The second-best pitcher in Minnesota's rotation is a 29-year-old journeyman with five innings of previous major-league experience who has issued 36 walks in 46 innings this season.
Obviously, that speaks to how bad the club's starting pitching has been, but it also speaks to the success Sam Deduno has enjoyed in spite of his outrageously bad control. The right-hander has tallied five quality starts in eight turns, and with a little run support on Sunday he would have improved to 5-0 on the season.
He's a fascinating pitcher to watch. His erratic tendencies are unparalleled; he's averaging 7.0 BB/9 – among MLB pitchers with 40-plus innings pitched, only the train wreck Jonathan Sanchez has a worse rate and no one else is close. Yet, up to this point Deduno has been able to work around the extreme control issues by limiting damage when the ball is put in play. Five qualifying pitchers in the American League (Jered Weaver, Felix Hernandez, Justin Verlander, David Price and Chris Sale) are yielding a lower batting average lower than Deduno's .228.
Is this a sustainable recipe for success? Probably not. It's tough to expect anyone to maintain a .250 BABIP, and he's been fortunate to strand as many walks as he has. Then again, a free pass only gives the batter one base, and if you're not allowing the big hits, things generally won't get out of hand. Really, it's the same bend-don't-break philosophy that applies to a successful pitch-to-contact guy like Scott Diamond, though with a very different formula.
Deduno is so far on the other end of the spectrum from this organization's typical pitching mold that it's hard to believe he was even given a chance. Typically the Twins have shown a strong preference for strike-throwers, even if it means they're among the most hittable pitchers in the league (Nick Blackburn and Carl Pavano are great examples). While he's unbelievably wild, Deduno has been extremely tough to square up, and his minor-league career – where he allowed only 7.6 hits per nine innings on average – suggests that's no fluke.
Regardless of what moves the Twins make this offseason, it is a virtual certainty that at least a couple spots at the bottom of the rotation will be up for grabs next spring among a number of borderline pitchers already within the organization. When stacked up against the likes of Blackburn, Brian Duensing, Cole De Vries, Liam Hendriks, P.J. Walters and others, Deduno is far more likely to issue a walk but also far less likely to give up a hit or home run. At the end of the day, that might make him a more effective pitcher.
Certainly that has been the case this season.