Friday, June 02, 2006

Slow Drag

As I pointed out before, the pace of games during Scott Baker's starts suddenly became a topic of great interest to Dick & Bert the other night in Anaheim, thanks to an inside tip from Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. As the Twins' TV broadcast team watched Boof "Call Me Bail" Bonser cruise along in Oakland last night, they couldn't praise him enough for striking such a refreshing contrast to Baker's pacing. So I decided to look up just how long Baker's starts have been dragging through the night.

These lines show the date, opponent, opposing starter, final score, Baker's innings pitched, his final pitch count, and time of game.

4/8 at CLE, J. Johnson, 3-0 L, 4.1, 88 pc, 2:31
4/14 vs. NYY, Mussina, 5-1 W, 7 IP, 92 pc, 2:50
4/20 vs. LAA, H. Carrasco, 6-4 L, 5 IP, 99 pc, 3:08
4/26 at KCR, R. Hernandez, 3-1 L, 7 IP, 95 pc, 2:07
5/1 vs. SEA, Pineiro, 8-2 L, 5.1 IP, 101 pc, 2:32
5/6 vs. DET, Bonderman, 7-6 W, 6 IP, 96 pc, 2:41
5/15 vs. CWS, F. Garcia, 7-3 L, 4.2 IP, 88 pc, 3:04
5/20 at MIL, B. Hendrickson, 16-10 W, 5 IP, 107 pc, 3:57
5/30 at LAA, Weaver, 6-3 L, 4.2 IP, 97 pc, 2:33

Time of Game is a rough gauge, for sure, because the opposing pitchers, how long Baker lasted, the final score, whether it was a home or road game, and the length and frequency of Gardenhire's tantrums in protest of an umpiring decision could also play a factor in the time it takes to play. But I think it's enough to address the contention that Baker made his starts drag. We can see there that he never was knocked out terribly early, he always lasted into the 5th inning or longer and delivered a full workload of pitches, so he always had a significant measure of control over how long the game would last. If he has a habit of dawdling, I'd expect to see a number of games in his log pushing three and a half hours. Yet it doesn't look like Baker's starts dragged on especially long, does it? By my figuring, that's 2:49 on average.

The one especially long game in his log was a 16-10 victory on the road, so you'd expect it to take awhile to play out, and here's Baker's line in that game: 4 ER, 6 H, 1 BB, 8 K, 2 HR, 5 IP. Not bad on a day when baseballs were flying all over the yard, and I'd say those K/BB numbers look very encouraging, even exciting. Yet he was skipped the next time through the rotation.

As a matter of fact, I'd like to point out that Baker had a 4.67 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, and 24 strikeouts to 4 walks in 34.2 IP and 6 starts after his fine outing against Detroit (4 ER, 7 H, 0 BB, 5 K, 2 HR, 6 IP) on May 6. Look over those numbers again, if you need a moment. That's a very encouraging beginning to the season, wouldn't you say? Does that seem like a kid on the fast track back to Rochester?

From there, Baker didn't pitch again for 9 days, when the White Sox (currently 3rd in runs scored) cuffed him around and reminded everyone who's a kid finding his way and who is the World Series Champion. His next start came in its regular turn, and Baker beat the Brewers on the road. Then he didn't pitch again for 10 days, while rumors of Carlos Silva's imminent return to the rotation swirled around the media (and probably the clubhouse), when he was knocked out in the 5th inning and labeled a failure who needs some work and confidence restoration at AAA.

Does anything about that sequence in May strike you as odd or funny?

By the way, Carlos Silva lost his rotation spot when the White Sox shelled him on May 14, driving his ERA up to 8.80, and he made his first appearance out of the bullpen on May 18. So while Silva was busy restoring his standing with the manager, Scott Baker had all of two starts: the fine outing for the Win in Milwaukee, and the other night in Anaheim when he was Dead Man Walking.

Is Scott Baker in AAA now because he blew this opportunity, or because the manager needed to get Carlos Silva back in the rotation, like, right now?

I know my answer. Tell me yours.


At 6/02/2006 6:34 AM, Blogger Moss said...

Of course it's a complete jerk-around. But what can you expect anymore? Obviously he should have held the Angels to one run to give the Twinkies a chance to win. And he had 9 days rest, so he should have been extra fresh, right?

The one area Moss sees for concern is the pitches/inning. He's pitching a full load of tosses, but still only 5-6 innings per outing. That could be a problem.

At 6/02/2006 6:57 AM, Blogger frightwig said...

It's true that he's not yet a pitcher you can count on to last 7 innings, but the same can be said of a lot of young pitchers, including Santana when he was still finding his way. If they give Baker 25+ starts, who knows, he might resolve that issue by the end of the season.

At 6/03/2006 2:03 AM, Blogger Leslie Monteiro said...

It's the latter, fright.

I think it's pretty stupid to insert Carlos in the rotation after two nice outings in the pen few days ago. C'mon. What is the rush to put Carlos in there? I am all for him being there, but not right away. If he did well in a span of four weeks, I would do it, but not after few days.


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