Blackburn Named Twins Starter (Predictions)

6 Mar

also available at www.SethSpeaks.net -

Following the Twins 6-1 win on Saturday afternoon against the Tampa Bay Rays, manager Ron Gardenhire announced another member of his starting rotation. Gardy said that Nick Blackburn, who threw three no-hit innings against the Rays, was one of “his guys.” Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano are givens. Gardy announced earlier in the week that Brian Duensing would be a starter as well. It would appear that the fifth spot in the rotation will be between Kevin Slowey and Scott Baker, although Gardy wants Kyle Gibson to also be given a shot to earn the role. One can only assume that he would say such a thing to potentially light a fire under the two right-handed veterans.

Many Twins fans, myself included, were calling for the removal of Blackburn from the starting rotation last year when he was really struggling. Rightfully, he was removed from the rotation shortly after the All Star break and sent to the minor leagues. He came back and pitched well down the stretch for the team. However, in the offseason, when discussion of which of the six starts should move to the bullpen, Blackburn was the easy choice for me. He had struggled in 2010, but in my mind, the right-hander’s cutter makes him a good bullpen option.

But maybe we are not giving Blackburn the appropriate due. The assumption was always that his extremely low strikeout rate would catch up with him. In 2008, he struck out just 4.5 batters per nine innings. That number dropped to 4.3 per nine in 2009. And as you would expect from watching last year, he missed even fewer bats in 2010 and struck out just 3.8 per nine innings. Check out the correlation between his declining strikeout rate and his hits per inning pitched.

Year K/9 H/9
2008 4.5 10.4
2009 4.3 10.5
2010 3.8 10.8

But let’s even look at his 2010 season. It started out bad, and he left the team to go to a family emergency. When he came back, he was tremendous in May. In fact, he was runner-up for AL Pitcher of the Month. Then things went bad. Really bad in June and July. Everything he threw toward the plate was hit, and hit hard, and often hit a long way. Blackburn would be replaced in the rotation by mid-July by Brian Duensing. He went to the bullpen and soon after was sent back to Rochester. He pitched well there and soon he was back with the Twins. He then pitched at least seven innings in seven of his eight starts before the end of the season. He ended the season with 14 quality starts. It’s incredible how up and down his season was.

Month W-L ERA WHIP OPS BABIP
April 1-1 6.85 1.73 1.058 .325
May 5-0 2.65 1.21 0.677 .288
June 1-4 10.17 2.18 1.079 .394
July 0-2 9.87 1.90 1.081 .362
August 1-1 1.72 0.77 .455 .233
Sept 2-4 3.70 1.14 .679 .236

After identical 11-11 seasons in 2008 and 2009 with nearly identical 4.05 and 4.03 ERAs, it’s hard to believe that with the movement he gets on his pitches, the sinker and the cutter, that he can’t return to those types of numbers again in 2011. Equally important, Blackburn combined to throw 399 innings between those two seasons.

The comparisons to Carlos Silva can be scary. Silva, in fact, struck out even fewer than Blackburn has. He has certainly had his struggles since leaving the Twins. However, he was a terrific starter for the Twins three of his four seasons. His one bad year, his third with the team, he posted a 5.94 ERA. Silva was at 1.6 walks per nine innings in three of his four seasons, and we all remember the season where he walked just nine batters in 188 innings. Blackburn was at 1.8 walks per nine innings his first two seasons, and that number jumped to 2.2 last year. Of course, Silva struggled in his two seasons with the Mariners after they gave him 4 years and $48 million. He was better last year with the Cubs and of course is already in the news this year for he went after teammate Aramis Ramirez in the dugout after the Cubs 3B had an error in Silva’s first spring outing.

Nick Blackburn PREDICTIONS for 2011:

So, let’s make some predictions. What are your thoughts on Blackburn starting the season in the Twins rotation? Can he stay healthy and production and in the rotation the full season? And how well will he produce? Here are my predictions… what are yours?

  • W-L (which of course are impossible to predict, but we will anyway): 16-11
  • ERA: 4.27
  • WHIP: 1.29
  • IP: 212
  • H: 222
  • BB: 52
  • K: 113 (4.8 K/9)
  • K/9: 2.17

Too optimistic? Maybe. So, stick your neck out too and post your projection in the Comments section.

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8 Responses to “Blackburn Named Twins Starter (Predictions)”

  1. Jay Sherman March 6, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

    W-L 5-11
    ERA 5.31
    WHIP 1.56
    IP 147
    H 176
    BB 47
    K 65
    K/9 3.9 I think the only reason he gets the starter job out of spring training is that he is signed long term and they really don’t know what to do with him. He’s not a fit out of the bullpen. And he is not a very good pitcher. Slowey is a winner and he should be starting. But he is a bette fit for the bullpen. I just have little faith in Mr.Blackburn. He was smart to sign for all that money when he did. Because otherwise he would be a non tender candidate in my opinion. Just a righthanded version of Glen Perkins.

  2. Jim H March 6, 2011 at 7:17 pm #

    People, even people who should know better, persist in thinking that spring training is a tryout camp. This is not true in a general sense and is seldom even true in a specific sense. The Twins staff and front office have been looking at their current 6 starters for a long time. Most have come through the farm system and they have all had a lot of exposure to Gardy and Anderson. The idea that the Twins should wait until the end of spring training to decide on who the starters are, is silly. The biggest factor is health, and of course if one of the 6 is not completely healthy, he won’t start the year in the rotation.

    Clearly, the 4 best starters at the end of last year were Liriano, Pavano, Duensing and Blackburn. Since all appear healthy, all 4 get to start the year in the rotation. If Baker and Slowey are both healthy at the end of spring training Baker will probably get the nod because he has a slightly longer and better resume. There is no Gardy favorites or anything of the sort, just a perfectly logical and normal way of deciding on your starters.

    Regular season performance will determine the starters after that. If one falters or is injured, then if no. 6 is still with the team (not traded) he will likely get another shot at starting. Obviously Gibson, Bromberg, Guerra or others could factor in with strong minor league performances.

    I still don’t understand why so many bloggers are so down on Blackburn. He had 2 solid years as a starter and actually pitched solidly last except when he was hurt(apparently ). While his margin for error is smaller than other pitchers because he lacks dominant stuff, he seems to get more out what he has than many pitchers with more raw stuff. I find myself rooting for people who seem to stay more consistent and get the most out of their tools.

  3. JA March 6, 2011 at 9:56 pm #

    Hi Seth,
    I’m very bullish on Blackie.
    Wins: 16-9
    ERA: 3.80
    IP: 200
    HITS: 190
    BB: 45
    K: 120
    WHIP: 1.18
    A very under appreciated pitcher for the Twins. He is healthy, and driven. With a good knowledge of the league and he understands his strong points and what it takes to compete. I’ll take a healthy Blackburn anyday.

  4. scot March 6, 2011 at 10:44 pm #

    I agree that Blackburn is not a good fit for the bullpen but not that he is not a very good pitcher. 2011 will be his year to shine.

  5. Dantes929 March 6, 2011 at 11:10 pm #

    I find it interesting Seth. I like Blackburn and see the upside but think he should have been the odd man out to start the season and that he will likely be the 5th best starter. In John Bonnes article he says the Twins are a solid pick to win 86.5 and yet you have our 5th best starter at 16-11. I would bank 16-11 right now if offered. I hope you are right. I also hope the other 4 guys win at least 16 as well. They all seem capable of it.

  6. JC March 7, 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    I would be estatic with these numbers:
    Wins: 12-10
    ERA: 4.48
    IP: 200
    HITS: 210
    BB: 40
    K: 120
    WHIP: 1.34

  7. Dan March 8, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

    W-L: 12-10
    ERA: 4.35
    WHIP: 1.38
    IP: 185
    H: 216
    BB: 40
    K: 84 (4.1 K/9)
    K/BB: 2.10

    I think his arm and knees are healthy, and he’ll put up numbers similar to 2008-2009 (when he was healthy). Plus, he’ll be healthy AND in Target Field which should help him a little bit.

  8. Jim March 14, 2011 at 9:52 pm #

    I’m thinking somewhere along the lines of:

    Wins: 14-9
    ERA: 4.10
    IP: 215
    HITS: 205
    BB: 55
    K: 115
    WHIP: 1.30

    I expect a healthier, sinkier Blackburn in 2011. If he can figure out how to pitch within his parameters and get some sink on the fastball, he has proven that he can be successful at the major league level.

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