Efficiency or Lack of Freedom in the Twins Rotation?


nick blackburn

Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn, and Scott Baker are all products of the Minnesota Twins’ farm system. The trio of mid-to-late 20 year old right-handed hurlers all have an efficiency of motion. This isn’t the first time the team’s fans have seen a similar style. Brad Radke was the organization’s molding of Greg Maddux-a poor man’s version mind you. Rick Anderson has been a stalwart pitching coach during the Gardenhire era. It has undoubtedly been a successful tenure during the regular season, but there have been many disappointments in the playoffs.

Anything can happen in the postseason, but over a series the stars usually shine. The Twins were hampered by payroll restrictions while playing in the Metrodome, but they have opened up the wallets since relocating to Target Field. The most recent evidence of this is the acquisitions of Brian Fuentes and Matt Capps to shore up a depleted bullpen victimized by the tragic loss of closer Joe Nathan for the season. Francisco Liriano’s reemergence since his rehabilitation has been a much needed bright spot. His delivery and mechanics bring back fond memories of Johan Santana and all of the big games that he won before heading to the hapless Mets.

The issue becomes whether the coaching staff is the primary reason for the success of the pitching staff or if their instruction is stifling the true potential they could reach if given more freedom to explore different pitches and deliveries. Before David Ortiz became a Red Sox designated hitter, he spent numerous seasons with the Twins. He has mentioned that the efficiency which was expected by the coaching staff stifled his ability to hit with power. He felt that a hitter in the middle of the line-up should not have to hit the ball on the ground to advance a runner from second to third.

This restriction changed his swing and made him less of a threat to go deep and consistently drive in runs. In essence, small ball or smart ball was actually counterproductive because it was making him hit like a bottom of the order player when he felt he could have been utilized differently.

The Twins emphasize low walk totals and pitch counts that are efficient. Pitching to contact is more valued than gunning for strikeouts. It is not shocking that Liriano leads the team in strikeouts because his stuff is the most unhittable. Lefthanders have an added advantage in the game generally because so many of the game’s top hitters are also lefthanded. The Twins’ coaching staff has assisted the players at the major league level admirably. The real question that remains is if the pitchers like Brian Duensing, Kevin Slowey, Scott Baker, and Nick Blackburn dramatically change their philosophy and mechanics in the minor leagues because they think it will make them rise to the major leagues at a quicker pace.


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