In 15 innings over three starts, he allowed six runs and posted a 3.60 ERA. Facing 57 hitters, he only gave up nine hits.

He’s completely healthy now, and with a full spring training under his belt, he should be a viable option for an Opening Day rotation.

If I were Jon Daniels, Baker would be on my short list of targets. I’d consider offering him a one-year deal in the neighborhood of $3 million to $4 million and maybe tag on a team option for a second year.

He’s a sensible option because he’s relatively cheap, gives you innings and can hold his own in those innings.

Baker is out to rebuild his value, so that price should be a fair offer for him to do so. He would be a nice, under-the-radar addition to the Rangers’ rotation.

Maybe Texas signs two Bakers this offseason? 


All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com

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6 Hidden Free-Agent Gems That Are Being Overlooked for 2014

The main focus of the MLB offseason will soon turn to Japanese star Masahiro Tanaka, who will be posted by the Rakuten Golden Eagles, and free-agent starters Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, who are all still on the board.

While most interested teams have been waiting to see how the Tanaka situation unfolds, top free-agent hitters Nelson Cruz and Stephen Drew are also still available, along with closers Grant Balfour and Fernando Rodney.

Aside from those players, there aren’t many available on the free-agent market who are expected to make a significant impact on a big league roster. That doesn’t mean there aren’t those who could fill an integral role and help a team in some way, even if it’s at the back of the rotation or off of the bench.

In July, contending teams will be looking for these types of players, who can be had now at a likely bargain rate. 

Here are six such free agents who are still available. 

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2014 MLB Free Agency: Best Bargains Still Available on the Market

Of the free-agent signings thus far, there are certainly a couple that could turn out to be bargains. If Josh Johnson (San Diego Padres) and Chris Young (New York Mets) return to form, they’ll be well worth the one-year deals at the cost of $8 million and $7.25 million, respectively.

Same for David Murphy, who signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Cleveland Indians, and LaTroy Hawkins, who will cost the Colorado Rockies no more than $2.5 million to at least start the season as their closer.

Here are five more potential bargains still available on the free-agent market. 

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Updated Stock Watch for Upcoming MLB Free Agents, Week 23

With less than a month to go in the regular season, free agents-to-be are running out of time to leave a lasting impression on potential suitors. Some of the bigger names, including Robinson Cano, have remained near the top of the free-agent market with steady performance while several others have risen and fallen from month-to-month. 

Players who have disappointed up to this point can still boost their stock by having a big month in September. On the flip side, those who have been terrific for most of the season could see their value fall substantially with a poor finish. 

Here are 10 players who have gone in all different directions throughout the season, but find themselves in a similar position with a few weeks to go. Their value could rise or fall significantly based on their end-of-season performance.


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MLB Fantasy Baseball’s Late-Round, Draft-Day Targets: WHIP

Finding pitchers who help in the WHIP department is not always an easy task; finding one late in your draft (after Round 18) is even tougher. 

Here are five pitchers who I have projected for a 1.30 WHIP or better who are available late in your draft (based on Mock Draft Central’s ADP):


Brian Matusz – Baltimore Orioles

He may be a tough sell, considering that he is entering his second full season and is pitching in the AL East. 

Still, in the minor leagues he posted a 2.55 BB/9 and 9.64 K/9 (the higher the strikeout rate, the lower the dependence on BABIP in regards to the WHIP).

Those two numbers have the makings of an elite mark.

While he wasn’t quite that good in his rookie year, he was good enough, with a 3.23 BB/9 and 7.33 K/9. Coupled with a .292 BABIP, he posted a 1.34 WHIP. 

With a year of experience under his belt, there certainly is reason to believe that he can improve across the board. That certainly would lead to a better WHIP.

Plus, before you say it’s impossible to post a good WHIP in the AL East, just look at these marks:

  • Shaun Marcum – 1.15
  • Jeremy Guthrie – 1.16
  • Clay Buchholz – 1.20
  • Jeff Niemann – 1.26
  • Ricky Romero – 1.29

Those aren’t the Jon Lester’s or CC Sabathia’s of the world, either.

Matusz certainly has the potential and could be a great source late in your draft.


Ian Kennedy – Arizona Diamondbacks

In his first full season in the Major Leagues, Kennedy showed why he was high on the Yankees prospect list, posting a 1.20 WHIP thanks to a 3.25 BB/9 and .256 BABIP. 

Obviously, the BABIP is not realistic, though the walks are thanks to a minor league career BB/9 of 2.79.

With his ability to generate strikeouts and limit the walks, it is no wonder that he can be a good source of WHIP for fantasy owners. 

Obviously I wouldn’t count on a 1.20, but there is no reason that, with his proven skills, that he can’t provide for fantasy owners.


Jake Peavy – Chicago White Sox

There are probably a couple of reasons Peavy is being selected late in drafts. 

One is his health, as he tries to recover from a detached ligament. It’s an extremely rare injury and no one really knows exactly what to expect. 

At first, it appeared that he was going to miss at least a little time early in the season, but now that may not be the case. There also was the concern about moving to the AL, which is a very fair concern.

That is more geared towards his ERA, however, not his WHIP. 

In 107.0 innings with the White Sox in ’10 he still managed a 1.23 WHIP. He throws strikes (2.91 career BB/9) and gets strikeouts (8.93 career K/9), which helps limit the effect of BABIP. 

As it is, his BABIP the past four seasons has been between .273 and .280, helping to WHIPs of:

  • 2007 – 1.06
  • 2008 – 1.18
  • 2009 – 1.12
  • 2010 – 1.23

There’s a lot of risk, but there is also a huge potential reward.


Bronson Arroyo – Cincinnati Reds

We all know what we are getting when we select Arroyo. 

On occasion, he is going to post a real clunker. He’s not going to post much in the way of strikeouts. He is going to limit the walks.

For his career, he has a 2.73 BB/9 and in ’10 he was at 2.46. While his 1.15 from ’10 is highly unlikely (it came courtesy of a .239 BABIP), he does have a career mark of 1.31 (which is skewed from poor years in ’07 & ’08, due to inflated BABIP).

He’s a late round option for a reason, because he has very little “upside.” 

Still, if you have a staff built with strikeouts and need a steady WHIP option who is going to win games (15 or more each of the past three years), Arroyo certainly has value.


Scott Baker/Kevin Slowey – Minnesota Twins

Interestingly enough, they are competing for the Twins’ fifth starters job, which may help to explain why both are currently available in the later rounds. 

There are rumors that Slowey could be traded, which will help clear up who to target (the answer would be both of them). For now, we are going to have to monitor the news and see how it all plays out.

I believe it was two seasons ago that I wrote an article entitled “Scott Baker the WHIP Maker.” While 2010 is not the best example (1.34), he was at 1.18 and 1.19 the two previous years. He has impeccable control (2.10 career BB/9) and, if the luck returns (he had a .323 BABIP in ’10), there is no reason why he couldn’t get back to the elite numbers. 

If he wins the job (and he currently appears to be the favorite), he’s an absolute bargain.

Slowey, remarkably, is an even better control artist, with a career BB/9 of 1.50 over 473.1 innings—even with a .307 BABIP in ’10 he posted a 1.29 WHIP. 

He is more of a fly ball pitcher (50.6 percent fly ball rate in ’10), so a trade would have a huge impact on his potential value. 

Regardless, with his control, he could be a monster WHIP option.


What are your thoughts of these options? Would you target any of them? Is there someone else you would look at late in your draft to help with WHIP?


Make sure to order your copy of the Rotoprofessor 2011 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide, selling for just $5, by clicking here.

Make sure to check out our previous late round articles:


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Francisco Liriano & the Minnesota Twins: 2011 Fantasy Baseball Pitching Preview

Because they’re the Twins, people generally expect their rotation to come through as expected. 
But let’s quickly run though their five projected starters:

Francisco Liriano is simply put, Jekyll and Hyde. Scott Baker has missed time in every season but one because of injury and has a career ERA of 4.32. Carl Pavano is 35-years-old and recently went five years between double-digit win seasons. Kevin Slowey has a career ERA of 4.41 and almost never hits 90 mph. And to wrap up the rotation is Nick Blackburn who was banished to the minors last year and has never had a winning record. Unless they change their minds and go with Brian Duensing, a converted reliever who was very solid in the second half last year.

But, it’s the Twins, and they know how to win, just don’t put *too* much stock in their fantasy prowess.

Except for Liriano, that is. Though he can be a tale of two pitchers (two seasons where he averaged 1.1 Ks per inning, two seasons where he averaged .88 Ks per inning with loads more walks and a WHIP nearly twice as high), Liriano – when healthy – is one of the few pitchers in baseball who can ring up 200 strikeouts. 

The “when healthy” issue is an open one. He already had some shoulder soreness this spring, but his ability to strike people out, not give up the long ball (only nine home runs allowed in 191 innings in 2010), keep a manageable WHIP and rack up double digit wins are all big-time fantasy assets. 

I wouldn’t put Francisco in the elite group of starters (Halladay, King Felix, Verlander, Lester, etc), but just a notch below. He should go in the 6th or 7th round and get about $20 at auction.

Scott Baker is next, with his career 4.32 ERA and injury history. Baker has loads of talent and a couple of good seasons under his belt (2008 and 2009), but he took a major step backwards in 2010. 

Baker’s ERA has climbed for three years running (3.45, 4.37, 4.49) as has his WHIP (1.18,1.19, 1.34). His BAA skyrocketed last year to .277, and his BABIP rose 47 points to .323.  And that’s the biggest difference between his 2008-2009 run and 2010 – that BABIP. 

All the other numbers – LOB %, GB% FB%, walks, etc – stayed fairly constant, but the fact that he was significantly more prone to giving up hits on balls in play, made his season that much worse.

If Baker can return his BABIP to the .270 range, he can be an excellent value pick. Watch for him in the late rounds or for less than $10 at auction.

Carl Pavano, a starter who wasn’t bought in my AL league last year, became a huge part of my title run.

In 2009, Pavano had a dismal 5.10 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP, but broke out in 2010 with 17 wins, seven complete games, a 3.75 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. He had the second lowest full-season BABIP of his career, and parlayed that into a sweet $16.5 million contract.

Though Carl could continue to surprise, I don’t put much stock in him. I wouldn’t choose him before the 20th round in a 12 team mixed league, or pay more than $5 for him in AL-only league.  The proof? I’m not even keeping him at $6.

Fourth is Kevin Slowey, a guy I had liked for a number of years and now, well, don’t. 

Yes, he won 13 games last year and pitches for a good team – which makes him worthy of AL-only ownership and deep mixed league consideration, but he’s been hurt all three years of his major league career and only once had an ERA below 4.45.

Slowey has never averaged more than seven strikeouts per nine innings, and consistently gives up more than a hit per inning.

Relying more and more on his slower two-seam fastball, slider and curveball, Slowey is in danger of becoming a 26-year-old junk ball pitcher. 

Honestly, he’s not worth a mixed league draft choice above the 21st round, or more than $5-8 at auction.

Finally, Nick Blackburn vs Brian Duensing – the former is a model of consistency and, unfortunately, of mediocrity. 

11-11 in both 2008 and 2009, Blackburn found himself banished to the minors for a few starts in 2010, only to be recalled and finish with a 10-12 record. His career ERA is 4.50, WHIP is 1.40, BAA of .296 and has never struck out 100 guys in a season.  He is the very definition of a $1/23rd round pick in AL only, and ignorable in mixed leagues. 

The latter, Duensing, is intriguing only because he had a 3.05 ERA in 13 starts last year (2.62 overall) and won ten games down the stretch. He was lucky, though, owning a very high LOB percentage (over 81 percent) and low BABIP of .272 – and he only struck out 5.4 guys per 9 innings (and you know how I feel about starters with low K/9). That said, he’s worth a couple dollars pitching for a good team in a pitchers’ ballpark.

See original article here


Written by Jesse Mendelson exclusively for www.thefantasyfix.com.  Be sure to check back every Wednesday during the season for Jesse’s waiver wire column (and considering he used the waiver wire to sweep all three of his leagues last year, you might want to pay attention).  Find and add Jesse on Facebook.

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Scott Baker, Not Nick Blackburn, Should Start for Minnesota Twins in Playoffs

Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey will battle for the final spot in long relief in the Twins‘ bullpen once the American League playoffs begin next week, according to manager Ron Gardenhire. The team will start Francisco Liriano in Game 1, Carl Pavano in Game 2, and Brian Duensing in Game 3 of their ALDS matchup with either New York or Tampa Bay.

Gardenhire also noted that right-hander Nick Blackburn would get the Game 4 nod if necessary.

Gardenhire‘s decision-making has gotten to be nearly beyond reproach: He has led the Twins to six division titles in nine seasons and perennially gets the most out of his personnel in order to overcome high rates of attrition among his most talented players. If he doesn’t win the Manager of the Year award this season, there ought to be an investigation.

That said, Gardenhire is wrong on this point. Blackburn has had a great month since being recalled from Triple-A, but his numbers since August 23 (1.97 ERA with a WHIP a shade under 1.00) cannot erase the misery of his first half. Blackburn had a 6.66 ERA and a WHIP pushing 1.70 when he was sent down in July.


Blackburn vs. Baker

Furthermore, since his return from the abyss, Blackburn has faced the following teams in his seven appearances: Seattle, Texas, Detroit, Texas again, Cleveland, Oakland, and Cleveland again. The Rangers will make the postseason, but the Twins would not see them until a potential ALCS meeting. The others are non-contenders with poor offenses.

On the other hand, Scott Baker continues to deliver underrated but solid performances. After missing three starts in September with a sore elbow, Baker returned apparently at full strength last week. He held the opposing Indians to just two runs (one earned) on four hits and one walk in five innings, punching out seven. For the season, Baker now has 139 strikeouts and 39 walks in 165.1 innings pitched.

That strikeout rate is the best of Baker’s six-year career, and the walk rate is his best since 2007. His .326 BABIP against suggests he’s gotten very unlucky on his way to a 4.52 ERA, though Baker has always battled to keep the ball on the ground and his 1.20 home runs per nine innings is a potential problem against AL East maulers like Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Evan Longoria.


Three Starters or Four?

Crucially, though, Baker could operate without fear of giving up too many long balls if he pitched in the Twins’ spacious new home, Target Field. A Game 4 matchup in the first round would be on the road, but because of the shortened five-game series format, the Twins would do well not to use a fourth starter in that series anyway. Liriano, Pavano, and Duensing would give them the best chance to win such a series.

Having reached the best-of-seven ALCS, then, the Twins could expand their rotation to make room for Baker. A Game 3 or 4 start in the second round of the playoffs would be at home, and Baker would be the man for the job.

In the meantime, the Twins’ bullpen (which lacks a ground-ball oriented right-hander) could benefit from the injection of Blackburn, a decent option for middle-inning relief in a hitter’s park like Yankee Stadium.

Blackburn is a fine pitcher, and fits the Twins’ organizational philosophy of pitching to contact and keeping the ball down. That makes him the easy choice for Gardenhire and his staff.

Given Baker’s better all-around skill set, however, and the need for power stuff to face the vaunted lineups of either New York or Tampa Bay, the Twins would be better-suited to hand the ball to their more veteran hurler if they advance beyond the first round of the AL playoffs.

Matt Trueblood is a student at Loyola University Chicago and a B/R College Writing Intern. Follow him on Twitter.

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Grading Francisco Liriano, Minnesota Twins’ Pitching Staff: Starters and Closer

The Minnesota Twins appear to be on their way to winning back-to-back division titles and for the first time in two years, not having to go to a game 163. With the Twins sitting comfortably in front of the Chicago White Sox they will have the opportunity to rest pitchers down the stretch and set their rotation however they would like for the postseason.

There’s a good chance Francisco Liriano will be thrown out in Game 1 against either the Tampa Bay Rays or New York Yankees. The other option would be Carl Pavano, who has been a godsend for the Twins’ rotation with the way he eats up innings.

The postseason is creeping up closer and closer, which means it’s time to grade the pitching staff up to this point.


Francisco Liriano—B+

It was a tough choice not to give Liriano an A especially seeing how well he’s pitched since the All-Star break. While he’s had a very good season, he hasn’t pitched like a staff ace consistently enough. Consistency is something the promising lefty is going to have to work on if he ever wants to be considered an elite pitcher.

Right now, Liriano is having a good stretch, but as many Twins fans know, he is just as capable to fall into a three- or four-start funk.


Carl Pavano—B

He always seems to give Minnesota seven or eight quality innings every start and more importantly, a chance to win. When Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, and Nick Blackburn were struggling, it was Liriano and Pavano who kept the Twins afloat.

Over June and July, Pavano compiled an 8-1 record, lowering his ERA to 3.21 at one point, which put him in the Cy Young conversation for a brief stint. Since then he has come back to Earth a bit, but without that remarkable stretch earlier in the season. the Twins wouldn’t be where they are today.

Scott Baker—D

“Moonshot Scott” is by far one of the more overvalued players in baseball.

For some reason Minnesota believes that Baker is an above-average pitcher, even though he hasn’t produced like it on the mound. Baker will sucker you in with a dazzling performance making you think that he’s turned a corner, only to break your heart with a subsequent poor outing. One complaint about Baker is his consistency.

That’s not the case this year as he has been consistently bad. 


Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn—C

Slowey gets a C because he simply is an average starting pitcher who is having an average season.

Blackburn is different. He was so bad at one point during the season that he was sent down to the Minors to try to rediscover his sinker ball. In May, he went 5-0 with a 2.65 ERA, which he followed up with two disastrous months leading to his demotion. Since being called back up, he has pitched very well and would most likely be the fourth starter in a seven game series. 


Brian Duensing—A

Since joining the rotation, Duensing has posted a 5-1 mark to go with a 3.06 ERA. Not to mention that he was a key member of the bullpen for the majority of the season before he was summoned to be a starter.

It’s clear that he has become the No. 3 guy behind Liriano and Pavano surpassing Baker, Slowey, and Blackburn. For the second-straight season, Duensing has stepped into the rotation in a pennant race and delivered. His stellar pitching helped the Twins surge past the White Sox into first place. 


Matt Capps—C-

Capps was acquired from the Washington Nationals in exchange for highly touted catching prospect, Wilson Ramos. While Capps‘s numbers with Minnesota may not look all that bad, they aren’t much better than the man he replaced, Jon Rauch. He’s blown two save opportunities in 11 chances, but has routinely given up base runners and made the game much more interesting.

That’s never a good thing if you are supposed to be a shut down closer. The complaint about Rauch was that he didn’t have overpowering stuff and gave up too many hits. Capps has come in and thrown the ball harder than Rauch, but not necessarily more effectively.

In 19 innings, the former National has given up 20 hits, while striking out 13 batters. The jury is still out on Capps as his so-so regular season performance with the Twins will definitely be erased if he is able to get the job done in October.

Something not even former All-Star Joe Nathan could do.

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The Ups and Downs of Living With a Baker

Scott Baker has to be one of the most frustrating pitchers for any fantasy owner this year. When he is on, he is lights out (Sunday vs LAA 7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 4K), but there is another side to Baker that doesn’t exactly sit well with owners.

I personally dropped him in my league on June 11th, after a dismal outing against the Kansas City Royals where he gave up five runs in five innings. Of course, the next game Baker pitched his best outing of the season, giving up only two hits and striking out 12.

I kicked myself for a few days, but then happily smiled when he gave up 20 hits and 11 runs combined in his next two starts against the Brewers and the Mets.

It’s frustrating watching a guy like Scott with so much potential. Although he may end up with a second season of 15 wins, a 4.63 ERA is just too high considering the Twins’ ERA is 3.93 (without Baker they would have a 3.81 ERA) and the AL league average is 4.16.

In 2008 and 2009, Baker had similar WHIP (1.19) and BAA (.247), both being respectable numbers. This year, though, it is clear he has struggled with his control, raising his WHIP to 1.33 and a not-so-flattering .280 BAA.

Baker has been Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde in his wins vs losses.

In his 11 Wins, Baker has posted a 2.43 ERA, allowed 7.53 hits/9 and a very low 1.04 WHIP. In contrast, in nine losses he has a 8.41 ERA, 14.6 hits/9 and a very high 1.83 WHIP. Obviously numbers are always inflated in losses but the difference here is staggering.

On a positive note, Baker has put up impressive numbers in August, raking in four wins, 29 K, 3.08 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP.

Clearly, 2010 has been far from what owners expected when they drafted him at the beginning of the year. Maybe 2011 will hold what we’ve all been waiting for…an ALL-STAR!

Written by Evan Marx, exclusively for TheFantasyFix.com. Evan’s favorite movies are Goonies, Indiana Jones, and anything with the fat kid from Good Burger.

Follow us on Twitter@TheFantasyFix


Here are some more articles that will smack some sense into you…

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Minnesota Twins: Five Reasons They Will Win the AL Central

When the Twins struggled their way into the All-Star break, going 8-13 and falling to third place in the American League Central division, things were looking pretty bleak.

All-Star first baseman Justin Morneau hasn’t played a game since July 8 after suffering a concussion. 

Currently infielder Nick Punto and Gold-Glove second baseman Orlando Hudson are on the disabled list.

Compound that with Joe Mauer sitting out a couple of games, and then limited to the DH role the next two with a sore throwing shoulder, and you might think things could not get any worse. 

The Minnesota Twins have been a different team since the All-Star Break.

Patching together makeshift lineup after makeshift lineup, Manager Ron Gardenhire has the Twins playing the best baseball since the All-Star break.

After splitting a four game series with the Tampa Bay Rays, the Twins are 15-6, the best record in the American League among playoff contending teams.

Currently one and a half games behind the Chicago White Sox, it appears the division is the Twins for the taking.

Here are five reasons the Twins will overtake the White Sox:

No. 1—Strong Starting Pitching:

Once maligned, the starters have gotten their act together and are once again pitching with purpose.

Nick Blackburn has been jettisoned from the majors, and the rest of the rotation has picked up their performance.

Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey have been told to quicken their pace and to trust their catcher calling the game.

In the just concluded four game series with Tampa Bay the starters had a combined 2.93 ERA with 7.5 strikeouts per nine innings and a 1.01 WHIP; all better than the staff averages.  

No. 2—Solid Team Defense:

The Twins continue to lead the Majors in defense with a .991 fielding percentage.

They have committed the fewest errors with only 38 this season—almost 38 percent fewer than the White Sox’ 61 errors.

No. 3—Strong Offense:

Along with the best defense in baseball, currently hitting .282, the Twins also have the best batting average.

They are near the top in the American League in strike outs (currently third), walks (fourth), and runs scored (fifth).

The White Sox are seventh in the league in average (.264) and runs scored.

Chicago does hold the edge in home runs over Minnesota at 125 to 96.  

No. 4—Hot start to the second half:

Everyone knows the Twins tend to be a second half team.

While the Twins have the best record in the American League since the All-Star break at 15-6, the White Sox have gone 12-8, and the Twins have been as close as a half game behind the White Sox.

Comparing the last 21 games before the break to the first 21 after, the Twins’ bats have come alive, increasing their scoring from 4.57 runs per game to 6.00.

At the same time, their strong pitching and solid defense has decreased the runs allowed by almost two per game, from 5.24 to 3.33.

Along with the strong start to the second half, add the fact the Twins have a better divisional record than the White Sox.

Since Gardenhire took over in Twins 2002, their winning percentage in the division is .570, while over the same time frame Chicago’s has been slightly lower at .551.  

No. 5—Healthy Roster:

As stated above, the Twins have been winning with the likes of Drew Butera, Alexi Casilla, Danny Valencia, and Jason Repko.

Butera, backing up Mauer, has caught five straight games. He went two for two with a game-tying home run in the first game of the Tampa Bay series, and had an RBI double in the series final. As Gardenhire has indicated, any offense from Butera is a bonus.

Repko has been getting time in center and right field. In 15 games he’s batting .310 with two home runs, just one less than that of Denard Span. 

Valencia has been red hot, batting .362 in 36 games with 13 RBI—only seven less than Punto has in 80 games. 

Mauer appears to be coming out of his slump and has his average up to .317, after slumping to the break at .299.

With Mauer healthy, and hitting again, the return of Morneau and his .345 batting average and 18 home runs will surely be a boost to the best offense in the league. 

With Detroit in free-fall mode, going 5-17 since the All-Star break, what once looked to be a three-team race, is now a race between Minnesota and Chicago.

With nine games remaining between the White Sox and Twins, this race could go down to the wire, just like in 2008 and 2009, when the division was decided by game 163. 

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