There are lots of big-name starters pitching tonight–Felix Hernandez, Adam Wainwright, Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto, Madison Bumgarner, CC Sabathia–but to me the most interesting matchup of the day involves a pair of back-of-the-rotation starters in the Minnesota-Philadelphia game.
Nick Blackburn of the Twins and Kyle Kendrick of the Phillies have two of the four lowest career strikeout rates among all active pitchers with at least 100 starts. Here’s the bottom five:
Aaron Cook 3.82
Chien-Ming Wang 4.11
KYLE KENDRICK 4.27
NICK BLACKBURN 4.34
John Lannan 4.71
Aaron Cook and John Lannan are currently both in the minors, so among active pitchers actually in the majors only Chien-Ming Wang has produced fewer strikeouts per nine innings than Kendrick and Blackburn. And coincidentally Wang also pitches tonight, against the Blue Jays.
For their careers Blackburn and Kendrick have averaged 4.27 and 4.34 strikeouts per nine innings. To put that in some context even if you add their strikeout rates together that’s 8.61 per nine innings, which is lower than the individual strikeout rates of 13 active pitchers with 100-plus starts, including one guy (Max Scherzer) also pitching tonight.
For anyone allergic to bat-missing Kendrick vs. Blackburn is must-see television, although having said all this I’m sure the Phillies and Twins will combine for like 50 strikeouts tonight.
Not all players coming in to spring training are in The Best Shapes of Their Lives. Some have put on a few pounds, such as Miguel Sano, notes Twins GM Thad Levine:
Sano has been given medical clearance to engage in all baseball workouts with his teammates, his surgically reinforced left shin now completely healed, though the Twins intend to lighten his schedule to prevent any new injuries.
They’d like to lighten something else, too: His “generous carriage,” as General Manager Thad Levine delicately put it last week. Sano’s conditioning understandably lags, after a winter largely spent incapacitated by the surgery.
Sano’s conditioning has often been a topic of conversation among the members of the Minnesota press corps, though not always in good faith. For example, last year when Sano injured his shin by fouling a ball off of it, one member of the The Fourth Estate found a way to make a column out of blaming the freak injury on Sano’s conditioning. At least in this instance his colleague is correctly noting that the poor conditioning is a result of the injury and not the cause.
Still, it’s just another issue facing Sano this spring. He’s out of shape, coming off of an injury, and — not that he’s due any sympathy for it — he’s facing a likely suspension arising out of the allegations of sexual assault leveled against him late last year.
So this spring we’ll be seeing more of Sano, it seems. At least until that time we’ll be seeing less of him.