The Duensing Dilemma
A big Happy Holiday to everyone out there. NO, not that fake, made up holiday, but a much more important holidayÖ Happy First Day of Pitchers and Catchers!! No, the Twins donít report until Thursday, but several teams are opening their training camps today! Spring is hereÖ kind of!!
There has been a lot of debate about which of the six Twins starters should move into the bullpen. Obviously Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano will be in the starting rotation. Scott Baker is going to be making $5 million in 2011, so heíll be in the rotation. Plus, his predictive numbers in 2010 indicate that he should be better IF he is healthy. That leaves two spots to be fought for by Nick Blackburn ($3 million), Kevin Slowey ($2.7 million) and Brian Duensing ($0.45 million). By dollars alone, maybe Duensing is the appropriate choice.
In Fridayís TwinsCentric blog, Parker asked the question, ďWhat role should Duensing have in í11?Ē In it, he made a very logical, compelling argument for Duensing being in the bullpen. Looking at the numbers, it is a very fair argument.
Of course, I have the opposite opinion. I believe that Brian Duensing should begin the 2011 season in the Twins starting rotation. My reasoning is because each of the past two seasons, he has been a terrific addition to the Twins starting staff in the second half of the season. In 2009, he made nine starts and went 5-1 with a 2.73 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. In 13 starts in 2010, he went 7-2 with a 3.05 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP.
Are those numbers he can maintain over the course of a full season? Who knows? Iím just of† the opinion that he has done enough to earn that opportunity. Visibly, I see Duensing as a pitcher who throws in the low-90s and has good control of the strike zone with his fastball. He has a good curveball/slider and a good changeup. Although he is not overpowering, he gets really good sink on his fastball which helped him to a very high groundball rate. And also, he is left-handed.
The Twins have a lot of left-handed options in the bullpen to team with Jose Mijares. None of them have experienced the kind of success in the bullpen in their careers that Duensing did in his 40 bullpen appearances in 2010, but the team has options. The Twins seem to really like their Rule 5 draft pick Scott Diamond. They were willing to DFA Rob Delaney to claim Dusty Hughes who pitched well against the Twins and apparently has four good pitches. Chuck James and Phil Dumatrait have pitched in the big leagues and were acquired on minor league contracts. And then there is Glen Perkins, who for all his struggles the last two years, has some good stuff and we have seen him pitch well at times in the past. He is also out of options.
The bullpen is full of question marks, and Duensing could help alleviate some of that if he were in the bullpen. However, I will maintain that because of what he has done the past two years as a starter, I would rather have him pitch 180 to 200 innings than 60 to 80 inning in 2011.
Just because he starts the season in the starting rotation doesnít mean heíll end up there. Obviously Duensing will have to prove over the seasonís first two months that he deserves to be a starter. A year ago, Nick Blackburn was coming off of two straight seasons in which he threw 399 total innings and posted ERAs of 4.05 and 4.03. There was no question that he should be in the Twins starting rotation, but soon after the All Star break, he was in Rochester. Of course, when he came back in late August, he pitched seven or more innings in seven out of his eight starts.
Maybe Duensing doesnít profile as a top or even middle of the rotation starter. He doesnít have Francisco Liriano or David Price like velocity or sliders. But that does not mean that he canít be a good starter. There are plenty of examples of guys that may not have the greatest stuff, but they have terrific careers because they know how to succeed with what they have. Sometimes they even succeed over a long period of time.
Iím not saying that Duensing is the next Cliff Lee. Iím not even guaranteeing that he will end the season in the Twins rotation. Once the season gets to July, changes could be made to make the team better for a playoff run. What I am saying, and what I believe, is that his performance over the past two seasons, maintainable or not, has been more than enough to put his name, in pen, in the Opening Day starting rotation alongside Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano.
UPDATE Ė After writing this, I went to Over The Baggy and in Parkerís OTB Twins Notes, his first note was, ďRon Gardenhire told Sid Hartman and Mike Max on WCCO on Sunday that Scott Baker experienced a setback in his rehab stint following his off-season elbow surgery.Ē
If that is a setback that pushes into the regular season, it should make the decision for Duensing to start the season in the rotation even easier.
Iím curious what people think about this topic. Has Brian Duensing done enough to earn the right to start the season in the Twins starting rotation, or does he need to do something more? Feel free to post your comments here.
Here are some more blogs and articles for you to peruse today:
∑ Letís start with a great series that K-Bro started on Sunday called Why Baseball is Better than Football. (Let me count the ways, right?!) Day 1 discusses training camp/spring training. I look forward to following the series throughout the week!
∑ Be sure to read the rest of the OTB Twins Notes which along with the Scott Baker setback news also discusses a plan for Ben Revere/Joe Benson/Aaron Hicks, possible competition for Alexi Casilla this spring, and more.
∑ Aaron Gleeman asks if the Twins are giving up on Francisco Liriano.
∑ In Rogerís Weekly Twins Minor League Report, he posted updates on the Australian Baseball League championship series which Perth won. Luke Hughes and Allan de San Miguel played a huge role for that team.
∑ There is a ton of great stuff over at Twinkie Town. I assume most of you already go there daily, but if not, check it out.
∑ Puckettís Pond takes a look at the Twins non-roster invitees to spring training. The player that everyone will be watching is Kyle Gibson, but they brought in a couple of others that have a chance to contribute to the Twins over the course of the season. Iíve mentioned Carlos Gutierrez, but I also think that Jeff Bailey and Justin Huber have a chance to contribute if needed, as do Chuck James, Phil Dumatrait and maybe even Yorman Bazardo.
∑ The Baseball Outsider takes a look at the thinness of the shortstop market.
∑ Off the Mark wants your help Predicting the Bullpen.
∑ When I got home from the weekend away, I checked the mail. In it, I found a copy of the FoxSports.com FANTASY baseball magazine. It is the 2011 Fantasy Baseball & scout.com Prospect Guide. It will be on newsstands and the cover shows Roy Halladay surrounded by Cliff Lee, Albert Pujols, Carl Crawford and Robinson Cano. I wrote the Twins minor league content in the magazine which consists of a Top 20 list and a few paragraphs on the Twins system. I know I have a bunch of products available right now that people can spend their money on. I feel a little guilty always posting them, but in this case, I guess I would say that if youíre getting some Fantasy Baseball magazines anyway, this is a good option. They have bloggers like myself provide the same information for all 30 major league teams, plus a top 300 prospects lists. That all comes after a ton of great fantasy baseball information and rankings.
∑ I have been told that many people have started receiving their copies of the Minnesota Twins Prospect Handbook 2011. If you have not yet ordered a copy, you can get one here. If you pre-ordered a copy and have not received it yet, let me know if you still donít receive it by Tuesday or Wednesday, and Iíll do some digging. As you do receive yours, please feel free to share your thoughts, opinions, ideas for future books, and anything else you would like. I welcome all feedback.
∑ Along with my Twins prospect book, I have also purchased the Baseball America Prospect Handbook and John Sickels Prospect Handbook. The Digital Prospect Guide from Project Prospect is also now available now in either the Video Version or the Text Version. I can never get enough prospect talk and reading!
∑ And finally, I am going to blatantly steal from the Twins Geek who wrote the following last Thursday:
One week from today, pitchers and catchers begin their first workout AND the 2011 Maple Street Press Twins Annual ships, hopefully to you. Thereís a good chance youíll have it before Jim Thome has a bat in his hands.
At first, it looks like a 128-page magazine previewing the baseball season. But unlike anything else youíre buying, it isnít half ads. In fact, it doesnít have any ads. It also isnít a preview of every team in the league. Itís JUST the Twins. It is like nothing else you have ever read in its breadth and depth of coverage of your favorite team.
Thatís one reason Iím so proud of it. Nobody else dares risk something like this. This is our chance to show that a product like this, created for Twins fanatics, can work. Needless to say, if youíve been stopping by this blog all offseason, this magazine is your payoff.
And like this blog, itís a product of TwinsCentric. Nick, Parker, Seth and I helped arrange and edit its 19 feature-length stories and player profiles. But unlike our other products, this is old-school: a collectible with paper and great pictures, available on your magazine rack in March.
But who wants to wait until March? Not you. All offseason youíve been talking about how winter canít end soon enough. Hereís a chance to put your money where your mouth is. Enjoy your early spring.
You can find out a LOT more about it here.