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Just Better Than Awful

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Even prior to tonightís shellacking, the Twins collective ERA sits at 5.59, last in the major leagues. On the Gleeman and the Geek show last week, I asked ďCan a team that ranks towards the bottom of the league in pitching even pretend to be competitive?Ē It turns out they can.

Since 2000, there have been five teams that made the playoffs even though they ranked in the bottom third of the league in ERA. One of them was the Twins. In 2009, after a tense game 163 versus the Tigers, the Twins snuck into the playoffs with the 23rd best ERA in the major leagues. That same year, the Angels won their division (and their first round playoff series) with the 21st best ERA.

The same thing happened in 2005 when both the Red Sox and Yankees make the postseason while ranking 24th and 22nd overall. Finally, the Phillies first trip to the playoffs in a decade (and the unofficial start of their current dominance) started in 2007, when they sported the 23rd best ERA. Thatís a long ways from Halladay, Lee and Hamels.
None of those teams made it to the World Series. But two World Series winner since 2000 had an ERA that ranked as low as 16th Ė the 2000 New York Yankees and the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals. In fact, the worse staff ERA has beaten the better staff ERA for the championship 8 of the last 12 years.

Last year was especially lackluster. Only one team Ė the top-ranked Phillies, had an ERA better than eighth overall. The other seven teams all fell between #8 (Tampa Bay) and #18 (Detroit).

More good news for the Twins is that there isnít a lot of pitching firepower in their division. The White Sox are off to a fast start because their staff ranks 9th overall. But after that, there isnít an AL Central team that ranks higher than 21st, who is Cleveland. Detroit (23rd) and Kansas City (27th) are floundering, too.

The Twins donít necessarily need a miracle on their pitching staff to compete this year. They just need to not completely suck. Thatís a pretty low bar to set, but it might be high enough to make this season entertaining. It also may be unreachable.
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