Scott Baker quietly emerges as current ace of Twins’ rotation


Scott Baker was excellent for the Twins again yesterday afternoon, allowing zero or one run for the third time in four starts by shutting out the Dodgers for 7.1 innings.

Baker racked up nine strikeouts without a walk until issuing a free pass to the final batter he faced, finishing June with a 1.46 ERA in six starts. And not only does his 3.15 ERA overall this season lead the team by a wide margin, Johan Santana is the only Twins starter with a lower ERA since Kevin Tapani in 1991.

Here are the best single-season ERAs posted by Twins starters during that 20-year span:

                   ERA     YEAR
Johan Santana     2.61     2004
Johan Santana     2.77     2006
Johan Santana     2.87     2005
SCOTT BAKER       3.15     2011
Joe Mays          3.16     2001
John Smiley       3.21     1992
Johan Santana     3.33     2007
Scott Erickson    3.40     1992
Carlos Silva      3.44     2005
SCOTT BAKER       3.45     2008

Two things stand out on the above list. One is that Santana was really amazing, posting four of their top seven marks since 1991. Two is that Baker is really underrated, joining Santana as the only starters to crack the top 10 twice. And unlike, say, Joe Mays in 2001, he isn’t doing it with smoke and mirrors, as Baker ranks eighth among AL starters with 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings and seventh in the league with a 101/29 K/BB ratio in 106 frames.

Jason Vargas fractured his non-pitching hand

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Mets left-hander Jason Vargas has a non-displaced fracture of the hamate bone in his right hand, the team announced Sunday. Vargas sustained the injury after taking a comebacker off of his hand on Friday and is expected to consult with a hand specialist later today as the team settles on a course of action. Comments from GM Sandy Alderson indicate that surgery is a possibility, though the left-hander may also pitch through it for the time being.

Vargas, 35, signed a two-year, $16 million pact with the team last month. He completed a four-year run with the Royals in 2017, earning his first career All-Star nomination with an 18-11 record in 32 starts and producing a 4.16 ERA, 2.9 BB/9 and 6.7 SO/9 over 179 2/3 innings. Prior to the incident, the southpaw was expected to help fill out the back end of the Mets’ Opening Day rotation.

Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News estimates that Vargas will likely miss the start of the season as he faces a two- to six-week recovery period. It’s a disappointing turn of events for a pitching staff that has been absolutely ravaged by injuries over the last couple of years.