Scott Baker: what to expect in 2011
One of the more less talked about topics this offseason compared to previous seasons seems to be Scott Baker. In the past we have heard that “this is his year” or “he has finally turned the corner”. I think Twins fans are starting to not expect much more out of Baker. It seems to be more of a “what you see is what you get” at this point. An extreme fly ball pitcher who is going to give up home runs and have a 4.50 – 4.70 ERA. Is it possible this is the year we see the home runs and ERA go down?
In 2008; Baker threw 172.1 innings and posted a 3.45 ERA and only allowed 66 earned runs. His 0.48 ground ball/fly ball ration was the lowest in the major leagues for 2008. On June 15, 2008, Baker became the first Minnesota Twins pitcher to ever throw 4 strikeouts in the same inning. In the 3rd inning against the Milwaukee Brewers, Baker struck out Ryan Braun, then struck out Prince Fielder, but the ball bounced away from catcher Mike Redmond, so Fielder went to first base. Baker then proceeded to strike out Russell Branyan and Mike Cameron.
After a strong 2008 campaign it appeared Baker was poised to start to live up to the “Big Spot Scott” nickname. Many had high hopes for him going into the 2009 season. Baker did set career highs in games (33) and innings (200). To be expected with the increased innings, Baker gave up a lot more earned runs. 31 to be exact. He also posted a 4.37 ERA and gave up 28 home runs.
Going into the 2010 season, Baker was named the Opening Day starter against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. On June 16, 2010, Baker struck career best 12 batters through seven innings against the Colorado Rockies. Baker’s 2010 numbers ended up projecting more like his 2009 numbers than 2008. Baker battled through nagging injuries and only threw 170 innings. He had a 4.49 ERA and gave up 23 home runs. Baker did not start in the 2010 postseason against the New York Yankees, he did however pitch 2.1 innings giving up 3 hits and 1 ER in relief.
So what do we expect from Baker in 2011? Some may say the decreased spotlight could help Baker this season. Baker underwent minor surgery on his right elbow to remove bone chips and is said to be getting much better extension when throwing during Spring Training. It remains to be seen if this will help Baker out in 2011. I do think that pitching in the 3 spot (where I predict he will start the season) will help take a lot of pressure off of him.
The fact remains that Baker is an extreme fly ball pitcher with a pretty bad defensive outfield. In 2008 he had Carlos Gomez roaming CF most games and Span in one of the corner OF spots. Baring any major injuries, the Twins will have an outfield of Young, Span and Cuddyer. Even Kubel for part of the season. This outfield is not a fly ball pitchers best friend, especially with all of the space in the Twins new home; Target Field. I think expecting a line of 12-16 wins, 175-185 innings and a 4.50-4.65 ERA is pretty reasonable. I think we have seen what we are going to get from Baker at this point. Don’t get me wrong, I am rooting for him to return to 2008 form but I just don’t see it happening in 2011. Hopefully he can stay healthy this season and pitch near 200 innings, something the Twins desperately need with a lot of new faces in the bullpen.
So what are your thoughts? What do you expect from Scott Baker in 2011? Feel free to comment below.