September 24, 2014

Twins Notes: Hughes, Perkins, Vargas, Liriano, Worley, and Arcia

Phil Hughes Twins

• With one start remaining Phil Hughes has an incredible 181-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 202 innings. Not only is that by far the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in baseball this season, it's the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in baseball history among all pitchers with 150 or more innings:

                    YEAR     SO/BB
PHIL HUGHES         2014     11.31
Bret Saberhagen     1994     11.00
Cliff Lee           2010     10.28
Curt Schilling      2002      9.58
Pedro Martinez      2000      8.88
Greg Maddux         1997      8.85
Pedro Martinez      1999      8.46

That's a helluva list to sit atop.

Hughes is 15-10 with a 3.61 ERA in 31 starts. The rest of the Twins' rotation is 31-58 with a 5.60 ERA in 126 starts.

UPDATE: The good news is Hughes finished his final start with the all-time K/BB ratio record intact. The bad news is thanks to an ill-timed rain delay he might finish one out short of $500,000.

Glen Perkins tried to pitch through what was initially believed to be a minor neck injury, but after several bad outings in which he clearly wasn't right physically the Twins sent him for more testing. He was then shut down after being diagnosed with what they're calling a forearm strain and nerve irritation. It's unfortunate, because not only does Perkins head into the offseason as a question mark, his attempts to pitch through the injury ruined his strong season totals.

As of August 25 he had a 2.44 ERA and 64/9 K/BB ratio in 55 innings, but then Perkins allowed 10 runs in 6.1 innings to inflate his ERA to 3.65. During that span he gave up five home runs in eight games after giving up a total of seven home runs in his previous 116 games since the start of last year. Everyone acts like playing through injury is to be commended, but it usually goes badly for player and team. Perkins says he learned his lesson about "trying to be a tough guy."

Kennys Vargas and Jose Berrios were named the Twins' minor league player and pitcher of the year. Vargas hit .281/.360/.472 with 17 homers in 97 games at Double-A as a 23-year-old before being called up to the majors on August 1. Berrios split his age-20 season between high Single-A and Double-A--with a late cameo at Triple-A--posting a 2.76 ERA and 140/38 K/BB ratio in 140 total innings. Last season's winners were Byron Buxton and Andrew Albers.

• Vargas' early success for the Twins has been hugely fun to watch, although his horrific 58-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio through 48 games is a massive red flag and surprising considering his solid walk rates in the minors. Vargas was handed the cleanup spot after one week in the majors, which is very rare in Twins history. In fact, here's a list of Twins with the most starts in the cleanup spot through 48 career games:

KENNYS VARGAS     44
Kent Hrbek        20
David Ortiz       19
Justin Morneau    16
Todd Walker       14
Chris Parmelee    13
Tom Brunansky     12

Vargas also has nine homers through 48 games, which is tied with Kent Hrbek, Gary Gaetti, and Josmil Pinto for the third-most behind Marty Cordova and Tom Brunansky with 10 apiece.

Francisco Liriano is in the midst of a 28-inning scoreless streak and now has a 3.32 ERA with 170 strikeouts in 157 innings for the Pirates after posting a 3.02 ERA with 163 strikeouts in 161 innings for the Pirates last season. His rotation-mate, Vance Worley, has a 2.93 ERA and 75/22 K/BB ratio in 104 innings. Add it all up and Pittsburgh has gotten 417 innings of a 3.15 ERA from Liriano and Worley for less than the Twins paid Mike Pelfrey.

Terry Ryan brushed off questions about Worley's turnaround in June, saying:

Give him a little time to see what he does over the course of starts. We'll talk about that in October. See how it goes.

Well, it's almost October. Also, just a reminder: Before selling Worley to the Pirates at the end of spring training the Twins sent him outright to Triple-A, which means they could have stashed him there all season without even taking up a 40-man roster spot. They gave him away for no reason other than they were convinced he had zero value. Worley, still just 26 years old, now has a 3.35 ERA in 382 career innings for non-Twins teams. And even Carlos Gomez is impressed.

Oswaldo Arcia has the seventh-highest Isolated Power in Twins history among all hitters with 750 or more plate appearances:

Harmon Killebrew     .258
Don Mincher          .239
Bob Allison          .225
Josh Willingham      .214
Jimmie Hall          .212
Justin Morneau       .207
OSWALDO ARCIA        .202
Tom Brunansky        .202
Kent Hrbek           .199
Torii Hunter         .198
David Ortiz          .195

Arcia has 33 homers, which is the fourth-most in Twins history through age 23 behind Brunansky (80), Hrbek (40), and Zoilo Versalles (34). He can't control the strike zone, can't hit lefties, and can't catch much in the outfield, but Arcia's power potential is special. And on the subject of his terrible defense, here's a fun little tidbit: Arcia played 77 games in center field as a minor leaguer, including some at Double-A. Think about that.

• Ultimate Zone Rating calculates the Twins' defense has been 85 runs below average since 2011, including -48 for the infield and -37 for the outfield. Obviously the Twins' pitching has been awful, but if you take awful, low-strikeout pitching and put awful defense behind it you have no chance.

• Post-trade performances: Josh Willingham has hit .243/.361/.400 in 23 games for the Royals to almost exactly match his .210/.345/.402 line in 68 games for the Twins. Sam Fuld came back down to earth, hitting .211/.270/.320 in 48 games for the A's. Kendrys Morales has continued to be terrible, hitting .206/.274/.335 in 53 games for the Mariners. Kevin Correia has continued to be Kevin Correia, posting an 8.03 ERA in 25 innings for the Dodgers.

And since the Twins decided not to trade him and gave him a two-year contract extension instead, Kurt Suzuki has hit .256/.291/.383 with a 15/3 K/BB ratio in 37 games.

Pedro Florimon, who began this season as the Opening Day shortstop, was claimed off waivers by the Nationals when the Twins took him off the 40-man roster. He's a good defensive shortstop, but Florimon hit .205/.266/.300 in 210 games for the Twins. The only players in the history of the Twins to log more appearances with a lower OPS than Florimon are Jerry Zimmerman and Jim Kaat. Kaat was a pitcher.

• Across baseball this season there have been more than 1,700 games started by pitchers younger than Kyle Gibson. He might be inexperienced and he might be inconsistent, but he's not young.

• By my calculations the Twins have as many as 19 players on the 40-man roster they could cut, although my guess is that they'll keep half of them.

• It's official now: If the Twins don't fire Ron Gardenhire he'll be just the third manager in the history of baseball to keep his job following four consecutive 90-loss seasons.

• Last time the Twins won 90 games in back-to-back seasons was 2003/2004. Since then they have a 789-828 record for a .488 winning percentage.

  • Revdawg

    FYI – Carlos Silva is #16 in baseball history for best K/BB ratio…. While its amazing what Phil Hughes has done, that makes it quite a bit less impressive

    • Jeff

      I’m not quite sure how. And 16 is a long way from 1st.

    • Twm

      Agree with Jeff on this. Silva’s 2005 was a good year, because, among other things, he only walked 9 batters in 188 innings. Nine! And the difference between Hughes’ 11.31 and Silva’s 7.89 is large, almost as large as Johan Santana’s career K/BB rate of 3.51, which is similar to, among others, Nolasco’s 3.46 and Scott Baker’s 3.41 and Clayton Kershaw’s 3.38 and Greg Maddux’s 3.37, all of whom are grouped, incidentally, between 21 and 30 on the career list, on top of which sits Tommy Bond at 5.04. So, yeah, 11.31 is damn impressive.

      • Revdawg

        I’m not saying Phil Hughes didn’t have a amazing season and also this is a cool record to have. What I am saying is Carlos Silva being #16 on an all time list is funny but also shows that a simple ratio isn’t the best way to value a season. If Silva managed to walk just three less batters in 2005 his k/bb ratio would have been 11.83. All im trying to point out that this list is way more about limiting walks then striking batters out, which is why k/bb ratio isn’t the best way to value a pitchers season. Anyways, phil hughes is awesome, and I’m super excited for his future. Congrats on the record

        • Twm

          Well, Carlos Silva pitched to a 130 ERA+ in 2005, or 3.5 bWAR/2.6 fWAR in 188 innings. It was a good season.

          I think your opinion here is overly colored by Silva’s career numbers.

          K/BB rate does not give us a complete picture of a pitcher’s value, but it is an important number. So, we can say that it is difficult to last long in the majors with extremely low K/9 numbers like Silva’s career numbers, but when you combine that with minuscule BB/9, and especially with a high groundball rate like Silva could achieve, you mitigate the effects of those low strikeout numbers. K/BB gives the measure of that. Maintain that and you can enjoy success – Dan Quisenberry comes to mind here. Silva could not maintain it, his low strikeouts gave him slim margin for error.

          But, and this is I think Jeff’s original point, put all if that aside: sitting a top any all-time leader board is a singular achievement, and worth appreciating. Most doubles in a season does not mean you were an MVP, it is an amazing number in itself though.

          • Revdawg

            Definitely agree that it is quite an accomplishment to sit atop an all time leaderboard. Phil Hughes had a special year, getting guys to strike out while throwing strikes is very hard to do.

            Also, I agree that Carlos Silva had a good year in 2005. But it was only a good year, definitely not a great year, which is why it was odd to see it sitting #16 on an all time list, which I think you agree with.

            I also really like using the k/bb ratio, it is a nice fast way to gauge how well a pitcher has performed. And yes, I agree, if you maintain that you most likely will be pretty successful.

            I mostly wanted to point out is that a ratio at times can be much more dependent on the denominator. As the denominator decreases in effect the ratio increases at a faster rate. This is especially true as the denominator moves towards zero. Phil Hughes won this record by .63, which is huge in an all time list, but also gets back to my point at how volatile a ratio can be when the denominator approaches 0. K/BB is going to be less meaningful as that happens. Again it is still impressive and exciting to be on top of an all time list, and well deserved for Phil Hughes as he backed this year up with a solid 6.1 WAR.

            What might be even more impressive about Phil Hughes this year is he limited walks with a catcher who generally hasn’t been very good at framing pitches. Maybe he had a couple walks this year which he shouldn’t have had?

  • Michael

    How many managers have kept their job after five consecutive 90 loss seasons?

    • Karl Noel

      Just the two Aaron mentioned. CMack, who was 25% owner and had led his teams to five World Series wins and four AL pennants. And Kelly, who led his team to two championships in a four-sport town devoid of them for decades..

      And your question hints that we share the same level of optimism about 2015, as does history…

      • Twm

        I forgot that the Lakers won championships in MN, and had to look it up, as I was convinced that the Twins had won the cities’ only championships. Less depressing, I guess, but not much less depressing.

        • Karl Noel

          Yeah, it’s been almost 50 years and the NBA was in its relative infancy in terms of size, popularity, audience and media coverage. The Twins’ loss of the 1965 World Series was just a few years later yet is referenced a bunch more than the Lakers’ remarkable three-peat.