“Oh, those bases on balls.”
The Minnesota Twins arrived at the halfway point of the 2008 season just a game behind division leading Chicago and leading the fewest walks category by a landslide. The Twins have given up just 204 bases on balls in 772 2/3 innings. The club with the second least amount of walks? No surprise, it’s the White Sox at 241. The Rangers are the most generous providers of free passes with 354.
The Twins don’t exactly have overpowering stuff. Their team batting average allowed is .281. Only Texas and Pittsburgh are worse. But, due to the lack of walks, the Twins find themselves in the middle of the pack in terms of overall runs allowed.
Coming into this season, the only Twins pitcher that was a household name was Cuban defector Livan Hernandez. Hernandez, who served as the grand marshall of the 1997 Orange Bowl parade, has bounced around the past few seasons between the Twins, Diamondbacks, Nationals, and Expos. Hernandez appears to the only Twins pitcher whose best days are behind him. Although he’s 9-5, his ERA is 5.18 and he’s given up 162 hits in 116 1/3 innings of work against just 43 strikeouts.
But, the rest of the Twins staff has sparkled. Nick Blackburn is 7-4, 3.78 with just 16 walks in 104 2/3 innings pitched. Scott Baker is 5-2, 3.65 with just 12 walks in 72 2/3 IP. Lefty Glen Perkins is 4-2, 4.31 with just 16 walks in 64 2/3 IP. Kevin Slowey, who has the worst name for a pitcher this side of the Rays’ Grant Balfour, is 5-6, 3.47 with just 9 walks allowed in 72 2/3.
Then, there’s closer Joe Nathan. Has there been a more consistent closer over the past five seasons than Nathan? Nathan has saved 44, 43, 36, and 37 over the past four years with ERA’s of 1.62, 2.70, 1.58, and 1.88. This year the ex-Giant has 23 saves already to go with a microscopic 1.30 ERA. Since becoming the Twins’ closer Nathan has a 1.85 ERA.
The Twins are MLB’s consistent over-achievers, at least for any players not named “Boof.” If you are looking for pitching help, picking up a guy like Kevin Slowey will help your fantasy baseball club. Just keep Slowey on the sidelines when he pitches in homer friendly parks like Yankee Stadium where the Twins will visit in week 17.