Friday, April 6, 2007

Scott Baker? Calling Scott Baker.

This message is directed towards anyone that can tell me where Scott Baker has gone. You know him, right? He stands about 6’4 and weighs around 220 pounds. He throws right handed, and was a 2nd round draft pick of the Twins in 2003. You remember him, right?

Some people, may not remember Scott Baker. Sure, you know the name if you’re a follower of the Twins, especially over the last few years, but Baker has become a name that is mentioned less and less when talking about the Twins “rich” system of pitching. He’s fallen behind guys like Matt Garza, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins, and to some, even Anthony Swarzak.

In case you’ve forgot, Baker started with the Twins in 2003 while pitching for Quad Cities. After that, it took him only two years before reaching the big leagues. In his first stint with the big club, in 2005, Baker was one of the best looking young pitchers that this organization had. Baker posted a 3.35 ERA in 10 starts with the club while posting a 3-3 record. People began to envision a future rotation that would consist of Santana, Liriano, and Baker.

After the 2005 season, in which the Twins finished the year 83-79 after winning three consecutive AL Central division titles, Baker’s name began being thrown around in trade rumors. It was rumored that Baker and/or Liriano were the two main pieces that teams were looking to acquire for the Twins when they went out looking for a big bat. Twins general manager Terry Ryan laughed at those teams while telling them to get lost. You knew that this organization had future plans with Scott Baker.

Then came 2006. In spring training, Baker would earn a starting spot with the big league club. In 6 spring training starts, he went 2-1 with a 3.52 ERA. Was this fools gold? It may have been after we watched Kyle Lohse go 5-0 with a 2.42 ERA in spring training. However, many people, including Twins fans, were much more optimistic when talking about Scott Baker.

At the beginning of 2006, Baker would pitch very well for the Twins. He posted a 3.47 ERA in 4 starts for the club, including an absolute masterpiece against the Yankees on April 14th. Things were looking good for Baker.

Then, something went wrong. Something that Scott Baker, Rick Anderson, or anyone could not, and still cannot, explain. Baker began leaving the ball up, which resulted in a number of HR’s given up, which meant that he began losing games and watching his ERA inflate worse than the inflation rate in the 1910’s. After May 6th, Baker would never see his ERA below 5 again.

Baker would then be taken out of the rotation and sent down to Rochester where he pitched extremely well. He resorted back to the 2005 version of Baker where he had put himself on the map as far as the future rotation for the Minnesota Twins. Baker would get a few more starts with the big league club, but he would never put together a string of which he did in 2005.

Now, today, April 7th, 2006, Baker has taken a back seat to guys like Garza, Slowey, and Perkins. He’s no longer considered the first guy to be called up if someone like Sidney Ponson, Carlos Silva, or Ramon Ortiz were to falter. To be honest, right now, Baker looks like one of those AAAA pitchers that pitch well at the AAA level, but can never put it together at the ML level.

However, I feel as though there is still hope to remain optimistic about Scott Baker. Yes, his 2005 season was outstanding, while his 2006 season was, well, atrocious. Heck, he ended the 2006 season with a worse ERA than Carlos Silva! But, I feel as though both seasons, 2005 & 2006, may have been a bit of aberration respectively. Is Scott Baker as good as his 2005 season indicates? No. Is he as bad as his 2006 season? I don’t think so either.

I think Baker falls somewhere in between. The reason why I think there is still hope for Scott Baker is because I remember what Boof Bonser looked like last July. He looked awful, like he had no possible future with this team except for being a AAA pitcher. Bonser was sent down to AAA in July of 2006 and it looked as if he wouldn’t be back up the remainder of the year. However, something changed in Bonser. He got angry, pissed about being sent back down to Rochester. There was a new Boof, a more confident version of Boof. Plus, he decided to add more of a “spike” curve to his arsenal, which looked to have made all the difference. Three months later, and Mr. Bonser was the Twins Game 2 starter in the ALDS against Oakland.

Now do I expect Baker to be a game 2 starter in the postseason one day? Not exactly. But, I do feel as though Baker has the ability to make that change, or maturation, that Bonser did after being sent down last July. Baker still has the ability to strike major league hitters out as he posted a 6.70 K/9 rate in that horrendous 2006 season. He just needs to learn how to keep the ball down more, spot his fastball, and maybe, just maybe, talk to Bonser about learning that “spike” curve.

Is Baker going to be back up with the big league club this year? I think that’s totally up in the air right now, but it’s pretty obvious that he’s probably fourth on the list when it comes to calling someone up. However, in 2008, there will be another battle for a few spots in the rotation. With guys like Silva, Ortiz, and Ponson likely gone, that would leave three spots open; But, with Liriano scheduled back then and having a spot basically reserved, that leaves two. It’s time for Baker to prove, once again, that he is part of this team’s future, and to prove that he’s not just your average minor league journeyman.

Scott Baker? Are you ready?

5 comments:

Rob McQuown said...

Good article on Baker. It would be nice to see him rebound to become a solid #3 type starter.

Erik said...

Thanks.

Yeah, I still think Baker could be a solid middle of the rotation starter for this team. But, he's going to have to do a lot in terms of improving on keeping the ball down in order to do that. Plus, with him now being lower on the pecking order than he was a year ago, that won't help his case either.

TwinsJunkie said...

"watching his ERA inflate worse than the inflation rate in the 1910’s."

kudos my friend

Anonymous said...

What happened to Baker? I would say getting sporadic starts once every 7th or 8th day did the trick. He was just fine at the start of the year, like you mentioned, then suddenly started getting skipped rather than the struggling veterans and completely lost his command and confidence.

I remember he had a start against the Angels and Dick'n'Bert tracted like it was a foregone conclusion that Baker was going to the minors after the game because of his recent struggles. Of course, Baker was pitching that day on NINE days rest. Anybody who relies on their control is being set up to fail in that situations.

-Will

Erik said...

Will,

That definitely could've been a contributor to Baker's struggles, and it very well may have been.

Baker isn't going to over power anyone, so he does rely on location more than anything. When you aren't getting into a rhythm in terms of rest and when you start, that's going to affect you...unless you're Johan Santana.

I am just a little worried that Baker has fallen down the ladder so much that he's starting to become expendable in trade talks...and really, I'd only advocate the Twins dealing him if it immediately helped an organizational need.