Nick (Blackburn) Goes Nine

25 May

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  • Be sure to listen to last night’s Weekly Minnesota Twins Podcast. The 45 minute show included a discussion with Jeff Vohs, the General Manager of the Beloit Snappers. And then we had two phone calls with some interesting Twins discussion. Please listen and provide any feedback you’d like.

Yesterday, I wrote about the Twins bullpen struggles. Ron Gardenhire said before the game that his two top relievers, Matt Capps and Joe Nathan, would not be available to pitch on Tuesday night. In the ninth inning, Alex Burnett and Dusty Hughes were the two guys warming up.

Thankfully, Nick Blackburn came through with arguably the best start of the Twins season. The right-hander gave up two runs on seven hits. He walked none and struck out six. Most important, he threw nine innings. It took him 127 pitches, but he saves the bullpen, and he gave the Twins a win.

Blackburn has certainly been a controversial Twins pitchers in the eyes of many fans and bloggers. He is the definition of a pitch-to-contact pitcher. Although his walk-rate is higher this year, he has always been a very good control pitcher. His strikeout rate is alarmingly low. Because of those two things, he is going to give up some hits, but he also keeps the ball in the ballpark (1.2 career HR/9) very well. Although his stuff is far from electrifying, when he is pitching well, he gets just enough movement to make batters unable to make solid contact.

Blackburn’s margin for error on pitches is not great. However, if you look at his ERAs from month to month throughout his three full years in the big leagues, you can see that he has been above average most months. Of the 20 months he has been in the league, he has posted an ERA at 4.02 or better 12 times. Unfortunately, when he doesn’t hit that number, his ERA has been at or above 5.14 the other eight times. Again, because of the lack of strikeouts, there will be times that he will give up a lot of hits. His numbers in June and July of 2010 were terrible and the Twins actually sent him down to Rochester to work on things. Those were two months that were very hard to watch because he wasn’t just giving up hits, he was giving up some rockets all over the field.

He did have some surgery after the 2010 season on his elbow, so hopefully he is and will be healthy throughout the 2011 season.  

  2008 2009 2010 2011
Mar/Apr 3.52 4.02 6.85 5.14
May 3.24 3.08 2.65 1.63
June 2.45 6.32 10.17  
July 2.45 6.32 9.87  
Aug 4.00 5.70 1.72  
Sept/Oct 5.64 3.41 3.70  
Season ERA 4.05 4.03 5.42 3.40
ERA+ 103 109 77 1.14
WHIP 1.36 1.37 1.45 1.40
Season K/9 4.5 4.3 3.8 4.7
Season BB/9 1.8 1.8 2.2 3.2

 In 2008, Blackburn was 11-11 with a 4.05 ERA. In 2009, he was 11-11 with a 4.03 ERA. Both are solid seasons for a mid-to-late rotation guy. He was certainly consistent throughout 2008 with an ERA at 4.00 or lower in five of the six month breakouts. In 2009, he was at 4.02 or less three of the six months and over 5.70 the other three months. In 2010, his ERA was at 3.70 or below three of the months while it was at 6.85 or higher the other three months. Even in the two months of 2011, he has not been consistent, and that is not surprising. When he is pitching nearly perfect and getting good defense behind him, he can be a very good starting pitcher. And when he is just missing his spots, or not getting great defense, he is definitely at risk.

Regardless of all of the numbers, what Nick Blackburn did for the Twins last night was huge and very needed. He has shown the ability to step up at times in some big spots. I’m not certain that is a skill, but on those occasions, it is obviously very big.

Minor League Notes

Tuesday Minor League Hitter of the DayLance Ray, Beloit Snappers 

Tuesday Minor League Pitcher of the DayKyle Gibson, Rochester Red Wings

Red Wings Ramblings

Tuesday – Red Wings 10, Syracuse 4 – Toby Gardenhire went 3-4 with his fourth double to lead the Red Wings to a big win on Tuesday. Ben Revere went 2-4 with a walk and his third double. Luke Hughes went 2-4 with a walk and his first home run. Jeff Bailey went 2-5 with his fourth and fifth doubles. Aaron Bates went 2-5. Scott Diamond gave up two runs on eight hits and a walk in 5.1 innings. He struck out four. Jake Stevens, who was making his first Red Wings appearance, got five outs and issued only a walk. Carlos Gutierrez then gave up two runs on four hits in one inning. Kyle Waldrop pitched a scoreless ninth.  

Rock Cats Report

Tuesday – Rock Cats 7, Binghamton 3 – If only the rains had come just a few minutes earlier… Liam Hendriks took the mound for the Rock Cats in the eighth inning and the first two batters got on before he gave up a three-run home run. At that point, the game was called due to rain. He still gets the complete game win and his line was: 7 innings, 3 runs, 8 hits, 1 walk, and 9 strikeouts. Michael Holliman went 3-3 with a walk. Joe Benson was 2-2 with two walks. Steve Singleton and Mark Dolenc each had two hits.

Miracle Matters

Tuesday – Miracle 5, Tampa 4 – Matt Schuld started again and gave up three runs on five hits in five innings. He walked none and struckout four. Brad Stillings returned from the Disabled List and gave up one run on one hit and a walk in two innings. Matt Tone pitched a scoreless inning. Bruce Pugh gave up a hit and a walk in the ninth but no runs to pick up his ninth save. Nate Hanson went 2-5 with his eighth double and two RBI. Reggie Williams hit his second home run and drove in two more runs. The Miracle take over first place in the division after falling back as far 6.5 games.  

Snappers Bites

Tuesday – Snappers 0, Kane County 9 – It was a rough night for the Snappers as they lost for the seventh straight game. The offense managed just two hits. Adrian Salcedo started and gave up five runs on seven hits and four walks in 4.2 innings. He struckout two. Ryan O’Rourke gave up just one hit in 2.1 scoreless innings. Ben Tootle gave up four runs on two hits and two walks in 0.2 innings. Clinton Dempster got the final four outs.

On last night’s Weekly Minnesota Twins podcast, I was joined for a segment by Jeff Vohs, the General Manager of the Snappers. Just a 5 hour drive from the Twin Cities, I definitely recommend a trip out there for Twins fans. Check out their website for much more information and how to get tickets and special events. I am definitely planning on making another trip to Beloit this summer… maybe two!

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below.


7 Responses to “Nick (Blackburn) Goes Nine”

  1. JimCrikket May 25, 2011 at 8:24 am #

    I found out at the CR Kernels game last night that the team is putting together a bus trip over to Beloit for a game in July. Bus and a ballgame for $30. I may have to seriously consider that.

    • Seth May 25, 2011 at 8:47 pm #

      Great deal!! If you can let me know when the game is, that would be great to coordinate it.

  2. TT May 25, 2011 at 9:25 am #

    It looks like Aaron Hicks left last night’s game after being thrown out at the plate. Have you heard any injury report?

    • Seth May 25, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

      He was thrown out at 3B and left the game… hopefully I can say more soon.

  3. Dome Dog May 25, 2011 at 11:50 am #

    Just a thought. Is there any chance of Gardy stepping down as manager soon because his son is now at Rochester? I know Toby isn’t considered much of a prospect…utility man at best. But the bar is never set very high for a backup utility infielder. Would there be any way Gardy steps down to ensure there is no conflict of interest in giving Toby a chance to make a big league team?

  4. thrylos98 May 25, 2011 at 7:52 pm #

    Hard to call Blackburn’s great pitching job last night ‘the best start of the Twins season’, when another Twins’ pitcher had a no-hitter this season…

    Dome Dog,
    Sandy Alomar, Sr. managed his son(s) in the majors and there were several player/managers (the ultimate conflict of interest). Other that the fact that Toby would not be playing pro ball in another organization, there is no conflict of interest

    • scot May 26, 2011 at 8:27 pm #

      Liriano had a no hitter but 6 BBs, Blackburn had none.

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