Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Scott Baker is their best pitcher in the rotation, but he has always had elbow troubles and will be out six months to repair a flexor strain in his right, throwing elbow. Baker was worth 3.5 WAR in 2008 and 2009, but his innings totals have fell ever since 2009 from 200 to 170.1 and then 134.2 last season.
Even so, Scott Baker was still worth 2.5 WAR in 2010 and 2.7 WAR last season, and he was expected to be worth the same amount of value in about 150 innings. He is arguably their best starter (Francisco Liriano is in the argument) and losing him is a huge blow to a team that is already weak pitching-wise. Right now, their rotation will be composed of Liriano, Carl Pavano, Nick Blackburn, the young Anthony Swarzak, and 23-year-old call-up Liam Hendriks. Once offseason acquisition and solid depth starter Jason Marquis returns, Hendricks will either be demoted or Swarzak moved into a more comfortable bullpen role.
It will be interesting to see what Hendriks can do in this cameo in the Majors as a result of the injury to Scott Baker. We will see if he can take this opportunity in stride and pull a Lester Hudson (Cleveland Cavaliers point guard) as a result of another unfortunate injury to the right-hander.
Amidst the many injuries, it is easy for people to forget that Baker is a solid pitcher and is important to this team. He is good for a 3.70 ERA and 2.5-3 WAR with those numbers rising to 3.50 and 3.5 WAR when healthy, but “when healthy” is a big question mark. Scott Baker usually strikes out around 7.8 per nine while walking 2.2 per nine, which makes up for a low 35 GB%.
The injury to Baker has costed this team nearly two wins, as Jason Marquis is worth around one win. Marquis adds quality depth, but Baker is this team’s most consistent pitcher which gives him the edge over Liriano. Baker does a good job (10.4 SwStr%) of getting whiffs and can force hitters to chase. He has also decreased the contact rate against him as a pitcher, but these improvement will not be seen due to his injury.
If he was ever fully healthy and could log in 200 innings, then Scott Baker would certainly be able to reach the 3.5 WAR mark again. However, injuries accumulate and set pitchers back because of it. He still has a good fastball despite a far less effective slider and gets hitters to swing quite often. Baker had a 3.44 SIERA and 3.61 xFIP last season, but his career is only going down south.
Hopefully this surgery clears things up for next year and he can get everything together, because Baker is a quality starter who deserves the chance to have another 3+ WAR season. At the age of 31 next season, Scott Baker will still have some time to get back to his previous form if he does not receive any setbacks. This injury is a devastating blow to this Twins rotation, and I wish the best for Baker in his recovery.
Maybe Hendriks shows something and Marquis pitches like his anomaly in 2009 (4 WAR), although the Twins will be happy with his near-2 WAR seasons in the two previous years. They could both approach the near league-average mark, but that’s probably not possible for the young Australian. They could get production out of those guys, but Scott Baker is a sure thing to give you at least 2.5 wins each season.
The sad thing is that his career with the Twins could be over, because this most recent surgery could spell the end of a good run of effective pitching for the Twins starter. Scott Baker is one of the most important players on this team, and this news is absolutely awful. I hope everything goes well, but this is a serious injury for a pitcher who has had several elbow injuries.