The Twins had a vastly overrated pitching staff heading into this season. Nick Blackburn is not as good as his ERA indicates, Liriano has struggled all year and Kevin Slowey is injured and done for the season. For the most part, the Twins have had one of the worst starting rotations in the AL.
Scott Baker, though, is legit and his 4.59 ERA is worse than it should be. He has a 4.11 FIP, 4.16 xFIP, 3.82 tRA, and a 3.93 K/BB ratio that is good for 4th in the AL behind Verlander, Halladay and Greinke. That is some pretty good company.
Baker is a fly ball pitcher with a 0.76 GB/FB ratio this season and that identical GB/FB ratio for his career. Partly b/c of that, he will allow some long balls. He has a 1.41 HR/9 ratio. As alluded to above, though, he will not walk many batters. A 1.91 BB/9 ratio is very, very good.
Baker incorporates all 4 of his pitches into his starts. He features a fastball that averages 91 MPH, and a good slider that comes in at 82 MPH. His curve and changup are used much less frequently and those are actually his two worst pitches according to Fan Graphs. Interstingly enough, though, Baker threw his changeup and slider 21 times apiece in his last start against us this season. On the other hand, he never even threw a curveball. It will be interesting to see if that same game plan is in place against us this time around.
He has reverse splits on the year as right handed batters hit much better off him than lefties do. The OBP is nearly identical but right handers have a .508 slugging percentage against him and lefties only have a slugging percentage of .348 off him.
Baker is coming in on a bit of a hot streak. In his last 4 starts combined, he has only allowed 4 ER. Also going for him is the fact that his ERA is a run and a half lower on the road than it is at home. Going for us, though, is that a number of our batters have some real good success against him. Thames, Guillen and Ordonez all have at least 18 PA's against him and all 3 of them have an OPS above 1.000 against him. Grandy has a .912 OPS against him in 37 career AB's. At least 3 of those guys should be in the lineup tomorrow. Inge and Polanco, though, have been brutal against Baker in their career. Each have at least 25 PA's against him and an OPS below .430 against him. So, we have been a little hit or miss against him with certain parts of our lineup.
In Baker's last start against us, he allowed 5 ER and 8 base runners in 6 innings of work during a 6-5 Twins victory on May 14th. I'll gladly take the 5 ER from him again, and hope that Jarrod Washburn is a little sharper in his second start for us.
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