I don’t read the Star Tribune very much now, not because of Jim Souhan, Patrick Reusse, et al. but because:
1. I only read it for the Sports section. It’s wasteful to dump the rest of the newspaper.
2. Unless I’m sitting by myself at a table in the cafeteria, it’s tough to read the newspaper because of how large each page is, and I’m not the type of person that folds his newspaper in half to read a single page.
So, I was pleased that I was notified of Jim Souhan’s most recent column on LHP Brian Duensing. I think I’ve pointed out before with Reusse that it’s a bit tougher to accept what he has to say because he focuses on all sports, whereas writers like La Velle E. Neal III and Joe Christensen only have to work on the Twins, which makes their job much easier to write about the Twins, and I feel that their writing can also be more valid since they watch the team every single day. Since Souhan falls into a similar category as Reusse, he’s likely prone to make similar mistakes. Therefore, let’s jump into what may become a new feature on Off The Mark: Today’s Column of Total Blasphemy.
I figure I’ll write this similar to the website Fire Joe Morgan, except I’ll skip some unnecessary paragraphs when possible. The main point of this article is that Souhan believes that Brian Duensing is now the newest pitcher that could be the key to the Twins’ pitching success in 2010.
Tom Kelly used to say that you didn’t need a supercomputer or a lifetime in baseball to figure out how a pitcher was faring. Kelly’s measure: “Just listen to the sound the bat makes.”
Please don’t start with a “listen to the sound the bat makes” quote. Similar quotes were used to describe Delmon Young while he took batting practice, meaning that he had a future as a great hitter. Young is now one of the most puzzling hitters on the team; a guy that shows great promise at times (like late in the season), but has a poor approach at the plate. This has caused him to become one of my least favorite players on the team right now. I know baseball people want us to believe how good someone is without having to use numbers (even home run totals), but I have more confidence in someone being described as having “the ball jumps off his bat” rather than “listen to the sound his bat makes.”
Souhan now talks about the 1/3 inning that Duensing pitched in Game 2 against the Angels, saying:
That quickly, Duensing indicated that he could become one of the Twins’ most valuable pitchers.
Consider his last two appearances in meaningful Twins games:
On Oct. 7, 2009, he started Game 1 of the playoffs in Yankee Stadium. On Tuesday, he retired a formidable veteran slugger who had beaten the Twins’ lefty specialist the night before.
So two appearances in meaningful games outweighs Duensing’s entire career? How about these “meaningful games”? Was Tuesday’s game really meaningful? What do you mean, Duensing has suddenly become one of the most valuable pitchers on the team? The fact that he can now start or relieve? Ok, I can understand that having a long reliever that can spot start is nice, and Duensing takes that a step further by getting a critical out late in a game, but does that really make him most valuable? In terms of flexibility, yes, but statistically, no. Besides, Triple-A is stocked with spot starters right now.
Suddenly Duensing looks like he could challenge Mijares as the Twins’ go-to short lefty, even as he remains their first choice to join the rotation should a current starter falter or get hurt. He’s also their best long reliever, although the Twins would probably opt to use Alex Burnett in that role to keep Duensing in reserve for the late innings.
Duensing retires Hideki Matsui, who is a career .294 hitter against LHP. Alright, so you need a good lefty pitcher to get Matsui out. Duensing has a career .247 opponent’s batting average, which is solid, but not great. Maybe Duensing taking over Mijares’ role isn’t too bad of an idea, but Mijares had one bad game. Duensing had one good game. I don’t think it’s fair to suddenly say that both pitchers should earn new roles just because of a total of three at-bats.
Plus, why does Alex Burnett become the new long reliever immediately? He’s only with the team until Clay Condrey returns, and even Condrey isn’t a long reliever (averaging under 1 1/3 innings pitched per appearance since becoming a full-time reliever). Burnett did just recently become a reliever, but I have to think that he’s only been stretched out to pitch an inning himself, rather than 2 or more.
“It’s interesting, because we’ve got to make sure Mijares gets going or Duensing slides into that role,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “With Mijares, we have all the confidence in the world that he’s going to start throwing the ball well, but if he doesn’t, we don’t have to worry about that.
If Mijares starts struggling or the Twins need another lefty in the bullpen, isn’t that why they signed this guy?
“Duens can go either way. He’s stretched out enough that he can handle the long role, but you hate burning him up that way. He’s too valuable, being able to come in and get outs like that. And he’s our guy if anything ever happens in our rotation, he comes right in there. He’s really, really valuable.”
Again, this quote about Duensing relieving is presumably in response to him getting a single out. If he becomes a single inning or single batter guy, then he’s no longer stretched out to spot start.
Duensing made the Opening Day roster in 2009, but he was sent to the minors on April 14 while the regrettable Phil Humber became the Twins’ long reliever.
When you get demoted in favor of Phil Humber, your career is in jeopardy.
Or, you know, the Twins just want to prove that they didn’t make a mistake with including Humber in the Johan Santana trade.
But Duensing earned a recall in July and made his first big-league start on July 29. He proved himself to be a smart, competitive starter, finishing the season 5-2 with a 3.64 ERA and helping the Twins surge into the playoffs.
I’m surprised Souhan didn’t cite Duensing’s numbers as a starting pitcher here (5-1, 2.73 ERA). By the way, Duensing had a 5.17 ERA in 31 1/3 IP as a reliever last year. Shouldn’t that carry more weight than retiring Hideki Matsui?
Souhan now mentions how Duensing had to start Game 1 of the playoff series against the Yankees, where he points out:
Duensing gave up five runs in 4 2/3 nnings in Game 1 while becoming the third Twins rookie ever to start a postseason game.
Souhan cites Duensing’s last two appearances as proving his worth to the Twins. A total of 5 innings pitched. 5 runs allowed. Suddenly he’s become a critical piece to the roster. Move over, Jon Rauch!
Tuesday, Duensing threw three pitches, then heard Anderson say: “Good job, you’re out of the game.”
Duensing’s reaction: “Sweet, I’ll take it.”
Dennys Reyes could do the job in one pitch.
If he keeps breaking bats, he may take someone’s job.
No, Ron Mahay will take Mijares’ job if he can’t get lefties out.