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Twins Faced with the Need for an Ace

CC Sabathia of the New York Yankees (Nick Laham/Getty Images)

In what has become a long and frustrating season for the Twins, one thing has become quite clear: the Twins need a #1 legitimate ace starting pitcher. If we look at the eight teams that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, they all have one thing in common, a clear-cut fearless pitcher to take the mound in Game 1 of a playoff series.

Detroit: Justin Verlander
Philadelphia: Roy Halladay
New York: CC Sabathia
Milwaukee: Zack Grienke
Boston: Jon Lester
Arizona: Ian Kennedy
Texas: CJ Wilson
Atlanta: Tim Hudson

These pitchers all throw hard, and with the exception of Tim Hudson and Ian Kennedy, all of these pitchers are strikeout artists. They have dominating stuff that they can use to get batters out. And while Hudson and Kennedy rely more on ground ball outs, they still have good enough stuff to get batters out and also have good defenses playing behind them.

The closest the Twins have come to an ace since Johann Santana went to New York is Carl Pavano. He relies heavily on his defense like the rest of the Twins starting staff. And after netting 17 wins last season, he has been hit hard this year as has most of the rest of the pitching rotation. This is where the pitching to contact philosophy can get pitchers into trouble. When you pitch to contact, you have to rely on pinpoint control to get batters out. However when that control is not spot on, batters tend to make good contact, especially when the ball doesn’t move.

This is why the pitching to contact philosophy is a double-edged sword. It needs to be balanced with pitchers who can generate strikeouts, as well as a good infield defense. The starting staff can’t be entirely ground ball pitchers, because at various points of the season they are going to get hit hard, and strikeout pitchers can overcome that to an extent.

The free agent market is an extremely hard way to acquire pitchers of this caliber. And the trade market is not much easier. This is where scouting and drafting players that become aces is so critical. If the Twins want to get back into the division race next year, pitching should be their #1 concern.

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