How many chances is too many?
by, 05-08-2012 at 03:48 PM (1041 Views)
PART 1: Nick Blackburn
The 2012 season has gotten off to rocky start for starting pitcher Nick Blackburn. After posting an 0-4 record in 5 starts with a 6.84 ERA, fans are looking for some answers from the six year veteran--answers to questions from "When is he going to turn it around?" to "How many more chances is this guy going to get?"
I am asking the second question as well. As much as I hate to sell a player off down the river, it may be time to part ways with Nick Blackburn. While 2012 has been rough already for the starter, his career statistics indicate that he has not been nor is he capable now of pitching to a record above .500 or to an ERA below 4.00. Looking at his career numbers, Blackburn's peak came in 2009 when he pitched 205.2 innings while going 11-11 with a 4.03 ERA. 2009 was the only year that Blackburn topped 200 innings in a season. While these numbers are not stellar and pale in comparison to many other starting pitchers around the big leagues, one must look at all six years of Blackburn's career to see the big picture--there is no improvement whatsoever.
There lies my issue with the Twins keeping Blackburn. He has shown no improvement in his quality of pitching and certainly his stats from the beginning of his career up through this current season. In fact, most of his numbers have gotten worse. Blackburn is now 30 years old, not exactly in the early part of his career anymore. There is nothing to indicate that he will improve. Again, "How many more chances is this guy going to get?"
The first problem with unloading Blackburn is this--what team in its right mind would want to pick up a pitcher who is 0-4 on the year and comes with the price tag of $4,750,000? Blackburn signed a four year deal in 2010 with a club option for 2014. In all honesty, the Twins should not exercise that option.
The second problem is that the Twins have no minor league help available to them. The Twins' two best minor league pitching prospects in Alex Wimmers and Kyle Gibson are both out with, you guessed it, elbow issues. I swear, the Twins organization injury report is like a broken record that is stuck on repeat.
Even with the problems with getting rid of Blackburn, I still believe he needs to go. He has had more chances to prove himself and has failed to do so, usually to the tune of exiting by the 6th inning and after surrendering more runs than our impotent offense can overcome. The organization may just need to eat his salary and send him packing if no other teams are interested. As of right now, he is wasting a roster spot that could be filled with a minor leaguer ready to prove himself.
PART 2: Francisco Liriano
The 2012 season was supposed to be a comeback year for Francisco Liriano after a less than great 2011 season. Of course, that could be said of any member of the Twins' 2011 campaign however Liriano has been struggling to regain his pre-Tommy John surgery poise and dominance since he went down with the injury in 2006. Liriano made a nice comeback bid in 2010 by going 14-10 with a 3.62 ERA in 191.2 innings pitched but followed it up with a stagnant 2011 that saw Liriano go 9-10 with a 5.09 ERA in just 134.1 innings pitched. His no hitter that he pitched in Chicago gets lost in the dismal 2011 season.
In seven years at the major league level, we have seen Francisco Liriano go from great to bad, better to worse and everywhere in between. While some may say that variety is the spice of life, variety in a starter's results is not something to be excited about. Lack of consistency has brought Liriano from being hailed as "the next Johan Santana" to observers asking the question "How many more chances is this guy going to get?"
2012 has seen Liriano get off to an 0-5 start with an astronomical 9.45 ERA in just six starts. His pitching velocity has started to return however the erratic nature of his pitching has apparently led him to having confidence issues. You can fix a pitcher's mechanics but how do you fix his thoughts? The staff thought skipping a start would help him clear his mind--not so. In his start following the extra time off, the left-hander was pulled after 5.1 innings where he gave up 4 earned runs on 7 hits--two of which were home runs. I guess the time off didn't help very much.
With Liriano as a head case and the Twins not knowing which version of Liriano will take the mound when he starts next, I believe it may be time to say goodbye to the pitcher once thought to be the future of the team. He has never evolved into that power starter that the Twins so sorely needed and continue to need. Liriano is a free agent after the 2012 season so the Twins may just hold on to him until the end of the 2012 campaign and outright release him. Afterall, who is going to pick up his $5,500,000 price tag?
PART 3: What now?
It seems like we have been asking that question a lot lately with these Twins. What does the team do with these two starters who seem to be dead weight now? The long and the short of it is that the Twins need to part ways with both Blackburn and Liriano. They are no longer assets to the organization but now the quandary of it all is that they will garner little to no trade value. I don't envy the Twins at all--stuck with two pitchers that no one else will want.
With about $10,000,000 in salary tied up in Blackburn and Liriano, the Twins have their hands tied. Maybe in the future they will be a little wiser with where they invest so much of their money...then again, I wouldn't bet on it.