Brad Radke was the opening day starter the year after Johan’s first Cy Young Award because Gardenhire didn’t want to “fix what isn’t broken” so to speak; Radke had been opening day starter for a few years running.
I watched Blackburn’s first start and he didn’t blow me away but he was definitely a very solid-looking back-end of the rotation guy. In my eyes guys like this are invaluable, especially when they can eat innings.
I might do a study to see how bullpens fare, innings-wise and effectiveness-wise when backing a #1/#2 pitcher as compared to the #3-#5. Generally speaking you would probably expect the top-line guys to stay in longer, offering less of a necessity for the bullpen; the back end guys would likely require more bullpen help.
I bring up Radke because they both have a K/9 around 5-6 with extremely low walk rates. I guess Blackburn is a bit more of a groundball pitcher, which might make him just a tad more successful than Radke.
I wouldn’t exactly call Radke an ace, if that’s what you’re implying. The Twins didn’t have the greatest pitching staff for much of his career.
I’m not sure Radke’s a great comparison due to the different pitch arsenals. Radke had a devastating change-up, which helped keep left-handed batters at bay and gave him a swing-and-a-miss pitch when he needed it. Blackburn doesn’t have anything as good as Radke’s change, and his FB/CT/CB combo isn’t as well equipped to deal with left handed hitters.
The Westbrook comparison is the one that works the best for me, I think. There’s Jason Johnson downside here too, but that’s the kind of pitcher I see Blackburn being.
I think that the Twins made a big mistake in not accepting Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury in a standalone trade (without pitcher Jon Lester) for Johan Santana. That would have been better than the package of Carlos Gomez plus three pitchers from the Mets, given that Minnesota is already a pitching-heavy team and desperately needs hitting. The only advantage is that the Mets aren’t an American League team, meaning that the Twins wouldn’t have to face Santana, except possibly in a World Series.
Going into tonight’s games, Ellsbury has added .25 WPA to Boston, the same as Santana has for the Mets so far in 2008. Carlos Gomez is a negative factor for Minnesota so far; he’s not really ready to go like Ellsbury. And speaking of World Series experience, Ellsbury has it, was certainly the most valuable rookie, and arguably the most valuable player last fall.
Minnesota didn’t really have Santana because they couldn’t sign him to a long-term contract; they had a piece of him (one year’s worth). On the other hand, Ellsbury would have belonged to them for 6 years. Plus, he’s effectively worth two top players, one in his own right, plus the one that the Twins could hire using the $12.6 million difference in salaries between Santana and him.
“Blackburn doesnâ€™t have anything as good as Radkeâ€™s change, and his FB/CT/CB combo isnâ€™t as well equipped to deal with left handed hitters.”
Though I agree with that statement, Blackburn has been more effective against LHB vs. RHB in 2008 thus far. While the sample size is miniscule, left-handed opponents are batting .239/.271/.348 in 48 plate appearances while right-handed opponents are hitting .333/.370/.373 in 55 plate appearances. This was also true in his tenure at double-A and triple-A in 2007 where right-handed batters were hitting better than left-handed ones. For whatever the reason (pitch selection, location, etc) Blackburn has kept left-handed hitters at bay.